Monday, 30 November 2015

Birthday Boy

It's that time of year again. The last day of November, St Andrew's Day, the anniversary of the discovery of 'Lucy' (our 3,000,000 year old ancestor) and Malcolm's birthday. Though not quite so old as Lucy (Australopithecus), Malcolm shares his birthday with Sir Winston Churchill (born this day 1874) and today reaches his 53rd birthday.
Looking good still (must be the red wine), this was Malcolm in Fuerteventura back in 2008 with a couple of well-wishers...!

Happy Birthday Malcolm!

Wednesday, 25 November 2015


First recorded in Britain in 1662 and with a breeding population of around 3500 pairs, the Goosander (Mergus merganser) is in no way rare or endangered. Nevertheless, it is always a treat when small flocks of these ducks turn up, chiefly during the winter. This morning as we walked around Osborne's Pond, a group of about 24 Goosanders were bobbing about on the water.
The Goosander is a large duck, one of the so-called Sawbills on account of its serrated bill edges which it utilises when catching fish. In the Male bird, this bill is a rich red colour, somewhat less obviously red in the female.
The group of male birds above show what an elegant bird this is. It has a white body with black markings on the back and wings and a beautiful head which is actually a glossy bottle-green colour when viewed in good light.
The female, while in no way dowdy, is nevertheless slightly less showy than the male, looking a rather more grey bodied and with a chestnut brown head.
The winter population of Britain is boosted by arrivals from mainland Europe to around 12,000 individuals which is why they are more often seen at this time of year. In the wild, they normally live to around 7 years of age with the longevity record set by one ringed individual in 1984 which was 9 years, 6 months and 28 days.
What a treat for a chilly November morning!

Monday, 23 November 2015


At last, after an unusually mild autumn, we have had our first frosts of the year. So this morning, with the thermometer still perilously close to freezing, we set out for a walk around Shipley Park and the surrounding Wildlife Trusts farmland. Looking across the fields from Parker's Bridge, a slight rime of frost could be seen clinging to the dead grasses and rushes.
Further along the path things were looking equally wintry as we looked out, over the fields of Head House Farm, the only colour coming from the rather weak-looking sun struggling to be seen behind some low cloud.
Along Slack Lane and the large oak trees were standing like sentinels, guarding the lane.
Their trunks are covered with ivy and with the holly in the hedges too, it all leads to thoughts of Christmas, mince pies, crackers and sage and onion!
Ooooh! It's all getting exciting.

Friday, 20 November 2015


Despite the sunshine this morning, it had become noticeably colder and we set out around Shipley Lake with coats, hats and (in Malcolm's case) gloves covering our extremities. It is supposed to get even colder over the next few days and snow has been mentioned in the forecast. A good job then, that the bushes are still well stocked with berries for the hungry birds.
These Cotoneaster bushes were particularly well covered with bright red fruits as we passed by near Shipley Lake.
Five years ago, we were on the verge of a particularly cold period of weather which was about to dump a huge amount of snow on us and freeze us with temperatures as low as -15C. Let's hope things don't get that cold, but we can't really complain as we have not even had a frost yet this year! I guess that will all change this weekend, but at least the bushes are ready for the cold.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015


Yet again, we were faced with dull, dreary, damp and disheartening weather this morning. Grey skies and drizzle made our walk a little less enjoyable than normal as we took ourselves off round Shipley Lake.
The bright colours of autumn are hardly to be found anywhere now, especially after the strong winds of late and with more gales forecast for later today, I don't see things getting any better.
The paths were wet, muddy and filthy, the drizzle was getting worse so we headed for home and a hot coffee. Here's the same scene as above, but a little 'manipulated'.

Friday, 13 November 2015


Yesterday's walk took us a little over five miles through Shipley Park, over the hill and down towards Osborne's Pond, before returning along the Nutbrook Trail once more. For a change, the sun was shining, the skies were blue and when you got into the sun, it was surprisingly warm. Certainly it was rather lovely walking along the path which was once part of the old mineral railway line system.
With sunshine filtering through the trees and a thick carpet of fallen leaves, it made for a perfect autumn scene. At one point, we encountered a man with a petrol-driven leaf blower, trying to clear the path - a more pointless act it is hard to imagine as the wind was simply replacing the leaves he had cleared. He must have been working for the local Council!
The same two pictures, given that 'artsy' look....
Over night and this morning, the wind has picked up again and it has turned quite a lot colder so I guess the path is back to how it looked before that man and his blower turned up! Time well spent there?

Wednesday, 11 November 2015


With a UK population of about 1100 pairs, the Egyptian Goose (Alopochen aegyptiaca) is not all that familiar, but with a little effort, or luck, they can be found dotted around the south-eastern quarter the country. We are sometimes lucky enough to find a couple of these beautiful wildfowl on our local lakes - situated as we are at the north-western limit of their UK distribution -  and this morning was one of those occasions.
A pair had arrived to spend some time on the lake at Straw's Bridge and were quite happy mingling with the usual ducks, geese and swans.
A native of Africa - from Egypt southwards, as the name suggests - they were introduced to the UK in the late eighteenth century as an ornamental species on private lakes and avian collections.
Considered sacred by the ancient Egyptians, they are small, neat geese with various colourful splashes on their wings and conspicuous pink legs.
Their diet consists mainly of vegetation including cultivated crops, but these were happy cropping the grass at the side of the lake.
A beautiful and somewhat exotic addition to the bird-life of Straw's Bridge and a source of wonder to the local Coots!

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

At Last!

Finally!  After so many days waiting for the rain to stop long enough for us to get out for a walk, this morning, we managed to get a walk round Shipley Hill. The skies were rather grey and threatened yet more rain, so to be on the safe side, we took our brollies.
Looking across the fields towards Shipley Hill, the colours of autumn are still hanging on despite the strong winds. In the foreground, the Rose Hips add their own colour to the hedges along Slack Lane.
Onward to Mapperley Reservoir and the rich gold and red of the trees are still good, even in the dull, sunless gloom.
Thinking we had bread to share, the swans and ducks were soon paddling over to us. Sadly, they were disappointed to find we were empty handed.
Adding a little digital manipulation, the scene looked rather dramatic, both the reservoir...
... and the view to the hill.
Glad to say, we got home again without needing our umbrellas.

Friday, 6 November 2015

Dull, Dull, Dull!

It has been a few days since I last posted on here, due mainly to the continued, dull, wet and miserable weather which has kept us from our usual walks. This morning, despite the forecast which was for more dull weather, we nevertheless set out for a short walk to Straw's Bridge. Even this proved to be rather more wet than we expected and we returned damp, but glad to have got out, however briefly.
So, with a lack of photos, I thought I'd take a look back at my posts at this time in previous years, starting with 2014. Last year, we had just had a bright and sunny Guy Fawkes day...
Two years ago, on this day, we had been on a short walk to Straw's Bridge as the weather was as dull as it was today. The ducks were not too bothered, as they weren't this morning...
In 2012, my interest was caught by the rising moon in a chilly night sky, accompanied as was by a bright Jupiter, shining beside it.
Back in 2011, we were experiencing a chilly spell and following our walk, we had a medicinal brandy - to keep out the cold .!!  The Black-headed Gulls at Straw's Bridge were not too bothered by the chill.
Back to the present, it doesn't look likely that the weather will improve any time soon, but at least it remains unseasonably mild - so the gas bill will look a little better than usual!