Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Bye Bye 2013

Well, we've just about scraped through another one.  So, as the last few hours of 2013 slide past us with the aid of a Gin and Tonic or two (hopefully), I thought I would end this year's posts with a look at some of the new 'ticks' which have managed to get onto my life lists this year.
It's been a good year for ticking off new species.  Birds, bugs, spiders, plants, trees and even a horrible-looking leech made their way onto the lists.  I was particularly pleased with the rare Audouin's Gull and the Bloody-nosed Beetle was spectacular.
Insects are a constant source of 'new ticks' and some of them are extremely colourful as the Striped Bug and Vapourer caterpillar ably demonstrated.
It has been a good year too for new plants, especially with our trips to Mallorca and Menorca this year.  Pyramidal Orchids, Coris and Bellardia were all well worth finding.
Star Clover and Lavatera were quite beautiful too and not forgetting those plants which grow closer to home, the Aquilegia and Agrimony were pretty good 'ticks' also.
Well, there we are.  Time to look forward to 2014 and hope we manage at least as many new species on the life lists.  I will certainly be keeping a sharp look out.

Which just leaves me with a cheery "HAPPY NEW YEAR" to all who deserve it.

Now, where's that Gin and Tonic?

Monday, 30 December 2013

Not so far back...!

No sooner had summer arrived, it seemed to be all over again and we were faced with the onset of Autumn and its associated colours.
After all the nice weather, the ripening fruits in the hedgerows were very early and abundant. The fruiting bodies of fungi were popping up to remind us that Summer was over.
September brought our short trip to Menorca too.  A delightful island and - most importantly - quiet.  The weather was good to us while we were there and we had some lovely walks around the local area.

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Looking back..3

The beautiful Summer of 2013, gave rise to some wonderful colours in the countryside.  It seemed as if all the colours appeared all at once.  The bright yellows, as usual, predominated - and it wasn't just the flowers which displayed the golden hues, a small, hairy Sycamore Moth caterpillar made a lovely new 'tick' for my life list.
Pink and magenta were common colours too.
Our garden played host to some fantastic visitors during the summer.  A Grey Squirrel helped itself to the bird feeder and butterflies, Moths, spiders, crickets and bugs were everywhere.
Perhaps the most colourful individual to be seen in the area, was a male Mandarin Duck which made its home on the lake at Straw's Bridge foe several weeks.  What a little stunner!

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Looking back..2

April this year, finally saw a slight upturn in the weather.  After what seemed like a very long winter, Spring eventually brought forth its blossom and the wildlife was enjoying the warmer temperatures.  Even the local Donkeys were happy..!
Malcolm and I spent some of April on the Mediterranean island of Mallorca, where the weather was even better.
When things started picking up, they all seemed to happen all at once.  As a result, May saw a floral display in our countryside which was simply stunning.  As usual, the Rhododendrons stole the show.
By June, the unpromising start was forgotten and we were enjoying the best Summer we've had in years.  It was being enjoyed by all....
Yet more tomorrow...!

Friday, 27 December 2013

Looking Back

At this time of year, as the seconds tick away 2013 and we all look forward to 2014 (!?), it's nice to review the past year and revisit some of the good times we've had.  Things started well with flocks of Waxwings seen flitting about the area, feeding on the berries which were left.
These colourful, silvery-twittering birds are always a treat when they flock into the country from their northern European home.  sadly, we don't seem to have any this year.
Later in the month, we had some cold, foggy weather before we went to Lanzarote for our winter break.
The views and weather on the volcanic island of Lanzarote, were quite different form those we left back home.
February saw the appearance of huge drifts of Snowdrops on Shipley Hill.
February also saw the appearance of a lot of the more conventional snowy stuff.
The cold, snow, frost and general bad weather, stayed with us through March, when we would normally expect things to be getting better.  Instead, things just got worse, delaying the onset of Spring and making everyone wonder if it would ever warm up.
 The terrible conditions made for some nice scenery - but the heating bills were not so pretty!
More 2013 nostalgia to follow....

