Sunday, May 31, 2009

I can't imagine why I've never walked through Wharncliffe Wood and along the Crags before now. It's not that far from home. Yesterday I finally put that right as I reached leg 9 of the BBW. And what a glorious day for it! Within minutes I heard my first cuckoo of the year and watched a great spotted woodpecker swerve across the path. Butterflies were aplenty, but moving so fast in the heat of the day, that photographing them was impossible. The only half-decent bird photo I managed was a chaffinch with a juicy morsel in its beak, but I did find a nice clump of coprinus micaceus and a pink slime mould. Apparently slime moulds do move, but so slowly that even I could manage a photo. Thank goodness for wild flowers! The bluebells are nearly over now. I'm sure there are a lot more buttercups than usual this year - they look so cheerful, and the foxgloves are just about ready to flower. They always remind me of a brilliant trip to Mid-Wales one flaming June, many years ago now. I chose this cranesbill (cut-leaved, I think) as my blog photo as cranesbills are one of my favorites, both in the wild and in the garden. As usual, there are mor pics on Flikr. I also saw green alkanet, yellow pimpernel, the lovely germander speedwell.
I made a start on leg 10. I was hoping to get as far as Midhopestones, and count the section from there to Langsett as done (completed on one of Rob's walks), so my next leg would be Langsett to Dunford Bridge. Realistically that was never going to happen, so I'll have to fill that gap in a week or 2. Of to Sunderland for work next week, and then a weekend in Edinburgh next weekend.

Monday, May 25, 2009

High Green to Oughtibridge

Once again flowers were the top attraction of the walk. Bluebells still very much in evidence as well as field pansy, crosswort, ladies' mantle, self-heal, and red campion. Lapwings and greenfinch were the main birds of note, and painted lady and this beautiful delicate green veined white the butterflies. The first part of this walk was mainly field and meadow walking - very pleasant for the most part. The best bit was the section of Wharncliffe Woods between the Hollow and Oughtibridge, which was magical in the dappled sunlight. I got a bit worried that I wouldn't be able to spot where I had to break out for Oughtibridge and the bus home because once past this point, there is no escape for several miles as the path turns north and tracks the River Don and the railway line with the road on the far side. . It was faily clear, as it happened, and I emerged at a point which was the nearest that BBW passes to home. The next leg should be pleasant and straightforward, but the problem with the final sections will be transport, as the route sweeps out into a hard-to-reach part of the Peak District.
At home, the garden is growing furiously, and soon my favorite section will be in bloom. The combination of a warm and dry April and a mild and wet May have meant that things are growing quickly. The thuggish rose on the arch has more flowers than ever before and I'm just hoping that the squash plants, which have been disappointing for the last few years, will take off and produce some fine crops.
There have been lots of swifts overhead recently, and on the feeders there seems to be a proliferation of house sparrows, and great tits. There has been high drama over the last 2 days, firstly as an unfledged blackbird looking very sorry for itself, found itself on the patio. Not sure what was its fate, but I think it might have managed to get under cover of the undergrowth. Then today, the presence of a very bold little tabby high up in a neighbour's tree caused pandemonium with a number of blackbirds and magpies collaborating successfully to drive it away. Calm has now been restored.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Barnsley Boundary Walk resumed

No big surprise that the new job is curtailing my leisure activities. I don't resent that, though, as the job is bringing lots of other new experiences and challenges. The lousy weather recently is also making me focus on other things that need doing - you don't mind getting on with the practical and mundane tasks quite so much when there is little prospect of pleasant sunny walks.
Last week, I resumed the Barnsley Boundary Walk - leg 7 and a bit of leg 8, from Elsecar to High Green. Very little of it was new as the first part duplicated one of Rob's walks, and the latter part a section of the Penistone line walk in reverse. It was a fine but gusty day and there was not a lot of bird or animal interest. I saw goldfinches in Elsecar park, but there was not a great deal wildlife on or around the res unless you count fishermen. There was also a warbler of some kind, but no idea which one, and a thrush which I managed a photo of (see flikr). Again, don't know whether it was song or mistle. The books are really not helpful. Yes, one is bigger than the other, but just try getting them to stand side by side for comparison!! A pied wagtail in St Peter's churchyard, but not even a kestrel at Tankersley. Surprisingly, saw quite a few butterflies: peacock, small tortoiseshell, orange tips and quite a lot of speckled wood. The real triumph was the profusion of wild flowers: bluebells, of course, pink purslane, speedwell, forget-me-not, honesty, cuckoo flower, vetch (bitter vetchling?) herb robert, violet, yellow archangel, white dead nettle, and wild garlic in such profusion it was breathtaking (the photo really doesn't do this patch justice).
Close to home this week, saw a jay from the window, swifts earlier in the week, and housemartins. The tits (mainly coal and blue) and blackbirds are keeping busy and a pair of house sparrows are regular visitors to the feeders. Haven't spotted any robins or bullfinches for a little while.
In the garden, the beans, courgettes and squash are getting planted out today. There doesn't seem much point in holding off. The forecast is not good - lots more rain on the way, but at least the roots will get a chance to take off - if they aren't washeded away! A bit of pricking out and salad sowing under the cover of the greenhouse is in order, then maybe a bit of sewing, sketching and, as a last resort, ironing later. Next weekend, the extra day off will be an incentive to get out and about at least once. The next leg of BBW will take me through some great woodland towards Oughtibridge. I'm off to Northampton and Swindon during the week, so perhaps a bit of birwatching from the train.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Another day, another county

Today the weather was not quite so kind, but a spring fungi and bluebell walk was in order, so off we went to a lovely woodland near Bawtry. We didn't find the hoped for prizes, but A very fine cluster of Jew's ear and some splendid hoof fungi provided the fungal interest, and the bluebells didn't diasappoint despite the lack of dappled shade.
Meanwhile, in the garden, the bullfinch is still putting in a regular appearance, as are some greedy starlings, a robin, dunnocks, collared doves, blue, coal and great tits. Next weekend, I am determined to do a long, leisurely solo walk so I can concentrate on the photography and wildlife. I just hope the good weather returns. More pics on Flikr.

Glorious Peak District

I've been doing so many walks in the Barnsley area recently that I've been a stranger to the Peak District, especially the White Peak. Yesterday that was remedied in the shape of a reunion of colleagues from my first ever school. A very special lot they are too! We had a lovely walk from Youlgreave, organised by Pete, who lied about the hills, but we forgave him. As much time was spent chatting and catching up with friends from long ago, the fantastic scenery, although it was a wonderful backdrop to the day, did not get my full attention, and the wildlife was largely out of the corner of my eye. I did see an Orange Tip - something I hadn't seen for a while, and one very special highlight was this slow worm basking by the side of the round. Slow worms don't give much away, but I imagine it was bemused by the attention it got.