Thursday, March 22, 2012
Here's a little treat from a couple of years back for all my wonderful Spark friends.
I know you all love nature and I apologise if some of you might have seen this before but I love it and think it's well worth a re-show!
The blurb on the set page tells you about Fred but basically he was a blackbird chick I raised after his mother was taken by a cat...a blackbird is a common garden bird here...he stayed around and the following year he and his partner nested in the garden.
I decided to to follow their progress taking only one photograph a day, this is the result.
The set follows in date order and if you click on the slideshow link in the top right hand corner it will take you through the pictures.
For more information instead of using the slideshow you can click each picture separately where you will be able to read my comments and observations...I'll warn you now, some of it is pretty sad, but that's nature for you!
I hope you enjoy it.
Monday, March 19, 2012
It was Mother's Day yesterday so after a pampered morning and a delicious lunch out we returned to Tophill Low in the afternoon...to walk off some of the scrumptious and not very Spark food I'd eaten!
This time we decided to walk the 'O' reservoir and it's accompanying fields, woodland and wetland areas. Though we did pop back up the side of the 'D' to see the new area and hide that's just nicely been finished, it's very posh with carpet covered seats for a warm bum...lol...it'll be lovely when it matures as they've lopped off tree tops and put up nest boxes, planted hedges and generally landscaped it. The approach path with the lpped off trees reminds me of those ancient classical Greek buildings with all the broken columns!
The day was beautiful with a soft blue sky and fluffy white clouds scudding past on a strongish wind but it was deceiving too as the wind was deceptively cold, what my dad called a 'lazy wind'...to lazy too go round you so it came straight through!
I was certainly glad I'd chosen to wear my thick fleece windproofed jacket and gloves.
There were a lot of cars in the car park with the weather being good, 'Fair Weather Watchers' my DH calls them and I must admit a bit of sunshine certainly brings them out in droves unlike us 'proper' birdwatchers who weather anything Mother Nature throws at us. Consequently some of the more popular hides were full to bursting.
The surface of the reservoir was deceiving too, the wind ruffled it so much it was hard to see anything afloat at first. Sparkles glinted from the wave tops and there was a gentle lapping sound as it slapped against the concrete sides, but inbetween the waves there were shovellers, tufted and goldeneye ducks along with seabirds and a mute swan cob with two cygnets, they hove in and out of view as they bobbed up and down on the wind's wave whimsy.
Moving through the still and tranquil wooded area, sheltered from the wind, the peaceful quiet seemed timeless. High in the canopy of pine branches we caught glimpses of bluetits and chaffinches, the former trilling their glass noted songs for all to hear.
Little rabbits munched the green undergrowth grasses unconcerned until we got too near when they bolted for cover in the hedge bottom.
A sparrow hawk hovered silently on the wing high above the scrub, head held still, eyes intent only on it's prey, it's wings beating strongly to keep it motionless it hung on the air before wheeling away as it gave up the chase.
There wasn't a deal to see on the large end pond, a lot of the water had dried up and with the geese and swans having left we were pleased to see there were three cormorants sitting in a tree with their wings in the classic spread cormorant positon.
The smaller pond was edged with the fluffy headed reedmace, occasionally two small finches, of undetermined species as they were so quick, came swooping in to pull a few strands before heading of into the willow tree branches...must be nest building time, some lucky chicks are going to be nice and toasty in all that cosy down!
Passing alongside the Barmston Drain we came to a field of spring lambs and their dams, they looked quite sturdy as most would have been born during the bad weather and the farmers are only just putting them out to grass. Some were feeding, their little tails wiggling ten to the dozen while others were gambolling around in riotous fashion, others just stood or laid quietly beside their mothers. I counted six very black lambs but interestingly no black dams!
The oilseed rape field at the side of the drain was just coming into flower, the odd one or two yellow blossoms shining bright against the dark green foliage.
There were sweet violets too, a gorgeous splash of purple under the bare lattice work of the hawthorn hedge.
On the drive home we saw a grey heron circling high over Scurf Dyke but by the time we'd stopped and climbed the bank to the top it'd disappeared off into the distance.
Ebony & ivory
Dam and lamb
Fluffy headed reedmace at the small pond
I'm having trouble loading the rest of the photos, will try again later.
Interior of the new hide with the 'posh' seats!
It still won't let me load, it managed this one but I've tried four times with the others and now it's getting on my nerves...lol...so you'll just have to be content with my 'painted with words' descriptions
Saturday, March 17, 2012
We decided to visit Tophill Low water pumping station.
It's an RSPB reserve with two large reservoirs set in wetlands between the west bank of the River Hull and Barmston Drain that are a haven for wildlife. It's a working station and provides water for the town of Kingston-upon-Hull whilst also being open to nature lovers.
The reservoirs are high sided concrete and very deep so can only be viewed from high hides and viewing platforms built around their sides. They are named 'O' and 'D' because of their shape. Each is surrounded by wetland areas, copses and woodland.
We decided to do the shorter three mile walk of the 'D' reservoir.
Climbing the steep open tread steps to the first hide, covered in wire mesh so the unwary don't slip, we caught glimpses of the water as we went up. There were flocks of mute swans, various ducks and lots of gulls. We watched for a while from the quiet peacefulness of the hide and I was pleased to see a smew, it's only the second time I've ever seen one, but he was too far away for a photograph so I had to be content to watch through my binoculars. He's a spectacular little fellow with white plumage covered in what looks like black graffiti. There were two ruddy ducks too with their gorgeous ginger plumage and bright blue beaks.
