Wednesday, 30 November 2011

49 and counting!

It's Malcolm's birthday today.  It certainly doesn't seem like a year ago that we were knee-deep in snow and unable to get out for our planned day out to Matlock, but time flies as they say.  This year, to celebrate Malcolm's 49th birthday, we hopped into the car and went off for a walk along the river at Matlock Bath, followed by a coffee and panini at Costa in the town of Matlock.  Although a little chilly, it was infinitely better than twelve months ago.
The water level in the Derwent is very low - even following some pretty hefty showers of late - as can be seen in the picture above.  Walking back to the car, we had a good view over the station, railway and surrounding houses, up to Riber Castle sitting atop it's hill.
Zooming in a bit, some detail of the castle is visible, but sadly not very much as the clouds rolled in to spoil the sunny start to the day.
So, it was back in the car and home for tea, cake and a tot of 'something sustaining' to wish Malcolm a happy 49th.  Just one more year to the big half century...!

Tuesday, 29 November 2011


Our fat-ball feeder has been rather busy recently.  House Sparrows (Passer domesticus), are in serious decline in Britain, their numbers have dropped by about 71% since 1977.  But around our front garden and the hedgerows opposite, there seems to have been a resurgence in numbers.
Flying across the road in squadrons, plagues of these balls of feathered fury, spend their time squabbling, fighting, pecking and squawking at each other while demolishing the fat-balls at an alarming rate.
The Starlings come along for the food too, having worked out how to hang on to the feeder, they attack it with gusto while the Sparrows swirl about and try to get a look-in.  It all makes life rather interesting in our front garden.

Sunday, 27 November 2011


The strong winds and squally showers of the last twenty four hours have seen almost all of the remaining leaves shaken from their branches.  It got me thinking it's been a good year for Autumn colour.  So here is a small slide-show of some of my pictures of the Autumn leaves in and around Shipley Park as a reminder of those colourful days.

Saturday, 26 November 2011


What a difference a year makes.  On this same Saturday, twelve months ago, we woke up to a snowy and distinctly wintry scene.  Looking out of the bedroom window it looked like this...
This morning, in contrast, the temperature was well above freezing, the hedgerows opposite are still hanging on to some greenery and despite the strong wind, it was far more temperate.  The same view from the window, looked like this...
What a difference!

Friday, 25 November 2011


The BBC forecast said light rain for this morning, followed by cloudy conditions this afternoon.  Indeed, even as I am typing this, they are still telling us that is what we're getting.  So it should come as no surprise that there is hardly a cloud to be seen in the clear blue skies.  I know I have ranted about the obvious failings of the BBC's weather forecasting department on numerous occasions in the past, but really!  How wrong can they be?  And how long must we all have to pay for this ridiculously fallible organisation?  Yahoo seem to have it right so why can the BBC not do the same? Just one picture today, of a few Canada Geese flying in to take advantage of the crusts of bread on offer at Straw's Bridge.  Note the dull, cloudy skies and falling rain...!

Thursday, 24 November 2011


On this day last year, we were experiencing plunging temperatures and the sight of sparkling frost on the leaves.  This year, after the slightly cooler day yesterday and a slight frost the night before, it was back to mild dampness albeit brightened by the bright sunshine which was hanging very low in the sky. The hedgerows are filled with berries, waiting to be stripped by the winter birds.  I have mentioned these on a number of occasions, but they always bare further investigation.  The Snowberries (Symphoricarpos albus) are particularly obvious in their whiteness.
Native to North America and naturalised in Britain, they have colonised the hedgerows and their chunky fruits look juicy and ripe, just ready to help the birds survive the winter ahead.
Far more numerous in the hedgerows around these parts, are the Pyracantha bushes.  More numerous are their berries too.

Monday, 21 November 2011


Things were looking a lot more Wintery this morning.  We walked around Shipley Lake in the misty gloom taking heart that the sun was up there somewhere, trying to poke through the cloud.  The lake was filled with wildfowl.  We spotted Mute Swans, Coots, Moorhens, Mallards, Canada Geese, Wigeon, Gadwall, Black-headed Gulls and Cormorants.  Quite a collection!  Returning via the old overflow car park of the long-gone theme park, the sun was till struggling against the gloom.
Grey and Wintery, but still not as cold as you would expect at this time of year and certainly not as cold as this time last year.

