Category Archives: nature

Some Birds at Clumber Park

I wrote this last night, with the intention of posting it in the morning. That way, I thought, I’d come home to a selection of comments and I wouldn’t have to rush to write a post tonight.

As you’ve probably guessed from the opening paragraph, things didn’t work out.

I’m not exactly clear what I did, but the absence of post tends to suggest that I shut down without saving. Yes, it’s thirty years since I first laid hands on a computer and I now know less than I did in 1987.

So here it is again.

It’s a big lake, and there are plenty of birds about, but they aren’t the most interesting selection of birds. Swans, Canada Geese, Greylag Geese, Mallards, Tufted Duck…

As you can see from the photos there were Shovellers, Gadwall, Cormorants, Goosanders and Black=headed Gulls.

At Arnot Hill Park, or even at Rufford, the scale is more manageable, and you are generally closer to the birds. There’s a little more excitement at Arnot Hill, because you are never quite sure what is going to be there, and at Rufford there are plenty of woodland birds as well as the waterfowl.

To be fair to Clumber, I only ever scratch the surface – it’s so big. The main thing I go for is the end of the lake with the dead trees and Cormorants. In the 1980s and again at the start of this century, mine workings subsided near the end of the lake and the resulting low ground filled with water, drowning the trees.

When I first visited Clumber in the 90s there were more dead trees in the water and they were full of Cormorants. Now when I visit there are just a few trees and a handful of Cormorants, but there is still a possibility of interesting photos. Sadly there were no good Cormorant/tree photos to be had, but I did get a heron on a tree.

 

I also saw a family of Long-tailed Tits, a Goldcrest and a dozen squirrels, but couldn’t get decent photos of any of them. The only in-focus Long-tailed Tit was so badly framed all I pictured was feet and belly.

 

The Leaves of Clumber Park

The woods have really pinged into life since the frost and we are finally seeing some good autumn colour. My camera, of course, is doing its best to take the colour back out. I really don’t know what goes through the minds of camera designers, but they really seem to hate colour.

I first noticed this when taking a sunset with my old camera. A deep red, cloud-flecked sky behind Sandal Castle became a pale pink sky with pale grey wisps.

In the old days of film you used to buy Kodak for restrained colour or Fuji if you wanted something brighter. These days, with my camera at least, you can get the same effect from selecting “Scene” mode. I selected the “Cuisine” option, which brightens all the colours. It’s meant for taking pictures of food but it seems to work for autumn leaves too. Some, like the oak leaves didn’t need help. With others I forgot to use the setting. It did help with the landscapes but even with this help the colours in the photographs are more restrained than they were in real life.

Julia had a Safeguarding Course at Worksop today so it seemed like a good time to visit Clumber Park. It’s the home of an 87 acre lake and the longest Lime Tree Avenue in Europe. It was planted in 1840 and is 2 miles long with 1,296 common limes.

At the end of the lake is a shallow section with a number of tree stumps and drowned trees. These date from the 1980s when subsidence from coal workings dropped the level of the ground. The new low-lying areas filled up and the trees dies. A few still stand to provide perches for cormorants and gulls.

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Drowned tree at Clumber Park

I read a haiku today, by coincidence. I can’t remember it, but it was about how maple leaves are at their best just before they fall. I wish the same could be said for me.

In Japanese they have the word koyo – autumn foliage.

Autumn Leaves

I finally did what the photography magazines have been recommended for the last month and looked on the floor. There are, ass they point out, colourful leaves on the floor.

The problem is that on a well-walked path many of the leaves are looking a bit threadbare. I’m sure there are still plenty of nice ones in the woods but I didn’t really have chance to check today. Another trip is needed.

Here is a selection of a few of the better ones.

 

They are reasonably easy to photograph compared to birds, as they aren’t very mobile and you can move them round a bit. However, they are trickier than teasel as they tend to blow away as the breeze stiffens. See my last post for further comments on this.

I’ve added a couple of other shots too – one of leaves catching the light whilst still attached to a tree and a couple of an archway that links two of the islands in the lake (taken from different sides of the lake). I can’t recall the exact date when the lake was built but a quick scan of the internet suggests 1750, which seems reasonable. It looks a bit like a bridge but it looks a bit steep and impractical so I’ll stick with “archway”.

The final picture is an example of “health and safety gone mad”, as I would say if I was writing for a tabloid. I’m waiting for the warning about uneven ground. There was one at Donna Nook on Monday. Uneven ground in the countryside, whatever next?

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Yes, I’m sure they can. I expect the sign is more about avoiding liability than about preventing people being injured. Or am I just been cynical?

