Slow and steady

Moving slowly through the UK countryside


Spring is sprung and I have run 2 miles

Quite a few flowers are getting going in the garden. Doubtless if/when we get some ice and snow they’ll be knocked back a bit, but I enjoyed them this morning in glorious sunshine.  Several of them are scented, and there’s something rather wonderful about perfume outdoors on a sunny winter’s day.

The birds were busy too.  I didn’t start at dawn this time – most of these arrived between 10 and 11.

    2 Blue Tits
    3 Starlings
    4 Goldfinches
    2 Long-tailed Tits
    2 Woodpigeons
    1 Collared Dove
    2 Blackbirds (male and female)
    5 House Sparrows
    2 Dunnocks
    5 Jackdaws
    2 Chaffinches (male and female)
    1 Robin
    1 Great Tit
    5 Greenfinches
    1 Buzzard soaring overhead

A squirrel ran through the garden too.

I got rather cold outside, so went for a run to warm up.  I really pleased to manage to keep going for 30 minutes, without it being too difficult, and covered 2.25 miles.  🙂



Early birds through my kitchen window

Early bird survey
Yesterday morning and this morning I got up earlier than usual for me at the weekend, and did the Early Bird Survey  for the BTO (British Trust for Ornithology).  All it involved was recording the time that I saw different birds at our bird feeders, from the first bird onward, up to a maximum of ten species.  It also fits in tidily with the weekly photo challenge of ‘Window’.

We have a sunflower seed mix, peanuts, ‘buggy’ fat balls and a fat block, and I’d scattered some seeds on the drive to see whether I could attract any ground-feeders (I don’t usually do that to avoid attracting rats – yuk).

We have streetlights about 50 metres from our house, which may or may not affect the time that the birds begin feeding – investigating that, is the idea behind the survey.

Earlier start
Yesterday, I’d heard the first bird singing (a robin) before I was ready to start recording, so I was downstairs a bit earlier this morning.  There was a lovely red glow in the sky, but it was still very dark inside.

Before dawn

Before dawn

1: Robin – 7:37
Sunrise is about 8:15, but I’d heard the robin at about 7:20 yesterday.  This morning he was singing at 7:10, but didn’t visit the feeder until 7:37.  (Photo taken later on when it was lighter.)



2: Blue-tit – 7:45
A blue-tit was next, at 7:45. Later on, I saw up to four blue-tits in the garden, but only two visiting the feeders at once. On average, a blue-tit visited every five minutes between 7.45 and 10.30, with most visits (7) between 10 and 10:15. They ate seeds, fat from the fat balls or fat-block and sometimes peanuts.


Blue-tit on the buggy fat balls

3: Chaffinch – 7:37
A female chaffinch came along at 7:37. Yesterday she didn’t appear until much later on. She only visits the seed feeder, or hops around picking up bits others have dropped.


Female Chaffinch

4: Dunnock – 8:05
The fourth visitor, at 8:05 was a dunnock, or hedge sparrow, picking up seeds from the drive. They don’t sit still much though – fuzzy photo.


Dunnock about to hop off

5: House Sparrow – 8:05

Three house sparrows arrived at the same time, 8:05, on the seed feeders. Later on, there were up to six of them feeding or just chirping and watching. Sometimes they feed on the fat balls or fat block, but mostly they eat seeds.

House Sparrow

House Sparrow

6: Goldfinch – 8:12

Sixth species was a goldfinch at 8:12. It returned a number of times, with a friend or two. Very dashing outfits they wear. They eat the seeds; I used to put out Niger seeds for them, but they seem just as happy with the sunflower mix.



7: Great-tit – 8:15

At 8:15 a great-tit visited. It came back a couple of times, once with a partner, but all three visits were very speedy, just long enough to grab a peanut and go, but not long enough for my camera.

Here comes the sun…


Sunrise through kitchen window

I carried on watching for several hours (it’s a good long meditation session), recording every bird that visited. I suspected that was all I was going to see (though we do sometimes get greenfinches on the seeds and starlings on the fat).

A neighbouring cat was lurking under the car, but didn’t catch anything today, thank goodness (fewer blue-tit visits while the cat was there though).

Cat under car

Predator on the prowl

8: Long-tailed Tit – 10:12

Then ages later, at 10:12, a pair of long-tailed tits came for the fat block. Hurrah! I think they are my favourite birds, and I’ve only seen them a couple of times this winter, so I’m so pleased to see them back.

Long-tailed Tit

Long-tailed Tit – didn’t stay long, this was the best picture I got

Not quite ten today
Eight different species used the food we put out, and all the different foods were visited. Blue-tits were the most frequent visitors, and they ate all the different foods. I also saw a male and female blackbird, a male chaffinch, a starling, jackdaws, collared doves and wood pigeons, but not at the feeders.

I don’t usually note down the time that different birds visit, so it was interesting to notice how different the feeding patterns were. I’d definitely recommend doing a survey like this – though maybe just do half an hour or so for starters!


