Sunday, 18 December 2011

Filey Bay Sunset

Filey Bay Sunset
Originally uploaded by Wolds End
As there wasn't a cloud in the sky where we live, Mrs WoldsEnd and I popped over to Filey Bay. Approaching the coast we found that the clouds started just out to sea and in the distance we could see heavy showers.

As the sun went down behind us the light reflected onto the clouds creating this effect. The colours were amazing - this is not a photshop effect this is what it was like for just a few minutes until the sun set and took the wonderful light with it.

Monday, 4 July 2011

In search of Tufty

As a small child I was a member of the Tufty club - a brilliant idea by whoever thought of it as they made children take notice of road safety using a series of animations featuring a Red squirrel called Tufty Fluffytail that were narrated by Bernard Cribbins. Sadly since those days squirrels are mainly grey and so am I.

There are still pockets of Red squirrels remaining and I do occasionally see them in the Lake District but in the last few years they have been encouraged to thrive in woodland just outside Hawes in Wensleydale. A Red squirrel trail has been created and although 9.5 miles in total the prospect of seeing Red squirrels had Mrs WoldsEnd and I driving to Hawes and setting off on the walk.

A Nikon D300s and 300mm F4 made the rucksack quite heavy but off I went with a Nikon P7000 hanging round my neck. We were soon enjoying the countryside views.

Stopping to empty the contents of a flask we were passed by a flock of sheep being herded up the country lane. I just managed to rescue my rucksack before the sheep dog cocked his leg!

The road was littered with sheep droppings so we thought it quite funny that somebody had thought a dog waste bin was needed in this spot - I wonder how much that cost.

Climbing up a hill the views got even better.

The route took us through a field with cows. 

Passing the main group of standing cows and calves we were a little shocked to see a large bull a few feet away from us. Thankfully he turned out to either be friendly or not bothered to do anymore than watch us pass.

On reaching some woodland we heard the noise of heavy machinery as tree felling operations were underway. Looking at the map we saw a footpath through the wood that would avoid this and soon came across the sign showing us the way. In the midst of the wood we found the path blocked by wind fallen trees with a notice telling us to follow the tape around - the tape had also suffered from the ravages of the weather and was not easy to follow but we eventually found the path again. On leaving the wood we were pleased to see footpath signs across the fields but they deposited us in a farm yard and we could not find the route. Thankfully the friendly occupants of the farmhouse were outside enjoying the warm weather and helped us on our way. We rejoined the trail crossing a stream and quickly crossing a field to avoid the horse-flies that tried to bite before we noticed them.

Shortly after that we reached the Red squirrel viewing point and were very pleased to see one near the feeder. As the squirrels appeared so did thousands of biting midges making it quite an ordeal to stand still with a camera. The light was not good and as I was using a 1.7 teleconverter on the lens (thereby loosing 1.5 stops of valuable light) I had to increase the ISO as much as I dared and use a slow shutter speed - it is very difficult to keep a camera and long lens steady when being bitten by thousands of midges. I endured the ordeal until I could stand it no longer and got some photos. I noticed the squirrels having a good scratch so maybe they were also being bitten. Midge repellent will be essential for our next visit!

 The feeder has been especially designed to deter Grey squirrels the sheep skull is for the squirrels to gnaw on for calcium.

With our mission accomplished we set off back - choosing the road to avoid the forestry work and bull and using Tufty's best road safety advice.

Friday, 1 April 2011

Holly Blue and a New Lens

Last year I noticed a species of butterfly that I had not seen before a Holly Blue. I have not seen many butterflies so far this year but today I noticed a bright blue fluttering and on closer inspection realised it was a Holly Blue (male I think).

As luck would have it DHL had just delivered a new lens and set of extension tubes in the morning - ideal for butterfly photography.

Have you ever put off a purchase due to rumours of a new product? I had with this lens ( a Nikon 300mm F4 ) but finally decided that my old Tokina 300mm F4 needed replacing as it just does not get on with the D300s requiring manual focus and exposure. Although there have been rumours of a VR version of the Nikon nothing has appeared and as I often switch off VR on the lenses that have it I decided that it wasn't a feature worth waiting for. Thinking that a lens in the hand is worth more than one rumoured on the forums I decided it was time to buy ( I am also of the opinion that inflation will be allowed to carry on as it favours a government in debt so lens prices will only rise - mind you I have just read the book When Money Dies so maybe I am worrying too much! )
I prefer to travel light and keep on the move so the Nikon 300mm F2.8 is just too big and heavy for my style of photography ( and also a bit on the expensive side) but the 300mm F4 is just right. As well as the extension tubes I bought the 1.7 teleconverter which gives just over 500mm at F6.7 (I already have a 1.4 converter which gives 400mm at F5.6 ) so with the lens and attachments I hope I have a versatile but reasonably light set up.
I tested the 1.7 converter in the garden and must say it gives better results than expected. The light wasn't good at this point but autofocus was as good as the 70-300 VR (it is very quick on the 300mm F4 without converters).

