Friday, 25 June 2010

A cheap day out

Foxton is a beautiful village situated on the South side of Leicestershire, my Mum bless her still lives in the village, and my late Dad loved it there.
Foxton Locks is a landmark location on England's waterways, noted not only for its famous flight of locks but also as the site of the Foxton Inclined Plane - A boat lift opened at the start of the 20th century in an aid to speed up boat traffic, when you look at the locks which takes around 45 minutes to navigate, from top to bottom is 75 feet, you can understand the need for a lift.

Foxton Locks

No longer a working boat yard it has now become a major tourist attraction, during the weekends in Summer it is packed with folk enjoying the wonderful views, walks, museum, and pub. Having retired early we can visit mid-week which we did today, and enjoyed a swift half in the newly refurbished Foxton Locks.Images at Foxton Locks

On leaving the locks Jackie spotted a Kestrel perched high in a young tree, obviously when you stop the car, get out, aim your camera, prepare to press the shutter, yeah, you guessed it, it buggers off. Working on the theory that this must be his territory we waited a while, sure enough he returned and perched in a different tree this time, moving the car into position (the car is a good hide as the birds get used to seeing them) pointed my lens out of the window, and off it shot again, landing in another tree further down the road. This time i decided to crouch down, not easy with my knee's and used my stalking skills, Jak indicated i was level with the Kes, I slowly raised my camera to my eye and over the hedge, there he was in all his glory, a young male by the look of it, i managed a couple of shot before he realised the noise he heard was the shutter on my camera, i wish Canon would sort this, most Canon DSLR's have a noisy shutter.

A lovely Falcon

Leaving Kes behind we had a ride around a few of the villages close by, mainly to see what bird life was around, we came across the usual Swallows, House Martins and Swifts but it is noticeable they appear reduced in numbers this year, in fact it is worrying the lack of these three species, in Norfolk at a pub on the river we frequent, a few years ago there were 70/100 House Martins nests this year there is around a dozen. But back to today, we arrive in Langton a little Hamlet, we admired some of the properties there and spoke about which one we will buy when we win the lottery, as we were about to leave Langton i noticed a bird on the grass verge but was unable to asses what it was, i wish i had because as we got closer it became evident it was a male Sparrow Hawk with a freshly killed Blue tit, unfortunately he never gave us time to get a good look at him. One thing i did find interesting was the walls around the small church, they appeared to be covered in a sandy mortar mix but the strange thing was the fact that the top of the walls were thatched, i don't think i have seen that before.

Thatched Wall Topping

Heading back towards home we stopped off in Gumley another village where my Sister used to live before moving to London. There is an area there with adjacent woodland i frequent from time to time to watch the Buzzards and Green Woodpeckers who always let you know that you are trespassing with their aggressive cackle call. The Buzzards were gliding about 300 feet above us on the lookout for an unsuspecting rabbit but it was disappointing not to hear or see the Green Woody's, i mentioned to Jak that i hoped they survived the Winter, the staple diet being ants, i just wonder if there was enough around to sustain the pecker population.

As we walked and commented how lovely it was to be out in such a beautiful area and have it to ourselves i heard what i thought was a Fox bark, we sat down against a tree and watched a while but saw nothing, i just happened to have my Fox caller in my pocket, well you would wouldn't you and started to squeak the Fox, within seconds we were confronted by two very inquisitive Fox cubs, at first they just looked at us, staring intently and then showed us there displeasure at our presence by barking like mad before returning to the woodland making one hell of a noise. A great site to see up close, i was pleased i managed to get a pic of them before they scurried away.

Like peas in a pod

Its easy to not to make an effort to get out and enjoy the surroundings, but when we do make an effort the rewards can be great, we had a wonderful day that cost us less than a gallon of fuel and a pint in the pub, we saw some stunning views and enjoyed nature in the raw, might just do it again tomorrow.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

With the help of technology

I decided to have a walk around the area that surrounds my patch, the Countryside is stunning with some lovely walks, I guess I tend to take it for granted being so close. I firstly stopped off at Wistow Lake in the grounds of the Wistow estate, I had the fishing rights to this water for many years from the early 1970's, it is only small around three acres, and always very shallow, but I was amazed how shallow it was today, it has silted up so badly.

