September is my favourite month for many, many reasons.
The end of September always makes me a little sad but but I am always looking forward very much to the next one.
It is filled with lovely things for us:-
It is the month we take our main annual holiday
It is the month of Burghley Horse Trials
It is the month of harvest
It is the month of Sandringham Game Fair
It is a month when we do most of our walking
It is the month when the best fungi appear.
It is the month of Food Festivals across the country. Ludlow being our favourite.
It is the month for Bramble picking & making Jam.
It is the month of Indian Summers when the heat has left the sun but the cold months are not showing themselves yet.
It is the month we got our hound and collected him when he was just 8 weeks old.
And it is the month we got married
We went to an agricultural show in June 2012 which was very wet and, although incredibly quaint and old fashioned with vintage tractors, rare breeds and country craft demonstrations, the rain drove us indoors eventually.
We took the exhibition tent and got talking to some interesting people at Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust.
Where we are based in South Holland, there are very few public footpaths because of the extent of the privately owned agricultural land. We know there are some places that you can go to but they all involve a drive and sometimes into the next county.
Imagine our delight to discover some incredible and readily accessible nature reserves right near us.
Giddy with the joy of it, we joined the LWT at an annual fee of ONLY £33 and walked away with a comprehensive map of the local reserves, a book about all the reserves in the Wildlife Trust’s arsenal across the UK and a car sticker (should have handed that back as we won’t ever use that).
The following day, the weather perked up considerably and off we trotted to one of the newest reserves that happens to also be the closest. Willow Tree Fen
Unfortunately most of the reserve restrict dog access but we did happen upon dog walkers on this one and wished we had brought the furry one.
Willow Tree Fen is exactly what it says it is. It is a fenland farm where Willow trees grow in abundance and it is one of the last farms that was run as a traditional fen farm where the seasonal water level changes are allowed to occur in the low section of land. This in itself, gives rise to all the splendid wildlife and fauna that goes with it:- Willow Trees are in their element, sometimes standing in water for months at a time, the wetland meadows or meres are teaming with flowers, the permanent water ways that edge the farm are home to lots of interesting insect life such damsel flies that are so numerous in types that we got lost counting them, there are water birds, sand martins, swifts, swallows and many more.
It was peaceful and a total delight to have found.
We spent a wonderful afternoon there once we found it (as the directions are a little sketchy) and it is tucked out of the way so is unlikely to get very busy (we only saw half a dozen or so visitors in a whole afternoon). The original 2 hides have posters of the birds that have been seen and visitors are asked to record the breed and numbers that they see when visiting for the reserves records.
Nearly all the work undertaken to build hides and walkways is done by volunteers and there was evidence of some of that work in progress as we meandered around the reserve.
The farm itself was sold to the Wildlife Trust in 2009 after I imagine it became unviable as a business but when you look around the acreage, it is easy to see why if was kept in it’s traditional state but how that would mean low yields and limited options for making a living out of the farm.
It is a great thing that it is being maintained and that is thanks to the foresight of organisations such as the Wildlife Trust.
Since first exploring the reserve, we have been back a number of times and see changes every time we do.
There is a new hide that sits between the 2 original ones and right on the edge of water that is punctuated with trees that were clearly planted in neat little rows at some point in the farm’s history.
These are currently being cleared as they have mostly died in the deep fen water but before this is completed and while we were enjoying the peace and quiet of the new hide, the trees provided a perch for a kingfisher that we were delighted to see.
In a flash of blue it appeared from behind the hide and stayed with us for a few minutes before flying around the front of the hide and disappearing behind the other side with as much flourish as it arrived.
We listed the numerous birds that we have seen this week (some more interesting than others but wonderfully varied all the same) and managed to photograph some of them:-
Swallows (still here)
Snipe (not confirmed as not 100% sure)
Nuthatch (also not 100% sure)
Reed Bunting (numerous)
There is a new woodland walk, a new path along the drain which takes you lower and nearer the meres, there is an education centre, new benches dotted around and at some lovely viewing spots and a wonderful bug hotel at the visitor’s centre that would be the envy of many and has certainly made my little palace look wholly inadequate.
There are other reserves that we need to explore too but we will continue to come back to watch this one through it’s seasonal changes and improvements.
It is a lovely place!
Called peewits in the NE (& possibly elsewhere too) because of the sound they make, they are endlessly busy beauties that grace our skies with their amazing acrobatics.
They are graceful, athletic, full of character and have such lovely markings.
Their nesting habitat is easily ruined as they tend to nest in ground scrapes on flat farmland that is invariably ploughed, planted up and later harvested.
They are fierce defenders of their nest, eggs and youngsters; feigning a damaged wing if there is anyone or anything too close to the product of all their hard work and courtship.