 A few Redpolls popped in.

The Tree sparrows have started to build their nests.

If a new version of this lens does appear I will still be happy with the one I have.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Cats, Dogs and a trapped Blue tit

Wolds-End Tom was showing rather a lot of interest in the area around our washing machine outlet. The drain has a grating covering it and I doubted anything could get through that (although I did once find a newt when clearing one out). Cats however should not be doubted. He lets me know when somebody or something is about before I hear them and once came and found me when some pitta bread got stuck in the toaster and the resultant smoke filled the kitchen.

As he would not be persuaded to divert his attention elsewhere I searched around the area and was very surprised to find a Blue tit hanging upside down from the grate. The poor thing had been into the water and looked to be soaking wet.

With Wolds-End Tom's good work now done he was encouraged to take a back seat although from the look on his face he did not appreciate being carried indoors wanting to see if the rescue was successful!
At first the grating would not come off. The bird hung on not moving and looking straight at me. I was concerned that any sudden jolt would cause it to fall into the water again. A screwdriver helped me get the cover off and the Blue tit hopped across the patio failing to fly. I could see it was soaking wet and although it had plenty of energy it needed to dry out before being able to fly. It climbed up into some nearby bamboo and I retreated a short distance. 

A short while later it started to call out and another Blue tit answered and landed on the fence above the bamboo. It then launched an attack on the rescued bird which surprised me but the Blue tit's feathers must have dried out enough for it to fly as they both flew over to a cherry tree. The second bird then launched another attack and I saw it pull a feather out with it's beak. They both then flew away out of view.

As there is a nesting box near the drain I wondered if they had been fighting and that is how one of them ended up in the drain.

When released Wolds-End Tom made sure there were no more down the drain by thoroughly sniffing around the area - he wasn't happy to have missed the rescue!

The morning had been cold and overcast but the afternoon brought sun and blue sky so our planned shopping trip was put off to another day and we went for a walk around Allerthorpe Wood. We were not the only ones and a profusion of dog walkers saw us use one of the quieter paths through the wood were we saw this Roe deer.

We did not see much more in the way of wildlife but it was nice to be out in the sun.

Monday, 31 January 2011

The Last Day of January

The first snowdrops have appeared in the garden and every day it seems the sun reaches places it has not warmed for some months. Wolds-End Tom has even managed to curl up in a sunny spot outside (although it is not long before he is once again in shadow and as his desire to be outside is overtaken by the feline instinct to find a warm place he retreats indoors).

Today started with a heavy frost and clear blue sky. I decided to pop down to part of the local canal where the surrounding fields flood in winter (from water backing up the canal from the river and the field drainage channels). This flooding attracts a variety of waterfowl at this time of year.
As often happens the clouds appeared as I set off and a combination of low lying mist and cloud cover reduced the available light meaning I had to up the iso on the camera to have any chance of sharp photos of birds in flight.

Not long after leaving the car I saw a Barn owl to my left. It is always nice to see these and even more so this year as I fear the harsh winter will have reduced their numbers. 

 I watched the owl for a while as it was not disturbed by my presence.  It was only lunchtime but the falling light levels made it seem like dusk.

This is the first time this year I have visited this stretch as an earlier attempted visit saw me driving to an access point a few miles further up as the floodwater was too deep to wade through.

I moved on but after the initial excitement of the owl there was not too much more to see. I passed a well occupied rookery and a little further on was pleased to see two Mute swans. The canal had been frozen for a few weeks and although recently thawed out the cold morning had caused a thin layer of ice to form. The swans are always a welcome sight on the canal and I was glad that these two had got through the difficult times of this winter.

Approaching the flooded fields I was disappointed not to hear geese and I soon found out why as I saw in the distance a large digger and van. The waterfowl are easily disturbed and whatever work was being carried out had made them move elsewhere. 

Disappointed I turned back but heard and caught a fleeting glimpse of some Wigeon. 

As I put my camera and wellingtons in the car the sun decided to come out again but at least when I got home the afternoon was very pleasant and I could enjoy watching the garden birds.

Monday, 24 January 2011

If You Go Down To The Wood Today - It May Be For Sale

A nice day meant I was keen to get out and a quick trip to Allerthorpe Wood would fit in with the day's tasks.
At the entrance to the wood was a sign warning of a potential sale. Now I had heard something about this but to be honest had put further research into the matter on the to do list. So well done whoever put the sign up - it really made me think that perhaps the government was serious about this.

