Slightly Blurred

Clark’s Lot – Hollin’s Lane – Slackwood Lane – Leighton Moss – Trowbarrow Quarry – Eaves Wood

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In like a lion, they say of March, but if I remember right, this had been a very pleasant day, although sadly, a Wednesday spent at work. I had the idea that I would get out and catch some sunshine, but, as you can see from the photo above, by the time I reached Clark’s Lot, only a few minutes from home, the sun was already sinking behind the trees.

Slightly blurred photos of Long-Tailed Tits have become an irregular feature of this blog. Here is another example of the genre…

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Generally, the problem is their propensity to flit about relentlessly, but this was a remarkably relaxed Long-Tailed Tit content to sit still whilst I took three photos. Sadly, the auto-focus trained in perfectly on the branches just in front of the Bumbarrel. Even when the tit moved on, it rested in new positions, allowing me to take more photos, but in high branches, silhouetted against the sky, it came out very dark. It was obviously some kind of Zen Long-Tailed Tit however.

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Down at Leighton Moss the Starlings were gathering for the roost, which isn’t the massive affair of earlier in the winter, but still worth watching.

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On the Sunday before, I’d been out for a walk in unpromising conditions, leaving my camera at home since rain looked so imminent. I hadn’t intended to stay out long, but in the end, had a great walk, on a circular route I don’t think I’ve ever walked before. (Which says a great deal about the wealth of options in this area). At Hawes Water there had been four Cormorants on the trees where I saw one not so long ago. Later it began to rain, but at Leighton Moss I was cheered by an abundance of spring fungi, Scarlet Elf Cup…

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Which was why I wanted to return to Leighton Moss, now that I had my camera with me. Whist I was taking this photo, this Robin…

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…surprised me by practically landing on my shoulder.

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At Trowbarrow there were some climbers still bouldering despite the gathering gloom, and in Eaves Wood, when it was almost dark, I met a couple of dog walkers. I wasn’t the only one thinking that it was good to be out.

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Slightly Blurred

In Praise of Limestone

Castlebarrow – Waterslack – Hawes Water – Gait Barrows – Silverdale Moss – Hazelslack – Beetham Fell – Beetham – Dallam Deer Park – Milnthorpe – River Bela – Sandside Cutting – Kent Estuary – Arnside – Arnside Knott – Heathwaite – Holgates

This could have been ‘A Snowdrop Walk’ but I think I’ve already had at least one of those in the last nine hundred posts (the last one was number 900, I now realise). It might also have been ‘The Ruined Cottages Walk’ since I passed three ramshackle buildings, generally not too far from where the snowdrops were.

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Before I departed, I’d already been for a wander to the Co-op to pick up croissants, rolls and eggs for everybody else’s breakfast. After a second, leisurely cup of tea, I set-off at around ten and was soon at the edge of Eaves Wood, by a substantial patch of snowdrops, donning a coat as it began to first rain and then hail.

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It had been sunny only moments before and I decided to head up to Castlebarrow – not part of my original plan – to get a higher viewpoint. Just short of the top, I disturbed a Buzzard which flapped lazily out of a tall standard left in an area which had otherwise been cleared of trees.

When I reached Castlebarrow and the Pepperpot…

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…it had stopped raining, but it looked like Lancaster was probably getting a hammering.

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The weather seemed idyllic again when I reached Hawes Water.

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Another pair of Buzzards were circling overhead, but by the time I had dug my camera out of my rucksack, they had disappeared behind the trees. I would hear the plaintive kew of Buzzards several more times during the walk, but this was the last time I saw any. Nor did I see the Sparrow-hawk which I saw here last week and forgot to mention in the appropriate post.

Having stopped to look though, I now realised that atop one of the trees down by the reed fringed shore of the lake…

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…perched a Cormorant. I’ve seen them here before and they’re hardly uncommon on the Bay, so perhaps I shouldn’t be so surprised (and delighted) to find one here.

In the woods there was a Nuthatch and a Treecreeper, both too elusive for me and my camera. And of course…

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…more snowdrops.

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Looking back across Hawes Water to Challan Hall. (The Cormorant was still on its high perch).

By the bench on the boardwalks near the lake another walker had stopped for a breather. He had company…

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Although I was heading for Beetham Fell, I didn’t feel any need for urgency and took a detour across the meadow, by the hedge…

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…wondering about the very tall cloud above the Gait Barrows woods, and whether it might be an ill omen, weatherwise…

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I was heading for the Gait Barrows limestone pavements…

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It’s not all that far from there to Silverdale moss, but you can see that in the meantime, the weather had taken another turn for the worse…

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The Cloven Ash.

It was pretty gloomy, but I could pick out a few Greylag, one of them clearly sitting on a nest, also a distant white bird, probably a Little Egret, and what I could identify, with the aid of the camera, as a male Golden Eye.

