Thursday, 31 October 2013


Our walk this morning, took us around the lakes of Straw's Bridge.  As mention was made yesterday of the leaf mould which is forming all over the area right now, I thought I would continue in the same vein and put up a couple more pictures of the fallen leaves.  In some parts, they are not yet mouldering, but are sitting on the ground in all their colourful glory.
Most of the ash trees have lost their leaves completely and the Maples are catching them up rather rapidly.  But the Oaks are still hanging on to their leaves and in some cases they seem not to have even started to turn from their rich green to the more seasonal golden hues.  Around the lakes, the contrasting colours are quite evident.
With today marking the end of October, the best of this year's colour has now past and it has been a fairly unremarkable autumn.  Last year, the colours were much more vivid, but I suppose you can't expect every year to be better than the last.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Leaf Mould

Our walk this morning, took us once again towards Osborne's Pond, via Shipley Hill.  The pathways are covered with leaves now and in most places, these fallen leaves are beginning to rot into a nondescript, brown mush.  The recent, copious amounts of rain, have undoubtedly helped to speed this process along.  This morning's sunshine and bright blue skies were most welcome, especially when the light forced its way through the trees, casting sunbeams onto the leaf mould below.
The calm waters of Osborne's Pond were looking good too in the sunshine.  The large, overhanging oak tree which dominates one end of the pond, filtered the sun and sent dappled shade onto the water's edge and the ducks who were on the lookout for any morsel of food.  All very peaceful, despite the unusually large numbers of people who all seemed to want to take advantage of this brief window of good weather.

Monday, 28 October 2013


Britain is recovering today, from the rather nasty storm which battered the south of the country overnight.  Luckily, despite dire warnings from the met office, the wind in our part of the midlands, was nothing like as bad as they forecast and after a few early showers, we managed to get out for a short walk after lunch.  Yesterday, during the morning, the wind began to pick up and as we walked around the nearby farmland, we came across a few creatures for whom a bit of bad weather means nothing.  Highland cattle are well known for their hardiness and a little rain and wind isn't going to worry them at all.
Certainly, this chap didn't give a jot for the breeze, even though it was ruffling his fringe and whipping his long coat around his tummy.  He wasn't even bothered by the strange chap pointing his camera at him while he was trying to get on with his lunch of grass.  What a gorgeous chap he is!

Saturday, 26 October 2013

What a Laugh

Our walk this morning was dictated once again by the weather and with the skies looming ever darker and a light drizzle in the air, we opted for the shorter walk around Straw's Bridge. At the lake, we were presented with the usual motley collection of wildfowl including Mallards, Canada Geese and Mute Swans.  Coots and Moorhens squabbled away at the margins of the lake, while a lone sentinel Grey Heron stood on the artificial island in the middle.  Without doubt, the most numerous birds were the Black-headed Gulls (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) which made their presence known in their usual fashion by squawking loudly.
A strikingly beautiful bird, particularly in their winter plumage, their scientific name ridibundus derives from ridere - to laugh and when you hear their calls, it's not difficult to understand the derivation.  This gull was being particularly cooperative in standing still long enough for me to grab a few shots.
The black head (not actually black, but a deep, chocolate brown), has gone now, leaving behind the tell-tale dark smudge behind the birds' eye.  With their blood-red bill and legs and the silver-grey back feathers, this is a common bird which deserves to be better appreciated.  With an over-wintering population of around 2.2 million individuals, they are always easy to find.

Friday, 25 October 2013

Afternoon Stroll

Malcolm and I usually venture out for our walk, first thing in the morning.  On occasion however, the weather will dictate that we have to change our routine and we sally forth later in the day. Today was one of those days and so after lunch, the rain cleared, the sun came out and we walked out around Shipley Lake.  The sun was bright and cheerful, but the wind blew strongly, trying to rip the autumn leaves from the trees.
From there, we walked along the footpath towards Osborne's Pond and through the tunnel-like trees which line the path.  The path itself was thickly padded with decaying leaves.
Beyond Osborne's Pond, the path took us up Shipley Hill to walk along the old Suffragette wall which once surrounded Shipley Hall on top of the hill.  Sunshine, filtering through the trees here, made a lovely scene with green moss growing on the wall and the reds and yellows of the leaves falling around us in the wind.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013


