A walk in the park

Yesterday I made it out for a walk in the park after several days in school working in a windowless room on my Early Years School Evaluation Form. This form is the schools judgement of how well we believe we’re doing. This is then presented to ofsted when we get the inspection phone call. So I was quite happy to be outside despite a bit of drizzle.

The hedges along the park were a ladybird hot spot last year, but so far I had not seen many. Yesterday they had returned in force with lots of signs along the whole of the hedge.

Amongst the trees we found a decorated rock. Decorating rocks, then leaving them hidden places has been a craze this Summer. When you find them you photograph them a tag on facebook/twitter. I have mixed feelings about this activity. I like that it gets children out. But living by the seaside I’ve seen people taking buckets of rocks away. There is a legal side to this that many of them shouldn’t be taking the quantity they are as well as dismantling a habitat. But this probably deserves a whole blog on itself. People have always taken rocks and seashells as souvenirs from beaches, but the quantity people are taking is a concern.

Amongst the long grass area a robin perched on branch serenading.

Conkers are now falling. It looked like they’ve already been scavenged through, but I did find a few to take into school for my discovery area.

Now it’s time to get back to writing my school action plan and evaluation form. A bit nicer though working from home with a view of the garden. Red admirals and sparrows are back and forth across the garden currently.

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Sewerby Hall

So having finished our time at the bay it was time to say goodbye to the oystercatchers and head home. As we left over the moors we couldn’t help bu notice how stunning the heather is looking this year.

To break up the journey we stopped at Sewerby Hall. Sewerby Hall is on the edge of Bridlington. A Georgian house that was added to through the 19th century. The orangery looks particularly fine, but there was a wedding on so didn’t get a proper look.

The zoo

The house has a zoo located in the old stable space. The animals have moderate enclosures. The Capuchin monkey like looked a bit lonely.

I much proffered the wildlife we saw roaming free on the grounds.

In the walled gardens Alice got let out of the howdah for a wander. She was very taken by the pond. Eventually I would like a small water feature in our garden to attract in the frogs.

I was quite taken by the artichokes. They need a decent space though for effect so I don’t think they’ll make it into my garden.

I can make more space for alliums and globe thistles though.

Morning stroll

Early start

Following on from badger adventures and beach walking Alice decided to wake up very early on Friday. So we got to see the sun rise over the bay.

Morning explore

Alice was restless in the house so we got out to see the streets quiet. This was a nice change from the usual mass of people struggling up and down the slope.

Seafront

Down at the front there was lots of life out. The gulls and wagtails exploring the seaweed.

Nap time

I returned Alice to the house and got out for another walk on my own. I was keen to try and get a bit closer to the oystercatchers. The oystercatchers were more plentiful this time with the tide going out and the rock pools to explore. These waders use their distinctive long beak to look for molluscs amongst the pools. They are rather striking and are probably the key bird I connect with the bay.

A few in flight.

The only one in clear focus didn’t have the angle on the beak sadly.

I did manage a bit closer than the day before though to get a better shot. It’s not a postcard perfect shot, but a bit closer than I could manage with Alice on my back.

While I didn’t manage a perfect oystercatcher photo the robins were out in groups, unusually for a bird known for its territorial behaviour. They kindly obliged for photos and serenaded as I walked back up the cliff path.

Cliff View

I walked a little way along the cliff edge along the Cleveland Walk to switch to the wide angle extension to try for a shot of the whole bay.

Not a bad use of an early start.

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Bay walk

The second day at the bay we got out for a walk along the sea front with Alice’s aunt, uncle, cousin and granddad.

Max had an explore down the tunnel.

Alice had a brief walk on the sand. She didn’t like the water very much so ended up back in the howdah pretty quick.

Alice’s Uncle Rich and cousin Max explored rock pools finding a decent sized crab.

Pecking through the distant rock pools for molluscs we saw the oyster catchers.

And a few butterflies on the way back up the cliff.

Back at the house we had a sit down in the rather beautiful garden for a cuppa. Alice had a good explore.

Photo challenge

The photo challenge I’ve been taking part in had been focussing on flowers and petals this week. So I’ve been playing with aperture.

So here is the same flower at different apertures. This affects the background focus. Generally for flowers people aim to have the flower in focus, then the background in soft focus isolating the main subject of the flower.

1/6 sec. f/36 50 mm

This gives some focus to the background leaves, which here isn’t quite as nice as the soft focus.

