Unwelcome visitors or a lovely addition to our countryside and gardens

When I go to stay with my sister in London it’s great to see the city life, so busy and bustling, and to see the sights and spend time visiting attractions. But one of the real treats for me is to go to the parks and catch glimpses of the parakeets.

It’s amazing to see them flying about as if they are just a common or garden bird. During my last visit, last week, I completed an on-line survey about whether people think they are an unwanted visitor to our shores, or one that should be protected. Although they compete for food with our native birds they (all 30,000 of them) are not the threat they are perceived to be.

Over my sister’s garden fence

I know lots of people don’t want them here, but they make me smile.

I stop to watch them fly over and love the noises they make.

I suppose the point I am making is that some people like them, some don’t even notice them and others hate them, but they are now here to stay as there are so many of them.

I feel the same about my life. There are people I hope who love me, people who have no feelings one way or the other toward me, and then others who don’t like me. I want people to like me, but you can’t make them, can you, if they don’t.

I have moments every day where I worry about people not valuing what I say or do, or not thinking I can contribute to, or do something. But these are moments and I am making a concerted effort to not let these moments become minutes, or hours, as I have in the past because I say to myself I am valuable, I can do it, someone just hasn’t chosen me to do it.

We all have our strengths and weaknesses, we can’t all be good at everything, so acknowledge the things you can do and let someone else do the things you can’t.

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A local beauty spot before the crowds.

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Swans coming in to land.

Getting out early is quite important if you want to take an uninterrupted nature walk without the throngs of runners, dog walkers and families out for the day. So I used to head out really early on my epic long walks. Over the last few months I have found that walking to, and walking back from, the nature reserves has been proving quite hard as my knees and feet don’t seem to be able to take it any more. Now I prefer to drive there and back, which means I can leave a little later, but still avoids the crowds.

Today I decided to go back to Hengistbury Head to see if I could see the returning whitethroats and the Dartford warbler I saw last week.

As I walked from the carpark towards the reserve at Wick I could hear birds singing, but few were showing themselves. A couple of people were further down the path, but for the most part it was pretty quiet and secluded.  

I stopped at the stream that led to the end of the River Stour and the end of Christchurch Quay, and where Mudeford Harbour began.  I looked for signs of otters on the bank of the stream, and could hear some warblers in the reeds.  I could see clearly across the fields back to Wick, but there were no signs of any wildlife, so I decided to carry straight on the path to Hengistbury Head.

As I approached the end of the path and could see the Harbour before me, three swans flew overhead.  I continued on to the higher path leading to the visitor centre and on a bush I could hear a bird’s familiar song.  It was a whitethroat.

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The whitethroats have just returned to the area from their wintering sights.  They have a distinctive song, which I recognised from last year, but that I could not begin to describe to you.  I often read in my books how a birds call sounds and can honestly say the descriptions do not conjure up the sounds to me at all.

There were quite a few birdwatchers standing looking into the field where the skylarks nest, and I could hear them up in the air with their distinctive songs.  I decided not to stay with there, but make my own way towards the bird sanctuary.

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The familiar song of the stonechats could be heard along the path and I could see them darting from one gorse bush to another.  I am so happy to see them showing so well this year, as last year I thought they were a bit thin on the ground.  I think the stonechat was the first bird I really got pleasure from seeing and photographing on my walks, back when I was first got depression.  I loved the way they posed for me on the wooden fences.

I headed to the bird enclosure, but apart from hearing the green woodpecker and the herons in the tops of the trees, I couldn’t really see much.  I decided to head back to the main path as I didn’t want to be out too long today.  

A dark coloured bird shot across in front of me and I thought it was probably the Dartford warbler, so I stood still and scanned the tops of the bushes to find it.

IMG_7131I could see another whitethroat and stonechat and a linnet, but the warbler wasn’t visible.

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Then I thought I could hear an unusual call and there it was.

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The dartford warbler

I had not heard it’s call before and I’m not sure I will remember it next time, but I knew it was a different call, which is what makes you look around to find things when you are out and about.

A blackbird was on the path in front of me collecting worms, I approached slowly and walked past without it flying off, I assume getting food was more important than me being a threat.

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A female blackbird

I could hear the green woodpecker coming up closer behind me but I couldn’t see it anywhere, but the dartford warbler was now sitting on another gorse bush.

