Monday, 31 March 2014

Last of March

Well, that's another month gone and the weather continues to be pretty good - especially when compared with last year at this time.  Out and about around Shipley Lake again this morning, the early mist soon burned off and it was getting quite warm by the time returned home.  On Shipley Hill, the old hall gardens are starting to bloom, along with the rest of the countryside.  As always, among the best shrubs to be in bloom at this time, are the Pieris.
One of the larger members of the heather family, the resemblance is not immediately obvious, but on closer inspection, the flowers give away the relationship.
Always a favourite with the early-flying bees, these tiny, white bell-shaped flowers make a stunning display when seen in such profusion.
Back home and some more bell-like flowers are showing their true colours in our garden.  The Grape Hyacinths are looking particularly good right now - even more so when seen close up.
A glorious blue colour you have to agree!

Friday, 28 March 2014

In The Pink (and yellow)

Our walk this morning took us out towards Shipley Hill and Mapperley reservoir before returning along Slack Lane.  Along Slack Lane, there are a couple of Cherry Trees which are showing off their blossom to great effect.
Eve in the cool breeze and fairly dull weather this morning, this tree seemed to glow a bright pink.
Just beautiful...
Closer to home and the grassy banks along our trail are dotted with small clumps of Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara).  As I have mentioned before, the name Tussiligo comes from the Latin tussis meaning 'cough' and ago, meaning 'to act upon' and the plant is therefore named for its medicinal qualities in clearing up a bad chest.  It is also one of the first harbingers of Spring each year, so good news all round!

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Cheery Cherry

Following a day of enforced sloth, caused by yesterday's bad weather, it was nice to be able to get out and about once again this morning.  We set off for Shipley Lake, the Woodside LNR and Osborne's Pond but on our way, we were impressed with the sight of one particular Cherry tree which was more covered in blossom than any of its neighbours.
There are many trees in flower at the moment, but none is better covered than this.  Indeed, it looked as if it were covered with snow.
On this day last year in fact, it would have been covered with snow as we were in the midst of an arctic spell of weather as you can see HERE.  A year later and it seems a bit silly complaining about one wet day, considering what it could be like.  One more picture of the Cheery Cherry - with a little 'bloom' added to the picture for a more 'artistic' quality.

Sunday, 23 March 2014


As suggested yesterday, the march toward spring has been going on apace while we were away.  Back home, we have been delighted to see what colour there is to be found in the British countryside at the moment.  The carpets of snowdrops have finally given way to the Daffodils on Shipley Hill.

The Cherry blossom is also starting to making an appearance.
Around the lakes of Straw's Bridge, the Blackthorn which has been in flower for a few weeks now, is still blossoming bravely.
Even where there is no sign of blossom, things are still looking spring-like.  Here, although no flowers are visible, the sun, shining through the dry stems and seed heads of the Phragmites reed bed, makes a colourful scene.
Having spent a week looking at the arid, sandy and over-populated scene of Gran Canaria, all this burgeoning new, green growth and spring flowers, makes a welcome change.

Saturday, 22 March 2014


Since getting back home, I have been searching the Net, trying to find the identity of a plant which we found growing along a roadside.  The leaves were thistle-like, but the flower was anything but.  Yesterday evening, Malcolm took up the challenge too and within a short time, he had found it.  Argemone ochroleuca is a member of the Poppy family and is sometimes called the Mexican Poppy as it is a native of Central America.  Like many plants these days, it has become an invasive a nuisance species in many parts of the globe.
We spotted the flower on our way to find the private harbour of Pasito Blanco - a walk which, although only about a mile and a half away, involved circumnavigating a golf course and negotiating a main road.  All of which took us on a rather circuitous route in order to get to our destination.  The harbour turned out to be quiet and rather more 'gentile' than we had been used to in Maspalomas.
Back in Maspalomas and we spent most of our morning walks, strolling round the park - like two old-age pensioners - admiring the ducks...
 And the trees.  These handsome palms are Reystonea regia.
Lastly, another diminutive plant and another 'tick' for the life list.  Growing in abundance in the dry sands of the dunes, spikes of Sand Sedge (Cyperus capitatus) were springing up everywhere.  Every bit as tough as they look, these little sedges were well suited to the desert conditions.
Home again and time to catch up on Springtime in the UK...

Friday, 21 March 2014


Around the Maspalomas area, there were several municipal parks - I have already mentioned the one with the duck pond - and these parks were planted with some exotic trees and bushes. among the most exotic and most colourful were the Coral Trees (Erythrina variegata).
Another very colourful plant was to be found growing close to our path down to the dry river bed which led to the sea.  This feathery shrub was known as a Bird of Paradise (Caesalpinia gilliesii), not to be confused with the more 'normal' Bird of Paradise plants or Strelitzias.
Also growing in the parks and planted in hedges and borders elsewhere were the dramatic, blue flowered plants Limonium sventenii.  A member of the Sea Lavender family, these were rather more spectacular than the diminutive Sea Lavender which graces our coasts in the UK.
Some of the wild, native plants were equally - if differently - exotic.  One was to be found growing all over the sands of the Maspalomas dunes.  A low-growing annual plant, it sometimes goes by the common name of Camel plant, Neurada procumbens.  It has hard, spiky seed heads which are strong enough to stick into the soles of your shoes.  It is from these that the plants get their popular name of Camel Plant, as they tend to stick into the feet of passing camels and so spread around the deserts where it lives.
Close to these plants and growing in the shifting dunes were the tiny flowers of the Ononis serrata.  A member of the Pea family, its little, purple/blue flowers were about half an inch long.  Another desert specialist, it grows in hot, sandy parts of North Africa, Arabia, Iraq and the Eastern Mediterranean - as well as the Canary Islands.  Some idea of its size can be gained by comparing the size of the sand grains attached to the leaves in this picture.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

