Category Archives: nature

A Man who is tired of Blogging…

Yesterday I spent hours researching a post. Despite the time I spent on it I couldn’t get the tone right and, even worse, couldn’t maintain my enthusiasm. If I can’t be enthusiastic about the post I don’t see how I can expect anyone to read it.

That is now stored until I can get it right.

Today I started another post, meaning to finish in half an hour (in line with my new target) and found I couldn’t manage that either.

I thought of Writer’s Block then I thought Writer’s Block is for amateurs.

First I loaded up a serene picture for the post. Imagine that scene. Now hear the gentle quack of the resident mallard family and look for the convoy of ducklings following mother. I let my mind wander back to other days at that pond, with a goldcrest flitting through the trees calling with an high-pitched squeak. The Victorians called them golden-crested wrens. In turn, that reminds me that it is time to read some of my old bird books again. I remember the water voles I have seen on other days and the jays that used to call from the trees on the slope above the pond. Up the slope there is fragrant wild garlic, also known as ramsons. That reminds me of one of the posts I have stored as a draft. We haven’t been able to go to the slope where the ramsons grow this year, but it doesn’t matter – I have memories and good times will come again.

Of course, in the background there is also the noise of distant traffic, shouting from the owners of undisciplined dogs and the cawing of a crow as it flies over. Every time I hear or see a crow these days I think of the family name corvid, and my mind jumps to covid 19. They are different things but they both signify death in different ways.

That is 320 words and including a little tidying, it has taken me twenty six minutes.

As I say, Writer’s Block is for amateurs.

“You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” — Jack London

I’ve just been reading the Jack London link and found this part (where the western nations bombard China with infectious diseases) particularly ironic when you think of current events.

 

Photographs and Percentages

It seems that one or two of my readers are suffering from damselfly envy. There are two ways of coping with this – either with tact and sympathy and empathy, or by publishing loads of links to previous photos. This second was would obviously be unkind and tactless.

So, here is the first dragonfly picture I took, after building a miniature wildlife pond when we were on the farm. Within days it tempted a dragonfly to appear from nowhere. In two years it was the only one we ever saw.

Common Darter

This is a common darter at the gardens in Wilford – the background and composition leave a bit to be desired, but you have to take your shots where they happen.

There’s another  dragonfly here too, and here. And here.

Finally, and it took some finding, is a picture of a ruddy darter from Strumpshaw Fen. This was one of my better days for photographing dragonflies and damselflies.

Ruddy Darter, Strumpshaw

Ruddy Darter, Strumpshaw Fen

The truth is that after walking miles round nature reserves and taking hundreds of shots, I’ve managed three or four shots I’m happy with.It’s much the same for butterflies, but make that thousands of shots and a dozen I’m happy with.

I really must start targeting dragonflies and try to get some better shots. If you want to see some good insect photos try Eddie the Bugman. He is an excellent photographer, even if he does hide his light under a bushel and spend his days sitting next to me photographing lots for eBay.

Big learning experience of the day was that I must use better links – I hard to search dragonflies, dragonfly, damselflies and damsel flies to find all these links and photos.

 

Magic on the Marshes

The weather was mild this morning, we had nothing pressing to do at home and the coast beckoned. We rose at a leisurely pace, had a late breakfast (with the intention of having fish and chips at Sutton-on-Sea), and pottered off.

So far, so good.

Unfortunately I set off on the wrong road and neither of us noticed because we were talking at the time. Eventually we realised and I adjusted our route to take us to the coast via Gainsborough, which is an interesting town with Viking history. Sweyn Forkbeard and his son Cnut won a kingdom here when they defeated the army of King Ethelred the Unready. The story of Cnut, or Canute as he was known in my younger days, and his attempt to turn back the tide, may have occurred in Gainsborough.

It was also England’s most inland port, being 55 miles from the sea. However, big ships no longer call, so it’s not a proper port these days. The Nottinghamshire Naturalist’s Trust have some interesting records of whales at Gainsborough, and dolphins near Newark.

But enough about Gainsborough, it’s a nice enough town but it is not our destination.

We travelled to Sutton on Sea and enjoyed a bracing stroll along the front, watching the dog walkers and their various styles of dog walking and noticing the tracks across the sand. It was about 1.00 pm by this time. I noticed that if a lot of people had passed that way, turning the sand numerous times, the sand seemed to stay moist, and the tracks showed up as churned sand the same colour as the beach. If only one or two people had gone that way the churned sand seemed to dry in the wind and leave a pale trail across the beach. I hope the photo will demonstrate what I mean.

