Tag Archives: red kite

A Reasonable Sort of Day

Sorry about missing yesterday. We went to see Dad, came home the long way,replied to some comments, had a takeaway and then I fell asleep in front of the TV, waking shortly after midnight. That meant I couldn’t post yesterday.

I should have planned better and done it in the morning, but you know how it is…

Well, maybe you don’t, because I understand many people live orderly and well-planned lives.

Yesterday consisted of of lie-in, brunch, visit, defeat at dominoes, coffee with sister, great view of a Red Kite in Northamptonshire, Chinese takeaway and snooze.

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Red Kites are becoming commoner

Today consisted of getting up, complaining about aches and pains, dropping Julia at work (rather in the manner of Shakespeare’s schoolboy – with her “shining morning face, creeping like snail, Unwillingly to school”.) I’m trying to persuade myself I’m in the 5th age – “round belly with good capon lined, With eyes severe and beard of formal cut, Full of wise saws and modern instances”. It’s getting harder to believe as the days go on.

I then took myself to work, wrestled for supremacy on the Ring Road with a lobotomised boy racer and an articulated lorry, survived, arrived an hour early, started work because we had a lot to pack – the boss arrived and chipped in and we had the lot done by just after 10.00.

No stupid questions in email, hardly any phone calls, left work an hour early. Did two errands, had two cups of tea in the back room of a friendly jeweller, shopped, went home, washed up, fed Julia on her return from work (coffee and cake), TV (did well at Pointless), cooked tea (which was half made up of leftovers from last night). Now feeling virtuous and blogging. Julia is ironing and after that I will make a drink.

We actually sold a medallion I was going to blog about. It’s a Moon Landing commemorative by a sculptor called Vincze. I’ve often thought about collecting his medallions because some of them are quite striking. I loaded it on Saturday before we left the shop and it sold shortly after. It was either very collectable or too cheap. Sometimes after a quick sale you wonder about the price…

Moon Landing Medal by Vincze

Moon Landing Medal by Vincze (Reverse)

 

It has not been an exciting day, and not really a productive day as the decluttering and writing is grinding to a halt at the moment. On the other hand, it hasn’t been a bad day either. I think we can mark this down in the plus column.

A Few More Kites

Just a few more photographs of the Kites – I finally found the energy to crop a few into respectability.

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Red Kites at Gigrin Farm

We may call them Red, and from a distance they may look brown like a Buzzard, but in fact they are a stunning combination of grey, black and red-brown, with some looking quite different to others when you see them side by side.

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Red Kite with wing tags

It looks like this one has a wing tag on, which will be colour-coded and numbered. The “proper” photographer in the hide managed to read the number off the tag, but he had much more impressive equipment than I do. I can barely see the tag.

Light blue on the right wing indicates a bird from the Irish Republic.

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Red Kite in Wales

Sorry they aren’t better shots,. I’ve taken steps to rectify the problems with my photographic situation, but I’ve been disappointed by the Lottery before so I’m not going to hold my breath.

They promised me Ravens

We went to Wales today. Derby first, then Burton, Lichfield, Cannock, Telford, Shrewsbury…

Didn’t actually see any of them as the roads now just take you past instead of through them. If they didn’t, we’d still be travelling. The road follows a lot of the Watling Street route. This was originally a grass trackway used by the Britons. The Romans paved it and subsequent generations of academics have argued over its route.

It may have gone to Preston, it may have gone to Holyhead. Who cares? They are both nice places and have roads that go to them. For now, let’s say that if you are on the A2 in Kent or the A5 in the Midlands, you are part of a travel tradition going back thousands of years.

In AD 60 or 61 Queen Boudicca, or Boadicea, if you prefer the old-fashioned way, faced the Romans somewhere along the road. Nobody is quite sure where (there are several possibilities) but after burning London, St Albans and Colchester, and killing an estimated 70 – 80,000 Romans, she was finally defeated.

We then struck out into Wales, where we visited Rhayader before travelling up through Snowdonia to Bangor. We’re currently sitting in the Bangor Travel Lodge drinking Aspall’s Suffolk Cider from plastic glasses after a meal from Burger King. Tomorrow I am intending to send a stinging rebuke to the Travel Lodge head office.

The details clearly state: “Guests can enjoy a variety of food and drink choices within easy walking distance from this hotel. ”

Translation: “There is a Little Chef (which closes at 8pm), Burger King and shop at the filling station.”

It’s not quite what I was expecting.

Anyway, the bird watchers among you will have stopped at Rhayader. It’s the home of Gigrin Farm, where they feed 300 to 600 Red Kites every day.

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I’ll post a few photos to give you a flavour of the day, but most need some cropping as I has to hold back on the zoom to give myself room to keep the birds in the frame. If you crop it too tight the bird flies out of shot. I have photos of grass, photos of sky and photos of tail feathers.

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I’ll tell you what I don’t have – photos of Ravens.

They promised me Ravens and I had to make do with 300 Red Kites.

Sometimes you have days like that.

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Big Day for Buzzards

I always like to look out for Buzzards on the way down to Peterborough as there are plenty of places to see them.

