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.

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