Friday, 30 March 2012


A few degrees cooler today and a little more cloudy than of late, but still, we had a nice walk around the lakes of Straw's Bridge and across the meadow of Peewit Carr.  Poor Malcolm fell foul of a particularly belligerent Domestic Goose at Straw's Bridge.  It was clear one goose was not happy about us walking past - although the three other geese with which it was sitting on the bank, were not at all bothered.  As we approached it began hissing and posturing.  Then, head down and full of fury, it came toward us honking loudly.  Of course, Malcolm was the one who got the brunt of the attack as it grabbed his trouser leg.  Thankfully, no damage was done, except to Malcolm's pride.
On the wildlife front, there are lots of Seven-spot Ladybirds about at the moment.  This one was in the Pyracantha in our garden.
The Seven-spot (Coccinella septempunctata) is the most common in Britain, although in recent years it's numbers have seen a decline at the 'hands' of the foreign Harlequin Ladybird from Asia.  
Around the footpaths of Shipley Park, small, upright, bright-green sprigs of Dog's Mercury (Mercurialis perennis) are carpeting the woodland floor.  A member of the Spurge family, these common plants are among the first to flower each Spring, although the flowers are rather inconspicuous being the same green colour as the surrounding leaves.

Thursday, 29 March 2012


Another very warm walk today, took us up and around Shipley Hill in the sunshine.  The Daffodils are still looking very good around the woodland floor and they are now being accompanied by the first of this year's Bluebells.
Only a few of these little, blue jewels have opened their bell-shaped flowers so far, but with the promise of many thousand more to come.
The last few very warm days have brought out quite a few butterflies too.  Malcolm spotted a Brimstone Butterfly flitting about in the hedge across the road from our house yesterday.  The surrounding countryside is dotted with Peacock Butterflies too, as we found this morning.  Our walk yesterday brought forth several others including this very obliging individual, sunning itself on the ground and only too happy to pose for a photograph.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012


Another beautiful day today, demanding another fairly long walk.  So it was off along the old colliery lines to Mapperley Village again, returning along Slack Lane.  Walking through a small-holding near the village, free-range hens scattering left and right and horses picking fights with each other in the fields, we stopped to admire two Donkeys in a small field.  It seems they were as interested in us as we were in them and they soon came cantering over to get a closer look at us.  Of course, they just had to have their noses scratched. Bless!
Along Slack Lane, there was no sign of the Highland cattle.  They were there yesterday, but not today.  Wonder where they had gone!
Like the Donkeys this morning, the Cattle yesterday seemed to be in a hurry to get a closer look at us.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012


Fantastic weather greeted us this morning.  The skies were blue, the sun was shining and the temperature soon started to climb from it's chilly start.  With that in mind, we set out for a longer walk today, taking in Shipley Park, along Slack Lane towards Mapperley Village, down to and around the Reservoir, then returning through Mapperley Wood.  Slack Lane has been resurfaced using some of the old tarmac surface of the car parks of the defunct Theme Park and is now much more 'walker-friendly'.
We had heard that the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust has recently introduced some Jacob Sheep onto a small area of the reserve, so were keeping our eyes peeled for them, but not before we enjoyed the splendours of the reservoir in this gorgeous weather.
After walking round the reservoir and stopping to enjoy the sounds of drumming Woodpeckers and honking geese, we sat for a while on the green, for a cup of coffee.
In the sun, it was getting rather hot, so jumpers were shed before continuing on our way.

Sunday, 25 March 2012


Another beautiful day today, but shopping waits for no man, so there was no walk in the park this morning.  Instead, a couple more pics from Attenborough Nature Reserve.
Among the Mallards, Canada Geese, Mute Swans, Coots and Tufted Ducks, there were three pairs of exotic-looking Red-crested Pochards (Netta rufina).
As usual, the male birds are more strikingly coloured than the females with their lipstick-red bills, rusty-red head and pale buff back.  These diving ducks are quite scarce in the UK, at least, truly wild birds are.  Most of those we see are escapees from ornamental collections and their descendants.
Only about 320 individual, wild birds overwinter in the UK and even fewer stay to breed (about 29 pairs according to the RSPB), so the sight of three pairs at one place is a rare sight indeed.  Even if these were not truly wild birds, it's always nice to see such a gorgeous duck.  This male bird was looking particularly pleased with himself, having won the attentions of two females.

