A short walk in a small wooded area

What a strange Christmas, like many, no visiting family, and while we’re enduring the restrictions of Covid-19, like a good many, I needed to get out and get some fresh air. So, that’s just what I did, to a nearby wooded area, away from people, peace and quiet and an opportunity to enjoy nature, before HS2 takes a lot of it away from me.

It was a nice and quiet day, and nature as ever, was full of activity.

The weather, though cold (but not freezing) was nice, dry and sunny, facilitating a country lane photo before I left the lane for the wooded area.

























From there, it was just me and nature, no one else, just perfect. Usually, the nearby fields are a hive of agricultural activity, and I’m not one to get in the way of those working the land, that is their livelihood and our food, and in recent months, HS2 activity, which is an abomination, and in my personal opinion, definitely of no friend to nature or the environment. 

Less of my opinions, and more of the photos from the mornings wander.

As someone who loves the countryside, a former hill and moorland walker, post accident, I've had to learn to adapt, and it's been very tough. However, I've always enjoyed photography as a second hobby, and when I used to frequent the hills and moors, I was a devil for continually stopping to take photos, of wildlife and landscapes, so I've invested in more dedicated photographic equipment to further this hobby.

Photography, like any other hobby, can be as expensive or not as you desire, because the real art of photography isn't bright shiny expensive camera gear and lenses, its the person behind the camera that composes the picture, not the camera.

The following photo of a shy robin, shows just how light, and shade, can impact a photo.



While photography it is what the person sees, it is an art form, and it can tell a story. However, you do need to have some appreciation of how the light flows over a subject to get the subject appealing.

The first field I passed before entering the woods, had the usual crows feeding followed by the next field, which had sheep, and then once on the woods, it was seeing the birds as you’d expect to see them, foraging and flying around.




The field with sheep may seem uninteresting, but you need to stop, and look around, because a field of sheep isn’t just a field of sheep, there is plenty of wildlife busily at work, feeding, and in a couple of months or so, many birds will be nest building.

This next photo may seem like it is of sheep feeding, but look to the left of the left sheep, there’s a magpie. That magpie was following the sheep as they were feeding. As the sheep bite at the grass, they disturb the ground, and that magpie knew that, and was managing to forage and find food from that disturbed ground.



Walking through the wooded area, there were the usual blackbirds, robins, blue and great tits, among many other species, including the grey squirrel, all foraging for food. Timing can make a lot of difference, but so can nature when it catches you out, as you will see on the following photos, and the first on of a robin. Just as I pressed the shutter, the wind picked up and raised some of the robin's plumage.

Blackbird (M) foraging

An air dried robin!

And once the short gust of wind had passed

Blackbird (F) foraging

This is where not being in a rush, stopping and taking in the view immediately around you pays off, you just never know what you might see. Also, stopping walking, and allowing all the senses to take in what is around you, sight is one, and listening is another. Take the time to listen to the sounds and then using your eyes, look around.

A not so common sight for many, are long tailed tits, a little bit smaller than the normal garden birds we see, but nonetheless, a valuable part of nature. However, the long tailed tits didn’t stop around to be photographed for long.

A long tailed tit feeding on new shoots


It may be winter, but nature never sleeps, even though it may seem to. In the wooded area, there were some snowdrops in bloom, and daffodils starting to grow!

Snowdrops usually come into full bloom around early to mid February, while daffodils usually flower around late March.


Next springs daffodils starting to grow

Snowdrops in bloom

Look around you, look up, and look down, as well as right to left, even behind you, where you have trodden, just like the magpie mentioned earlier, many birds will look and forage on the ground you have just walked on.

This great tit was doing just that, once I'd stopped and it felt I was no threat, the great tit came down from a tree above where I had been walking, and started to forage for food among the leaves on the ground.

This great tit came down to forage for food, that may have been disturbed by me

Shuffling among the leaves

Even trying to discard leaves, that somehow, ended up on the bird!

Still looking

If you look at many deciduous trees, that is trees that lose their leaves at the end of autumn, you will see many have small buds, which are next years leaves! 

