Tuesday, 29 July 2008

The Native Returns..... part 2

This is what it's all about. The Boy Reiver had another of his flying visits to Northumberland this weekend, to recharge the batteries. Not many would say an 800 mile drive in the UK over 3 days would recharge the batteries, but I love the travelling. The final destination doesn't really matter, it's being on the move which fizzles the excitement in me. Mind you Cornwall last weekend, London next, the boy does travel a bit. I may need to buy a new car soon!
So why am I standing in my pyjamas and looking at a view? Well dear reader this is Borders most favouritist view in Northumberland. There are more spectacular ones, there are more dramatic ones, but this view remind me of childhood, messing about in rivers, bird nesting and being a little scamp in the Coquet Valley. Somewhere in that view is a tree with my name carved on it. Tut tut. I've taken many photos from here over the years, and when the dark moods envelope me in Somerset, half an hour looking at this view in a photo, while munching on a sweetmeat get the humour restored.

But this is a wildlife blog. So here's a Wheatear sunning himself on a rock in the upper Coquet Valley. I also spotted a Whinchat, not a million miles from here, which gets my year total to 150. Below are Swallows, who seemed to be ominously preparing to fly further south, presumably somewhere near Darlington.
But I must have some views of the Upper Coquet Valley. Those from Northumberland will know what I mean, but there's nothing like it, photographs never do it real justice, but it was hot, sunny, not a breath of wind, so Border Reiver whipped off his socks and went for a paddle in the River Coquet watching the fish and looking at aquatic insects. I was in heaven, mind you, fish lept onto the bank, the homes of the Caddis Fly laval cases collapsed and the Environment Agency put out a pollution alert, purely because my feet were in the clean water of the Coquet.

Haymaking was in full swing on the steep slopes of the valley
And sheep were well, being just sheep really. In the hot weather they were panting a bit, mind you so was I.
But as I write this in Somerset, House Martins flying overhead, let me leave you with the view from Barrow Scar back down the valley towards Alwinton. Anyone going to the border shepherds show in October? See you there for a ham and pease pudding stottie in the tin shed, a warm pint from the Rose and Crown and watch the Rothbury Highland Pipe Band bring up colours.... cracking stuff. There's nowhere like it

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

The Return of the Natives

No, this is not a quote from a famous Thomas Hardy tome, but the feel that the early bird's are on the wing, and returning to the Bay. This morning, a swift perambulation along the beach before work. On first getting there it looked a bit desolate, tide was right out, but usual small flock of Starlings messing about on the strand line, Linnets on the wing, and about 100 Black Headed Gulls just loafing about. So I just walked the mile and a half along the sand. Few warbling Curlew and a Carrion Crow with 2 offspring pestering for food were all that was of note. Then I spotted 2 Oystercatchers, first I'd seen for about 3 months, a nice diversion.

Then at the marsh end, a Redshank was faffing about reeds, but that was about it apart from a few more Curlew. Quite disappointing. So with time pressing headed back. Nearly back at the car park, 4 fast flying waders came in from the sea... Dunlin!! One Swallow doesn't make a summer, 4 Dunlins don't make an Autumn, but it's not far away.

Note to self, polish and check telescope.

Unrelated photo of Sand Bay, taken in April, just because I like it

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Blues and Twos

Strange title I know and a strange week. Are the moons and planets in polar opposite alignment or something at the moment? Last 10 days have been to say the least interesting for a friend of mine, who in that space of time was made redundant and out the door. Brutal but in a way, allows her to move on. Border Reiver has been doing his HR/Staff Manager but more importantly good mate bit to calm the nerves over the days, and I always think positive things come out of adversity.

So yesterday we whisked off to North Cornwall, for some proper job, sea air, sun and sand. If you come to Cornwall, don't do the crowded south, hit the coastline twixt Camelford and Bude. Top Dollar scenery, and more birds than you can shake a smugglers spotted hankie at. The coast walking isn't half bad either.

Yesterday though was just about a day out to recharge her batteries, and mine for that matter. Helping her, while over the same time the number of people in my office crashed by 80% after redundancies and stress related sickness, the boy Reiver and the one remaining colleague have been fingering the dike continuously over the last 2 weeks to keep it from braking wide open. No more Wednesdays off for me for a while, and this explains the slow down in postings. I need sleep.

But even a non wildlife day brought the blogger out in me. After a few spots of rain, the sun broke through and the painter in me watched as the sea developed the turquoise - azure blue - purple - white colour mix I could have just watched for hours and hours. Incessant movement as an Atlantic Gale blew in, mesmerising. Those of you into seabirds could have watched for hours as they wind-surfed the waves.

Mind you some of the seabirds were a bit soft and preferred to perch inland next to the ice cream shop.

