we had snow!

If you’re reading from somewhere in the UK you’ll probably be well aware that most of the country got covered in a hefty amount of snow at the beginning of this last week! And not just a tiny bit of snow, it was a good six inches where I am. This is extremely rare for the part of England I live in, so it was pretty exciting. It was beautiful, and to be honest quite refreshing for the soul just to have something to be excited about again. It certainly broke up the depressing monotony of a January spent in lockdown. So of course I got out and about and collected some magical snowy pics!

My neighbourhood! The large structure in the middle is an ancient monument called the Cross, which is grade II listed and dates from the medieval period. It is a standing cross, which is a free standing upright structure. They were erected for various reasons, such as religious significance, marking boundaries, a place for public proclamations, commemorating battles, etc. There could have been up to 12,000 crosses but now there are only about 2,000 remaining apparently.
The skate ramp at the local park
Down the lane to the fields outside my village
The cow field! I hope they were somewhere toasty and warm and safe. I didn’t see any.
B came along for the stroll! I think he enjoyed it, despite getting blasted by snowflakes and icy wind for most of it.
I enjoyed it much more, as you can possibly tell.
My dogs seem to like the snow as well. Ben (above) does get a bit freaked out by snowmen though. Tess absolutely loves catching snowballs, which is pretty fun.

a weekend of waterbirds

Oh January. Why do you suck so much.

I’m honestly so. fed. up. of. this. rubbish. weather!

I also started a new full-time work-from-home job recently (which is going well!) so I have way less time now to go on nature rambles and write blog posts. I’m pretty much limited to the weekends now with how dark it still is at 5pm. And with lockdown confining me to my local area, and the weather consistently being utterly horrible, I’m noticing a definite impact on my mood.

Anyway, I took a stroll to a local pond recently to get some much needed fresh air and exercise, and of course to feed the ducks and swans. I say pond, but it is quite a large body of water. It must not be large enough to class as a lake though? Who knows. The trek is actually about an hour there for me, and it is across a bunch of fields, so it’s not one I plan to make often. Especially when the fields are so water-logged and the paths so muddy! It’s hard work.

Question: why do swans always look a little bit like a clique of mean girls judging you?
Lovely formation chaps, keep it up!
Spot the upside-down headed weirdo of the flock
Dashing male Tufted Duck
And his lovely female friend
The Mallards, of course. Literally impossible to have a duck post and there not be Mallards. They’re always chillin’.
Cute Coot
Flock of gulls
Swans are honestly so extra
We do love a chunky Moorhen
Here is where the real bird-watching expertise comes in right? When you can tell the difference between types of female ducks, who all look annoyingly similar. Safe to say, I’m not there yet.
Juvenile Swans
Incoming!
“I’m ready for my close-up”
And a sneaky Mandarin! I had heard through the grapevine that we had one pottering about. I call them fancy ducks, for obvious reasons.

spotted the Kingfisher again!

…and I even managed to get a photo this time! It is a very bad photo because we couldn’t get particularly close to it, but I’m still happy that we saw it again!

It hovered nearby for a few brief seconds and then zoomed away further down the river. They fly so fast! We did cautiously follow it for a time, but eventually it went out of sight and with the daylight fading we had to go home.

Here it is, sitting very adorably on this sign!

And here it is zoomed in a bit:

Just too cute.

my favourite books this year

This will be the last post I make before the new year. So firstly to anyone who is reading this, I wish you a happy new year! Mine has been a little rough, so I’m certainly hoping for better things in 2021.

All of my posts until now have been about my nature walks, but this blog isn’t solely dedicated to that. I want to keep this blog open to writing about whatever I feel like sharing. I have always been an avid reader of fiction since I was a child, so I’ve put together a list of some of my favourite books that I have read this year. I hope this list inspires anyone looking for a good read!

5. Dune – Frank Herbert

I had heard of Dune many years ago but I don’t tend to read much sci-fi literature, so to be honest I never really had much interest in it until I saw that it was being made into a film with Timothee Chalamet as the lead. And mostly because I think Timothee Chalamet is a perfect human being (Zendaya too!), and also because the movie trailer peaked my interest, I decided to give the book a go in preparation for the film (which now sadly is delayed and will be released next year, thanks COVID). I found it difficult and slow to get into, but once I got into it I enjoyed the characters and the world that Herbert built. It was definitely a bit of a strange book, seemingly joining strong sci-fi elements with religion and politics. I don’t usually enjoy novels that have a complicated and intense political theme, and to be honest I would have preferred Dune with less of the political stuff and more focus on the world of Arrakis and its people. Nevertheless, it was a good read. Imaginative, immersive, and clearly very intellectual from a sci-fi perspective with its exploration of planet eco-systems and terra-forming. I’m even more excited for the film now!

