Welcome to the Warden's Ramblings page where you can find out about his activities and thoughts related to the nature reserve and wildlife in general in his informal monthly review.
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Saturday morning, today it’s the Denso Marston friends voluntary work party. It’s dark, wet and miserable! Drove through sleet not a great start to the day alas when I arrived at the reserve spring was in the air, Song thrushes were singing as were robins.
Now anybody walking by the cabin would have had a nice surprise, well sort of, especially if they were birders as they would had heard the muffled calls from Ptarmigan, Red and Black grouse . None of these birds actually have been recorded or even dreamt about on the reserve. The reason for listening to grouse and other birds is that I have got sick of listening to the radio. I have listened to Radio 4 for donkey’s years but these days the news is all doom and gloom. Listen to bird song it brings a smile to everyone’s face. I am working through a new bird calls and songs CD it is especially pleasing listening to it on the car radio when you pull up at traffic lights and the car opposite is thumping with some drum and bass ‘tune’ which makes your fillings rattle, the answer to this ‘noise’ turn up you CD of bird song and look across at their faces when they hear a booming Bittern. It is priceless.
Just had a Crested tit calling now that would be a mega! As it only appears in Scotland.
As some of you may know, we visit Scotland a lot and particularly the islands, one place that I have a particular fondness for is Eriskay and Barra where one of my most favourite of movies was filmed; Whiskey Galore. Recently there has been an ‘re make’ of the film I for one don’t like remakes especially if the original is a classic, why mend it if it isn’t broke is my motto.
Several days ago I bought the new version, I have now watched it and it is a nice movie but it is all filmed on the mainland you can tell it’s not an island. Islands have a feel. It just hasn’t that feel.
It is strange considering that we all live on an island. Living on an island is unique and is special; especially the Scottish islands. For those that don’t know the story the film was based on a true event, Compton Mackenzie wrote a fictional story about a ship that goes aground off Barra (little Toddy) and its cargo is 50 thousand crates of whiskey. This all happened during the Second World War and due to rationing the island had out of whiskey. So with this ship coming to a grinding halt next to their little island the islanders take it upon themselves to liberate the whiskey. It is a wonderful movie to watch. Watch them both and don’t forget have a wee dram to accompany the film purely for authenticity.
It was lovely to be on Barra and having a cup of tea in one of the tea rooms used in the original movie and all the talk was about the new film and how it was filmed on the mainland. With all what’s going on in the world listening to that conversation made you feel good to be alive.
The weather has now improved. The first of the working gang has arrived. The first tea of the day drunk and chat about what we are going to do. We go and collect the tools and we crack on while in the back of my mind a little island still hangs on and tonight. I think I will have a wee dram.
Denso Marston Nature Reserve Warden
It is 9.15pm on what sounds like a very wet evening, I know it’s raining because there is a constant but relaxing rhythm playing on my shed roof. I know If, I pull back the curtains I would see it and feel it and if I opened the bedroom window I would probably hear a hoot of an Tawny owl.
This evening I had a phone call from an old birding mate of mine telling that a good mate of ours, Will, had become gravely ill. This came as a shock as it always does. I hope everything works out for him. As we talked as with all birders the conversation worked its way to birding. During the chatter I mentioned that I had seen the American Redstart on Barra last autumn. John questioned my parentage! We both laughed. He asked if I had reached (my ) magic 400 species I told him yes I had I am now on 406. It was John that got me interested in looking for rare birds and Susan my ex-wife John and Will had some cracking days out and we saw some amazing birds some I hadn’t even heard of like Oriental Pratincole we also went to Bulgaria with Will and John and also Texas with John. Good memories. John and will are two of the lucky ones who have seen over 500 species of birds in this country dream time for me. Whilst we were talking John asked ‘what happened to your ramblings ? ‘ I told him things had just got too busy.
later, I listened to the rain outside. Read a splendid chapter called Murder in the afternoon by Francis Brody a detective novel set around Guisley. Whilst I was reading I thought about Will and I thought about what John had said about the ramblings. One or two other people had said that they had missed my ramblings. Some where glade to be rid of it too!
I thought and thought, listened to the rain still dancing on my shed roof and also thought beggar I had put moth trap on tonight at the reserve no moths I guess in the morning. I thought about the ramblings and started typing, I now think it is due time that the ramblings should return.
Next question what would I write about, in the past the ramblings went everywhere. A few weeks ago I did what everybody does and googled my name. I typed in Stephen Warrillow and pressed search and came up with a Warrillow site! There were photos of what appeared to be members of the Warrillow clan, I was amazed at how many of us there were I thought we were a rare breed! while looking through the pictures there was a picture of a poppy seen from a trench I clicked on it and low and behold there was a transcript of my ramblings. It was the one that I wrote when I first went to the Western Front. The picture was from the Yorkshire trench. There were also pictures from the Somme. This year I will be returning to the Somme to commemorate the end of the First World War.
Then I thought where were the rest of my ramblings, were they out in the internet galactic ether floating around for the rest of eternity! It had just turned 9.30pm, the rain had stopped, time for a nip of whiskey from the island of Islay then it was time to think what I could include in my new ramblings. Should it be all about the reserve, or should it be about everything or could it possibly be about 2018 the year I started birding again. Time for bed and think those thoughts.
8.05 Friday morning, down on the reserve and it is light spring on its way 4mm of rain had fallen over night according to our rain gauge. And I had caught a moth! A Pale brindled beauty. I Fed the birds, Looked at this page my Ramblings had finally arrived
Denso Marston Nature Reserve Warden
What an exhausting year this has been. I needed to relax and how better than to spend the day with 59 children scavenger hunting. Believe me it works. Thackley School came down and had a rare old time. A good old scavenger hunt helps blow the old cobwebs away! Earlier that morning I was joined by Andrew to lay the reef on our memorial for the Somme. Pretty soon I will be going back there. Going there makes you stand back and think about everything. A good antidote to all what is going on.
The other day I read a book ‘24 Hours on the Somme’ the personal memoir of a 20 year old infantry officer who led his troops ‘over the top’ on the 1st July 1916. There were two things that struck me this lad was only 20 years old what responsibility to lay upon shoulders so young. Could our youngsters today have done the same thing?
And the other thing that crossed my mind was, on the day he and his troops went over the top and into no man’s land he commented that he was startled. By a Hare. That stopped me dead in my tracks how was there a hare on the Somme. He said the ‘startled creature ran out with eyes bulging with fear.’ The thing that came to me in all that chaos the one thing that startled him was a hare. What other wildlife was on the Somme that day? One can only wonder and did they survive.
We have just two years left of commemoration for the First World War I have been thinking how can we mark the next two years? And how do we do the end of the war. Will it be celebration? I think not.
Our memorial to the Somme will stay up until November.
And how did the children get on? A very exciting and very tiring day but worth it all round. Talking of rounds mines a pint.
Denso Marston Nature Reserve Warden
The wall I’m sat on is getting a tad cold. I’m waiting for a group of Brownies, I’m heading towards and probably just over 80 + groups for the year. The sun is now heading towards another nights slumber or if you live down under just waking up. I noticed up the path blackberries are now very plump and ready for a crumble. That reminds me I’m baking for the next Spiders; Blackberry and apple crumble devine.
Doesn’t it feel good when a job finally comes to an end. The education compound is pretty near damned well finished the Wednesday gang have hammered, sawn, probably cursed at times. Definatly pondered measured, hammered and sawn again but have done a cracking job and now its start of the autumn/winter reserve management jobs. Trees to be tidying, hedges to be laid footpaths to be found beneath the falling yellow and red leaves and bird food to be put out and the skies to be watched. The first redwings have passed through no fieldfares as yet but at the moment the winds are all to pot. Too many southerlies we want northerlies lots of chilly weather! Guess I’m in the minority of one here. The advantage however of the cold weather is the roaring log fire spitting flames up the chimney and a smallish glass of a well known whiskey from the isle of Jura to warm the cockles!
