January birds

Hello hello. It has been a pretty cold and miserable January so far in my part of England but there have been occasional sunny and mild days, and I’m glad to say that B and I have been able to get out for some walks in our local area. We are attempting to spot some otters which have been sighted in the river that runs through our town, however we haven’t had any luck so far on that count. We have seen many other birds though! Just yesterday we saw a Kestrel in the local park, and we also saw the Peregrine Falcon pair on the church again.

According to someone more knowledgeable than me, this one is a female. They both seemed to be having a good preening session, hence why the female has some fluff on her beak still!
We also saw a Kingfisher on the riverbank. I love seeing that flash of blue go past!
We encountered several Robins, of varying roundness and fluffiness.
This one genuinely might be the roundest Robin I’ve ever seen.
So cute!
Lots of blackbirds around at the moment too!
And we were treated to a lovely sunrise last week as well. 🙂

That’s all for now!

a few lovely books from 2021

Last year I wrote a post about the books I’d liked reading the most over the year, and I’m continuing that tradition this year! 2021 was quite a busy year for me, with getting a new full time job and moving house, and trying to cope with all the changes stemming from COVID. Nevertheless, I tried to read a few books. Admittedly I didn’t get off to a great start, as the first book I read I ended up not finishing. However, I did read some absolute gems last year and I’m excited to share them with anyone reading this.

5. The Mermaid of Black Conch by Monique Roffey

This book is very strange and quite unlike any book I’ve read before, but I did enjoy it. It’s set on an island in the Caribbean with a small fishing community. In particular it follows the life of a poor yet laid-back fisherman named David, who rescues a captured mermaid and tries to keep her safe and hidden from her captors. The novel mainly details his account of his time with her and the peculiar relationship that develops between them, written in his native dialect, as well as giving her point of view and that of others. I would say it’s not a typical Disney fairytale type mermaid love story; although it is clearly imaginative and magical it also mixes in gritty realism and mature themes, sometimes in deliberately crude ways. Overall I thought the characters were interesting and that the book was well written and easy to read. I also enjoyed the vivid imagery of the setting and depictions of Caribbean culture and folklore.

4. A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes

I find Greek mythology and history fascinating, so this book really appealed to me from the get-go. A Thousand Ships imagines how the progression and impacts of the Trojan war affected women of the time, giving a refreshing portrayal of the war and its consequences from their eyes rather than the usual male heros. It is divided into chapters which give the perspectives of different women on both sides of the conflict, both mortal and otherwise. It is a tragic, enchanting, witty, bittersweet, and intriguing novel. I found the author’s writing style elegant, romantic, and pleasant to read, and I thought the characters had good depth despite most of them getting only one chapter each to tell their respective story. However I will say that by the end of the novel I didn’t feel overly affected or touched by it. I did enjoy the ride though.

3. The Fifth Season – Book 1 in The Broken Earth Trilogy by N.K. Jemisin

Another foray into fantasy. I chose this novel because I wanted an epic fantasy story, but not the usual medieval Tolkien-type world with magical kingdoms and elves, dragons, princesses and warriors, which is often the case for this genre. I got my wish, as The Fifth Season is a wonderfully creative story set on a hostile Earth where civilisation-destroying events (such as major earthquakes, volcano eruptions, tsunamis, etc) happen frequently, making human life and the progression of the human race incredibly hard. To make things more interesting, there are humans who have strange abilities, for which they are horrendously persecuted but also exploited. It is a bleak apocalyptic survival story, giving a gripping portrayal of human savagery and ruthlessness in desperate times, yet it captured me completely. The characters are believable and deeply interesting, and the strange, cruel, and increasingly mysterious world that Jemisin has so artfully built is exactly the type of unique fantasy world I was looking for.

2. The Obelisk Gate – Book 2 in The Broken Earth Trilogy by N.K. Jemisin

….so given how much I enjoyed the first book by Jemisin, I was highly eager to read book 2 in this series! I would say that in all honesty I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as the first book, as the pacing was a bit slower with this one and one of the new main characters wasn’t particularly likeable to me, however I did still really like the book as a whole. It definitely keeps you interested by elaborating on some of the more mysterious aspects of the fantasy world and I am SO excited to read the third book and see how the story plays out.

