March 9, 2018

Is Spring here yet ?

After the combination of horrible weather and even worse relentless viral infections, initially  there was not a lot of positive stuff to reflect on in this blog,  but  nature has a way of surprising the most pessimistic of us.

On entering the Woodland  after a week going stir-crazy indoors, I expected to find everything hunkered down and silent.  Not a bit of it, all the resident birds were letting rip in full song claiming their territories in the weak sunshine. The above Nuthatch had his head back singing at full tilt at the entrance of the pathway.  Further along, Blue tits, Great tits and Longtailed tits were busy establishing nest space in the bramble undergrowth.


The undergrowth was alive with tiny snowy footprints of rabbit and squirrel.  Migrant Fieldfares and Redwings had left  during the bad weather, not to return until next year.
In the water meadows Chaffinch and Skylark were singing in the warmth of  a watery sun.
Then the artic winds set was even too cold to go shopping.

Every morning in pyjamas before breakfast I was out breaking ice, clearing snow and spreading food for the garden regulars,  in hope rather than conviction I could make any difference as I hardly saw anything the whole week.  When it was all over there they were back as usual, the pair of Dunnocks, the nesting Blue tits, the loud Robin and Blackbird living under the pyrocanthus.  So you can make a difference.  I am sure many creatures died during the intense cold, but at least it is a quiet way to go, whilst the tougher ones live to pass on their genes in the coming season.

Will this late start to Spring hold everything back or  will nature catch up?  It will be interesting to observe. 

February 13, 2018

Nature, art, poetry and most of all birds

February has blown in wet, windy and cold  and so much rain the water table can no longer hold it.  The brook in the wood  is almost bursting  its banks and the mud is well beyond wellies.   Despite this there has been a few bright glowing spring days of warmth and sunshine worthy of 20 minutes capturing  much needed vitamin D.

Juvenile Grey Heron
All the resident birds especially the Dunnocks and Tits great and small have become very excitable and are bonding with new or old partners.  There is an air of movement and activity in the wood and the first snowdrops and bluebells are staring to show.  Despite the chill there is no going back on spring now.

First signs of Celandine

Despite the ice Black-headed Gulls are slowly acquiring their spring colours

The rookery nests from last year in the wood  have completely disappeared from the canopy over the last few weeks.  One can only assume that literally they have lifted their sticks and moved somewhere else. Their racket will be missed by everyone close by.

At last my work has made publication  : in this beautiful book  from FAIR ACRE PRESS

January 27, 2018

Storm with no name

As usual we were extremely fortunate with our weather on the Wirral during the nameless storm that obliterated the rest of the UK.  It was definitely worthy of a name but I suspect it crept up too fast for administration purposes.

Arctic blasts  we did not escape, neither the torrential rain which combined with flu made visiting the woodland project impossible.  Lots to catch up on.

The moon is at its largest and closest until 2040 so  I decided to take a number  of waxing and waning photographs for my next folding book project,  which I will feature in next months blog.

The Blue tits are checking out the ancient bird box already this last week of January.  All the tits great and small are very vocal at the moment which in my book heralds an early spring.  Last year we had a false start with a hard cold snap, hopefully this year will be not so deceiving.

Having collated all the bird recordings from the last five years over December it is now time to step up the collection and produce something.  Amazingly, my unknowns file is now empty as I can put names to nearly all the recordings as my ear has become  trained.  Not that this is a priority,  the joy you get from listening is far more important. Having said that  studying visual representations of bird song is a fascinating process.
I still have not captured a recording of a Curlew which has been on the hit list for several years.

Robin song

Recently I have undertaken research on how to build a parabolic microphone,  which normally costs between £500 -£1000  to buy.  My own microphones work extremely well but need focusing to capture as much song as possible without interference from background noise, which is relentlessly persistent from traffic, planes  and trains.  ( many birds oddly choose to  sing close to roads)  It is hoped to have the apparatus ready by peak dawn chorus time in May.  Maybe the Curlew might make it to the collection this year.

January 4, 2018

New Life

Needing exercise after a very sedentary two  days over Christmas divesting the stress of the previous two  months (why do we have to build up the event in such a ghastly way?) I went and visited my Woodland project in HW.

It was like entering a new world.........despite the chill wind the wood  was aglow with a low hovering winter sun.  The trees in the canopies rustled quietly in the breeze and the birds............ erupted from the tree tops in joyous ebullient song.

New life is noticebly  bursting  through last seasons decaying leaf litter and the trees are  budding through old  papery brown leaves.

I cannot believe we have had yet another named storm 'Eleanor'.  Storms appears to be a monthly event.  Although very wild and cold Wirral came off lightly again compared to the rest of the UK.  The combination of full moon, gales and high tides  meant the estuary experienced some early high spring tides which was evident by the sign of flooding on the Dee Marshes at Parkgate on 3rd December.  This brought large dramatic swirling flocks of lapwings close to shore.  We were also very fortunate to see 3 rare Marsh Harriers.

Dramatic weather makes super opportunities for photography with the light and shade of low clouds in combination with low sun.

December 19, 2017

Storm Caroline

Every time I sit down to write this post it seems to be pre or post yet another storm.  Is this because we give personality and names to them or because there are more storms.

