Monday, 30 March 2020

Little Things Mean a Lot


You need to let the little things that would ordinarily bore you suddenly thrill you.”
― Andy Warhol

I think perhaps in the present circumstances of lockdown that we all find ourselves in, it would be a good idea to take heed of Mr Warhol’s quote.  Restricted though we all are currently, nature is not usually far away from us in some form or another.


Lesser Celandine Ranunculus ficaria is a plant that I used to try and erase from the garden as soon as the leaves began to show, not an easy task.  Perhaps fortunately, a growing interest in botanical matters had me becoming very fond of this harbinger of spring, a fondness that was shared by William Wordsworth.  I’ve mentioned once (probably more than once in fact) before on this blog that Wordsworth had wanted the Lesser Celandine carved on his gravestone, but sadly an error was made and what he got was Greater Celandine, an altogether different plant.  The brilliant yellow flower of the Lesser Celandine is now showing well in my garden and once it has disappeared the plants will be pulled up.  I’ve acted this way in recent years but the flowers still return each spring.  I’ve watched closely the development of the plant this year and taken a few images as the flower developed.




There is a Flower, the Lesser Celandine,
That shrinks, like many more, from cold and rain;
And, the first moment that the sun may shine,
Bright as the sun himself, 'tis out again! 
(William Wordsworth)





D H Lawrence’s character Paul Morel in the book Sons and Lovers comments to his girlfriend about Lesser Celandine, ‘I like them.  When the petals go flat back with the sunshine.  They seem to be pressing themselves at the sun’.  Mr Morel doesn’t appear to have gone on to tell his girlfriend that pilewort was a vernacular name in use for this plant.  So named, as it was thought to be a good treatment for piles.  Apparently to be used with care as it is poisonous and I note that at least one guy needed medical treatment after having used it.  Ooowwwccchhh!



During the warm days of early spring (where have they gone?)  I noted two or three Small Tortoiseshell Butterflies in the garden along with Bumblebees, the odd Hoverfly and other insects.  Whilst in lockdown, I noticed last night that I am not alone in the house.  A large spider was with me in the bathroom and such was its attachment to me after I had photographed it, it later followed me into the lounge.  It’s presently behind the TV……...or is it?



Whilst chatting to Sam over the telephone I was pleased to hear of his renewed interest in local patch birding.  I don’t think he will be alone in that respect.  Sam had noticed that an area we visit which is normally devoid of people was quite busy with walkers the other day.  There’s little to be positive about at the moment, but maybe the current situation will bring to peoples notice what nature is around them in the vicinity in which they live.  It is probably too late to make the councils and developers take note to how important these open spaces are for our psychological wellbeing and the health of wildlife.

Sunday, 15 March 2020

Wild Northumberland


The incessant building work and the resulting encroachment upon green land in North Tyneside and adjoining areas in Newcastle and south east Northumberland, are making in my eyes at least, the area unrecognisable from what until recently it was.  The spin that is given from time to time by local council officials that they care about the environment and nature doesn’t wash at all with me, as I believe that the natural environment is the last thing on most of their minds.  Sadly, I gain the impression that a proportion of the community care little one way or the other.  Thankfully we have Northumberland, where it remains possible to visit the wilds and leave the mases behind.



Sam and I have been out into the wilds of Northumberland on a couple of occasions recently.  Our first trip was northwards on a fine sunny spring day.  Well, fine until the low leaden grey cloud descended from the Cheviots and brought with it a fierce but short-lived hailstorm.  Like any true all-weather naturalists, we entered the pub for lunch at this very point in time.  Our best sighting of the day was finding a Kestrel in a tussle with a Peregrine Falcon close by us as we drove past.



