Thursday, 21 January 2010

A trip to Folly Farm, but first...

Oops, I seem to have repeated myself in the last post, let's hope noone noticed...must remember to review last blog before starting another.

The thaw happened very quickly, which was quite disconcerting! One minute a blanket of snow, the next a soggy mass of sprouting wheat grains - why do they put them in if the birds don't like them? Oh yes of course, they're cheap (no pun intended!). That's probably why our human diets abound with the stuff as well!

The car was stiff and creaky after it's enforced rest, so we took it on a run to Folly Farm, a wonderful nature reserve near Chew Valley. It's owned by the Avon Wildlife Trust and they have a centre there with all sorts of interesting and educational things going on.
We took a new path this time, up the hill past lots of newly-planted trees, till we came to a kind of escarpment. Over the top and wow! an almost 360 degree view, with Chew Valley Lake taking pride of place. There's a small enclosed area with a bench, and the two wind-blasted trees you can see in the picture. Near the bench is a stake with a chaps name on a plaque - can't remember the name, and not sure if it's just his name or his remains that are here - but what a wonderful place to come and remember one you have loved. And for him to have this view for all eternity!

Sunday, 17 January 2010

More snow

Another three inches of the white stuff sent us scurrying down the hill to order some wood from the farmer - our coalman can't get through and fuel is running low...

On our way we met a bird and a tractor - or at least the tracks! I would love to do a time-lapse film on one stretch of road, to see all the different travellers - the snow reveals more than we normally see!

The garden is still teeming with birds - it's a birdie soup kitchen! We've been putting apples out for the blackbirds and have acquired a resident fieldfare who patrols the food and chases all the other birds off - especially the blackbirds, I think they are old rivals. He flicks his tail and dashes at them, when he is not neatly excavating all the apple flesh from the skin.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Just walking the dog

The village is still snowed in, and ice is making it difficult to move around, but the fields look beautiful, so we set off yesterday to stretch our legs and see what was happening in the world of winter. Icicles! Haven't seen them in such number since my childhood.

Reaching the first field I looked down at the snow and was very surprised to see that it was made up of what looked like hundreds of icy feathers - I've never seen it look like that before! Difficult to photo but my super macro did its best.

Before long we had met up with a friend walking her three dogs, and then another friend arrived with his two, and then further on were more villagers and more dogs - it was like a convention! The night before I had watched a Horizon programme on dogs and humans, and how they have evolved together, so it seemed a nice synchronicity. The dogs had a whale of a time romping in the snow, and those humans who were brave enough flung themselves down the hill on a proper wooden sledge.

Cold feet got the better of us after a while, and we headed back home. Put out more food and water for the birds, and noticed that the fieldfare who arrived yesterday is still around, enjoying the pears and apples we provided. He is putting up quite a fight with the blackbirds for the prime eating spot, and is obviously feeling the cold in his feet, as he keeps lifting them up alternately and tucking them in his downy breast. I know how he feels...

Monday, 4 January 2010

A walk to Badger Oak

Why do human beings like to name things so much? We name ourselves, our houses, our toys, our animals. I think it's do with family and feeling at home somewhere; we make up names for where we belong, and who we belong with. Me and D are giving names to the fields and landmarks around where we live - to make it our little kingdom! It's great to know the historical names too, and to wonder who named them and why...
D already named some of the places before I came here, and I was introduced to the Secret Field, and Little Scotland.
Yesterday was still bitterly cold and bright - we walked down past the Poplars, past the doctors house and up the field to Badger Oak - named for the bank behind it, full of Badger setts. It's a beautiful old oak with stout curvy limbs, a real character. On the way we met lots of birds, especially the long tailed tits that D calls 'marauders' because of their comical heads and habit of darting around in packs. They are extremely difficult to photograph as they never keep still!
Past the oak and through the field at the top, we found a host of Fieldfares and Redwings, looking for their dinner. We are beginners at bird identification, and the Redwings had us stumped till we got home - I think the fact that they hang around with Fieldfares and have that distinctive white eye stripe should help in the future!

Saturday, 2 January 2010

New Year, New Decade!

If, like me, you like signs and portents, the 'Blue Moon' on New Years Eve will have provided a satisfying start to this new decade - what will the next ten years bring, and how can we meet the challenge?
Well the first thing is to go for a walk... where did the tradition of going for a walk on Boxing and New Years day come from? It's certainly a popular one, as groups of families and friends are to be found wherever the paths lead through our beautiful countryside and down to the shore. Is it the urge to connect with nature or are we all just driving each other mad indoors and have to find more space?!
We headed to Midford on New Years Day, to pick up the cycle track between Midford and Wellow, a path I visited in the summer with the Cam Valley Wildlife Group. Lush with plants in the summer, the bare bones of winter showed through yesterday, with swathes of Old Mans Beard framing the views across the valley. It was bright and sunny but bitterly cold, and the hot chocolate at the pub afterwards was very welcome!
Leaving Midford we saw some huge birds perched in the trees - Cormorants! Looked like one or two were youngsters as they were a more browny colour. They seem to be adapting well to all sorts of bits of water in Britain, unlike their cousins the Shags, who seem to prefer the seaside.