Category Archives: Countryside

Natural History from the Car

As I drove to Newark this afternoon I noticed a group of rooks whirling aimlessly round the sky. On looking closer I realised they weren’t being aimless, but were in fact mobbing a buzzard. here were about 20 of them, though it wasn’t that easy to drive safely and count rooks at the same time.

Shortly after that I passed a roadside tree full of strange ball-like growths in its leafless branches – mistletoe in its natural state.

A bit later in the same journey I had to brake sharply when a large fox decided to run across the road. You don’t see many foxes in the middle of the day, and this is the first time I’ve ever had to put the brakes on to avoid one. It looked healthy and well-fed so I’m not sure why it needed to be out and about. Sometimes things are meant to remain a mystery.

The only other bit of natural history was a buzzard roosting in the roadside tree. Always nice to see, but let’s face it – they aren’t rare these days. It just goes to show what’s about, even on a grey day of driving round doing errands.

The picture is a random pansy. They are out in the garden so I thought it would be OK to show one.

 

 

Birds, birds, birds…

Today will go down as The Day of Colourful Birds. Unfortunately I can’t use that as a title as I didn’t get any photos of them so it would be false advertising.

My first stop was Budby Flash – a small lake formed by mining subsidence in 2007. In fact it was my only stop. I didn’t have time for a long walk so that really cut out Rufford and Clumber, and I wanted somewhere with a bit more to it than the duck pond at Arnott Hill.

In addition, I thought it would be nice to go somewhere new. I’ve not actually been along the road since 2007 so I’ve never seen the flash.

I’ve looked flash up in the dictionary, but you have to search hard to find it. It took several dictionaries and when I eventually found it, it was 12th in the list of British nouns.

12. Yorkshire and Lancashire dialect

pond, esp one produced as a consequence of subsidence
I know what a flash is, as I’ve seen several, but I thought I’d better look it up to be sure about it. When you write it in a blog you really need to check. As so often a Nottingham word is claimed for Yorkshire, as the boundaries for this sort of thing can be quite vague.
That, by the way, is why there is a drowned tree – it must have been growing by the side of the River Meden when the flash formed. A good day for ducks, but not so good for trees.
The first thing I noticed was the feeding station, with fat balls and seeds in mesh bags. There was a reasonable flock of tits feeding (Great Tits, Blue Tits and a few Coal Tits) with a Robin and a Dunnock. The surprise of the morning was the Kingfisher.
I was standing on the bridge looking for ducks when a flash of blue shot out from the side of the bridge and flew away down the valley. There’s only one thing that shines that blue on a grey day, so though it wasn’t a great view it was most definitely a Kingfisher.
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Robin – Budby Flash – Nottinghamshire

That was the highlight of the day.
On the way back a Jay flew down by the roadside and picked something up, probably an acorn, before flying off. That was a good view, though, as usual, I couldn’t get a photo.
Finally, feeding on a roundabout on the way home, a small flock of Fieldfares looked bright in the sunlight, despite being shades of grey and brown.

Julia’s Excellent Day Out

Once Julia gets your email address you are doomed, as the secretary of the Flintham Ploughing Match found to her cost.  We do actually know her from our work on the farm (she used to give us apples and horse manure) so a request for freebies wasn’t totally out of the blue. Thanks to her generosity Julia ended up with free tickets for her Thursday group and two tickets for the VIP parking.

It was, by all accounts, an excellent day. The weather, which had been borderline at the beginning of the week, brightened up for Thursday so it was a great day for it even if it was soft underfoot in places. Generally the going was good, though they did have to close the second show ring because of drainage problems.

This is better than a few years ago when they had to cancel due to the weather. This year it is Southwell that has been cancelled. It’s a shame, because a lot of volunteers invest a lot of time in putting these shows on.The problem is that ploughing matches can really only take place at one time of year, and that time of year is prone to being wet.

As you can see from the photographs there was plenty to do and there was a display of old relics. I will say no more…

She brought several pies back – we will be eating them tonight.

A Ride in the Country

In the middle of the day I first dropped Julia off at work (she is going in to familiarise herself with the garden) and then went for a drive.

I saw an Orange-tip on the verge and a Buzzard perching in a roadside tree, which was a good start.

