Tuesday, 28 February 2012


Spring is in the air!  The Mute Swans on Manor Floods are fighting like cat and dog, the Mallard drakes are chasing the females about and making a perfect nuisance of themselves, the Coots are scrapping and even the Moorhens seem to be 'sorting out a few issues' between themselves.  Amid all this testosterone-fueled squabbling this morning, there was one pair of birds conducting themselves in a perfect manner.  Romance was on the agenda for these beautiful birds and nothing was going to deter them.  Even the noisy approach of three low-flying swans intent on causing each other harm had no impact.  I refer of course to the pair of Great-crested Grebes, displaying for all they were worth.
Two years ago, I mentioned the dancing Grebes (see Here).  On that occasion, the dancing was happening on 30th March.  It all seems to be happening a month earlier this year.  Head shaking accompanied by brightly coloured head plumes started it all.
Both birds dived below the surface before appearing with beaks full of weed which they presented to each other as tokens of affection before swimming off together somewhere, shall we say, a little less 'public'...!

Thursday, 23 February 2012


Just a short walk today, skirting the lake of the Manor Floods before turning up through the golf course and heading to Aldi for a little shopping.
Before setting out however, my attention was caught by the exploits of Oscar, our neighbour's cat.  He was first seen scuttling up an Elder tree opposite our house with a Whippet in hot pursuit.  Having sat precariously atop the tree for a few minutes until the danger had passed, he made his way gingerly back to terra firma.  within a few minutes he was to be seen around the back garden weighing up the possibilities of taking on a Black-headed Gull.  Failing in this mission, he settled for sitting on top of his own shed.
Seconds later, he suddenly realised he had been spotted...
He then gave me a look which said "what are you looking at?  Point that camera somewhere else."
So that told me...!

Tuesday, 21 February 2012


Call me an 'anorak' if you like, but I do like to keep a record of all the different species of flora and fauna I come across.  'Life lists' as they are known.  It is amazing how many species you can count on a nice walk around your local area, without even trying.  There were a good many birds to be seen this morning as they found the milder conditions more to their liking.  Today, we saw:
House Sparrow, Dunnock, Robin, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Reed Bunting, Goldfinch, Bullfinch, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Carrion Crow, Magpie, Starling, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Wren, Collared Dove, Woodpigeon, Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Coot, Moorhen, Tufted Duck, Mallard, Shoveler, Pochard, Canada Goose, Mute Swan, Great-crested Grebe and Cormorant.  Quite a list of 31 considering we weren't even trying.
Today's picture is none of these however, it is of a very large domestic goose which has taken up residence on the lake of Straw's Bridge.
With the basic composition of a Greylag goose, the domestic, farmyard goose often escapes to parkland lakes.  This individual seems to think it is a swan as it spends all it's time with the Mutes.  It is rather splendid with it's bright orange 'accessories'.

Sunday, 19 February 2012


What a glorious morning!  The bright, blue sky and brilliant sunshine this morning, made the biting cold rather more easy to bare.  We decided to take our walk round Shipley Lake, up to Osborne's Pond and on, up Shipley Hill before returning home.  The beautiful weather was being enjoyed by large numbers of people - there's always a drawback somewhere!  If it hadn't been for the woolly hats and thick coats being worn, you would have been excused for thinking it was a summer's scene.  Osborne's Pond looked beautiful in the sun.
The bare branches also give the game away, looking skeletal against the blueness of the sky.
Turning from the pond and heading up Shipley Hill, there were plenty of people heading for the Derby Tea Room and the gardens there were occupied by several dogs, all looking hopeful that there would be a biscuit or piece of cake for them too.  The woodland around here is almost filled with snowdrops and the daffodils are also thrusting up out of the leaf litter.  A promise of more colour to come.

Friday, 17 February 2012


No photos today because the batteries in my camera failed, just as I was focusing on a large, white goose.  But, not to worry, I thought I would add some of the birdsong we heard on our walk around Straw's Bridge this morning.
The trees were filled with the various twitters, chirps, squeeks and chirrups of hundreds of birds, all getting in the Spring mood.  Among the most numerous of these had to be the Blue Tits.  They were everywhere.  Darting about the branches, displaying, calling and getting excited by the warmer weather.
There were also a large number of Great Tits flitting about.  Their two-tone song is among the most familiar in our hedgerows.  Often interpreted as sounding like "teacher, teacher, teacher", there are many variations on the general theme.
By far the greatest songster we heard this morning however, had to be the Blackbird which was serenading us when I woke up.  There can be few more beautiful sounds in our British countryside than a male Blackbird in full voice.  What a dream of a song!