It has been a a quieter migration this year with not as many birds passing. The coast has still been very good with several new birds to my list and a new life bird a Siberian Stonechat now taking my British list to 398 (still need to triple check my numbers) I missed one of my bogey birds twice in two days a juvenile Pallid Harrier. I will be patient. I will get it one day – would be nice to have it as my 400th now that would definately would be a alarge double of a Juranian whiskey.
It’s going to be a very busy winter this year so it’s time to sharpen up the old bill hook and it’s time to get cutting, laying, coppicing ready for when spring comes.
Denso Marston Nature Reserve Warden
Oh well it didn’t last long did it? My ramblings are well, back. It sort of dawned on me the other day. I’ve actually enjoyed rambling. So what have I been up to, since we last shared a page or two? Work mainly. It has been very busy down here. The summer school holidays were very busy. Plenty turned out, the first one; pond dipping had 80 very enthusiastic visitors both young and old. It was made particularly interesting considering we have only 30 nets. Not panicking on the outside. I had plan B, C and D lined up. Painting and drawing. It never ceases to amaze me how youngsters still love to paint and draw. Forget computers. First give the youngest ones paint and loads of paper and enough room to make as much mess as possible. Bingo! The older ones who have to be cool draw using pens etc. the first 5 minutes if the pond dipping session was mayhem but myself and Anna (Volunteer) coped extremely well. I didn’t lock myself away and pretend it wasn’t happening. Nets were handed out and so were drawing sets and it all fell into place just like the last piece you put into a jigsaw. Bliss.
Between dashing around managing the reserve, with groups, classes I have sneaked in the odd birding/twitching foray. And it has been brill. I have seen several species which I haven’t seen for years and most of them have been in Gods own country. Happy bunny I have been. I had a quick count of my life list the other day and I’m just a few ticks off my magic 400 species. I also sorted out Scotland.
My Scottish list which stands at 180 species not bad, though I do say so myself. There are a couple birds I need to catch up with north of the border, Jay and kingfisher which are proving quite troublesome.
So where have I been? I promise to keep this down to five volumes. I caught up with a splendid pair of Montague’s Harriers at Blacktoft Sands RSPB this apparently this has been the second year that they have bred in that area around the reserve. I managed to see both the male and female. The female was a new plumage for me. Whilst I was at the reserve my pager prompted me to nipped over to a park in the middle of hull and where I saw my second Red rumped swallow which had disappeared earlier in the morning only to be re-found by me as I walked onto site. Which was very polite of the bird it left me with a very pleasant feeling that. Chuffed I was indeed.
A trip to North Cave NR proved fruitful with a cracking Temminck’s stint and Green sandpiper. Though not at all rare but I had cracking views of a Sedge warbler in full belt, it was singing so loudly the reed it was on vibrated!
At some point I will have a count up how many birds I have seen in 2015. Homes been good with a Cuckoo out of the back garden and over the last couple of weeks a Barn owl has been hunting in the back field though worryingly it has been hunting a lot during the day. I hope it will be alright.
Diverging from birding (big sigh from everyone)we went for a meal other day it was ok but it was the pudding that caused a stir I had jam roly poly a bog, standard favourite no fuss, no nonsense then can you imagine my utter confusion, when it arrived on a wooden plate and the custard was in a bottle.
Confused, I was. Call me old fashioned but I really prefer plates, dishes. Believe me I do. Traumatised I was. What next rice pudding with a straw.
Bring back plates! The natural way to eat!
It’s been a year of old memories. As you know I don’t do memories that well. This one however was lovely. The Clangers are back! I must admit I was a little nervous about the first episode would it be all computer generated like everything else. No! The Clangers were real (real in a matter speaking) all knitted and looking pretty damned good. No matter what rubbish is going in the world or what is thrown at you, an episode of the clangers makes you feel the world is good. The world is good.
And also getting a juvenile Black Stork at Spurn makes you feel good too. I got one of a family of Storks that had bred in France and had decided to pop over to Spurn and Aberdeen. I did Spurn. Granted it only just stand there, for a while. Then to my relief it moved its head and wings – proving it wasn’t stuffed.
I have seen various other bits and bobs through the summer. But now I’m back onto the vismiging on the reserve. The highlight so far wasn’t a bird but a Muntjac deer over the river. My first in Yorkshire. It’s great to back doing vismiging the art of spotting tiny dots in the sky and turning them into birds will I beat the 15,000 wood pigeons from a couple years back. Time will only tell.
It’s good to be rambling again.
See you next time.
Denso Marston Nature Reserve Warden
It seems an age since ramblings last found its way onto a page or two. So what has been happening? I’ve been on a twitch or two starting on the 1st January normally I get the car or now my van and I toodle off searching for birds to get my none existent bird year list on its way. Now imagine 31st January already 3 months ago – have you noticed the years passing too, way too fast, I wish it would slow down and relax, mellow out pull a beer and be calm.
‘Where you off to tomorrow?’
‘Think I’ll start at the reserve then I think I just might go to Spurn’
‘Sounds good’ she said
‘Yep’ I replied.
Then I looked at the Pager the Holy Grail finder. And my did it do it. I’m not too far away from my 400th species as explained in past Ramblings. I am desperately trying to get back into birding and it is slowly coming back. I digress which is unusual for me. The pager bleeped more like screamed at me, if it was put on vibrate mode it would have exploded. Yes it has a vibrate mode. I won’t divulge past events concerning said pager. But we did like putting it on the table in the pub and get very much a childlike chap thing watching the pagers vibrate and charge off in different directions across the table bouncing off pints of beer. Ah the bliss of a simpler life.
Why did the pager try desperately to grab my attention? Has I have said on numerous occasions I am near my 400th species. I have been looking at my list and certain birds I do need to get. Like Short toed lark had it in Bulgaria but not here. My bogey bird Pallid Harrier chased one up in Northumberland and dipped. White billed Diver ahhhh! Just one I cannot connect with.
Bogey and dipped what is all that about you ask. Bogey bird nothing to do with runny noses it means a bird you just can’t connect with sometimes it never happens but sometimes it can arrive years later and dip simply means missed the damned thing. In a recent edition of Birdwatching magazine they talked about different kind of lists there are loads but one was interesting a dip list stuff you don’t get. Many moons ago we went on a mega twitch day there had been a good fall of migrants on the east coast we set off very early and had a cracking dipping day we missed 5 Ortalan buntings, a white stork and black kite which flew over a site where we missed the bird by 5 minutes. You learn to grin and bear it. Back to the pager, it was screaming and whistling at me I picked it and nearly dropped it. There are some birds that are simply just dream birds some you KNOW you will never see. This was one of those birds a Little Bustard on the east coast. Slap me silly.
‘A change of plans’ I said almost calmly. ‘The East coast beckons’
Do you remember as a child the night before Christmas you could never sleep well I was just the same. Tingly was not the word. It was a dreamless night. And a very long one. Then I woke up. Kit ready and off I went. On arriving on site there was cars everywhere I walked up through the village and up to where the bird hopefully was. There were birders everywhere. I hate the walk/run to a life bird. The nervous tension, the excitement the thought of it flying away just before you get there the local Sparrowhawk taking it out. Over enthusiastic photographer or birder chasing it off.
I got there I joined the great line of birders. Any signs of hangovers looked very distant. There was a field of Kale. a big field of kale and there the bird was sat there a brisk wind blowing over its head. There were only scope views you wouldn’t have found it with just binoculars.
It was very contenting day. I did then go to Spurn where I got a Black Brant.