I never get sick of watch and listening to them. I could do it for hours.
I’m not particularly keen on pigeons.
They are pests in the city and they are pests in the countryside.
They will roost almost anywhere, eat anything and make the most smelly, dirty mess. Yuck!!
I’m not alone in my disliking; my niece is unreasonably fearful of them and there are lots of people who invest a lot of hours in the pursuit of killing them.
Someone who illustrates his own disliking in a much more entertaining way is Max of course.
He diligently guards the bird feeders (when he’s not helping his greedy little self to anything that falls to the ground!!) and goes charging into the garden to skidaddle them whenever his vigilance has faltered and they’ve had the temerity to return!
His pursuit of them doesn’t stop there though, there is a barn on a walk that we do over the weekends that has doves in it and he clearly doesn’t distinguish, they’re all the same as far as he is concerned.
The noise he makes is deafening and reverberates around the barn. Bales don’t get in his way, machinery is no deterrent and once he is on his mission, he is difficult to drag away.
Needless to say, the pigeons (or doves for that matter) don’t hang around for long with that kind of din but the sight of a raging terrier stotting about on the ground below them must be more amusing than truly terrifying.
One of my favourite birds is the Wren.
This gloriously sunny weekend was very welcome and so was the sight of a Wren while we were out on a walk.
We were severely chastised by this particular Wren who I suspect is trying to build a nest near to where I had chosen to sit.
I love these pretty and perky little birds, not just for their size but how their size is completely disproportionate to their bravery.
We are vast mountainous creatures compared to a Wren but there is little, if any hesitation when it comes to telling us off .
If we have had the temerity to step over the invisible line that surrounds and protects her little haven, we will be subjected to a barage of chipping and chatting that comes with an urgency and tone that leave little doubt that she is cross!
I wasn’t disappointed.
It is completely hilarious and quite disarming. I hope she settled back to the job in hand none the worse for having to stop what she was doing to tick us off for getting too close.
It has been an incredibly busy run up to Christmas and I have finally been able to take a breath.
Amongst the hard work and long hours in the months leading up to the Christmas break, we were able to get out and about on odd days to enjoy ourselves.
We spent a particularly lovely day out and about in the North Norfolk Countryside and it was sunny; gloriously sunny and not a raindrop in site!!
Apart from the loveliness of the North Norfolk countryside, getting such lovely watery sunshine when the rest of the country was struggling in pouring rain, was quite remarkable.
The surroundings were completely stunning and made all the more delightful by a blanket of cobwebs on the stubble that gave the fields a strange shimmer. The photos don’t do it justice but there was a gentle breeze that kept the cobwebs moving in a gentle wave while the sun glinted off it.
The day out was a partridge shoot but as always, we were able to enjoy the company, the views, the weather and the work of the dogs as much as the skill of the guns.
I love watching the dogs at work. Whether they are flushing out birds or picking up, the joy that they show in their pursuit is clear to see and they don’t stop until the day is firmly done when they can go home for a well earned rest and a good feed.
Their enthusiasm is infectious and although they work endlessly hard whatever the weather or ground conditions, it is never more evident that they have fun than when the sun is shining.
The dog’s hard work is rewarded by their handlers who love them very much. They invest huge amounts of time and patience in their dogs.
The dogs have good, happy and full lives which is such a lovely thing to see especially when you know there can be such cruelty handed out to these loyal and loving creatures.
We finished the day with a cup of tea and a slice of cake along with some happy chatter.
Everyone and all the dogs thoroughly enjoyed a superb day out and it really fuels the sole just when you need it.
One of my favourite birds is the lapwing.
They used to be in decline due to farming methods and the loss of wetlands where they wade for food. And although there are now conservation strips on farms, RSPB coastal reserves and untouched pasture in some of the upper dales that all help, they really need set aside and pasture that remains untouched for the whole of their breeding and nesting season.
It would be a great loss for their numbers to reduce even further.
It has a sweet ‘peewit’ call (which is where it’s local name in the north east comes from – Peewit), an interesting style in the sky and it does some amazing things to save it’s young from predators.
They nest on the ground which leaves their broods more vulnerable than most; so in order to keep the attention away from their well disguised eggs and equally well disguised young, they fly around somewhere away from the area to attract attention away from the nest of eggs.
Even more impressive than this is the fact that they sham injury and flap around on the floor to drawer a predator to them and so allowing their young to make a getaway.
There are about 4 pairs that we see near us quite often at the moment and they are likely to have eggs in the nest and possibly young by now (the photos in this post were all taken near my dads last year) as they have their broods between april and june.They only start to look like adults into the autumn.
They can also live up to 10 years which is remarkable for a relatively small bird.
So, they are good looking, got the moves like Jagger, are great parents and live to a ripe old age, what’s not to like?