4. Jamaica Inn – Daphne Du Maurier

I read Daphne Du Maurier’s famous ‘Rebecca’ while I was at university and really liked it, so when I was looking for a decent and spooky gothic read I knew she would be a suitable choice. My best friend inspired me somewhat, as she had just started reading ‘Rebecca’ herself, not to mention Netflix brought out their own adaptation of it (although I wasn’t hugely impressed by that film). Jamaica Inn was a LOT darker than I imagined it would be. Shockingly so, to be honest. I didn’t expect it to be quite that brutal. Of course it was a perfect gothic page-turner that constantly kept me wanting more, and Daphne’s style of writing is easy to go along with so I was hooked from the first page. The ending disappointed me slightly, but I won’t spoil it for anyone here. And overall I loved it and will likely re-read at some point in the future.

3. The Priory Of The Orange Tree – Samantha Shannon

If you’re looking for an excellent fantasy novel to occupy you for a few weeks, I can highly recommend this novel by Samantha Shannon! It has everything you could ask for: interesting and likeable characters with great depth and growth throughout the book, a plot that is intriguing but not convoluted, intertwining storylines, a colourful and rich fantasy world with a variety of cool creatures and cultures, a satisfying mix of action, magic, and romance, and a strong feminist focus on the awesome female main characters, who are realistically complex. I loved it from start to finish. The only thing I was disappointed about was that the book had to end!

2. The Nightingale – Kristin Hannah

Next on the list is The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. I found this novel easy to read, and a heart-breaking but thoroughly interesting insight into the Nazi occupation of France in WW2. When I was at school we were taught a lot about the horrors of WW2, but we predominantly heard about what life was like for the soldiers, or how life was in England. So it was it fascinating and horrifying to read about what life was like for ordinary people living in occupied France, struggling to survive and protect their loved ones while also resisting the Nazis and their cruel fascist command, in ways both small and large, and enduring tremendous loss and suffering in the process. The novel focuses on the lives of two very different sisters who have a complicated relationship with each other and with their father. My only criticism of this book is that it does get almost overly sentimental at times, but honestly I loved it despite that. It made me cry at the end, so it definitely touched me emotionally.

  1. All The Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr

Number 1 on my list of books that I have enjoyed reading this past year is All The Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr. Firstly, let me start by saying that I enjoyed this book so much I recommended it to my mum, who also enjoyed it and recommended it to her friend, who also loved it and recommended it to their friend. Hence why I don’t have a photo of the book like the others on this list – it’s still in the hands of someone else.

This book is so beautifully written. I can’t even begin to describe how elegantly and masterfully language is used in this novel. I found it a little difficult to get into at first because of this reason, but once you get used to Doerr’s writing style the book unfolds in the most artistic and beguiling way. It follows two children during WW2, a young blind girl in France and a young boy in Germany, who paths begin to draw towards each other as the war progresses. It is haunting, captivating, and devastating, but ultimately a very moving story and is now certifiably in my top 5 favourite novels of all time.

And that’s all of them! Let me know in a comment if I peaked your interest, or if you have any suggestions for a good novel for me to read in 2021. I have just started reading ‘The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out Of The Window And Disappeared’ by Jonas Jonasson, so I’m already on my way with next years list!

a few things from Dec…

The past few weeks have been quite chaotic, as usual for this time of year, even with the pandemic. I had a lovely Christmas, that being said I am glad that it’s over with.

The weather has been abysmally cold and wet here so I haven’t been out much, and when I have been out I haven’t seen a whole lot of wildlife! Seems they’re being smart and staying cosy in their nests and holes, I suppose.

So here’s just a few things from the past couple of weeks.

Grey Heron, Cossington Meadows

We usually see this heron on our casual rambles to Cossington Meadows. He is very large, and easily spooked.

