Friday, 30 September 2011

Hot and Bothered

Malcolm and I returned from our walk this morning rather warm (to say the least) and needing our coffee.  It was hot!  we took in the reservoir at Mapperley again, partly to see if the water level had fallen further - it has - but also because with the onset of winter, you never know how many more times we will be able to walk that path without getting mud everywhere.  Looking out across what water is left, it was beautiful.
We stood for a while, watching a young Great-crested Grebe dive for fish.  It caught one and was immediately bothered by a couple of Black-headed Gulls.  Eventually one of the gulls managed to wrestle the fish away from the poor Grebe, which then had to get back to diving for more while gull settled in a nearby tree waiting to 'mug' him again.
Turning home we had some good views across the fields towards Shipley Hill, looking good in it's golden, Autumn colours.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011


Just a couple of pictures from our walk this morning.  Out before the mist had all cleared and with the sun coming through strongly, there were some magical sights as we walked by the Nutbrook canal.  The sun's rays were bursting through beautifully.
A few feet further on and we were immersed in the rays.  In for a hot day, is this really the end of September?

Tuesday, 27 September 2011


After a rather shaky start - and a rather foggy one - we had a lovely walk through Shipley Park this morning and when the sun came through, it was bright and warm.  We went looking for more fungi (what an exciting life we lead), but there was far more drama to be seen when we returned home.  My attention was drawn to a pair of Buzzards (Buteo buteo) tumbling and soaring through the air above our house.  Then there were three, then four and at last, five of these magnificent birds of prey chasing each other around the heavens.
Sadly, they remained stubbornly high in the sky, so the pictures are somewhat distant.  Buzzards are now our most common bird of prey with a wing span of up to 5ft.  There are about 31,100 breeding pairs in Britain.
Their plumage is very variable, but mostly shades of brown and gold with much paler feather patterns on the wings and 'necklace'.  Their plaintive, mewing cry can be mistaken for a cat and these five birds were doing quite a lot of it.  I wondered what was happening with them.  Perhaps it was a pair of parents chasing off their young - they can be rather territorial.
What magnificent birds they are and stunning to watch as they 'roller-coaster' about in the sky.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Red and White

Close to where we live a farmer has a small herd of White Park cattle.  A rare breed and an ancient one too, these animals have been bred in Britain for about 1000 years.  These little chaps were a lot younger than that.
Enjoying the sunshine as they lay in the field, they had the confident look on their faces which said "don't mess with us,  mum and dad are close by"!  And with horns like theirs, who would argue?
The hedgerows nearby are glowing with the red berries of Black Bryony plants (Dioscorea communis).  Poisonous like the rest of the plant, they are a relative of the Yam and clamber all over their hawthorn neighbours.

Saturday, 24 September 2011


Another fungus species this morning.  Fungi are traditionally tricky to identify and this one proved to be equally so - for me anyway.  Growing in the grassy meadow of Pewit Carr, close to the lake and the Birches and Willows surrounding it, it is certainly one of the Bolete family.  Judging by it's size - it was a good 8" tall - I think it is a Birch Bolete (Leccinum scabrum).
One from a couple of days ago too, this time, I think it's a Brown Roll-Rim (Paxillus involutus).  Growing at the base of a Birch tree - so many of them do - it was quite impressive sight.

Friday, 23 September 2011


Walking along the old colliery route yesterday, we were struck by the large number of Fly Agaric mushrooms growing among the Birches.
Fly Agarics (Amanita muscaria) are the archetypal toadstool.  Get anyone to draw a poisonous toadstool and you will probably get a picture of a red topped, white spotted mushroom.
These handsome fungi pack quite a punch when it comes to toxins.  They contain many different poisonous compounds, but the most well known would have to be one called Muscimol.  This substance is powerfully psychoactive, has hallucinogenic properties and as such has been widely used in folk medicines over the years.  It has even been used in ritualistic, religious ceremonies, especially in northern Europe and Siberia.
Deaths are rare from ingestion of these fungi.  It is thought you would have to eat as many as 15 to kill you.  The mind-altering qualities are what it's known for mostly.  Reindeer, feeding on mosses in the far north are sometimes to be seen suffering from the effects of eating them.  Accidentally ingesting small toadstools as they break through the soil surface, these unfortunate creatures have been noted staggering about as if drunk, no doubt seeing stars and thinking everything is 'far out man'!

