My partner, Jen, and I took a week's holiday in Anglesey at the start of September. It was the fourth time in five Septembers.
I don't know if it was because we were a week earlier this year, or because summer is running later, but there seemed to be less wildlife about this time. No wheatears, only a few gannets, and a single tern. But it was still a wonderful holiday, there were plenty of flowers still in bloom, I saw ravens, a seal and goosanders, and I got to take an extremely jammy photograph of a black-headed gull watching a bottle-nosed dolphin failing to catch a fish:
Natural Selection is very much alive and kicking in Anglesey. (As it is everywhere else.)
It was another glorious day yesterday, and I had presciently got all of my household chores out of the way earlier in the week, so I decided to take a walk up to the Moor.
I was somewhat overdressed for the weather in my moleskin shirt, fleece and waterproof jacket. This was confirmed as I gasped my way to the top of the hill, only to see a fell-runner run past in only his running shoes and shorts. He was so intent on his running that he didn't even bother to touch the trig point to make it official. Now there was a chap who needed to examine his priorities.
There were skylarks singing in the sky, several curlews burbling in the distance, and a number of wheatears flashing their eponymous white arses along the walls and above the fields (my first on the Moor this summer). But by far my strangest encounter was coming face-to-beak with a female duck, sticking her head out of the heather. We don't get many ducks on the Moor!
On my way down, I even spotted a few reed buntings on the edge of the Moor. I've not seen them up there before.
A very pleasing walk. Albeit a little on the hot side!
I visited Burton Marshes on Tuesday last week. My Tuesday afternoon visits there, on the way to my Dad's, are becoming something of a habit. I just sat in the car for a couple of hours, taking in the view, watching the occasional little egret through my binoculars, and generally chilling out. Just before I left, I was delighted to spot a whitethroat—a relative rarity for me—in the hawthorn a few yards in front of the car. Of course, by the time I'd got my camera out, it had gone. Still, though.
I was back at Burton Marshes this Tuesday. The weather was glorious, so I sat on one of the benches for 15 minutes, trying (unsuccessfully) to spot any of a number of grasshopper warblers I could hear singing their hearts out in the nearby reeds. They realy do sound uncannily like grasshoppers. But no joy.
I then decided to take a short walk up to Burton Point. This turned out to be an excellent decision, as I was soon rewarded with my first proper sighting this summer of a wheatear—several wheatears, in fact. A short while later, I was positively cock-a-hoop to spot three whinchats perched on a bush in a large expanse of sedge, flitting up into the air occasionally after flies. I'm sure I must have seen whinchats before, but I can't hand-on-heart swear that I have, so chalk one up on my unwritten life list.
There were a few more whinchats farther down the track, and several little egrets flew overhead. On the whole, a delightful and productive short walk.
As I returned to the car, I was even jammy enough to spot a whitethroat—the same one as last week, I guess—and actually managed to take a couple of snaps. I was particularly pleased with the first one, which I had to focus manually (as I did with some of my earlier whinchat shots) due to there being too much undergrowth in the way for the camera's autofocus mechanism to deal with.
The first swallow of the summer, tumbling over the back field first thing yesterday morning as I opened the gate. Only three days later than last year, despite this dreadful spring. If previous years are anything to go by—although why should they be, these days?—it will be a couple of weeks yet before they're back in great numbers. Which I guess is why one of them doesn't make a summer. It's good to have them back, though.
The afternoon was glorious, with a strong, warm breeze, so I headed up to the Moor. Unusually, I didn't spot a single red grouse, although the meadow pipits were back in decent numbers, and there was a lone skylark belting it out high above me for all he was worth.
It's finally starting to feel just a little bit springy.
Last Friday, I took a circular walk down Burlees Lane, through the woods, up the hill, and back home along Height Road.
A hormone-fuelled green woodpecker screeched incessantly (but, unfortunately, invisibly) from the small copse at the end of the lane. I could hear him for almost the entire walk. I spooked a snipe from the field at the side of the wood. Then, as I climbed out of the wood, I turned round to take in the view, and spotted a distant white flash: I'm 95% sure it was my first wheatear of the year. That's a big deal for me.
Yesterday, I glanced out of our dining room window to see three siskins and a large collection of long-tailed tits—comparative rarities in this neck of the moors—feeding on our bird table. The local dunnocks were also being extremely frisky.
Famous last words, I know, but I think we might finally have broken the back of this incessant winter. Having said that, there were still several redwings perched in our neighbour's oak on Friday evening!
It has been pointed out to me that I haven't updated this journal in several months. Not that it needed pointing out, you understand: I was painfully aware of the fact. To be honest, I had been toying with the idea of scrapping the whole thing and using the lifesgrandeur.com domain name for some other, as-yet-unidentified purpose.
I've been very busy, you see. I've been writing my book. In fact, I've written my book, and am now looking for a literary agent. Literary agents are extremely difficult to get hold of, apparently, but it's definitely the thing to do, if you can manage it. And, if you can't, there's always the self-publishing-on-Kindle option.
And the weather has been so damn awful, you see. ‘The crappiest summer since records began,’ the Met Office said. Or something like that. So I haven't been getting out as much as I'd like.
And then there's the backlog, you see. I haven't posted here since mid-June. That's over four months' worth of posts I would have to write. Which is a daunting prospect to say the least.
So, tell you what: why don't I just post a whole bunch of photos of stuff I've seen since mid-June, with no commentary except the photo captions, and we'll carry on from there as if nothing happened. Which it didn't, I suppose.
Of course, this means I won't get to tell you about all the stuff I didn't manage to photograph, like the two female goshawk sightings in Anglesey (or, more likely, the same female goshawk twice—my first ever goshawk sightings), and the stoat that failed to spot me sitting on my favourite rock, and the peregrine falcon which flew right by my windscreen while I was stuck in a traffic jam on the M56 near Frodsham Marshes only last week. But you're not interested in goshawks or stoats or peregrines if there aren't any photos, are you?
So, without further ado, on with the pictures. First, a few shots I failed to include in my last post:
I'm behind with my updates again. A quick summary might therefore be in order:
Sun, 06-May-2012: After a matinee screening at the Hebden Bridge Picture House, Jen and I bought a bag of chips and went to eat them by the packhorse bridge in the middle of town. I could not believe it: there was a dipper feeding in the shallows less than ten feet from where we were standing. It caught a small fish and spent about a minute battering it (no pun intended) against a rock before heading off with it upstream. Lends a whole new meaning to the phrase fish & chips. Needless to say, I did not have a camera to hand.
Wed, 16-May-2012: Went for a walk on the moor up to High Brown Knoll. Took a cracking photo of a robin in a garden at the side of Wainsgate Lane on my way up. Also saw a number of wheatears and curlew on the moor.