Monday, 20 December 2010

Winter Sunshine

Sunday 19/12/10

It's impossible to be depressed on a bright winters day like this, the snow twinkling with diamond glints in the sunshine and the air so fresh and cold it makes your nose throb. Everywhere looks so light and bright and we are so close to the winter solstice and soon the days will be lengthening. The beautiful patterns everywhere can almost induce sensory overload. Stark silhouettes of bare trees against an impossibly blue sky with rooks wheeling and cawing above them. The low sun highlights every lump and bump  in the glittering snow covered fields and the trees and sheep cast long shadows. Twigs and grasses become feathered with ice crystals. Flocks of Fieldfares work their way along a hawthorn hedge sitting in the topmost branches to digest and everywhere there are tracks revealing how hectic for our wildlife is the everyday business of survival.

Monday, 29 November 2010


I think the starlings must be reading my blog and realised I was a bit disappointed they'd moved roosts up at Stocks Reservoir so they decided to visit. I opened the curtains at 8am this morning and there must have been at least a hundred in the garden and trees. We had gone up to the hide at Stocks yesterday in the hope we'd see them again but unfortunately they were at the other end of the reservoir and going into a roost on the opposite bank. We did get a fantastic sunset though.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Waxwings at Stocks Reservoir.

Very cold but sunny day on Friday. Went up to Stocks and was watching Fieldfares when a flock of grey-pink birds flew in and landed on trees down by shoreline. About a dozen more flew higher up and landed in trees by path leading from cafe to jetty. Stunning birds in late afternoon sunshine, looked far too exotic to be here. First time most of us had seen them. Watched starlings in distance circling over water, seemed to go down on opposite side of reservoir and when we went to previous roost site it was silent and empty, with only a lone Tawny Owl sat waiting on the wall. Maybe it's scared them off or perhaps this roost is just too exposed now the weather has turned harsh.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Starlings at Stocks Reservoir.

 We have just got back from watching the Starlings coming in to roost up at Gisburn Forest. Please excuse the excess of adjectives, but it was superb, amazing, fantastic. Never mind Autumnwatch and Aberystwyth Pier. We very nearly didn't bother going as thick fog had come in, and we thought we would see very little, but if anything it added to the drama as the birds emerged out of the fog, above the reservoir. We assumed we'd missed the main event as small groups passed overhead heading for the inlet, though even the noise from their wings was quite loud. Then suddenly from out of the fog, a dark mass emerged heading towards us, passing over the causeway like a  living transparent creature, the noise was overwhelming and I could only look up open-mouthed in awe ( not the wisest thing to do, though they got a direct hit on Barrie not me!). We decided to drive back into the forest to see if we could spot the roost, no problem the noise was a giveaway. Starlings were settling into the spruce on either side of the road, individual calls joining into a gurgling roar like a stream in spate - I actually looked for a rushing stream, I couldn't believe the noise was them. Birds were still coming in and jostling for position,making the tree tops wave. We stayed as long as we could, but by 4.30 pm the cold fog was getting to us softies - I don't envy the starlings the night to come.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Frost, Fog and Bramblings

After two days of thick fog and frosty mornings, the sunny days of September feel a very long time ago.  Bright sunshine of Tuesday encouraged us out for a walk in the lanes near Todber. Almost all the leaves have fallen now but this makes it much easier to see the flocks of birds feeding in their crowns. Watched a mixed flock of Blue, Great and Coal Tits which had picked up some Bramblings too. All were feeding in and under an avenue of stately Beech Trees and geting quite damp in the process as they searched for the mast in the long grass. Birds were invisible in the fields until they took off in large flocks, think they were mainly Redwings, though couldnt get close enough to see before they took off. Squirrels were  much in evidence watching us pass below from the safety of the trees. The swaying of a branch in an otherwise still tree gave away the hiding place of one in the crown of a tree. It was trying to hide itself by lying along a branch, but didnt realise its increased BMI meant there was considerable overhang! Noticed some lovely velvety fungus growing on the trunk.

Wet Brambling.

Damp Blue Tit drying off in sun.

Brambling in beech tree.

Beautiful, velvety fungus.

Squirrel trying to hide.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Buzzards and Hen Harriers

Really wet and windy Monday, we had to travel to Hornby so decided to go over Cross o' Greets. Flocks of Fieldfares in hedgerows and fields full of flocks of feeding starlings. Almost hit a Sparrowhawk that flew low and fast in front of the car, intent and fierce eyes. Trees mostly shed their leaves now though oaks still holding their now orange leaves and surprised by how many oaks there are. Some of the roads we went on had had very little traffic and were strewn with colourful leaves and yellow larch needles, the rain bringing out the intensity of their colours. Snow must have fallen in some quantity overnight as there was snow on the top of Pendle Hill and snow on hills around  Cross o' Greets and lumps of melted snow as we drove through . On way home just after sunset we saw one solitary Hen Harrier on its own then it turned and flew off over a dip in the land. Then 5 other birds  rose from behind the dip, it joining them, flying together with the mist rolling off the hills behind. By the time turned the car round had lost sight of them in the mist and trees.  Barrie thinks he has heard they roost together communally. Stunning sight. Also saw a buzzard a bit further on and wondered if it had spooked them.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Red Breasted Goose

Lancashire wildlife just received this e-mail:

My name is Gareth Evans and today (6/11/10) at about 11:30 I saw a Red

Breasted Goose amongst some Pink Feet Geese at RSPB Marshside, I viewed

it from Nells Hide looking towards Marshside Road. I have read up on

these and they should be in South Eastern Europe. Please could you post

this in your website.

