Category Archives: nature

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.

 

 

Patagonian Pumas and Penguins

We were talking about big cats in the shop during the week, specifically the definition of “big cat”. The current TV programme is called Big Cats but includes a lot of small cats. Specifically, it includes the Rusty Spotted Cat, which is a very cute cat (which is something you can’t say about a lion or tiger) and rather on the small side.  In fact, at 14 to 19 inches long (excluding tail) it is Asia’s smallest cat and a contender for being the world’s smallest cat.  (The rival is Africa’s Black-footed cat).

The dictionary tells me that the Big Cats are Tigers, Lions, Jaguars and Leopards.  These are all able to roar (apart from Snow Leopards). Sometimes Pumas/Cougars and Cheetahs are allowed in. Unless, as we have seen, you are producing a documentary titled “Big Cats”, when you allow everything in.

It’s a relief to find it’s just sloppy journalism, because I was beginning to think I  was going mad.

By coincidence the Sunday repeat came on as I started to write this. They have just shown pumas in Patagonia that prey on penguins. I don’t like their choice of prey, but you have to admire their instinct for alliteration.

There is probably a joke in there somewhere, but it may fall flat in countries where a Penguin isn’t an easily available chocolate biscuit.

Now they are trekking in the Himalayas, tracking a Snow Leopard. Despite the snow and altitude it seems to lead a life that, just like a domestic cat, involves a lot of sleeping. However, as we’ve already established, I’m not one to take the moral high ground in matters related to sleeping.

I had been wondering what you needed to do at school to end up as a wildlife photographer. However, having seen what they had to do in the Himalayas I’m finding that my enthusiasm is fading. I really don’t like all that snow.

Given a choice I would like to specialise in wildlife that lives around the Mediterranean within easy reach of  shops.

Though after reading  this article I may well settle for life as a travel journalist, as you only have to go for a few weeks.

 

Thinking of Summer

I’m looking forward to summer now. Autumn is all well and good, with plenty of interesting leaves and migrant birds and I like Spring, though it’s always a sad time as you know it won’t last.

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Teasel at Rufford Abbey

Winter, to be fair, offers a few frost-rimed photo opportunities but little else. In the English midlands we don’t have much to offer in the way of scenery or snowfall.

Marigold with frost

Calendula at Wilford

So that leaves Summer. Summer is easy – plenty of flowers and plenty of insects, including butterflies. There’s a lack of birds because they mainly hide behind leaves, but you can’t have everything.

I was speaking to Eddiethebugman earlier today. You may remember his guinea pig shots from an earlier post. He takes a lot of photos of insects (as you may guess from the name) and employs a technique called focus stacking, which produces brilliant images of insects.

As I understand it you bracket the focus settings and use a computer to put together a very sharp image using the best bits from all the shots.

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Angle Shades moth

It’s beyond my technical capabilities, but I’m a great admirer of anyone who can do it.

He was telling me that he was once criticised for using the technique, as it isn’t “proper photography”. It’s a bit like the list of words you shouldn’t use in poems – there’s always someone ready to tell you what you should and shouldn’t be doing. I even read a poetry competition judge recently saying that you shouldn’t write poems about butterflies.

Small Copper

Small Copper in the garden

Who wants to live in a world without butterfly poems?

The same goes for photographs. I’m always happy to see good close-ups of insects, no matter how they are produced. If someone wants to spend hours over producing one perfect image I’m prepared to admire both the photograph and the craftsmanship.

My photos, as you can see, are more of a point and shoot affair with a large helping of luck and hit and miss. I’ve added a few to liven up the post.

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Comedy carrot

 

 

Wild Guinea Pigs of Newstead Abbey

While I was in the shop yesterday Eddie showed me a picture of wild guinea pigs in Newstead Abbey country park. They seem to have moved on, or become a succulent part of the food chai,n as he hasn’t seen them since.

~The Wild Guinea Pigs Of Newstead~

 

I pasted the link but it added the picture – not sure how that happens. Clicking the photo seems to link back to the site, but I’m a bit suspiciousvof all this modern technology.

If you search for Wild Guinea Pigs of Newstead Abbey you will find his site, with many insect photos.

He’s wasted taking picures of coins for ebay.

Looking Back, and a False Start

I’m not having a good time at the moment, having just wiped out an entire post just as I was giving it a final edit. WordPress has been refusing to save on a regular basis recently, so there was no previous version to reinstate. It’s been a minor irritant in the last month or so, but after this I’m going to have to sort it out.

Has anybody else noticed this problem?

It isn’t just the annoyance of losing 350 words, which took some writing, as I’m not particularly swift today. It’s also that I feel posterity has been robbed, because the second version never seems as good. The second version, I always feel, should be more polished, but it never seems to be the case; I never seem to be able to recreate a post to my satisfaction.

That is why I’m not going to write about my adventures with Scotch Bonnets, compressors and boiling water just now. I will get back to it later but now isn’t the time.

I may as well just look back on the week – a walk round the duck pond, a damp day in Derbyshire, some new words, birds at Rufford Abbey, some weather and 12 hours bottling jerk seasoning. It’s been, to say the least, an up and down sort of week.

I’ve enjoyed it, but it’s been a case of two steps forward and one step back, as I don’t seem to be achieving much. The exercise is just making me ache and feel old instead of making me fitter and, at the same time, I’m slipping back to eating carbs. Time for a hard look at my life again.

Having reviewed my week, albeit briefly, I’m now going to add a selection of photos from last week and call it a retrospective.

 

 

 

More New Words

We were in Derbyshire yesterday, and had a thoroughly miserable day. The weather was cold and grey with outbreaks of drizzle and, as we climbed higher, wintry showers.

And that is where the new words cut in. “Wintry showers” is, it seems, a term mainly used in the UK. It’s an undefined mix of rain, graupel and snow where the ground temperature is above freezing and nothing settles. In the USA, according to Wikipedia, a “wintry mix” is a mix of  freezing rain, ice pellets and snow that occurs when the ground is below freezing and things do settle.

I say “in the USA” with all the assurance that it’s one country, though now I come to think about it if you are reading this in New Mexico you probably aren’t that interested in snow.

On the subject of differences between the UK and USA, how about sleet? In the UK it’s another part of the rain/hail continuum, as it is in Canada. But cross the border into the USA, according to Wikipedia (and I stand to be corrected by residents of Maine) and sleet becomes ice pellets. For ice pellets and graupel (see – I didn’t forget) see this link.

I now know the difference between hail and ice pellets, where I never even knew there was a difference until this afternoon.

I think that’s enough for now. More on Derbyshire will follow once I have the pie in the oven…

Monster of the Deep

Forget the Blue Planet, look what I photographed in the depths of the duck pond at Arnot Hill Park on Sunday morning.

It appears to be a grey plastic supermarket trolley. If my memory serves me right these were used in Wilko’s. I’m going to have to go in next week and see if they still use them.

It was a bit chilly so I resisted the temptation to dive in and photograph it in its natural habitat.

There were also a few ducks and moorhens about.

 

Mallard/Pintail drake cross

Mallard/Pintail cross drake