A Harlequin Duck turned up just north of Aberdeen. It was ten years since I had seen a pair of female harlequins. I hadn’t seen a male. So a cunning plan was plotted we went to see Marlene and Danny which is always a delight. We also needed a break and I needed to try out my new van. It was decided to go straight after the Feed the Birds event. It was a reasonably pleasant run Emma found out where all the drafts come in around the cabin. She wrapped herself up in coats and kept perhaps reasonably warm! We got there eventually and had a good sleep the next day we were going in my van when suddenly it was decided we would go up in Marlene and Danny’s car luxury. We set off to Aberdeen I ticked off birds as we went. Marlene and Emma caught up with each other. We got to the country park where the bird was and no sign. A dip. Not good. Don’t like dipping. Luckily a couple of birders came and said it had moved further down river so off we went and it was a struggle at times and a few frowns from me as is expected. We found the part of the river where the Harlequin was thought to be. AND nothing OH DEAR or words to that effect. Suddenly out of the corner of my eye I saw a birder who saw me and waved us across and there he was. The harlequin bobbing up and down in the flowing river. And what a cracker he was. Suddenly he came down to about 6 foot from us. The Gods were good to us that day. We left a chap from Barnsley sat on a rock photographing the bird. I took a picture of him taking a picture of the bird. Content was not the word. Rather chuffed more like.
The nice thing about the Harlequin was when it turned up the bird was a first winter male so it was in winter plumage when we saw him he was changing into a rather splendid adult male if it sticks till April it would be a absolutely stunning bird to see.
I went back to the reserve very chuffed. And promptly found our first female Mandarin duck and at the end of the month a male House Sparrow in the factory grounds if the rest of the year goes like this then it will prove to be rather splendid. Watch this space.
Denso Marston Nature Reserve Warden
Another soggy one, I’ve worked out doors for all my life I’m now getting bored with rain. I’ve found aches in places I didn’t know existed!
Well, another year almost over, it’s been a busy one and a big thank you to Denso and the friends group for all their support throughout 2014. Looking forward to another busy one in 2015 I just hope that it will go a little slower. I’m just about to start on the 2014 report. I think it will be a good one. And I am pleased at having passed over a hundred species of moths.
The management plan for the winter is going ok. And I’ve got another big job to do Christmas shopping with very few sleeps to go I better get my skates on to get it done car boots are a god send over the last few weeks there has been some good stuff.
So I’ll be off to get the final bits and bobs in the next few days then will get on with the January ramblings and see what that brings.
Season’s greetings to everyone
Denso Marston Nature Reserve Warden
Outside, rain pours, the whole world’s oceans, rivers, ponds and puddles seem to have gathered together and evaporate and travel to Denso Marston Nature Reserve and they have decided to week with laughter upon us. But we have the last laugh, we have a education room, shelter from the storm (sorry Bob). And we laugh back. But the rain has chosen its time carefully in a couple of hours I have a wildlife walk, the Evening roost re-visited. Most of the birds that will be coming over will be gulls and they don’t give too hoots about the weather. However we also have Jackdaws they may well have other ideas. And also the visitors to the walk. Who really wants to stand in a field in pouring rain looking up at the sky hoping that something will happen?
I do, and I know birds will come through, thick and fast, luckily my binoculars are waterproof and my jackets still soaked from yesterdays downpours will be so wet that they won’t let anymore water through as a matter of principle.
And anyway its only water. We’ve had it for years. And it also gives us something to complain about. And tomorrow when the sun rises and the skies are a glorious blue (but with clouds neatly scattered in amongst the blue bits- we don’t want too much blue clouds are ace – Cloud Appreciation Society – check it out!) where was I? yes, the sky all pretty with no rain, it will give us something to talk about and we will talk ABOUT THE WEATHER. We love it. to digress as I write this a robin is singing outside the education centre. Its song all fluting and very relaxing and I wonder if its moaning about the weather. If it is, it’s doing it very cheerily.
It is a funny sound hearing heavy rain down here it sounds just like the sea, the same relentless wave rolling and very sleepy. We are going to get very wet. I am sure there is a poem waiting to flood out (sorry!).
Anyway, to take our minds away from the weather, (its sounds like its stopping out there, lulling me into a false sense of security) we have been checking out the boards in the last couple of weeks to see how the rodent populations are getting on. And they are doing very well. Yesterday we checked the boards and it was surprising how many new nests we found one looked to have been made that day and it had 3 wood mice in it. intotal we found 12 mammals and when you looked at it the area then looked at the reserve overall it makes you wonder how many short tailed field voles and wood mice are there on the whole reserve. Though one mammal we haven’t seen for a while is the shrew. They are about I am sure but where. It would be great to do a full mammal trap through the reserve but mammal traps are very expensive which is a pity. But it is nice to lift the boards and see these creatures up close and personal.
Wood mouse checking me out.
It’s still raining out there. I have put the final touches to the war memorial display in the education centre. This year we have information of one of the names that is upon the memorial: Joseph Paley. We have written and photographs and these have taken centre stage on the display. The display will be up for a month.
It is important that we remember them: Lest we forget.
You may remember from last month’s ramblings I had started the Vismig recordings, it has done quite well we have reached just short of 13,000 wood pigeons 2,000 short of last year. But I had a nice surprise when the other day 25 Whooper swan flew over and they flew in a V formation it looked stunning mixed in with Fieldfares and redwings flying below them you got a real sense of migration happening. It was a wonderful sight.
I’d like to finish this month’s ramblings with another scribbling from the writers group. And guess what the oceans may have just emptied its gone quiet out there. All that happened during lunch time!
Frozen in time
The Sky: covered blue, a colour hard to describe
Briefly showed through clouds, ironed, smoothed cotton wool
Who soon, turn, revealing their true autumn selves
Grey, then sharpened flashes of light
Pierce through the malignant clouds, then
Bleeds as autumn fades.
A gull, whose sliver of silver cuts sharpened wings
scythes at a damaged sun, who hides its scars behind the clouds.
The Trees: willows bend by weight
Others smaller, younger maybe wiser or just flexible
Stand erect like pencils, ignoring the wind nor the rain
But they need them like a lover, a burden to shed
who to let fall, face to the ground
who then get sucked up by worms
dragged towards Hades, into eternal blackness then forgotten.
The Pond: flat as a plate, duck weed spreads
And a pond skater, kicks ripples away from its feet
stops, remembers, then becomes a light bite for the pike.
Phragmites reeds, tall feathered light headedness
Sway in the late arriving breeze the sun
Retracts towards bedtime, everything casts skeletons,
through feathered craniums. It is too cold to explode.
A moorhen: creeps, past suppertime, shouldering its way past
reeds, its dock martin feet, scares the living daylights
Out of the cruising pond skaters, who scatter like exploding stars.
And as the sun sets, crowns of trees, turn skeletal
Beneath the stars, branches burst like frightened umbrellas
Exposing their innards then cast shadows, long web like
And unsuspecting moths, late for this time of year
the curl up into the dark web, clutching to eternal life.
Denso Marston Nature Reserve Warden
Whilst travelling to the reserve today, I heard a report that scientists had found new mountain ranges off the Gulf of Mexico. I thought about this, and John Humphries, who was leading the interview, said “Isn’t it amazing that they have found new mountains under the sea by the Gulf of Mexico, considering how much research there has been done. You would expect it out in the oceans of the world, but not there.” I thought how wonderful that there are still things undiscovered. Won’t the world be a sadder place when everything has been found?
This reminded me that a few weeks ago there was a report about the new Times World Atlas that is out. For the first time, it has the maps of the mountains beneath the south polar ice caps. I will be buying that.
Well autumn has just about arrived, birds are moving through, not in huge numbers. Having said that, I did have our biggest count of meadow pipits the other day, as 120 passed through. It is mainly wood pigeon that I have been counting; I wonder if we will surpass the fifteen thousand we had last year. It has been a funny autumn so far because of it being so mild. There have been good birds found on the coast but we have had very little here. Butterflies and the odd dragonfly are still putting in an appearance; soon they will be gone and all that will be left will be the birds. Not quite just birds, our populations of wood mice and short tailed field voles are still breeding. We had some sightings of a cracking fox, which is in immaculate condition.
I have started a new writers club on the reserve, which is doing quite well. The creative juices are now flowing and I have started writing again, which is nice. We have different subjects each week. If anyone is interested, we meet at the education centre every Thursday morning at 10 a.m. and the session goes on till 12noon. Come down, its fun.
