Wednesday, 29 October 2014


While enjoying our walk around Shipley Hill yesterday, our attention was drawn towards a large bird, sitting in an old ash tree.  It was a Buzzard (Buteo buteo).
Despite the sunny weather - or maybe because of it - it was not easy getting a good picture of this magnificent creature.  Its dark plumage and the dark tree, set against a very bright sky, it all adds up to a not-too-good shot.  But undaunted, I gave it a try and the results were not too disastrous.
The Buzzard has overtaken the Kestrel as Britain's most numerous raptor.  Certainly around these parts, there are always plenty of Buzzards to be found circling around the fields and crying out with their plaintive, mewing call, similar to that of a cat.
Despite their large size and fearsome aspect, Buzzards are more likely to be seen feeding on carrion and even earthworms, than to be swooping on and killing small mammals and birds.  Quite a sight!
To inject a little colour into today's posting, I have to turn once again to the autumn leaves. These were from a Maple (of course) growing alongside the footpath as we returned home.
The golden hues contrasted nicely with the silvery-white bark of a sawn-up Silver Birch tree lying in the leaf litter beneath.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014


This morning, the weather was bright, sunny and unseasonably warm, so we set out for a slightly longer walk, taking in Slack Lane, Mapperley Village and Shipley Hill.  The walk along Slack Lane gave us some smashing views, both along the lane itself...

... and across the fields, towards Shipley Hill and the wonderful autumnal colours there.
As we approached Mapperley Village, we were being scrutinised by a mixed herd of cattle which were all laying down, taking it easy in the sunshine.
The little one in the foreground was particularly photogenic and kind enough to allow me to take his photo.  I think he was too chilled to be bothered to move!  All very lovely and what a treat, to have this sort of weather during the last few days of October.

Monday, 27 October 2014

6 Years Old

It was six years ago this very day, that I started this blog - where has the time gone?  Back in 2008, I was just as caught up in admiration of the autumnal colours of the area.
At this time back then, the weather was a little more sunny than it was as we walked out this morning, but the leaves were still as beautiful.
During the last 6 years, I have posted 1337 'diary' entries and plan to continue to do so, but it is nice to look back on what we were doing then.  Curiously, our walk this morning took us more or less along the same track which we took six years ago. This path took us past the Manor Flood and the Reedmaces which grow along its banks.
Bright red berries also featured back in 2008 and they were still in evidence this morning as we walked around the lakes of Straw's Bridge.
So, that's the self-indulgence out of the way for now. Here's to the next six years - who knows what we will be doing then.!

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Shipley Hill

It was a busy walk this morning as Malcolm and I took to the hills - well, Shipley Hill anyway.
Following the recent high winds, many of the trees have lost most of their leaves, but there are still plenty to provide the autumnal hues which are a treat to the eye at this time of year.
The Sweet Chestnut and Beech trees which dominate the southern and eastern side of Shipley Hill, are various states of undress.  Some have turned colour and are in the process of dropping their leafy mantle, while others are still relatively untouched by autumn and are clinging to their green finery for a little while longer.
The views through the trees on the western side of the hill, took on a slightly more mysterious character.
With a little digital manipulation, the effect is rather more Tolkien-like...

Wednesday, 22 October 2014


Following yesterday's stormy weather, we set out for a longer walk this morning, taking in the reflected colours of Mapperley Reservoir.  The high winds have caused a certain amount of havoc around the area and the fallen leaves have created a deep carpet of autumnal colours everywhere. These same colours are reflected beautifully in the waters of the reservoir.
We are still waiting for the usual influx of winter wildfowl, so the water is left mostly undisturbed except for a few Coots and a Canada Goose or two.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014


Our walk through Pewit Carr at the weekend, was notable for one reason.  Just as I was lamenting the lack of fungi this year, I noticed, growing at the base of a tree, a small group of Common Earth Stars (Geastrum saccatum).
This strange-looking fungus is quite common in the UK although can be rather localised.  It is a saprophytic species, meaning that it survives by decomposing dead and decaying organic material - as do many fungi species.  When it first emerges from the ground, the Earth Star is an egg-shaped structure, slightly pointed at the top.  As it matures however, the outer layer breaks apart into between 4 and 9 triangular arms revealing the ping-pong ball-like structure within.  It is this central structure which contains the spores.
Each spore measures between 3.5 and 4.5 microns across (meaning that about 5000 of them would sit across a 1p coin).  The Earth Star contains a compound called Beta-Glucan which has proven to be useful as an anti-inflammatory, an antioxidant and has cytotoxic qualities which may be helpful in the treatment of some cancers.  You never know what's out there..!
With all the autumnal decay happening at the moment, these Earth Stars will have plenty to feed on.
These maples are to be found losing their leaves on the near-by Pewit Golf Course.

