September

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

The Shropshire Way

Walking – The Shropshire Way

It is the month of Burghley Horse Trials

Burghley Horse Trial

Burghley Horse Trial – Burghley

It is the month of harvest

Harvest in Northumberland

Harvest – Northumberland

It is the month of Sandringham Game Fair

Horse Boarding - Sandringham Game Fair

Horse Boarding – Sandringham Game Fair

It is a month when we do most of our walking

walking - The Lakes

Walking – The Lakes

It is the month when the best fungi appear.

Fungi - Fly Ageric

Fungi – Fly Ageric

It is the month of Food Festivals across the country. Ludlow being our favourite.

Ludlow Castle

Ludlow Castle

It is the month for Bramble picking & making Jam.

Brambles

Brambles

It is the month of Indian Summers when the heat has left the sun but the cold months are not showing themselves yet.

September Sun - Ford Village

September Sun – Ford Village

It is the month we got our hound and collected him when he was just 8 weeks old.

Max

Max

And it is the month we got married

September Wedding - Rings

September Wedding – Rings

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Willow Tree Fen

permanent waterways that edge the farm and the willow woodland 2012

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.

the ground is still partly drained by the grid of dykes across the fens 2012

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.

flora and fauna 2012

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

jews ears or woodland ears on fallen rotting willow 2012

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.

one of the many varied damsel flies that we spotted 2012

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.

kings cups with the new flower heads growing towards the water surface 2012

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.

resting cattle in the fen meadow with the mere in the background 2012

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.

acres of meadow and mere stretch out across the farm 2012

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.

the wet meadows with the willow wood in the background 2012

Since first exploring the reserve, we have been back a number of times and see changes every time we do.

tree clearing 2014

tree clearing 2014

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.

logs piles from tree clearing

logs piles from tree clearing

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.

a beautiful kingfisher

a beautiful kingfisher

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.

reed bunting

reed bunting

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:-

goldfinches

goldfinches

Kingfisher

Goldfinch

Mute Swan

kingfisher

kingfisher

Wood Pigeon

Great Tit

Blue Tit

off as quickly as it arrived

off as quickly as it arrived

Marsh Harrier

Crows (numerous)

Jackdaw

Swallows (still here)

little egret

little egret

Little Egret

Kestrel (x2)

Snipe (not confirmed as not 100% sure)

Reed Warbler

lapwing display

lapwing display

Nuthatch (also not 100% sure)

Reed Bunting (numerous)

Jays (x2)

lapwings flocking over the marshes

lapwings flocking over the marshes

Mallard

Coots

Moorhen

Grey Heron

coots and moorhens in amongst the drowned trees

coots and moorhens in amongst the drowned trees

Buzzard

Sparrow Hawk

Lapwings

House Sparrow

woodland walk

woodland walk

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.

5 star bug hotel

5 star bug hotel

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!


lovely lapwings

arial acrobatics

arial acrobatics

 

One of my favourite birds next to the Wren is the Lapwing.

 

with a beautiful clear blue sky backdrop

with a beautiful clear blue sky backdrop

 

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.

 

endless activity in the sky

endless activity in the sky

 

They are graceful, athletic, full of character and have such lovely markings.

 

swooping down to the ground

swooping down to the ground

 

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.

 

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wading – is that a banksy?

I never get sick of watch and listening to them. I could do it for hours.


Feathered Rats

there they are

there they are

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.

grrrr

grrrr

Someone who illustrates his own disliking in a much more entertaining way is Max of course.

there!

there!

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!

lots of barking

lots of barking

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.

move

move

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.

still there!

still there!

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.


Jenny Wren

watching out

watching out

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.

dotting around near her nest site

dotting around near her nest site

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.

on the look out again

on the look out again


a day in norfolk

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a glorious view

It has been an incredibly busy run up to Christmas and I have finally been able to take a breath.

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the guns at the ready for the first drive

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.

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a watery track into a wet, wet field

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!!

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cobwebs on the stubble

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.

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waving webs

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.

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the beautiful beech

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.

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baby beech

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.

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a good retrieve

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.

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searching for a bird in the sugar beet

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.

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the sun going down in front of a watchful gun

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.

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walking back to the guns wagon

We finished the day with a cup of tea and a slice of cake along with some happy chatter.

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a good day for the cooking pot

Everyone and all the dogs thoroughly enjoyed a superb day out and it really fuels the sole just when you need it.

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happy dogs homeward bound


lapwings

baby lapwing hiding

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.

lapwing chick hiding while mum and dad keep the baddies away

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.

breaking cover

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.

doing as mum tells him and going for cover

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.

ever watchful

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.

taking refuge under mum’s wing

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?

.