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I turned to take some photos of these King Alfred’s Cakes on some logs left from the demise of the Cloven Ash and, as I did, it began to hail, soon quite ferociously.

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I pulled my coat back on again, and then turned back to the Moss, because the nesting Greylag was clearly upset about something and was honking vociferously. A Marsh Harrier was quartering the reeds, at one point dropping and spiralling down to a spot very close to the excited goose.

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It was gloomy and chucking it down, so none of my photos came out brilliantly, but it was fantastic to watch.

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Fortunately, the rotten weather didn’t last too long, and soon I was shedding layers for the long climb from Hazelslack to the top of Beetham Fell.

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Arnside Knott, Kent Estuary and Hampsfell from Beetham Fell.

Last Easter, when A and I came through this way on our walk to Keswick, we noticed a huge area of Snowdrop leaves, though the flowers had long since finished. I decided then that I would be back this February to take another look.

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I think that this was the largest single patch, but the Snowdrops extend over quite a large area.

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The climb from the outskirts of Beetham uphill to Dallam Deer Park was hard work because the ground was super-saturated, a bit like your average Highland hillside. I think it was mainly due to the extent that the ground had been trampled by the sheep in the field, because once I crossed the ha-ha wall into the Park the going got much firmer.

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Dallam Deer Park, the River Bela and Milnthorpe.

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Farleton Fell.

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The Deer.

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This unusual building…

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…is a shelter for the deer.

From Milnthorpe I turned to follow the Bela, first across the park and then out to where it meets the Kent on the latter’s estuary.

In the park, a single Canada Goose joined a flotilla of ducks, mostly mallards but with a group of four diving ducks amongst them, the males black and white, the females a dull brown: tufted ducks.

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River Bela and Whitbarrow Scar.

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Greylag Goose.

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A little further along, on the Kent, a group of six small fluffy diving ducks gave me pause. Even with the powerful zoom of the camera I struggled to get decent photos, but I think that these are Dabchicks: Little Grebes.

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I was a little torn here: I had wanted to climb Haverbrack, but I also wanted to include Arnside Knott and didn’t think I had time for both. In the end, I decided to walk along the embankment (an old railway line, a Beeching casualty) which follows the Kent Estuary. The walk was delightful, but a low blanket of cloud was flattening the light so I didn’t take any pictures for a while.

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Silverdale Moss from Arnside Knott. A snow dusted Ingleborough in the background.

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In Praise of Limestone

Leaf Piercers

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Last week we had a number of cold, clear, sunny days and I enjoyed several strolls around Lancaster at lunch times and once in the late afternoon. On Friday night I managed to get home early enough to set-out for a walk before the last of the light had gone. It was soon dark and, as often happens on my night time wanders, I was listening to several owls from various directions. When one called particularly loudly, seemingly from almost directly overhead, I looked up and there it was, perched on a branch not far above my head. It was a very pale bird, not a Barn Owl, I don’t think, but a male Tawny Owl, judging by the ‘hoo-hoo’ call.

The forecast for Saturday was dreadful, so when the rain unexpectedly stopped and it began to brighten up I was especially pleased to have a good opportunity to walk down to Hawes Water to see whether the Snowdrops had appeared in the woods there.

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One regional, alternative name for Snowdrops is Snow Piercers, but this year they are more Leaf-mould Piercers. At first I was dismayed by the thought that there were less flowers than in previous years, but in fact they are abundant again, but quite well hidden by a low shrub which is also thriving in the same part of the woods, I think maybe Wild Privet, but am far from confident.

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I seem lately to be timing my arrival on the duck-boards by Hawes Water to match sunset.

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Leaf Piercers

Jenny Brown’s Two Times

Walk The First: Silverdale Green – Woodwell Clifftop – Hazelwood Hall Grounds – Heald Brow – Jenny Brown’s Point – Jack Scout – Bottom’s Wood – The Lots – The Cove

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Last Saturday. When this post is published I will be up to date; a dizzying prospect.

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Chaffinch.

As the title suggests this was a two walk day and both walks took me to Jenny Brown’s Point, although by different routes, the first on my own and the second in company.

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It was another good day for bird-watching: just before I took this photo, which looks down an avenue of trees towards Hazelwood Hall, I spotted a woodpecker in a nearby Beech, and as I took it, two Buzzards lifted from one of the trees ahead and circled, the smaller male bird stooping toward the female as they do in their spring display flights.

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Warton Crag and the salt marsh from Heald Brow.

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The tide was very high and the channels of Quicksand Pool were brim full.

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I’ve posted before about the old wharf at Jenny Brown’s Point; boats must once have landed there, but it’s not all that often that I’ve seen the tide high enough to reach it.

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Here’s the Robin (again?) which hopped along the path into Jack Scout ahead of me.

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Hazel Catkins.

