Minsmere, lies lies lies!

Colchester our coach to Minsmere
Colchester our coach to Minsmere

It was up early for us second day running, the Aylesbury RSPB group were running a coach trip to Misnsmere RSPB. Helen only spotted the trip on the local groups website on thursday, but there were still spaces, so we were on, and A of A&C was up for it too. C was going to football.

The coach departed at 07:45, and we were soon on the M25. The day looked like it was going to be great weather wise the sun was shining and it was already warm and it was still early. The weather forecast suggested sun all day with some cloud possible late afternoon. What could be better a sunny day by the seaside, and Sole Bay to boot.

We had a comfort break just outside of Colchester, at a BP Connect with an M&S food shop. The journey was very pleasant it made a change to be able to gaze out of the window and enjoy the view, rather than having to keep my eyes on the road.

The end to end trip was almost exactly 3 hours, and a peasant journey it had been. We grabbed out what’s about sheets and map of the reserve, from the friendly volunteer, and headed off into the woodland trail in the direction of Dunwich Heath, in the hope of a Dartford Warbler.

We were not disappointed we headed towards two big lens, the couple were taking pictures of Stonechats feeding a younster, a a couple of Linnets. After a few fleeting glimpses two Dartford Warblers came a long really close and perched on the vegetation giving us cracking views. It was time for a celebratory coffee stock at the Dunwich Coastguard cottages.

An interesting bench design
An interesting bench design

I had elderflower presse, and a huge slab of bread pudding, lovely, the girls had cheese scones. Suitable replete we headed down to East Hide. The wind was much colder down on the beach, we quickly headed to the shelter of the hide.

There were not many waders about, Ringed Plover and a Sandpiper. Plenty of gulls and Common Terns, ducks Gadwall, Shelduck, and Shoveler. I noticed my BB battery was almost flat, I blame Google Latitude, constant trying to get a fix and communicate back to base. I have turned all the wireless off to try to finish this blog entry.t

We headed back to the newly adjusted visitor center for some lunch, beans on toast, parsnip bake and mushroom and leek soup was had amongst us. Then suitably refreshed we headed out towards island mere, where on the way a gathering were watching a newly fledged set of 5 treecreepers were being fed by attentive parents. From island mere we watched Bearded Tits flitting about above the reeds.

It was getting late so we headed back stopping off at Bittern Hide, in the hope of seeing obviously a Bittern. A few times a Bittern was called out and on a couple of occasions, we managed fleeting views.

The view from Bittern Hide
The view from Bittern Hide

With only half an hour to spare we strolled back to the visitors center, for a look round the shop, on the way we say 3 hairy green dragon flies. Back at the centre I took another panorama set of the building, if it turns out OK I will see if the RSPB want a copy. All in all a great day out and what value for money, thanks must go to the Aylesbury RSPB group for organising and the William Harding trust for the generous grant that keeps the price down.

On the way back we had the traditional team bird count sweep stake, all the birds the people on the coach counted are tallied up and the person who guessed the number correctly get half the money and the rest goes to the groups coffers.

We were back at Bedgrove just after 20:00 after a pretty smooth and comfortable journey. We got home and I had time to pack for a Monday trip to Belfast (watch this space you know what is coming) and then off to bed for another early start.

You should not believe everything you read in this blog, and never blog things in anticipation you will get caught out. It turns out there was a 1 hour delay on the A12 due to a horse box accident. We sent the time identifying wild flowers on the roadside. We hit the M25 at 20:00 the time we thought we might be back in Aylesbury.

We got to Bedgrove at 20:55 and were home by 21:00 I have time to have a shower and pack, catch up with emails and RSS feeds then it was time for bed and an early start. We certainly made the most of the weekend.

There are also a couple a panoramas you can see here.

Finally we get some snow

Thai restaurant the Royal Siam
Thai restaurant the Royal Siam

As promised by the Met Office we got some snow on Saturday night. It started about 17:00  just as the light was fading and too late to make a timelapse sequence, which I had had running all afternoon. The wind was blowing so I had high hopes of some drifting.

We were up fairly early Helen went to church and I went off up the hills with video and camera. The snow was already starting to melt and the main road was mostly clear of snow. I headed up the main road then too a right turn up Stablebridge. I stopped off at the Thai roundabout and the canal bridge to take a sequence of shots for stitching in to Panoramas, I was trying a new sequence using two rows the downward one just getting in the Nadir then 3/4 shots for the Zenith.

