Thursday, 30 October 2008

Close Up

It has always amazed me how wonderful nature can be when seen much closer than normal. Even spiders, which have always scared me silly, are fascinating to look at close up. This Garden Spider (Araneus diadematus) for example has the most beautiful markings when seen close to.
It has to be said however, that its table manners leave quite a lot to be desired and looking at it eating the last remnants of a small fly, is not for the squeamish.

Although I have always had a fear of spiders in general, there is one spider which has never worried me at all, the Zebra Spider (Salticus scenicus). Refered to as a jumping spider, it can usualy be found jumping along sunny walls and paving stones during the summer and is a frequent visitor in our houses. This one was hunting small snipe-flys on our patio during the summer and to my amazement as I watched it, it leapt on a fly as it flew past and started to consume it.

The fly didn't stand a chance with the lightning reactions of this charming little spider and it must have provided a meal large enough to last a good few days!

Working hard for your living is a common theme for most of our garden wildlife species and none work harder than the ants. This one was searching a sunflower leaf looking for lunch.

It is not only the insects which look different close up. Flowers too can look very different if you get close enough. On a trip around the Great Orme earlier in the year we were lucky enough to spot wild Cotoneaster growing on the rocky slopes and the tiny flowers look beautiful when viewed from just a few inches away.
A more exotic looking flower is to be found on the warmer south coast cliffs - in this case at the Lizard in Cornwall. Hottentot Fig (Carpobrotus edulis) is originally from South Africa and is now very common around the Mediterranean but adds a very welcome touch of the exotic to our shores.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Ilam Hall

A few weeks ago, Malcolm and I walked around Ilam Hall and the Manifold valley in Staffordshire.
The Hall, built in the 1820's replaced a much older 16th century hall originally built for the Port family.

Much of the 19th century hall was demolished 1920's and after being acquired by Sir Robert McDougall, the remaining hall was given to the National Trust. More information available here.

The Manifold valley provides a much more peaceful walking environment than it's busier neighbour, Dovedale.

The hall grounds and Italian gardens contain many beautiful lime trees and wild flowers. When leaving the grounds we called in at the Church and watched a nuthatch searching for grubs in the crevices of the church walls. The nearby St. Bertram's well has supposedly been supplying fresh water since Saxon times.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

More colours of autumn

More signs of autumn this morning as Malcolm and I walked round Shipley Hill then on towards the new open-cast mine at Smalley. The site of this new mine looks like a scene from first world war France with huge earth-works, mud, noise and yet more mud. But at least the colours are still good on some of the trees.
Fungi are showing their heads above ground all over the place at the moment and in some cases look fresh and beautiful...

..But others look slimey and not very attractive at all.

Back around Mapperley reservoir all was calm and peaceful if you could ignore the noise of the tractor cutting the hedgerows behind you! Still, the ducks didn't seem to mind too much. The reservoir was very full this morning and in parts was trying to break free from it's banks and invade the land.

Home again and yet another herald of autumn in the garden. A crane-fly or Daddy-long-legs trying to catch the last of todays sun rays.

Monday, 27 October 2008

Autumn colours

With Autumn well and truly upon us, it was time to try to capture some of the sights to be found close to home - to be exact, around Shipley Country Park between Derby and Nottingham in the East Midlands. So Malcolm and I ventured out this morning to take advantage of the sunshine and see what we could find.
The Colours were rather good this morning, particularly when the sun came through and brightened the scene.

The Reedmaces are in full show at this time of year, not that the coots and tufted ducks seemed very interested in them. The ducks and swans were far more interested in whether or not we had brought a bread-bag' with us! Sorry ducks, you're out of luck today.

The Field Maples and Sycamores are particularly fine at this time of year.

The berries look good too! These Guelda-rose (Viburnum opulus) berries look juicy and good enough to eat but perhaps only if you are a Blackbird!

More berries, this time Rose hips. Darker in colour but still shining in the autumn sunshine. Packed full of vitamin C, they make a good cup of tea apparently - we didn't try it!

Brand New Blog - and my first!

Welcome to my first attempt at a blog.

Don't expect to be swept away with anything too high-tech or flashy, it is simply my intention just to share some of my photos and random thoughts and observations.

For anyone who likes to know these things, unless stated otherwise, all the photos will have been taken with an Olympus SP-500uz and resized and manipulated using 'MAGIX xtreme photo designer 6'.

Please feel free to pass comment about the site.

So, thanks for looking in and here goes!