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I usually assume that a bird which looks as scruffy as this Blue Tit is a juvenile, but it must be too early in the year for that. Is it moulting?

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Near Woodwell, two Roe Deer came pelting over a garden wall and raced across the road with a greyhound in half-hearted pursuit.

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Walk The Second: Silverdale Green – Clarke’s Lot – Fleagarth Wood – Jenny Brown’s Point – Jack Scout – Bottom’s Wood – Spring Bank

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The Howgill Fells – the dusting of snow (just about visible in the first photo at the top of the post) has almost gone.

Arriving home from my first walk, I found that TBH had arranged with some friends a family walk to Jenny Brown’s Point.

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It had clouded over considerably since the morning, but it was still a very fine walk.

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There’s a way around this mudbath, but the DBs chose to ignore that fact, naturally.

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The tide had receded, but left some pools in its wake.

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Unlike the Howgills, the Bowland Fells still retained a dusting of snow.

So that’s it – I’m completely up to date. What’s next?

Jenny Brown’s Two Times

The Call of Nature.

Clark’s Lot – Fleagarth Wood – Jenny Brown’s Point – Jack Scout – Woodwell – Clifftop Path – Silverdale Green – Hagg Wood.

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Perhaps the weather on New Year’s Day was a portent of the weather to come after all – at least for the next day anyway, which also dawned frosty, clear and bright.

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Everywhere I went the trees, bushes and hedgerows were busy with birds, not really singing, but flitting about, jinking from branch to branch and keeping up a constant chatter as they did so. At various points during the walk I tried, and failed, to photograph Nuthatches, Woodpeckers, Great Tits, Blue Tits, Coal Tits, Long-tailed Tits, Blackbirds, Thrushes, Chaffinches, and maybe a solitary Bullfinch. Only Robins can be relied upon to pose, so they will have to stand in for all of the rest. This one…

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…was on a branch by the path through Fleagarth Wood.

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Warton Crag across the salt marsh.

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The foreshore by the chimney near Jenny Brown’s Cottages is eroding fast…

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And exposing more remnants of the area’s industrial heritage…

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Two views of Quicksand Pool.

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In the field beside the road between Jenny Brown’s Cottages and Jenny Brown’s Point there’s a line of hawthorns. Both the trees and the area around them were busy with Blackbirds. Blackbirds are quite territorial I think, and not always tolerant of each other, but I’ve noticed on the Rowans in our garden that they will happily feed together where there’s an abundant harvest of berries.

In amongst the Blackbirds, there was one paler bird…

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Surely that’s a…

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…Fieldfare!

There was another Fieldfare being very elusive on the other side of the road, but I was surprised not to see still more since they seem to be a very gregarious bird.

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Haws.

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Traveller’s Joy.

This Robin…

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…hopped along in front of me on the path into Jack Scout. I’ve been back to Jack Scout twice today and exactly the same thing happened both times. Presumably, that was the same Robin each time. What advantage can be gained by such strange behaviour I wonder?

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Jack Scout, the Bay and Humphrey Head.

At Woodwell I stopped to answer a call of nature and a Robin landed on a fence post right behind me.

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What chance flowers in January?

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Actually, I think that, strictly speaking, these aren’t flowers. The flowers will have been small and white and cradled by these bracts, followed by small, dark berries.

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I’ve always known this plant as Flowering Nutmeg. Apparently it’s also known as Himalayan Honeysuckle, Pheasant Berry, Himalayan Nutmeg or Chocolate Berry. It’s not an endemic plant, as some of the names suggest. It grows in several places that I know of across the area. I used to have some in my garden when I lived in Arnside. I took cuttings from a plant on a roadside verge, dipped them in rooting powder and stuck them in pots on my windowsill, before transplanting them to the garden. Now that I know that they are good to eat

“The fully ripened fruit are faintly figgy in flavour with hints of bitter chocolate and burnt caramel.”

Maybe I’ll have another go at taking some cuttings this year.

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I couldn’t identify a flock of birds in the woods – they didn’t seem like tits or finches, but seemed too small to be anything else – but one of them landed briefly on a distant branch and a photograph revealed them to be more Fieldfares.

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From Silverdale Green to Hagg Wood the path follows a field wall, on the far side of which is a line of tall Oaks (probably planted by the Inman family I believe). Each of these trees had it’s own population of chattering, restless birds, which I enjoyed failing to photograph.

I was admiring the shape and stature of the final tree before the wood, when I realised that this one isn’t an Oak.

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But, although I’m confident that it isn’t an Oak, I’m not sure what it actually is. Never mind, I shall come back when it has some leaves, to see whether I can figure it out.

The Call of Nature.

All’s Right With The World

Park Road – Eaves Wood – Middlebarrow – Arnside Tower – Saul’s Road – Arnside Knott – Shilla Slope – Black Dyke – Middlebarrow Quarry – Eaves Wood.

