The weather about Tern, but we could not find one!

College lake on a sunny day

It has been some time since I did a blog post, so here is one to cover the weekend. Friday was quiet I had noodles for tea while Helen was out for an early meal at the pub. We found the comedy series “2012” on Netflix so watched a couple of episodes, then retired to bed early to make the most of Saturday.

Saturday morning we were up early Helen, had a few things to do, so I busied my self in the garden. We now have a big flower pot with mixed herbs in it. I actually excavated our composter and spread some of it about on the veg patch I created a couple of years ago. I have onions and garlic growing which I planted before Christmas and they seem to be coming on well. The gap between the onion rows seemed wide enough to get another crop in between, so I put in three rows of different lettuce and a row a radish seeds. I have some seeds which have started to sprout, in a plastic tray divided into one inch square plugs, I need to wait before transferring them to the veg patch.

Dancersend Nature Reserve

I put some dough ingredients into the bread maker, before picking up Helen, the plan to have a walk around College Lake. The weather was gorgeous, the sun was shining and it was pretty warm. Having not been out bird watching for a while it was a real treat to see some of the spring birds. On the trees were the usual tits, but Helen spotted a Willow Warbler, and could then hear a Chiffchaff. In the scrape viewable from the octagon hide, we saw Snipe, Little Ringed Plover, and Redshank as well as the usual ducks, geese and swans. Next stop was to be Tesco for some Pizza ingredient, remember I put on the bread dough before i went to pick up Helen.

Suitably stocked up with pizza toppings we headed to Wilstone reservoir, I had heard reports of Arctic Terns passing through. We parked up and climbed the bank, but there was no sign of any of the bird we might expect. No Martins, Swallows, or Terns not even a common Tern, so we jumped back in the car and headed home, to find the dough had not risen very well probably something to do with the out of date yeast. As it turns out the dough did rise when in the oven but not as good as it could have been, but the pizzas were divine.

Spring and Autumn on one branch

Sunday started with a trip to church for Helen and a lazy start for me watching the London Marathon on the TV. Before Helen got back I decided I would have a go a making some bread by hand. I chose a wholemeal recipe and added some walnuts and seeds to the mix. I used some yeast that was almost out of date (there is a pattern emerging here) which needed mixing with sugar and warm water to make it work. I mixed everything in a bowl and then kneaded it for about 10 minutes before putting the dough in a bowl to rise. Helen got back and we decided so make the most of the weather by having a walk round Dancersend Nature reserve. We left the dough to rise.

The reserve was pretty quiet considering that this the the first real warm weather we have had fro some time. Spring was here for sure, leaves were emerging from the tree branches and wild flowers where staring to bloom. We spent about an hour and half strolling around the perimeter of the reserve, highlights included Chiffchaff (heard by Helen), Nuthatch, Buzzard and a couple of Greater Spotted Woodpeckers trying to attract the attentions of a female. We headed back to the house and I finished off the bread, knocking it back, kneading then covered it in seeds and left it to rise before scoring it and chucking it in the oven.

I then mowed the lawn and did some weeding in the flower beds, I have plans that this year I am going to make and effort with the veg patch and the rest of the garden, whether it lasts all summer remains to be seen!

Keeping it local

Green and verdant view of Dancersend NR

After a very busy weekend last weekend we are having a quiet one. The plan get up not too early have some breakfast (reading the paper?), a bit of a tinker with the blog, a short local walk, then see if we can catch the Queens Jubilee fly past over Halton, finally cook pasta for Helen’s parents, and watch the Chelsea v Munich match.

Things got off to a great start, Helen was up first and then as I came down stairs at about 08:00 she was walking in the door with the papers. I usually have toast and expresso for breakfast at the weekend, and save my home made muesli for weekdays. Today was not exception I finished off the Bonne Maman cherry jam I have been working my way through for some weeks.

The record shot of the fly pass

I have tweaked the blog a bit, by moving all the panoramas about as the menu they were on is getting a bit long. I also noticed that was getting more Google juice than the blog, even though it is more or less just a holding page for a Drupal site. So I fixed it once and for all, it now redirects to the blog address at so that will fix that small issue. I think as the blog is the site than changes the most  will not keep the two domains separate, and if I do want a content sites then I will just create sub-domains for them which should keep things much simpler.

The fly past was due soon after 12:30 so we headed about of the house at about 10:30, and drove up to the BBOWT reserve at Dancersend which is in the hills sort of between Tring and Aston Clinton. It is between two valleys and can be a really nice place to just sit, relax and take everything in, as the hills shelter it from noise apart from the odd aircraft.