So next time you’re out for a walk in the countryside, or through the woods, don’t be in a rush, take time to stop and look, you will be surprised at what is going on.

Happy rambling and thank you for taking the time to read,
Peak Rambler

Peak Rambler’s Ramblings; 2020 a testing year for all!

What a year 2020 has turned out to be.

For me, a daunting start to the year, which saw me relinquishing more of my independence, started off with surrendering my HGV, PSV, Motorcycle and full car licence categories, purely for automatic car licence only.

Why, well, I can only drive a car today with adaptations, my right leg no longer able to safely operate the right-hand pedals of a manual or standard automatic vehicle, nor will it operate the foot controls of a motorcycle or reliably sustain holding the weight of a motorcycle while stationary.

So, it is a safe move, but one, that has seen my hard work to attain those categories, only to relinquish them, my independence, my pride and self-esteem.

To be fair to the DVLA, they did say that should I become able to safely handle vehicles in those categories again, then I could have them reinstated.

If that wasn’t enough, Covid19 came along, and lockdown in March, making visiting anywhere questionable without risk of spreading this potentially fatal virus to anyone and everyone.

We need to remember with this silent and invisible killer, it might not be us directly affected, it could be someone close and dear to us who we infect and seriously so, or even fatal.

So, it was three months off work as the UK was in lockdown to slow, and hopefully, stop the spread of Covid19, and it seemed things might be working.

I returned to work in June, to help complete work that had to be stopped back in March, to a very surreal scenario, one-way systems, social distancing, alcohol gel stations on virtually every corner and by every doorway, no shaking of hands to welcome colleagues, and of course, the compulsory wearing of face masks or face shields, all of which is still current practice.

My employer, like many other employers globally, have taken a big financial hit, and have used the UK’s Furlough Scheme to try and save jobs for when things improve, though as it seems, that isn’t going to happen anytime soon, anywhere.

TWITTER!
I’ve dumped my Twitter account.

Why?

I’ve become tired of the endless regime of dictations who I should follow and what topics, to the point I was seeing more from Twitter than the people and organisations who I wanted to follow.

I’m all for tech that supports and makes things palatable, but I’m seeing more and more, algorithms and artificial intelligence software trying to goad down a specific route, rather than supporting.

Even email clients are introducing so-called Smart features, which again, do not reflect what I want to type, just like Autocorrect has that annoying habit of changing text before you send your message.

I guess my problem is, I’m too old skool, I was taught to think for myself, and that’s what I’m happy to do. When I get to the point of not being able to think for myself, that’s the time to shoot me, place me in that wooden box and seal the lid.

I did check to see whether the account had been removed, or if it was still there after a few weeks, and to my surprise, it was, but minus my profile, profile photo, followers and those who 
I followed, but surprisingly, tweets and retweets are still showing. So if you’ve been wondering where I’ve gone and why, that is the reason.

Whether I’ll return or not, I don’t know, currently have no plans, it’ll remain a dormant account for the time being.

So what of 2020; the year of Covid19?


Pre-Covid19: Middleton Lakes, Snowdonia & RSPB Conwy
I did however manage some outings this year, starting with normal visits to Middleton Lakes and Baddesley Clinton, then a trip to Snowdonia to capture some snow scenes on Snowdon from alongside Llyn Mymbyr, then to the Glyderau for more snow scenes from Ogwen Cottage and a visit to RSPB Conwy for some wildlife and the surrounding hills.

Blue Tit at Middleton Lakes enjoying the seeds of a bull rush reed

Baddesley Clinton Grounds

Snow Drops at Baddesley Clinton

Grey Heron with nesting material, RSPB Middleton Lakes

That particular day in Snowdonia and at RSPB Conwy was as ever, a pleasant visit, where I managed to capture Snowdon, and using the big lens, a solitary person reaching the summit trig point!

The key Snowdonia mountains (apart from Snowdon which is just out of view to the left)
identified from Rhydlydan.