The Front

We headed down to the sea front and the expanse of sand dunes and small, brackish lake which forms a nature reserve.  Avoiding the group of large, African women who were intent on robbing everyone of their wallets, purses, passports, watches, jewelry, etc. We looked over the brackish lake.
In several places, information boards had been erected telling the reader of how the area had been neglected and built on until a preservation order had been put in place to prevent further destruction of the nature reserve.  It looked to us as if it was far too little, far too late!
Not much wildlife was to be found, just a couple of Grey Herons and a Coot.  The ever-present line of buses, belching diesel fumes and blasting their horns didn't help matters either.
On to the dunes and again, we were disappointed by the seeming lack of wildlife to be found. For an internationally important nature reserve, it seemed that all there was to be seen, was about six different bushes, a couple of non-native palm species and a view of better things further inland.
Along the sea front and trying to dodge the worst of the crowds, a large and stately lighthouse loomed over the scene.
Tomorrow, I think a few flowers will cheer the mood somewhat...

Wednesday, 19 March 2014


Although not a spectacularly rich area for wildlife, we did however, manage to see a few species of birds while in Maspalomas.  The ubiquitous Collared Doves and Blackbirds were always in evidence, but there were also a lot of Canary Island Chiffchaffs (Phylloscopus canariensis) flitting about in the trees and palms.
The Canary Island Chiffchaff used to be thought of as a subspecies of the more familiar Common Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita), but now its status has been elevated to being a separate and distinct species. So that's a nice new 'tick' for the list.
The pond in the park which supported the ducks and Moorhens, also had a resident Little Egret (Egretta garzetta).  This individual was extremely tame as he searched for small fish in the shallows and caused some alarm among the ducklings.
Constantly on the lookout for lizards (more of which tomorrow), the Kestrels of Gran Canaria and other Western Canary Islands, belong to a sub-species (Falco tinnunculus canariensis) and are of a more ancient blood-line than their Eastern Canary Islands cousins.
Another new 'tick' for me, came in the form of a small dove which, on the face of it, looked like a Collared Dove, but closer inspection revealed no 'collar' and a more diminutive size.  It was actually a Laughing Dove (Spilopelia senegalensis).
Named for its bubbling, 'laughing' call, it was also rather tame and these particular doves are supposed to be fairly common in dry, scrubby areas of sub-Saharan Africa eastward to India.
So, that's two new ticks for a start!

Tuesday, 18 March 2014


Returning home last night, Malcolm and I have spent a sunny week in Maspalomas, Gran Canaria.  The town itself was typical of most Spanish seaside resorts with the exception of any high-rise tower-block hotels.  In the town, the most interesting point was an area of municipal park with duck-pond and manicured grass.  The pond was home to several Moorhens and Muscovy Ducks with their chicks.
One Moorhen seemed particularly keen on getting its face in every picture I took, even to the point of peering over the 'shoulder' of a duck while I was snapping the ducklings...
The pond was small, but well stocked with fish and red-eared Terrapins as well as the ducks and Moorhens.  At one end, an artificial monolith had been erected as a climbing wall and water-fall.
We only saw water dropping from the top on one occasion during the week, but it looked pretty good while it lasted, falling onto the rocks and into the reeds.
More pictures from our stay over the next few days, as I get them sorted out!

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Hybrid and High Jinx

Our sunny and rather warm walk this morning, took us through Pewit Carr and on to Straw's Bridge.  As usual on a Sunday, the walk was somewhat spoiled by too many people and far too many aggressive and rude cyclists.  But getting to 'Swan Lake' we were rewarded with the sight of a hybrid goose.
I think this attractive bird is a cross between a Greylag and a Canada Goose and the result is quite handsome.
Close to this hybrid goose, a courting pair of Mute Swans were 'doing their thing' in the relative quiet of one end of the lake.  Their graceful dance together, included lots of head bobbing, dipping into the water and 'mirroring' behaviour.
These were both young birds and still had some of their brown plumage.  Despite their youth, they seemed to know what they were doing.
... and were doing it well!
As things got a bit more 'intimate', we left them to it and carried on with our walk.  Well, you wouldn't want an audience at such times, would you?

Tuesday, 4 March 2014


It wasn't just the Coots which were actively preening and primping themselves around Straw's Bridge yesterday.  The Canada Geese too were having a bit of a wash and brush up.
Having sorted out their plumage, they were naturally, keen to show themselves off to anyone who was interested.  Strutting along the water's edge, they made quite a handsome sight.
Some were looking on in admiration (or was it envy?) at the Mute Swans as they glided by looking even more 'salon-fresh'.
The Blackthorn bushes around the lake were also looking rather fine in the sunshine, particularly when viewed against the clear, blue sky.