Just one photo today and it was taken as we walked past the Manor Floods on our way to Straw's Bridge.  The weather remains, to say the least, changeable and this was brought clearly to our attention in dramatic style by the looming skies which followed a light shower.  We had just been dampened by the rain and the sun was now trying to make it's presence felt by illuminating the trees on the opposite bank.  Altogether, a dramatic scene.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013


Having spent our time in Portugal with nothing but warm sunshine, it has been something of an anticlimax coming home to what seems to be nothing but dull, wet and frankly horrible weather. So, in order to cheer things up a bit, I thought it was time we had a look at what our immediate surroundings could look like at this time of year when the weather is a little more amenable.
It all seems a far cry from the rain we have again this morning.  adding a little 'bloom' to the picture makes the landscape seem almost ethereal.
One more for luck in the hopes that the rain will soon clear and we might be able to get out and about once more to enjoy what's left of the autumn.

Monday, 21 October 2013


To finish with our 'holiday snaps', just a few last, general views from the Algarve.  Firstly another one of the remarkable, colourful cliffs.
One of our routes down to the beach, took us along a shady, dry river bed.  It was quiet and cool in the shade of this deep gorge.
A view eastwards along the coast took in the distant town of Quarteira and the posh harbour of Villamoura.  A rather nice bit of rainbow-coloured lens flare added a little more interest to this scene.
From the balcony, we watched as a couple of flocks of migrating White Storks passed overhead on their way to their winter grounds in Africa.
While, in the field over which we looked out, a flock of Red-legged Partridges came 'chuffing' through almost every day.  Staying frustratingly out of camera shot most of the time, I managed only one half-decent picture.
Back to the cliffs and trying to find some welcome shade on a hot day, the pines which grow there were just the thing.
And the views were very good.
Back home to the cold and wet of a British autumn..!

Saturday, 19 October 2013


When you have been to the same place on holiday on a few occasions, as we have been to Olhos d'Agua, the chances of adding more 'ticks' to the life lists are somewhat diminished. This time, I didn't manage to add any new birds or plants to the lists, but I did get three new 'ticks' on the invertebrates list.  First was a large cricket which turned up on our balcony one day as we sat with a cup of tea.  Here, it was checking out the soft furnishings.  It turned out to be a Lily Bush-cricket (Tylopsis liliifolia).
The second 'tick' was another cricket species, but this time, it was found sitting on the desiccated remains of a Large Quaking Grass plant.  This was a Tree Cricket (Oecanthus pellucens) an rather tricky to spot being so well camouflaged.
Lastly, an insect which was much easier to see.  With bold, red and black stripes and sitting on the pale green flower head of a Rock Samphire plant, this is an Italian Striped Bug (Graphosoma lineatum italicum) and quite a little stunner.

Friday, 18 October 2013

Night and Morning

In Southern Europe, when the bright sun has gone and the heat of the day has begun to subside, the evening is given over to the constant chirping of crickets and the occasional hoot of owls.  Looking out from our balcony, we had a good view across a field of fig trees and stone pines towards a vineyard.  After dark, the distant street lights were coming on.
Looking in the other direction, our view was across the roof of our apartment complex and out to sea, where the first of the evening's fishing boats were setting out with their small lights sparkling on the horizon.  The sky was dominated by the moon and Venus shining brightly.
At the other end of the day, the sunrise was just as good.  Red-hued clouds cast a strange light across the fields, pines and rather posh villas nearby.

Thursday, 17 October 2013


The bright sunshine and warm temperatures of the Algarve in October, had brought out some fabulous flowers.  Along the roadside on the way to Albufeira, some Jacaranda trees were in full bloom - as they seem to be at most times of the year.
Every bit as brightly coloured and growing as part of a hedge around one of the hotel complexes, a Bottle Brush plant showed blood red flowers against the blue skies.
Most of these flowering plants are of course, non natives and to continue in that vein, a gorgeous, blue flower took our eye in a car park, near the beach.  The Blue Plumbago or Cape Leadwort, (Plumbago auriculata) looks like Jasmine, but has non of that plant's wonderful scent. The flowers however, do not disappoint.  Cape Leadwort, as the name suggests, comes from South Africa.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013


The cliffs, which form the most colourful backdrop to that part of the Algarve where we stayed, are formed from a loose, grainy sandstone.  Layers of pebbles within the sandy rock, make the cliffs even more unstable and likely to crumble.  The layers of different coloured sandstone make quite a picture.
In places, the cliffs crumble to dust and make it very dangerous to walk along the cliff-top.  It can be just as dangerous at the foot of the cliffs where the rocks have an unsettling habit of falling on sunbathers below.
In places, Stone Pines (Pinus pinea) cling to what's left of the cliff face and sometimes, the roots are exposed by the constant erosion of the ground from around them.  Other plants help to keep it all together, including Lentisc (Pistacia lentiscus), various Lavender and Rosemary shrubs, grasses and Fig trees.  Lovely!