The short visit to Ogwen Cottage was a bit of a tease, for I have walked those mountains in all weathers, and the photo opportunities are still as enjoyable as ever. Afon Idwal provides great views upstream towards Y Garn, while looking east, there is Tryfan, and west, Elidir Fawr and the Menai Straits.

Being a dullish day, there was a good opportunity to set a tripod up and remote shutter release, facilitating a long exposure setting (photos where the shutter would be open for longer than 1/30 sec, often 5-10 seconds), to take some photos of Afon Idwal with the water appearing to have a smooth silky effect.

Afon Idwal (Long Exposure) with Y Garn in the background


From Ogwen Cottage, I then went to RSPB Conwy, and though a bit blustery, it was a very pleasant day not just watching the wildlife from the hides, but also wandering around the reserve.

Red Breasted Merganser swallowing lunch at RSPB Conwy


Literally hours before the full lockdown, I did manage a visit to Baddesley to capture the daffodils by St Michael’s Church in all their springtime glory.

Daffodils by St Michael's Church, Baddesley Clinton


In the interim during full lockdown, I spent a lot of time in the garden with the camera, capturing photos of urban wildlife in the garden. Some of the photos below are examples of what I managed to achieve.

Great Tit

Adult Crow

Pair of robins, the male feeds the female as part of courtship


A robin with lunch


A male blackbird having a bath on the fountain in our pond

A male blackbird with lunch

White Tailed Bumble Bee

A house martin in flight.
Not an easy bird to photograph in flight, so this was one lucky photo

A male blackbird taking flight

Grey Squirrel action!

Grey Squirrel: "A leap of faith grey squirrel"

Long Tailed Tits
Typically a woodland bird, but we had dozens of them, taking over the feeders



Many of these photos can be seen on the Peak Rambler Flickr account.

Sir William Hill, Froggatt Edge, and the Bearded Vulture
During the spring, the UK, or more precisely, the Peak District, had a new and rare visitor, the Bearded Vulture.

So, I took drive to the Upper Derwent Valley, where the sightings had been reported, though I could only go where it was sensibly accessible due to my disabilities, which in this instance, was a car park alongside Ladybower Reservoir looking towards Derwent Edge, which is where the bearded vulture was reported to be inhabiting.

Apart from a pair of buzzards and a few other species, there was no bearded vulture to be seen. It was a good day out, and nice to see somewhere I’d not been to for a good while.

A pair of common buzzards at Ladybower

Looking over toward Lost Lad, and where the bearded vulture was supposed to be.

The photos for that day can be seen in the first part of the July 2020 Album.
Derwent Edge is a place I’ve walked along many times in the past, and documented two wanders in pre-accident blogs:
Derwent Moor and those funny shaped stones!
Derwent Moor to Highshaw Clough from Cutthroat Bridge
Derwent Edge and Ladybower late autumn walk
The full photo albums are:
Derwent Edge 2012
Derwent Moor and Highsaw Clough
Derwent Reservoir (No write up for these photos)
Derwent Edge December 2013

Later in July, determined to try and get a photo or two of the bearded vulture I made another trip to the Peak District, though sightings had become very quiet with some dubious reports in areas where it wasn’t natural habitat for the bearded vulture to live. Knowing how tight parking and access is at Ladybower and the Upper Derwent Valley can be, I decided to make alternative plans, which would encompass the bearded vulture if there were any reliable sights, and took a trip to Eyam Moor, where I could perch at the top by the trig point on Sir William Hill, which wasn’t far from the nearby road.

It was a glorious day, the views were superb, even across to Derwent Edge, and bearing in mind the bearded vulture had a wingspan of some 3 metres, catching a glimpse if she should appear would be more the feasible.

Looking over to Derwent Edge

A swallow on Eyam Moor


It wasn’t to be, but it was still a good day out, though I was in some discomfort with my leg for a few days afterwards. You can read about that day here in: Sir William Hill & Froggatt Edge, along with a few personal thoughts, and the photos are in second part of the July 2020 Album.

