Sunday, January 26, 2020

The RSPB's Big Garden Bird Watch

We started counting yesterday morning at around five minutes past ten.  Notebook and pen ready, cameras ready and warm mugs of coffee at hand as our conservatory can be quite cool in the mornings.

As usually happens when we sit down for the hour of bird counting the usual visitors don't appear.  Where were the wood pigeons, rock doves and collard doves?  

Total count over the hour was

Starlings - 16
Goldfinch - 9
Chaffinch - 6 
 Blackbird - 4
Robins - 2
Blue Tit -2
Dunnock -1
Great Tit - 1
Coal Tit - 1
Wood Pigeon -1
Collard Dove - 1

Crows and Magpies flew overhead but didn't land and only one of the four collard doves that usually visit together in the morning decided to land for a while. We saw all four of them later in the day.

When you enter your results on the RSPB's website they also ask what other wildlife you see regularly in the garden.

Squirrels visit during the day and from our outside wildlife camera (a Christmas present from us to us) we know we get night time visits from foxes and badgers.

 Just behind the fox you can see a cat.

I think the badgers are one of the reasons we no longer get hedgehogs visiting.  When we first came here over twenty years ago we often used to see hedgehogs in the garden. 

There is still time to complete a count should you wish to join in.  Details below:-

RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch

Friday, January 24, 2020

On Friday

It's Friday! Shall we have a five?  Below are five things that have made me smile this week.

1. Tulips - a different colour combination to the last ones.

 2. Squirrels in the garden always make me smile.

3Spring flowers on a cold and frosty day

4. A new animal trail for children around the gardens at Trentham.

5Occasional, wintry, crisp and  frosty days
to make up for the foggy, dreary, damp days we've had more of recently.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Carsington, Derbyshire

Yesterday morning dawned bright and sunny with just a little frost. We wanted to be out and about in the fresh air after being inside most of the week due to the seemingly endless rain. We decided to visit the village of Carsington in Derbyshire so we could take a walk and spot some wildlife but also buy suet nibbles for the garden birds.  We buy all our other bird food, sunflower hearts, meal worms and fat balls from Wilco, but prefer the nibbles from the RSPB. 

First task was to buy the suet pellets and take them back to the car.  

Sparrows feeding in the courtyard outside the RSPB shop.

Then it was time for a late breakfast/early elevenses at the cafe before setting out for a walk.

 Scarves, hats and gloves on we set out into brilliant almost blinding low winter sun.  Having said that I don't wear a hat unless I really have to, it has to be extremely cold although I do wear a sun hat in the summer.  I really don't like things on my head - hats scarves, hoods I find all of them irritating.

I always find this kind of light a challenge as I can never see what I'm taking photos of, I just aim, click and hope for the best.

 I did manage to take some photos as we wandered around by standing in the shade and looking out to the light.

 We took the path down to the Nature Centre which is a big hide and information centre combined with telescopes provided.

 We only saw one swan all the time we were there plus the one above!

There were lots of Lapwings or pee-wits as we used to call them as children.  They were all over the islands out in the reservoir, resting, feeding and preening.

 Many would take off at the same time and wheel around in the sky before returning to the edges of the water.

The mallards were all gathered under the bird feeders ready to hoover up seed dropped by the smaller birds.

 We moved on to the village of Carsington and parked by the village green where a family of badgers caught my eye.

Across the road was the small church of St Margaret's which looked wonderful in the sunshine and also looked as if it might be open to visitors.
It was!  

The church dates from the 13th century and was built in rectangular form with nave and chancel as one unit. There is early tracery in the East window.

The gallery at the west end of the church was installed in 1704 by Sir John Phillip Gell to accommodate the tennants of his estate at nearby Hopton Hall.
The font dates from the 14th Century.

The sundial dates from 1648

Back on the village green is the base of a Saxon Cross which was moved from the ground of nearby Hopton Hall.  We hope to visit Hopton Hall in February when they have wonderful displays of snowdrops.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Read, Reading and to be Read

Throughout December, over Christmas and into the New Year I seemed to read quite a lot of different books. Some of them by new authors, some by old favourites. 

