Wednesday 1 December 2010

Tree Shapes

I'm sure I'm not the only person that enjoys tree spotting as I drive along the road. Once you get an eye for basic tree shapes and features, you can name many at a glance. To me, ash trees (left) are a bit snooty! Why? Because their twigs tend to curl upwards. Whereas beech tend to have horizontally spreading branches. Many have distinctive shapes and colours - I'll try photograph more another day.

A crisp tree shape against a cerulean sky - how many beautiful sights we have on winter days.

Since my camera isn't good enough to photograph birds, I've decided to share some tree shapes with you from a weekend walk around Croston. How complex is this willow trunk below?
How useful telegraph poles are in sparing a few extra berries for hungry redwings....At this time of year, I also enjoy the contrast between frozen and non-frozen patches.
And if you get close, have a look at just how brightly coloured lichen can be.

But let's not forget the birds. I really enjoyed watching the yellowhammers, their faces bright like summer suns. There were lots of roaming fieldfare in small parties and one had approaching 100 birds. A snipe was flushed from a ditch and two lapwings had returned to the fields to try their luck where the frost was melting. Amongst the stubble was a flock of about 100 larks, calling as they rose before plunging back into silence and more stubble. There was also a small flock of linnet, tree sparrows at several sites, reed bunting,buzzard, kestrels and lots of garden birds.

Sunday 10 October 2010

The Merging of the Seasons

An October baby, I love my birth month: it's gentle-warm sun and the way we value the shortening daylight hours. I also enjoy the gradual changing of colours as autumn seeps in and leaves fanfare farewells.

This Croston Finney morning began with powder blue skies. Summer hovered in full fields of maize, and wild pansies quietly persisted amongst the rustle of barley waiting to be cut. Later, the stubble fields, bales and temporary clouding-over showed autumn's easing in. The trees, too, were straddling the seasons; some green, some yellow, some bearing only keys.Vocal skylarks celebrated the bounty of the fields. They approached two hundred in number and there was plenty for all. Over a hundred goldfinch likewise mustered for chatter and food. Crows, rooks, jackdaws all filled the sky with caws but none so loud as the grey heron's rasping croaks.

Common darters still danced over boggy fields where three wintering snipe were flushed by my presence. How rapid their wing beats; how stodgy my steps! A small white (butterfly) also floated by.
Back on a track. Yellow hammers perched on the telephone wires, their faces bright as summer suns. Corn buntings were harvesting the stubble, their numbers yet to increase. And the hedgerows held out their hips and haws for the redwings who have yet to arrive.
October, my birth month, I love.

OPAL Survey

I've recently been working with a group to complete a clean air survey organised by OPAL (Open Air Laboratories). It involved measuring tree girths, counting fungal spots on sycamore leaves and identifying lichen on oak, ash and sycamore trees. The survey doesn't take long to complete and you could easily complete it in a local park or open area. What's more all the ID charts and materials you need are provided - a great teaching resource.
Why not take part - and let's see how clean the air in all areas of Britain is. There's lots of other surveys to complete too. Go on, try one...

Sunday 5 September 2010

Charnock Richard Scarecrow Festival

A quick visit to White Coppice this morning was rewarded with the delight of about two hundred house martins, along with a few sand martins and swallows feeding in the shelter of Stronstrey Bank.

This evening I had a look around Charnock Richard's annual Scarecrow Festival. It didn't scare the crows - I saw a flock of about 50 gathering to roost - but it was entertaining for us humans. Below are a just a few of the many fun moments.

This charming horse and fox really made me smile. It's obvious whose side the horse is on.

But it looks like not everyone was enjoying themselves - I wonder what made this guy angry....

Tree surgeon anyone?


Errrrm no - I don't want to trust him to cut my lawn!
Many thanks to the folks of Charnock Richard.

Sunday 22 August 2010

Great Hill and Black Brook

The skies were looking very changeable today as I set off for Great Hill. I'm glad I went because a wonderful spectacle awaited - well over a hundred swallows zooming around at low levels. As I paused to admire them, I wondered if the many short-tailed youngsters amongst them knew about the migratory adventures that lay so soon ahead. Part way towards Great Hill is Sam's Cup, the site of an old well. It remains a popular spot for having a break. A short distance further and I see the kestrel/s which showed little interest in the fast flying swallows as they hovered searching for voles etc.
I decided to return via Black Brook. It is not a public footpath but is a well used path through this area of access land. The path is eroded in places so it's wise to take a friend along (even if I didn't...)

The sun brought out the butterflies: small tortoiseshell, meadow brown, small coppers and gatekeepers. A couple of brown hawkers and a black darter were also seen, and bees were visiting the heather. I enjoy the landscape of this brook, looking at angles of the carved valley and its tributaries.

Monday 16 August 2010

Dragons and Damsels

I took advantage of yesterday's sunshine to take a walk to a couple of pools in the old quarries near Healey Nab. All the photos below are from the British Dragonfly Society's website and if you click on each photo or the credit beneath, the link will take you to that website - well worth a visit.

Before I reached the pools I saw brown hawkers flying around White Coppice area. They are an unmistakable species hawking over the bracken. However, when I watched them flying over the water, their wings suddenly appeared to be translucent bronze as reflected light shone through them. What a difference the light makes.

Brilliant blue, male damselflies created a magic carpet along the path to the pool. So many of them, hovering there. Their brightness conspicuous above the sand-coloured path. Many were copulating amongst the vegetation until disturbed, when they flew in tandem to another resting place. Below is a photo of a pair in tandem; the female is green.
Talking of green, there were also a few elegant emerald damselflies, flying over nearby vegetation. This species tends to be associated with acid pools so the the peat here must attract them.
A common hawker flew around the pool. It's size and colour announcing its presence.

I was treated to a close-up of a male black darter, angling its abdomen as it rested on a rock. I could clearly see a spot on each wing. Soon after, a female perched on a nearby stone, her yellow abdomen making me think she was a different species at first.
Dragonflies - nice getting to know you.

Wednesday 11 August 2010

Stocks Reservoir

We decided to enjoy the sun and showers by taking a walk around Stocks Reservoir. It's a 11km / 7m circular walk which is well signed. Close to our start point is a United Utilities office - don't they just own some beautiful buildings? Soon we pass the Valve Tower (above). The reservoir is low at present due to less than average rainfall but when we notice that even the culverts near the reservoir are not being cleared, it begs the question: is the precious rainfall being captured efficiently in these catchment areas? We see several oystercatchers. One of the joys of this walk in summer is the flowers. Everywhere fields are pitted by the purple heads of black knapweed and self-heal and through the grass vetch stretches. You breath in meadowsweet, turn to admire its creamy heads adorning field and ditch. Amongst my favourite mauve and creams, other colours appear. Below is what might be larch bolete. The sunny spells encourage butterflies to rise and we see mostly green-veined whites and meadow browns. We also disturb a cloud of larks and are greeted by another favourite flower of mine - field scabious and I also spot sneezewort. I might pass on the fungi, but I do pause to pluck some pink-plump raspberries - just a couple. I explode them slowly in my mouth to explore their delicate sweetness. We notice the cormorant are gathering (about 30) at a safe distance and out of sight from the fisheries.

Now we veer from the reservoir through fields and a bridge to cross Hasgill Beck and the River Hodder which feed the reservoir. More lambs and flowers. Much of the return walk follows a dismantled railway line and I wonder what it must have been like to travel such a scenic route.

We look across the valley and absorb how remote this place is and how lucky we are to enjoy it.

from the field book

from the field book
An inspiring gift for anyone who enjoys watching nature.