A charm of goldfinches in my local area
Another cute robin. They seem to be the only bird I can regularly get a decent photo of! Not complaining though.
Wood pigeon at my feeder. Note the other one flying up behind to start a scrap.
I do love how ridiculous and un-graceful they are, crashing about in the bushes.
The blackbirds that roost in our apple tree like to peck about at the bottom of the feeder.
Moorhens by the river Soar. And a sneaky crow.
The Soar, by Normanton
Some gulls chilling on the Soar
I was quite surprised that they didn’t fly away when I got close. I think this is a black-headed winter gull? But I’m not sure.
A frosty pony
I don’t know what plant this is but it looked pretty in the frost

And that’s about it. Really hope that the weather improves soon so I can get out more.

I have seen a few other types of birds at my feeder and out on walks, but getting photos of the more interesting ones seems to be difficult. I saw a kestrel while out at Cossington, and some cormorants, lapwings, and egrets. At my feeder I’ve seen a few small birds, most of which I have yet to identify, although I definitely have seen robins, great tits, blue tits, dunnocks, and a very shy magpie. I also saw two large birds of prey hovering very high over my garden, I think buzzards? I was delighted to see a starling on my neighbours roof just this morning, looking stunning in the sunlight.

B very kindly gave me a pair of decent binoculars for Christmas, so I’m looking forward to identifying more birds in 2021!

a relaxed winter stroll at Rutland Water

B and I headed out to one of our favourite places for birdwatching recently, the Anglian Water Birdwatching Centre and Egleton Nature Reserve at Rutland Water. It is one of my favourite places to visit largely because it has an exceedingly generous amount of hides, which are placed at varying points around the wetlands and lagoons, and a wide variety of birds. The reserve itself is huge, with plenty of different routes to walk and lots of wildlife to see. You can easily spend a whole day there.

The weather was surprisingly good to us for our visit this time and although it was chilly there were a few spots of sunlight.

The water was frozen on the outer edges of many of the ponds and lagoons and the birds seemed to be more concentrated towards the middle areas due to this. Consequently, there didn’t seem to be much feeding going on, but it was still nice to be there and watch them from afar.

Ice at the water’s edge
Lapwings

There is always a lot of livestock wandering about. Most of them, like these rams, are in fenced off areas. I do remember last time we visited we had to walk around some very lazy sheep on the path! Luckily not the kind with horns.

Curious blackbird
Robin

This is perhaps my favourite close-up picture of a bird I’ve taken so far! A very cute round robin!

Grey Squirrel
ducks ducks ducks
a sweet little moorhen
Egret

We saw this lovely Egret but I struggled with getting the camera settings right to capture it properly. In all my photos it looks like its positively glowing.

Casper the friendly Egret
Egret coming down to land on water

The sunlight on the water was pretty.

As always, we saw a lot more birds than I managed to photograph! I was playing around more with manual settings as well so a bunch of my images did turn out blurry in the end. C’est la vie.

my new feeding station

So, the bird feeding station that I ordered arrived earlier this week and I was very pleased to be able to set it up in the back garden. It was fairly easy to assemble and seems quite sturdy! I have placed it at the end of my back garden, where it is open enough to be visible to birds but where there are also a few trees dotted around nearby for cover.

I had to make do with some seeds and nuts I already had, but I have since filled all but one of the feeders.

The block feeder has been an interesting one. It is half gone already, although I think this has more to do with our neighbours dog getting into our garden and having a good go at the fat block inside (I had moved that feeder to the lower arm but have now reinstated it at the top again!). Anyway, the offending dog’s escape route from his own garden has since been blocked again so hopefully there will not be a repeat of this.

I have been checking on it daily and although I have yet to see any birds at the feeding station I have noticed more birds in the area than I did before. I have also noticed signs of pecking at the hanging feeders, and each day the nuts and seeds I left in the upper tray disappeared.

I am debating whether to get a squirrel baffle for it. I know there are squirrels in the area. As much as I do love those cheeky devils, I would rather my bird seeds and nuts go to actual birds. I think for now I will wait and see if I notice any obvious squirrel activity.

If anyone reading this has any helpful suggestions regarding bird feeding stations, I’d love to hear them! This is the first one I’ve ever put up. I am hoping that in time I will be able to sit on the bench at the bottom of my garden and watch the birds feeding there.