1. Circe by Madeline Miller

My absolute favourite book of last year and probably now one of my top 3 books I’ve ever read. I don’t even know if I can find words to describe how much I adored this book. Another novel about Greek mythology, this one tells the story of Circe, the somewhat pitiful and outcast daughter of the God Helios, who ends up banished to a remote island, where she lives alone but meets many famous figures from Greek mythology whilst she cultivates her powers. The first thing to say about this book is that it is SO beautifully written. Every sentence by Miller was a delight to read. Circe’s journey and growth was also utterly captivating and despite being a witch-goddess of legend, her emotional struggles felt very relatable and authentic. It covers many themes like suffering, sorrow, loneliness, love, romance, power, vengeance, cruelty, anger, healing, freedom, and finding yourself. I did not want this book to end. Outstanding storytelling.

the fluffiest Peregrine Falcon

Can it be anything other than a lucky sign to spot a Peregrine Falcon so soon in the new year? I don’t think so! This one and its breeding partner live on the roof of a local church and this is the first time we’ve been there with camera and binoculars when one of them has been hanging around. We stood around and took a few snaps, watching it sit and preen itself on its perch. As you can see it was rather breezy today, hence why it looks like a big scruffy fluffball.

Love those fabulous stripes!

happy new year

Wishing a happy new year to anyone reading this and good health, happiness, peace and prosperity to everyone. 🙂

I was supposed to be going to a house party but that fell through, so B and I ended up staying home, having a few drinks and watching Nicolas Cage beat murderous animatronic puppets to death. Seriously. It’s a movie called Willy’s Wonderland and, honestly, although it is arguably a terrible, terrible movie in so many ways, it was still hilarious and I fully recommend it. I’m ALWAYS down for shenanigans with Nicolas Cage. Particularly if it involves puppets.

In other news, we haven’t been out much in nature due to the rubbish weather and being busy over the Christmas period. When we have been out on short nature rambles we haven’t seen much of interest either, which has been a bummer. Crossing my fingers for either the weather getting nicer, or getting snow/frost so I can at least get some cool wintery pics.

Here’s a few miscellaneous pics from the last month or so anyway.

Particularly misty day at a local reservoir.
One highlight of December was cat-sitting for our friend. He was a delightful guest, despite attacking the sofa at every opportunity and stealing food.
Red Kite. Probably the best photo I’ve gotten of one so far.
A line of Starlings on our neighbours aerial.
Activity at the feeder still going strong! The Jackdaws love the monkey nuts we leave out for them.

Looking forward to seeing what 2022 brings!

hello little kingfisher

Took a little stroll by the canal recently and was delighted to see this adorable kingfisher flitting about! It’s the first time I’ve been able to capture a decent image of a kingfisher so I was very excited and pleased that it hung around for a while, apparently not bothered by my presence. After a good 10 minutes of watching the kingfisher sit around it flew across the canal onto my side and dove into the water before speeding away down the canal.

Such cute little birds! As you can see it posed in a few different places for me. I think it’s a male as I cannot see any orange on the underside of the beak to indicate female.

Really hope to go out and see it again when the weather clears up!

sleeping in a castle!

B was very lucky recently to win a 2 night stay in a castle through his work, so after careful deliberation on my part (he wasn’t fussy where we went) I chose Peckforton Castle in Cheshire for our little break! It was definitely the right choice. Peckforton castle is apparently a Victorian country house which is built in the style of a castle, but I have to say it did not disappoint. It looks every inch a castle inside and out. It was built in the mid 1800’s for a wealthy landowner and MP and has a gothic style to it. In 1988 it became a hotel and seems to be very popular for hosting weddings. Given the fairytale atmosphere of the place, I can easily see why.

Our bedroom. It was very luxurious and clean and spacious. I felt like a guest on Downton Abbey. The last guests also clearly forgot to sign out of their Netflix account on the tv, so we ended up finishing Squid Game on some stranger’s account.

The view from our room!

Adding to the spooky aesthetic there were Jackdaws all over the place, which I rather enjoyed.

Surrounding the castle is a large forested area which is absolutely rammed full of Pheasants at this time of year, apparently. Honestly, you could barely turn your head without seeing a Pheasant scuttling away into the bushes. For such fancy looking birds they’re not even subtle.
We also saw Turkeys! I have never seen them wild before. It was a little unnerving how large they are.
The walking routes through the forest were lovely and we were lucky with the weather as well.
Spot the sneaky bunny!
We also saw a Jay for the first time! This is a cropped photo we got as it was super far away.
The view from a hill near the forest.
Another First for us was seeing this cute Nuthatch!
At one point we walked past a field with probably about 50 Pheasants chilling in it. Not an exaggeration. As we walked past more and more just seemed to appear out of nowhere!

And that’s everything. If anyone reading this ever happens to visit Cheshire, I can fully recommend a stay at Peckforton castle if you’re in the mood for a more extravagant night’s sleep! Or even a super fancy wedding.

September walks and other bits

How has it been almost a month already since I last posted? I’ve not had a lot going on this month I suppose. Work is taking up a lot of my mental and physical energy right now. Anyway, here are a few pics from the last month that I’ve saved.

