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wildlife

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Attenborough Nature Reserve is one of my favourite places to go for a walk when I’m in Nottingham and it was a beautiful spring day on Saturday, so off Man and I trundled.

We went in search of kingfishers and opted for the 3.7 mile kingfisher trail. Sadly, other than a quick flash of turquoise just to taunt us, we failed miserably to capture the elusive kingfisher.

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I did, however, manage to capture my first long tailed tit. I like him, he’s very cute and fluffy. The following day at another of my favourite places Wollaton Hall, Man and I met a wonderful man who kept the amazing illustrated diaries of his walks and rambles. He did the most beautiful line drawings, sketches and watercolours in his diaries, along with nature notes about what he’d seen on his travels. They were absolutely beautiful and his drawings and paintings were a lot better than my photos! What a talent to have, I was quite envious.

Back to Attenborough and, although I failed to catch a kingfisher, there were lots of other birds to catch my attention.

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This noisy little chaffinch wasn’t remotely bothered by us. He was far too busy singing. Birds make sounds completely disproportionate to the size of their bodies.

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And great crested grebes were in abundance, both on the lakes and on the River Trent.

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We also found a lone grey heron wallowing about in the mudflats.

I love this time of year, everything starts coming back to life but there isn’t so much foliage that I can’t see the birds for the leaves.

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I like the buds and the blossom.

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The butterflies are reappearing again too. This one is a small tortoiseshell.

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There was colour in the people as well.

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And here’s that little long-tailed tit again.

I have a week off work this week and am spending the week at Man’s house. So I’m expecting to get out with my camera a lot more,

872bThe Farne Islands are a group of small islands off the coast of Northumberland that number 15 at high tide and more then 20 at low tide. They are home to one of the most important colonies of nesting seabirds in the UK.

In fact, it is thought that the earliest laws protecting birds were issued here by St Cuthbert in the year 676 to protect the eider ducks and other nesting birds.

It is an amazing place and one of the highlights of our recent holiday.

We took the boat out from Seahouses and sailed round islands called things like the East and West Wideopens, the North and South Warmses and Big Harcar before landing on Staple Island where there were puffins galore and plenty of guillemots, black headed terns, shags and razorbills willing to pose for a photo or two.

We sailed through tall rocky outcrops where thousands of sea birds nested in the crags. The noise was impressive, the smell was something else :)

They were sitting targets for us snappers while they were on the nest, but they proved particularly difficult to photograph in flight though, as you can probably see from my pictures. I have hundreds of photographs by the way, it was very hard to resist snapping away like a lunatic.

A total of 290 bird species have been recorded on the Farnes and May to July is breeding season and there are thousands of them. The guide advised you wore a hat!

I fell in love with the puffins. They look so sad with their strange shaped eyes and, when they fly, their wings flap ten to the dozen to keep them airborne. But these quirky birds spend eight months of the year on the wing apparently, so their frantic flapping must work.

We also saw a couple of large colonies of seals. And they seemed just as curious about us as we were about them.

814The islands are now owned by the National Trust. Oh how I would love to be a ranger on one of them.

This part of the UK coastline is amazing and I can’t wait to go back sometime.

 

 

021bI drove up to Man’s house in Nottingham on Friday. That evening the weather report said it was going to be mild on Saturday but it would chuck it down with rain all day. On Sunday it would be bitterly cold and raining … and probably snowing, with a wind chill factor that would take your breath away.

So we opted on the lesser of two evils and decided to go out with the cameras yesterday and be wet and vaguely warm rather than wet and freezing.

042bWe started off at Rushcliffe Country Park where I found this little grebe (my first). I also found some very oversized ducks, mallards, and they were at least twice the size of the usual ones.

I like Rushcliffe, but it seems a bit more manicured than Attenborough. It’s the perfect country park to take kids because there is a BMX track and half pipe, a huge play area, trails and sculptures to climb on and even a kite field, for the flying of kites and not the watching of birds called kites.

It is an ‘introduce your family to nature’ type of place.

031bWe had a good stroll. We both tried out different walking apps on our phones to see how they compared. Mine said we had walked 2.24 miles, Man’s said we had done 2.52 miles … don’t know which one was correct but either way that didn’t feel like enough so we headed for Attenborough Nature Reserve.

080bAttenborough seems wilder and more natural, there are footpaths all through it but it isn’t as sculptured, it’s purpose is predominantly for the wildlife rather than for the visitors. I prefer it.

It was a grey, grey day and like walking in a cloud … not raining exactly but very damp.

Some signs of spring though, like the snowdrops.

098bWe stopped by one of the hides because I love the small hedgerow birds.

108bAnd discovered all manner of guests had been invited to the banquet below the bird feeder – the pheasant, pigeons, ducks and rats quite happily munching alongside each other.

075bThis little chap was in hedge nearby. Even with the aid of the marvelous Collins bird guide, I have no idea what he is … anyone got any ideas?

And a little further on there was this guy on a pole.

110bI don’t what this is either and would love to know. Kestrel perhaps?

