Thursday, 24 May 2018

Black terns...

A day of two halves. The morning was spent getting new brake-pads for the Romahome. The afternoon was spent, on a whim, at Rutland Water. With no expectations about what I might see, I was pleasantly surprised to see hobbies hawking for dragonflies, then an osprey soaring over the lake. There’s a nesting pair here. I moved on to another hide, and spent a couple of tranquil hours with a local bird watcher… finding a fair few birds: redshank, common tern, gadwall, ringed plover. An egyptian goose was guarding her goslings. Coots were rounding up their ugly offspring. A great crested grebe was on the nest. A tiny wader breezed in: a sanderling, we finally decided. The afternoon’s highlight was a pair of black terns which landed among the common terns.

Richard Dawkins and I have precious little in common, except that we both went to Oundle School. He was there just before me - we could never have met - but the man who inspired him to study biology was my housemaster. Dawkins tells a story about headmaster Kenneth Fisher, who was chairing a staff meeting when there was a timid knock on the door and a small boy came in: “Please, sir, there are black terns down by the river.” “This can wait,” said Fisher decisively to the assembled committee. He rose from the chair, seized his binoculars from the door and cycled off in the company of the small ornithologist.

I remember knocking at that same door, clutching a note which informed the headmaster that I was there to be beaten. Happy days…


Actuality...

An excerpt from Krishnamurti's Book of Life arrived in my email in-tray this morning.

"If you are a Christian, your visions follow a certain pattern; if you are a Hindu, a Buddhist, or a Muslim, they follow a different pattern. You see Christ or Krishna, according to your conditioning; your education, the culture in which you have been brought up, determines your visions. Which is the actuality: the vision, or the mind which has been shaped in a certain mold? The vision is the projection of the particular tradition which happens to form the background of the mind. This conditioning, not the vision which it projects, is the actuality, the fact. To understand the fact is simple; but it is made difficult by our likes and dislikes, by our condemnation of the fact, by the opinions or judgments we have about the fact. To be free of these various forms of evaluation is to understand the actual, the what is."

Licensed this shot of the marketplace in Thirsk...


Wednesday, 23 May 2018

St Ives...

Had an enjoyable evening with son Chas: drinking too much wine, putting the world to rights, then building a fire and sitting so close to it that we were showered with sparks.

Only four river bridges incorporate a chapel: Wakefield, Rotherham, Bradford-on-Avon and this one, St Ives in Cambridgeshire, spanning the River Great Ouse. The bridge and chapel date back to 1426. The chapel served two roles: as a toll-house and a place for travellers to offer prayers (or give thanks) for a safe journey...


Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Oakham

I’ve found myself another cosy little campsite near Oakham. Everyone is friendly, there aren’t any officious notices, the showers are warm, the wifi dependable and the shop is unmanned; you take what you need and put your money in a tin. The same goes for the washing machine. There's even a swimming pool (though I've seen bigger bird-baths). I’ve processed and uploaded seventy pix, and cracked on with editing the book. Off soon, to see son Chas in Coventry.

The statue of Oliver Cromwell in St Ives...


Monday, 21 May 2018

Spring birds...

I totted up the birds I've seen this spring, in Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk: a total of 130.

Mute swan, greylag goose, canada goose, barnacle goose, brent goose, shelduck, egyptian goose, mallard, gadwall, pintail, shoveler, wigeon, teal, pochard, red-crested pochard, tufted duck, goldeneye, gooseander, red-legged partridge, pheasant, little grebe, great crested grebe, cormorant, bittern, little egret, great egret, heron, spoonbill, red kite, osprey, marsh harrier, hen harrier, buzzard, sparrowhawk, kestrel, hobby, moorhen, coot, crane, oystercatcher, avocet, stone curlew, little ringed plover, ringed plover, grey plover, lapwing, knot, turnstone, sanderling, dunlin, temminck’s stint, common sandpiper, redshank, spotted redshank, greenshank, black-tailed godwit, bar-tailed godwit, curlew, whimbrel, snipe, ruff, pectoral sandpiper, black headed gull, common gull, mediterranean gull, herring gull, lesser black-backed gull, great black-backed gull, little gull, kittiwake, common tern, sandwich tern, little tern, black tern, wood pigeon, collared dove, turtle dove, cuckoo, swift, green woodpecker, great spotted woodpecker, tawny owl, skylark, swallow, sand martin, house martin, meadow pipit, pied wagtail, yellow wagtail, grey wagtail, dunnock, robin, nightingale, wheatear, stonechat, whinchat, song thrush, mistle thrush, blackbird, garden warbler, blackcap, whitethroat, dartford warbler, sedge warbler, cetti’s warbler, reed warbler, willow warbler, chiffchaff, wren, great tit, coal tit, blue tit, long-tailed tit, bearded tit, nuthatch, treecreeper, magpie, jay, jackdaw, rook, carrion crow, starling, house sparrow, chaffinch, bullfinch, linnet, goldfinch, greenfinch, reed bunting, yellowhammer.

Every picture tells a story...

Sunday, 20 May 2018

Hobbies...

I had another session on Cley marshes. One hide was crowded with birders (not always a pretty sight) training their telescopes and long lenses on a tiny and inconspicuous wader: a Temminck’s stint. That’s a first sighting for me (though I doubt if I would have been able to recognise it if I'd been on my own). Most exciting was seeing two male ruffs, in full breeding plumage, displaying in front of a female, who seemed singularly unimpressed by their bowing and scraping.

Yesterday afternoon, to avoid royal wedding craziness, I joined other anti-monarchists at Lakenheath Fen. It was my third visit. There aren’t big numbers of birds, as at Cley or Minsmere or other coastal wetlands, but I always see something interesting there. A month ago it was a bittern and (another first for me) two common cranes; on this occasion it was the hobbies. The reserve is full of dragonflies, which is what hobbies like to eat: catching them, acrobatically, in flight. I sat overlooking the lake and reedbeds, at the far end of the reserve, hypnotised by the sight of about fifty of these beautiful birds of prey. The sky was full of them. That’s the end of my springtime bird watching in East Anglia; what a memorable way to finish.

Birders going fully-armed at Cley, in search of a temminck's stint...
























Hobby in flight (photo: Creative Commons)...


Friday, 18 May 2018

Little gulls...

I wandered around Titchwell, another RSPB reserve, with the hedgerows heavy with blossom and the sky full of swifts. A big, ruddy-faced man was trying to photograph swifts in flight. “Good luck with that!”, I said. He was rhapsodising about their flying abilities. Having just arrived back from sub-Saharan Africa, they might deserve - or require - a few day’s rest. But no. While a lot of the ducks, godwits, gulls and avocets seemed to be asleep (some balanced on one leg) the swifts were tearing around the sky. Inactivity isn’t in their nature; they can even sleep on the wing.

I found a long-tailed tit’s nest, ten feet up in a tree, where three branches met; it was about the same shape and size as a child’s rugby ball and looked to be made entirely of moss and feathers. In the marshes were ducks and geese, with their ducklings and goslings. A marsh harrier was ‘quartering’ over open water, rather than the reedbeds, trying to catch one. The best sightings were a whimbrel: like a curlew, but smaller and much less common. And I spotted half a dozen little gulls among the hundreds of black headed gulls. They are small, dainty and, in flight, look more like terns.

How did they know I was coming?