Monday, April 20, 2009

Mission accomplished!

Did the final walk on Friday. And very nice it was too. Pity the weather didn't brighten up till after 2, by which time I had done the bits with the best views. It took me round the reservoir at Langsett, and down to Midhopestones. Saw quite a bit of bird life - grouse, curlew, wigeon, stonechat, skylark, lapwing, and a good sighting of a weasel. He was too fast for me to photograph, but I know where he lives. As St George's day approaches, the eyes can't help but drift downwards. Here is a beautifully gelatinous blob of Witch's Butter (exidia glanulosa). Perhaps an outing for morels might be in order in a week or 2. The new job will keep me busy, but the light evenings will have to be capitalised on, as will the weekends. I have a few things lined up, then it will be back to the Barnsley Boundary walk. I also like the look of the Dearne way, which I sampled neat Bretton Hall. South Yorkshire really isn't so shabby when it comes to great countryside, and I haven't even got to grips with the Donny area yet. Did a short walk this evening down the Upper Don to the canal basin.It was very pleasant; I hadn't realised the extent of the gentrification through Neepsend and beyond.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Another walk.

This is not the heron of doom, but an altogether kindlier creature minding its own business on the reservoir at Worsborough. Yesterday I completed the penultimate of my Barnsley walk checks. A superb walk which took me to Worsborough Mill and Country Park and on to Stainborough Park and Wentworth Castle. Spring was much in evidence and the tally of birds and wild flowers was pretty impressive (not that I'm keeping a tally, you understand.)
Birds: herons (more than you could shake a stick at), Canada geese, goldfinch, grebe, mute swans, mallard, kestrel, and many more I couldn’t name
Flowers: the bluebells were just starting – amazing as there was no sign of flowers just a few days ago – but the real glory were wood anemone and celandine in huge swathes; also violets, primroses, wild garlic, hedge garlic, marsh marigold, butterbur....

The people at Worsborough Mill were incredibly nice and helpful, and there was so much bird and plantlife in such a small area that I really must go again soon. A full day at Stainborough Park and Wentworth Castle Gardens is also warranted. Even the god of public transport was smiling on me, as my journey was almost seamless there and back, giving me plenty of time to enjoy the many sitting opportunities on this walk. Sadly, the chance of a NCOTASD was missed because of an unfortunately placed locked gate. Still, you can't have everything.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

penultimate week of freedom

The most interesting day this week was Wednesday when I checked another walk, this time starting in Yorkshire Sculpture Park, getting full value of my day tripper and getting by bus, tram, train and another bus to the very brink of Wakefield. The heron of doom was there to greet me as soon as I stepped of the bus, circling lazily over Junction 38. Rain had been forecast but my main problem was the wind. It turned out to be quite an adventure, as part of the walk went off the map so I was reliant on Rob's clear instructions to guide me. All very fine, till I realised I seemed to have mislaid a page of the instuctions. Fortunately, having read through prior to setting off, I remembered that the walk followed the Dearne Way for this section of the walk, so the waymarks saw me safely back into the Sculpture Park in good time for the bus home.
Learning about birds does not lend itself to multi-tasking with walk checking as well as I had hoped. Nevertheless, I was able to watch and take photos of this grey wagtail, and note a great crested grebe and some Canada geese and heard lapwing. I think a heightened awareness of birds and birdsong but not being able to pick up on what many of them are, is a frustratingly necessary stage of trying to become a more knowledgeable birder.
I finally got to the garden centre on Thursday and yesterday, seeds were sown: courgettes, borlotti beans, butternut squash and leeks. Today saw a bit of tidying and topiary, with occasional dashes for the binoculars and camera. A pair of starlings made a couple of visits to a hanging worm feeder; it's the first time I can remember starlings in the garden for ages. I could hear lots of different songs as I worked but I can't identify them, apart from the blackbirds.
Not sure how much work will get done in the garden when I start the new job in just over a week's time. I'm really looking forward to it, but I'm going to have to make sure I make time for the garden and walks. A new routine will be needed, if that's possible, with lots of travelling in prospect.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Grebes and other stuff

Been on two outings this week since our return from Spain. On Tuesday, we went to Old Moor. A completely different selection of birds from last time I was there; this time ther were lots of black-headed gulls and tufted ducks, and greenfinch and bullfinch at the feeding station. There were also quite a few great crested grebe, and what I reckoned was a camera shy little grebe. And of course, the heron of doom.
Yesterday did one of my walk checks, which took me to Elsecar, Harley and Wentworth. The weather was superb, so I took my time and enjoyed the sunshine and emergence of spring. 4 types of butterfly in early April: small tortoiseshell, peacock, comma and a very fast moving small white - not bad! At Elsecar res there were also several great crested grebes. Typical! Haven't seen any for ages then a load come at once. And needless to say, the heron of doom was there as well. See Flikr for more pics.


High time to get up to date. Been back from Andalusia a few days now. It was a really useful and interesting taster of the region. We talk about 4 seasons in one day here in the UK, but during the 6 days we were away, we had hot sunshine in Seville (over 30 degrees if those LED display things are to be believed) and icy cold sleet in Ronda. We had a guide who sounded just like Nicholas Parsons, which was weird because he spent most of the tour hesitating, repeating and deviating.
Difficult to say which were my favorite bits: the mosque in Cordoba? the Generalife in Grenada? the art gallery in Seville - Murillo, especially - what a pity he just painted religious paintings; his technique was awesome. Probably the ceramics everywhere we went, but especially in the Marie-Luise gardens in Seville.