As I walked around the wood appreciating the scenery and wildlife I started to think how lucky we are to have access to such places and what a good job the Forestry Commission are doing at managing them.  Surely these woods have more value to the people than the amount of money they could be sold for.

 I imagined possible reasons for anyone wanting to buy woodland. Would commercial pressures mean the scenery we currently enjoy would only be thought of in monetary terms.

Gradually I came to the conclusion that if it was a mistake to sell off the woodland it would be a lot harder to restore things back to how they are now.

This beautiful scenery is too valuable to risk and it would be far safer to stop any sale rather than risk this natural treasure of the nation falling into the hands of those who can only see the value in terms of money.

I had spoken to a lady who was feeding the birds to help them through the harsh winter we have had. As she walked to the feeding point the trees filled with birds showing just how much life there is within the wood. Sometimes nature needs our help.

High up in the trees I saw some Goldcrests I tried to get a photograph but only managed a blurred one but good enough to confirm the identity. Turning round I saw a dog walker further up the path who had seen me with my camera and was waiting so as not to disturb the birds.

 I passed a tree that had held onto its dead leaves over winter and heard a rustle - was it caused by a gust of wind or was it the tree trembling with fear for what may come.

Concerned by the plans I decided to sign the petition here and also the Woodland Trust's

I hope the government see the light and abandon any thoughts of a sale.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

New visitors

How nice it has been today to see sunshine and blue sky. The grass on the lawn seems to have started growing and green shoots are appearing in the flowerbeds. 

There has been lots of activity from the local bird life. It is so nice to hear them singing on a morning.

Looking out at the feeders this lunchtime I saw a different bird feeding on nyjer seed. It was a Lesser redpoll - the first time I have seen one in the garden. On closer inspection there seemed to be three of them.

Although at times they would share the feeder they seemed reluctant to do so and if more than two birds were on it at once they would chase them away as this Goldfinch found out a few seconds after I took the photo.

They would not even share amongst themselves.
They did however all manage their fill of seeds and the Goldfinches reluctantly backed off but soon returned as the redpolls flew away.

The back garden does not get much sun at this time of year and the feeders were in shadow but luckily they spent a few seconds in one of the trees which was bathed in light. I was however balanced on the kitchen worktop at this point shooting through the glass so no prizes will be won although maybe I deserve one for not falling into the sink!

Sunday, 16 January 2011

A quick visit to Bempton

This Sunday Mrs Wolds-End and I had reason to visit the Filey area. It would have been a shame not to drive a few miles further to check up on what was happening at Bempton Cliffs and early afternoon saw us arrive in the car park at the same time as a heavy shower. Looking inland there was no sign of an end to the rain-laden clouds. Stepping out of the car the familiar call of a herring gull (is it me or do they really sound to have more joy in their calls near the sea rather than inland?) made me forget how damp it was and I was eager to see what other birds were about. So we donned waterproofs and headed through the visitor centre. We were informed that Guillemots had returned to the cliffs - perhaps due to good fishing nearby and as we walked down the path we could hear them.

Their visit will only be temporary and they will be off out to sea soon returning in March for the breeding season.

Gannets were to be seen flying near the sea and there were also some Fulmars.
Our brief visit had certainly been worthwhile and we look forward to the months ahead when we can spend more time at Bempton.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Odd One Out

Now that the snow has finally gone and temperatures have risen almost to double figures the stillwaters are finally starting to thaw. I wonder how the fish in the shallower ones have fared. 

During the bad weather I was not able to visit one of my favourite ponds so I was anxious to check on it and today I drove the hour or so to have a look. On arrival I was not too surprised to see it still partially covered with ice. In winter it is occupied by Mallards, Black-headed gulls and Canada geese but today amongst the ducks was a surprise - a Bar-headed goose. 

It seemed to be trying to blend in with the  Mallards but it wasn't difficult to spot the odd one out. I must say I thought it a very fine looking goose.

The pond does serve as a temporary home for various birds from time to time and I presume this goose will move on. I have no idea if it is an escapee or one of the few "feral" Bar-headed geese in the country but forgive me for not revealing the location.

I have known the pond for over 30 years but sadly I do feel I knew it at it's best and that was quite a few years ago. I used to spend all week at school/work dreaming of visiting but in recent years money has been spent on it and not wisely in my opinion. As a result of the removal of non-native plant species an ideal breeding ground for Canada geese was created and the council (who were left the pond as part of an estate) wasted tax payers money on an egg oiling project. Yes they want geese on the lake but they want Greylags so I fear for any other species! 

Nature has a habit of not doing what mankind wants and I am sure that it will run rings round this particular council and its attempts to control this area.

I live in hope that the council and local "friends of" group will run out of money and stop their meddling and this pond will return to what it was not too long ago - a place to dream about. Or maybe I am wrong and the goose was not alone in being the odd one out!