This is a shorter than normal ramblings this month because everything has been so busy
Here is one of the scribbling I did with the writers group
This is about the vismiging that I have been doing over the last month.
Daybreak broke late this morning
Summer’s about to lapse
Autumn has now found its place
A breeze blows quite steady
No mist today, and it’s quite warm
7.40am, the first black headed fly through
Huddled in groups beneath duvet clouds
Small sprinklings of gold, bounce then flit
Goldfinches gather. Then head west
More black heads cut through the wind, landlocked
Searching for sea, they are so much out of place
A few redwings this morning, the main batch
Flew through yesterday, the sun peeks
Over the top of the leafless trees
Wood pigeons lazy, arise after 8
And soon flocks 20, 50 strong play catch up
With the morning soon over a thousand make the dash
Before breakfast, some spread loosely
Some thick as jam. All heading for god knows where
And the counting becomes manic, spare pens
The movement seems to last forever
Wood pigs, BHG’s, goldy’s, mallard
And sprinklings of titmice, through the bare trees
And a roe deer, stares, black eyes piercing
Dead within the hawthorn bush
And over the pond, a mallard lands
Casting a thousand halo’s
And all the birds have gone, just before breakfast.
Denso Marston Nature Reserve Warden
Forget the first couple of days, the travelling, the long drive up, the tiredness, the odd snarl here and there. We were now on Skye watching fish, swimming in a bay, clear as a freshly filled bath, the shearwaters, blinding the sea, cutting through the waves with knife wings, the juvenile sea eagle flapping like a drunk slow on beer through a cackling of gulls which had dived bombed it as we prepared to board the ferry.
We shall forget watching Emma, as she turned a beautiful pea green, as the ferry bobbed gently side to side and the disappointment of not seeing an otter at Lock Maddy. We had again arrived on the Hebrides’. This time, no wind to torment me. This time a light wind that seemed to give me a welcome cuddle. This time I had maps so I knew where I was. And this time I really birded. The cottage on Ardevacher Point, was, to say the least, well situated. From the front room window I could see the sea, gently unfurling its secrets, and round its edges birds nibbled at it wings. We spent the day around South Uist where we visited Homore bay and caught sight of a Citrine Wagtail, not the bright lemon yellow adult male, just a juvenile bird, though still just as stunning in its pale body overcoat and knife stripes of white on its wings. How it gave us a run around, amongst the brown carpet of discarded seaweed that had been spat out the night before. Around it was a melee of white and pied wagtails which chased and took flight with the many meadow pipits and straggling white arses, or commonly known wheatears.
We had a bit of lunch and spent an hour or maybe more down at the old ferry port of Lock Spigoiut where a seal smiled at us then played with Emma as she tried desperately to see it again. A busy day, then a pint at the cottage where I saw, twisting and rolling in the surf, an otter, which dipped, dived, then appeared out of the water, then dived back again. All this happening over ten minutes then it swam out to sea and round the cove, never to be seen again.
We listened to the Archers, which I must say sounds very sexy on the Hebrides and then a comedy about pond life called ‘Gossip from the pond’ which had the life cycle of both a frog and dragonfly After the last piece of steak pie was eaten, a quarter of an hour programme on the life as a Country-folk that led to the news and the real world. Looks like a fortnight of bliss; no internet access, although the phone is still working. I took a good number of pictures then realised I’d left my battery charger back home so I limited my photos to five a day then it died and that was it for the day!
Out early again. Ardevachar point is a lot smellier this morning, due to change in wind direction. Lots of Ringed Plover a species which is definitely not on the decrease here. Only a small amount of birding today, but started with mega twitch, a walk to wood job as time was limited, Emma was having her hair done, well her fringe done as she was looking a bit like a shaggy dog and she needed to see where she was going whilst driving! A quick five minute snip and off we went. Life seems to have got a lot faster up here on the Hebrides. There seems to be a lot more people. Soon there will be more people than hedgehogs. We have seen quite a few hedgehogs this time, granted mainly squished ones. I was chatting to the RSPB warden at Balaranald and he said the hogs were still a problem with nesting birds.
It’s funny really, this time the place doesn’t feel as oppressive, it’s not as windy. It’s interesting
Now several more days into the holiday, we spent the other day down on Eriskay, home of Whiskey galore, nothing has changed since our last visit. But it’s a super place and before we leave I will be watching that movie. Whilst down at Eriskay, Emma did some rock pooling and her exercises all over the place and is walking more without her stick.
The birding has been good. Waders have started to pick up and it’s been a challenge, I didn’t realise how I had become so rusty on their identification. We had a cracking Peregrine take out some poor unfortunate wader, the alarm calls were heard all over the bay. The otter made a brief pass by the cottage again and last night I spent half the night watching for the northern lights, but no joy as there was quite a bit of cloud cover.
The other morning I went out to do my morning birding when I heard a corncrake only to see that it was a starling impersonating one! Or was it?
I’m finding I’m still rusty with some of the bird identification but I sat and had a crash course on waders, self taught! I’m getting there. I need to get out birding again.
I’m writing this, looking over the bay meadow. Pipits are flitting about all over , so far this morning no sign of the adult and juvenile red throated diver. The youngster yesterday was seen begging for food. There have been a few wheatears passing through. This morning there doesn’t seem to be as many waders on the far bay, though last night we did have dog cause havoc amongst the birds. Sometimes I just wish.
Just had all waders fly in at 9am, they must have had a lie in this morning. Just about to have breakfast and will see where we are off to today.
After the last few days of serious toothache, the tooth fairy has taken the pain away. What a relief. I have never felt such pain. Today we travelled up to Berneray, North Uist. Here we found a table top sale. Forever looking for a bargain, we went and explored it. Most of the things were either bought in or locally made stuff. What I was looking for was bric a brac and I found a couple of old books the first was “Healing threads” traditional medicines of the highlands and islands. I had a quick check through and found a section on the Corpse and found the following description ‘drinking from a suicides skull was a treatment common to many localities, and varied on the west coast by giving the patient water to drink in which the corpse was washed’. I wanted the book and a sale was agreed, 50p, what a bargain also the drinking of the water was also a cure for epilepsy! The second one, also 50p, was a delightful book called ‘Lets go for a walk’ by W.Percival Westell, it is all about nature walks, inside it has the inscription to Mary from daddy Easter 1934.
We had a trundle around the island then lunch beckoned. We went to the Lobster Pot café and what a place the owner a lady of a formidable stature who said it how it was. Had a conversation with a couple of tourists which went
Lady of the couple: “Are the cakes home made?”
Lady of the couple: “Are the scones home made?”
Lady of the couple “Where do you get them?”
Owner: “From my freezer”
Lady of the couple: face pale: ”Oh, I thought you would get up at 4.30 in the morning to bake them”
Owner: “Yeah dead right!”
Lady of the couple: silence
Owner: “I make a batch up every month and throw them into my freezer”
She said this with a very dead pan face It was amazing! A lady after my own heart and whilst she was cooking the food she dropped something which was followed by a loud expletive. Wonderful.
We travelled back to the cottage, I grabbed my scope and bins and set off to bird the bay by the cottage when I realised I had forgot my pen, “Oh dear”, I thought. As I turned, I saw a dead bird on the road. It was a female wheatear which I took it back to the cottage. I put it in a sealable bag then put it under a bucket outside, then it was suggested that I put it in the freezer. I just hope I don’t forget it when we go home! Wandering over the Machair I met up with the birders who are stopping near us. They told me there were 2 Buff Breasted Sandpipers. This species normally resides in the USA. Got them both so I was a very happy bunny.
Can’t wait for tomorrow, gonna get searching for other bits and pieces.