On another note, today was the first time I saw a wild Kingfisher! I took the dogs for a walk up by the canal and I was on the lookout for Kingfishers as a good friend in the village told me they had been spotted there. I was very excited when, having been stood at the side of the canal for all of 10 seconds looking around, a little Kingfisher landed on a wooden post only several feet away from me! It sat there for about 5 delightful seconds and then shot off to the other side of the river, where I lost sight of it. Needless to say, I was buzzing for the rest of the walk.

I shall take my camera with me next time and try to get a picture.

a frosty morning at Sence Valley Forest Park

Thursday brought a frosty but sunny morning to our patch of England, so my mum and I decided to take the dogs out for a walk somewhere different that we’ve not been before. Sence Valley Park near Ibstock was our chosen destination, and I have to say that I really enjoyed it. While it sadly wasn’t bursting with wildlife at this time of year, the delicate frost on all the trees and plants made it seem wintery and magical. The sunlight, for once uninhibited by clouds, helped to give it a cheery atmosphere and slowly melted the frost as we walked around the park.

I loved how it edged the leaves and sparkled in the sunlight. It was a lot of fun to photograph the different plants and leaves.

There are three lakes to walk around and the gravel pathways are decent, with benches dotted about here and there. There a few slopes but they are quite easy to traverse. We saw quite a few mothers with pushchairs and young children as well as older people. The paths intersect around the lakes so you can plan you route for how far you want to go. My mum isn’t one for planning routes, however, so we just went in any direction we wanted.

Although the sun allowed for excellent visibility the lakes themselves were quite misty in parts and the water caught the light beautifully underneath. The overall effect was rather pretty and peaceful. Especially with the ducks drifting lazily across.

There are areas where you can get down to the water’s edge and feed waterbirds. I saw one particularly brave little girl get very close to two swans who were bigger than her!

Coot

The dogs had a great time of course. Lots of new things to smell! When they weren’t waiting for mum to throw the ball though. Priorities.

In terms of wildlife we saw cormorants, gulls, ducks, swans, coots, moorhens, and smaller common birds like blackbirds and robins. I did see two interesting looking dove-type birds but I couldn’t get a good look before they disappeared. Having two loud, careless collie dogs bounding about like mini tornadoes and disturbing everything remotely nearby is not exactly conducive to spotting wild birds. One cute little robin was good enough to wait and pose for me a little bit though, allowing me to get a nice photo.

I particularly loved the way the sunlight caught the Mallards green plumage!

Unfortunately we didn’t bring the binoculars so I couldn’t identify more birds. My mum is also not hugely patient, which left me with not as much time as I would’ve liked to look at the birds. Ah well.

I definitely would like to return, perhaps in Spring when there would be more wildlife to see.

We arrived at about 10am, and by the time we left much of the frost had melted, so I felt very lucky that we got there in time to see it.

In other news, I’m finally getting a proper bird feeder pole for the garden so will hopefully be able to help some little guys out this winter and get some nice photos too!

some of my favourite animal pics

Well this combination of lockdown restrictions and cold, bleak weather has got me feeling a little demotivated and restless, like most people I imagine. So I decided to compile some of my favourite animal and creature photos I’ve taken in the last few years as a way of remembering some of the fun nature experiences I’ve had.

Marsh Harrier, Rutland Water
Swan family, Norfolk Broads
Sneaky rat, Rutland Water
Fuzzy rams, Rutland Water
Cormorants, Pitsford Water
Early morning grazing sheep, Leics
Egret, Willington Wetlands
Young swans, Norfolk broads
Chunky pigeon, Stratford-Upon-Avon
Lapwing, Pitsford Water
Squirrel taking a peek, Rutland Water
Horse chums, Rochdale
A dunnock, I think? Rutland Water
Canada Goose flock, Pitsford Water
Sleepy Ducks, Amsterdam
Egyptian Goose, Amsterdam
Sleepy Red Panda, Amsterdam Zoo
Sea critter, Amsterdam Zoo (actually don’t know what this is but I just love it)
Jellyfish, Aquarium at Ikebukuro, Japan
Axolotl, Aquarium at Ikebukuro, Japan
White Geese
Baby seal, Brancaster Beach
Couldn’t do an animal post without adding my babies! Tess, border collie
And Ben, also a border collie