Saturday, 24 March 2012


Our walk around Attenborough Nature Reserve yesterday was busier than we are used to, with cyclists, joggers, noisy children, etc.  The weather could have been a bit better too as the fog proved to be rather stubborn.  But there were a couple of colourful highlights.  As we sat having our coffee before returning to the car, a male Chaffinch sat in a bush just outside the visitor's centre, just crying out to be photographed.
If you are wondering about the title of today's blog entry, the word bachelor refers to the Chaffinch, the scientific name for which is Fringilla coelebs.  Coelebs is Latin for Bachelor, a name given to it by the great taxonomist Linnaeus who, seeing large flocks of only male birds, decided that they must be bachelors by nature.
Once thought to be Britain's most numerous bird according to the RSPB, it has been knocked off the top 'perch' into second place by the Wren.  There are still thought to be about 6,000,000 breeding pairs of Chaffinches.  And what little beauties they are - well, the males anyway!

Friday, 23 March 2012


Many of the birds in these parts are beginning to get the 'Spring Feeling' and as a result, their thoughts are turning to nest building.  At Straw's Bridge, one optimistic Coot has built a nest on the edge of the lake, right where people park their cars and throw bread to feed the ducks, geese and swans.  Never was a nest built which was so very 'in the way' as this one seems to be.  But, to give the hapless Coot it's due, it has finished building and is now sitting on the empty nest in the firing line.
A short walk around Attenborough Nature Reserve this morning, revealed another nesting Coot.  This time a more convenient nest site has been chosen.
Although the nest is situated beneath the walkway to the visitor's centre, it is beautifully constructed out of dry reeds (in stark contrast to the pile of sticks and litter used by the Straw's Bridge Coot) and is not in immediate danger of being trampled by stampeding swans.  The Coot seems happy enough on it too.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Watch it!

The early morning sunshine was catching our garden hyacinths this morning as we had breakfast.  The blue, white and pink flowers really caught my eye, so I thought we might have a picture or two.
The warmth of the sun was also having it's effect on the flowers and the heady fragrance was very powerful as I crawled about the lawn trying to getting a good angle.
You can often feel a little self-conscious when taking photos.  Particularly when having to crouch about to get the right shot.  But this morning, while in this uncomfortable position, I definitely felt I was being watched!  Looking up, I saw why.  Oscar, our neighbour's cat, was perched high on top of the fence looking down at me with a look which spoke volumes and did little for my confidence.  If cats could talk, I can only assume Oscar would have raised his eyes, tutted loudly and shook his head in amazement at my actions.
Well, that's me put firmly in my place - and it was only 9.30am!

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

All the G's

Yesterday's walk was good for a few  Springtime sightings.  Firstly, the Gorse bushes coming into bloom along Slack Lane.  These hedges took a bashing in the very cold weather last Winter and didn't recover much through 2011, but they seem to be struggling along nicely now.
The coconut-scented flowers are bright and beautiful in the Spring sunshine, but the spiky leaves are ever present to stab the unwary photographer!
Among the other "G's" yesterday, were a pair of female Goosanders, swimming around on Mapperley Reservoir.  The males are stunning in their Black and White plumage and the females are a little more drab.  Greyish all over except for the rust-red head and long, red, serrated bill.  No sign of any males yesterday, just these two females.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012


Beautiful weather this morning, so we decided upon a longer walk around the lanes and byways of Shipley Park, Mapperley Village and Shipley Hill before returning home.  The paths are still a little 'moist' in places, but mostly drying out nicely allowing unhindered perambulation.  Firstly a walk around the grassy fields towards Head House Farm.
From there, it was onward to Mapperley and it's reservoir heading for Shipley Hill along the lane which once provided carriage access up to the grandeur of Shipley Hall and now makes a nice walk.
Further lanes run off at right-angles to this track, taking the walker around Mapperley Reservoir, but that's a walk for another day.

Saturday, 17 March 2012


A walk around the lakes of Straw's Bridge this morning, revealed a beautiful expanse of flowers blooming beside one of the lakes.  The majority of these flowers belonged to the Red Dead-nettle (Lamium purpureum) and were in great profusion.
Dead-nettles are a boon to early, nectar-loving insects.  Flowering from March onward, they are among the earliest to bloom and also provide a beautiful splash of colour.
Sprouting up from the middle of this large patch of Dead-nettles, was an equally beautiful plant.  The red-stemmed and yellow-green flowered Sun Spurge plant (Euphorbia helioscopia).
As children, we knew these common garden 'weeds' as milkweed due to the sticky, white sap which oozes out when the plant is picked.