131bFollowing the river, we found some great crested grebes doing some sort of mating dance on the water. They were lovely. And there was a cormorant on another lake as well.

In the summer there are loads of dragonflies and damselflies around this area too.

We crossed the fields and the path takes you back alongside the railway track.

144bThis just amused me. There was one by the side of the pedestrian crossing (which is to be expected) but this was in a swamp. I’ve added it to my ‘out of place’ file lol.

It did start raining more heavily after this so the camera’s had to go away. But we were nearly back to the car by this point anyway.

This time my app said we had walked 2.78 mile and Man’s said 3.12 miles. So somewhere in between those was how far we walked yesterday. Around five miles ish I suppose.

Today is Mother’s Day in the UK and as I am at Man’s house, my two gorgeous daughters sent my pressie here. They’ve bought me a glamping trip (glamorous camping for those who don’t know) for two. There is a choice of ten sites and we can stay in a wigwam or a yurt in Cornwall, Devon, the Lake District, Hampshire or the east coast. I am absolutely chuffed to pieces. What an amazing Mother’s Day pressie. I have the best daughters :)

It is colder today and it is snowing (a tiny bit) so Man and I are leaving the cameras behind and are going to take up the challenge of photographing our neighbourhood with the iphones. So we are going for a wander around Nottingham.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

005bI found a nature reserve on Tuesday that I had no idea existed, less than a mile from the office I have worked in and out of for around a decade.

How could I not know it was there? I even used to work with a lovely man called Ken who used to go out every lunchtime for a stroll to look at the birds. I thought he was just wandering up and down the canal.

On Monday morning the weather was so gorgeous that I grabbed my camera and went out for an early-morning stroll round the lakes. On Tuesday, the weather was meant to be the same so I drove to work at the normal time but, rather than going into the office two hours early like I usually do, I took my camera and went for a stroll along the canal. The Wey Navigation is right next to the old mill building that I work in.

008bI wasn’t quite sure about the camera settings for such a lovely misty morning, but I think these came out ok. See there is maintenance being undertaken in the countryside all over the place.

016bI walked up to Stoke Lock, the oldest lock in Surrey and opened in 1657, according to the National Trust sign on the lock keeper’s cottage.

Then I crossed a bridge with the intention of continuing further along the canal and discovered the Riverside Nature Reserve. Apparently the land for it was given to Guildford Borough Council when farmland was compulsorily purchased to build the A3, so it must have been there a while.

024bIt has a lake and woodland and, although I could hear the traffic from the A3, I couldn’t see it because of the mist. I thought the lake looked nice and atmospheric in the early-morning mist.

028bThere is also wetland and marsh and boardwalks have been constructed for easy access, although some were undergoing maintenance so I couldn’t explore very far. There is a bird hide in there somewhere, apparently. I am sure I shall discover it on another occasion.

046bIt was so peaceful strolling along the canal and through the reserve at that time of the morning (it was about 7am). This little guy was singing merrily on a branch above me, but I didn’t see any people.

052bThe sun started breaking through the mist as I headed back to the office. It really is very pretty around here.

I had only walked 1.37 miles (according to the new iPhone app) but it was a really pleasant way to start the day and I will certainly take more advantage of it now I know it’s there. Although next time I shall bring a change of footwear. The cleaners must have cursed me when they came in because, although I wiped my feet, as the mud in the tread of my boots dried it fell out, so throughout the day, wherever I went I left a nice trail of mud behind me.

Incidentally, everybody else in the office knew the nature reserve was there. “Where do you think Ken went every lunchtime?” many people asked.

I really must pay more attention sometimes.

158bI showed you what countryside rangers have done to Yateley Common in a post the other day.

As I was walking around the Common I remembered seeing an article from one of the reporters last week saying there was a Yateley Common management meeting this week so I thought I’d go along and find out what was happening.

The meeting was last night.

Work managed to go smoothly and I was able to leave the office at 6.15pm to enable me to get back to Yateley in time for the 7pm meeting.

And what a laugh it was.

Turns out the Common gets people’s tempers running high.

I have attended a huge number of council and public meetings over the years as a reporter…  this was one of the most chaotic I’ve ever experienced.

The members of the public in attendance were divided into two camps (and me), one group of about ten who lived on the Common and were there to shout about the state of the unadopted lanes and the blocked ditches and another group of about six dog walkers there to shout about the tree felling.

They had no idea of meetings protocol and the committee, obviously not used to anyone being remotely interested enough to attend their meeting, had absolutely no clue how to control loud and riotous members of the public. So a free for all followed with lots of yelling.

The rangers – I felt very sorry for them – got berated from all sides for ‘murdering’ wildlife, Commons devastation, failed ditch clearance, useless track and bridleway maintenance and generally being the worst people in the history of the universe. Every time they opened their mouths to speak they got shouted down.

However, between all the shouting and the nimbyism and the funny little man who kept pointing, ranting and spouting stuff about rabbits moving out (and who the chairman looked as though he wanted to take out with a double barreled shotgun) I think I learned a couple of things.