Tracks on the Beach

Tracks on the Beach

 

I looked for the glasses I lost on our last visit. They were not there. It’s just like being at home, people are always moving things after I put them down.

The fields were full of pheasants, who clearly know that the pheasant season ends on 1st February.

After that we travelled north to Horseshoe Point. We’ve been there before, It is reached by a pot-holed road, which is getting worse due to construction traffic – they are building the onshore bit for one of the offshore wind farms here. There is a car park, some marsh, a few coastal defences left from the war and not much else.

As we parked, three vees of geese flew over, obviously intent on grazing a field before roosting. We didn’t see them later but we did see a big flock of Widgeon on the return trip. Today we had views of ships in the Humber, hazy wind turbines and a Little Egret. I was particularly pleased with that as we’d seen two in roadside fields during the trip but hadn’t been able to stop and watch or photograph them.

Little Egret - Horseshoe Point

Little Egret – Horseshoe Point

It stayed in the distance, but it did do quite a bit of walking about and some short flights. I know they are quite common these days, but it’s always a thrill to see one.

On the way back to Sutton on Sea, and the chip shop, we were lucky enough to see a hunting Barn Owl as the light fell. They are ghostly, pale birds, and suit the light at the end of the day. It flew from one side of the road to the other, banking several times to show off its plumage, which is a lacework pattern of cream, grey and beige. A magic end to a fine day. It was just a shame it was too quick for me to get the camera out.

(To be continued)

 

 

 

God’s Acre

God's Acre

God’s Acre

 

When we visited the church at Sibsey, we noticed a sign about the God’s Acre Project. It seems to be a nature conservation project which manages churchyards for wildlife, in addition to their primary purpose of containing graves.

It seems like a good idea, and after being developed in Lincolnshire has been adopted by some Kent churches too.

It’s difficult to see a downside to the idea, as many churchyards are, to be fair, not kept in a manicured condition. It seems sensible to make a virtue of this and help develop the wildlife potential of the area.

Here are some pictures of the spring flowers at Sibsey. I note that they have nest boxes up too, as they have a number of mature trees, including an avenue of limes. 

The stump of cross is, it seems, a Grade 2 listed and a Scheduled Monument. I know we value our old bits and pieces, but this seems over the top for a bit of broken cross. If it was that important they should have looked after it better.

To be honest with you, I’d rather see some of the gravestones scheduled and looked after, rather than a bit of stone which looks tough enough to look after itself.

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Remains of the Churchyard Cross

 

It was just a flying visit on Wednesday, to give me a start on the research for The Talk, as I am beginning to think of it. There is quite a lot more to see, and I’m sure a few leaves on the trees will encourage avian activity around the nest boxes.

Blanket Weed

We went for a ride out yesterday afternoon and I thought we’d have a look at  Budby Flash. All was not well.

The smell should have alerted me, a very ripe and festering cabbagey sort of smell. However, it didn’t, and as I scanned the pond, looking at a few apathetic mallard, it was Julia’s observation from the other side of the bridge that alerted me to the full horror of the situation –  “I don’t think the Kingfisher will be diving into this lot!”

I had a look at the other side of the Flash, and was amazed at what I saw – acres of blanket weed. Thick weed, too, not just a light covering but swathes of weed several inches thick.

In the distance a Moorhen was actually walking on the weed instead of swimming.

It’s a hazard to fish,  though the few we saw seemed healthy enough, and I’m not sure what, if anything anyone will do about it. So there you are – a useless report, which proves that facts, though factual, are not necessarily interesting.

I could use that as a subtitle.

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Blanket Weed

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Blanket Weed

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Vile Vista of Blanket Weed

Geese coming in to land - Budby Flash

Geese coming in to land – Budby Flash

Open Gardens

Julia visited some local Open Gardens on Saturday. If you are interested in others there is a website here which details all the national ones.

One was clearly the result of spending thousands on hard landscaping and plants straight from the garden centre. I don’t know why you would do that on our street as the house prices don’t justify the cost of expensive garden work, and on our side of the street (as this one was) the gardens slope away from the house and face North.

If I’d been a gardener when I moved to Nottingham I wouldn’t have bought this house. Nor would I have slabbed the front garden to save work. However, plants still manage to grow in the front garden, as you can see from the poppies.

