Friday 16 December 2022

A Wildlife Calendar For 2023

Usually at this time of year I compile a "calendar" of photos taken during the last year, but with no photos taken between August and November that's not going to work this time. So I've delved back a bit further into the past to present you with pictures of some of the wildlife seen around here.

Fallow Deer buck at Holkham

Great Spotted Woodpecker at Meldreth

Grey Seals at Horsey, N Norfolk

Little Egret at Melwood

Grey Squirrel, just outside my window

Small Tortoiseshell butterfly at Sandy

Banded Demoiselle at Lakenheath Fen

Very young Moorhens, Wicken Lode

Water Vole at Holywell Lake, Amwell

Green Sandpiper at RSPB Rye Meads

Part of the deer herd at Knebworth

And a Robin - at Christmas!

Take care.

Wednesday 14 December 2022

Seasonal Surprise

We'd been happily drifting along on the dwindling current of Autumn for many weeks, when suddenly we awoke one morning to a sharp frost coating every surface with a sparkling rime.
I picked up my camera and stole guiltily past working folks who were scraping ice from their windscreens to see what could be found.

Flowers exhibited a certain surprised beauty.

And many more leaves had fallen overnight and now rested on old trees that had long ago succumbed to the inevitable progress of time.

I also took a quick snap of this curious frost-pattern on the wing of one of my neighbours' cars. Apart from making it a bit clearer for you to see I haven't done anything to change its appearance. 

Then next morning...

I looked out and saw there'd been a couple of inches of overnight snow. What used to happen every year has now become something of a rarity in this part of the country. Children of all ages have to make the most of it, so I was up before dawn to explore this wonderland.

The warm light from the spotlights combines prettily with the blue light of pre-dawn to make a nice picture of the village church.

I made my way back through the main street of the village. I used to work at the school just around the corner and recall the excitement of the children on days like this. Many of them were wheelchair-users and I also remember the exasperated look of the woman who cleaned the building as they trundled in and out, leaving trails of dirty snow behind them!

One of the large houses in the village has a permanent display of topiary "Christmas trees" which look even better with a coating of snow.

Another shrub exhibiting sculptural shapes as I made my way to the community woodland.

It was the kind of good sticky snow that clings to every branch.

A flat bridge leads over the little chalk-stream known, rather grandly, as the River Mel. The little gate is the entrance to somebody's garden.

Here's the river itself, reflecting the leaves that still hang on to the branches in this sheltered spot.

I was framing up a shot of the tree which stands beyond a patch of rough ground when I spotted a Buzzard perched on the topmost twig. When I got home I noticed another bird, lower down in the tree, which may well be the other member of the pair. It's quite normal to see a Buzzard around here. 
(The Common Buzzard [Buteo buteo] of the UK and Europe is a bird of prey. Despite its impressive size it mostly feeds on earthworms, beetles and carrion. In Scotland it's jokingly called "the Tourist's Eagle", since visitors are often convinced that they've seen a Golden Eagle nonchalantly sitting at the side of the road).

The path leads on beside the stream.

Now where would that picture appear on a calendar? Winter snow and Autumn foliage.

Three sheep wonder just what's happened overnight, hiding all the grass and leaving them nothing to eat but fallen leaves.

Here's one they've missed.

Time for me to make my way back home for a cup of hot chocolate.

(It's now a couple of days later and the snow is still hanging around; that's something that rarely happens these days. It's supposed to be warming up at the weekend).

Take care.

Tuesday 6 December 2022

Foggy On The Gogs

As you've probably noticed this blog has been inactive for the last four months. I've had some health issues which have kept me from venturing out and I've needed a bit of time for myself. Thanks to all those of you who sent best wishes and I apologise for being so negligent about replying to comments. 

So, back to blogging.... if I can remember how to do it...

My brother and I recently went to Wandlebury Country Park in the gentle Gogmagog hills, somewhere we've often walked before. It was a foggy morning and there were very few cars in the car park. Having spent an entertaining few minutes reading instructions and pressing green and yellow buttons on the ticket machine, we finally paid-and-displayed and made our way along the main path. 

Autumn leaves on a quiet, misty morning - even if it is December!

We had the paths to ourselves for most of the morning; obviously the general public does not share my taste for being outside on foggy, winter days.

This cock Pheasant hasn't quite got his full breeding plumage just yet, though he still looks a lot more dapper than me!

This clump of trees always catches my eye and generally makes a nice photo, even when it's barely visible through the mist. The problem I sometimes have with Autumn is that I end up with lots of pictures of trees with golden leaves that are all basically the same - it takes a little effort to seek out other things of interest and make a varied set of photos.

Things like the pile of logs which included what looks to me like the map of an undiscovered island. I have no idea what caused this strange pattern, though it was quite possibly the disease that weakened the tree and led to its toppling over.

OK, we can get back to the golden leaves now! This favourite summertime seat was a bit damp to perch on in December.

A few dog-walkers were using the paths, though many of them prefer the paths just outside the park, where they can let their dogs off the lead - not that you ever see anyone around to enforce the rules.

We were not having much luck spotting the birdlife, so these exotic specimens were a surprise to see. They seemed to recommend the avenue leading towards the old Roman Road.

We took their advice and were rewarded with the scene above. We were probably a few days too late to see the full glory of the beech trees, most of the leaves having fallen in this slightly more exposed spot.

I rather like the effect of seeing leaves and branches picked out against a white sky, though most photographers avoid blank skies at all costs; perhaps they've never seen the huge areas of white left in many ancient Chinese paintings. 

In some sheltered places the trees retained their golden-yellow attire.

The wet, fallen leaves can also look attractive, particularly when they choose to alight on a sawn log.

I dunno - but I quite like it....

Around the house, that stands in the centre of the park, the trees and consequently the hues of the Autumn foliage have more variety.

Sometimes it almost creates a rainbow of colour.

The great trees at the edge of the pasture land stand in splendid isolation, showing their bold structure.

I rather fell in love with this battered stump amid the fallen branches, though I'd be hard pressed to tell you exactly why. Sometimes a little voice calls out to me to take a picture and over the years I've learned to take notice of it. We were actually searching for fungi at the time. 

Oh dear, now he's taking shots of old bits of builders' tarpaulin! Best take him home and make him a nice cup of tea!

Take care.