Yateley Common is designated a site of Special Scientific Interest and a Special Protection Area because of rare ground-nesting birds like the Dartford warbler and the nightjar.

All the felled trees (and there is about 4.5 hectares of them) were relatively young, less than 35 years old. Some of them were oaks. Oaks trees change the very make up of the soil and leaving oak trees for too long means you cannot later return the area to heathland because the soil profile has been changed.

The felling is to return the areas to heathland with heathers and gorses to encourage the rare birds. The work is being paid for by Natural England and appears to be part of a ten-year maintenance programme.

Heathland is man made …. from the ice age onwards. Over the last few hundred years, man has stopped using the countryside in the same way as he had for centuries and all those birds, insects, creatures that had grown to depend on that land consequently found their habitat changing.

Sadly they are not going to leave the logs to rot so they attract insects and fungi, they are selling them instead.

Sometimes people just don’t listen. The countryside rangers were giving perfectly coherent answers to questions and people were just ranting. Little pointy man wanted to know exactly how much had been spent in diesel, in petrol and in wages in the felling process. When he was told there had been no cost locally because Natural England picked up the tab, he paused for a moment and then ranted about rabbits instead. It was quite a relief when he threw his dummy out of his pram and left in a huff (still pointing aggressively at people).

The other thing I learned is that I want to learn more. More about the Common and about conservation and habitat management and about ecology.

And I might even go along to the next meeting in July (and keep my fingers crossed that little pointy man and his cohorts have calmed themselves enough to listen by then).

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002bOn Sunday the weather was a bit grey but dry so I decided to track down a castle.

I went for a walk along the Basingstoke Canal starting here at Colt Hill Bridge and heading towards the village of Greywell.

Again, it wasn’t somewhere I had been before. It’s amazing how you miss what’s right on your doorstep. Yesterday I found a whole nature reserve about half a mile from the office that I had no idea was there … but that’s another story.

Back to Sunday.

003bColt Hill Bridge is in Odiham and there’s a marina there and a nice little town. I finally captured the wren I was after as I was walking and also some reedpolls, although they were well camouflaged.

050bAnd there were lots of other interesting things to see along the canalside. I liked the way this grass had grown over the top of the barbed wire … it looked like a curtain.

064bAnd I’m seeing a lot more natural fences on my travels. Well either that or I am noticing them more. There are courses you can do in land management that teach you how to make them. I even found a one-day dry stone wall course yesterday. Shall I? I am not sure what earthly use it would be to me but it would be fun.

100bSorry, rambling again lol. Anyway this was my destination. This is King John’s Castle at Odiham. A ruin of a gatehouse that has stood since the 13th century.

It was build by King John between 1207 and 1214 as a stronghold but has been primarily used as a hunting lodge over the centuries. There is not much of it left now and, in fact, the canal was cut through some of the archaeology, but you can see the holes for the joists for the first and second floors and the remains of a fireplace or two.

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You can go in but be warned bits fall off. This canopy has not been installed for aesthetic purposes, it’s to stop visitors getting knocked out by falling debris on the way in.

King John’s Castle at Odiham is also one of the castles on the long distance walking trail the Three Castles Trail. This route is about 60 miles long and leads the intrepid stroller from Windsor Castle, through the Berkshire and Hampshire countryside and small villages via Odiham Castle to Winchester Castle. I’d quite like to give that a go.

135bIt was a nice walk. Loads of people use the canal and there were lots of cheery ‘Good Morning’s to be said to walkers, joggers, cyclists and dog walkers. Fishermen, I’ve found, don’t enjoy cheery Good Mornings, apparently it disturbs their fishing.

I might venture further next time, the walk was just over 3.5 miles long and there is a lot more to explore.

 

 

 

 

 

 

158bLarge parts of Yateley Common are completely covered with a carpet of sawdust.

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I am not sure what the countryside rangers are doing but acres of trees have been felled. Now it is obviously for some sort of conservation management purposes but it does seem extremely harsh.

I thought trees were the lungs of the world. Now I know Yateley Common is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (apparently this type of heathland is rarer than rainforest) and that a management programme is in place and I believed this involved removing young trees if they began to encroach on the heathland but these are mature trees.

156bHonestly. it looks like armageddon up there. I hope they leave the logs though. Rotting logs means fungi and insects.

I am sure, as we were putting the papers together last week, I read something about a meeting where the rangers were going to explain what they were doing. I think it is tonight, but do you think I can find any information? No of course I can’t.

And, although it seems a little late for them to justify their existence, it would be nice to know.

185bIt hasn’t deterred the rabbits though, they still seemed quite happy and there were some little signs of spring beginning to show.

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210bSadly my walking app failed to tell me how far I had walked. This was largely due to operator error. When it said “Save walk? Yes/No” I should have clicked the Yes button.

Never mind, it wasn’t that far, probably a mile or maybe slightly more.

And I did get this shot as I was returning home. The Common backs on to Blackbushe Airport and the sun was just streaming through the clouds.

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