We had a walk on the Machair to give Emma a bit of exercise. I was out first light and it was superb to see literally hundreds of skylarks filling the sky. It has been a long time since I had seen so many. I did manage to get to see one of the Buff breasted sandpipers later in the morning. It was interesting to walk the Machair, there were still lots of wildflowers in flower, and the different species were bewildering. What I needed was a portable Harry to be with me to identify them! Emma did well till we hit the beach, where she found the walking difficult. On the beach we were surrounded by lots and lots of sanderlings, darting back and forth from the rippling tide. I then suggested we walk on the more solid sand to make it easier walking. Then I don’t know what happened, Emma must have got a second wind has she suddenly shot off at break neck speed! I had to run to keep up.
When we got back to the cottage I needed a much needed rest. Then lunch.
One of the things I wanted to do was to do was a count of the species of birds that I have seen in Scotland and it stands at 172 which isn’t that bad, not brilliant, but I have some crackers on there like Black stork, American coot, Eye-browed thrush and Collared flycatcher. I also did a count of the species seen from all the holidays we have done and that stands at 152; an acceptable number. You may surmise that this is being written whilst up here in on the Hebrides’. The reserve hasn’t been too far away, I have had three enquires from groups which I have dealt with, as I brought diary up just in case. I even work while on holiday!
Tomorrow we are off to Barra.
Nearly at the end of the holiday, the birds have just about dried up but it’s been good and the weather has been lousy, sunny and warm with very little wind! I could have left half of the gear I brought at home but doesn’t that always happens. We went to Barra and what a lovely place it is. My highlight was visiting Castle bay, home of the filming of Whiskey Galore. I have never been into visiting film sets or anything like that but this is very much the exception. It was ‘brill’ when we got back I watched the movie, in fact watched it twice!
If you saw on the news, chaos on the Hebrides, it was me, as I drove for the first time on the Hebrides. It’s easy, but you have to have your wits about you, it’s like being on a huge scaleletrix track with the all the controls set on fast! At one point I did cause a traffic jam (4 cars) much to the amusement of Emma, she’s used to driving here. One thing, I will never complain about Bradford again.
I missed my walk around the bay today, slept in. Not done too badly though, 99% of time I have been up and out early. Last night, after watching Whiskey Galore I nipped outside and the sky was clear except for billions of stars. The last time I saw it like this was in Texas. I had crippling views of the Milky Way and had large and small plough, Virgo, but they were difficult to sort out through the mangle of stars. Whilst I was watching the clouds I heard a grunt, a hedgehog. Not good. Well not on here anyway they are still causing havoc with the nesting populations of birds.
We are off exploring again. Tomorrow we may be in a new country.
Now up to 8 enquiries for groups to visit the reserve! Good job I had brought diary. It was a gentler day today. Just had an amble around, but I must admit getting tired of being in the car needing to walk it got so hot! During the stay we have visited quite a few war memorials and graveyards. There are so many, like the rest of the country , men killed in the First World War. Up on the islands, what kind of impact did it have on the island communities we will never know. Forgot to mention, Emma’s back driving. I got back to driving less.
Think I’m going to start reading Whiskey Galore tonight and will have a quick look at the stars later on. Let’s hope the midges aren’t as hungry tonight. They are getting very vicious. Must because it’s getting near to the referendum vote!
We visited a small ruined church at Homore, it is an amazing place. There is a building which I’m not sure about, but may have been a very small church and is only about 15foot long by 8 feet wide. The graveyard appears to be a burial mound. We had a good look around the area, the stone work of the buildings is truly fascinating. The site is next to a hostel there on the floor and on the dry stone walls were bones of sheep, cetaceans. Whilst we were looking at the bones, a chap working there appeared to the guy who works at the hostel (or owner). As we got talking about he bones he said its all the visitors who find them on the beach. He said if we wanted some we could take them. I was a child let loose in a sweet shop. He said he didn’t like them littering the place because it reminded him too much of death. That really knocked me. He was right. I took a handful of bones.
Yet another enquiry for a visit to the reserve! This time for March 2015! Got it all sorted.
Now to the last hours of the Hebridian holiday. Just a few more birds needed to be squeezed in, it has been drying up over the last few days. But this morning we woke to mist. I had a last walk up the Machair, didn’t see too much but heard lots. It was amazing to walk along the road and put up lots and lots of skylarks and snipe grunting before they flew.
We nipped down to Loch Aineot for a last visit. This area has a small amount of woodland; last time we were here we had Wood warbler. I thought there could be a good chance of something interesting. There were some blackbirds, robins, a song thrush. Nothing much more. We had a walk further on the trail where we encountered a hen harrier which was harassing a hooded crow. Its mates came and harassed the harrier, which was then joined by a buzzard which got harassed by the hooded crows. The hen harrier squabble continued over a nearby hill, everything wnet quiet then an adult white tailed eagle cruised over. Nothing harassed that.
We then bumped into a couple of hill climbers who told us that they had seen a birder who had found a rare bird a red whatsit! We went back I found the birder who told us it was a red breasted flycatcher. He pointed to where it had been seen. Nothing. Then there was a tiny ‘tock tock’. Emma picked up the bird, it flew around in the trees then came out into full view! Emma’s first flycatcher and a rare one at that!
Nice end to the day.
Just finished packing. Strangely, I’m ready for home; it’s been a cracking holiday. But I can’t wait to start vismiging on the reserve on Sunday.
Back on the reserve
Back on the reserve, well not quite, did have to make a quick 200 mile detour on Sunday to Spurn to get a Masked Shrike,a first for Yorkshire and third for Britain. When I finally got to the reserve everything was as I had left it! I started the week with a Vismig. This will continue until November to check what migrant birds passing over the reserve. Will we beat the 15 thousand woodies of last year? We will see.
It’s going to be a very busy end of month, its back not with a jog but a full blown dash!
It’s been a great holiday 73 species of birds seen and it was very much needed and also thank you to Danny and Marlene for letting us join them. And it wasn’t the same without Abbey. So sadly missed
Denso Marston Nature Reserve Warden
To commemorate the start of the First World War we put a small memorial to show our respects. The display was up for a week and it will be put up again in November for Remembrance Day. The busy July has now been pushed aside for a busy August with several more school holiday events. We had just done a Boggart hunt with a rather splendid Boggart found by the new bench in the Stone seat area. A Whistling Boggart - new to the reserve.
The hunting for Boggarts (faces in trees) has proved very popular, most people mainly adults look at you if you have gone out, or lost your marbles. But once you explain the origins of Boggarts and show people them they very quickly see them everywhere. The serious side is to show people, both big and small, how to identify trees and have a little fun on the way. One adult did say to me how ridiculous it was. I did say to her it’s all down to a little imagination she looked at me very blankly. I smiled back and thought to myself say no more.
Though it is the start of August, it has been busy after a couple of days of slight winds courteously of hurricane Bertha. I had to bring forward some planned felling of some of the Crack willow that is growing on the river bank. They are now down, except for one which will be done in a few weeks time. The ones that have been taken out, have created an amazing new open glade to so it will be interesting to see what will grow in that area next year.
The mothing is doing extremely well, we are now over one hundred species, which is the first time we have managed to get so many; one or two that still identifying. The biggest surprise was one morning, when I opened the moth trap I found a Brown hawker sat inside it.
I took the insect out of the trap and, with the outside temperature still too low for the it to fly I managed to get a few photos of it.
Even getting a show on my finger! As the temperature started to rise the hawkers wings began to vibrate then all of a sudden, whoosh and it was gone.
As autumn approaches one thing is for certain, it will be a very good berry season; the cherries on site have already been and gone and the sloes are now fattening up and pining for gin! Blackberries are out a month early but tasting good, Elderberries are just blackening up and our apple tree, next to river, is heavy with fruit. I just wish somebody could identify the species of apple. I know there will be soon blackberry and apple crumbles being made. Oh and probably hints of sloe gin.
And as the month continues, remember the ones who fell all those years ago
Lest we forget
Denso Marston Nature Reserve Warden
It rained very heavily last night and it was a delight, it cooled things down. It didn’t help with my moth trapping though, some very soggy moths were found this morning. As I was driving in to the reserve, I looked at the low clouds, all looking grey and grim, and it got me thinking of autumn and hedge laying. We will be doing quite a bit this next winter. Those hedges we laid this last winter are coming on strong, including the one that was vandalised. The vandals only cut them back harder than they would have been but it has produced some nice strong growth. With all these thoughts of autumn, I was thinking that we aren’t far away; already swifts have started to migrate south.
