"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

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!


Rosie said...

I'm so pleased you saw the waxwings and such a lot of them too. I saw something about them on Winterwatch, a huge flock of them in Sheffield presumably before they made their way further south. Glad you are enjoying Cold Earth and hope you enjoy the Vera books just as much. I love the Merrily Watkins books too, I don't think I've read them all just the later ones. I hope things resolve themselves with your worries over your mother's house, it sounds like a worrying time:)

Margaret Adamson said...

How wonderful to see all those Wazwings. Although there are here in NI. I have not seen them as yet.

Ragged Robin said...

Rosie - Thanks very much. So pleased to finally catch up with the Waxwings - such beautiful birds :) Really enjoyed Cold Earth and very much looking forward to reading Vera Stanhope. I'm reading the latest Merrily book at the moment - it is very good. I think the series has got better and better as it has progressed. Thanks for good wishes re: mother's house - tearing my hair out to be honest and just feel totally out of control of the situation :(

Margaret Adamson - Thanks Margaret - do hope Waxwings reach your area :)

Toffeeapple said...

I am so sorry to hear of the problems, hope they can be resolved very soon.

I have yet to spot a Waxwing, never having seen one in my entire life.

I have a small collection of Miss Read books, I can't face getting rid of them, they are so evocative of times gone by.

Pete Duxon said...

chuffed for you over the waxwings..... and hope things workout over your mum

I really must download the Rickman

Ragged Robin said...

Toffeeapple - Thanks so much for your very kind words.

Hope you see some Waxwings - if you see any starling-sized birds in berry trees check them closely :)

Yes, you are right about the Miss Read books - I don't think I will ever have the heart to get rid of them!

Pete Duxon - Thanks so much - I suspect it is going to take months to sort out - such a horribly complicated issue :(

I usually wait for new books to come down in price but couldn't resist buying the Merrily Rickman one - you will enjoy it I think. I wasn't sure about Cold Calling - quite creepy! but I will buy the Dr Dee books at some stage and try those.

amanda peters said...

So good to say we have all managed to see Waxwing this year, more than once too.
Some of the books look a good read, time I got back into reading, thing is I just fall asleep !
Amanda x

Ragged Robin said...

Amanda Peters - Thanks so much Amanda - really pleased as you that we have had several sightings :) Still trying to find my own which would be the icing on the cake!

I am not surprised you fall asleep with such early starts! They are good books and the fiction you can just escape into! Just started reading a good non-fiction book called "Common Ground" set in your part of the world :) It looks as though it is going to be rather enjoyable :)

David said...

Wonderful birds and wonderful photos, I am so happy you managed to finally see a Waxwing this winter :-) Indeed I am rather envious of your photos as the only Waxwings I have seen so far this winter was at a rather dull and murky Pickering back in November, hardly the best weather for photography :-(

Enjoy the books and hopefully they will provide some welcome distraction from all the ongoing problems with your mother's home.

Kindest regards and best wishes to all :-)

Countryside Tales said...

Oh wow! Those waxwing! I bet you were grinning for days. They are amazing aren't they? I've never seen them. Loved your book selection. Hope things settle with your mum's house situation x

Ragged Robin said...

David - Thanks very much David. Glad you did manage to see some Waxwings but what a pain about the weather. Hope you get to see some more with better weather for photos!

I did enjoy the books and thank you for the kind words. I wish I could explain the situation but it is difficult with third parties involved. Mother herself isn't involved as she has been in a nursing home for several years with advanced alzheimer's and sadly wouldn't understand what was going on if I could try and explain it to her.

Best wishes to you all :)

Countryside Tales - Thanks so much - yes, they are incredibly beautiful birds - hope you see some one day. Enjoyed the books immensely. Suspect house situation could take months to sort out :(

Millymollymandy said...

So pleased you got to see the Waxwings, not once but twice! Maybe there will be more sightings in your area so you can go see them again. I am sure it will be worth it. (Green with envy of course!!)

Sorry to hear you are having problems with your mother's house - I didn't know what that was about and wondered if I'd missed it on an earlier post, but I've just read the comments here and understand you can't go into detail. I hope the situation will be resolved soon. xx

Ragged Robin said...

Millymollymandy - Thanks Mandy - do wish I could send some Waxwings your way :) Am still checking local berry trees when I can in the hope of more.

Thanks so much for kind words and understanding re: mother's house problem.

CherryPie said...

Your photos are of the birds are beautiful. I too have to revert to using my bridge camera to get perfect photos in certain circumstances. Most recently for taking photographs of the moon and venus with mars faintly in the background.

Simon Jenkins Cathedral book is already on my wish list :-) I enjoyed his best houses and churches books. They have inspired me to visit places I had not known about before including my visit last November to The Museum of the Order of St John.


Ragged Robin said...

CherryPie - Thank you - to be honest the second set were all wrong - I think I had inadvertently changed a setting :( Had to put the bridge camera back to default factory settings to rectify it! The bridge cameras are very versatile - but as I usually use my dslr, I have never got round to learning how it works and how to change settings - really must get round to it!

The Cathedral book is superb. I have Jenkins's churches book but the best houses one is on my wish list. Will check out your blog post on The Museum :)

Caroline Gill said...

What a great selection of books, including the two on autumn, not my favourite season (I'm more of a spring-summer person!), though as the years go by, the autumn colours work their magic more and more. I am particularly grateful for your first autumn recommendation with its Scottish bias. I miss the rowan berries if we travel north to near midsummer, but I love the long evenings at that time of year...

Ragged Robin said...

Caroline Gill - Thanks so much. I think Autumn and Spring are my favourite Seasons - both are so lovely. I hope you enjoy the Nature of Autumn if you decide to read it - I think if you know Scotland well you would get even more out of the book than I did. (have only been twice - once to the Cairngorms area and one visit to Edinburgh when a child!). Some of his writing is just superb - I will certainly be reading more of his books :)