Saturday, 19 November 2011


Before taking our walk in the sunshine this morning, Malcolm and I did a small detour to his mother's house, to put out some bread for a familiar visitor.  For some time now, there has been a 'resident' pigeon in the front garden.  Waiting each morning for it's daily bread, it has become rather tame.  There was no sign of it yesterday, but this morning, there it was again.
I think it must have been a hand-reared bird as it is ringed on it's right leg and this would also explain it's tame temperament.  Bless!

Friday, 18 November 2011

In The Pink

You never know what you might stumble across on your walks around the British Countryside.  This morning, we were walking around 'Swan Lake' when a small goose took my eye.  Closer examination revealed it to be a Pink-footed Goose (Anser brachyrhynchus).
Having been born and raised in Norfolk, I was familiar with the Pink-foot, but more as part of a huge flock of thousands, rather than a single bird on a small lake.  Spending the winter in Britain from their breeding grounds in Iceland, Greenland and Spitsbergen, these small, pretty geese travel a long way to be here and in Great numbers.  Perhaps a quarter of a million Pink-footed Geese spend the winter in Britain, usually spending their time on the fields and marshes close to the coast, especially The Wash, Ribble and Solway.  It was a joy to see this individual on our local lake this morning.

Thursday, 17 November 2011


Following our trip yesterday to King's Lynn to visit my mother and having dropped Malcolm's mother off at the airport for her holiday, we were once again out and about on Shipley Park this morning.  The sun came through and it was very pleasant as we strolled around Shipley Lake soaking up the sunshine.  Back home and my attention was caught by a low-flying aircraft over our house.  Clearly on an approach to East Midlands Airport, it seemed to be a big transport plane, but as it kept flying into a few patches of cloud, it was tricky to see what it was exactly.  I managed to get one 'shot' of it before it disappeared again and, looking at the picture in more detail, it turns out to be a Russian Cargo plane.
The plane itself is an Ilyushin Il-76 and looking at it's details on, it is one of three such Ilyushins of Volga-Dnepr Airlines.  More details and some more photos of this plane can be seen by clicking  HERE.  It's amazing what you can find out on the net!

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Looking Back

Have just had a look back at my blog and this time last year, the weather had started to change.  The temperature had started to drop as the now infamous snows came upon us.  Thankfully, the temperature this year has yet to follow, remaining rather mild for mid November.  Once again though, it remains cloudy, dull and dreary.  Take a look back at last November HERE (opens in a new tab).
Back a bit further to this time in 2008, the Canada Geese on the lake at Straw's Bridge, were the topic of my blog posting.  See HERE (also opens in a new tab).
The geese are still there this year and have been preening like madly, taking their cue from the Mallards I mentioned the other day.  Like the ducks, they too are to bee seen splashing, ducking under the water, rolling over, flapping and making a great fuss as they sort out their feathers.
Of course, after all that washing, it takes a bit of drying off, which gives the geese a chance to show off those wonderful plumes.

Saturday, 12 November 2011


What a relief!  This morning, as we started our walk towards the lakes of Straw's Bridge, the sun came out.  We were convinced that it was still there, but it seems to have been so long since we've seen it, that we began to wonder.  But, there it was and we were not the only ones to enjoy its watery warmth.  The Mallards on 'Swan Lake' were positively reveling in it.  Many were preening vigorously and splashing with wild abandon, cleaning their newly emerged, autumn plumage.
The bright blue in these drakes' wings and the rich, reddish breast gleamed in the sunshine.
Nothing was going to deter this particular drake from his ablutions.  Every feather had to be sorted out, cleaned, polished and then put back in it's correct place.
A joy to watch.
Made me wish I'd spent longer in the shower this morning!