This video cannot be embedded here, so click this link for a real treat.

Perhaps Spring really is on it's way.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012


It is often said that our British birds are, well, rather dull and in some cases that is certainly the case.  We do seem to have a good many LBJ's in this country (Little Brown Jobs!).  But, on our rather soggy walk this morning, no-one could have been less than stunned at the colourful birds on show in the trees around the Straw's Bridge area.  The only drawback was that none of them stayed still long enough for me to get a picture.  Typical!  But, to start with, one of the most shy and elusive of these birds was seen in the Willows.  A Jay (Garrulus glandarius), with it's very distinctive flight pattern, looking as though it is 'rowing' through the air rather than flapping.  The most colourful member of the Crow family, this photo was unfortunately not taken by me but 'borrowed' from  Wildaboutbritain.co.uk
Not an L.B.J, I think you'll agree.
The next little stunner this morning came in the shape of a small group of Bullfinches (Pyrrhula pyrrhula).  There can be few more colourful birds in our trees, although, once again they tend to be rather shy and fly off as soon as you point a camera at them.  I did manage to get a couple of pictures of one Bullfinch some time ago.  Although not brilliant, they at least show off the male bird's spectacular red breast.
Even the humble Woodpigeon (Columba palumbus) is worth a close look.  The pale pinks and greys coupled with the blue-green flash on the neck and white 'shoulders' make this one of the most handsome of our birds and so familiar, that we tend to overlook it.  But see what you're missing if you do..
Who's an LBJ now?

Saturday, 11 February 2012


Last night was the coldest so far this winter.  The thermometer in our porch fell to -9C and it certainly looked and felt like it first thing when I peered out of the window.  Stepping out a while later, the sun was up, the sky was brilliant blue and it was a beautiful morning for a walk around the lakes of Straw's Bridge.  Swan lake itself is still almost completely frozen over, with just the smallest area of free water kept fluid by the hundreds of ducks, geese, swans and gulls milling around in it.  The surroundings however are still deep frozen.
The Mute Swans were as desperate for food as the rest of the wildfowl on the lake.  Every car which pulled up in the car park, was instantly besieged by the swans, searching for a bread bag.
This handsome chap was being uncharacteristically calm as he waited for food and posed in the sunshine for a few pictures.  The stunning white of his plumage, set against the white of the snow makes for quite a picture.

Thursday, 9 February 2012


Yesterday, I mentioned the large flocks of Fieldfares which are flitting about the area at present.  This morning, as if to say "what about the rest of us?"  one of the Fieldfare's smaller cousins appeared in our hedge and availed itself of the berries there.  A Redwing (Turdus iliacus).
The Fieldfare is one of the largest members of the Thrush family but the Redwing is among the smallest - indeed it is the smallest true thrush to be found in the UK.  Easy to identify, especially when you are privileged enough to get such good views as I did this morning, by the rust-coloured patch under it's wing and the bold, creamy stripe above it's eye.
Primarily a Winter visitor to these shores, they roam across the countryside looking for food, chiefly berries and worms.  When things get particularly hard, they may visit our gardens and overcome their natural shyness.  This gorgeous bird stayed for a while and allowed me to capture several pictures before flying off again, but what luck..!
About 685,000 Redwings come to the UK each Winter, but only a handful stay to breed.  Indeed, a very small handful of as few as 2 pairs breed in the far north of Scotland, the rest leave for Iceland, Scandinavia, Poland, the Baltic and Russia.  What a joy to have them here, even if only for a few weeks.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012