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Oystercatchers and Black-headed Gull.

The day after Boxing Day was the kind of bright sunny day which always makes me feel cheerful.

The lark’s on the wing;

The snail’s on the thorn;

God’s in His heaven—

All’s right with the world!

Which is apparently a passage from Browning, although I know it because Wodehouse’s characters are apt to quote it when all is going well (which is to say, just before everything goes horribly, comically wrong).

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And yes, I know that the lark isn’t really on the wing at the end of December, well at least not in its characteristic steep display flight, but sunshine and blue skies just make everything look fresh and special and spring like.

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Reading up on the water tanks in Eaves Wood for my previous post, I was reminded that amongst the former owners of Hill House (now the Woodlands pub) were the Inman family  who were responsible for the planting of many of the trees in the woods.

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I think the circle of trees in the Ring o’Beeches must have been planted. I wonder if it was by the Inmans, who owned the wood in the first half of the Nineteenth Century?

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The larches too must have been planted.

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Arnside Tower.

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Arnside Tower Farm.

The hill behind the farm is Arnside Knott and that steep slope is covered in a very loose scree, known locally as shilla. After I’d climbed the Knott I took a route which looped around and recrossed my ascent route, taking me down to a path through those trees at the bottom of the slope.

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Saul’s Road.

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I’d walked out of the front door before I’d decided where to go, but with a host of competing ideas in my head – it’s nice to have so many options. I’d plumped for Arnside Knott because I’d assumed that there would be great views of the Lakes…

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…but in fact everything beyond Whitbarrow Scar and Gummer How was lost in a grey haze. Never mind: plenty to see close at hand.

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Magic.

All’s Right With The World

Twelve Drummers Drumming

Eaves Wood – Waterslack – Hawes Water – Moss Lane – Eaves Wood

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We’ve spent Christmas at home again this year and a very fine Christmas it has been. The weather has been mixed, but we’ve had some very sunny, clear days in amongst the more typical fare. I’ve been out for local walks, beating the bounds, most days, some times two or three short walks in a day, in fair weather and foul, in company and alone, so expect a fair few posts to come, although, when the weather has been poor I’ve often left my camera at home, so not all of the walks will make it onto the blog.

Most of the walks have involved a visit to Eaves Wood, some have been almost entirely within its compass.

One familiar landmark in the wood, which I walk past very regularly, but which I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned here before, are these three constructions…

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“…three very large, stone built, water storage tanks on the surface. These were used to store water for the house before a mains supply was available. The source of this water was  a spring some four hundred yards distant, sited remarkably near the summit of the limestone ridge. The water was first directed through a pipe to a large collecting tank. From here it continued its piped journey underground into a second holding tank before finally reaching the large storage tanks referred to above.”

from ‘In and Around Silverdale’ by David Peter

The house referred to is the Woodlands, once Hill House, a pretty grand private property but now an excellent pub, affectionately known in the village as The Woodies.

I was out relatively early that morning because the forecast had predicted sunshine early, but cloud later. The cloud arrived rather sooner than I expected and by the time I had reached Hawes Water it was really quite dull.

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I met some friends on the boardwalk by the lake and they were telling me to listen out for the contact calls of Goldcrests and Nuthatches, that, in fact, there were Goldcrests in the trees around us. I’ve been quite surprised by how busy, and noisy, the birds are in the woods and trees at the moment. I’m not great at recognising bird-song and even less confident with contact calls, but I’ve seen quite a variety of birds over the last fortnight, including several Nuthatches and eventually a solitary Goldcrest.

I haven’t often been very successful in capturing images of the birds however…

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I’ve kept this diabolical, blurred photo because the birds which have surprised me most have been the Woodpeckers. I’ve once heard the yaffle of a Green Woodpecker, and most days I’ve heard several different Great-spotted Woodpeckers drumming. These are both sounds I associate with early spring, not the tail end of December. I’ve seen this bird, or at least, presumably the same bird each time, drumming on the same tree on more than one occasion, with a rival bird responding from somewhere nearby. Standing beneath the tree as the Woodpecker drums, the volume of the sound is astonishing.

I assumed that I must be wrong about this territorial drumming being a portent of spring, but this is what Mabey and Cocker have to say in Birds Britannica:

“Like many arboreal birds it is easiest to see just before leaf burst, when the adults can be located by their mechanical drumming sound, whose dying cadence reverberates through the woodland of early spring and is itself a wonderful statement of seasonal change. Both males and females create the noise and do so by striking their beaks repeatedly against a suitably rotten or hollow branch which acts in turn as a sounding board.”

So if I’m wrong, I am at least in exalted company. Or maybe it’s the Woodpeckers who are confused by the bright sunny days we’ve had? Or perhaps spring is just going to arrive early this year?

 

Twelve Drummers Drumming