Wednesday, November 17, 2010

No sun, no moon...

Actually, November is no worse that many other months, but it has a bad press and the gloomy old sod Thomas Hood over-egged it a bit in his poem "No" , although I rather like it. Days like today are Mother Nature's way of saying "you stay in with a nice cup of tea, and I'll take care of things out here".
Catching up with records and general fettling and blogging; these are just a few of the things today was designed for.
I devoted the first week of November to getting myself a scope. The taxman kindly returned some of my money, so I thought it was a sign. I went to Old Moor on the Tuesday to have a look at their wares, but finally plumped for some kit from Denby Dale, which involved a pleasant train journey. I can't believe the luck I have when I go to Old Moor - I always seem to get good weather, even though I don't plan with the weather in mind. The highlight of this particular trip was a snipe at Wath Ings, which very obligingly stood quietly in the water remarkably close to the hide, allowing me to get some nice shots. Goosander, shoveller and long-tailed tits were other highlights of this visit.
There were one or two fungi around and one in particular which I resolved to ID turned out to be a Tricholoma cingulatum (Girdled knight), which is little recorded in this area.
Hopefully the scope, and spending more time with experienced birders will help me get better at seeing  ID-ing birds. It seems really hard. I don't remember finding basic fungi identification being such a struggle, but it won't put me off, as a few kind followers on twitter seemed concerned about. It's in the same league as drawing and painting, which I'm determined to persevere with. More of this on my other (non-wildlife) blog - the multifunctional and eclectic Out of Office.
An enjoyable foray, with a select group, was the Saturday was visit with the Sorby Group to Strawberry Lea Pasture. near Fox House. As hoped, this threw up some nice grassland fungi, including Earth Tongues. There were quite a few birders around as well, apparently in search of a great grey shrike which had been sighted nearby. Perhaps I should devote some time to lurking around that area, as there seems to have been a few good bird sightings around there recently.
The following week I realised that the Fungi exhibition at Edinburgh Botanical Gardens only had a short time left to run, so I hastily booked a few days there. Before that was a few hours hunting for waxwings at a couple of the reported sights. I was lucky enough to catch a brief sight of half a dozen or so, but the presence of a sparrowhawk was clearly making them jittery and I was unable to get a photo. It seems there are still quite a few around the area, so perhaps I'll get another chance soon. On Wednesday evening, I went to a Sheffield Bird Study Group talk about Bearded Tits. Last month's talk by Paul Hobson was a hard act to follow, but this one was also interesting, and I learned quite a lot.
So, Edinburgh. Any excuse to visit. Like Sheffield, as well as being hilly, it has some of the best green spaces for a big city and I always take my walking boots. The exhibition itself didn't disappoint, and we also fitted in art (Surrealist exhibition at the Dean Gallery) and shopping. The Botanical Gardens were wonderful, as at any time of year, and no visit would be complete without a walk along the Water of Leith, where we saw a dipper and a fine heron. No time sadly for Arthur's Seat, the Pentland Hills, Musselburgh or the glorious walk along the River Almond, this time, but I'm sure we'll be back before too long.
I took my scope up to Redmires on Monday this week to have a little practice, but drew a blank on birds. I did see, remarkably, a peacock butterfly, despite it being a frosty day, and less remarkably, some blewitts, which someone had picked then discarded, I can only imagine, in a fit of uncertainty about their identity. At least I knew confidently about these.
Yesterday, despite forecasts of thick fog, I took my chances and went to Old Moor again - to have a little practice with my hide clamp. Amazingly, yet again I was lucky enough to get a glorious day. I've taken a few liberties with this shot by iPhoto-ing the telegraph wires out. Yet again, I didn't get many bird sightings. My top one for the day was goldcrests, but they are hard to photograph as they never seem to keep still. No matter. It was another lovely day.
Off to Frampton Marshes with the local RSPB group this Sunday, so fingers crossed for the weather.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010