And lets not forget the plants, this Common Catsear clung onto a ledge in full force of the wind. No matter how good a garden designer is, this level of "it works" can never match a naturalised planting of plants finding niches to grow and survive.

And finally, a moth. No I didn't photograph this in Cornwall, but in the kitchen. This Riband Wave Moth (non banded form to be precise)had been on my kitchen ceiling for a whole day, so I thought in the evening I'll release it into the garden. Well sadly I don't know what happened but it slipped out of the egg-box and landed in the washing up bowl. My good Samaritan deed ended in death. So here it is preserved in my memory and the blogging community for ever.

And while I'm on about moths, a fellow blogger ST was kind enough to buy one of my charcoal paintings recently of a moth. He collected it this morning from my parents, and it now resides in sun-kissed Northumberland. Thank you ST.

Friday, 18 July 2008

There's something of the night.....

....... about me. I do seem to spend a lot of time wandering about in the night, always have done as long as I can remember. As a child I often woke at dawn and wandered the fields before coming home, breakfast and off to school. Could never understand why my school friends stayed in bed all weekend, to me there was so much to see.

Anyway this morning, up at 4, so thought I'd put the washing out on the line, may be dry enough to iron before work. Border Reiver is a martyr to domestic chores, I must spend ohh at least 10 minutes a week doing housework.

So off I popped into the galloping dawn only to be hassled by a bat. Pipistrelles moved into the estate as soon as the houses were built. I noticed the first spring I lived here they'd come out at dusk. I've not actually worked out where they are roosting exactly, but guess in the sofit boards, of my house and those around me. These are summer roosts, as the Pips are never seen in the winter here, though they will readily fly on warm winter evenings. I remember walking at dusk at Fountains Abbey in North Yorkshire on Boxing Day, and there were loads of them flitting through the ruins.

And a sign of a wildlife obsessed man, the pegging up of the washing was abandoned, as I thought, wonder if I could photograph this little fella me lad (actually there were 2 of them). Well that was the thought. In reality, a hand held camera and a fast moving flying mouse proved more difficult than I thought. These three photographs were the result of over 30 taken. I'm sure the bats must have thought they were celebrities, the amount of flash-light going off. But I will try again in a more organised way one day.

What's interesting is the bats were following a fairly steady figure of 8 line between the trees and next door garden. Now of course they were hunting for tasty morsels on the wing, but if the above photos are enlarged, go on you know you want to, the number of flying insects picked up by the flash, above the two branches is quite staggering.

Sadly though these photographs will not be winning any wildlife awards, but I don't care, they're my bats, so that's all that matters !!

Monday, 14 July 2008

How to make friends and influence people

...well I can say it's not by taking her indoors for a bike ride. This weekend I should have been at an Arts and Crafts Fair selling my wares. But I wasn't and so bit of a loose weekend ahead. And so as with all good things lets begin with Sunday afternoon.

Below you find our hero and blogger, Border Reiver resting on a stone plinth, twixt Stalbridge and Sturminster Newton in the fair county of Dorset. Just 3 miles to go and the sinues were rearing to go. Her indoors wasn't quite as bouncy, though the lure of a chicken dinner to follow, had a miraculous effect on her stamina. Today though funny walks are in evident and pain where pain is hard to relieve apparently.

Let me take you back an hour or so before. Blowing the froth off a cup of tea while dunking a macaroon, I heard the immortal words, "lets go for a bike ride". Considering this was July 13th and that phrase hadn't been ushered before this year I ignored it. "Go on, blow up the tyres and lets do the Halter Path to Sturminster Newton"

Now BR in his day was a bit long distance cyclist, 25 miles after work, legs like egg-whisks was nothing unusual. All road cycling mind you, though I did go mountain biking once right across Cheviot and the Ingram Valley one weekend with two hardened mountain bikers and vowed never to do it again after standing at the top of a track and being at the bottom about 600 feet below the hill 5 minutes later. Don't use the brakes they said, just feel alive..... I felt so alive my life passed by me faster than the bracken and mud. I knew I was alive, my heart was pounding somewhere near my ears.

But after blowing up the tyres we were ready to head off into the hills.
Are you sure you wish to do the Halter Path? It will be muddy and difficult, and you're not used to cycling off tarmac. Yes I'll be fine......

Is it much further to more tarmac? Not far pet, just another mile. Lets look at this nice river and pretend we're having fun.

But eventually we reached our goal and Sturminster Mill, for a stop, before the 6 miles back home, to that roast chicken lunch.

But being on the bikes once again reinforced the amount of wildlife that can be seen on the move. Such as this Short Winged Conehead, Conocephalus dorsalis, and a very rough looking and worn Ringlet.

The ride also brought out a couple of Herons, and at one point a very playful weasel which would have provided a wonderful photo, if my memory card on the camera hadn't been full just at that point. Best laid plans and all that. And of course other insects, such as this hoverfly on Greater Knapweed and a seven spot ladybird on a cultivar in a garden.