Blackberries are in full swing here now.
One of the many feisty Starlings which visit our feeder regularly.
Moorhen friend.
Swan enjoying some tasty bits.
Juvenile pheasant I think?
Any else feel like Squirrels always look suspicious, like they’re up to no good?
A Red Kite with a slightly janky tail.
Silhouette of a Buzzard I think.
We found some impressive looking Fungi recently.
Little Moorhen family!! Look at those fuzzy babies.
We encountered this friendly little one-eyed cat with his/her cone of shame. Bless.
Female Sparrowhawk which went for the little Sparrows in our neighbours garden, didn’t catch any and then sulked on the top of the roof for a bit.
Another Red Kite circling overhead.
Sneaky bun.
Black headed Gull.
“You lookin’ at me?”

flowers and birds at the manor gardens

It’s been a quiet month for me. And also weird. The whole world seems weird at the moment, right? It can be hard not to let your mood get bogged down with so much negativity and bad news swirling around. Sometimes you have to take a step back from everything and just find some peace somehow. For me I guess the best way to do that is stay off social media and get out into nature more. Anyway, random introspective thoughts aside, here’s a few pics from August.

B and I visited a fancy manor garden earlier this month. I won’t say the name of the place though, because they seemed to be a bit funny about people taking pictures. It was gorgeous and smelled amazing.
Chickens are so cute. It’s the fluffy pants for me, honestly.
And then there was this majestic creature. He was HUGE.
The flamingos were a surprise. As beautiful as they are, I presume their wings must be clipped because they sure as heck aren’t native here. Which is kind of sad. Apparently they are fed a special diet which gives them the characteristic pink colour.
Another non-native fellow. The Fulvous Whistling Duck. It took me ages to find out the name.
Fantastic blue beak! Again though, a little sad that they’re probably captive.
Moorhen.
Not far away from these gardens is a small-ish lake, so we stopped by to feed the ducks and whatnot. Spotted this black-headed gull having a little rest on a sign.
A Coot. Dashing as always.
Because we had food it was pretty easy to get some nice close-up shots for once.
The Canadian Geese were being characteristically mean as usual, nipping at the ducks and not even trying to eat the food themselves. I expect nothing less from Geese to be honest.
Juvenile Moorhen! So gawky looking.

And that’s it for this post. 🙂

a boat trip to Puffin Island

On the last day of our trip we took a boat trip to visit Puffin Island, which is a very small island off the eastern coast of Anglesey. Puffin island is uninhabited by humans and is a wildlife refuge for birds. Due to this we did not step foot on the Island and went around it in the boat keeping a good distance from the thousands of birds flocking there. It is a Special Protection area due to its large Cormorant colony and has many other birds such as Kittiwakes, Razorbills and Guillemots. It also has Puffins!

The cliffs are very steep and many birds can be seen sitting in the cracks of the sides as well as near the bottom.

I loved seeing the Puffins bobbing about in the waves. We also saw Oystercatchers, Great Black-Backed Gulls, and seals.

Penmon lighthouse and Lligwy Beach

On the greyest day of the trip to Anglesey we decided to take a drive from Beaumaris up to Penmon point, to visit Penmon lighthouse. Also known as Trwyn Du lighthouse, it sits just off the coast on the Eastern side of Anglesey. It was built around 1835 by James Walker. Notably, in 1816 a paddle steamer called the Rothsay Castle ran agound nearby, causing a massive loss of life with 130 people dying in the accident. This event played a role in why the lighthouse was established at that time.

The coast near the lighthouse is pretty rugged, with many rocks and a pebble beach. Ideal for rock-pooling.
A natural cave. So interesting to see the layers of rock above it.
Lots of slimy bits in the rock pools!
There were Terns everywhere, which were a joy to watch! We didn’t get many good pictures as they are so fast! There was probably about 30 – 50 (a very rough guess) of them swooping about just off the shore, diving into the water. We sat on the beach to watch them for quite a while.
And of course there was plenty of gulls scoping the joint.

After this we drove further up the coast to Lligwy Beach, but the weather had turned worse by the time we got there so we didn’t stay very long. However, here we did see a sandbank with Sand Martin nests!

You could even see the little babies peeking their faces out! It was the most adorable thing. The adult Sand Martins were busy swooping around the beach and every so often they would fly straight back into the nest to feed the babies. It was amazing to see.
How cute are those little faces??
Here’s a cropped version.
Mum or Dad turned up to feed them for a split second.
Some more babies in another nest hole.
The just look so adorably grumpy.
Mum and Dad turning up for a brief feed.
There were quite a few nest holes!
As beaches go, Lligwy beach was a nice sandy beach. I imagine on a warm sunny day it is much more enjoyable.
We were hoping to maybe see seals as well but we didn’t on this occasion. We were exceptionally excited about the Sand Martins though so honestly it was a great day.

And that’s all for this post. 🙂