All silted up
It was here in 1973 I landed a Tench that was 9 ounces short of the British record at 8lb 8 oz's, the record being 9lb 1oz another personal triumph was two 20lb plus carp caught ten minutes apart, firstly a 23lb Mirror followed by a 25lb plus Mirror, in the days when 20's were still pretty rare. I studied the water for some time but saw noting to tell me that fish of this ilk are still present, I was made aware some years ago that most of the large carp were stolen. I did see some carp around the 5lb mark and a few tench in the 3lb class and a tiny little pike, perfection in miniature. I remember one January when working around the lake, I had a rod out with a sprat attached for any unsuspecting pike that may be around, I was not disappointed as I landed a fish of 22lb 8oz, maybe the great great great Grandmother of this tiny specimen.

A miniature predator
I strolled over to the church that sits close to the lake, as i did i remember fishing the lake at last light with a mate of mine, it was around ten pm when i decided to pack up for home, Tony said he wanted to stay another hour. When I saw him next he told me of his hour alone on the bank of the lake, his mind started to play havoc as the dark descended on him, it was when the organ in the church stared to play that he decided his nerves could take no more, he said there was no lights on in the church at the time but the music was blaring out. When i told him that Wistow church did not have an organ he was astounded, he swears to this day he heard it playing.

St Wistans church
The following is taken from the St Wistans websiteHuman hairs growing through the grass in Wistow Churchyard on 1st June". This is the legend which resulted from the murder in 849 of Saint Wistan, Christian Prince of Mercia, by his cousin, Brifardus, who coveted the throne and cared nothing for Christian principles. Little now remains of the early church built on the site of that murder, but the name Wistow, shortened from Wistanstowe (holy place of Wistan) reminds us of that Christian Prince.
Moving across the fields at the rear of the church towards the Grand Union canal I saw a couple of narrow boats moored, these looked like live aboards and have been there for some time. Now I love boats, I love the canals, I love water, but I have never fancied having a holiday on a canal boat it just doesn't appeal to me, not sure why, maybe the closeness of the banks i don't know, but i can see why people do enjoy it.

The Leicestershire Grand Union canal

As I looked from the canal bridge a small narrow boat approached the bridge, I waved at the two ladies on board and wished them well, they did likewise, i watched as they disappeared in the distance. I then became aware of a Chiff-Chaff singing in one of the tree's above me, I could hear it but not see it, so i turned to technology to help me out. I have a number of bird songs stored on my mobile, luckily i had the Chiff-Chaff, I played it and within seconds this little beauty appeared, infact at one point it nearly landed on my shoulder, I placed my mobile on the fence and within no time the Chiff-Chaff was investigating it.
Phone help

I guess its not fair to mess birds around like this too much, but it was great fun watching him for a minute of so, no harm done as I moved on
I had had a nice walk and decided to head back home, it was with nervous excitement as I was thinking about the up coming England game. My gaze was drawn to buttercups, they reminded me of my childhood days, did you know if you hold a buttercup flower under someones chin and it reflects yellow on their skin it means they like butter?

It may account why a few of my old mates from those days are gone now, too much butter, they all liked it, in fact i never found anyone who didn't like butter, i am so glad i went on the Flora. Jackie still eats butter and so does my old mate Geoff Capes (twice World strongest man) but i think even Geoff would agree that this Ladybird is biting off a little more than he can chew.

Now where shall I start

In relative terms if he gets through all those aphids he will be bigger than the great man. I recall a newspaper piece on Geoff where it listed his daily food intake, it was huge, i reckon this little Ladybird has him beat.

Well having a good morning, the afternoon was pretty good too, i watched the England game with my Grandson Jake who was like a cat on a hot tin roof during the game, all ended well with an England victory, bring on the Germans

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Kes update

I had a day out today hoping to get some birdy pic's, the blighters seem to be evading me of late, so with this in mind I decided to head for a woodland that has paid dividends for me in the past. Before I set off though I nipped down the patch to look at Kes and Co, the female was in the tree where I park my car and took off as soon as I opened the door, the tree overlooks the newly cut hay field so it looks like she has found a plentiful supply of food for the time being. As usual I walked past the nest box to be greeted by four hungry looking faces, I reckon they are eating for England, I took a quick image to show the rate they are growing then left them alone. Still no sign of the Male I'm afraid I am beginning to fear the worst now.