Finally on the way home last night down Burrington Coombe I stopped to photo the wild goats, well to be accurate the re-introduced feral goats on the slopes. Not great photos as the light was fading, so I may post some more another day. Good to see them though, there to keep the scrub under check, and maintain the wild feel of the Coombe, which was the inspiration for the Hymn, "Rock of Ages"

So in the words of Pepys, "and so to bed"

Thursday, 10 July 2008

..... at last the sun!!

After what seemed like decades of rain, over 2 inches in Devon yesterday, this morning broke fair of face.

And as I'd been up (again) at 3am, at 5.30, went for the stroll along Sand Bay to see what was going on down there bird wise. It was glorious, warm, little wind and the place was deserted. That's the way I like it.

Across the mudflats drifted the eerie warble of the Curlew, they never really leave here. But apart from that, the bird scene was a bit thin on the ground. Small numbers of Black Headed Gulls, Shelduck, Herring Gull, a few Pied Wagtails and House sparrows, but a sizeable flock of Starlings feeding along the strand line for sand hoppers and so on.

Walking back I noticed that the Common Restharrow was in full flower on the sand dune grassland, and awash with Bumblers having their breakfast.

And then while on the drive back, these two little Herberts were in a field. They look a likely pair of reprobates as I ever did come across, all they need are a hoodie and I'd be convinced. But I'll give them the benefit of the doubt as they seemed to be just enjoying the morning sun. Kids eh!

Finally, back into the house, bacon sarnie and while gazing out of the window, a couple of Coal Tits entertained me for a while. These are erratic visitors to chez Borders, haven't seen one for about 3 months. But good entertainment none the least. And so to work.

'Ear what's that down there then? Dunno mate, but that blokes taking a picture, hang on better pose

Saturday, 5 July 2008

Not much really....

Very little chance this week for any wildlife watching, as it's been a bit frantic. Work has taken a sideways shimmy into re-organisation as a pre cursor for further re-structuring in September, so its full on and included an unscheduled visit to the "Mailbox" in Birmingham. Nice to be on the train though which allowed me to watch some Corvid activity in the fields. The Corvids are currently in full cry at the moment, especially the Carrion Crows. I watched one this week viciously attacking a Magpie in a neighbours Cherry tree. Who needs guard dogs when Carrion Crown are at full throttle.

So as I've been on the move all week, and a lack of wildlife news, herewith a shot of her nibs new car she collected this afternoon. As someone who drives 25-30,000 miles a year, I'm amazed Thelma only does about 2,ooo, so it's just right this little run-about. I've been joking to her about the go faster stripes and fog lights!

A friend of mine is potentially losing her job and talking of upping sticks to New Zealand, as are a few other people I know. Friend and I had a long discussion about this during the week over a bottle of vino d' grape. Looking at this video shot at 7.30pm today, is it really the 5th July 2008? I may just consider joining them all out there. It's a long way but at least I could have Cloudy Bay on tap. Very tempting indeed.

Lets hope the weather improves, as we're off to Thornhill House Garden open for the Dorset Garden Trust tomorrow, so that'll be a garden blog entry I expect. More wildlife soon, I promise... now what do I know about Kiwi's.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

I had no idea !!!!

Well I've learnt something today. Actually I saw something at 3am this morning but had no idea what it was until now. For various reasons much too tedious to go into, I was up at 3am this morning sending e-mails to work. Don't worry it's not a normal occurrence, but do you know that feeling when something is floating about in the brain, preventing sleep, so I thought get up, log onto work, send some stuff, go to sleep. So I did and I did.

But after looking at my e-mails at work, a cup of tea was needed. 3am. Note the time. I stood in the conservatory with the foaming brew thinking, blimey sunrise is very early today. As to the north there was a strange blue light, such as just before dawn. But this is an hour before sunrise. I thought no more about it, though I did try and take a photo, absolute rubbish.

However I now know (as it was reported on the BBC news) that this was a very rare cloud formation indeed called Noctilucent basically clouds formed from ice in the high atmosphere/lower space which reflect sunlight from the opposite side of the earth. I love weather but don't understand it, but this was a wonderful sight to behold. Not as good as the Aurora Borealis, which I saw in 1981 in Northumberland, but a canny view all the same.

If you're interested, two links to WWW sites, Wikipedia and someone called Mike Oates.

No reason for this swallow I snapped on Sunday near here, other than as I write, the Swallows and Martins are flying about. A lovely summers evening.

Finally, another strange phenomenon, hedgehog was out and about in the garden at 11am today. Seems strange seeing them in broad daylight, but this is normal at this time of the year, as with so little night time, if they feel secure, they'll be out "huntin' fer them slugs"