Thursday, 22 September 2011


The Autumn colours are quite lovely at the moment.  As usual, the Maple trees are by far the most colourful in their September clothes.
A few patches of green still cling to the leaves, but a strange, dark, pink colour seems to be taking over.  Normally, red is the colour of Autumn Maples, but the shade seems to be nearer cerise.
The Maples are not the only trees leaving their greenery behind.  The Poplars are looking golden in the sunshine too.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011


As we approach the Autumnal equinox - this year actually occurring on 23rd September, the landscape hereabouts is beginning to look the part.  My solitary walk this morning (more of that in a moment), took me across golden fields of drying grasses.
Then, having slipped my way through the muddy paths of the woodland on the right of the picture above, I got a good view across more Autumn fields, up Shipley Hill towards the turning leaves of the trees on top.
Skirting the woodland around the hilltop, I looked over towards the village of Mapperley.
Emerging on the other side of the hill, the scene across the lake was equally Autumnal.  The Poplars, taking on a golden hue, adding highlights to the view.
Returning home, I passed a good many Maple trees with their leaves turning redder than anything else in the area.  Beautiful!
Back home to find Malcolm had had a trying experience at the doctor's.  He had gone for the second of his steroid injections into his shoulder.  Unfortunately, things didn't go too well.  As the doctor inserted the needle, the syringe exploded cascading steroid fluid down Malcolm's arm.  Amid apologies from the doctor and an assurance that it had never happened before (not much comfort to know that), Malcolm had to have another shot and a good deal more pain too.  As you can imagine, he's not looking forward to having to have a third 'jab'.

Saturday, 17 September 2011


A small, green creature on our patio this morning, captured my attention.  Picking it up and bringing it inside to take it's picture, it was a Common or Green Lacewing (Crysopa carnea).
The Green Lacewing is an aggregate species and is used to indicate a 'Super species' group of several distinct species which appear to be superficially similar. Of the 14 different species of British green lacewings, Chrysopa carnea is the most common.
Adults such as this will hibernate during the Winter months and emerging in Spring, it will eat pollen and nectar, but it will soon join the immature lacewings in a diet of it's favourites - aphids.  A closer look at it's mouth parts will show the formidable eating utensils which this insect has for mashing up aphids.
Having had it's photo taken, it was returned to the garden, unharmed and now a star of the inter-webs!

Friday, 16 September 2011


Just a few weeks ago, I reported on our walk around Mapperley Reservoir (see HERE).  At that time, the water level, although not at it's highest, was about right and large Carp were to be seen swimming in the murky waters at the North-Western end of the reservoir.  This morning, we walked this way again and were shocked to see how low the water had fallen.
At least 8ft of exposed mud now surrounds the reservoir and the reeds which are normally standing in a couple of feet of water, are now high and dry.  The mud is strewn with empty shells of Swan Mussels which have been caught out of water, but the biggest shock came when we reached the Northern end...
... It has completely dried up.  Where a few weeks ago carp swam, all is now drying mud and green slime.  At that time, we stood and watched a Kingfisher going about it's daily business here.  No chance of that today.
We have to wonder if the dramatic loss of water has anything to do with the ongoing and ever-increasing opencast mining which is happening close by.  Has that caused the streams, which once supplied the reservoir, to dry up?  Something certainly has been the cause of it.  Has The local water authority been drawing the water from the reservoir for some reason?  We may never know, but if we do know that if things don't alter soon, there will be nothing left!