Growing fast

Over to the hide I went again to top up the food, not much about at this time but I did notice a few Dragon Flies skiting over the pond, Broad Bodies Chasers, not to miss a chance I managed a shot or two of the male, the female evaded me, before I went on my way.

Broad Bodies Chaser (male)

I spent over four hours at my chosen woodland without getting a decent image, I did see plenty of juveniles but the little sods wouldn't show, oh well at least I had a good day even if I did burn my legs, that sun is hot.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Nature can be cruel

I decided on a couple of hours down the patch this afternoon as I needed to top up the feeders and make a repair following squirrel damage to my seed hopper. I always make a point of going past the Kestrel box to see what progress they are making, I looked up and saw four faces looking back at me, I guess the poorly one from earlier didn't make it but four is a good number. I looked back as I passed the nest not until I turned did I see the male Kestrel standing on the Cattle water trough, it took me by complete surprise as usually I can't get anywhere near him, I panicked as I tried to set my camera up, I had my tripod over my shoulder which slowed me down some, when I was ready to take a picture the lens would not focus, checking the settings proved they were fine, I was sure the Kestrel would fly soon, it turns out that my lens was set on manual focus from last night when I was taking images of hedgehogs, bugger I thought. The Kestrel decided he had had enough of me and hopped off the trough and away into some nearby nettles, a strange situation to say the least, he came out and perched on a sheep wire fence, it was obvious there was a problem with his wing, I did manage a couple of shots before he disappeared in the undergrowth of the hedgerow.

Injured male Kestrel
I was concerned for him and his chicks, if he can't fly he will be done for.
Moving to my feeding station I topped up the nut and sunflower heart feeders, and made a repair on my hopper, as you can see the squirrels cause havoc and are so determined to reach my seed.

Squirrel Damage

I sat in my hide for a couple of hours, it was so hot inside but with both front and back flaps open there was a nice breeze blowing through. Not a lot happening at the moment due to the abundance of natural food although the woodpecker paid a fleeting visit, and one or two juveniles i.e. Magpie, Great-tit and Goldfinch kept me entertained.

Juvenile Magpie
I was thinking about the Kestrels so decided to go back, I was so pleased to see the female standing on the edge of the nestbox with her chicks by her side, although I started to worry that she was waiting for the male to bring them a meal.

Hen Kes with chicks

I hope she will be able to manage to find enough food to keep the chicks and herself sustained, I am also hoping that the male is OK when I go back tomorrow but I have my doubts.
The longest day 21/06/10
I have been back today to the patch on three separate occasions to check on the Kestrels, the chicks looked fine as the peered over the edge of the nest box gazing into what will be their new world before long, I saw no sign of either parent although there was nothing strange about that. I spent some time at my hide but always on the lookout for one of the parent birds. No sign in the morning so I returned this afternoon for an hour again no sighting. I was not over worried yet, as I say the chicks look well but I wanted to know at least the hen bird was still around, so with this in my I returned for my third visit of the day, this time I was pleased to she the female sitting on a lofty perch as she surveyed a newly mown hay field, I guess she will find some easy picking here.

My thoughts are that if the weather stays fine and dry, and the fact that the days are as long as they get just now, our Kes's might just be lucky aye.

