Thursday, 28 April 2011


A cool breeze was blowing as we set out this morning, making us wish we had put on an extra layer.  We were soon out of the wind however and with the sun shining on us, it soon warmed up as we walked up Shipley Hill.  The bluebells are quite magnificent.
Carpets of them are covering almost every square inch of the woodland floor at the moment and the fine, dry weather has meant that they are not being spoiled by being rained on.
Other blossoms are adorning the trees too with crab apples in full bloom, casting their petals on the floor as the wind stirs them.  It's all very lovely, especially when the weather is still being so kind to us.  Having said that, we really do need some rain now as the ground is beginning to crack and plants are starting to wilt in the sun.
Still, lets just enjoy it while we can - no doubt we will soon get the rain we need and we will then be moaning that things are too wet!

Wednesday, 27 April 2011


Back to normal once more after Easter and with the weather still nice, but a little cooler, it was off round Straw's Bridge again this morning.  Glad we did too as the first of this year's ducklings were dabbling around in the shallows.
Ten of the little darlings, flitting about picking small insects from the surface of the water while their mother looked on.
Most of them didn't stray far from their parents - father was there too - but a few struck out on their own.
A quick quack from mother, soon brought them all scurrying across the water again.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

More Bluebells

Another glorious day and, as we will not get a walk tomorrow, we decided to have a longer one today.  So, we set out for Shipley Hill to see the Bluebells in the woodland there.  We were very glad we did.  They're magnificent.
A photograph seldom does justice to the sight of a carpet of Bluebells, but with a little digital enhancement, they stand out just as well as they do in the 'flesh'.
Around the Old Hall gardens, the Rhododendrons and Azaleas are beginning to open their flowers.  Large-flowered and very showy, they add yet more colour to the countryside, just as there seems to be such a glut of it.
A closer look reveals the spots on the inner surface of the petals and the delicacy of the stamens.
The darker coloured Rhododendrons are not yet open, but the whites and pinks are beautiful enough.  They look even better in the glorious sunshine we're having at the moment.
Walking on from the hill, we headed for the village of Mapperley again and headed back homeward through a flock of free range chickens scratching in the sun, then via the old West Hallam colliery site.  A Lilac tree in one of the village gardens attracted my attention as we passed, not only for it's flowers, but also it's fragrance.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011


It's that time of year again.  The Bluebells are carpeting the woodland floor and filling the warm, spring air with their hyacinth-like scent.  It was so beautiful this morning as we walked through Mapperley Wood, we didn't want to come home.
Malcolm too was enjoying the sunshine and the flowers.
The smile says it all...
Recently arrived Whitethroats (Sylvia communis) were adding their songs to those of the other summer migrants and the Skylarks were soaring into the sky with their seemingly unending song.  Simply beautiful.  As we walked around Mapperley Reservoir, the Forget-Me-Nots were also blooming along the footpath edge.
Lastly for today, the delicate pink flowers of the Lady's Smock (Cardamine pratensis) were lifting their faces to the sun.  These pretty members of the cabbage family are a great favourite of the Orange Tip Butterflies which were flitting around.  Although I didn't notice it at the time, I managed to catch a small predator sitting on one of the flowers.  A Crab Spider can be seen if you look closely sitting on a flower waiting to pounce on one of the aforementioned Orange Tips.  Click the picture to get a larger version and see if you can spot it.

Sunday, 17 April 2011


We really are being spoiled with the weather at the moment.  Once again, we set out for our walk in the warm sunshine and were surrounded by birdsong and blossom.
The Canada Geese of Straw's Bridge were having a good time as the 'Friends of Straw's Bridge' (a local conservation group) were in evidence, handing out bags of grain with which to feed the waterfowl.  Indeed, word must have been spreading among the goose community as more were flying in from miles away.  I just managed to snap these before they prepared for 'final approach' and dropped out of the sky, flaps down and undercarriage deployed.
Smaller flying things were in evidence around the lakeside.  Small Tortoiseshell butterflies (Aglais urticae) were sitting on the newly emerging nettle leaves looking for somewhere to lay their eggs.
Bright and colourful, these common insects are well known to us all despite an alarming decline in numbers in recent years.  There seem to be very few sections of our wildlife which have not suffered a decline in numbers in recent years.  The name 'urticae' is derived from the butterfly's habit of laying eggs on Stinging Nettles (Urtica dioica).
More colour is in evidence in the undergrowth along the paths of Straw's Bridge.  These small, blue flowers are of Common Ground Ivy (Glechoma hederacea).  A member of the family which includes such things as Mint, Rosemary, Sage and Lavender, these are used as an ingredient of salads in many countries as well as many medicinal uses including as an astringent, diuretic, anti-inflammatory and expectorant.  It's also rather beautiful.

