"To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour."

From "Auguries of Innocence"

by William Blake

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Winter in a Country Churchyard

I went along to a local churchyard one afternoon last week in search of my first snowdrops of the year.

St John the Baptist at Lea Marston dates back to the 1300's, the porch is 15th century and the chancel and tower were rebuilt in the 1870's. I've never been inside the church as it is kept locked due to a number of thefts that have taken place in the past.

I did find a few clumps of snowdrops in flower around the churchyard.

I wondered if this was the base of what used to be a churchyard cross?

Tomb covered in ivy and brambles. The churchyard is quite a haven for wildlife being surrounded on 2 sides by woodland and in the summer there is a wildflower meadow at the back of the churchyard full of flowers, such as Betony, and buzzing with bees and butterflies.

I spent a lot of time looking at mosses and lichens growing on the tombstones. The mosses in particular looked like miniature worlds.

I've put a few of the moss photos on i-spot and have received some help with id. The species at the bottom of the photo above could be Wall screw-moss (Tortula muralis) and the species in the background towards the top may be Capillary Thread-moss (Bryum capillare)

I think this species (also to be seen in the top two pics) is Grey-cushioned Grimmia (Grimmia pulvinata) and several people have agreed with this id.

Common Feather-moss (Kindbergia praelonga)?

This species could be Bryum dichotomum


I spoke to a couple as I was leaving who mentioned that there was a female yew at the back of the churchyard - so I may go back and check for flowers later this month. They also kindly told me of a local site for Toothwort which I will be checking out later in the year.

I've not spotted this sundial on previous visits.

I've seen lots of Hazel catkins this year but these were the first female flowers, looking like miniature sea-anemones, that I have seen.

This memorial marks a visit by William Gladstone in 1895. It used to have a plaque but was removed after someone tried to steal it!!

If you would like to see my previous visit to the churchyard during summer months please click here

In that post I mentioned I would try to visit the churchyard more often sadly I think this was my first visit since that post! but I will try and go more regularly this year.

Many thanks to i-spot for id help and for confirmation of Grey-cushioned Grimmia.

Monday, 30 January 2017

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch, More Waxwing Photos and a Wildflower book

I know many of you will have taken part in the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch at the weekend and I do enjoy reading about people's results on their blogs. I did mine on Saturday afternoon - sunny with showers at times. Results were low again this year and as everyone knows so many species failed to put in an appearance during the hour!

So what did I see?

Wood Pigeon 4

Robin 1

Magpie 1

House Sparrow 2

Goldfinch 7

Blackbird 2

Dunnock 2

Blue Tit 3

Stock Dove 1

Long-tailed Tit 2

All the species, with the exception of Magpie, were either visiting the feeders/bird table or using the pond. I also enjoyed watching a pair of Grey Squirrels chasing each other round and round the garden :)

D and I went back to Castle Vale over the weekend to see the Waxwings. D was not happy that I had inadvertently changed a setting on the Canon Bridge Camera (no wonder my photos looked bleached out!! ) - we ended up having to return it to the factory default settings! I wish I had taken my Olympus camera with the 70-300 mm telephoto zoom as we got much closer views of the birds than when I went in the week.

Photos were taken by D and are a distinct improvement on the ones I managed!

I treated myself recently to the most delightful Wild Flower book by Margaret Erskine Wilson. The illustrations are just charming. Margaret Wilson an amateur botanist and water-colourist was the late President of Kendal Natural History Society. The book contains her paintings of British wild flowers (arranged month by month). She started them in 1943/44 to help her friend learn the names of flowers. In 1999 she donated to the Kendal NH Society 150 sheets of these paintings representing 1000 British and Irish plants and this has finally resulted in the publication of this beautiful book.

I'm making slow progress over my mother's house problems although still waiting for surveys to be completed and quotes prepared - I suspect it will be some months before life gets back to normal!

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Waxwing Encounters, Shustoke Reservoir and Recent Reading

As many of you will know we are experiencing a "Waxwing Winter" - every few years when there isn't enough food available in their breeding areas during the winter we get visits from large numbers of Waxwings (an irruption). It was obvious a few months back that many Waxwings were arriving in Scotland and the North and East of England. It has been a long wait but they finally are moving South in search of more berries. I've been checking local areas where the trees are full of berries without any success so last week we made the trek up to Brownhills where a flock had been reported over several days in a place called Silver Court.

We arrived to hear the usual words "they were here half an hour ago!". After waiting about an hour a small flock eventually appeared. However, many times you have seen these birds it is still a magical experience. The birds were too far away to get photos with the Olympus dslr and 70-300 lens so the record shots below were taken with the Canon bridge camera.

Yesterday the warden of Ladywalk NR kindly sent me a message telling me of a sighting of another flock at Castle Vale, Birmingham, which has the advantage of being closer than Brownhills. I visited this afternoon and was thrilled to see they were still there. I think up to 100 have been seen but there were about 30/40 birds when I was there. Sadly, no photos again of them feeding as every time they tried to descend on the Rowan trees they were chased off by a territorial Mistle Thrush! Some more record shots again taken with the Canon SX50.

I may return tomorrow with the dslr and see if I can get some better shots. A few years ago I was lucky enough to come across a flock that were exceedingly tame and I was able to get really close and take much improved photos to the one's above! Click here
if you want to read the post.

Shustoke Reservoir

A few weeks back we had a walk round Shustoke Reservoir. It was freezing cold with a biting wind and we didn't linger long on the shores of the reservoir but went a walk along a nearby lane. Highlights were a flock of Long-tailed Tits and my first Redwing of the year. The photo below was taken on a visit a few years ago (I took the Canon with me this time and when I switched on the camera the battery was flat so no pictures from this years visit!)

Some books

I bought this book with an Amazon voucher I had for my birthday. It was a real bargain being much reduced on Amazon and just flipping through the pages makes me want to visit every Cathedral in England.

I read an excerpt from "The Nature of Autumn" in BBC Wildlife magazine and was so impressed with the nature writing that I just had to buy it. The author reveals how autumn unfolds from September to November in Scotland.

This is the first non-Merrily book by Phil Rickman that I have read. I found it rather unsettling and scary (far more so than the Merrily stories). I wouldn't exactly say I enjoyed it but there is no doubt that I couldn't put the book down!

This is the 3rd in a series of books about the four seasons that I have read. Again it contains poetry and prose by both established, well-known authors and new writers. I shall be buying the Winter one soon. They really are lovely anthologies and it is easy just to dip into them when you have a few spare minutes.

I used to read the "Miss Read" books many years ago - in fact, I have about a dozen in a storage box and I am trying to make up my mind whether to keep them or take them to the charity shop. The Country Christmas is a collection of stories set in Fairacre - it makes delightful reading and my favourite was the poignant tale of the White Robin.

I finally treated myself to the latest book by Ann Cleeves in the Shetland series. I found it as gripping as her other Shetland novels and now I am up to date with the books I will watch the dvd of the tv series (a Christmas present) and start on the Vera Stanhope novels!

The next two books have a section for each Season of the year so I will read the relevant section as the year progresses. I love Laurie Lee's books so was thrilled to discover a new one!

Sorry for lack of posts recently - I am still completely "bogged down" by problems with my mother's house so I suspect blogging might be sporadic for quite a while. Sadly, the problems are worse than I anticipated with the added complications of third parties. To say I feel stressed and worried is an under-statement but I am trying to take it one step at a time although not wholly succeeding!! I will try and keep up to date with your blogs in the meantime but if I disappear for a while I will eventually be back!