30th October 2018

Pink Footed Geese do not breed in the UK but we host almost all their population over winter and the numbers are increasing, probably due to better protection of  roosting sites. These medium-sized, dark bodied Geese with Pink bills, legs and feet (as their name rather illustrates), fly in from Iceland, Spitsbergen and Greenland, a migration of over 2,000 miles for some, and if you hear the wonderful sound of geese overhead, as we did recently, you may be able to see a stunning skein of them flying in v-formation, the lead constantly changing to rest those taking on the headwinds.  They are the geese you will hear and see flying over Sheffield and many other parts of the UK, from now on, to feed at estuaries and farmland, on grain, cereals, potatoes and grass. Many years ago I had the wonderful experience of staying at the lake-edge, with friends who worked at

Pink Footed Geese

Pink Footed Geese

 and hearing and seeing huge flocks at dawn and dusk, coming in to roost and feed on potatoes collected from local Lancashire farms. Unforgettable. Conditions: Grey and cool with some drizzle. Temperature: Max 7 Min 2C.

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25th October 2018

Teal- if you have difficulty telling different ducks apart, the Teal is a good one to start with. At this time of year the Teal come further South, and West, from their moorland breeding places, and populations get boosted by arrivals from the Baltic and Siberia. These lovely dabbling ducks can therefore be seen, often in large groups, on estuaries and shallow scrapes and bodies of water, noisily sifting for seeds and small invertebrates. Teal are much smaller than Mallard, and even the female has the

Male Teal in winter plumage- colours are brighter in breeding Teal

Teal- a group resting, which they do a lot!

Teal- male and female dabbling for small imvertebrates

Teal- male feeding

stunning green wing patch but the males have very distinctive head markings and a triangle of cream at the back of their small bodies. Conditions: The mild, sunny spell continues, with colder times forecast over the weekend, so we will be getting our tender plants in. Temperature: Max 14 Min 8C.

22nd October 2018

“Busking Swans”- This weekend, at North Cave RSPB Reserve, near Goole, I watched the dramatic sight and sounds of a pair of Swans defending their lake-habitat against an encroaching adult. Many swans died the summer from avian botulism, brought on by the excessive heat- over 30 on Lakeside, Doncaster, for example- so I was glad to see these powerful creatures ‘busking’- hissing and swimming fast with their necks curved right back and their wings half open- an aggressive pose, or running on the water at great speed like skimming stones. Territorial

A pair of Swans busking towards an intruder

Busking Swan

Swans mostly use their wings to attack intruders

behaviour is more common when defending really young cygnets, or their nest, but the cygnets with this pair were well-grown. Anyway, this is a great sight you might get to witness on any stretch of water near you. Conditions: Balmy, sunny autumn weather continues. Temperature: Max 12- Min 8C.

15th October 2018

Hawthorn- there is a bumper crop of Haws, Hawthorn Berries, this year as the photo’s show. These berries have been used as herbal remedies since at least the ancient Greeks, and probably far longer. They are high in anti-oxidants and are still used by some to treat stomach-aches, stress and sleep-problems. Hawthorn has long mythic associations, and our Celtic ancestors believed the trees to be protected and inhabited by Faery Folk, representing

Haws

Haws

Haws

places where time passes differently to our own. Isolated trees were not cut down, for fear of invoking the wrath of the Faery Queen. The site of Westminster Abbey was once called Thorne Island after the stand of sacred Hawthorn trees there. The berries can be made into jellies, and I have just seen a recipe, on Countryfile’s website, for Hawthorn Gin. We might give it a go. Makes a change from Sloe Gin. Conditions: Grey and drizzly. Temperature: Max 10 Min 9C.

12th October 2018

Harlequin Ladybirds- you may already have experienced the latest inundation of Harlequin Ladybirds. Thought to have benefitted from this hot summer, the populations are increased at this time of year by thousands drifting in on mild winds, from Asia. The most invasive species we have at present, this ‘invader’ first appeared in the UK in 2004- in ten years it has spread to areas which it took Grey Squirrels a hundred years to inhabit. Harlequin Ladybirds, on average larger than our 46 native species, and in a variety of patterns and colours and spot-numbers, have brown legs, and as such are distinguishable from the black-legged native species. They also reduce native Ladybirds, by out-competing for their aphid-food and by eating their eggs. Hibernating inside, unlike native Ladybirds, they give out a pheromone as the cooler weather arrives, which helps them detect other Harlequins, and gather in numbers inside our houses, and outbuildings. They do little harm though they may stain furniture and can deliver a small bite, which is harmless to all except a few who may have an allergic reaction. Conditions: Rain and strong winds arriving through the day. Temperature: Max 18 Min 17 C.

Harlequin Ladybirds

Harlequin Ladybird

Harlequin Ladybird

Harlequin Ladybirds

7th October 2018

On a nature photography note, autumn mornings, when the sun-light strikes from a low angle, is an exciting time to try photo’s. Here are a few from this week, back-lit, that is pointing the camera towards the low sun. If you find the photographs are too bright, just limit the light coming in, either by shooting at a higher speed or by shooting with a smaller aperture (higher aperture number = smaller aperture), or both, until you get the contrast you are looking for. Or set your camera on ‘bracketing’ and take a few shots and choose the one you like best. If you don’t ‘do’ speed and aperture, or you just point and shoot on automatic, then point towards the brightest thing in the

Back-lit Dandelion Clock

Back-lit Dandelion Clock with morning dew

Back-lit, morning light on spider’s web

Back-lit Spider’s Web, morning light

photo, half press the shutter button and keep it pressed down while moving the camera to the composition you want. This should help reduce the glare of light in the photo. Conditions: A warm, sunny day after a cool, wet one. Temperature: Max 17 Min 11 C.

5th October 2018

Shaggy Ink Caps– lovely to see these easily identified and edible fungi on my walk today up Broomham Lane, Catsfield- you can find them, commonly, in parks, on verges meadows etc. Also called ‘Lawyers Wig’, for obvious reasons, they emerge like white bumps, and grow into cylinders with shaggy skins, but quickly grow up and open into umbrellas, which equally quickly begin to disintegrate, becoming black and liquified (see photo’s). If you want to cook them, and they are tasty sliced and fried gently  in

Emerging Shaggy Ink Caps

Shaggy Ink Cap- at the edible stage

Shaggy Ink Cap, stages of growth

Shaggy Ink Caps- turning ‘inky’

Shaggy Ink Cap

butter, you have to pick them young, when they are white and cigar shaped, before they open, and also get them pretty quickly to the frying pan! People did, and some still do, let them liquify and use the liquid as ink. Conditions: A beautiful sunny day Temperature: Max 18 Min 10 C.