Tag Archives: Rufford Abbey

A Walk, a Weasel, but no Wren

If I ever write a novel about Time Travel, and I’m not saying one way or the other, I’m going to need a way of making my protagonist travel in time. One way I’m considering is making him write a blog which gets behind, a bit like I often do, so that he trips over his metaphysical feet in trying to catch up.

It’s taken me three days to write about Monday, and nothing much happened on Monday. If it had been a day filled with incident I’d still be writing. As it is, I’m just about to start writing about Tuesday.

I loaded up the camera, put a handful of bird food in my pocket and set off round the lake at Rufford Abbey.

It was an interesting day and after taking nearly 300 shots I’ve already deleted over 100. The problem is that birds just don’t cooperate. They move too fast, they hide in shadows and they lurk behind twigs (which prevent the autofocus working).

At one time I did consider a post based on near misses – the blurred Goldcrest, the fence rail recently vacated by the Dunnock and the twig where the Wren had just been perching. Fortunately I had second thoughts, or this could have been one of my less popular posts.

The best bit of the day was when I was photographing at the woodland bird tables, and fighting off squirrels. Suddenly there was a flurry in the leaves and the squirrels scattered, closely pursued by a weasel. I was too slow to get anywhere near it with the camera, but it was very funny, and what they deserved after stealing most of the food I put out.

 

 

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.

 

Back in the Game

 

 

 

I went out for a walk today, my first since last week. Well, if you consider 200 yards a walk. I liked it so much that I may do it again before going to bed.

Strange to think that it was only the end of December when we made our plan to get out into nature and do more walking. Now I’m struggling to get out of the house. It just goes to show how life can change in an instant.

Here’s another example of how you’re life can change in an instant. I actually saw him at the hospital on Wednesday. He was crossing the car park in a wheelchair as I hobbled around to the Urgent Treatment Centre. I didn’t actually know who he was until I saw the news on my return from hospital.

So, I’m going to get a grip and start making a note of my walking every day.  It might only be 200 yards a day, but as long as it’s 201 yards next time it’s progress. To put that in context, it’s enough to get me from the car park to the lake at Rufford. Getting round the lake may take a little longer…

The photos are from previous visits, but I’m hoping to get some new ones soon.

 

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Through the window

 

 


 

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.

 

 

 

 

A Walk Round the Lake

Life can’t be all nature reserves and rarities, so yesterday saw us back at Rufford Abbey. There was, as usual, nothing rare, but there’s always something worth seeing.

The Robins were in good voice.

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Singing Robin – Rufford Abbey

We spent a while watching two Magpies building a nest in the tree tops (without being able to get a clear shot) and a pair of Nuthatches popped out of the woods to have a look at us. They are always a challenging subject as they tend to flit about without regard to the needs of photography. This was the best photo, despite only showing one of the pair.

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Nuthatch in an Elder tree

We saw two Wrens and managed to get a couple of shots (they are worse than Nuthatches for flitting about), checked out the Great Crested Greebes (now in full breeding plumage) and watched a Grey Heron drop in to fish. Great Tits and Dunnocks also cooperated by posing.

Despite the fact we walk here most weeks, there’s always something new to see and always something new to learn. I never knew, for instance, that magpies build nests using branches that are nearly as long as they are.

A better day – Rufford Abbey

It was a better day today, a much better day, though it didn’t start off that way.

We nipped down to Lidl to look for Waxwings on our way to the farm, and found none. I hadn’t really expected to see any as it was extremely windy and the small branches were whipping about. It must be extremely hazardous feeding in tree tops on days like this.

Such is life: I’m not going to start stressing out about seeing a bird, even if it is pink and has a crest.

We cleared the polytunnel this morning, and are within a couple of days of finishing.  It’s amazing how much stuff you accumulate over five years. Much of it is now crammed into the house. Considering I used to have a junk shop and still have a hoarding problem, this is not a good thing. Currently I also have a car that’s rammed to the roof with plants, but it doesn’t seem worth taking them out with the weather we’re likely to have. It’s good to be finishing. Though we didn’t really want to go, we now want to draw a line under it.

If it were done when ’tis done, then ’twere well, It were done quickly:  as Macbeth said, and I’m not going to argue.

We left around 2 pm (I’m currently self-unemployed, so days are flexible) and took a detour to Rufford Country Park.

I had a bag of sunflower hearts in the back of the car and used them to tempt some birds from cover in the car park. It wasn’t quite as simple as it could have been, because just as they started gathering a couple with a dog walked right across the seed. Eventually I tempted two Blue Tits and 15 Chaffinches, but a pair of pigeons found us and scared everything off. When you’re bird watching in a country park you can’t really pick and choose, or scare pigeons away.

We moved on to the main duck area, with the usual suspects. There were two unusual ducks across the lake, one Pochard (which we don’t see here often) and one empty pop bottle. OK, I made a mistake on that one, but I did once spend 10 minutes stalking a bit of fertiliser bag that I thought was a Kingfisher, so it’s not the worst mistake I’ve ever made.

 

Whilst I was searching for a pied wagtail that kept eluding the camera, a Grey Wagtail popped up. They aren’t rare, but they like fast running water and we normally see them when we’re in Derbyshire, so it was nice to see one here. I expect it likes the mill race.