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I crossed the path back to the field where the skylarks nest and there were two photographers excitedly looking across to a bush with their long lenses trained on something I couldnt see.  I heard them say ‘woodpecker’ and then I spotted it.  It must have gone past me without me seeing.

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It was quite a long way off, but nice to see it in a less usual location.

As I continued down the path I realised the dartford warbler was now right in front of me so I took a few more shots.

 

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I decided it was time to make my way home.  This was a good walk.IMG_7225

 

Childhood memories

Last week I commented on a twitter post asking for recommendations for places to stop with young children on a trip down to Penzance from London. My tip was to get clotted cream ice cream from a little shop in Newlyn, which I first visited in the late sixties and apparently is still there.

As a young girl, probably about eight, we spent a week staying in a friend’s house in Penzance where my big sister had a summer job. She was working in a cafe I think.

I remember we slept in a bedroom downstairs, mum and dad in a big bed and me and my two little sisters top and tailing in a single bed at the foot of the other bed. My brothers were in another room. I remember there was an air vent in the wall and that something in the kitchen next door had a gas pilot light that cast a flickering light across the end of the bed.

One night there was a storm, and as the light flickered across the bed, the wind outside was making a sound that can only be described as a ghostly choir singing, lots of ooohhhhhhs and aaaahhhhhhs and I lay there pulling the sheets up higher to protect me. Suddenly a black shadowy figure loomed at the end of my mum and dad’s bed and I must have let out a squeal. As the light went on I could see it was my littlest sister clambering to get in with mum and dad, scared of the wind howling I expect.

The next day was wet and windy but unperturbed we carried on exploring and even ate hot pasties on Marazion Beach, the best pasty I have ever eaten.

I remember days exploring the remains of early settlements on the moors, the remaining little walls showing where people lived in their little homes, and on another day crossing the bay on the brick road to reach St Michael’s Mount, the castle home of a different generation, quite different from the early settlement. When we returned from the Mount the tide had turned and I remember me and my brothers walking back over the flooded causeway, quite dangerous I would have thought. I must have been braver when I was young.

It’s funny the things that stay in your mind, like playing at the boating pool with our model boat and having to wade in to get it when it got too far from the side. When I got dressed again one of my toenails came off and my brother told me a water creature had eaten it. Then, after tea one evening we were playing leapfrog on a little green behind the holiday cottage and a little dog joined in and got a little excited leaping on me!

These little memories of a distant holiday always remind me of how simple life seemed to be, probably not how my mum and dad saw it with their seven kids, but there were no mobile phones, internet connections, constant reminders of work popping up on your devices. When you went on holiday you left it all behind, I suppose other things, like money, could still play on your mind, but I’m sure most people would agree that with all the new technology and advances we have there is also more pressure.

So take a step back, enjoy the simple things and let’s all think of ways we can help our lovely planet stay lovely, protect and conserve what we have, stop and think about what we really need in our lives and what we really don’t.

A few days away

Sometimes it’s just nice to get away, to get a change of scene and a change of perspective. It doesn’t have to cost a lot, or even need to be very far away, but a change of routine can help to refocus the mind and stop you worrying about the normal day to day things.

A trip to Bath

About ten years ago my husband and I went on a tour of Britain. It was a whistle stop tour, it only took seven days, but we managed to go up the east coast, across Scotland, down through the Lake District and north Wales, and then back across country, to home, on the south coast.

We had always thought that we lived in the best part of the country with the New Forest and our local beaches and Jurassic coast. It turned out that the whole trip took us through beautiful counties, gorgeous coastlines and the wondrous hills, lochs, lakes and mountain ranges of Scotland and Wales.

Wells Cathedral on a weekend away

The canal in Oxford

Oxfordshire

Back then I didn’t have a good camera and we only took a few snaps, but now I would love to do the trip all over again, but take our time and record all the beautiful sights.

The Roman baths in Bath

Even without photographs I can recall all the places as if it were yesterday. We didn’t have a plan, we just drove where we recognised place names. Our first stop was Cambridge for a walk and lunch. We then drove on and stayed a night in Ely, where I was born and didn’t remember ever having been to. We walked to the Cathedral and as we went in we could hear the choir singing. Apparently it was their first rehearsal after the summer break, it was beautiful, we couldn’t timed it better. We then drove through Norfolk , where I believe my brothers were born and I looked out for place names that I remembered from when I was young. We then headed over to Lincolnshire.

