"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 :)

Saturday, 20 February 2016

Petitions to Help Secure Future Funding from Government for the National Wildlife Crime Unit

The National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU)was set up in 2006 to investigate and prosecute wildlife criminals who commit crimes or cruelty against wild animals. The Unit does vitally important work investigating crimes such as badger baiting, hare coursing, illegal persecution of birds of prey, deer poaching, rare bird egg theft and trade in endangered species.

In 2014 the Government announced funding for just 2 years to support the NWCU. Sadly, this Unit may be forced to close in six weeks as the Government has, so far, not confirmed that it will continue to fund this crucial Unit. The Government has always seemed exceedingly proud of its commitment to end international wildlife crime and illegal trade in wildlife products setting aside £10 million pounds for this purpose. Surely, it can, therefore, find just £427,000 per annum to fund the NWCU?

If you would like to sign petitions to ask the Government to continue funding there are two available:

Government e-petition


38 Degrees petition


More information about the National Wildlife Crime Unit can be found at their website


and another link to an article in the Guardian last week:


which gives further information.

Please also consider writing to your MP urging them to ask DEFRA to continue funding the NWCU.

Thanks so much.

Apologies that the ancient version of Blogger that I use refuses to put in links that actually work - please just copy and paste above links.

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Snowdrops at the Gardens

Went along to Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens this afternoon to renew our membership and while I was there had a lovely walk round the Gardens in the Winter sunshine.

Wallflowers are blooming already - in fact so many species seen today were flowering far earlier than usual in line with what everyone else is seeing around the country.

This would be a nice place to sit in the Melon Grounds for afternoon tea :)

I'm not sure what this little yellow flower is but it was very pretty.

Daisies growing in a trough.

Looking towards Castle Bromwich Hall


Preparations for a Valentine Day's event this weekend

Daffodils in flower in the North Orchard - so early!

Lower Wilderness

Snowdrops and Crocuses

The spidery flowers of Witch Hazel

Sadly, most of the Winter Aconites had finished flowering but there were still a few with blooms.



A flowering Cowslip - again so early.

Seedheads of Honesty

This beautiful variety of crocus was called Romance.

Betty Langley Vegetable Garden

Primroses are starting to flower on a bank

The Summer House

Lichens on fruit tree branches in the orchards

More Snowdrops in the Extra Gardens

Mirror Pool

I was hoping for a glimpse of the first butterfly or bumble bee of the year but none about although at 6/7 degrees centigrade its not surprising.

Birds seen - Wood Pigeon, Carrion Crow, Magpie, Robin, Blackbird, Blue and Great Tit

I'm still hoping to go over to St Giles churchyard, Packwood, but the way things are going it will be Primroses in flower as the Snowdrops finish!