Oh dear. November. What happened to my plans for a daily blog .... a weekly blog.... ? It's such a busy life being retired. People always say this, and it's hard to believe till it happens to you. Actually, I think these first few months are more about making the adjustment. I'm going to stick to wildlife and related matters it this blog, as I suspect that's what anyone who can be bothered to read it is interested in.
So October then. Started outdoor activities with a walk around Agden area on a lovely sunny day, Where I saw a few raptors. Some I recognised as buzzards, but still not good enough to be sure what the others were, only that they were something different. Had a pleasant half hour at the feeders being entertained by a nuthatch, and took home a couple of nice orange birch boletes for the pot. The following day, I ventured out to have a look at the new Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust reserve at Centenary Riverside. It has a lot of potential, but still looks a bit raw. It'll be interesting to go back and follow its progress. As it happened, it hit the news a few days later when someone nicked part of the henge art work, presumably for scrap metal. This is why Rotherham gets a bad name. Such a shame. From there, I found a route back through to Blackburn Meadows reserve - which is now well established and shows how successful these sites can become. The highlight of the return walk to Meadowhall along the canal was a pair of kingfisher chasing along the river section.

My next outing was a trip to a part of the Wharncliffe area I had not previously explored. It began in a meadow area near the reservoir where there were lots of waxcaps, especially blackening ones. There were still a few butterflies around - mainly small tortoiseshell, but I suspect we are getting close to the end of their season now. I dropped down through a lovely wooded area, across another meadow after watching more buzzards from a splendid vantage point, then circled back though the woods and along the edge of Wharncliffe Chase. I spent a little while sitting at the top of the Chase, as I thought it might be a good site for birdwatching. I saw nothing, but discovered when I got home from the Sheffield Bird Study Group website that someone else had seen masses of stuff up there. I can only console myself with the fact that they probably didn't see all the cracking fungi I saw. That same evening I went to my first Local RSPB group indoor meeting. The talk was fine, but not about local birds, so less interesting, I thought. Also, I didn't find people particularly friendly, but I've booked on a field trip to RSPB Frampton Marshes, so that might be a better time to see whether it's my scene.

Hygrocybe intermedia

The weekend brought 2 Sorby forays. On Saturday, rather an exclusive event (3 of us) went out to Lathkilldale to look at waxcaps. The weather was not brilliant, but it held sufficiently well was us to manage an excellent tally of species, some quite rare ones amongst them. Sunday was a very different affair: a very well attended foray led by Steve and Ziggy in the General Cemetery. Lots to see, but it's often slow going, and difficult to take good photos with so many people to accommodate. The people at the cemetery (the live ones) were great. Very welcoming and enthusiastic and provided tea and biscuits at the end, and I enjoyed seeing the cemetery itself - can't believe it's the first time I've been in there after all the years I've lived in Sheffield. Obviously a real haven for wildlife, but then Sheffield is astonishingly full of those.
The following week, I had a brief excursion to Rocher Head. I'd been feeling a bit rough, so kept it gentle. Vast numbers of parrot waxcaps in the fields up there. Goldfinches and a hare were the other highlights of this short excursion.
On the following day, I went to Old Moor. The highlights here were a small copper butterfly, a reed bunting, a goosander and a great photo opp with a wren from the reedbed screen. There were still plenty of common darters around.
Wednesday's highlight was the SBSG indoor meeting with a talk by Paul Hobson. Fabulous! I have put in a request for a one-to-one masterclass  with him for my next big birthday. Picked up some useful tips, and what is often nice, some affirmations that in some respects I am on the right lines.
On Thursday, I braved Rotherham again with a friendly native. We followed the "Fuelling a Revolution" flagship trail around Canklow Woods, and very nice it was too, especially for a wide range of trees and fungi types. Well worth a visit.
Jostling for position. High Tide at Iken Fen
The following week, we went down to Suffolk. Unfortunately, I was still feeling under the weather, and not at my best, but it was still a wonderful week, with visits to Westleton Heath for the deer rut, RSPBs Minsmere, North Warren and Snape,  Kenton Hills, Aldeburgh, and Thorpeness. It's just the most wonderful area for wildlife. Can't wait to go back again.
The last week of October was half term, and I mostly lay low, except for Saturday, when I went on a Sheffield Wildlife Trust foray to Wyming Brook. Again, too many people for comfort, but it was a glorious day, and the views from up there with Autumn Tints in full swing made it well worth the visit.
Enjoying life: 8 out of 10 VG. Blogging regularly: 3 out of 10. Must try harder.