Saturday, 16 April 2011


The forecast for today was for a cloudy, dull start, with the possibility of things brightening up later and a few showers.  So of course, Malcolm and I set out for our walk in glorious sunshine, hardly a cloud in the sky and temperatures rising by the minute.  Strolling around the farmland surrounding Slack Road, we were struck with how quiet it was for a Saturday.
The Carrion Crows were making a noise in the tree tops and the Willow Warblers, recently returned from Africa, were singing their beautiful song.
We heard the first of the summer's Grasshopper Warblers (Locustella naevia) this morning.  Their mechanical chirring, rather like a freewheeling bicycle, came at us across the scrubland, rising and falling in volume as they turned their heads from side to side, throwing their voices so as to make it difficult to pinpoint their location.  A beautiful sound and one which is synonymous with summer.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Primrose Path

This morning's walk took in part of the old Nottingham Canal.  The air was filled with birdsong and the hedgerows full of flowers.  Among the most abundant of these flowers were the Primroses (Primula vulgaris).
They were seemingly everywhere as we walked along and carpeted the ground between the trees.
The plants are hermaphrodite, but the flowers display two distinct types and are known as Heterostylous.  This is a complicated term and is best described if you click HERE.
The yellow theme was continued as a lone Yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella) was singing from the top of a tree nearby.  A little tricky to spot as he was quite a long way away, but there he is...
The song of the Yellowhammer was probably the first one I was able to identify as a small child and still brings back memories of long, hot, dusty summer days in Norfolk listening to their "little-bit-of-bread-and-no-cheese" song.
Typically a bird of arable farmland, they are not seen often round these parts.  Coupled with the crash in their numbers in recent years, so it was a great treat to hear this one - and to see him - this morning.  Click on the pictures to get a closer look and you will see the flies flitting around the bird's head too.

Thursday, 14 April 2011


A short walk around the ponds of Straw's Bridge today.  It was good to see more and more Cowslips opening their flowers and creating a brilliant display amid the grasses.  Under the trees, we found a few Common Dog Violets (Viola riviniana).
As with other plants which have the prefix 'Dog', they seem to get the name from the fact that they are scentless and therefore somehow inferior.  Although, what could be said to be inferior about these little blue gems, I cannot think.
The Common Dog Violet is the 'County Flower' of Lincolnshire!

Tuesday, 12 April 2011


Malcolm and I had a walk around the nature reserve of Attenborough near Nottingham this morning and among the nesting Herons, squabbling Coots and honking Geese, two species stood out.  Firstly, the Egyptian Goose (Alopochen aegyptiacus).
More closely related to the Shelducks than to 'real' geese, this is an exotic-looking introduction to the British fauna.  It has been part of our countryside since it was introduced into parks and stately gardens in the 18th century, but only officially as a British breeding bird since 1971.  This one was not at all put out by having a camera pointed at it, indeed it seemed rather contemptuous of me as it waded in the shallows.
The second of the birds which caught our eye, was a pair of Red-crested Pochard (Netta rufina).  I have mentioned these before having seen them occasionally on the lakes of Straw's Bridge, but we have rarely been lucky enough to get as good a view as this.  This was the female, busy diving for food, so had to be 'snapped' as she popped up again.
The name 'Red-crested' is more obvious when looking at the male.  This one was resplendent in his breeding plumage and with a bright, wax-red bill shining in the sunlight.  What a glorious bird.