Monday, 23 December 2013


With the weather taking a turn for the worse once more and another Atlantic storm piling in to the country, it looks like  we will be 'confined to barracks' until Christmas.  so, I will take this opportunity to wish a very Happy Christmas to everyone who deserves it.

Saturday, 21 December 2013


Today, marks the Winter Solstice in the northern hemisphere, the original mid-winter festival before being hijacked by early Christians.  Jethro Tull made a great play of the solstice with this 1976 hit which reached number 28 in the UK charts in 1976.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Winter Trees

Again, the weather seems to be flick-flacking between good days and bad, so following the stormy evening yesterday, we woke once more to blue skies and a beautiful, if chilly day.  Now the trees have all lost their leaves the bare branches present skeletal silhouettes against a bright, blue sky.  Here, the silver Birches and ash trees stand guard near Shipley Hill.
Those trees which line the path to Osborne's Pond, are intermingled with Holly, Ivy and wild Roses as well as the dead and decaying trunks of old trees which have either been felled deliberately or fallen victim to storms.  Old wood is so important to the well-being of the woodland as they provide food and home to millions of insects, fungi, small mammals and birds.
All rather Wintry - but lovely in the sunshine.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Holly and Ivy

Just as I was moaning about the recent, dreadful weather, we woke this morning to a cold, bright and sunny day.  So, we set out for a longer walk around Shipley Hill and Osborne's Pond. I was struck by the beauty of the greenery, still clinging to its colour amid the bare branches and trees of the winter countryside.  The best known of those plants which are still green, have to be the Holly and the Ivy - particularly at this, festive time of year.  The Ivy growing along the footpaths towards Osborne's Pond, is coating the otherwise denuded trees.  In some cases, these start appear like totem poles.
The thick growth of Ivy up these trees provides shelter for small birds, mammals and insects and the late flowers provide a vital food source for many species of insect, including several species of moth and late-flying butterflies.
As well as all this, they look good too, when all seems to be bare and lifeless.
Closer to home and the Holly trees were basking in the sunshine, their shiny, waxy leaves reflecting the sun and glistening.  Bright, red berries nestled among the prickly shrubbery, providing food for many species of birds.  Despite the bumper crop of berries in the hedgerows this year, the Holly doesn't seem to have done that well.
All very 'Christmassy' though!

Monday, 16 December 2013


It has been unseasonably mild these last few days.  Night time temperatures have been higher than we might expect in the daytime and the blustery winds have continued to blow from the south-west.  all good for the heating bills, but the cloudy skies which go with it, have not been good for taking pictures.  This time last year, things were very different, with temperatures plummeting and frost covering everything.
Rose hips - which this morning were covered in drops of water - were decorated with a frosty coating.
Three years ago, thing were even worse.  Snow was falling on this day in 2010 and it gave us the strange view of a Grey Heron standing on a rooftop the poor bird was probably confused by the blizzard conditions.
What a difference!  It's nice to have a look back every now and then if only to remind us how much better things are at the moment...and how much worse things could be!

Thursday, 12 December 2013


After a few nice - if misty - days, this morning was a bit of a disappointment.  The weather was best described as 'raw' with cloudy skies and a very damp feel to everything.  Definately a day for hats and scarves.  So, instead of dull photos of greyness, here are a few more of our recent walks around Mapperley Reservoir, where all was 'stillness'.
Beautiful, blue skies and golden light on the surrounding trees, made a glorious scene.  The slight mistyness hanging over the still waters of the reservoir add to the ethereal nature and a lone Tufted Duck was enjoying the view too.
Turning from the reservoir and looking from Shipley Hill, along the curve of what was once the drive from the village up to Shipley Hall, the view was lovely too.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013


It was another wonderful morning for a walk around Shipley Park today.  The early sun was just beginning to burn off a thin layer of mist which still hung in the air.
Onward and upward to Shipley Hill and we had a stunning view across the parkland with mist still laying in the hollows.
The view, as always was being guarded by the two sentinel-like pines which also looked wonderful in the sunshine.
Through the Beech and Chestnut trees in the direction of Ilkeston town centre....
... And over the farmland towards the village of Mapperley.