1/200 sec. f/5.6 50 mm

1/200 sec. f/6.3 42 mm

The higher f-number giving a nicer shot in my opinion. The subject flower is shot showing the colours nicely with the background as a soft blur.

And a few other shots from the garden.

Alice has enjoyed having her cousin around.

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No fair

This weekend my twitter feed was filled with the wonderful happenings at bird fair. However there was no bird fair for me, but still plenty of birding action.

While out for a walk with Alice I finally got close enough to photograph one of the pied wagtails that hop all along the grassland verges on the seafront.

The rooks were being equally obliging for photos. The seafront corvids are often a bit skittish, but they can’t have been feeling too threatened on Sunday as they were happy for us to get fairly close.

I was set for photographing the sparrows in the rose bushes when a large flash went past my face. I just managed to snap a photo of what I think is a sparrowhawk before it disappeared into the distance. While not a great photo, I was happy to have had good enough reflexes and getting the focus to manage a photo that showed what it was.

Along the seafront there was a cormorant perching out on one of the posts. While neither this or the sparrowhawk are amazing photos I was happy to capture them. I see sparrowhawks regularly, especially on the way to work, but haven’t managed to photograph one yet. The cormorants I see flying over head most days, but rarely see them settled down on the ground. Neither are going to win me bird photographer of the year but I’m still happy to have captured the images. The winners of bird photographer of the the year were announced this weekend at birdfair. Some stunning images, well worth a browse. There is a lovely looking book available. We’re cutting back our books to make space for Alice’s belongings, so I will just be enjoying the images online.

As well as the birds there was lots of activity from the insects. The small tortoiseshells seemed to be enjoying the dry grass cuttings.

A fantastic fuzzy caterpillar made a quick dash across the path.

I spotted some camomile for wildflower hour growing out of a crack in the pavement.

Alice got out for a walk along the grass, but insisted on carrying her Meg and Mog book with her. She’s become quite attached to this one recently.

So happy to of photographed a few birds I’ve not managed yet. I’ll carry on working on improving my photos. I may eventually manage a decent focussed shot from the front of one of the sparrowhawks, but it’s a start.

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Yorkshire Wildlife Trust-North Cave Wetlands

Today Amy was off for a day at the races, so I decided to take Alice for an adventure further afield. We’ve worked our way through a good area of our more pram accessible local bridleways and public footpaths. So we headed out to one of the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust reserves at North Cave. The last time I went to the wetlands was just before Alice was born March/April time. It was an amazing time to visit for the birds as there were a lot of nesting birds including sea birds and migrants. The reserve is being developed further with large areas set to be turned into different habitats. This was just getting started when I last visited.

The site was originally a quarry that has since had areas dug, some filled with topsoil to make the islands and lakes.

Currently the main centre is a large lake. From the photo you can see the islands are providing a whole host of birds homes. The area has been managed to provide a mixture of shallow and deep lakes giving a wide range of birds suitable habitats.

The shallower lakes and reeds offering a number of waders homes.

The number of species of wildlife is immense. For me to go through all of what I saw would provide a months worth of blogs. I would have my head buried in field guides to a point where my partner would be pulling her hair out in desperation at losing her partner. So I’m just going to flag a few key species I either liked or was happy with the photographs I had taken.

I didn’t see as many birds as I could have. I didn’t think the birders would appreciate her giggling and running around the hides. The paths are designed with either tree lines or embankments to stop visitors disturbing the birds, particularly important in the breeding season. So as we gave the hides a miss I didn’t see as many birds as I could have. That said I still saw plenty.

Swans and lapwings. You have to love the lapwings crest, like a quiff gone wrong.

What I think is a pochard. I’m working on my knowledge of waders, so I don’t just have to say duck for everything vaguely similar.

What I think were house martins, from the tails and as they were stopping in the trees.

A few coots on the edge of the lake.

While I may not have seen as many birds as if we’d gone in the hides insect pickings were high. The shallow lakes and pools provide perfect habitats for dragonflies and damselflies.

The vast majority of the dragonflies I photographed are common darters. I did see a few different varieties I think I saw hawkers, but still building a knowledge of dragonflies.

I saw a number of damselflies in a number of different colours.

The variety of butterflies was astounding. Next year for the butterfly count I may need to visit North Cave. I also added one more species to this years sightings and saw flashes of what might have been different species.

The small tortoiseshell.

A mixture of whites. Butterfly Conservation have a good ID guide to distinguishing between the main cabbage whites.