The plants were all planted in buckets because the soil, it seems, is so poor. That is strange because our soil, just a few hundred yards away is quite good. It wasn’t bad when we moved in and with compost and hoed weeds, falling leaves and leafmold it has improved over the years.  It could be a lot better, but we are best described as sporadic gardeners. Having worked as a self-employed jobbing gardener for 10 years I have to confess to neglecting my own garden dreadfully.

The plots were built up using sand when they built the houses eighty years ago, and the underlying geology is sandstone, so the soil tend to be a bit light. However, it is well drained and easy to work, and does respond well to feeding. There were allotments here before they built houses so it was hardly a barren desert.

I did, however, bring back a lot of compostable debris from my work as a gardener, so it all worked out well in the end.

That, I think is where many gardeners go wrong. Spend money on hard landscaping and plants and you will get a garden you can show off. Spend time on the soil and you will get a garden where you can grow things.

Next year I suspect this gardener will have to buy more plants from the Garden Centre to fill her garden again. One thing she won’t have to do is mow the lawn (or compost the cuttings) because the “lawn” is astroturf.

We will, once again, be cutting things back in a desperate attempt to keep ours looking vaguely like a garden. We will also return to planting calabrese and kale in the flower beds. It seems to do well and the pigeons don’t spot it like they do when you plant it in a vegetable bed.

In contrast to the posh garden there was another, where kids were playing. The owner kept apologising for this but Julia told them that was what gardens are for.

They were just doing it to help raise funds for local charities and show what an ordinary garden looks like.

It takes all sorts, and they are both valid uses of a garden, depending on your ambitions and lifestyle.

We had Hummingbird Hawk Moths in the garden a few years ago. We also had a nesting Blackcap. This year we had Painted Ladies.  You don’t get that with a tidy garden.

Red Valerian, like poppies, grows vigorously from cracks in the paving. It is a great food plant for moths and butterflies, though it’s a bit of a weed and not seen in the better sort of garden.

Spring is Coming

You don’t have to take my word for it – look at the birds.

The Black-headed Gulls are regaining their black heads.

The idiots are also out in force. This prime example spotted the perfect spot to stand and ruin my shot. Then he moved a few feet away before coming back for another go.

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Idiotus Domesticus

Robins were singing in the dogwood hedges (Cynical note to self – Robins are always good for attracting likes).

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Robin and dogwood

And the ducks are looking in fine fettle for breeding.

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Finely fettled ducks

And finally – it’s clear what is on this pigeon’s mind, even if the object of his desire isn’t interested.

 

The Post I Meant to Write…

Just before I opened my email from the Royal Agricultural Society, this is the post I meant to write. The last post was merely a Jacobin rant, this one is about nature. It’s better for me than politics.

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A model of me in the garden

There’s not much to say as it’s late and the pictures can do the talking.

The pop-bottle poppies are still looking good after two years – Julia was going to take them down last year but everyone asked for them to stay up.

This is the “hedge” between the Mencap plot and the school plot. It’s willow clippings with ivy planted to grow through it.

And finally – some birds. There would have been more but a sparrowhawk swooped by and scared them all away.

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Great tits on feeder – Nottingham

A Tried and Trusted Formula

I’m all out of ideas so I’m falling back on the old stand-by – nature photographs and a cute seal.

The seal did its part, but the camera work could have been better. The need for better camera work is a contiuing feature of this blog.

Here’s a selection of dragonflies, or damsel flies. I’ve not been doing too well at identifying them this year. I must do better in the coming year. But you’ve heard that before, haven’t you?

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It’s an orchid at Strumpshaw Fen – not sure what sort – sorry

Must do better on flower ID too.

I do have some proper subjects to blog about, but I’m just varying the pace for a day or two. That sounds feasible, I think…

A Few Favourite Photographs

 

Now that I look back on my flower photos I wish I’d taken more. They are very comforting in the middle of winter.

I also wish I’d sorted them better as I’ve had to go through 1,300 images to find these.  They are cheering me up already, particularly the blossom. I’m looking forward to blossom time, which seems a very haiku time of year.

I’ve always like grasshoppers as subjects – something that hides in the grass and is prone to jumping when disturbed is a challenge, and a good shot is always a pleasure.

Finally, the Bread Group’s end of year curry. I miss the bread group, the smell of fresh bread and, of course, the curry.

I’m now feeling cheered, pleasantly nostalgic and inspired to write haiku, so it was worth sorting through a few photos.