The other day I ventured into Leeds to see if I could get a part for my fountain pen. I wasn’t successful. I’m not really a fan of cities (Oxford being the only exception) it was too full of people and everything expensive for what it is. I did get an excellent book though called the “Bradford Pals” all about the West Yorkshire lads who went to the Great War.
The biggest surprise though as I walked through the heart of Leeds was the Speckled Wood butterfly that flew past me and headed up the precinct. Only I noticed it, everyone else was too busy concentrating on their shopping! To see a Speckled wood in the city is highly unusual, considering that this is a woodland species. It has just shown how climate change as allowed it to spread even into cities.
The other reason for going to Leeds I wanted to get some pictures of the Tour de France. It looked strange considering only a few days previously there was a quarter of a million people packed there to see the boys set off.
I was up at Stanbury, with about a thousand other people, for a long wait for such a short view, but well worth it. It was great to see so many people out there, which put paid to the detractors of the event. They were proved wrong because it raised the profile of Yorkshire and who doesn’t want to do that. If you saw any of the live footage of the Tour, ITV (and the rest of the world networks) did and absolutely wonderful job, showing how wonderful Yorkshire is. I believe we will see more visitors to this rather grand county of ours. It is Gods own country.
As for the race, it was ace; a lifelong dream come true and I am so proud of being there. The atmosphere was amazing and it will never be repeated. I raised a pint of Timothy Taylors to the tour.
Its’ been a very busy month on the reserve, with new events starting, the schools starting their holidays. We had a pond dipping session to get the holiday season started, which, as predicted, proved to be very popular. In fact there was a lot of pond dipping going on in the July. It proved to be fruitful with several whirligig beetles found which we haven’t seen for ages. Common darters were also seen, which has been good considering this species was extinct on the reserve. But a large population seems to have reappeared let’s hope they continue to increase as there were up to a thousand in the early days of the reserve.
Now with all the tour over and done, things might now settle down… we hope!
Denso Marston Nature Reserve Warden
Busy, busy, busy; that’s what it has been leading up to the Celebration Day, now just four days away. Nerves kicking in, hoping everything, including the weather, will be ok.
What a absolute blinder for last Saturday’s June work party; wow did it do rain. The entire North Sea, Atlantic and in fact the entire world’s fell on the reserve. And guess what 11 turned out for the work party. I was gobsmacked to say the least and also humbled. What a rather splendid set of volunteers we have here at the Denso Marston Nature Reserve, to muddle on with not a complaint to be heard. They got all the work completed, which was amazing. That morning the tea and biscuits were certainly welcome! There got that out of the system! Before I start my usual ramblings, witterings, if anyone is down on the reserve and they see any Muntjac deer, please let me know, as they have been released from the farm in Esholt. Hopefully they will be found and returned and hopefully they will catch the person/s who did it. I’ve been dashing off again, just before going on holiday, this time to Beverly, to catch up with a Hoopoe, and a cracking bird it was too. It was funny to watch; as the day was somewhat damp, each time it rained everyone jumped into their cars and waited for the rain to stop. The Hoopoe also disappeared, but it transpired that there was gazebo round the corner from the garden where it was showing and when it rained, it nipped round there to stay dry. They may look daft but this one was clever.
A cracking bird; it was and my first in nearly fifteen years. I have now seen three Hoopoes in the UK and all of them in Yorkshire.
After our Gairloch holiday I hurried over to Nosterfield Gravel Pits to see a Broad Billed Sandpiper, a new bird for me. The views were very distant, but I did get to see the bits that I needed to see. After leaving the BB sand (sounds like a blues man!) I chanced upon a car boot sale. But this one was different, it was a real one. Nobody selling 400 rolls of loo paper or trying to sell a TV that had no picture, but was in working order! (did come across that once I tell no lie!) I found a stall that had a birthday card from 1916. It was made up with lace and had still got a birthday greetings card inside the small lace pouch and it also had been written in. There was also a photograph album of all the famous actors and actresses from the 40’s and 50’s, a young John Wayne. It was truly wonderful, but the guy wanted a pound for each picture and there were 220 pictures in it. If I had the money I would have bought it.
As you will have gathered, we have been on holiday and for a change we went to Scotland! We stayed at Gairloch, which is on the north west side of the country. It has been a while since we encountered the Scottish midge. I am not saying they were big and bad but most had tattoos and flick-knives and knew we were English and it was clear which way they were going to vote later in the year! The first real batch we encountered was next to the beach where we were staying, at a place called Charlestown! When they rose, you could hear the music from Apocalypse now and I swear I did hear one of them say “I love the smell of napalm!”
It was a cracking beach at Charlestown. Every day we were treated views of Red throated divers. I spent most of the week collecting dead things off the shoreline. We did plenty of exploring the only problem was we where only there a week. Marlene, as ever, had chosen a cracking cottage to stay in. I only wish I had taken my moth trap!
There was one recurring theme on the trip this time- Real Ale! The first time ever. At last the Scots have found real ale. We chanced upon a pub on the way up as we needed to stop. When I walked through the door I saw wickets, with one of them was from the Orkney brewery. I had to sample it. They also had a copy of the local beer magazines and it had a list of most of the pubs where we were going. Things had got rather better. We did sample a few pubs and I had to make sure the beers were ok! Purely professional you understand, then we came to the Malvaig Inn. Everything changed. There is a heaven and there is a God and he wears pyjamas! The pub from the outside looks ok, nothing special, but when you go through the door, well I’ll let the following pictures show you.
The records you can see are just a small part of the fifteen thousand vinyl collection that Ian, the landlord, owns. There was everything! Punk, rock, jazz and spoken word. I even found two Crass albums and a lp by twiggy! He had only two beers on, but they were pristine, I did have to try them apparently. It was a place to go and have a drink and melt into the back ground.
There are lot of historical displays about the Russian fleets during the second world war and the men and boats that sailed up to Russia and never came back. It was amazing to see the battlements up at Loch Ewe.
It is difficult sometimes, there are so many things to do with the last two wars that you never see and when you do come across them it is hard to imagine what really happened in those times. The men that sailed into northern seas, you can only image the hardships that they went through. It was a different age, a different set of standards and attitudes compared to those we have today.
I did write whilst we were up there, the poems are being left to rest for a short while before brought out and worked on however I have written for the celebration day here are a couple of the poems that I have written.
Behind the backlight of the moon
A slice of a half moon, backlit by clouds who scrape their way past
It hangs there, motionless, will it ever tumble?
Below, blackbirds chatter, the bat detector turned on to full
It wrestles with lost radio static that fights
With the other thrushes, to be heard
Overnight, the cherries had begun to grow
Soaked through with midnight rain
And behind all that bird song,
All appears to be so peaceful
The river continues its tumble towards the sea.
Oh what a chorus
I do hope it is glorious tomorrow,
Darkness wrapped me like an envelope
then the first ecstatic applause of snapping sticks
Skitter, skitter, skitter machine gun
A Soprano, a renamed Pipestrelle
With its motored little song.
Can bats really sing, I wonder ?
It darts beneath a dazzling moon
Where blinded moths fly
Its call only heard by the blessed
That Sounds like settling rain
Descending to a last rumble of dying breath.
Denso Marston Nature Reserve Warden
What a busy start to the month. A quick nip down to the House of Lords, with Emma and I staying with Emma’s sister Ilene. We started very well with a pint of Spitfire ale, which went down well, made even better when a real Spitfire flew over. I nearly choked! I had to have another one or two to celebrate that rare sighting. It never came back over, which was a pity. Instead a really groovy green beetle flew in, I and Emma grabbed it
We both were a little nervous about the event, but it really hit us when we finally got into London centre. Then it all became reality, especially when stood outside Parliament.