Monday, 9 December 2013


A few days ago, I mentioned that we had seen an Antonov transport aircraft on its way to East Midlands airport.  This morning, just before we set out for our walk, another huge cargo plane flew over our house.  This time, it was a Boeing 747 belonging to the American cargo-carrying Kalitta Air.  Another plane full of Christmas pressies for me?
Last evening, Malcolm suddenly noticed the wonderful sunset.  For a few moments, the reddish-orange glow covered everything and made the whole scene very strange indeed.
It's not often we get to see such a richly coloured sunset and we were reminded of the old adage 'Red sky at night, shepherd's delight' and hoped for a nice day to come.  As we set out in the sunshine for our walk this morning, the saying proved completely reliable.

Friday, 6 December 2013


Following the storm, which battered large parts of Britain yesterday, we ventured out to see what - if any - damage had been caused.  Looking out of the window yesterday, it was clear from the amount of things blowing around in the wind, that we were safer staying indoors.  This morning's walk confirmed that theory.  Everywhere, twigs, branches and trees, lay scattered across the paths and some were doing their best to block the Nutbrook canal.
The Willows seemed to have taken the worst of the battering.  Not only the largest, old trees were affected, many smaller trees, which seemed to have been fairly well sheltered by other trees, took a hammering.
As we walked through Pewit Carr, our way was blocked by a larger willow, which had succumbed to the onslaught and taken a good quantity of surrounding earth with it as it fell.
Quite a lot of clearing up to be done - but those with log burners should be happy!

Thursday, 5 December 2013


More from our walk yesterday and a couple more views across the open parkland, both from the vantage point of the new viewing platform mentioned in yesterday's post. The first of these looks out, over the grassy fields and golden, autumnal trees, over the rooftops of Shipley View estate and up to Ilkeston town centre built on top of the hill.  The two churches of St. Mary's (the square towered church on the left) and the pointed steeple of the United Reformed church, stand out above all the other buildings.
Turning slightly to the south, the horizon is dominated by the great hulk which is the power station at Ratcliffe-on-Soar.  On a cold winter's day, the cooling towers are pumping out steam and the tall chimney to the left is belching smoke from its coal and wood burning furnaces.  From here, it doesn't look as far away as it actually is - nine miles!
On our way home, we stopped off to look at the two young pigs which have only recently taken up residence on a nearby smallholding.  usually, they are to be found rootling around in the mud and searching for things to eat.  but yesterday, they were huddled together in their hut, snuggled down in the straw and probably dreaming of acorns.
Hurry on, before Malcolm starts talking about bacon!

Wednesday, 4 December 2013


This morning's walk, took us through Shipley Park, up and over Shipley Hill, down to Osborne's Pond, returning around Shipley Lake and Woodside nature reserve.  The first thing which caught our eye (actually it caught our ears first), was the third heaviest cargo aircraft in the world as it flew above our heads on its way to landing at East Midlands airport.  The Antonov 124 'Ruslan'.
This particular aircraft is about 23 years old and flies for Volga-Dnepr Airlines, one of 12 such planes operated by that airline.  Capable of carrying 120 tons of cargo, I wonder if it was carrying my Christmas presents.  Quite a sight!
Further on and 'looking to the skies' seemed to be a good idea as the sun was so nice this morning, ahead of some forecast bad weather to come for the rest of this week.  Looking across Shipley Park, the sun displayed a slight halo around it, caused by ice crystals in the upper atmosphere.
On our way back home, we diverted a little, to take a look at the newly-finished observation platform which has been built by the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust to afford us with a fine view of the area.  Using the panorama function of my camera, I tried to get a 180 degree view from the platform.
Looking up again, we were also treated to the sight of a very short-lived 'sun dog', casting rainbow colours across the sky.  A beautiful sight, but it lasted just a few seconds.