Our next trip was further to the south of the county where we didn’t allow a fierce wind to spoil our day but confess we did make a tactical withdrawal from Grindon Lough before we were frozen in the winds.  We stopped of to visit my brother and enjoyed welcome hot drink before moving on and spending most of the subsequent time watching from the car.  I found myself watching the scenery as much as the birdlife, much of which seemed to be keeping heads down.  Best sighting for me that day was two small flocks of Golden Plover flying past us at close range and in perfect light.  It didn’t feel like spring but it did look and sound like it with the song of Skylark and the calls of Curlew and Lapwing at times filling the air.  Other birds seen that day included Mute Swan, Greylag Geese, Canada Geese, Wigeon, Teal, Goldeneye, Red Grouse, Grey Partridge, Pheasant, Common Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Oystercatcher, Black Tailed Godwit, gulls, Stock Dove, corvids and garden birds.



We returned to the building site with thoughts we ought to get out into the wilds more often, but hopefully in calmer circumstances.








                                  

Monday, 27 January 2020

Druridge to Prestwick Carr via Venus


25th Jan.  On the return journey from West Cumbria on 22nd Jan we did a bit of star gazing.  Venus is showing well in the western sky after sunset throughout January.  A further reward was a Tawny Owl which flew above the car as we drove along a dark and bumpy road in darkness.  However today it was back to birding proper with what was an unexpected trip up to Druridge Bay.  Unexpected outings often bring the best results, could today be an example?  Kestrel and Common Buzzard were seen as we headed for Cresswell Pond.


A hide with a view. (Cresswell Pond)

Light soon improved as the grey clouded sky began to break up, initially giving blue patches of space and some sunlight.  Our first significant find was the remains of a kill at the bird feeder outside the hide.  The only remains of what turned out to be a Song Thrush was its bill and bloodstained feathers.  From the hide we saw the remains of a Grey Heron which looked to me as if it had been taken by a fox, such was the broken-up state of it.  Nature in action can often be a bloody business.  It wasn’t long before we were engrossed in watching live birds and enjoying the sight of flighty flocks of Lapwing, Dunlin and Curlew.  The Lapwing were the most numerous and we estimated 300+, but having counted them in one image taken of a small proportion I think we may well have underestimated.  The flock of Lapwings were split into three separate groupings and spent much of the time in the air.  When seen in such numbers in winter it would be easy to forget how much of a threat this species faces as a breeding bird in the UK.  Other waders seen included Golden Plover, Redshank, Ruff (3), a single Sanderling and Common Snipe on the edge of the reedbed.  Watching flocks of waders has always been a favourite area of bird watching for me, especially when they are in flight and as Sam had said on a previous visit, ‘if Lapwings were rare they would attract many twitchers’.

Lapwing and Dunlin

Dunlin

At 11.25am we distinctly heard the call of a Tawny Owl from the east side of the pond, maybe having been disturbed.  Little Grebe was heard calling and birds on the water included Wigeon, Teal, Goldeneye and Red breasted Merganser.  A Moorhen entertained with its flashing whited tail underside outside of the hide.  Such was the atmosphere we stayed far longer than expected.  We did eventually have lunch at the Drift CafĂ© which as usual was packed tightly with visitors.

Moorhen (Common can = Interesting)

Common Snipe (Courtesy of Samuel Hood)

We drove to Druridge Pools and had a nice view once again of the Little Owl roosting in its favoured spot.  The were at least a dozen Grey Herons in the area towards the pools, thankfully all alive this time.  Walking north from the turning circle we soon found what we had hoped too.  A mixed flock of finches and buntings contained we reckon about 40 Twite which eventually showed well, when they settled only yards from us.  Along with the Twite we saw Reed Bunting, Linnet, Chaffinch and Goldfinch.  One  of the highlights of the day.  We’d seen a pair of Stonechat along the way.  In the fields opposite was a large flock of Canada Geese and a smaller one of Greylag Geese.  Pink footed Geese had been seen in the air earlier on.

Little Owl.  Courtesy of Samuel Hood.