Monday, 20 October 2014


Autumn is well and truly here.  Our walk this morning underlined that fact and left us in no doubt whatsoever. The colours of the season were evident all over, nowhere more so than on Shipley Hill.
As always, the Maples and Sycamores provide the best colour.
As we walked around the suffragette wall which surrounds the site of the old hall on Shipley Hill, the Beech trees added their contribution to the colours.

Where this year's Great Reedmaces are setting their distinctive seed heads, they provided another point of interest viewed against the turning leaves of a very young Oak tree.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Odds and Ends

Just a few 'odds and ends' today, to finish with our Portuguese jaunt. More than anything else, the colourful nature of the Vilamoura area was most noticeable.
Despite the lack of unspoiled, wild spaces, the gardens, parks and hedges surrounding the built up areas were still full of flowers, even at this time of year.
Even where there were no flowers to enjoy, there were other things to attract the eye - such as the colourfully 'posh' marina with its plethora of expensive yachts.
To finish with the Algarve (for now at least), it is well worth a couple more pictures of the wetlands - which might not be there for much longer.
All in all, a good break away.

Friday, 17 October 2014


I am no great fan of long stretches of sandy beach, much preferring more dramatic, rocky coastlines or miles of mud flats and reed beds. The Vilamoura area has all of these things. The sandy beaches, backed by areas of dunes with some nice wild flowers growing on them were rather nice, especially when seen with the sun glinting on the water.
Added to that, the dark, glowering clouds of a storm out to sea and the scene was complete.
Further along the coast, there are areas of reed marshes cut through by water channels. These are fine places to watch birds and other wildlife. Sadly, the Portuguese seem to be hell-bent on destroying these areas by draining them and building new resorts and more blasted golf courses.
For the time being however, there is still quite a lot of wetland to enjoy - although not for much longer if published development plans go ahead. It's so sad and so short-sighted of the Portuguese authorities to allow such vandalism.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

New Species

When we have been away, it is usual for me to come back with a new 'tick' or two for the life lists and our week in the Algarve has added ticks to both the bird and plant lists. Plants to begin with and a couple of non-native species which caught our eye.  Firstly, a member of the Pea family - although you might not think so to look at it - this is commonly called a Needle Bush.
Originating from Mexico and Central America, the scientific name for this species varies and it is known as either Vachellia, Acacia or Mimosa farnesia. Looking closely, it is easy to see where the common name comes from.
The second new 'tick' on the plants list, belongs to another non-native species originating this time, from Australia. Known as Mugga or Red Ironbark, the scientific name is Eucalyptus sideroxylon.
In Portugal and Spain, Eucalyptus are often grown for wood pulp, but in this case, it was purely decorative.
The last new 'tick' was a small bird which I had never thought I would get the chance to see. In Britain, the Crested Tit (Lophophanes cristatus) is very scarce and confined to a few thousand individuals only to be found in ancient pine forests of northern Scotland. So it was a great surprise to find one flitting restlessly around the branches and needles of the pine trees just in front of our balcony!  Unfortunately, the little so-and-so was small, very active and retiring in the deep shade of the tree, so I didn't manage to get a picture, but it was a good 'tick' nonetheless.
Lacking in Crested Tit photos, I will finish for today with another flowery picture from the Old Village mentioned yesterday. This time, the flowers belonged to a South African native, the Pink Trumpet Vine or Podranea ricasoliana.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014


While in Vilamoura, we stayed in a small complex of apartments about 15 minutes walk from the marina. Our balcony was quiet and thanks to a couple of large Pine trees, quite shady. Several Hibiscus and Lantana shrubs provided some floral colour too.
Nearby, a rather exclusive residential area known as the Old Village was well worth a walk around. Private villas and rental properties surround a central complex of very attractive apartments with a few shops and restaurants, but it was the flowers which stood out immediately. As well as the beautifully painted buildings.
Bougainvillea seemed to climb over most of the balconies and frontages.
In the sunshine and against a blue sky, there are few plants which give such good value as Bougainvillea.
There were some fine Brugmansia bushes too (what we used to call Daturas or Angels' Trumpets).
This part of Vilamoura had been advertised as the town's most colourful area and the reality certainly lived up to the hype.
Shady courtyards and sunny house-fronts at every turn.
Just beautiful and well worth an hour or so walking around.