Friday, 18 June 2010

The last few days saw us in Norfolk again, this time to coincide with the glorious 16th of June, a significant day for me as it heralds the start of the new course fishing season, I have managed to wet a line on nearly every June 16th from the age of eight. In days gone bye I have been unable to sleep with excitement leading up to the start, now I am relaxed about my fishing and just enjoy the days. I decided to have a couple hours in the marina and attempt to catch a few Roach and Perch, there are some real quality fish within the marina but I never managed a specimen, although I did bag around 25 fish, a really enjoyable couple of hours before breakfast.
A perch

Having filled my belly with a bacon sarnie and some Cadbury's chocky we set off down stream for a cruise, stopping off at lunchtime for a quick tipple at the New Inn pub at Rockland St Mary. I love walking around the Broad here so while Jak read her book I took my camera for a walk. I am always on the lookout for a glimpse of the Chinese Water deer that reside in this area, a very wiley animal which tends to stay hidden most of the time. It is interesting to note that we have more Chinese water deer in Norfolk than they do in China where it has become a protected species. Having heard but not seen the Cuckoo I was delighted to see one of my favourite birds the Wren,Britain's most common breeding bird, having said that you have to be alert to spot them amongst the brambles etc,it treated me to its beautiful song for a minute or so before scurrying away again.

I don't know why it is but of late I seem to be taking more interest in wild flowers and I was reminded of a fact I first learned of as a kid as I looked at the Dogrose, a lovely single rose that climbs amongst the trees and hedges, the fact I was referring to is that the wild rose has seven petals per leaf while the cultivated rose has five, strange how these things stick in the mind.

I met up with a couple of Norfolk firemen who were gazing over the Broad looking for signs of Carp giving away their position apparently, they intended to set up for a night session in the hope of landing a 30lb wild fish, its amazing what you get to know from talking to folk for a few minutes, it turns out they work with a mate of mine at the same fire station.I wished them well and set off back to my boat. I noticed some movement in the long grass in the meadow that surrounds the Broad, on closer inspection it became apparent a water deer was grazing, although some distance away I reckoned with the camera on its tripod I could get a decent shot. I watched him for more than ten minutes before he noticed my presence and moved on, I got a few decent images and feel sure one day I will get much closer to one of these beautiful animals.

The next day saw a return to the marina and then a visit by car to Salhouse to investigate the pub in the village, we had heard some very good reports about the food, pulling into the large car park it was evident they were busy even though it was a mid-week lunchtime as we found it difficult to find an empty parking space. A swift half and a talk with a few of the locals confirmed what we had heard so a return soon for a meal is definitely on the cards.
Salhouse broad is a lovely place for a walk so off we set, walking along a line of ancient Oak trees leads directly to the Broad, the view is stunning and with a number of boats moored up with folk enjoying their holidays added to the scene. Walking along a boardwalk that borders the water we came to notice a Grey Heron, he obviously had his eye on a meal so we paused for a while to watch what happened. His stare was chilling as he locked on to his prey, then without notice he dived headfirst into the water completely submerging himself, seconds later he returned to his lofty position with a small roach in his mouth.

I thought to myself this guy is nearly as good a fisherman as me.

Not for the first time we saw the ice cream man at Salhouse, nothing strange in that you may say, until you realise this oakey bloke is in a boat, very enterprising I reckon, just wave and he comes over to your boat, this time we gave him a miss, but he was doing a brisk trade to say the least.

I needed to be back home today (Friday) to watch the footy with my Grandson, although having just sat through one of the worst England performance I can remember I wondered why I bothered. Oh yeah, I am backing the beard so you may not recognise me next time I see you.

Monday, 14 June 2010

The weekend heralded the eagerly awaited Budgerigar Society Convention at the Royal Clifton hotel in Southport, this venue was used four years ago for the previous Convention and was a great success, this years event was no different.

Royal Clifton Hotel

Southport Attractions

The function was very well attended by all walks of the fancy from older fanciers to the newest of newest a six month old baby.

I was one of the lecturers at this event as I was four years before, a real honour to be asked back again, even more of an honour to be a joint speaker with one of my budgie hero's Jeff Attwood, probably the best budgie speaker the World has ever seen. I enjoyed our presentation and from the feedback we have received since so did the watching audience.

Other lecturers engaged included Brian Sweeting, Richard & Michael Miller, Kevin Eatwell, Ron Pearce & Marcel Buhler, Ghalib Al-Nasser with Lynn Bancroft and Ian Fielding also the partnership of Huxley & Marchant, well done to the BS for attracting such a great line up.

I only stayed until Saturday morning having arrived on Thursday afternoon, but I thoroughly enjoyed my time there. The highlight for me was seeing Jeff Attwood receive the Silver Bird (the societies highest honour) for sevices to the Budgerigar society, a very worthy award for a wonderful man, well done mate.