Many Thanks

Gareth Evans

Monday, 1 November 2010

Autumn Fungi

On Saturday we  walked the lanes up near Rimington looking for fungi, haven't a clue what most of them are, but the colours and shapes looked very striking against the dull earth and dead leaves.

Thought these might be emerging bracket fungus.

My gran called these Stags Horn .

These looked like tasty buns!

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Downham-Worsaw Hill Walk

Saturday was a perfect autumn day with sunshine and blue skies, though clouded over in the late afternoon. Went for a short walk from Downham and round Worsaw Hill, which is a limestone Knoll and back again along the road. We had some lovely views from the hill and enjoyed the autumn colours and berries in the hedgerows. Watched a Buzzard hovering above the hill before being seeing it chased off by Jackdaws and saw a Heron in a field. Some fungi looked like it had made a good meal for a vole, with lots of teeth marks on its crown.

View from base of Worsaw Hill to Pendle.

Fields around the hill.

Doves looked stunning circling in the sun.

Buzzard circling above Worsaw Hill.

Bit too far away, but lovely chocolatey markings.

Buzzard briefly landed on hill, before mobbed by Jackdaws.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Dusk Leighton Moss

Dropped in at Leighton Moss in the late afternoon. Treated myself to some new binoculars with some guidance from the very helpful and knowledgeable staff. Went to Griesdale hide, plenty of Teal and saw my first Shovellers. Small flocks of geese continually flying overhead think they were headed for the salt marshes. Stags roaring abuse at each other from the safety of the reeds. Cormorants flying in to roost, look very prehistoric in flight somehow. Egrets also coming in to roost in the trees.

Geese Leighton Moss

Teal Leighton Moss

Male Shoveller Leighton Moss

Late Summer Walk

Bramble birdwatching Stocks Reservoir.

Sunday was such a lovely mild, sunny day that we decided to have a walk up at Stocks reservoir. Flocks of Long Tailed Tits flew from tree to tree calling as they went, quite surprising as the paths were busy with walkers. Went to the hides and watched flocks of Lapwings circling over the water. Lots and lots of Cormorants sat out on a bank drying their wings and plenty of Canada geese. Even Bramble tried a spot of birdwatching although she was much more interested in a discarded ham sandwich under the hide! Went on to walk at Cross o' Greets, the sky was an incrediblle shade of blue against the grey rocks and russet bracken. Found a very brightly coloured caterpillar which I think is a Broom Moth trudging from bracken frond to bracken frond trying to find any remaining green bits to eat.

One of the Stocks Reservoir hides.

Autumn colours Cross o' Greets.

A small part of the large group of Cormorants at Stocks Reservoir.

Long Tailed Tit.

Broom Moth Caterpillar ( Ceramica pisa )

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

After the dreary drizzle of the last couple of days, summer seems to have made a very welcome return. Went over to Leighton Moss. Saw a buzzard, just outside Kirby Lonsdale, being seen off by a flock of around 20-30 Jackdaws, it circled lazily in the sky while they frantically harangued it. Interesting that the group split, one lot returned the way they had come and rest continued after the Buzzard. We had lunch in the airy upstairs cafe - some lovely fresh sandwiches and cakes, before heading off into the reserve. The flowering reeds were starting to look dry and silvery in the sun, rustling in the breeze, with lots of Dragonflies hawking just above their tops. Went to the Griesdale hide first, lots of ducks, Mallards and Pochards mainly, Little Grebe, a fishing heron and I think a Snipe. The heron lurked on the edges of vegetation, holding its head to one side before striking - compensating for refractioin or dazzle from the sun or was it trying not to cast a shadow on its prey?  We then went to the Allan hide where there were Curlew Sandpipers, Redshank, Curlew and a Crow bringing bunches of Elderberries in to eat on the island. About 4pm at the Griesdale hide we saw an adult deer and juvenile come out of the reeds to graze, then two more adults and two spotty youngsters. As dusk fell we walked along the causeway , seeing a group of deer watching us in the distance. Later as we left the hide, we heard lots of splashing from the reed beds, then stags started calling around us, low and deep, a little eerie in the half light. Above our heads flew the most bats I have ever seen at once in one place, tiny black silhouettes against the silver clouds, veering off at the last moment as they hunted around us. Hard to leave and head home.

Grey Squirrel foraging near car park.

Earth Stars - Geastrum triplex near car park.

Buzzard calling and circling by Griesdale hide.

Heron fishing, Griesdale hide.

Snipe by Griesdale hide.

Deer grazing 4pm, Griesdale hide.

Little Grebe or Dabchick.