No matter how many times I go to London I cannot warm to the place. It is too fast and too full. The real surprise for me was when, on the tube, the number of people who offered to give up their seats for Emma to sit down. It was quite astounding. Their actions certainly squashed the old thoughts that Londoners were only interested in themselves. I raise my hat to them.
As we walked to the rear of the House of Commons I found a monument to Emily Pankhurst. We only noticed it by chance. It is only small, but very significant; to think that she visited Heckmondwike to give a speech at the town park.
We were welcomed by security in the Commons and had to go through a full body detector. I panicked as I had to remove my belt; luckily everything stayed where it was meant to! We were met by members of Veolia who were really nice and welcoming and who told us where we were to be seated at the top table. Total fear set in! Representatives from three other projects had been chosen to speak. We were on third. Emma did a cracking job, explaining why we needed the loos and bio disc; this raised a titter or two! I did my bit, and just for the record I kept it well inside 5 minutes! Surprising, but it’s true.
Once all the speeches were done, lunch was served. Me being me thought “Wait a moment, then attack the food”. Can you imagine my delight when we were told the top table was to go first and we could have what we wanted. Very nice, with wine included. I behaved.
We then chatted with members of Veolia who were very supportive of what we had done; the Baroness especially so, she was great. Full of beans and bouncing around everywhere, she was great, I really liked her. We then made our way to the House of Lords shop, but it was very expensive, very high class merchandise. What got me though were the House of Lords baseball caps! I should have bought one! It was a very memorable day. A big thank you to Emma and Veolia. Next time we go Emma you can wear trousers!
It was strange seeing policemen with guns, something totally that is alien to us, but I guess it is the sign of the times.
On the last day of our time there, we visited a commonwealth graves commission site at Brookwood, near where we were staying. The graveyard is one the biggest in Europe. In times past, they used to take bodies there by train. In it are graves of American servicemen, who died in the First World War. It was interesting that all the graves were dated 1918. You get a sense of the final push before the end of the war. There were Canadian and Australian graves. I think people forget how many Canadians and Australians died during the war. Alongside them were graves from the Second World War with a small section for soldiers who died in Afghanistan. Let’s hope it stays small. It was sad to see, on one side graves from a war a hundred years ago and graves from last week on the other. Ironically whilst we were there, preparations were underway for a burial. Some things never change.
We visited Winchester, the home of the Round table. What an impressive table it is and even better, I noticed in the centre of the table there is the Yorkshire Rose. Arthur must have been a Yorkshire man. Enough said.
In amongst doing speeches down in the House of Lords and visiting ancient Round tables, the reserve has been plodding on quite nicely, especially on the moth front. We recorded a new moth for site, a Streamer.
Two buck Roe Deer were seen fighting in the fields opposite the reserve.
As I write this, on the eve of the dawn chorus, it’s cloudy outside with a fair amount bird song, mainly Song Thrush. Hopefully in the morning, I won’t sleep in and the birds will be in full voice.
2.15 a.m. Ahh it’s pouring down!
4.00 a.m. Its still raining, the dawn chorus is a bit subdued, but the birds are doing well.
Whilst I was down south, I was reading Chap magazine, of the highest quality, one for discerning gentleman! Within this rather splendid magazine, I chanced upon an article about the humble fountain pen. I have a one which I use quite frequently, an absolute joy to use. The article brought something to mind, the art of letter writing, nobody does it. When was the last time we sat down and wrote a letter? I am thinking of trying to get people to write letters again. I know stamps have now got silly in price, but I think that should make the written letter extra special. So join me and write some letters!
Denso Marston Nature Reserve Warden
I have Just about completed my first month on my new hours, and it’s been busy, very busy, especially over the Easter holiday period with 127 visitors, most with pond dipping nets!
The bugs are now taking a holiday. Talking of holidays, we are just off for our epic trip down to London, to the House of Lords. I’ve got my new shirts for the day and they look very dapper, I’m well pleased with them. Thank you to Bev for getting them. I’m a little nervous, but we will be ok. I did a run through of the speech and kept to two and half minutes; don’t snigger, I did, believe me. I rarely rehearse my talks; on the night, I just watch the slides and then go with whatever is on my mind. This time it will be blind and for a first time I will have notes.
Outside the sun is shining and I’ve just seen my first damselfly of the year, a Large Red damselfly. Summer is now officially here.
I had some sad news; Stanley, one of my favourite dogs, which visits the reserve, passed away last week after an illness. He will be sadly missed. He was, like my other favourite dog Josh, an all round good egg. He did have ideas of grandeur; he would run up to you like a lion, instilling glee instead of fear and would find very large branches to move around the reserve. Sometimes he would put them where I needed them, but most of the time he didn’t. A glass was raised in his memory.
No twitching this week, though things are beginning to hot up in the country with Hoopoes all over the place and the odd bee-eater about. Soon we will be up in Scotland and hopefully will get something up there.
As daft as it may sound, a good number of rarities can be found in and around London. Peregrines breed there and in the past red kites were common in and around the poorer areas. It was in London that it has been discovered why House sparrows were disappearing from cities, it was lead free petrol that was killing them. There are lots of hidden nature reserves all over London, as well as the royal parks. You can even buy a field guide on where to watch birds there. I am not a great fan of our capital city, I find it too fast. I do like the museums though; the Victoria and Albert museum is just simply jaw dropping. I will, at some point, visit the Imperial War Museum as it has a new First World War exhibition. I have never been to the House of Lords before so I am really thrilled to looking around it.
I haven’t scribbled for a while, but last night, at the writers club, I put pen to paper so I hope you like this.
On asking the Wren
Scratching down, through a blackboard dawn
The robin, doesn’t mince his words, he calls,
On his mate, the Wren, whose rocking and reeling
Small, fat with a hard on tail, he out stares all the trees
His beak, flick knives at all on comers
He sends blisters out to the opening the morning
Leaves fidget uncomfortably, tickling the morning breeze
Their thin branches, tremble at their tips,
Below the Wren, still looking for a fight
Rattles his poison at anyone who dares wander by.
Denso Marston Nature Reserve Warden
January seemed to just go on and on but where did February go? Blink and you and missed it, I did. In February I had lots of plans on the reserve with many jobs to do and got them all done. Now it’s Spring and no snow, yet! We nipped up to Scotland and had snow, which was great to see.
It was nice to get away, even for a short while, and to do a little twitching. We nipped up to Inverness (only a 250 mile round trip!). Emma drove (her choice); she is doing marvellously and coped well with it. Why did we go to Inverness, well we went to see a Coot, not an everyday Coot but an American one, a new species for me. We travelled up in rain and then through freshly laid snow. When we got to Loch Remington – just by Aberdeen airport, there was only one other car there. I quickly scanned the loch and there it was the Coot, standing on floating vegetation. It ran around a little, hid in the overhanging shrubbery, but did come out and showed brilliantly. I must admit, before going for it, I did say to Emma it’s only a Coot. Shame on me! If you go down to your local park, you will see lots of Coots, the big round black thing with a white beak and long legs, usually causing havoc by chasing other birds, particularly Moorhens. If you happen across an American Coot, an extremely rare bird in the UK, it does look different. It is slicker, the bill has a black band and on top is a black knob and its rear end it is white instead of all black.
Why did we go for it? Well, I have at last started birding again. The other day I was looking at my life list which I have had since 1990. I had a quick count up because over the last few months I have had a few new birds. I haven’t twitched for a while, I have tried however to see at least one new bird a year, or at least one new one for Yorkshire. I have four lists, a life list, Yorkshire list, Scottish list and a Denso Marston NR list (of course). The life list is the most important really, as that is the complete list of all the birds that I have seen within the borders of the UK. I have always wanted to get to 400 birds. That used to be the magic number to reach; now the new one is 500. I am content with reaching 400. Whilst counting one of my lists I noticed that I had reached 397 which knocked me a bit, I hadn’t realised that I had got so close. One list I was looking at was one from Birdwatching Magazine which has produced one over the last few years. The true list, that most birders use, is the British Ornithologists Union one, which is the ‘official’ birding list. It can get complicated, due to some groups having split species of birds, where the BOU haven’t yet. They take their time in splitting species. They look at all the taxonomic information at their disposal. They also take species off the list, the most recent was a controversial record of Slender Billed Curlew, seen up in Northumberland several years ago. I digress as usual. I am about to look at my BOU list and I think I may be at around the 390 mark. If I am, it would be wonderful because I can get to the magic 400. Chasing rare birds can be very addictive, so you have to sometimes take a rain check on it all. I did for many years.