Friday, 11 November 2011


Malcolm and I found a new path this morning.  Well, it would be more accurate to say we were forced to make a diversion along this 'new' path, having had our original plans scuppered by a lorry blocking our way.  The new path has been known to us for some time, but lately, the path has been cleared and a surface of gravel has been laid.
This green lane follows the course of yet another old rail track which would once have carried coal and metal ore through the Woodside Colliery and on to Marlpool station nearby as part of the G.N.R. Heanor Branch line.  A little further on, the track is crossed by a road bridge taking traffic to and from the collection of houses known as The Field.  The path was a bit too muddy at this point to continue, so we turned for home with the idea to have another crack at it in drier conditions.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011


It was a bit wet under foot this morning as Malcolm and I set out with our friend Kay, for a walk around the farmland surrounding Head House Farm, on Shipley Park.  Shouldn't grumble though, we do need the rain to help fill up the brooks and lakes.  Returning via the old colliery paths, it was nice to see so many of the Fly Agarics (Amanita muscaria) still in full colour amongst the Birch trees along the pathways.  They really are a wonderful sight.
Some are becoming very large indeed, standing almost a foot high and with a cap nearly as wide.  I have mentioned them before of course, but thought them to be worth another mention after our rather 'boggy' walk today.

Monday, 7 November 2011


We had a much colder walk this morning.  It was raw, damp, murky and drizzling as we set out for a brisk stride around Straw's Bridge's lakes.  All was quiet on the lakes.  Even the Black Headed Gulls (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) were keeping their beaks closed, even when we disturbed them from their slumbers around Swan Lake.
Too dank and dreary to tarry long, we headed for home and a hot coffee - helped long by a small tot of Brandy.  Purely medicinal of course!!!

Saturday, 5 November 2011


With clear skies at the end of October, it was possible to see the International Space Station as it passed overhead.  It was an impressive sight, although fleeting, lasting only a couple of minutes, but the sun reflected from it's surface shone rather brightly, especially on the evening of 30th.  When you see it pass by, it's humbling to think that there are actually 6 people on board that thing, hurtling along at 17,239 mph and at a height of between about 211 and 242 miles.  I managed to get a couple of long-exposure pictures (about 15 seconds) as it passed and left a light streak across the frame.  This one, seen passing just below the cross of the constellation Cygnus, the Swan.
It's tricky to get an idea of what it means to travel at such a speed, until you think that it does an orbit of the earth in 91 minutes!
Want to know when to look out for it?  Log on to and put in your location to get a timetable of visible passes of the ISS and other satellites as well as info on all aspects of the Solar System.

Thursday, 3 November 2011


Shopping this morning, so no walk for us.  Instead, a picture from our walk a few days ago.  On our way home  again, we saw a Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) flying along before us.  as we got closer, it tired of flying and decided to perch on a wire to keep watch for his lunch in the grass below.
This was a male bird as can be seen by the rich, chestnut colouring on its back, the female is less well coloured.  Kestrels, used to be Britain's most common bird of prey, but that title has recently been taken by the Common Buzzard.  Kestrels remain very common however and are probably most well known for their habit of hovering along motorway verges, facing into the wind, keeping their heads absolutely still, searching for prey.  Their diet consists mainly of small mammals, but they will also take birds and, more rarely, bats, lizards and amphibians.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011


This morning, a walk in the sunshine, up Shipley Hill and around the gardens of the Old Hall, proved to be very rewarding.  Not only were the views across the rest of Shipley Park good, but the Autumn colours in the trees were brilliant.  This particularly spindly Maple tree seemed to be almost glowing red amongst the dark underbrush around it.
Closer to the tree and the colours shone even more.
But this tree was nothing compared to a larger, more ornamental Maple planted in one of the shrub borders close to the remnants of the hall.  What a bright red beauty!

Tuesday, 1 November 2011


Our friend Kay joined us for a walk around Straw's Bridge this morning.  A light shower gave us a sprinkling, but the sun came out again and it was a nice morning.  As we walked around the lake a small, dabbling duck caught my eye.  A single, Common Teal (Anas crecca) was feeding in the shallows.
This beautiful little duck is not often seen around these parts as they seem to prefer larger stretches of water.  They are also not often seen feeding on their own like this, preferring to be part of a flock.  Our smallest dabbling duck species, they always give good value, especially the males - such as this one - with their bright colours.  The small size can be appreciated when compared to a more 'usual' Mallard.  Gorgeous!