Bird-knit nest

One of our neighbours found this in amongst their bamboo. It’s about 6 inches from top to bottom, feels about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick and really very light, as though it had been knitted. Apparently a Long-tailed Tit’s nest, made with spiders’ webs, moss, lichen and feathers. A beautiful piece of work.

Long-tailed tit nest

Long-tailed tit nest


Pigeon taking a wing bath in the rain

Response to the prompt – ‘Dull’

We had a dull day on our holiday last week. I was watching the rain fall on the road outside, and spotted this pigeon on a chimney-pot. It stretched out one wing, and then the other – it seemed to be having a bath! A bit of a web search showed that this is just something that pigeons do. How curious.

Woodpigeon in the rain

Woodpigeon washing its wings in the rain

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Misread the calendar

Hmm.  Went off to a grass identification workshop this morning (I like my plants).  However, when I arrived, I found out that I’d misread the calendar (another senior moment), and it isn’t until next week.  So, as I’d driven all the way to the nature reserve, I thought I might as well learn about dragonflies instead…

Very interesting they were too, with beautiful photographs, but as it was overcast by lunchtime, I didn’t stay for the dragonfly hunting, but went for a walk round on my own.  I didn’t see any butterflies or dragonflies, but I did see some good birds, and I walked 2.6 miles, so good exercise.  I wore my running trainers, so my feet felt ok.  I even jogged a little bit.

I heard a cuckoo, which was great; that’s the third time I’ve heard them this year.  As I went into the first bird-hide, I was told that a kingfisher had been around earlier, but they’d been waiting about twenty minutes and it hadn’t come back – but I was lucky enough that it returned while I was there.  Just a fast flash of blue – stunning.  There was a reed bunting there too.

At another hide I saw a reed warbler, and then on a different lake, with a mudflat, there was a wonderful range of birds, including two I don’t think I’ve seen before – teal and little ringed plover.  All quite a long way away – and the plovers ran around really fast, like little mice!   Sixteen species altogether.  So, even though I didn’t get to the grasses, I had a good day out.


Lapwing and reflection

male Teal

A male Teal duck. Gorgeous patterning on the feathers on its side.

Little Ringed Plover

Little Ringed Plover staring at me.


Riverside walk

Really summery day today, so I went for a walk in the nature reserve near where I work. It’s on the edge of a town, but feels really rural. I was moving very slowly, stopping to look at things and take photos, and really enjoyed myself. I probably walked a couple of miles – haven’t downloaded the Garmin route yet, and maybe I won’t bother, as I’m not all that concerned how far I went. I was on my feet and moving for over two hours, so even it if wasn’t very energetic, it was good activity.

Here’s a beautiful beetle – maybe it’ll convert some beetle-haters? 🙂

Red-headed Cardinal Beetle on Cow Parsley

Red-headed Cardinal Beetle, Pyrochroa serraticornis

I spent a long time trying to get decent photos of a pair of birds that I’d seen earlier in the week.  They were birds of prey, flying over the reed pools, but not easy to catch them in motion!  I put the earlier pictures online, and several people said they thought they were probably Hobbies, which I’ve never seen before, so I really wanted to see them better, to check that’s what they were.  Well, I did see them again, which was fortunate, and I took my binoculars, and could see the reddish ‘trousers’ and the face markings, but didn’t manage to get a clear photo.  This was about the best I got (I must have taken fifty or more!)  It’s been zoomed in from a larger picture.

Hobby flying over reedbed pools

Hobby flying over reedbed pools

Bird's-foot Trefoil

Bird’s-foot Trefoil, or Bacon and Eggs, Lotus corniculatus

Mute Swan with five babies

Mute Swan with five babies

Baby Coot

Not such a cute Coot – I know all mums love their babies, but maybe a bit of a challenge to adore this!

thorns on wild rose

Thorns on wild rose

Some day soon, maybe, I’ll figure out how to lay out the photos the way I want them. It’s really annoying when they jump all over the place, especially as I spent several years as a publishing specialist, doing page layout for a computer company… But I don’t want to waste time on it at the moment, so it will just have to do. Grrrrrrrrrr!

Edit- missed my damselfly.

Azure Damselfly

Azure Damselfly, Coenagrion puella


Running mojo goes walkabout

Well I did run, so that’s something, I suppose, and for half an hour – though it was slow even by my standards, so I only covered 2 miles (3.2km). Garmin tells me it was 19 C, which seems about right – pretty warm in the sunshine, as there wasn’t much shade.

Earlier on, I went for a short amble on my way home from walk (must have covered all of 200m in 20 minutes), which was really lovely – some less-common wild flowers, such as Sanicle, Valerian and Hairy Violet, lots of birds singing and a hairy caterpillar too.

Cow Parsley in a country lane

It was lovely out, but on my run, I just kept thinking about my calves being tired, being hot and sticky, and wondering why I was doing it. I wanted to stop and look at butterflies, beetles, flowers and birds. Maybe when it’s sunny I need to just do very short runs, and longer walks, and enjoy the scenery more.

So… Should I keep running, so my legs don’t forget how, or ease off in warm weather, and enjoy the wildlife?