Jeff receives his award from
The BS President Dave Herring

The Hotel is very impressive, the staff and food were very good, no wonder the society decided to return, I believe they will be returning in 2015, its a good job there is a nursing home next to the hotel, I reckon by then we BS members could fill it twice over.
I missed the actual bird show but from what I have heard there were some very good exhibits on display, I would like to say congratulations to Tony Pope from South Wales on his Best in Show award, a great guy and good supporter of the BS. The only downside to the weekend for me was England's draw with the USA, but I am sure we will get better, as my 87 year old Ma-in-Law would say "Come on England"

I am sad to say Our Robby died last night 13.06.2010 I will miss him greatly.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

I had a stroll around the patch today, it had been raining hard and was very overcast early on, but now the sun had burned off a lot of the cloud and was very pleasant indeed. In particular I chose to walk along the river that borders one side of the patch, it is only a small river, in places no more that a few inches deep, in others parts it can reach three feet in depth. Some years ago the landowner and I created a few pools along its stretch and it was by one of these I sat and observed a while. It was so relaxing listening to the water trickle over the man made waterfall as it fell to the next level. As I gazed at the water I became aware of a number of Beautiful Demoiselle.

The Beautiful Demoiselle

It seems a strange name for a species that has to fight for the honour of the female most of the day, not a hard man name by any means.. As I watched three or four of them battling for territory I became aware of a female sitting on a reed, she was laying eggs just below the surface, now I know why this fight was going on. I could see the surface tension around her abdomen, suddenly she turned and walked down the stem of the reed and completely submerged herself, as I watched she continued to lay her eggs.

Egg Laying in progress

Down she goes.

As she emerged a male immediately attached itself to her head and they both flew to a nearby leaf, I watched as the mating process took place, on completion she flew back to the water surface and proceeded to lay more eggs.

The dirty deed in process

I decided to continue my walk along the bank as far as I could before the river passed under a road bridge, this is the far end of my patch. I saw a small bird It looked like a Chiff-Chaff in a large Oak tree, reaching for my binoculars I realised I had left the buggars where I was watching the Damsel's. Oh well never mind, I quite enjoyed backtracking as it were, it gave me time to notice one or two of the flowers that are starting to appear in and around the river. I have never been too clued up on plants but always recognise the water forgetmenot, a stunning little beauty.


I always look forward to seeing the Yellow Iris in its natural environment too, they put on a great show in the margins of the river.

This lovely blue flower caught my eye, but I have no idea what it is.

Enough of flowers for now, seems a little pansy'ish if you see what I mean. I decided to take a walk up to the Manor house, I have a feeling there is a Fox den under a large old wooden shed, so I got myself downwind of it and snuggled down in the hedgerow, my idea was to try and squeak the Fox and cubs out of their den, squeaking is a trick used to attract all sorts of predators, but in my case today it was Foxes. I sat for ten minutes or so listening to the noises around me, you can often tell a lot about the surroundings this way, it told me there was no bloody foxes about, but my fox caller could change all that. My first squeak was a loud one aimed at getting the attention of any Raynard's that may be in the area, it has been known to call them in from 500 meters. I waited a while with no results, I squeaked again this time I did get a reaction, from the Jack Russell terriers that reside inside the house, the next thing I knew there were three of them heading my way making one almighty row. That's the end of the foxes for today I thought. Joe Goddard the landowner appeared with gravy dripping off his chin, obviously in the process of enjoying his Sunday lunch, I apologised for disturbing him, he laughed as I bumped my head getting out of his hedgerow, then thanked me for sending him the images of the Kestrel chicks. All in all a nice couple of hours spent around my patch, a quick look at the Kestrel box on my way back to the car saw one chick stick its head our for a split second, I was surprised how much it had grown since Monday, I must get back soon to record their progress.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Sparrow Hawk

Marsh Harrier

Accipiter nisus
Sparrow Hawk

Arenaria interpres
Sandpipers and allies

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Dark Red Breasted Pochard

Black Swan

Anser anser
Greylag goose