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

Simply in the Springing

Clark’s Lot – Burtonwell Wood – Lambert’s Meadow – Bank Well – Myer’s Allotment – Leighton Moss – Trowbarrow – Moss Lane – Eaves Wood

A gloomy start. At my new favourite place, Myer’s Allotment, I decided to follow the path way-marked with small blue-paint splashed posts. It took me around the reserve and then up and along a tree-lined edge. A gap in the trees revealed…

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…a rough-hewn bench with a great view over Leighton Moss…

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It needs some blue sky and sunshine to make the most of it. And maybe a stove to brew a cuppa.

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Down at Leighton Moss I was told that there were two Marsh Harrier nests by the causeway, and an Osprey passing through, and Red-poll and Siskins on the bird-feeders.

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I saw none of them. But there were Chaffinches, Greenfinches and a Coal Tit just sneaking into this photo.

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And by the pond-dipping area a nest neatly woven from reeds…

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It was much too close to the path however, and I wondered whether it had been abandoned. I passed it again a couple of days later and it was empty, not even any remains of shells.

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Willow catkins – a bit of a departure from my obsession with Hazel catkins.

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The new boardwalk which cuts the corner to the causeway path is open, and close to the end of it a Wren singing full-throttle from a prominent perch had attracted a small audience.

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By the time I reached Eaves Wood, the sky was brightening, and along the fringes of the path Bluebell flowers were opening…

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And Sycamore…

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…and Hawthorn leaves were unfurling in the sun.

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Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers today;
And give us not to think so far away
As the uncertain harvest; keep us here
All simply in the springing of the year.

from A Prayer in Spring by Robert Louis Stevenson

Later, through the kitchen window, another slightly-blurred, pastel Long-Tailed Tit…

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Simply in the Springing

A Bird-Watching Walk

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Two views from the top of RSPB Leighton Moss’s new Skytower. Which is…well, a tower. It’s about 30’ feet tall – affording great views, but hardly scaling empyrean heights.

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I think the RSPB can be forgiven the hyperbole – it really is a great place from watch a quartering Marsh Harrier, or flocks of Teal on the mere…

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…as I did.

My walk to the Skytower was just before Christmas, in a moment of calm before the next storm hit.

The causeway across the Moss was still flooded from the previous deluges, but I had new Wellies and waded across, then wandered past Leighton Hall and up Summer House Hill to the benches and viewpoint at the top…

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Naturally, I decided to sit for a while, despite the bracing wind, and was rewarded by some close up views of a pair of buzzards.

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I associate the display flights of male buzzards with the onset of spring.

Pairs mate for life. To attract a mate (or impress his existing mate) the male performs a ritual aerial display before the beginning of spring. This spectacular display is known as ‘the roller coaster’. He will rise high up in the sky, to turn and plummet downward, in a spiral, twisting and turning as he comes down. He then rises immediately upward to repeat the exercise.

from Wikipedia

I wonder if these birds were confused by the very mild weather which we had been experiencing, as many of our spring flowering plants seem to have been.

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Buzzards, now thought to be Britain’s most numerous raptors, are very common in this area. But…

“…the species large size, free-floating movements on broad wings and wild high calls still have a capacity to capture our attention and imaginations.”

from ‘Birds Britannica’ by Mark Cocker and Richard Mabey

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I certainly never tire of watching them.

From Summer House Hill I walked through Cringlebarrow Woods and Yealand Allotment to Hawes Water…

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A Bird-Watching Walk

Home from Yealand

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Whilst I’m whinging about the weather I perhaps should say that at least when respite from the storms with sunnier, drier spells have come, they’ve often arrived at the weekends. I spent one particularly glorious morning in Lytham St Anne watching B play rugby and, unfortunately, the rest of that weekend patching-up the roofing-felt on our summerhouse (glorified shed) which had been badly damaged by Abigail.

Anyway, on the Saturday which followed hard on the heels of Barney blowing through, S had a play-date in Yealand and TBH offered to drop me there so that I could walk home again.

I climbed up into the woods of Cringlebarrow, where the paths were, unsurprisingly, puddled, muddy and occasionally obstructed by fallen trees. Then I turned right to drop down into the steep-sided hollow of Deepdale.

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…a deep depression in the limestone, formed by the collapse of a cavern roof in the water-worn cave systems that underlie the AONB. Such depressions are called ‘dolines’. These ubiquitous features are more colloquially known as ‘sink-holes’ and characteristically pepper the landscape in all areas of limestone (‘karst’) scenery. Massive underground erosion takes place as the limestone dissolves in the flow of subterranean water, which exploits the fracture and fissures of the rock, thus creating the cave systems so beloved of pot-holers.

Although someone once told me that it was actually a crater made by a meteorite strike, and apparently other explanations for its existence have been proffered…

As a small child, the current owner [of nearby Leighton Hall] remembers Deepdale pond being referred to as an extinct volcano.

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I remember there being quite a substantial pond at the bottom, but it has been silting-up for some time and even after this prolonged wet spell there was no surface water evident, so perhaps it’s gone.

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Leaving the wood, I was struck, as I am every time I come this way, by the huge oaks in the field by the wood.

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Passing Leighton Hall Farm and Grisedale Farm I came to the causeway across Leighton Moss. I was expecting the causeway to be flooded, in fact I was anticipating enjoying wading through the floods. I wasn’t anticipating that my wellingtons would leak.

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I can confirm that the water was very cold. And very wet. And that a wellington with a substantial split in it can hold a surprisingly large amount of water.

