"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

Thursday, 25 February 2016

Visit to a Local Nature Reserve, Books and Baking

We made a brief visit yesterday afternoon to Ladywalk Nature Reserve - a West Midland Bird Club Reserve. The reserve is located in the Middle Tame Valley and consists of a series of lagoons of flooded gravel extraction works, reedbeds and Birch and Alder Woodland.

Hawthorn in leaf - in fact, I am sure a hawthorn bush we drove past on the way home was starting to flower - very early! Unfortunately, it wasn't possible to park on the road so I wasn't able to check to be 100% certain.

Not the best of photos - I do struggle with the Canon bridge and close up photography. Its quite a few months since I last used the camera and it brought home to me yet again how little I know about the controls and features. So a belated New Year's Resolution to start going through the manual as I struggled even changing the aperture!The camera also kept telling me I had set the self-timer button and I hadn't a clue how to reset it :( I would say the video recording button is in a rather silly place though as I lost count of the times I started to record without even realising it.

The public footpath leading to the reserve entrance goes alongside the

River Tame.

If you carry straight on here you eventually come out at St John the Baptist Church at Lea Marston which I visited last summer.

It looks as though there will be increased security once this work is finished. Entrance to the reserve is by permit only.

Full steam ahead for B and E - every time I stopped to take a photo or check a bird sighting through bins they had walked another 100 yards ahead of me.

There are many small pools as you walk through the woodland - containing a few Mallard and Coot yesterday.

There are plenty of nestboxes on trees around the woods.

One of the reasons for visiting was to try and see a Bittern as we have seen them at this reserve in the past and 3 have been reported in recent weeks - you can just see some of the reedbeds in the distance on this photo.

It was rather muddy - thank goodness for wellies!

This is the view from "B" hide - which seems to be the most reliable place at present for bittern sightings. One was last seen yesterday afternoon disappearing into the reedbeds in the distance. It failed to re-appear while we were there but it was good to sit and watch more common species such as Tufted Duck, Coot, Moorhen, Wigeon, Teal, Shelduck, Great Crested Grebe, Mallard and Common Snipe.


No bees around today - it was a lovely sunny day but very cold!

We spent a quarter of an hour in Sainsbury's Hide which overlooks the feeding station. Didn't have much luck with photos except for this record shot of a pheasant.

Species feeding included Greenfinches, a Bullfinch (missed by me :( ), Chaffinches, Blue Great and Coal Tits, Reed Buntings, Robins and Blackbirds.

Walking back to the car this nest was visible in the bare branches - Long-tailed Tit or Wren? Probably the former as it didn't look small enough for a wren.

I'm re-reading a rather lovely book at the moment called "The Frampton Flora" by Richard Mabey which contains hundreds of wild flower paintings from the early 19th century. The watercolours, the work of a group of sisters and their aunts, were discovered in the attic of Frampton Court in Gloucestershire. Its a charming and delightful book and, although I think it is now out of print, its well worth looking out for a second hand copy.

The latest West Midland Bird Club Report has arrived in the post in the last couple of days. The Club has recently made available online all the old Reports which is rather a relief as I have dozens of past Reports in a pile which I was reluctant to get rid off. But if I can now access them online the decision has been made for me and I shall just keep the latest one! :)

I did persuade myself to part with some more fiction paperbacks recently but as always managed to make a purchase from Books Revisited - the excellent second hand charity bookshop in Coleshill. I was contemplating buying a book on Cotswold Villages when I spotted this book on a table and it just cried out to me to buy it.

It is written by a local author and is a charming story about a family living on a Warwickshire farm based on her own childhood experiences of her parents' farms in the nearby Shustoke/Maxstoke/Whitacre areas. She has also written a book about Warwickshire Villages which I will be looking out for in future visits to the shop!

And another purchase I couldn't resist! :)

Finally, sorry am wittering on in this post - some Cherry, Cinnamon and White Chocolate Cookies I made from a recipe in the Sainsbury's "Bake" magazine I bought late last year. I hadn't got any sour cherries or white chocolate so used dried cranberries and milk chocolate and they were delicious :)


Toffeeapple said...

You had a lovely day for your walk around the reserve, shame about the Bittern.

A treasuretrove of books, isn't it great when you spot things that you really want to read?

Ragged Robin said...

Toffeeapple - Thanks so much. Hope to perhaps go back for a second Bittern attempt - although the hide is quite small and it was busy there!

Just couldn't resist the book - a bit naughty really as I am not supposed to keep on buying books! But I always like to think with a second hand book that its gone from one home where it was treasured to another where it will be loved :)

Stewart said...

Nice post Caroline. Your nest is a Wrens. LTT is more oval and is always covered in lichens and cobwebs giving a whiter appearance. Its a very unusual place for a Wrens though and is likely a 'cock nest'. He builds a few and the female chooses the best one...

Wendy said...

I've loved reading about your walk on this reserve. I never have much success with seeing Bitterns. I've only ever had a fleeting glimpse of one in the past and I'm hoping this year will be the year I get a good view of one. I'd like to hear it, too! The books' look interesting. I'm always keen to read a Richard Mabey book so I'll start looking out for that one. The illustrations look beautiful.

Ragged Robin said...

Stewart - Thanks very much Stewart and for help re: nest id. I thought it was a strange place for a wren's nest too. I've watched males build in the garden and they usually plump for the ivy. Although we did have a phase of several years when the female picked the nest in an old hanging basket - dreadful location as the young kept falling out and I had to carefully replace them (those that survived the fall!).