A quick watch of the flat calm sea gave us 3 Great Crested Grebes, Razorbills and Red Throated Divers

On the walk back to the pools we found Long tailed Tit.  The pools themselves were quite but we managed to add Shoveler and Gadwall to our day list along with two Roe Deer, being the first of the year.  As the days remain quite short we decided to miss out East Chevington as we had heard there wasn’t too much about and instead we made for Newbiggin.

After having had a cup of tea at Newbiggin the cloud closed in and the light began to go so we decided to bring what had been a good day to a close and head for home whilst listening to the painful attempts of Newcastle United to beat Oxford in the FA Cup!  The ‘toon’ was dull, but half-way home the skies were not as we met blue sky and sunshine again.  A decision was taken to divert to Prestwick Carr, and a good decision it proved to be.

On arrival we soon had the Eastern Yellow Wagtail onto our life list.  Yes, you all know we don’t rush with these things!  It was feeding away in the field along with many Pied Wagtails, a couple of Redwings and a Robin.  I was more than happy with the sighting.  Afterwards I was mindful to read up my Helm Guide to Pipits and Wagtails.  What a complicated group of birds, but I do feel more educated about the Eastern Yellow Wagtail now.


Eastern Yellow Wagtail (Courtesy of Samuel Hood)

After a good bit of time with the wagtail we walked down the bumpy road towards the feeder having more sightings of Redwing and Fieldfare along the way.  We both feel that yet again the bumpy road has been stretched.  It seems to get longer on each visit.  By the time we got to the feeder the sun was setting but we still found good numbers of Reed Bunting, Tree Sparrow, tits and what we were really after Willow Tit.  Earlier Sam had found what we are sure was a Long tailed Tit's nest.  Very interesting as I have often spoken in talks about the complicated structure of this nest which can often contain hundreds of feathers and which is designed to expand as chicks grow.  This got us on to chat about helpers at the nest, of which this species is one, with un-paired young or failed breeders often helping an adult pair with the feeding of chicks.

As we walked back to the car darkness was setting in and we were the last folk on the carr I reckon.  I’d mentioned the possibility of Barn Owl earlier and low and behold we saw one very briefly as it flew out of a tree and northwards onto the carr.  We couldn’t relocate what was our third species of owl seen today, but had the company of calling Willow Tit almost all the way back to the car.  A wonderful atmosphere on what had been a mild January day brought our birding to an end and it was black dark when we got home.

Prestwick Carr (Courtesy of Samuel Hood)

Although my passion for nature was somewhat curtailed last year through no fault of my own, today reminded me why that passion is a constant one.  I had twelve new species for the year list today taking me past the 100 mark although as Sam and I always say, whose counting, numbers don’t matter one bit, do they?  Great day and a visit to Prestwick Carr after a long absence.





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Sunday, 19 January 2020

Surreal Encounter While Birding in the Wind

15th Jan.  Strong winds didn’t prevent Sam and I heading for Low Newton and on the way we had Kestrel hovering and several Common Buzzards.  As we walked down from the carpark towards the sea the wind wasn’t too bad.  Following us down the bank were a group of folks who Sam reckoned were Jehovah Witnesses.  Don’t even ask how he knew.  At about the same time as this group of folks were spotted I got my eye on movement at the foot of a low wall and this turned out to be a feeding Chiffchaff.  We began to study this bird closely.  As we were intently watching I saw a lady approaching us and wondered if it was someone from the house wondering if we were measuring up the joint.  We thought we might have a Siberian Chiffchaff here, so what I wanted in my hand really was a Collins Bird Guide, but instead I found in it a leaflet referring amongst other things to Revelations Chapter 21 Verse 4  (I checked this later and not as I was watching the warbler).  Sam had been correct and the lady introduced herself as a Jehovah Witness and clearly had a certain discussion in mind.  We kept watching the warbler as I gave the lady the rundown on Chiffchaffs and in particular Siberian Chiffchaffs.  It must be said the lady did not appear that interested but we kept watching and I kept talking.  On reflection the situation seemed surreal and it is a first for me, that is, trying to identify the subspecies of Chiffchaff whilst being approached by a Jehovah Witness.  The lady may have become bored as she gave up on her plans and said goodbye, hopefully leaving with a better knowledge of Chiffchaffs.