I saw on the map that Chatsworth wouldn’t be too far off for a visit. (We had to include a Stately home, I said). Derbyshire was absolutely stunning. We spent a night not far from Chatsworth and then headed up country and drove through Sheffield and the Peak District. My preconception was that it would be a place full of factories, but it was surrounded by beautiful countryside, tree lined streets and nothing like I expected. Definitely a place I would like to go to again. As we were close to Manchester, we called our niece who lived there and went to visit her family for the afternoon. It was so lovely to see them in their home environment.

After that we headed to York. We spent some time visiting the Minster and seeing the town and then decided to drive along the Yorkshire coast road from Scarborough to Whitby and then on to Middlesbrough. When I saw the sign for Saltburn, where my Aunt lived, I knew we couldn’t pass through without seeing her, so we phoned and popped round for a cup of tea. She was so pleased to see us and we had a lovely chat about old family memories.

Lyme Regis in Dorset

We continued our journey up to Durham and stayed in a place called Pity Me, as it had such a strange name.

A canal in Bath

We decided we would head to Edinburgh for our next stop, but the journey up was glorious, following the coast road. We stopped for a stretch of legs at a deserted beach that seemed to stretch for miles. Then made our way to Banburgh with its Castle on the beach. Definitely a place I would like to go back to to take photos.

All the scenery was stunning as we continued up past Holy Island and Berwick and on to Edinburgh.

We had a walk around the streets looking for a nice looking pub to have a drink when we suddenly became embroiled in a straggling magicians act from the Festival, my husband being his assistant. All good fun, and my husband enjoyed being the centre of the jokes and giving as good as he got.

The next day we did Scotland. We drove up the east side through the gentle undulating hills and the stunning views up to Inverness and then continued back down through the hills and lochs. What a difference in the scenery with imposing rock faces and deep dark water of the lochs.

We decided to continue down to Carlisle to spend the night but realised it was Friday evening and everything was booked up. So we continued and found a lovely hotel on the outskirts of the Lake District in a place called Mealsgate, where we had a lovely home cooked meal (lamb shanks and a lovely pudding) and slept in a homely room.

The tour of the Lake District was beautiful and it was somewhere I had always wanted to go as my dad had flown aeroplanes over the lakes as a navigator when they filmed the Dambusters movie.

That evening we drove towards Wales and stayed in a weird pub near Wrexham. The following day we toured Snowdonia. Once again the views were outstanding and it would be in my list of ‘must visit again’. We decided to cut back across country since we could access South Wales and the West Country from home on another trip.

For our last night we decided to stay in Stratford upon Avon, so we left Wales near Welshpool and drove through Shrewsbury and Ironbridge and on to Stratford where we decided to splash out on a posh hotel for our last night.

Our tour was a confirmation that the whole of Britain is a beautiful place and you can understand why most people think they live in the best bit. Although none of my photos are of the places we stayed on that trip, they are all of beautiful places to go and visit.

Corfe Castle on our doorstep in Dorset

Finding the unexpected

The walks I take are normally the same routes and looking for the familiar things that bring joy. You can expect to see the same bird in the same place each time you go out, the same way you see the local landmarks along the way.

These things I go to see because they bring me happiness, but finding the unexpected along the way can bring unexpected joy.

On a walk to Mudeford sandspit I expected to see the beachhuts and the sparrows that call them home, what I didn’t expect was a great big man in an enormous digger excavating the beach to jump out of his cabin and run down the beach towards me. I didn’t know whether to stand still or run, as he ran toward me waving his arm. He was excited to tell me that jellyfish had been washed up on the beach and there was one he thought I might like to photograph. He was right, a bit scary, but right.

It was very large , as you can probably tell by the size of the pebbles near it on the sand. I continued around the sandspit to the other side and discovered that several others were also washed up, not all intact or as pretty.

I was overcome with the desire to touch one, as I had never seen one like this before. I was amazed by how firm they were, not soft like jelly. It was reported on the news that the jellyfish had been washed up along the entire south coast, but I don’t think we were ever told why. Something to do with freak weather conditions, or something along those lines.

Every now and again I will stumble across other unusual sights, like this beautiful moth on my old front door.

This I believe is a garden tiger moth. I think it looks like an oriental martial arts expert in a cape, hiding behind a large hat. I also found a huge moth near the back door once.