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Even so, the reedbeds are special when the sun is low in the sky.

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I was hoping to have a first proper look at the RSPB’s new ‘sky-tower’ but it was already well occupied by a keen crowd watching the starling roost, so I decided to defer that pleasure.

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Bird-watcher roost.

Links.

The quotes about Deepdale are from this pdf which has a suggested walking route:

Clints and Grykes

Home from Yealand

An Evening in The Lower Hide

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‘Get yourself to the Lower Hide at Leighton Moss, a pied-bill grebe has been spotted near the back of the mere, and there are otters regularly showing too.’

This from my friend and colleague the Proper Birder one lunchtime some time ago. I didn’t let on that I didn’t have the foggiest what a pied-bill grebe might be, but I did act on the advice. It’s not entirely surprising that I wasn’t au fait with that species of grebe: it’s an American bird, a rare visitor to these shores and so a real twitcher’s delight.

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It was a bit of a gloomy night, I’m afraid and my photos are very disappointing. I couldn’t see any unusual grebes, but there were lots of other birds to watch, in particular a pair of greylag geese with chicks who were hanging around right in front of the hide. I was snapping away at all of the airborne birds which whizzed past. None of the photos came out too well, but one really surprised me…

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Since it is pretty clearly of an Osprey and not the high-flying gull I’d thought I was photographing. I’d finally spotted an Osprey at Leighton Moss. Without realising. It’s a good job the camera was paying attention.

A marsh harrier came swooping low over the hide a few times and in better light I might have got some really good photos.

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Next time.

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Some more Proper Birders arrived, plainly in expectation of seeing the misplaced grebe and within minutes of arriving they had found it. It wasn’t at the back of the mere by the reeds; it was ducked down amongst the mare’s-tails close to the hide. I saw it; another visitor let me peer through his scope. And, as we strained our eyes in the failing light, an otter swam across close by the grebe’s hiding spot. Great evening – shame about the photos!

An Evening in The Lower Hide

Christmas at Home

 And The Strange Case of the Topless Toposcope

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So – the title says it all really: we spent Christmas at home.

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Well, there’s a little bit more to it than that: my brother and his family joined us from Switzerland and my Mum and Dad came to stay too. Short local rambles were very much the order of the day.

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Our kids seem to have forgotten loom bands, but this years other big craze (for them at least) of whittling sticks is still be going strong. I’m more in to ‘whittling on’….

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Eagle-eyed patrons of this blog may have noticed, in a recent post ,that next to the Pepper Pot, which is really a monument built to commemorate Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee, a smaller structure has appeared….

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…. which is a toposcope, similarly erected in honour of the sixtieth year of the reign of our present monarch….

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On Christmas Eve, B and I were up and about whilst everyone else was still sound in their beds, so we decided to catch the sunrise from the Pepper Pot…

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…and we discovered that the scope, from the toposcope, had disappeared already.

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I don’t know why. I’m no Royalist, but I hope it wasn’t vandalism.

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I’ve done quite a few sunrise and sunset walks of late; I have a feeling that they may be a bit of a feature of 2015.

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And, with the help of my new camera, I think that photos of Robins may also be a feature of this year. Here’s one from the tail-end of last year…

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Me made several visits to the Cove and its little cave. It was different every time, from calm and sunny with the tide well out, to wild and windy with very high tides and and proper waves (which is a bit unusual on the Bay).

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The boys love ice. They get very excited whenever the local ponds (in this case Banks Well) freeze over. Their thought process seems to be something like: “Fantastic: ice! I wonder if I can smash it?”

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A Merry Christmas to all our readers!

(I know, I know – think of it as a really early goodwill message for next Christmas)

Christmas at Home

Leighton Moss and the Knott Again

Mallard Flotilla

A couple of weeks back – another oasis weekend of calm, clear and bright skies, a break from work, a modicum of fresh air. Up early, I headed down to Leighton Moss and spent a happy hour watching ducks – shovelers with their cartoonish, over-sized beaks, tiny colourful teal, a single merganser confusing me by not diving as I would expect, but swimming with its long neck and beak stretched across the surface of the water, in an seemingly contorted fashion.

A flotilla of mallards sailed across in front of the hide and, as they approached the reeds on the far side, provoked an unholy row, like the plaintive whining of a dog to my ears, but a Proper Birder informed me that the ‘pig-grunting’ was from a pair of water rails in the reed edge. I’d missed seeing them.

Trees in the water 

Later, whilst I walked a little further -  round to lower hide – I couldn’t miss the trees and the deep blue sky caught in the placid surface of a stream, or the golden leaves against the sky above…

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From Lower Hide, I didn’t miss the pair of bearded tits which flew along the edge of the reed bed in font of the hide, briefly alighted on reed stems right below my window, and then flew across in front of the hide to disappear into more reeds. Had I not had a good view of beaded tits just a few weeks ago, I don’t think I would have recognised them on this occasion, but their soft-colours, long tails and portly figures gave them away.

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In the afternoon another small window of opportunity opened and I played truant for an hour to head up Arnside Knott, knowing that the air would be clear, the views would be sharp, and that the Lakeland Fells would be dusted with snow….

Snow-capped lakeland hills from Arnside Knott 

The views were spectacular.

Whitbarrow scar and Eastern Fells 

Western Fells 

What’s more there were ravens in the tree-tops on the steep southern flank of the hill.

Hazel leaf 

If the weekends keep on throwing-up these breaks with the quotidian, I may even learn to like November.

Looking South to the Bowland Fells

Perhaps.

Leighton Moss and the Knott Again