Wendy - Thanks so much Wendy. The best view I've had of a Bittern was when shot out of the reeds just in front of a hide at Brandon Marsh quite a few years ago now! The one's I've seen at a distance have always been at Ladywalk! I've heard them boom at Leighton Moss in Cumbria - it really is an incredible sound so hope you get to hear them. The book is well worth buying - beautiful illustrations (though not as much text as there normally is in a Mabey book!!).

Caroline Gill said...

First of all, my mouth is watering at the sight of those cookies! What lovely book recommendations: I always find your choices so interesting, despite the different areas in which we live. I'm sorry you failed to see the Bittern this time. I have a Bittern poem coming out in an anthology in April, which is rather nice. I haven't seen one this year - but Minsmere is a good place for them at certain seasons.

Ragged Robin said...

Caroline Gill - Thanks so much Caroline. Will be making the biscuits again :) So glad you enjoy the books. You must let me know the title of the anthology - so I can look out for it. Apart from hearing Bitterns at Leighton Moss I have only ever seen them locally at Ladywalk and Brandon Marsh although there have been sightings at Marsh Lane in past years. Do wish I lived closer to Minsmere and all those other lovely reserves in the South-east!! I've also discovered Norfolk and Suffolk have some rather lovely and interesting churches. I must return!! :)

Simon Douglas Thompson said...

I'm still struggling with my bridge camera too, only seems to take good shots in very bright light.

Ragged Robin said...

Simon Douglas Thompson - Thanks for the comment Simon. Have you tried turning up the ISO a bit in low light - can help although if you go too high it will make pics grainy. Apologies if you've already tried this!

I get frustrated at times because I know the camera will take good bird photos - saw a superb one of a Bittern recently on Twitter taken with the same model as ours. I need to do what I did with the dslr and sit down patiently and work through the manual so I know the camera inside out.

amanda peters said...

Lovely post and it does look a nice place to visit, hope you manage to get to grips with your camera, spend time in the garden taking as many photos as you want till you get it right, trouble is you need to remember what you did !
Books look great, would have them on my shelf :)
Amanda xx

Ragged Robin said...

Amanda Peters - Thanks Amanda - lol re: remembering what you did with the camera :) One of the problems is I use my dslr most of the time and its trying to work up an incentive to spend time practising with the bridge. Its only when I go out to nature reserves and take it that I start cursing myself for not practising with it!!

Frampton Flora is well worth keeping an eye open for. Have just finished it and started re-reading the Lark Rise to Candleford Trilogy :)

quacks said...

looks lovely..... and more books? LOL

Ragged Robin said...

Quacks - Thanks :) It is a good reserve and OH prefers it to Marsh Lane so suspect may be going there more regularly. Lol re: books - I am getting into a lot of trouble with continued purchase :( Trouble is some books you either don't want or can't get on the Kindle!!!

David said...

A good walk around your local nature reserve with plenty of interesting woodland birds and waterfowl, though a shame you didn't manage to see the Bittern. Do they breed at the reserve or are they only winter visitors?

Hope you enjoy the books, the Frampton Flora one looks beautifully illustrated, whilst I do love leafing through bird reports. They may be a little dry but they are full of interesting & useful records :-)

Hope you are well and my kindest regards to all :-)

PS. The cookies look rather scrumptious!

Ragged Robin said...

David - Thanks David. As far as I am aware Bitterns only over-winter at the 3 local reserves. Would be good if they did start breeding at one of the locations :)

Frampton Flora is a really lovely book - I often dip into the annual Bird Reports especially when looking for locations for various species. So much work must go into their preparation.

I am definitely making the biscuits again - a really good recipe :)

Hope you are well too and best wishes to you all :)

Chris Rohrer said...

Another fun outing. And some more books along with dessert:) I just wanted to let you know that while we have never met, I so enjoy your blog posts during my lunch during the work week. You transport my mind to fun places that are rather uncommon for us here in Arizona. As for the Bittern.....ahhhhh....the Bitterns. They will be seen only when they want to be seen. They are some of the hardest birds to find. I've only seen TWO since I began birding. Tricky tricky!

Ragged Robin said...

Chris Rohrer - Thanks so much Chris for your very lovely comment. It means a lot that you enjoy my posts :)

lol re: the Bitterns - yes, they are very elusive. Have only seen a handful over here. Once we were so lucky as we had seen one (at a distance mind!) on the Friday and took our children back the next day (they were little in those days!)and saw one again :)

Deb said...

Great photos of a lovely walk, love the books too and the biscuits look delicious. :-)

Ragged Robin said...

Deb - Thanks so much - glad you enjoyed :)

Millymollymandy said...

Hi Caroline - another lovely post from you. Looks like a lovely walk albeit very muddy :-) Do you go to the reserve often enough to justify membership, or whatever is needed to gain access to the private reserve? I bet there are loads of Odonata in summer. Well done with the pheasant photo!

Ragged Robin said...

Millymollymandy - Thanks so much Mandy. We've been members of the West Midlands Bird Club for years and years and I think we will probably be going to Ladywalk more often now that B has taken early retirement - its probably our closest reserve and B prefers it to Marsh Lane (where membership costs are a lot higher!!). Within the WMBC membership you get access permits to several other reserves (further away), bulletins every other month and a very good annual report so it is, I think, good value and gives support to the Club. They do run field trips and indoor meetings too although I've never been to those.

It is a good reserve for other wildlife too as you surmised :)

Caroline Gill said...

I have returned to this post in order to add that yes, it is a good Ladybird book. Professor Helen Roy is the organiser of the UK Ladybird Survey and is extremely knowledgeable.

Ragged Robin said...

Caroline Gill - Thanks so much for the Ladybird book information - it looks very good :)