Welcome to my blog.
Don't expect anything too high-tech or flashy, this is simply a 'diary' to share some of my photos, thoughts and observations - with a particular bias towards the natural world and the countryside around my home.
It's that time of the year when we look back at what's gone before and look forward to what's to come. The year started, predictably enough, with January. The year began as it is ending - mild and wet.
By the middle of the month, things had cooled off a bit and frost bit hard.
Returning from our break in Tenerife and February saw the Snowdrops sprinkled all over Shipley Hill.
Shortly followed by the real white stuff.
The best thing about February was, undoubtedly the Redwing which settled in our hedge and provided some very nice views of this, usually shy bird.
By the end of the month, the Great-Crested Grebes were courting, with lavish dances and gifts of weed.
By March, things were warming up and the birds were nesting, the flowers were opening and Malcolm was being attacked by an errant Goose on 'Swan Lake'.
Lots more flowers greeted us in April when we went to Benidorm.
A few, fine-looking Swallowtail Butterflies were among the highlights.
May - and the Duckling were appearing around the lakes of Straw's Bridge along with young Coots - very cute!
June saw Orchids flowering all over the place. As well as the Common Spotted ones, there were Southern Marsh and the spectacular Bee Orchids
Malcolm and I off to Cornwall and a short stay in Newquay.
By July, things had started to turn very wet indeed and flooding was in the news headlines all over Britain. There was a quite a bit of water around here too.
The wet weather continued into August. The only things to be enjoying all this water were the slugs and snails which were eating everything in the garden.
This was good news for those attractive little insects known as Snail-killing Flies - a new species to me.
September broke upon us with another new insect species to add to my list. The Long-winged Conehead.
By the end of the month, the trees were starting to change colour, providing me with some views to try out my new camera.
Stay with it - we're getting to the end!
October continued to see the changing colours of the woodland. These were stunningly good this year despite the dreadful weather we've had.
We had a few scares when in Majorca with those huge Banded Garden Spiders - Who can forget those?
Far better was the sight of the Crested Coots - an endangered species in Europe and a fantastic 'tick' for the list.
By November, things were getting wetter and wetter, but the arrival of those fabulous Waxwings was enough to raise the spirits.
We ended the month with a trip to Edinburgh to celebrate Malcolm's 50th (keep it quiet..!).
Bringing us to December and the end of another one. It's been an extremely wet year but the weather has been kind to us when we needed it most, so lets hope 2013 is a good one - a little more sunshine would be nice, if only to help ripen the tomatoes.
At last, we managed to get out for a walk again this morning, following days of rain. Everywhere is wet and very muddy. The old Nutbrook canal is still flowing at a great pace, although not so full as we expected it to be. It's still rushing through the reed beds.
Onward to Straw's Bridge and 'Swan Lake' looked as if it should be renamed Black-headed Gull Lake. Dozens of them are in residence at the moment, jostling for place with the Geese and Ducks.
Fixing us with their beady eyes, they were obviously on the lookout for any approaching bread-bag.
This morning saw us tackling the joys of a post-Christmas Tesco and, surprisingly, it wasn't too bad. But as the weather isn't looking too good today, there is to be no country walk. So instead, here are a couple of pictures from yesterday's short walk. Picking our way through the muddy puddles, we headed for the field with Highland Cattle in it, one of which was obviously feeling rather photogenic.
He (I think it was a 'he' but omitted to look..!) was clearly keen for me to capture his good side. "Do you think I look better on the right side?"
"Or is my left side the best?"
We just thought he was gorgeous from both sides - although he didn't seem at all impressed when we told him that we'd been to Scotland only a few weeks ago!
As there was no walk this morning, due to another write-off, wet day, I thought a little Christmassy ditty would be in order. So, to that end, one of my all-time favourite 'popular' Christmas tunes, Greg Lake's I Believe In Father Christmas.
With this, the Eve of Christmas Eve, we were happy to be out and about again this morning after another thoroughly soggy day yesterday. It seems that everyone else was about too, especially the dog walkers, so it was rather a 'stop-start' sort of walk as we had to keep stopping to make a fuss of the dogs.
The water-ways are all still full and Swan Lake is looking particularly full. Against the bright blue sky, the lake looked rather 'wintery' despite the unseasonably mild temperature.
Our way through to the other lakes, under an old railway bridge was however, just a little too wet to tackle. Indeed the only ones to be able to get through easily would have been the ducks.
So, it was back the way we had come and home again for hot coffee together with a small Brandy and a warm Mince Pie - It is Christmas after all. Ho! Ho! Ho!
Well, here we are, the end of the world as we know it! Despite the impending doom, Malcolm and I set out for a a rather soggy walk around the Nutbrook trail this morning. After the deluge yesterday, everywhere is, once again, saturated, 'puddly' and in the case of the Nutbrook Canal, overflowing.
By the time we got there, the water had fallen a few inches, but the evidence of it's force and extent was clear. Flowing fast and muddy, the water was everywhere and in some places, trying it's best to leave the confines of the old canal and encroach on the surrounding woodland.
Quite a spectacle and with more rain forecast for the next few days, things can only get wetter.
I have to say though, if this is the Apocalypse, I was expecting something a little more spectacular than just a bit extra water..! With any luck, we'll still be here tomorrow.
The weather forecast for tomorrow is not very good and having not had a walk yesterday, we decided to have a longer stroll around Shipley Park this morning. We headed to Shipley Lake and enjoyed looking at the hundreds of Coots which have gathered there along with Swans, Widgeon, Gadwall and a single Dabchick. From there, we went up Shipley Hill and down toward Osborne's Pond.
All is looking bare and, well, rather 'Brown' at the moment and the bare trees overhanging the waterside, do nothing to help the scene. But, they do look good in spite of this.
Turning homeward, we walked all the way round the lake and through the old car-parks to get a wonderful view of the surround countryside stretching out to the South. From here, you gets a great sight of the Power Station at Ratcliffe-on Soar, pouring out it's smoke and steam. Today, the steam seemed to be blowing in one direction as it left the cooling towers, before changing direction as it billowed higher. Despite this industrial 'blot' on the landscape, it remains a great view.
Another bitterly cold morning greeted us as we stepped out of the front door today. The thermometer was showing well below freezing and Hoar Frost was decorating the branches. We set out for Head House Farm and the surrounding countryside and the footpath near there were lined by sharp, barbed wire and even sharper frost.
Closer to the farm and having made a fuss of the rather chubby Black Labrador which came to see if we were carrying anything edible, we were impressed by the sparkling hedgerows.
All was looking seasonal and the 'Christmas-like' scene was made all the more special when we noticed the Holly hedge which was covered in frost which made it look even more 'spiky' than usual. Very Festive!
Back home - via some shopping at Aldi - for something warming (only coffee this time!).
It was a joy to be out this morning. Although it was bitterly cold (still well below freezing), the sun was shining and the sky was blue. Then, to top it all, we discovered a small flock of about twenty Waxwings flitting about in the Hawthorns.
In the sun, the red, wax-like tips to their wings were visible as were the bright yellow ends to their tails. Combined with the 'foxy-red' face and under-tails, these are spectacular birds and so much better when seen in good light. If only they would come a little nearer!
A little while later and we were treated to the sight of a skein of just over one hundred Pink-Footed Geese making quite a noise as they headed North-Eastward.
Away in the distance, we could see them as they seemed to be joining up with another skein about the same size. Probably looking for a field with freshly-cut brassica stalks to feed on. Looking carefully in the picture above you can also see a plane in the top left-hand corner, which sneaked into the view. I think it was a Thomas Cook flight from Manchester to Turkey. It seems everything was flying this morning!