I was the first person to walk the footpath that crosses the Chiltern Forest Golf Club, the temperature was a bit lower so the snow was not melting as much as down in the village. In the woods there was a good six inches of snow, just over my knuckles when using a hand to measure.

The elusive stile
The elusive stile

I was surprised at the number of different animal tracks in the snow. I spotted fox, deer and rabbit as well as a couple that I could not figure out, one was a very small mammal. I must  make a point of learning what the tracks of all the UK mammals look like.

Once up at the top of Aston Hill I headed down the Russians chalet drive put crossed the stile and over the field. On the drive the drifts were about two foot deep. It was difficult navigating across the field and the mist meant there was no landmarks. I just made out the trig point in the middle then walked bland in the general direction of the other stile until I saw it.

On the way up the the cafe I came across a forestry working clearing the road single handedly clearing the road with a snow shovel. I wished him well in his thankless task as the gate at the entrance was shut! Up at the Cafe in the Woods, which was shut, there was not many people about, all of them must have walked up just as I had.

Misty in the woods
Misty in the woods

After taking some video at the top some of it of the bird feeders, I headed off down the path that leads to the forestry compound near the entrance. I passed a brave soul mountain biking up the hill towards the cafe. I hope she was not banking on a coffee!

I quickly was back down in the village where I stopped off to pick up Helen and have some coffee and cake at the outlaws, cherry and sultana cake was lovely. Suitably refreshed Helen and I walked home then headed off to see “Man on a ledge” at the cinema. It did not live up to my expectations but was all the same enjoyable I gave it 3 out of 5.

Signal Crayfish

You may remember that earlier this year I posted a blog entry about finding a claw of a Signal Crayfish on the canal tow path on the walk to work. Well this morning I found a whole live one, I have posted a video of the blighter on you tube for you all to see. They are quite vicious so I handled him with care, whilst getting the footage. If I waved a hand above him he raised his claws, and I suspect that he would have nipped me given the opportunity.

On the way home I came across a man in an inflatable boat with an electric engine, he seemed to be putting out fisherman’s keep nets. When I asked what he was up to he told me he was catching signal crayfish to turn into bait for fishing with. Apparently the harvest was variable sometime many sometimes only one or two per net. I wished him luck and went on my way.

Oh and for the record I had a couple of birding moments today, first a sparrow hawk was chasing a swallow/martin outside my office window, then on the way home two grey heron were chasing each other round and about.

My Best Friend (****)

My best friend film poster
My best friend film poster

This is a French film with Daniel Auteuil and Danny Boon. Auteuil plays an antiques dealer who appears to have lots of friends, and is always out on social engagements. At a meal to celebrate his birthday his “friends” tell him some home truths, and his business partner challenges him to introduce to everyone his best friend in  the next 10 days. Turns out he struggles to come up with a best friend. That is until he meets a taxi driver played by Boon.

A great film with some funny and sad moments.

Happy go lucky (*****)

Happy Go Lucky film poster
Happy Go Lucky film poster

Poppy is a happy go lucky primary school teacher and the film centres around her simple day to day life, as is traditional in a Mike Leigh film. The film starts off with Poppy having her bicycle stolen, she is just sorry she did not have a chance to say goodbye! So she decides that she should have some driving lessons, the instructor turns out to be an very angry person, and the relationship between the two is hilarious, as they are at the extreme ends of the happy spectrum.

The film carries on you meet her sisters and family , and the friend also a teacher who she lives with. During the course of the film normal everyday things happen, she goes to dance classes, meets a bloke, has difficult situations to deal with in the class rooms etc etc.

The film is a typical Mike Leigh film, it is about normal people, in normal lives, (although this one is far more happy), but somehow he manages to keep your attention, proabbly because you want to know what is goint o happen next, and a lot of the scenes are visually stunning, in an understated way, when is a Tesco express service station in front of a Gasometer make a great shot!

I give the film 5 out of 5, and would recommend everyone what it, it is just a lovely film with a nice story.

Normal service resumed

Wild garlic
Wild garlic

Following complaints from blog followers (Angela) here is another blog entry. Out for a walk from end car park of Wendover Woods. Here just for Angela is a bird list.

Blackbird, Red-legged Partridge, Robin, Skylark, Chaffinch, Great Tit, Pheasant, Rook, Lapwing, Mallard, Tufted Duck, Little Grebe, Coot, House Martin, Wren, Dunnock, and Collared Dove.

Interesting tree
Interesting tree

Along the way many spring flowers were out including bluebells and wild garlic.