Sunday, 10 April 2011


You can travel all over the world and not find anything more bright and colourful as you will find in the UK.  It's always worth looking again at some of the more 'mundane' wildlife on our own doorsteps.  For starters, how about the Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs).  This one was singing his heart out on a hedge as we passed on our walk this morning.
Britain's second most numerous bird, with a breeding population of close to 6,000,000 pairs, it is easy to overlook this most beautiful bird, simply because it is so familiar.
Familiarity should not always breed contempt and a closer look at our back garden proves this.  There can be few plants so well known and so hated by gardeners as the Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale).  How wrong can we be.  Just look at this stunner.
Looking more closely, it is every bit as beautiful as those large-flowered, in-curved Chrysanthemums which gardeners will spend so much time and money growing - and these are free!

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Still beautiful

Once again, the weather is being good to us.  This morning, we needed to go into town so abandoned our usual countryside ramble for the 'joys' of the Saturday high street.  What a delight...!
More pics from yesterday's walk to restore the balance of mind.  Starting with a sight which was rather less than tranquil.  From our back garden we were afforded a good view of a Buzzard being mobbed by Crows.
The poor Buzzard looked bored with it all rather than annoyed and continued to circle round doing his best to ignore the noisy neighbour Crows.
Walking around Shipley Park in the general direction of Mapperley, we had some good views of Shipley Hill. This was also the view which the Longhorn Cattle had from their field.  Not a bad outlook.
Getting up close to the woodland on the hill, the sun was shining through the trees sending pools of light onto the woodland floor.  The new, fresh foliage glowing a pale greenish yellow amid the branches of the still bare trees.  Very poetic!
Reaching the other side of the woods, we looked back toward home from beneath the large, old Beech Trees.  You always get a good view from here.

Friday, 8 April 2011


What a morning!  The sun was shining, the birds were singing and our walk along the site of the long-gone West Hallam Colliery was absolutely glorious.  Among the first things we noticed was the wonderful cherry blossom in the sun and against a blue sky.
Later, we got a closer look at a different cherry tree, growing on Shipley Hill.  Breathtakingly gorgeous and at it's best on a morning like this.
I have mentioned the small herd of Longhorn Cattle which live in a field in Mapperley Village on previous occasions.  But the appearance of a couple of calves looking sleepy as they lie next to their mothers, is just too good not to mention again.
Walking through the woods as we approached the village, there were one or two Lords-and-Ladies (Arum maculatum) plants just about ready to open their flowers.  A strange looking flower before it opens (and no less strange when it does), it was sticking up out of the ground like a pale green spike among the ivy leaves
I mentioned the birds singing and we were treated to the sounds of spring all around this morning.  We heard, among others, Chiffchaffs, Willow Warblers, Blue Tits, Great Tits, Long-tailed Tits, Crows, Song Thrushes, Blackbirds, Robins, Canada Geese, Mallards, Coots, Great-crested Grebes, Blackcaps, Green Woodpeckers, Wood Pigeons, etc, etc, etc...  A fine day for a walk!

Thursday, 7 April 2011


A longer walk for Malcolm and I this morning.  The weather was pretty good and it was dry under foot, so off we went, through Shipley Park in the direction of Mapperley Village.  It has been a while since we had a walk around the reservoir there, so thought it was about time we rectified matters.  Walking through the woodland around Mapperley Reservoir, there was a large Blackthorn tree in full bloom.  Not anything unusual at this time of year, but the amount of flower on this particular tree was almost unbelievable.  In the dim light of the wood, they almost glowed like snow-covered branches.
Looking down, the ground was also worth looking at as the Lesser Celandines (Ranunculus ficaria) were lifting their flowers to the sky in search of the sun.
A treat was awaiting us as we looked out over the water.  While looking for the large fish which glide through the muddy waters at one end of the reservoir, my attention was caught by a small duck on the other side.  Too far away get a good picture, it is nevertheless, able to identify this as a Common Teal (Anas crecca).  The first time I've seen one of these colourful little ducks around these parts.  This was a male bird and was soon joined by his less colourful mate, before flying off in a whir of wings and water.