The next part of the walk is a meandering path, you stroll through a beautiful snowdrop covered wooded area where sunlight filters down through the canopy. There are small ponds set here in small open glades, which in summer attract dragonflies, butterflies and insects but this time of year there isn't a lot to see, just a waterhen scurrying into the foliage at the pond's edge. The different colours of which are interesting, the old brown spent reeds with new green shoots forcing their way up from the bottom and the cotton tufted reedmace heads blowing in the wind.
Following the beech mast strewn path through the woodland we saw the double slotted tracks of roe deer embedded deep in the once muddy ground but sadly not the animal itself.
A grey squirrel scampered up a tree and sat watching us from it's lofty vantage point knowing full well it was safe...he was nibbling delicately on a pine cone with his pretty tail arched over his back like a fluffy parasol.
We rounded the high wall at the top of the reservoir committing ourselves to the flat side of the 'D' shape. I'm not as keen on this bit as the other as it's a long straight concrete road which the wardens use for transport. It seems to go on forever but it is besides the Barmston Drain so you can occasionally see waterfowl and there are small birds in the hedges which run alongside. There are often roe deer in the field across the water but today wasn't our lucky day.
Entering a wooded area once more we came across a larch tree in flower with it's pretty bright pink female cones, we found them last year and had hoped they would be in flower again. The tiny yellowy brown appendages on the underside of the branch are the male cones which will eventually grow into the cones we all recognise. There were more bushy tailed grey squirrels leaping around from branch to branch and elusive bluetits sang out their appealing little shrill noted songs though we never did catch a glimpse of them.
Then we were back at the car park, removing our walking boots before sitting in the warmth with a cup of steaming hot chocolate.
All this walking must surely be good for me...lol...even if I really enjoy it and it doesn't feel like exercise!
Here are a couple of pictures:
pretty pink female larch cone flowers, the small yellowy brown appendage underneath is the male cone
delicate green weeping willows, there are usually lots of rabbits feeding under them but a new rabbit proof fence has been erected so they might have got 'rid' of them
The long straight concrete road I'm not too keen on walking, the deep set Barmston Drain is over the mesh fence on the right
Roe deer slots
One of the small ponds dotted throughout the woodland
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Dh and I went up into the forestry above Wykeham on Sunday.
It's beautiful there, so peaceful and quiet.
We park up and walk the rides between the tracts of trees.
Where we walk is a managed forest of mostly pines which mature and are replaced around every ten years. It has wonderful contrasts of valleys, high crags and forest glades.
The rides are wide green tracks between large tracts of trees which the forestry workers use as pathways to move equipment, store felled trees etc.
Long and wide, interspaced with little sunlit glades, they also act as a firebreak between plantings and most of them have a big box of fire flappers at the end of them.
Green, flat and pleasant to walk, they're a haven for wildlife, anything from adders basking to deer and birds.
Flowers and ferns adorn their edges, a habitat for insects, moths and butterflies.
There are also designated areas for tree nurseries with large fields full of miniature little baby trees all planted in serried rows like a tiny army, the contrast from light field to dark forest is a pleasing sight.
And there are vantage viewpoints overlooking bird migration routes, usually high above the valley with magnificent views for miles and miles.
There are lots of different routes we love to walk but on Sunday we chose the ride down past a small reservoir which is a haunt of long tailed tits. We saw a great flock of them, they live in large family groups but they flit about so quickly that I couldn't manage a decent photograph just a very blurred far distant one which could actually look like a bird if you squint at it...lol...it isn't even worth looking at!
A beautiful feisty little robin was singing sweetly when we set off down the ride, he chose to escort us through his territory, suddenly appearing at the top of a tree just in front of us, time and time again, singing loudly and proclaiming his rights.
At the end of the ride we crossed an fenced around open area, there were lots of rabbits scampering back and forth and a lone roe deer watched us warily but he swiftly jumped the fence and disappeared into the trees giving us a nice glimpse of his buttocks with their white heart shape. A squirrel was rounding a tree trunk but vanished into the canopy in a blink of an eye.
We sat on a stile step and had a delicious cup of hot chocolate, drinking in the peace and tranquility, before we walked on. Padding silently through the dark trees and mossed tracks with their earthy scent, scaly trunks standing sentinel to the forest's path.
After the deep shade of the pine trees, still covered with cones, we emerged into a beautiful sunlit glade, dust motes danced and time seemed to stand still.
High Brow Ridge, with it's magnificent views across the valley and a welcome seat for weary legs where we sat quietly with birdsong echoing around us.
There were coltsfoot growing there with it's beautiful feathered stem reminiscent of a colt's foot hairs and where it derived it's name from.
I haven't seen any in ages as it's an endangered species now unlike when we were children and collected it so mam could make coltsfoot rock, a soft melt in the mouth confection which tasted delicious and I've never tasted in years. Oh! it's making me salivate...lol...now that calls for a visit to the old fashioned goodie shop next time I'm in town!
There were large primeval boulders covered in moss and pretty green lichen looking for all the world like tiny stylised trees.
And gorse blooming around the edges. It flowers all year round hence the old saying 'when gorse is in bloom, kissing's in fashion'.
Then back down a short winding path through the trees to the car and we headed off into the sunset!
Here's a taster for you:
Laden with cones
A fiesty little robin escorted us through his territory
Sunlight filters down making the trees seem to glow
Gorse in bloom
Looking back through the pines out over High Brow Ridge as we head towards the car
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