It has been said that there is more to life than ticking birds off a list. That put me into a little panic as I used to be like that. There is nothing wrong with ‘ticking birds off a list’ it helps to make a little sense of the huge amount of wildlife, especially birds, out there and having a list, whether it be a world list or patch list, all helps. Some of it can be used for serious use, for example at the Reserve for we now know what species we have down there. The other lists are for pure pleasure; there is nothing better than sitting back and looking through your list and remembering the glories of past conquests of birds seen. I do not like doing memories, as some of you know, but I make an exception to bird lists, as this is a place where the world is a pleasant place to be.
It can also bring memories of the failures too; one in particular a Northern Water Thrush from North America which turned up at Portland Bill. We set off very early in the morning; it was so early even the moon yawned! It was a long journey, when we got there no sign of the bird. We all waited patiently; you have to be patient sometimes. After an hour or so the warden came out and told us that the bird had been taken by a Sparrow Hawk the evening before. You can imagine the reaction. He had also forgotten to put it up on the pager network to let everyone know. We did however get 3 Fire Crests and a female Blue Throat, which I promptly walked straight past. Such is life.
Looking forward to seeing what turns up in the next few weeks. Who knows, hopefully something good.
Denso Marston Nature Reserve Warden
“I’ve just seen a squirrel, up that tree, that makes me really clever,” the young 5 year old chap said to me on the way back from the wild family ramble on the reserve. That really made my day. It was the finish of a busy week end with the Spider Club the day before; both events went really well, but it was what he said during the walk that made me feel that it is all really worth it. On the Saturday afternoon, after the Spiders had done and gone, I began working on the area by Julie’s bench, preparing it for the March Tree Planting Day. I was strimming the area down, ready for the following week, when I noticed a lady with two young boys looking at Julie’s bench. They were looking at some flowers that had been left there. It was the second anniversary since Julie had passed away. I stopped strimming and walked over; one of the lads told me they had just been looking under a board where they saw a short tailed field vole. They told me they had been down with school and a chap with a beard had taken them round the reserve and had showed them mice and other creatures. They didn’t recognise me. For one Spider club only I had shaved off my beard, the shavings were used as nesting material! The lady then recognised me. We chatted and they went on and I carried on working. I thought about it and felt really humbled by what the lad had said. On a personal front my main aim, being warden of the reserve, is to encourage and hopefully create new naturalists, whether old or young. Getting them young is the best way though.
Those two lads gave me hope. Because these days you hear so much about the young not engaging in outdoor activities or having interests beyond the computer screen. Those two lads have found that out there is an amazing world to wonder at. And the same happened with the wild family ramble, the children used large magnifying glasses to get up close and personal with Roe Deer tracks they knelt looking at the tracks, I tried to get down but the old knee was having none of it!
We will be jetting off to Scotland in next few days and hopefully will get one of the worlds’ most boring tick for my list, hopefully we will get to see an American Coot up near Inverness. It looks like our Coot but with a ring round its nose.
You may notice no pictures this time, trying no picture ramblings.
You may also have noticed, no snow yet this winter, there is still time, fingers crossed. I was sorting out poems the other day and here’s a relevant one I thought you may like to read.
The trees, stood tight with snow
Hanging on their arms
No wind, to shake it off
Only the heavy blanket of darkness
Covered them from branch to root
The snow fell heavier
Building their burden
Not letting them go
They were well and truly
Without an hint of apology
The snow kept on piling
Higher and higher
Their branches like arms took on the weight
As the moon shimmied up their backs
And sprayed down
Her midnight light
As all the snow began to fall
A burden released
Denso Marston Nature Reserve Warden
Short tailed field vole
Happy New Year to everybody, 2014 is hopefully going to be a busy one. The first survey of the year has just been started with a mammal survey of the Education centre; this survey will be done throughout 2014. On the first night of trapping a Short tailed field vole was caught. He has been caught now on several occasions he is now called Albert, if he is a she will be called Alberta.
Just to keep everyone up to date, Emma is doing well, she came along to the Spider in December and, as you can see, she was doing her exercises with the Spiders, which was great to see. She was a little nervous, but the Spiders asked her questions and she explained everything that she had gone through. She is now doing well and is out and about.
Just before Christmas we watched an amazing programme about the history of the Ladybird Books. We all had these books as children then we grew up and lost touch with them. Watching the programme about these amazing books certainly brought back lots of fond memories and it was interesting to see how they have developed over the years and how many different ones there are. I didn’t realise there were so many. It was interesting how they re-wrote some of the history ones for the ‘new generation’ of readers. There is definitely a major difference, wether it is for the better who knows. It was great to sit and see the books we had as children. There was one particular collection of books which was ‘What to look for in spring, summer, autumn and winter’. The winter book had a super picture of hedge-laying. It is amazing because you sit and read the page and opposite there is a picture where you have to find what has been talked about and it just makes you want to go out and find the creatures you have just read about. 50 years on and they still bring out the old feelings to go out and explore. What wonderful books.
Well nearly into the middle of January and no snow, plenty of rain, the reserve has become very, very soggy to say the least. Hopefully we will have a bit of a freeze so we then can go sliding instead of squelching through the reserve.
I am hopefully going to get some more scribbling on the poetry and short story fronts. I am at the moment trying my hand at a ghost story, a old style one, the ones that makes your skin curl and makes you think something is watching you from behind. Hopefully by the end of the year I will be getting my next book of poetry published, ‘Lamb’ I have been working on and off on this project for about two years it is nearly finished. But I think there may be more poems added when we go up to the Hebrides in September. There should be plenty of inspiration up there as it heads towards autumn and hopefully it will be very good for birding.
Grenoside Sword on Boxing Day
As some of you may know I have, over the years, been a sword dancer, well, with work and other bits and bobs that get in the way, normally called life. I had let the sword dwindle a lot. On Boxing Day I decided to nip down to Sheffield to watch Grenoside Sword, who are one of the best teams in the country. The team has been in existence since the late 1800’s. They have a different style of dancing to that of Spen Valley Longsword, with whom I danced, the main difference being that they do a sacrifice at the beginning rather than at the end of a dance.
Anyway back to Boxing Day, I went to see Grenoside and at the end of the session they asked for new members. Me being me, I asked if I could come to a practice. They agreed and last night (9th) I went to my first practice. They had me up and dancing straight away. They dance a lot slower than what I am used to. I had to slow down. And also I had to forget everything I had learned with Spen Valley. It was an amazing experience, especially having to unlearn sword and start again. It was hard work, but was well worth it. It is a 60 mile round trip for the pleasure. Luckily they meet every fortnight. I am looking forward to the next meeting.
When walking on the reserve the night before sword dancing I noticed on the far bank a brown shape, I soon realised that it was a mammal, in fact a fox, which was curled up asleep in broad daylight. I whistled across to it, it opened one eye, then it rose its head slowly and watched me and then set back down to sleep. The fox was in excellent condition, it looked like a young one and it didn’t seem to mind a chap whistling at it.
We are now mid way through January, will it stop raining? With mud everywhere, I am for one hoping for snow, at least it can look pretty. The winds have been all wrong, however the other day 120 Pink Footed Geese flew over the reserve, at least that gave a feeling that winter could still come. We have various trees and shrubs have leaves beginning to break. And as soon as daybreak shows I will go and see if there are any snow drops about.
Let’s hope for snow in February.
Denso Marston Nature Reserve Warden