When I was a youthful birdwatcher, around 10 or 11 years old, I was fascinated by Buzzards, which were not as easy to see in those days. From Peterborough we had to go to Scotland, The Lakes, Devon or Wales before finding any. Even then they weren’t common.

Gamekeepers killed so many that they were confined to the north and west of the UK by the end of the 19th century. Things eased up a bit after the Second World War – said on the RSPB website to be due to a new enlightened attitude to birds of prey, though it might have been more to do with the decline in country estates and a lack of keepers.  At that point other factors came into play, such as lack of rabbits (due to myxomatosis) and problems with pesticides (which caused thin egg shells and reduced hatchability).

From the 1960s, with the withdrawal of the pesticides and the increase of rabbit populations, Buzzards started to recover. From the 1990s they started to expand. First I saw them in Derbyshire, then Sherwood Forest, then over Bulwell Golf Course…

Now I can see them all the way down to Peterborough.

Of course, they weren’t the only bird to suffer – Peregrines, Red Kites, Sparrowhawks, Kestrels, Marsh Harriers and other birds of prey all suffered. Red Kites were down to 10 pairs in the 1930s (up to 500 pairs by 2006 due to the reintroduction programme started in 1989). Marsh Harriers were down to 1 pair in 1971 (now up to 360 breeding pairs due to habitat restration). Peregrines slumped to 360 pairs in 1963 (now up to 1,400 pairs, often nesting on tall buildings instead of cliffs. You can watch them on a number of video links from Nottingham, Derby, Sheffield and Norwich if you don’t mind the detritus of dismantled pigeons around the nestlings.) Even Sparrowhawks and Kestrels declined significantly.

Things aren’t all good, though. Sparrowhawks declined again in the 1990s, though they are now stable. Kestrels are currently in decline. In both cases this is thought to be due to a decline in prey species. That’s the trouble with being a bird of prey, you can only expand to the limit of your food supply.

My count was three Kestrels, two hovering and one flying by the roadside.

I also saw eleven Buzzards. Yes, eleven. One in a tree followed by four perching on the lamp posts as the A52 comes up to the A1. There was another in a tree, two more on a field looking for worms (they have no pride) and an ninth as I neared Stamford. That one was flying, and I initially hoped it would be a Red Kite. If anyone had told the young me that I’d be disappointed to see nine Buzzards on a trip to Peterborough I’d have laughed. There were two more to come, one on a road sign (I’ve never seen them do that before) and one in a tree.

Finally, soaring over the site of an old Roman town, I spotted a Red Kite. Just the one, but it was nice to see.

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Red Kite over Northamptonshire

The Buzzard photo is from the lawn at Rufford earlier this week, and the Kite from Northamptonshire last summer.

No photos from today, as  you can’t do much photography at 70 mph.

 

 

 

 

More kites and a memorial

The day started well, with blue skies, a list of jobs and packet of croissants. The croissants were soon gone, accompanied by by some excellent three fruit marmalade I found lurking in the back of a cupboard. After a spot of washing up and a trip to the hobby shop for Julia to buy glass paint. At that point the sky began to cloud over. It’s tempting to invoke the pathetic fallacy there, but I was actually quite happy sitting in the car with a notebook, so in metaphysical terms there was no threat of rain in my life.

In reality the rain started just after lunch as I set off for Peterborough. This put a bit of a crimp in my photographic plans for the day. By the time I’d been beaten at Snakes and Ladders and Dominoes and had a cup of tea there still didn’t seem much hope of sunlight so I abandoned my plans and headed home.

Fortunately I didn’t quite go directly home and managed to get a flying kite picture. I almost got a picture of a pair of flying kites but the first pair flew away as I got out of the car and the second pair turned out as a flying kite and a blur.

Finally, as I was in the area, I nipped up the road to the village of Kings Cliffe – one time site of King John’s hunting lodge and, in later years, the last hanger-based concert of Glenn Miller. I found the air base memorial but not the Glenn Miller memorial (one internet forum says it was destroyed by vandals a few years ago).  As vandals also broke the air base memorial a few years ago, and it is currently defaced by inane scrawl, it seems that there isn’t much to do in Kings Cliffe at night.

It’s that time again…

It’s tree time again, taking the climate readings between the rows of trees in the agroforestry area. We’re still not seeing much difference in wind and temperature between the rows, but as the trees are still rather stick-like this isn’t really a surprise. Hopefully they will start to modify the micro-climate more as they start to leaf up.

There are still over 23 years of the measuring project to go so there is plenty of time for something to develop.

As you can see, the rhubarb (which we grew from seed last year) is looking reasonable, though I don’t think we will be pulling much this year. It is accompanied by a number of random daffodils, and I have to confess I haven’t a clue as to why we have them there or who planted them. I suppose it looks springlike.

Some more on kites (which were known as “paddocks” in bygone days). It’s by John Clare, who was born not too far from where the kites now fly. I took it from the Yorkshire Red Kite site.

“Ah, could I see a spinney nigh,
A paddock riding in the sky,

Above the oaks, in easy sail,
On stilly wings and forked tail.”