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

More Berries

A few more Berries to lift the heart this morning.  Around the lakes of Straw's Bridge are several fruiting shrubs and trees.  some pretty impressive rose hips are to be seen on the shrub roses around 'Swan Lake', but it was the white berries of the Dogwood (Cornus alba) which caught my eye first.
Close by these little white jewels are the strangely shaped and oddly coloured fruits of the Spindle tree (Euonymus europaeus).  spindle gets it's name from the hard wood which was once used to make spindles for the wool industry.  But it is the four-lobed berry which looks so odd.
Back home and a Bug caught my eye as it climbed up our wall.  It is a Forest Shield Bug (Pentotoma rifupes).  Common in wooded areas, orchards and gardens across Britain, it's an impressive little bug.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011


This morning, Malcolm and I set off for a walk up Shipley Hill.  It's been a while since we headed that way, so we thought we would rectify the situation.  Our way was strewn with debris from the recent high winds.  Twigs, leaves and berries of all shapes and sizes lined the pathways.  Happily, there were still an enormous number of berries clinging to the bushes. These Guelder-rose berries looked redder than red in the sunshine.  I hadn't noticed the Ladybird at the time.
If there is any truth in the thought that the number of Autumn berries is indicative of a harsh winter ahead, we should be in for a 'stinker' again, looking at the Pyracantha bushes.
The Holly trees around the old hall site atop Shipley Hill, were also laden.
But, in my humble opinion, few berries can rival the redness or the attractive juicy appearance of the Yew and here again, the trees were heavy with fruit - all those which hadn't been blown off the boughs.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Derwent Water

Following the river through Keswick you get to Derwent Water.  Fine views across the water towards the peak of Catbells are to be had from Friar's Crag - even when the weather is a little inclement.
Normally, we would have had a walk around the lake, but the water was doing it's best to hamper this and the footpaths were flooded.  So we had to make do with the view from the crag.
Some of the pines which grow on Friar's Crag have their roots exposed which make for a good picture, but not so good to walk around.
One more picture through the pine trees before the weather takes over again and a heavy shower forces us to take cover again.

Sunday, 11 September 2011


Tuesday saw us driving into Keswick in the rain.  The showers came very heavily as we drove in, but thankfully, not too many of them.  As we walked around the town, we had to take shelter a couple of times, but the Edinburgh Woolen Mills shop came in handy for that!  The river Greta which runs through the town was swollen by the rains and crashed along its course.  In places, it was trying to break free from its banks and a few of the waterside properties were looking a little vulnerable.
The green space of Fitz Park provided the perfect spot to view all 3,054ft of Skiddaw, England's fourth highest peak.  Firstly in the dull cloud of our arrival...
... and later as the sun came out and lit the scene across the cricket ground and club house.

Saturday, 10 September 2011


After the bright, warm sunshine of Sunday afternoon, we woke on Monday morning to leaden skies, mist and drizzle.  A quick walk up Orrest Head near the town of Windermere was a rather damp experience and the view of Windermere itself was a little 'grey'.
Malcolm was well prepared for the rain which started to fall as we reached the top...
Later in the day, we had a boat trip on the lake to the Northern end of the lake and the Town of Ambleside. The weather was a little better by the time we caught the boat back to Windermere, but the clouds were still rather dramatic over the high fells.
Glimpses of sunshine made things better still and enabled us to sit in the open on top of the boat.

Friday, 9 September 2011


More on the Lancaster Canal walk today.  I mentioned the close observation by the cattle in the fields opposite, well, not all were interested in us as we walked by.  some were far more distracted by the idea of a good drink and a nibble at the grass growing along the edge.
It was a quiet and very charming scene as the drinking cattle were reflected in the water.  Very pastoral.
as well as the cattle, two large families of Mute Swans caught our eye as we walked past.  Having not seen very many young swans around our 'home patch' this year, it was nice to see that here at least, they had done pretty well.  This family had eight young and the other family had seven.
It was too nice to head back too early and we were enjoying the sunshine and the views.  Things changed a bit on Monday - as you will see tomorrow...