We think a Siberian Chiffchaff.  (any comment welcomed)
Image courtesy of Samuel Hood 

Although we heard no call we do think this was a Siberian Chiffchaff, it certainly seemed to fit the description, and yes I know its difficult to know without hearing a call.  We later found a record of Siberian Chiffchaff had been recorded in the book at the hide.
A hide with a view

The sea was to say the least choppy, so sea watching wasn’t going to be on the agenda although we saw a few waders before walking to the hide.  The fields held Whooper and Mute Swans and also Pink footed Geese and Greylag Geese.  Whilst the pond was almost clear of birds because of the wind we did find Mallard, Wigeon, Teal, Tufted Duck and Goldeneye and bumped into the Jehovah Witness again, whose only word was goodbye.  As we sat in the hide the wind got rougher.  In the distance a Brown Hare was hunkered down in the wind, looking very much like a large stone.
Our next stop was Seaton Point on the look out for Water Pipit.  My advice for searchers of Water Pipit is ‘pick a calmer day’!  I ended up buffeted, cold and cream crackered.  I possibly did see Water Pipit as I watched Meadow Pipits and Rock Pipits, but not well enough to confirm.  Nice Purple Sandpiper though and lots of Turnstones.  I was weary and lunch was required so we stopped off at Warkworth and went to the pub before heading to Cresswell.

As we approached Cresswell the Little Owl was seen in one of its regular sites at Druridge.

We ended the day nicely in the hide at Cresswell watching flocks of waders, in the main Lapwing, Dunlin, Redshank, and Curlew although a lone Black tailed Godwit was seen too.  We returned home wind blasted but unbeaten.

17th Jan.  Today was a calm after the storm and it was nice to hear the Song Thrush singing in or close to the garden.  A pair of Bullfinch visited the feeder too, my first Bullfinch of 2020.  Stunning birds seen in wonderful light.
In the evening Sam and I and two friends met for a meal before attending the talk on Bumble Bees at the NHSN.  Good grief we could barely get a seat.  The lecture room filled to overflowing and a good number of people were sat in an adjoining room to listen.  The society seems to go from strength to strength in terms of numbers attending.

Tuesday, 7 January 2020

Another Fine Day You Gotten Me Into


3rd Jan.  A skein of Pink footed Geese was seen soon after leaving home.  Kestrel and Common Buzzards were seen as we approached Budle Bay on another fine day with a clear sky and sun.  On arrival we found whistling Wigeon in numbers along with Teal and a high tide which we were able to watch as it receded at a fast rate, giving the bay an entirely different appearance.    Surprisingly these days we saw no Little Egrets but there were numbers of Brent Geese and Pink footed Geese in the field to the north.  Two Whooper Swans approached from across the bay and flew directly over our heads and a Peregrine Falcon was mobbed in the distance to the south as it flew inland.  Other new birds for the year list included Shelduck, Oystercatcher, Grey Plover, Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Curlew, Bar tailed Godwits and a Meadow Pipit.   Standing out of direct sunlight we eventually become quite chilled and eventually moved on to Bamburgh and Stag Rock.

Samuel on watch

Although the sea was quite flat off Stag Rock we were not alone among birdwatchers who were not having much luck sea watching.  Initially only a pair of Common Scoter were seen flying northwards, a few Red Throated Divers, Shag and Eider Duck.  Moving our position a little northward, we soon picked up a sizable raft of Common Scoters which included with them Red Breasted Mergansers and nearby, more Red Throated Divers.  The first of several Stonechat were seen on the dunes and there were large numbers of Purple Sandpiper and Turnstone feeding on the rocky shoreline.