John Clare (c1820)

What I now need is a picture of a kite over an oak, now where can I find one…

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A paddock riding in the sky

 

 

 

 

It was an interesting day on Saturday. Breakfast at Sainsbury’s, which is not quite as glamorous as Breakfast at Tiffany’s, dropped Julia off at work, had a couple of hours on the farm (including solving the fat ball/jackdaw conundrum) and a trip to see my father in Peterborough.

It was all going so well until I went for a cup of tea with my sister, and the weather took a sudden turn for the worse. It was strange, we went into the services on the A1 on a moderate spring day, had tea and scones and then emerged in mid-winter. All in all it was a bit of a Narnia moment.

As you can see in the pictures, there was a fair amount of wintry stuff on the floor, a sort of cross between snow and hail. If I was an Eskimo I’m sure I would know the right word for this sort of snow, but unfortunately I’m not, and I don’t.

There are two possibilities from here, home up the A1 or home via the Northamptonshire countryside. I like Northamptonshire, and I also like the Red Kites you often see along the road between Peterborough and Corby.

As you can see, the weather got better.

The final picture shows a blob of dirt (I was using my old camera) and a Red Kite wheeling just above the tree.

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Red Kite over oak tree

A day of mixed fortunes

Turned over, got up late, drove to Peterborough, saw a buzzard and a red kite on the way (both good sightings), helped sister, saw father, drove long way home, another good kite sighting, shopping at TESCO in Corby

That was when it became slightly surreal when I decide to buy three of their 35 pence carrier bags.. They are security tagged. Yes, security tagged 35p bags. It seems they aren’t the only ones though.

Got home – Number One son microwaved my evening meal – pie, potatoes, green beans and creamed spinach. Ate spinach, wiped beard, tried a bit of pie.

A microwaved pie, even after the delay whilst eating spinach, stays extremely hot. Hence the blisters…

Then I ate some sugared almonds and broke a tooth. Luckily it was the one I’d had repaired with some sort of resin a couple of weeks ago. It hadn’t seemed like a very durable repair at the time, so I’m unhappy but not exactly surprised.

A day of mixed fortunes indeed, and now I’m also getting grief from WordPress about using 91% of my capacity. Anyone think it’s worth paying for an upgrade or should I just start deleting old photos?

Second post of the day

Sorry if it seems like I’m running a bus company, no blogs for a while then two come along at the same time…

It was quite a good week last week and it mostly got steamrollered by Open Farm Sunday and the scarecrows.

We saw a red kite over Screveton for the first time in the four years we’ve been here. It was a great view too, with a really good silhouette against a beautiful blue sky (and who had left his camera in the back of the car? Yes, me.)

We had chocolate slab cake after one of the mothers made cakes for a volunteer event that was cancelled. Sadness at the cancellation was, I’m sorry to say, short-lived when I looked into the tin.

I know I lead a dull and boring life, but they are surely highlights even in the life of an exciting celebrity. Did Demi Moore see a red kite? Did anyone give Barack Obama a chocolate slab cake? Does my choice of celebrity mark me as being out of step with the modern world?

Anyway, far from the lifestyle of the rich and famous, we also had around 325 children in the activity tent over the course of Open Farm Sunday.

I was quite pleased with that – 325 kids who now know a bit more about food, farming and the environment., though I know it’s a drop in the ocean when you look at surveys like this that tell us 40% of people don’t know we grow oats in this country (I selected that one because of the next paragraph, but some of the other findings are equally worrying).

Then I started thinking about future events – it will be World  Porridge Day in  October and part of that is about Mary’s Meals – we’ve supported them in the past and they’ve just fed a million kids. A million! I’m now slightly less impressed with our 325.

However, we have another 30 coming in tomorrow (leaving me just 999, 645 of the million) and we’re doing insects and habitats with them. This calls for less blogging and more reading as I’m hopeless with insect ID.

Watch this space…

 

 

More lambs and visitors

It was a busy day today, with people coming to see the lambs. We had about 30 people through, which isn’t bad when you consider the lack of advertising and the fact that we aren’t really a tourist destination.

I was a bit disheartened, on counting my surviving cuttings, to find that I don’t have many survivors. In the case of the periwinkle and cape gooseberry none have made it through the winter. In the case of the curry plant I have 100% survival. I only took them to see what would happen because, apart from smelling like curry, they are pretty useless. Even the mallow and buddleia have done badly, and they grow like weeds if you leave them alone. I’m beginning to suspect that I have the opposite of green fingers. I couldn’t have done worse if I’d replaced the rooting hormone with Agent Orange.

Things looked up a bit as we visited my dad in Peterborough with the first butterfly sighting of the year – a Small Tortoiseshell.

In the evening we took the longer way home and spotted a kite in a tree on top of the hill just before Elton, with it’s forked tail prominently displayed. There were two more wheeling over the edge of the village, and just before Corby, two more. One of the second pair obliged by formating on the car for a few moments – about ten feet away and a couple of feet above.

However, good as it was, it’s now time to start planning the 2015 cuttings campaign. An idiot, a knife and a pot of rooting compound…

…what could possibly go wrong?