Category Archives: Nottinghamshire

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.

 

The Saracen’s Head

Driving into Southwell from Newark, you can’t really miss the Saracen’s Head – as it positively dominates the junction in the middle of town.

In 1646 it was called the King’s Head, and on the morning  of 5th May 1646 the King came to call. Things hadn’t gone well for him over the years.

He’d fought against the Scots in the Bishop’s Wars of 1639 and 1640 and had not covered himself in martial glory.  The first was a draw, the second an emphatic away win for the Scots, who easily over-ran the counties of Northumberland and Durham, They then refused to hand them back until the English reimbursed them for the cost of the war. In 1641 the Irish started again (having fought four wars against the English in the previous 100 years), and in 1642 the English Civil War started.

The first action of the king was to raise his standard on Standard Hill in Nottingham. It blew down. It may or may not have been  bad omen, but it was certainly an inauspicious start to a war that gradually went wrong. By 5th May 1646 it looked about as bad as it could be, and the King arranged to surrender to the Scots.

He was rather caught out when the Scots handed him over to Parliament in return for £400,000, but carried on scheming and eventually managed to enlist Scots help in fighting Parliament. A Scots army did invade England in 1648, but was badly beaten by Cromwell at Preston.

With hindsight, (and if you believe in these things), meeting the Scots in a tavern called the King’s Head has the look of a bad omen.

We now come to my view of King Charles I, which isn’t necessarily a balanced academic view. He was a bit of an idiot and a good advert for why royal families should pay attention to the depth of their gene pool. If you look at his father you can see he never had much of a chance.

But when the chips were down he put on an extra shirt so he wouldn’t shiver in the January cold and seem afraid as he stepped up to the execution block.

“Let me have a shirt on more than ordinary by reason the season is so sharp as probably may make mee shake, which some Observors will imagin’ proceeds from fear. I will have no such Imputation, I fear not death!”

There is more to being a King than being clever and avoiding marrying your cousin.

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Yellow Flags, Ducklings and Swifts

Things are changing in Arnot Hill Park, the shrubbery has finally come to life, and the trees are in bloom. A pair of camera-shy Song Thrushes took cover in a horse chestnut as I approached and the trees were full of annoyingly elusive birds.

There’s nothing quite like yellow flags for cheering the heart, particularly when you’ve just been confined to the house. I like irises, and I particularly like the yellow ones so it was good to see them in bloom this morning.

As you may be able to tell from the photos, the water has changed colour to an exotic blue-green, while we’ve been away too.

There are ducklings about too – though they are a bit of a handful from the parenting point of view. The first ones I saw seemed to be attached to a pair of Red Crested Pochards but they made a rush for freedom, the adults swam off and the ducklings carried on by themselves. I think they may actually have been Mallards, as they seemed to stay with the adult Mallards.

Round the other side of the pond I found more Red Crested Pochards, this time with four ducklings. I’m amazed by how fast they are for such small things, particularly once you try to get the camera on them.

Incidentally, I’m back on the old camera as it’s easier to slip into my pocket and…well, to be honest, I can’t remember where I put the other one last time I used it. That’s how bad my memory has been during the last few weeks.

Finally, alerted by high-pitched squeaks I found a family of Moorhens with four chicks. Two of the chicks swam across one of the islands and took refuge inside the wire bastions they use for extending the islands. It makes a nice secure cage for chicks, though the other two kept to open water. Typical kids, you have a nice safe cage for them and they make for open water.

There are also two Coots sitting on eggs, so there are more chicks to come.

Unfortunately the Mandarin seems to have gone, so no more Odd Couple.

The film clip shows a pair of Mallards feasting on unappetising scum. No wonder they do so well if they are prepared to eat that.

And finally – Julia was out in the street this afternoon when she heard screaming calls, Looking up she saw eight Swifts. Looking down again after a few moments of Swift watching, she found a woman staring at her as if she was mad.

Who can tell?

Rufford at Last!

I finally managed the trip to Rufford.

The car journey was only the first step, the hundred yards of varied slopes between the car park and the lake was more of a problem.

It was worth it to sit in the sun and watch a pair of Moorhens struggling to build a nest with unsuitably large twigs. (It wasn’t so much the struggle as the persistence that made the watching worthwhile).

Things are very different from our last visit, with fewer birds, more sun and a lack of seating space. Where the winter visitors (the human ones, not the birds) tend to walk round the lake it seems that the summer visitors, who are generally older than the winter ones, like to sit. It was very pleasant to sit out in the sun, and I enjoyed it after all the time I’ve spent indoors recently. My only reservation is that sitting in the sun with a group of octogenarians is a clearer vision of my future than I want.

As soon as I’m out of hospital I’m going to start doing that list of things that’s been at the back of my mind for years.

Fortunately there’s no skydiving or mountain climbing involved.