As the title says, it was a bitterly cold walk this morning.  We walked along the old colliery lines and back through the farm taking great care not to fall on the ice and snow.  Leaden skies still look like they're about to drop more snow on us.
I don't think I have ever seen so may Fieldfares (Turdus pilaris) as there are around these parts at the moment.  Last year we were enjoying the 'fall' of Waxwings.  This year, not a Waxwing to be seen, but hundreds of Fieldfares in their place.  Notoriously difficult to get anywhere near, they take flight from the trees and bushes with their characteristic 'chuckling' calls as if laughing at you trying to capture a good photo.  This is the best I've managed to get so far - not very good.
The second largest member of the Thrush family to be seen in these isles, they are spectacularly good to see with chestnut-coloured back, yellowish chest, grey head and rump and marvellously streaked underparts.  They descend upon us each winter from their breeding grounds in the far north and east of Europe, often with flocks of their cousins, the Redwings (Turdus iliacus).
Another elusive little creature was encountered on our walk around Straw's Bridge the other day.  as we walked along, a Weasel (Mustela nivalis) popped it's head out from the snow, looked round then disappeared again before reappearing in another place.  It did this several times before I managed to get one very bad shot of it in the distance before it hurried off and disappeared for good.  What a fierce little charmer!

Tuesday, 7 February 2012


Still cold.
Yesterday's thaw seems to have temporarily halted this morning, so we strode out for a walk up Shipley Hill for some views across the landscape.  The views were a little less than spectacular due to a grey mist covering everything.
From the top of the hill, the panorama was snowy to say the least making things appear even colder than it actually was.
The trees in the hill-top woodland are covered in green pleurococcus providing the only colour to be found in these gloomy woods.  The green algae 'Pleurococcus' is thought to be the most abundant organism on the planet, thriving in damp, dark patches of trees everywhere.  It certainly seems to be abundant on Shipley Hill.

Monday, 6 February 2012


Despite the continuing thaw, there was still plenty of snow about this morning, so we took the opportunity of a 'day off' (our friend Win didn't want to go out in the bad weather), to have a walk around the lakes of Straw's Bridge.  I was struck by the monochrome nature of the woodland as the dark, forbidding trees still sported a coating of white snow.  So, with this in mind, I decided to post a couple of black and white pictures.
I must say, you would hardly notice the difference especially when looking up the canal though more overhanging trees.
Returning to glorious 'technicolour', there seems to be little of what you might call colour about the snowy landscape.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

The White Stuff

Having snowed constantly, but not very heavily for about seven hours yesterday, we woke to another cold morning today.  The snow stopped last night at about 10pm and left us with a good 4" - 5" of the white stuff to trudge through on our short walk into town this morning.  We had planned to visit my mother in Norfolk today, but that was postponed due to the conditions and a good thing too.  The Hawthorn in front of our house was decorated, seemingly for Christmas again in it's white layers.
Our walk into town was a little tricky - one step forward and two back - but at least the town was quiet and there was a total lack of scum-bags to make my hackles rise.  An unusual occurrence these days!
It's all thawing at the moment, so I guess it won't last long - ho hum!

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Very Frosty

It was still bitterly cold as Malcolm and I set out for our walk this morning.  The thermometer's sensor in our porch had dipped below -8C a couple of hours earlier and it was still well below freezing, so we decided it would be good to take a walk through and around the farmland and the colliery walk.  at this time of year, the terrain is often far too muddy to make walking here possible, but the frost certainly saw to that and hardened our tread.  The landscape looked as cold as it felt.
Only the very dry atmosphere prevented there being even more white frost covering everything.  Even so, the distant line of trees took on a white, frigid glow as the morning sunlight caught the ice crystals.
Bare Oak trees line the farm lane and added to the bitter scene.
Back home for a hot coffee and a warming and 'medicinal' Brandy - to help stave off the cold you understand..!

Friday, 3 February 2012


Not much of a walk this morning, just a short trip through Shipley Park, up through the golf course and into town for a little retail therapy.  So, a couple of pictures from yesterday's walk up Shipley Hill will have to suffice for today.
Having checked on the Snowdrops' progress, we headed across the Old Hall site before emerging through the trees for a fine view across the rather chilly countryside.  While strolling through the trees, our attention was drawn to a Grey Squirrel on a large, felled tree trunk.
Some good-natured soul had put some seed out for the birds (and presumably the squirrels) on the tree trunk and this little charmer was certainly taking full advantage of the rich pickings.

Thursday, 2 February 2012


After a few days feeling pretty awful with a cold and not getting out and about much, it was nice to get out for a walk up Shipley Hill this morning, to check on the progress of the local Snowdrops.  The bitterly cold weather was useful for making the muddy ground easy to walk on and when we got up the hill, we found a few little, white gems glowing beneath the trees.
Further on, the canopy was thicker and the ground darker, especially as a few grains of snow started to fall, but a couple of shafts of sunlight managed to find a small clump of flowers and made them stand out even more.