Budle Bay

We ticked off Long Tailed Duck as we passed Monk’s Pond where we didn’t hang around long as lunch was calling.  Fish and chips at Seahouses of course.  Quenched and warmer we decided to make off for East Chevington.  The high lights on North Pool was a Great Northern Diver showing well at the north end of the pool and an Otter as it actively fed in the centre of the pool.  A good one to begin the year’s mammal list.  The likes of Pintail, Goldeneye and Little Grebe were also seen, the latter new for the list.  We chatted to some friendly fellow birders and we all had a good distant view of the Marsh Harrier perched on a post south of South Pool.

A stop at Widdrington gave nice sightings of Smew and Scaup before we moved off to Cresswell, spotting a Brown Hare running along close by the car.  Time at Cresswell was short, although we did find another Long-tailed Duck.  The short days meant that light had faded away by the time we reached Blyth so still no luck with Waxwing, but we’ve made the most of two grand days at the start of 2020.  So yes, another fine day with at least sixty-two species, thirty of them new for the year list.

Thursday, 2 January 2020

A New Year and Decade Dawns

31st Dec 2019.  A failure to find the Waxwings in Whitley Bay found by Sam yesterday sent us off to Holywell on a bitterly cold afternoon (perhaps having been spoilt by warmth lately) with the light already fading.  The short visit was far from wasted as we watched numerous skeins of Pink footed Geese fly westwards and away from the coastal area, some Greylag Geese among the skeins.  The sky was clear blue as the geese called and painted shapes above and to the south of us.  A true picture of winter birding.  A Kestrel hovered above the hedge that skirts the pathway that separates the open farmland from the reserve, a usual hunting area for this species.  Folk in the hide were puzzled by a hybrid duck which appeared to be a cross between Gadwall and probably Mallard.  We enjoyed a chat with a guy who had attended a walk at Killingworth we had organised three years ago.  The highlight of the visit was the Kingfisher that perched on the wooden rails that run into the pond.  The tones of blue of this bird showed wonderfully in the dim lighting conditions and the bird was still there when we eventually left to return home.  It had entertained us as it battered a fish on the wooden fence before swallowing it.  You don’t necessarily need good light to appreciate birds and see them at their best.  We decided to give the Short-Eared Owls a miss and perhaps revisit next year i.e. tomorrow.  There seemed to be a suggestion of a couple of photographers behaving badly.  I remembered the evenings Sam and I spent alone at Holywell a few years ago watching Short Eared Owls, great stuff.  Alas I don’t think we’ll have that opportunity this year with so many folks about.  As we left only a few tits continued to visit the feeding station and the ground remained solid in the strikingly cold air.  We left looking forward to a new day and a new year.



And many a mingld swathy crowd
Rook crow and jackdaw noising loud
Fly to and fro to dreary fen
Dull winters weary flight agen
Flopping on heavy wings away
As soon as morning wakens grey
And when the sun sets round and red
Returns to naked woods to bed
John Clare (January/The Shepherds Calendar)

1st Jan 2020.  I awoke to clear blue skies and after a quick breakfast fed and watched the garden birds which included Song Thrush, now a regular winter visitor once again and a pair of Coal Tits, a species that has visited for as long as I have lived here.  I counted thirteen species in the garden before Sam arrived to begin our New Year walk on patch.

We walked towards the lake via the village church grounds, facing an almost blinding sun and the bitter cold.  I noticed some very complicated patterns made by the ice on some cars we passed.  All seemed quiet nearby the church until Sam picked up calling, and we got our eyes on a pair of Nuthatch.  The other bird of note here was a low gliding female Sparrowhawk that went by us giving a good sighting.  I had been thinking that it was a good day to keep an eye open for Sparrowhawks, although I had expected to see one high in the clear air.  So, we were off to a good start.  Goldfinch was also seen, one of the few finches seen today.