I can’t identify this one from the book I have, but I believe it is a type of hawk moth.

This beautiful red (orange) Bishop turned up on my bird feeder one summer. No idea where it came from, probably escaped from a aviary locally. It was spotted and reported, in a few other gardens. My only hope is it found its way back home, as it would undoubtedly not survive for long out in the wild.

Whilst watching the birds in my garden, I caught sight of this male sparrow feeding its mate some seed.

Keeping your eyes peeled when you are out and about can provide such wonderful sights, you just have to keep looking.

Making the effort pays off

So, after pushing myself, I finally managed to get out of the house this morning and drove to Hengistbury Head for a walk. As soon as I got out of the car I could hear the skylarks singing high above and knew I had made a good decision.

The sky was blue and there was a breeze blowing cold, so I did my coat up, wrapped my camera and binocular straps around my neck and off I marched. I could feel myself smiling already.

A stonechat

I could hear the rasping sound of a greenfinch, but I couldn’t see one. There were already quite a lot of people about and I exchanged a ‘good morning’ with them as I slowly made my way down the path scanning all the hedges and gorse for any birds.

There were lots of little birds all around and they didn’t seem perturbed by my presence, the same can’t be said about all the dogs running around. Just as I got my camera focused a few more dogs rushed past and up the birds went.

A linnet

The linnets were singing to each other and chasing each other around the gorse, so I stood still and waited for an opportunity to get a good shot.

I turned around when I heard a different call and was amazed to see a Dartford warbler flitting between the gorse and the bushes, collecting nesting material. It kept disappearing and then reappearing so I took aim and hoped for the best.

The Dartford warbler is quite distinctive because of its brown eyes and the way it holds it’s tail up.

I continued my walk towards the fenced off bird reserve, which protects some of the nesting birds from the public. You can walk around the perimeter and look in. As I approached I could hear a very loud woodpecker and also the herons which nest in the top of the tall trees. The herons sounded a bit like really loud frogs, it was a very weird noise.

I spotted the green woodpecker clinging on to the top of a dead tree , hiding itself behind the wood, occasionally poking its head out.

The green woodpecker doesn’t really hammer on trees, unlike the great spotted woodpecker, which can be heard loudly tapping away. This one was making the loudest call though, and another one was making a loud reply.

Whilst I was watching the woodpecker a couple of kestrels flew overhead and I could see one making its way to the nesting box. I managed to catch a glimpse of it in the tree.

This was becoming a very good walk.

In the reserve I could here the calls of stock doves. My brother had told me a few weeks before that you could tell them from a wood pigeon because of their black eyes.

A stock dove

The wood pigeon looks very similar apart from the eyes and as if to prove the point I spotted one in the next tree.

I continued my walk to the beach and had a quick look at the cliffs to see if I could see the sand martins, but I didn’t spot any.

The beachhuts on Mudeford Sandspit

A cormorant surveying the sea

It was a bit chilly so I decided to turn around and return the way I came.

A chiffchaff

There were lots of blue tits and great tits in the trees, but I didn’t manage to get a good photo.

I decided I would see if I could get another shot of the Dartford warbler and joy of joys, it was obviously close to its nesting sight, so I got one more shot of it.

It was quite hard to follow with the camera but, unfortunately for the environment, but good for me, it was sitting just long enough above some plastic caught in the brambles for me to take a picture.

Before returning to the car I went to see the sheep that are kept in the double dykes remaining from the original Settlement on Hengistbury Head.

A great end to a lovely walk.

Get out of that door!

This morning I woke early and lay in bed watching the birds flying past the window against the blue sky and the golden glow before sunrise. I should be leaping out of bed and heading out for a walk. This morning I don’t seem to be able to get up.

So, I manage to get downstairs, but I’m procrastinating over whether to move my arse and go for a walk, or to sit on my arse and watch catch up tv. At the moment the tv is winning. I really want to go out so what the hell is stopping me?

This seems to happen when I am feeling anxious about day to day stuff, work or anything I feel I can’t control.

I have a flaw in my personality. I take everything to heart, comments about me, or if things go wrong I think it’s probably my fault. Sometimes I withdraw a little so I don’t have to confront things, or move away from the crowd as it becomes a little too loud.

My phone brought up some memories this morning of a walk home from work, and some lovely bird shots. So, it’s decided, I’ve got to stop delaying and just go out .

A dunnock

A green woodpecker

A great tit