It got even better when we rounded the corner to find a flock of Long Tailed Tits in a tree with a couple of Blue Tits and a Goldcrest. The Goldcrest came so close I could see it plainly without the binoculars. Unfortunately it was so quick that I couldn’t get a picture.

My time will come.

Finally, as the clouds rolled over, we tried for a few more shots on a picnic table but the pigeons moved in again. We cut our losses and took some shots of clouds before going for tea and Bakewell tarts in the cafe.

 

Rufford Abbey – another stone face

I’m finally catching up on last year’s posts, so please bear with me if things seem a bit disjointed. After this post things should be up to date.

On our latest visit to Rufford Abbey we decided to look at some of the areas we didn’t see last time. This includes more buildings, the kitchen garden, some sculpture, another stone head (which I noticed sticking out from the kitchen garden wall) and the pet graves. Generally the pet graves are a bit dismal, though they have been done up for Christmas to make it look like Santa’s reindeer are in residence.

This photo shows the story behind the hand sculpture.

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The story of The Hand

That should really cheer the kids up, hanging name plates on the graves of dead gun dogs. They also have a horse buried there – Cremorne, who won the Derby, the Grand Prix de Paris and the Ascot Gold Cup. It’s a dismal stone so I’ll wait for a brighter day before photographing it. It seems a little out of balance that animals got better treatment in death than the estate staff, but as he was sold for 5,400 guineas when owner Henry Savile died I suppose he was worth more than the staff. (That’s £ 5,400 plus 5,400 shillings. At 20 shillings to the £ that is £5,670, for those of you who aren’t familiar with the guinea.) If you’re interested in the history of the guinea here is more information.

We can probably do two more visits and still show something new. There is plenty to see.

Meanwhile, there are other buildings including the craft centre, information centre and bookshop round the courtyard of the stable block (not to forget the toilets). There is a cafe, which does a decent bacon cob, in the old coach house, plus an orangery and a kitchen garden. There’s also a water tower – it’s more like a small town than a house – and other parts you can’t visit.  There’s a restaurant at this end too, in addition to the cafe.

 

 

 

Another day at Rufford Abbey

We had a disappointing day at Attenborough Nature Reserve yesterday so we decided another trip to Rufford was in order. (I’ll write about it in a day or two when my good humour has re-established itself).

As usual, we have enough for two posts, so I’ll do the birds first. I started off with a sore knee after yesterday’s walk so we weren’t quite as ambitious as last time. We concentrated on the bridges by the lake and then looped back through the woods. There are bird tables at various points in the woods and we spent some time sitting quietly and watching.

I’m gaining in confidence after a decent flying Greenfinch photograph earlier in the week, so I was hoping to carry on the good work today.

The sitting quietly approach has worked wonders in the past when watching birds, but it can be difficult on a busy day.

It amazes me how many people think it’s appropriate to talk like a bugle whilst walking in the countryside. If I can hear them 25 yards away I don’t know what it must be like when you are walking next to them. It also amazes me the details people are prepared to broadcast about their lives, relationships and health.

Whatever happened to reticence?

As you can see from the Featured Image I found a Marsh Tit again. It’s tricky watching a bird table and snapping a shy bird when you only have a screen to work from. I ended up with a selection of shots featuring either blurs or emptiness. It all fell into place nicely when the Nuthatches arrived, but even then it wasn’t plain sailing as I managed several blurred shots and several with them facing away . Julia was away at the time so she missed them, though she did get back in time to see one pecking at a nut it had wedged in a crevice in a yew tree. Unfortunately it was too dark to get a shot.

As you can see from the other shots we got two unusual birds on bird tables. Moorhens can be quite adventurous when feeding (as I found when they used to rob my bait box when I used to fish) but I’ve never seen them on a table before. Note that the squirrel has a fly on its back – what a photobomb!

Final shot is a Coal Tit – the best shot from about 20 I took of Coal Tits. You can’t see the distinctive white nape in this shot but in the ones where you can see all lack something else.

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Coal Tit at Rufford Abbey

Julia got some good shots  today too so I may use some of them later on.

We also saw Goosanders, Siskins and a (very distant) Kingfisher plus the usual suspects we saw on the last visit. The Goosander and Siskin pictures are poor and the Kingfisher was too far away.

Goodbye to Connie the Cow

A sad morning today (though a less foggy day, as you can see from the photo), as we said goodbye to Connie the Cow. I know she’s going to a better place, where she’s going to star in panto and feature in educational units about fairy tales, but it’s the end of an era.

She’s been a group effort over the years. Julia drew her, John the Builder cut her out of ply, Dave made the udders, we all painted her (several times) and today we dismantled her and put her in the back of the car.

It was a mixed morning, as we were given a book of drawings and letters of thanks from the kids who came out on the last school trip (which just goes to show we’ve chosen a good home for Connie).

On a brighter note, the teacher who collected her showed us pictures of a Kingfisher on her phone. She’d been up to Rufford Park and on a bridge within yards of where I took the Marsh tit photo she saw a Kingfisher.

It’s slightly annoying that we missed the Kingfisher, but I’m looking forwards to looking for it on the return trip.

There’s always something good around the corner.