Road to Recovery

I’ve been stretching and exercising and generally paying attention to my legs, which has improved things greatly. . I am now able to walk more or less painlessly and only need the stick for balance. At that point it seemed like a good idea to take a trip to the park and walk round the duckpond.

After all, what could possibly go wrong?

We got off to a bad start when my poor, stiff legs refused to cooperate, and only just made it to the first bench. Julia went for tea, biscuits and duck food while I sat and watched wildlife. Things are starting to happen in the park, with lots of leaves breaking out and a plenty of birdsong. I managed to miss photographs of all the singers. The best I could do were various blobs lurking, out of focus, behind twigs. A Long-tailed Tit spent a good ten minutes doing this. I can only assume there is some evolutionary benefit to annoying photographers.

Alternatively, bearing in mind the possibility that birds sing simply because they enjoy it, maybe Long-tailed Tits just enjoy winding me up.

There are at least six pairs of Greylag Geese on the pond, though it’s difficult to tell as they lurk behind the island. There are also six Red Crested Pochard – two pairs and two single males. The only nests we can see so far are two Coot nests.

The Odd Couple are still hanging about, but I don’t hold out much hope of breeding success.

Eventually, having taken tea and biscuits and tutted at the antics of various hellish toddlers, we set off and completed the circuit. I did need a bit of assistance from the stick in the last few yards.

Four hundred yards round a duck pond is hardly an expedition, but it’s a start.

 

The Odd Couple and Strange Pigeons

We went to the park today to see the ducks. The first thing I saw was a Wood Pigeon in a tree and a charm of Goldfinches drinking from the stream which acts as an overflow for the pond. The pigeon looked a little rumpled and the Goldfinches were too quick for me, so there are no photographs of those two.

We were surrounded by feral pigeons at one point. I counted them twice, getting 57 in one count and 62 in the next. Call it 60. That’s a lot of verminous skyrats. It may be that I’m being unfair to them, as they do look quite tidy, and even seem keen on taking a bath.

The odd couple are still there, though the goose does seem to be paired up with another goose too. The three of them were together on the grass at the far end of the pond. It now looks a bit like one of those situations where a man has married but still has one of his old mates hanging round, or playing gooseberry.

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The birds seem to be paired up and defending territories, but apart from daffodils and a few mahonias there is nothing much happening to suggest Spring. Outside the walls Spring is definitely here but inside the park things are a bit behind. It may be the trees, or the stone wall holding cold air in, but it just seems like the park is a couple of weeks behind the surrounding streets.

 

More from Rufford Abbey

Still catching up from yesterday. A mysterious glitch seemed to stop the photos loading, whilst still allowing me to upload the post. As I’m trying to post every day, it left me, at quarter to midnight, with the choice of posting something imperfect or posting nothing. That isn’t say that I don’t post imperfect pieces all the time (they are all capable of improvement) but yesterday’s was far from finished.

This post will mark my 70th consecutive day. It’s not much compared to the magnificent achievements of some people but it’s a considerable one for a man of my disorganised personal habits. The only fly in the ointment is that some days I know I’m writing rubbish just to tick off another day. I didn’t set out to be a blogger of great dignity and importance, but I do have standards, even if they are low.

I’m going to continue with daily posts as long as I can, but I’m going to improve the quality. Er…

Yes, exactly. What is quality in blogging?

I’m not sure. I tend to like the ones about people of a certain age who do a bit of pottering, and I also like the ones about nature, which could be because that’s a description of me and my life. In fiction terms I suppose you could say I’m looking for something character-driven. Or you could say I’m nosey. (I’m the sort of person who enjoys railway journeys because you can look into people’s back gardens).

I suppose I’m not really talking about quality, but more about what engages readers and makes for a popular blog. Quality, which tends to make me think about seriousness and maturity, is probably not the exact word to use.

What does anyone else think?

So, back to Rufford Abbey.

The first thing we found was that a bottle of gooseberry vinegar that emptied itself on the back seat of the car (where my jacket was conveniently placed to soak it up and save the upholstery).

We had a look at the lake, which seemed less populated than usual. I suppose they are all off doing spring things. Apart from the Great Crested Grebes. I’m sure they should be exhibiting some interesting courtship behavior but all they did was sit there and float.

I nearly managed a video of courting grebes two weeks ago but they didn’t try very hard and it just looked like two birds flapping. My attempted video of two Robins fighting wasn’t usable as they were both quick and in cover, though today’s Robin photo shows one of the combatants  perching with its tail cocked as it keeps an eye on the interloper.

Julia spotted the Kingfisher, which I missed completely, and we both saw a pair of nuthatches, a Marsh Tit and several Wrens, which also all eluded the camera. I did manage to get a shot of a Coal Tit and the Ice House. Ice Houses tend not to move when you take photographs.