Pochard

The smaller lake was still thinly frozen over in parts.  The most significant species here was the Gadwall.  I say significant because until the past year or two this species was rarely if ever seen on the lake.  Sam had recently counted almost thirty and today there was almost twenty.  This is a species where numbers have grown locally a good deal over recent years and we assumed the lake is taking overspill from perhaps the Rising Sun CP.  A beautiful species in our opinion, yet possibly passed over by so many.  Of equal significance to the number of Gadwall was the complete absence of Goosander.  I don’t remember a time when I have not seen Goosander on the lake in winter.  The larger of the lakes held its usual species including a good number of Pochard, Shoveler and Goldeneye.  A lone Greylag Goose was found amongst the Canada Geese and a Pied Wagtail was at the edge of the lake.  Great Spotted Woodpecker was heard and a number of Long tailed Tits were seen.   The lake was fairly quiet.  On our return towards the village we did find the Grey Heron standing in the reeds by the Sports Centre.

The day was a perfect beginning to the year, clear blue skies and the sun illuminating the lake.  I was beginning to feel quite warm as we reflected upon how even very common species can excite as they are entered onto the new year list.  There is of course no reason why common species should not excite and those who take note of them are the true naturalists in my opinion.  The area around the back of the village was quiet but offered up the likes of a lone Redwing, Greenfinch and Wrens.  As usual there was no shortage of Magpies.  The Rooks had gathered at the rookery.  I remembered taking a great interest in this rookery in the 1970s when it held far more nests.  We now stopped for lunch at home, hot dogs (lots of fried onion on mine), crisps, biscuits and a cup of tea.  We know how to live well!

Once we had pulled ourselves away from the banquet fully sated, Sam drove to Holywell as we had planned yesterday.  We didn’t intend this as a long walk today, but we did want to catch sight of the Short-Eared Owls if at all possible.


Tree Sparrow was seen at the feeding station where most of the feeders were empty before we moved to the public hide.  We added Wigeon and Teal to the list and had a chat with a very friendly couple.  A male Goosander was also seen so ensuring that it would appear as usual on the New Year’s Day list.  As we walked towards owl country we found two Redshank on the edge of the flash in east field.

A Short-Eared Owl was spotted briefly as we approached a good viewing site.  Thankfully my thoughts that there would be lots of folks about with long lenses etc proved to be wrong.  There were only two or three quiet photographers dotted about the area.  We soon had good sightings of the Short-Eared Owls, six of them eventually.  At one point there were six Short Eared Owls, two Kestrels and a Common Buzzard in the air together as behind them a small flock of Lapwing flew northwards.  It was quite a sight and a brilliant way to begin the year.  One or two of the Short-Eared Owls approached more closely.  Sam heard a vole in the grass beside us.  This little episode had to be the highlight of an excellent day and I was so pleased we had skipped the crowd of yesterday and visited today instead.  Passers-by were taking a positive interest and asked once or twice what we were watching.


After we had seen enough and began to feel the cold again we made off in the direction of the car and home.  We bumped into the friendly couple again who told us they had been watching the Kingfisher on the fencing.  We stopped at the hide and there it was in the same spot as yesterday, the Kingfisher, which again was still there when we left.  A great way to end our day.  We drove home as a huge red sun lowered in the sky and set by the time we reached Killingworth.  I was cream crackered, but had enjoyed our birding.  I later totted up the bird list and found we had fifty-two species on it.  I was more than happy with that, but in any event remembered my motto of 'its quality wot counts’.  A quality day indeed!



Only one stain on the day, the Magpies, the ones that play or attempt to play at St James Park.  What a farce at that club!  Even so, slept well.   

Sunday, 29 December 2019

Buttermere

I have several reasons to use the term Annus Horribilis regarding 2019 and whilst as the Queen has intimated that it has been a bumpy ride this past year, I can only say I’ve met with deep ditches at times.  I’ll refrain from expressing self-pity and going into detail here, as the year has not been without its brighter moments, most of which I owe to good friends and family (they know who they are).