More fiction than non-fiction and also some short stories by a local author. 

Running up to Christmas I dipped into Nigel Slater's Christmas Chronicles which is a joy to read and nudges you gently into feeling festive.  John Lewis Semple's The Private Life of the Hare is still to be read as is Mudlarking by Lara Maiklem.  It's Gone Dark over Bill's Mother's by Lisa Blower is a set of short stories written by a local author.  I have mixed feelings about them.  Stark and gritty they are about growing up and mostly the bad memories attached to experiences during childhood and teenage years and feelings about parents and siblings.  The Woman in the Photograph by Stephanie Butland I am still reading it's set in the 1960s, 70s and 80s and also 2018.  It's about a young woman local newspaper photographer who in the early 60s dares to leave home, boyfriend and father and becomes involved with members of the Women's Movement and her friendship with one of them.  In the present the niece of this woman is putting together an exhibition about her Aunt with the help of and photographic records of the now elderly photographer. 

As usual I've been reading my favourite genre Crime and Detective fiction.  I read Blood on the Rocks by one of my favourite local authors Priscilla Masters over New Year. It's the latest DI Joanna Piercy novel set in and around the nearby Staffordshire Moorlands town of Leek.  As always I enjoyed it but I found the ending a bit unnerving and it left a bitter taste with its hints of controlling and manipulation.

Many years ago I used to read Gladys Mitchell's Mrs Bradley books, the language was archaic even then but I quite enjoyed Death comes At Christmas which actually stretches out until Easter before the mystery is solved.   I've also found two new detective series by writers Cara Hunter and Conrad Jones  I've read all four of Cara Hunter's books set in Oxford and I like the way she writes them.  No chapters, written from two viewpoints and also with tweets, local newspaper online newsfeed and letters, e-mails and written interview reports and statements. The Anglesey Murders by Conrad Jones are newly discovered and I found the first one intriguing but quite blood thirsty, I think there were more murders than in Midsomer.  I have the second one (above) yet to read so I'll see how it goes.

Below are a few photos from Thursday morning's walk around the lake. 

The lighting was so strange with a sort of intensity that you could almost feel and touch. 
It was so quiet too which was good, just the sound of birds in the trees and on the lake.
Of course by the time we were walking back on the other side of the lake the lighting had changed completely.

But it seemed for just a short time that we were in another world.

Monday, January 06, 2020

Swan Day

It was cool and breezy as we walked around the lake this morning but at least it stayed dry.  It's raining now as I type these words so I feel that we saw the best of the day.

 Everything seemed winter brown and colourless as we walked around the edge of the lake and along the muddy paths.

 Although there is always beauty to be found especially in the bare winter trees.

It seemed to be a bit of a swan day around the lake today, these two caught my eye in their woolly winter scarves but it was time to seek out the real ones.

They were hanging about the paths as people were feeding them with grain.

They seem completely unfazed by walkers, dogs, children, buggies, joggers and mobility scooters all of which we saw pass them by.

 Further around the lake by the miniature railway we found the black swans.  

Still keeping themselves together as a family unit.  Cob and pen had four cygnets in the spring and three have survived.

 Around the other side of the lake we caught sight of my favourite geese the Greylags.

Some of them were stretching their legs and flapping their wings almost like ballet exercises

We spotted six herons. Five by the edge of the heronry. The one above had ventured out to the lakeside but was hiding itself quite well.

 There were lots of crows about too

They always look disgruntled don't they? 

Thinking about birds and in particular those that visit our garden I've registered, as I have done for quite a few years now, to participate in the RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch which takes place from 25th to 27th January. I always look forward to sitting and recording the birdy visitors to the garden.

I'll be back in a few days with some recent winter reading.

Wednesday, January 01, 2020

Into January

Into the New Year 

A New Year and a New Decade.

I wonder where it will take us?

 I hope the next decade will be kinder, wiser and more caring than the last one.

Thank you all for visiting, reading and  commenting on my blog.  It's been wonderful to have you along.  I hope that 2020 is good to you all. Wishing you a peaceful and happy start to the new year.