It was a good day for free range pigs, warm but not too sunny. I always worry about them getting sunburn when it’s too hot. Obviously it’s nothing like as painful as being grilled, but it must be fairly unpleasant , particularly as they have short legs and no way of getting suncream on their backs.

When I have stopped and looked at them before there have been hundreds of birds abou (Jackdaws, Carrion Crows, Rooks and Black Headed Gulls), but apart from a few gulls there were none about today. I must start looking on a regular basis to see if it’s seasonal or if today was just a one-off.

Further down the road I stopped in a lay-by for a look round. I tried a few flowers and some still life shots but the butterflies wouldn’t stop to pose and all the birds were hiding in trees, though they were singing their hearts out. If only I could recognise more birdsong, or more flowers.

The only bird I actually saw was a Buzzard, and that was too far away to get a decent shot.

It was good to get outside for a spot of nature therapy. I hadn’t realised how much I’d missed it the fresh air and actually having to think about things. Sitting at home watching daytime TV is not something I’m keen to keep doing.

 

A Mystery Solved!

Last week, on our visit to Carsington Water, I took some photos of a Redshank and another, unknown, wader. That’s not the real mystery; I’m used to getting confused with waders.

After various searches I’ve decided it’s a Knot, though I’m open to other ideas if you think it’s not a Knot.

Sorry, couldn’t resist.

The mystery was actually where the photos went. I searched everything on my card and couldn’t find them when it was in the computer. When it was in the camera I could see the missing photos perfectly.

Having taken more pictures today and had a revelation I now know the answer.

The missing photos are now being put in the file 101Olymp as the file 100Olymp must be full. I’d often wondered what it was for.

And finally, one for all you Narnia fans…

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If you have to ask, you aren’t a fan. 🙂

Under Fenland Skies

We went for a trip into the Fens today. There’s not much to see apart from black soil and big skies with a few scattered houses (that always seem to need some paint or a repair to the fence).

Actually that’s not really fair. They have large agricultural buildings, reeds growing in roadside ditches and a lot of history.

I would be happy to move back, as they are actually more interesting than any town in the Midlands. The Fens are an example of what we do to the world. First we drained them, then we watched them dry out and blow away. The ground level is currently around four metres lower than it was in 1850.

Mainly they have big skies. I’ll leave you with a few photos for now. They would have been better if there had been some foreground interest like wind turbines or pylons but there was nowhere to park so I took what I could. With long straight roads and thundering lorries you need to park safely.

Friluftsliv

That’s right – friluftsliv. It’s not a typo and I didn’t fall asleep with my head on the keyboard.  (I have, once or twice, fallen asleep with my head on the keyboard, (in case you are wondering) but the result has never been very interesting).It is a Norwegian concept, meaning “free air life”.  It’s similar to ecotherapy, nature therapy, blue sky hospital and green gym but in Norway it’s part of everyday life, while we struggle to find time to include nature in our busy lives.

I say “busy lives” but in truth how much is “busy” and how much is just just useless clutter generated by emails and texts and Twitter?

According to a 2016 UN Report, Denmark, with hygge, is the happiest country in the world, with Norway fourth. The USA comes 13th and the UK 23rd. No disrespect to American readers but we have free health care, half the suicide rate and a quarter of the murder rate: how can we be less happy? Can a lack of wilderness make so much difference?

The ironic thing from my point of view is that we’ve just spent five years pushing the idea that getting outside is good for you and despite all the evidence that supports us, we weren’t able to get the idea across.

We know that working with soil combats depression, aggression, anxiety, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), bipolar disorder, irritable bowel and fibromyalgia.

We also know that getting outside has a wide range of benefits, such as increased self-esteem, reduced anxiety and aggression, increased energy, weight loss and improved mobility.

Various researchers have shown benefits in increasing overall health, decreasing anti-social behaviour, promoting healing and slowing the progress of long-term degenerative conditions. I can’t find my list of references and I’m having trouble tracking a link for the last one, sorry about that.

The availability of outdoor space even affects the development of children – there’s even a condition attached to lack of outdoor play – Nature Deficit Disorder. Generally I’m sceptical about this sort of thing, but having seen what happens when you put a group of kids in the middle of a field I’m a convert.

Sadly, the UK is slow to learn the benefits of being outside.