Buttermere in changing light.

Buttermere in Lakeland is one of those special places in my life, I’m sure we all have such feelings about places in our lives, so after a space of some years it was a joy to visit again.  That joy was tinged with some sadness as the reason for the visit was so that we could lay our parent’s ashes in a much-loved area.  It was November and cold, and let me tell you that such a time of year is not a bad time for a visit as it avoids the crowds of tourists that Wordsworth so frowned upon.  I can’t help feeling some sympathy with his views on that one, and heaven only knows what he would think of Lakeland in summer now!  I have also found that I have shared something else in common with Wordsworth that that is, as a child, his awe, verging at times on fear, and wonder at the crags and fells that hovered above him.  I was either nine or ten years old when I first visited Buttermere, electricity was not to arrive in the area until two or three years later.  I well remember my imagination going into overdrive as I looked up to the fells that surrounded me.  It was some years later that I walked atop of many of them.

Cottage (with many tales to tell)

Haystacks

Today the area was seen at its best and as we approached via the Carlisle to Cockermouth Road the grey northern fells were in places lit by shafts of sunlight which showed that even in this dark month there was still plenty of colour and even more, atmosphere.  We were soon at Buttermere and the cottage at the foot of Honister Pass where I celebrated my twenty-first birthday.  Here we met an old friend that I had not seen for over thirty years and as we walked into Wanscale Bottom below Fleetwith Pike and the Haystack range many shared memories were spoken of as to when we used to walk here with my parents on their favourite walk.  It was as if only hours had passed since our last meeting.  My parents ashes now lie in this area and I know that they would have been pleased about that.  Above, on the top of Haystacks were laid the ashes of Alfred Wainwright the well-known compiler of books on Lakeland.  I’m sure many other families have laid ashes of loved ones in this area and in fact there were signs today that that this had occurred recently.  Nature is a great consoler and healer, so I’m pleased to say that we were accompanied by at least three Common Buzzards as they flew overhead throughout our walk.  Their calls sounding haunting in such a vast area.  This area was once frequented by Peregrine Falcons, perhaps still is, and I often regret not taking such an interest in nature when as a young backpacker I trekked these areas.  I didn’t know then that Fleetwith Pike held a colony of Mountain Ringlet Butterflies.  It was in Wanscale Bottom many years ago that I first took an interest in watching Grey Herons.  My brother had told me of them and I seem to remember borrowing binoculars from the farm and spending hours in fascination.  I am still fascinated by Grey Herons, and why not?

Wanscale and the path we took.

Peter, my brother, places tribute.

There was a very light covering of snow on the tops of some fells and as we walked back to the cottage the light began to fade a little but shafts of sunlight still lit the fells at the far end of Buttermere Lake.  We noticed that the Buttermere Pines are looking far from healthy, they stand at the edge of the top of the lake and are often seen in images of the area.  Otherwise, apart from minor changes to gates, fences and paths, the area is much as I remember it from childhood.  A Kestrel hovered at the foot of Fleetwith underneath the white cross to which I first climbed as a nine-year-old boy.  The cross is a reminder that the fells can be deadly as well as beautiful.    There are other reminders of dangers such as piles of stones and carved name of a German girl who lost her life near here in the 1960s, an event I well remember.  My brother went to hospital in the ambulance with her friend who had also been hurt.  We remembered the two Mountain Rescue volunteers who we all knew who were also killed when part of a crag broke lose, again in the 1960s.

Peter used to work on the dry stone walls below the crags.

Then it was back for a late lunch and more memories at the cottage before we said our farewells and made for home in darkness.  I must return soon.



I have eventually purchased a copy of John Buxton's classic monograph on the Redstart and it is to be my end of year read.  Hoping to have it completed by 2020.

Wishing you all peace and good health in the new year and beyond.