 

A Walk in the Woods

I went for a walk in the woods today and, as you can see from the header picture, I managed to get a photograph of a Nuthatch. It took some doing, I’ve discarded around 20 blurred images and another 20 photos of an empty table. They really are flighty birds.

The morning looked hopeful, with sunlight and a number of great lighting effects behind the clouds. By the time I reached Rufford Abbey the light had, of course gone. It did reappear a couple of times, mainly at the wrong time and in the wrong place.

 

There were a few other birds about but I failed in my attempts to photograph a variety of tits and waterfowl. I had been hoping to get some shots of swans, with reflections, but that was doomed by a lack of swans. There were a few of this year’s cygnets about but they didn’t come close enough for an attempt.

One of the few subjects that did benefit from the lighting was the bed of teasels. They also have the advantage of not moving much.

 

A Grumpy Newt

Julia came home with a picture of a newt today – she’s been looking for one all year. This one turned up as they were clearing a heap of rubbish. The heap had been there since before she took over at the garden, in case you are wondering. It was, it seems, a more attractive berth than the various newt habitats that they have built around the garden.

The newt was not, she says, particularly glad to see them.

I can understand that. You’re all wrapped up and snug in preparation for a long winter snooze then somebody comes and rips your roof off. In similar circumstances I’d be pretty hacked off too.

They tucked it in and put all the stuff back on the heap. They can finish that particular job in Spring.

The picture is a bit blurred, but it’s taken a long time to get it so I’m going to use it anyway.

Donna Nook – Seals (2)

As I hinted in the last post, there’s a bit of a disaster looming, though, to be fair, it sort of worked out alright.

We arrived at the car park after a trek across Lindsey (one of the ancient divisions of Lincolnshire) and found it was full. Worse than that, there were a couple of people lurking round waiting for spaces so it was a slow job getting round and finding the overspill car park. This one costs £2 but they have portable toilets, and after journey of one and a half hours this was quite a welcome feature.

From the car park it only took a couple of minutes to walk over the sea defences and down to the beach. That was when disaster struck. I raised the camera to take a picture of the Donna Nook sign and…

…do you remember that I said in the last post that part of my plan for the morning had been to take my camera card out of the card reader and fit it in the camera?

Have you ever had that “Memory Full” message? I have. It’s a dreadful thing to see when you’re miles from home and you’re planning on a big photo session.

I suppose it’s already obvious that I managed to get round this, but for a moment I have to admit I was somewhat downcast. The solution was really quite simple – clear the camera’s limited memory (around 30 pictures) and use it to store a limited number of pictures.

Here are the results.

 

There will be more seals in a few weeks, as this is just the start of the season. The best season on record resulted in over a thousand pups, so I deduce there could be ten times as many seals by the end of the month. That’s a lot of seals.

There was also a warning notice, as Donna Nook is still an active RAF bombing range. I have heard them bombing sometimes when travelling in the area, though they don’t bomb when the seals are ashore.

There was plenty to see other than seals – including Pied Wagtails,Skylarks, Starlings, Shelducks, Redshanks, Crows and Great Black-backed Gulls. There was plenty of sea buckthorn too.

Donna Nook – Seals (1)

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Donna Nook Seal Sign

Julia expressed a wish, many years ago, to “see the seals” while we were in Norfolk one summer. We didn’t manage it that year, and various things like work and children ganged up on us, meaning we didn’t actually manage it any year. Finally, whilst compiling my modest bucket list, I had a look on the internet. Having frittered away the first half of the year with hospital visits I thought we’d missed the chance for this year. Imagine my surprise when I found that Grey Seals came ashore to give birth in November. I mean, there are twelve months in a year and it seems to me that at least six of them would be better suited to lying on a beach giving birth.

Having established that there were seals at Donna Nook (including 154 pups counted on Saturday) and that the day was going to be nice we went to bed on Sunday night with a plan in mind. Part of the plan was to take Number One Son to the station for 7.00am and another part was to remove my camera card from the card reader and put it in the camera before setting off.

I believe those last three lines are what is known as “dramatic foreshadowing”.

At 6.00 the alarm went. I oozed into a passable impression of action and by 6.45 was in the car and on my way to the station with Firstborn.

He checked his phone and muttered something. It seemed he was checking how much he was going to have to pay to upgrade his ticket, and he hadn’t liked the answer. The choice seemed to be pay £45 or wait for a later train and be late for work. To be fair, last time he did the journey he booked the upgrade in advance and it only cost £6. It’s not a bad way to run a business, charging people £45 extra just to travel at a convenient time.

And that was how we ended up travelling to North Lincolnshire via Leeds.

It was a lovely day, and we saw deer grazing in the fields by the side of the M1, so it wasn’t a total waste. I will leave you here, with a video of seals, and continue the story later.