Meadow brown butterfly.

A peacock.

A speckled wood

And my new sighting of the common blue. A rather stunning shade of blue particularly the furry thorax.

There was plenty to see low down as well with this rather striking cinnabar moth caterpillar.

The accessible areas are worth a visit, butt one of the amazing aspects of North Cave is that it still has massive areas being developed. New lakes are being excavated in two new zones.

While the areas don’t look like much now from photographs the areas will hopefully provide homes potentially for lots more species. Of high interest to me are the marsh harriers and stoats. By offering slightly different wetlands in each area the reserve is going to be an amazing space, providing for a massive variety of species. With 38.98 hectares it’s going to be a lovely large area. I hope a visitor centre is planned in to the new areas.

Alice wanted to go each bench as we went round, insisting on pulling her self up. On some she sat and watched the lakes, others she wanted to be straight off.

She quite enjoyed the hide at the end of the road as it had a large glass window for her to look out of, but I think the path back to the car was actually her favourite area. She had to be in the pram around the lakes perimeter, so she was happy to get out for a run. She did enjoy investigating the stones on the path, but did part with them before we left.

North Cave Wetlands are a superb testament to the wonderful work the Wildlife Trust do. Through there planning they have created an area that is supporting such an amazing wealth of life. Careful management of a disused quarry has created a site that on its own justifies my membership fees. Well worth a visit.

http://www.ywt.org.uk/reserves/north-cave-wetlands-nature-reserve

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Birds of a feather

Having written about my new bird feeder I think it’s a good time to look at what I am getting in the garden. Often Summer is quite a quiet time for the feeders with an abundance of food around for the birds they can find themselves. But with the sporadic weather going back and forth between torrential rain and baking sun when the sun is shining the birds are looking to fill up on high energy foods.

Nothing puts the pigeons off coming to the feeders. Even in the rain they will sit out on the feeder getting plumper.

With lots of young sparrows around the feeders have seen the house sparrows back and forth on lots of visits.

The starlings have been swarming in large numbers, then flitting off as quickly as they came.

The blackbirds have been enjoying the wet ground, picking though for the worms come to the surface.

The goldfinches mentioned in a previous blog.

I’ve almost seen the whole tit family. There have been blue tits, great tits, long tailed and coal tits. Although I haven’t managed any photos of the coal tits.

The ever present herring gull shed mafia has been keeping watch over its domain.

I’ve also seen wrens, collared doves, jackdaws, chaffinches and thrushes. Part of the reason for getting so many I believe is down to the variety of food on the feeders. The tits seem to be going mad for the suet and peanuts. The jackdaws come for the meal worms and kitchen scraps. The pigeons seem to devour everything. The finches like the niger and the sunflower heads.

I also have feeders on different levels. Some ground feeders and some up higher on the station. Then I also have some located hanging in the trees and these seem to be favoured by the smaller birds. It’s worth trying putting more than just a seed mix out if you want to attract a variety of birds. Or if there is something you particularly want put out appropriate food.

The insect life has also been pretty good with a good variety of butterflies, dragonflies and bees coming in.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my whistle stop tour through my garden birds and all have good weekends.

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I’ll finish with an Emily Browning poem.

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.

What was in the garden today?

Today I’ve carried on with clearing the old compost heap, which was filled with more rubbish after the house was rented than compost material and I’ve had quite a few visitors to the garden.

Big Butterfly Count

It was the last day of the Butterfly Count today. Today I just counted from the garden. I counted three red admirals, one peacock, two small whites and a painted lady. I didn’t get a photo of the painted lady, but nice to see. I’ve spotted them in the local area but not in my garden. Not a great number, but a nice variety of butterflies. Hopefully this will of been a record breaking year for the count with many people logging sightings.

Mouse

While I’ve been levelling paving slabs for compost bins to sit on I’ve had this little mouse watching. I don’t know if I should be concerned that it has little fear of me. But it was good to see it nibbling some of the unwanted weeds.

Afternoon out

With the paving slabs laid ready for delivery of compost bin later in the week I headed out with Amy and Alice as lots was going on in Hornsea today.

Hornsea District Lions Club were celebrating 50 years with free entertainment in the Memorial Gardens. They had put on a Johnny Cash tribute, “Keep it Cash“. The main singer was pretty much spot on with the voice when singing. They did two solid sets of Cash classics. Alice enjoyed it swaying back and forth, dancing to lots of songs. With plenty of tunes with good rhythm she was happy. Who’d of thought Johnny Cash would make good family fun?

