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!