Dad recently resurrected his old bird feeders. Mum would have been delighted: she took her bird-feeding very seriously.
Some snaps taken at Dad's feeder yesterday evening:
More photos here ».
My friend Mike is currently building a kayak in Cumbria, so I went over to stay with him for a couple of days. On my way there, on Tuesday, I took a spin through the Yorkshire Dales, visited my joint-favourite second-hand bookshop in Sedbergh, drove over to Windermere, then took the Kirkstone Pass to Brothers Water.
I've wanted to visit Brothers Water for about 20 years—ever since Mum returned from a holiday in the Lake District with Dad, full of excitement at having seen red squirrels in the woods next to Brothers Water. She thought I should drive up there right away to look for them. On Tuesday, I finally got round to it.
Not wishing to build up any sort of suspense, I should tell you right away that I didn't see any red squirrels. I've only seen one red squirrel in my entire life: out of a car window, when I was about six, in Dibbinsdale, near our home in Bromborough. You won't find any red squirrels in Dibbinsdale today. Or ever again, most likely. They've been seen off by the pox, and a nationwide cull of the invasive grey vectors seems unlikely.
Who needs squirrels? It was a lovely walk along the footpath near Brothers Water. The weather was unseasonably warm, but there was quite a lot of mist about. Despite the mist, my photos came out better than I expected:
The following day, yesterday, with Mike taking almost as long as Noah on his boat, I took a spin up to Keswick to visit Castlerigg stone circle. I then popped into the town and visited the pencil museum. There's 15 minutes (and £4.50) I'll never get back!
I stopped for a brew at Coniston Water on my way back to Mike's place. As I tucked into my, I felt, well-earned Eccles cake, I was visited by a pair of robins, on the scrounge for crumbs. Unfortunately, they took it in turns coming over to me, so I wasn't able to get a photo of the two of them together. But they did come sufficiently close to enable me to use my favourite macro lens:
Yesterday would have been Mum's 76th birthday. She'd have been delighted to hear of my close encounter with a pair of her favourite birds. Even more delighted than if I'd seen some red squirrels.
I went to sleep at Dad's last night to the sound of a vixen screeching to attract potential mates. She was very nearby—on the railway line most likely. It is a disconcertingly human-sounding noise. Indeed, the first time Mum and Dad heard it, many decades ago, they thought a woman was being attached. They stood worried at the bottom of the garden, trying to work out where the noise was coming from, wondering whether they should call the police.
The mid-winter screeches of vixens is one of the sounds of my childhood. I have only heard it once here in Yorkshire: in August 2001, on Jen's and my very first night in our new home. It carried on for about 20 minutes, until in was terminated by a single shotgun blast. Foxes are not tolerated in sheep country.
I had hoped to get back into the nature-blogging swing of things this month, but the British weather has been so dire that I haven't got out much.
On the last day of May, as I lay awake in bed at 5am, I was delighted to hear a very distant cuckoo cuckooing away for all he was worth. This is the first time I have ever heard a cuckoo in West Yorkshire. Later that day, I had a long phone-chat with my babaceous friend Stense in Scotland. She was delighted at my cuckoo news, having not heard a cuckoo herself for yonks. Half an hour after our call, a very excited Stense phoned me back: she had taken the dog for a walk and was standing directly underneath a cuckoo. There was another cuckooing away not far off. The calls came across so clearly on the phone that, for a bit of fun, I tried to record them. By the time I had rigged up my microphone, however, the cuckoos had moved off, so all I got was a recording of Stense asking me if I could hear anything!
Dad reminded me a couple of weeks ago that Mum used to say that the woodpigeon nesting in one of the trees in their garden sounded as if it was singing ‘Old Man River’. Ridiculous, obviously, until you actually hear it; then it is unmistakeable. It must run in the family: I am now convinced that one of the blackbirds in our garden keeps singing the word ‘Sarajevo’.
I finally managed to get a walk on the moor this Wednesday (13th), and was delighted to see a buzzard circling high above High Brown Knoll. Far too far away to get a photo, but exciting because it was my first ever buzzard above the moor. Persecution makes buzzards extremely rare in sheep- and grouse-country.
During the walk, I also spotted a little owl. It spotted me too, which means I couldn't get all that close. But I did at least manage to get a few photos this time.
Buzzards and little owls notwithstanding, the undoubted highlight of the week came on Monday (11th) as I was working in the dining room: a newly fledged house sparrow stood on the stone in the middle of our bird-bath, trying to pluck up the courage to take the plunge. It tested the water several times with one foot, then leant over for a closer assessment. It had the fright of its very short life when it saw another sparrow looking up out of the water at it. You have never seen a sparrow move quite so fast!
Come on, British summer, you're bloody late! It's the solstice next week!
Two brief visits to the Dee Marshes on consecutive Tuesday afternoons. Last week, it was very misty; this week, less so. Several egrets, and lots of geese and swans—the geese and swans being too far away to identify. Very atmospheric, though, misty marshes.
Spotted a little owl on a telegraph wire above Cragg Vale on my way into work this morning. I've seen it there several times before, but never seem to have my camera to hand.
Drinking tea with Dad in his garden in the late afternoon, I spotted a buzzard being mobbed by a pair of carrion crows. It flew right over us, very low. A fantastic spectacle.
Dad was worried for Molly, who was playing with her ball on the lawn. I think a cocker spaniel might be just a little too big for a buzzard, but you never know.