In between sets there was a Punch and Judy show for the kids, but we left for a walk as it was a bit above Alice’s head.

Rescue Day

Down at the sea front it was emergency rescue day. Many of the emergency services had representatives demonstrating their jobs. The rescue dogs were demonstrating their water searches when we arrives. It was good to see the divers showing how they rescue stranded marine animals. A nice little finish to Marine Week

Then we returned for some more Cash in the gardens. A good day, a garden job done, some wonderful wildlife visitors and a marvellous afternoon of music. What have you done with your Sunday Fun day?

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Peacock

Haiku for a peacock butterfly

Two eyes gazing up

Staring blindly up above

Gone in a moment


Yesterday I saw my first peacock butterfly of this year. However due to a couple holidaying in Hornsea asking directions I only managed a blurry photo. I was a little disappointed to miss out on photographing such a lovely specimen at its full potential.

Then today after putting Alice down for her morning nap I saw a dark flash out the window. I rushed out to investigate, heart fluttering, to see it was what I thought. Another peacock. This time settled on my hydrangea. The hydrangeas would probably not have been something I’d choose to plant. They came with the garden, but they are very vibrant at the moment and make a rather pleasant backdrop.

 

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Lunchtime count

Yesterday the Big Butterfly Count was encouraging people to do a lunchtime count. Just 15 minutes counting butterflies some time between twelve and two. The weather had not been ideal butterfly weather. It had been blustery and showers through the morning. It was starting to cheer up, when at five to twelve the heavens opened with torrential rain. My butterfly count number was looking to be zero, a golden duck. I resigned myself to maybe seeing one or two whites if I was lucky.

So I got on with jobs. I put my waterproofs on and got to work clearing rubble at the bottom of the garden to take to the tip. The first load was taken in the rain and no chance to do my count. The second load of rubble went to the tip with the rain still coming down.

Then as suddenly as the rain had come the clouds parted for beautiful sunshine. I was near the brownfield site I’d walked a few weeks back. So I parked the car and got out to see whether my butterfly count would remain zero or improve. This area is overgrown with thistles and nettles and areas of long grass. A perfect set up for many butterflies. There are a number of trees and then more open areas.

Cabbage whites

First sightings were of the cabbage white butterflies: the small and large white. I will admit distinguishing is hard as they don’t really like to stop still to be identified and their equally inconsiderate about pausing for photographs, but I did manage a few. There is a difference in size for a start. The black tips are smaller on the small white and more vertical than the horizontal black tip of the large white according to UK butterflies.

Speckled Wood

Along the tree lined edge I saw a handful of speckled wood butterflies. The speckled wood favours dappled light from a woodland canopy. Their distribution is traditionally meant to be further south than me, but they are apparently widening their locations. I imagine, as with a number of other species, climate change is giving them better conditions across more of the north.

Red Admiral

The red admiral sounds like it should be a villain in an old war movie, but after the whites they are probably the most common butterfly I see in my garden and local area. They adore the buddleia’s which grow in abundance here. With many elderly home owners being unable to maintain their gardens they seed and grow out of hand. When I’ve set up butterfly feeding stations in the garden, leaving over ripe fruit out, they are the most likely to visit.

Meadow Brown

Meadow brown’s are a commons species across the UK. They can found in habitats with medium grass, so meadows, roadside verges, neglected gardens and the edges of woods. That said I’ve never spotted one since moving and never photographed one before. It was nice to find something new on a count I was expecting to be a failure. It was a rather raggedy meadow brown possibly not got much more life in it.

There was also a lot of dragonflies and damselflies hovering over the wasteland, but few stopped for photos and I wasn’t there to count them I didn’t give them quite as much attention, but did get one clear photo.

Holly Blue

At this point I had spent my 15 minutes on my count, so I headed back to the car and headed home. Coming back in through the gate I spotted one final butterfly; the holly blue.

So what was looking to be a very disappointing count turned out pretty good. Six species of butterfly. I normally see ringlets and small tortoiseshells in the grasses, so surprised not to see them. I have also seen commas there before, but considering the weather I don’t think that was too bad a count. By doing these counts it helps put numbers to the species and this all helps with their conservation. It’s also a very enjoyable way to spend 15 minutes observing these wonderful insects. An ideal activity to do with your children or enjoying a moment of peace on your own.

What butterflies have you seen recently?

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