Friday, 16 March 2012


Roses, as we all know, are Red.  Similarly, Violets are Blue, right?  Wrong!
As our walk to Straw's Bridge yesterday revealed, these Sweet Violets (Viola odorata) were anything but blue, or even violet.
This fairly large clump of Sweet Violets was growing along the footpath, beneath a hedge of Elder, Privet and Hawthorn bushes The flowers were making sure they opened before the Cow Parsley surrounding it, grows too tall and swamps everything in sight.  Another sign of Spring on a cold, damp and foggy day.

Thursday, 15 March 2012


We set out in a thick fog this morning.  Very cold, damp and with little visibility, it wasn't the best of days for a walk around the park, but we persevered.  The view across the 'Bogwash' was, to say the least, a little restricted.
Further on, the Blackthorn flowers around Swan Lake, are beginning to fill the bare branches with their yellow stamens standing proud of the white petals.  The fog was coating these flowers with drops of dew.
Like small jewels, they shone in the limited amount of light available.
An unexpected sight greeted us as we stood looking out over the water.  A lone Dunlin (Calidris alpina) was seen picking about in the mud around the lake.  A small wader, the Dunlin is a fairly common sight in Britain, especially in Winter when large flocks gather at the coasts, but this far inland, they are not such a common sight.  Hard to spot against the muddy background.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012


We set out this morning for a stroll up Shipley Hill again, to see if the Daffodils are putting on a show yet.  Much colder today and grey again with a little mist still hanging about, but our climb up the hill proved to be well worth while.
The woodland floor is beginning to get a sprinkling of yellow trumpets and the amount of green leaves which are springing up, seem to forecast a lot more to come.
Pity there was no sunshine to make these flowers stand out a bit more, but at least the trees are still bare allowing any available light to reach the ground.  Spring has sprung!

Monday, 12 March 2012


Malcolm chose a Skimmia japonica shrub with some of his birthday money last year.  All winter this little plant has been sitting in it's pot on the patio, covered with flower buds.  These have now started to open and produce a froth of pink-flushed, white flowers against the dark, evergreen foliage.
A member of the Rutaceae family, they are related to citrus fruits, lemons, oranges, etc.  Their flowers are small, but when seen close up, they make up for their size by their simple beauty.  Four bright yellow anthers, covered in pollen and a nectar-rich central, green ovary and a charming scent.  Just the thing!

Sunday, 11 March 2012

First Cut

In stark contrast to yesterday's grey and disappointing weather, this morning dawned bright, sunny, blue-skied and glorious.  Warm enough for us to take our walk without the encumbrance of coats or even fleeces for the first time this year, the weather gave me the opportunity to give our small lawn, it's first cut.
I had been bemoaning the fact that we had not yet seen any Celandines (Ranunculus ficaria) in flower this year, when, as if by magic, there they were.  Bright, yellow, shiny surfaced petals glowing against the dark green of the foliage are always enough to make you know for certain that Spring is on it's way.
Often among the first of Spring's heralds, Celandines (actually 'Lesser' Celandines) are close cousins of Buttercups and are sometimes referred to as the "Spring Messenger".  The Cumberland Poet William Wordsworth, never shy about waxing lyrical about flowers, wrote about the Celandine...

There is a Flower, the Lesser Celandine,
That shrinks, like many more, from cold and rain;
And, at the first moment that the sun may shine,
Bright as the sun itself, 'tis out again! 

Saturday, 10 March 2012


It was supposed to be nice today, but we set out for a walk this morning as the drizzle was just stopping and the skies were starting to brighten.  It remained very dull and overcast as we made our way around Straw's Bridge and home again through Peewit Carr.  Not many photo opportunities either, so for toady, here are a couple more from our walk to Osborne's Pond the other day.
Almost as Grey a day as this morning has turned out to be, the perspective in this picture helps to give a little depth from the 'jetty' sticking out from the dam.
Further on and the climb up the hill gives another chance to get to grips with perspective.  This time, the wooden rail which acts as a boundary between road and field gives the depth as it disappears into the distance.
At least by that time, the sky was staring to clear and a little blue was colouring the scene.  No such luck today!

Thursday, 8 March 2012


A nice day today, but not as good as the forecasters promised.  Still, at least we managed to get out for a walk and took in both Shipley Hill and Osborne's Pond.  We went to look for the daffodils on the hill, but there were not very many to be seen yet and the snowdrops have all but finished, leaving a sort of 'limbo' between floral flushes.  Two nice panoramas this morning, taken from the road which takes you down from Shipley Hill towards the small reservoir known as Osborne's Pond.
Zooming in on the two bare trees on the horizon reminds you that we're still in Winter and Spring is not upon us yet - however much we try to kid ourselves.