Anyway it was clear  something was on its way as large numbers  of seagulls had commenced gathering in large flocks inland  on their favourite fields, this they always seem to do when wild weather is on its way.  Sure enough the wild weather forecast followed 2 days later.   Large flocks  of geese also gathered in large numbers and flocked  higher up the estuaries away from the coast.

More and more birds will be migrating here over the next couple of months as the weather fluctuates over Europe.  Heres hoping to get to see the Waxwings this year, as they are due to arrive in January.

Fortunately as is usual on the Wirra,  forecasts were much overstated as the snow was minimal although the freezing temperatures lasted over 48 hours. Many seabirds where still standing on floating ice several days later as this has turned out to be a very cold December if not very white for Cheshire and Wales.

The shortest day 21st will soon be over and the daylight hours will start to lengthen.  The buds on the lilac tree are already  green swelling  and behind the grey gloom spring is in preparation.

If the sun does appear the low angled golden light  reveals the nakedness of the earth and gives amazing fleeting sights like  the above reed beds at Burton Point.   In the wind the birds huncker down but you can still hear them soulfully   calling across the water to one another.

All the garden creatures have been promised cheese scones for Christmas Day (all time favourite above all other food ) so that is what I will be doing on Christmas Eve trying to get them is important to be faithful in small things.

Wishing everyone a very peaceful Christmas

November 10, 2017

Storm Brian


Woodland birds are few at this time, but the estuaries are vibrant with sightings and sounds.  The sight and sound of large numbers of geese passing overhead every morning is what makes the  long grey wet days of October and November bearable.   There has been  a large influx of Pink Footed Geese sighted around the estuaries,  substantially more than last year.  Their calls are noticebly different from Canada Geese, more chatty than honking and higher pitched.  In the grey skies it is impossible to tell the difference by sight alone as they all look the same.

Well storm Brian has passed and for the Wirral it was much more vigorious than Storm Doris. (I would love to have one named after me  ) one violent night and at least half the trees lost their leaves.  The Beeches outside the coffee shop still have some golden embers left. which on a warm sunny day tinkle with the sound of a jubilent flock of mixed finches, goldfinch, chaffinch and maybe this year a rare hawfinch,  non of which I can see and if it were not for the traffic I would record.  Strangely birds love singing where it is noisy.  The middle of a wood can be completely silent, but the  end nearest human habitat alive with sound.

Now is a good time for finding lichen and fungi at its best in the low light.

This weekend I attended an all day free adult education class on 'raptors' at the World Museum in Liverpool.  They run many such courses on different nature interests but their website is so weird that it is difficult to find them.  Usually it is by word of mouth, but the link is provided below incase like me  many of you give up looking for it.  Most of the course was based around studying an old  collection of stuffed birds which to me was distressing, but it did allow close study.  Interestingly most of the specimens seemed much smaller than you see in  the wild now.

On a recent visit to Dibbinsdale ancient woodland I was given a gift of the  perfect autumn spectacle of angled  dabbled light through golden leaves.  This day was the fourth attempt to visit and turned out to be the blessed one for photograhy.

My home birds are  back in the garden  checking out new perches made from pruned virginia creeper trunks and revamped feeder stations.  Hicaw my chatty Jackdaw is back and the Blue Tits are checking out the old nestbox for the winter.

October 16, 2017

Spiders and Storm Ophelia

All of a sudden there are spiders everywhere you look and don' t look and more to the point huge cobwebs in the most inappropriate places, between the back door and the bin, across the garage doorway.  I am sure if I sat long enough in the garden I would become a major anchor point  from the washing line 4ft away for some tiny spider mega mansion. The webs  seem totally out of proportion to the creature making it. Early morning the dew rests on millions of tiny little webs created overnight  in the grass.  There must be an awful lot of spiders around !!


The trees have started  to turn, the autumnal setting sun casting a final golden glow on the underside of the fading lilac leaves.   Sycamores seemed to go first closely followed by  Silver birch which has already shed all their yellow leaves  like the yomping willow in Harry Potter, so maybe we will have a shorter autumn than last year.  Whilst some trees are naked others have hardly turned golden.   After the storm there will be definitely nothing left and the best of the Autumn will be over for another year.

This has been a great year for the Red Admiral Butterfly and they can still be seen floating about well into October if not November. Even saw one in the high wind this morning.

Red Admiral

From the top of the bus today I saw an amazing scene of hundreds if not a thousand seagulls of various shapes and sizes wheeling about in an enormous cloud over the Dee Estuary.  Is this a warning of the weather to come, mind   the amelioration of the sea may save us from the worst.  Seagulls always give good warning of any unpleasant weather heading our way  and  can indicate whether the tide is high or low.

After a very eerie yellow glow in the  dawn of the day of the storm, the peach ball of the sun came through to remind us it will be  still there when it was all over.

St. Johns Wort

There are still a few stoic wildflowers about, the multi seasonal  Herb Robert named after a french botanical illustrator.  Random outcrops of Hog Weed and late flowering St. Johns Wort. Carpets of green leafed  wild geranium are already preparing for spring.

It is very upsetting to know that more  hedgehogs die as a result of eating poisoned slugs, than are killed on the roads.

Thanks are sent to 2 new nature watchers who are sending their photos from other parts of the Wirral.

Is Spring here yet ?

After the combination of horrible weather and even worse relentless viral infections, initially  there was not a lot of positive stuff to re...