Thursday, 26 September 2013

Name That Duck

I had to take Wednesday as my day off this week, and it turned out to be a lovely, autumn day of mists and stillness.
We went to the estuary for a walk, unheeded by weekend cyclists, or anyone else, in fact!

Even the water was amazingly still, apart from the ripples from shoals of tiny fish.

We saw the first migrants coming in.

Some of the ducks landed. I'm useless at identifying ducks, so I thought when I get home I will have a look through my book and compare it with the photo.

Couldn't find them in the first book. Couldn't find them in the second, bigger book. Couldn't find them on the internet.

Anyone out there good at identifying ducks ?

And while we're on the subject, for the last few years five ducks (also unidentified but I think they're a cross breed domestic type) have been sticking together in a tight-knit group, following each other round, swimming in a line and feeding and sleeping together. We called them the Famous Five. 

Every week I had to seek them out (not too difficult) and count them. There was always five, for a couple of years, then this spring five became four.

A few weeks later there were three, then two, and now there is just one.

I have a habit of imagining how birds and animals must feel, assuming they have emotions similar to us, because, after all, who can ever say they don't? 
When we saw all five ducks swimming in unison, tail to tail, I had these thoughts of how sad it would be when there was just one left. Would he wonder what happened to his friends?
It's turned out not so bad. He's swimming with the mallards, but I don't know what will happen next spring when they start their mating ritual as the Famous Five were all drakes and never took any notice of females.
The other side of the bridge over the estuary is a river, and it has become swamped with overgrown reeds. I have a feeling the ducks, and possibly many more, met their death from predators hiding in the reed beds.
On Wednesday it was being cleared to reveal a nice, clear waterway again.

The man in the digger had finished the job before we got back to the bridge.

Meanwhile, the cygnet is growing his adult plumage.

No squirrels again, but a bumper crop of acorns and hazel nuts probably means they've had their fill and are sleeping it off somewhere.

Sunday, 22 September 2013


The swallows have been flying over us all day, from the North West, heading off across the field and over the sea, South East to France.

All going in the same direction, but not 'our' swallows! They're still here, queueing up on the telegraph lines and having a feeding frenzy very close to the path when some insects must have been abundant.

 The sky looks so dark in this photo, but I've been sitting outside in a t-shirt, it's so warm and quiet. Maybe the swallows were after flying ants, it's the right weather for them but surely too late in the year.

I tried to do a movie on my camera, but it's so jumpy.

 Right at the end a swallow picks something out of the grass.

 So many apples this year! Cookers, though. I tend to prefer eating apples for cooking. Apple crumble recipes are in all the weekend magazines (read at the library!)
 I noticed one recommended using russets for the flavour. I think I will try that.

We've got our coal in, wood supplied from a friend, and more wood today from a neighbour who's sadly leaving. I wonder what this winter will bring?

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Cotswolds Coincidence

Blimey, I haven't put anything on here for over a month. Where did that go? One minute the beaches were busier than I had ever seen them before, the next minute empty apart from some dog walkers.

Rolly's much better now. Kitty also got the virus, but got over it much quicker.

Another falling out with my landlady, who thinks it's quite acceptable to pay a local idiot to take pot shots with an air pistol at pigeons, shooting bits of wing and legs off them then leaving them to suffer. Two have crash landed into my windows already, injured but far from dead.

On a happier theme, last week I drove up north (well, the Midlands actually,) to stay with my parents and brother. My dad has had a great recovery from his health scare, and can't remember much about it at all.

I drive the long and scenic route, through the New Forest, round Swindon, on to the Roman Fosse Way all the way up to Leicestershire and home. It takes me hours, much to my brother's bewilderment, as I do not have a large and powerful car like his, and I like to stop off at places along the journey.

I particularly love the Cotswolds. On the way up I stopped off at Stow to get some lunch, then paid a visit to Chasterton House. It was given to the National Trust when the last owner, an elderly lady who lived there alone after her husband died, could not maintain it.

There's a topiary garden which once had bushes shaped like peacocks and cats, but the old lady got a local farmer to keep them under control with his chain saw, and the resulting blobs have been left by the National Trust as part of the history of the place.

There's also a pets grave in the grounds. It's decribed in the information leaflet as a dogs' grave, but in another information display it says the old lady lived alone except for her cats, so I suppose it could be either.

It's a lovely, quiet place to visit.

I had ordered an old book online but it hadn't arrived before I left. It was an account of one woman's time in an isolated cottage. Just my sort of thing! If I had the choice of abodes, I would be quite happy in a remote cottage with just the bare essentials. I have never lived in a house that has central heating or double glazing, or hot water on tap, and it amazes me that some people act like their world will end when the boiler stops working.

The book was waiting for me on my return, and I read it in one sitting. It's long out of print, called simply Round House by Annette Macarthur-Onslow. She rented a part derelict cottage in the Cotswolds for two years, starting in the year I was born, 1963. The cottage had no electricity, and water was from a well. She had to have holes in the roof fixed, the chimney had collapsed and her furniture was found at a variety of local auctions.
She was an artist by profession, and the book is full of fine line drawings, some of them coloured with lovely russetts and browns and greens. When she lived in the cottage, derelict and empty cottages of the like were all over the countryside. Nobody wanted them. How times change!

Another note of interest was her wish to see a badger. Although surrounded by wildlife, badgers were shy and rarely seen, due to continual persecution. She eventually got to see some by finding an untouched sett and waiting downwind of it with a torch, over which she had stuck red cellophane.

When she visited the sett some months later, it had been destroyed and the badgers she had watched playing had gone. I wonder what TB was like in cattle in 1963, in that area, which is now part of the great cull experiment?

Even in 1963, Annette sensed a change was in the making, and when she returned ten years later she was dismayed to find some of the old homes destroyed, and pylons blighting the countryside.

A little white cat called Minette visited her at the cottage, and she wrote a childrens book about her, which I have also ordered and now received from Amazon. It's full of lovely, delicate drawings, an absolute delight.

The Round House is still there, close to a village called Colebourne and an old hill fort called Norbury Camp. I have found it on the internet, although I cannot see it on google map. It's quite a way off my route, so I would not have had time for a detour, and then a walk to see it.
It looks like something out of a fairy tale.

I lit the wood burner yesterday for the first time. I waited for a reaction from Smudge, seeing as he loves his comfy beds after surviving last winter outdoors, but disappointingly he took no notice at all!