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

The Return

Malcolm and I returned home yesterday afternoon, from a week spent in the sunshine of the Algarve.  We have been very lucky with the weather during our stay, with the sun shining on us almost unbroken.  As a result, the temperatures have also been rather high - indeed a little too high for my liking on occasion.  we were staying once again at the Club Maria Louisa Apartments in the small town of Olhos d'Agua, near Albufeira.  This view is from the vantage point overlooking the small beach and sea-side apartments and villas.
From the other side of the beach, the view takes in the small landing site where local fishermen land their fishing boats and off-load their catch of sardines to the beach-front restaurants.
Close by, there are dozens of small gullies, carved into the crumbling cliffs by rain and the actions of the sea.  In one of these gullies, an extensive, wooden board-walk has been constructed to allow access to the cliffs without eroding them further.
The viewing platforms constructed along it, make great places to stand and watch the sea - Malcolm was certainly enjoying the view.
There will be more from our trip over the next few days, so stay tuned...!

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Autumn Colour

It's impossible to have too much of the wonderful autumn colours which are brightening up the countryside at the moment.  The trees are getting better by the day, this maple tree is growing beside one of the paths around our housing estate.
Against the deep blue of the sky this morning, the golden yellow of these trees are shown off to their absolute best.  This one grows close to Head House Farm, where we walked in the sunshine this morning.
Along the old railway tracks which once formed the West Hallam Colliery site, there is always a good selection of fungi at this time of year, but none catches the eye as much as the Fly Agarics (Amanita muscaria) which proliferate here.
This has to be the archetypal toadstool.  Ask anyone to draw a toadstool and the chances are, they will come up with a red-topped, white-dotted mushroom.  Famously poisonous, it's deadly reputation is somewhat exaggerated.  They do contain a hallucinogenic compound called 'muscimol' which is destroyed by cooking and indeed the fungus is eaten in parts of Europe. Uncooked, they can cause anyone who eats them, to 'see' all sorts of things.  There are reports of Reindeer in northern Europe, ingesting Fly Agarics as they browse for moss, resulting in an unseemly display of 'falling about' and a 'far-away' look in their eyes!

Thursday, 3 October 2013


Despite the murky, dull and damp weather this morning, it was still rather mild for this time of year, so we turned our feet towards the lakes of Straw's Bridge once more.  From the top of the old railway line bank which separates two of these lakes, the view across the old Nutbrook Canal and the golf course beyond, was misty, but a few trees were beginning to add their autumn colour to the scene.
Looking to our left from this viewpoint, the lake which forms the bulk of Pewit Carr was seemingly lifeless, apart from one lone Black-headed Gull, standing on a stump at the water's edge.
Speaking of Black-headed Gulls, at the main lake of Straw's Bridge (known locally as Swan Lake), these noisy, squabbling gulls were by far the most numerous (and vocal) birds this morning.
On the way back home, we passed a Maple tree displaying some of it's best colours amid the gloom of this dreary day.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Autumn Colour

Well, October already - soon be Christmas..!
The sunshine had left us this morning so it was a rather dull walk around Shipley Park today. The weather might not have been too bright, but the autumn colours are starting to show themselves off in the best possible way.  This small Sycamore tree in particular, was showing off very well.
Growing along the old Nutbrook Canal, close to where we have spotted a beautiful and now sadly rare, Water Vole, this Sycamore is still young, but holds its own against its older family members.
In the hedgerows which run through the woodland surrounding Mapperley reservoir, Black Bryony (Dioscorea communis) plants are losing their leaves, but this defoliation has the advantage of exposing their bright red berries to the passer-by.
Despite their juicy appearance, they are highly poisonous - as is the whole plant - so best left for the birds.