During lockdown, I had purchased a new camcorder, a Canon Legria HF G60, and I took that with me to Eyam Moor, and had a play around. An early result, using a tripod, was to capture a kestrel swooping down on a small rodent on the moor. Alas, the kestrel came away empty, but it was a first attempt at following nature in action.


Earlier in the year, I compiled a writeup about the village of Eyam (pronounced Eeeem) in the Peak District, which during the Great Plague of 1665/6, under the leadership of the Rev William Mompesson, the villagers of Eyam self-isolated themselves, a period that took well over a year and with a very high death toll on the village, from the rest of the world to try and contain the plague.

You may find it interesting reading, for I feel it has a lot of similarities to what we have been through, and  still are, with Covid19, in: Eyam; a plague village which went into self-isolation.

I have always enjoyed photography, particularly landscape and wildlife, after my hill and moorland walking, so it was easy to find another hobby to keep me active, and I’m always keen to try new and different aspects to photography, and sometime, stellar opportunities come along, in the form of the comet Neowise, where I managed to get a couple of half decent photos of the comet in the north western sky at night, using the big lens on a tripod, I managed to get a clear photo.

Comet Neowise

Cropped image Comet Neowise


Warwickshire, Tu Hwnt i'r Bont and RSPB Conwy
Desperate for some photos away from the garden, which during the two periods I was on Furlough, continued to yield many photo opportunities, I managed to make some trips into nearby Warwickshire during September, and later in September, with restrictions nicely eased, I managed a trip back up to North Wales to capture the red foliage on Tu Hwnt i'r Bont, a tearoom on the south side of Llanwryst, before making a long overdue trip to RSPB Conwy.

Tu Hwnt i'r Bont, a tearoom on the south side of Llanwryst

One of the many Carneddau Foal born during 2020 at RSPB Conwy

Red Shanks taking flight at RSPB Conwy


While it was good to get back to the reserve at Conwy, it was very surreal, but the staff and volunteers as they always do, did a fabulous job of maintaining the reserve and making visitors feel welcome. You can read about that day in: RSPB Conwy 19 Sept; a long overdue visit! and the photos are in the September 2020 Album, along with the Warwickshire photos.

Soon after this, Wales then went through a national lockdown, followed by England and many other parts of the UK, so visits anywhere were curtailed again, and as I write, still under curfew!

While travel restrictions are sill imposed, I've continued to take urban wildlife photos in the garden and here are a few more.

Warwickshire countryside

Barn, Old Milverton

Long Itchington Village Pond

Long Itchington Village Green





Autumn Colours in the garden

Autumn Colours in the garden

A nearby home firework display

A nearby home firework display

On a very wet day, a robin enjoying a bath in a puddle on the patio

I don’t anticipate the travel restrictions ending anytime soon, and even with the vaccination availability slowly gaining momentum, I feel the Covid19 virus will hamper our ability to move around for the next year or so, but it will settle down, and we will regain the freedom we enjoyed before Covid19 in good time.

A final photo, for those wondering what my injuries and leg condition is, below is a photo showing my swollen and misshapen leg.




You can comment on any of the blogs, however, ALL comments are moderated before publication, so please accept my apologies in advance for any slight delay to publishing publishable comments.

In the interim, thank you for reading, stay safe, take care and we’ll meet again, and finally, Wishing Everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, lets hope 2021 is a better year.




Peak Rambler
 

NOTE: During the lockdown periods, I have been playing around with two formats for compiling blogs, the current and old format is via Google Blogger, and the new one, which I have a slight preference for, is Wordpress, so you will see what appears a duplicate set of links, for the same text and photos but in two different formats.
 
In no particular order, some of the links mentioned in this blog:
Covid19
Ogwen Cottage
RSPB Conwy
Furlough Scheme
Bearded Vulture
Derwent Moor and those funny shaped stones!
Derwent Moor to Highshaw Clough from Cutthroat Bridge
Derwent Edge and Ladybower late autumn walk
Derwent Edge 2012
Derwent Moor and Highsaw Clough
Derwent Reservoir
Derwent Edge December 2013
Tu Hwnt i'r Bont