The local squirrel

There were plenty of birds singing when we got there, the usual suspects Tits and Chaffinch but also a couple of Warblers we thought most likely Blackcaps from the song. It was a bit early for orchids but there were a few early Butterfly Orchids just starting to bloom, and the usual Pyramid orchids could be identified by their black spotted leaves. We wandered around and Helen took control of the camera with the big lens and I scouted round from some bugs and plants to photo with the LX3. We heard some tawny owl calls in the distance.

WARNING RANT — As we entered the reserve from the “pond on the bend entrance” we noticed that there was a lot of dog shit on the path in, it was pretty obvious that one dog was regularly walked up the path and the owner could not be bothered to clear up after their dog or make sure the dog did it business away from the path. Helen described it as “playing dog shit hopscotch”. Helen and discussed putting up a “there is not such thing as a dog poo fairy poster” next time we go up there. — RANT OVER

At about 12:10 we headed back down to the village park to watch the fly past. Basically as part of the Queen’s Jubilee celebration today was the armed forces day to show off, and a fly past of about 60 aircraft had been arranged to fly over Windsor park and as is usual when these things happen many of the aircraft get routed to and from the event over RAF airfields. Halton being fairly close to London often gets a fly past, today was no exception.

Max the cat from next door

Down at the park there were other people who had obviously come to see the spectacle, as well as Helen’s uncle who turned up soon after we did. We did not have to wait long after 12:30 for the flypast, in all probably about 15-20 planes passed over. At first we thought we were at the wrong end of the air field as we say some jets pass over the other end in the distance, but they were followed by three groups of fight looking jets, blue in colour. I had the setting on my lens not quite appropriate for the shot so did not get any decent pictures but I have included the one you can see here, as you can tell the light was pretty crap and it was very hazy.

After it was obvious that the rest of the fly past was not coming we wished Helen’s uncle farewell and headed home for a light lunch. I spent the rest of the after noon tinkering with Bigshot VR which I have not given up on yet, but which I sill can’t get to the panorama thing. I can get it to display basic Deep Zoom format pictures, but that is about it. I also took some pictures of the wildlife in the garden.

Later on we will be preparing pasta and garlic bread to eat before the football. I’ll spare you the details and end the blog post here.



Home alone

College Lake from Octagon hide

Helen is away with the girls this weekend, in Birmingham. Had Pizza for Tea on Friday, went to bed and got up early on Saturday full of plans. Ended up tinkering around the house, until early afternoon, when I dragged myself out for a walk around College lake nature reserve. The sun was shining but there was still a chill in the wind. Took a quick look from the new and nearest hide, saw ringed plover, redshank and red crested pochard. I then headed out a a fair swift pace around the rest of the reserve, and soon found I was getting quite hot from the exertion. I stopped off at the octagonal hide and saw a few more redshank.

On the path I came across a a Burying Beetle which was moving very fast see the video.

After that excitement I went to Tesco for some supplies then headed home has the rest of last nights dough in another Pizza, watched a French film called “Tell No One” which has the same directory and many actors from the file “Little White Lies” it was a brilliant murder/mystery/thriller.


Ice Mushrooms

Ice Mushroom

Very cold this morning but Helen managed to drag me outside by 10am, for what turned out to be a brisk, short sharp walk round Dancersend. We parked up where Dancersend lane flattens out next to some houses and marked past the manor then licked up the footpath that heads across the corn field towards to the hills on the horizon.

It was absolutely freezing and even after 20 minutes walking in thermals we were still cold. Once we hit the hills we turned right towards the old victorian pump house that feed the hidden reservoir. Along the foot path we saw those ice extrusions I have mentioned in the past. I think they might be caused by the really wet ground pushing the water up by capilliary action with then freezes when it hits the cold. Some we saw were several centimetres long, Helen called them Ice Mushrooms and I think that is a good name for them.

At the pump house we crossed the road to enter Dancersend nature reserve, we came across a couple each with a child in rucksack on their back, and a very boisterous large puppy, looked a bit like and Irish Wolfhound it was bounding around all over the place. We headed clockwise round the reserve up the hill and then through the woods to the bottom of the reserve. There was a lot a shooting going on around the valley it it a really shame as the blasts really spoil the tranquillity of the place.

Victorian pump house

We headed out of the reserve and joined the road at the pond on the bend below the manor. So we were soon up the road and back to the car it had been a short walk but we were glad that we made the effort. Not much bird life other than Tits, Goldfinch and a couple of Jays. We decided we would have a go at a recipe I found on the internet for Cannellini Beans in tomato sauce, that meant a trip to Tesco for some beans and a visit to the cinema to watch Black Swan with Natalie Portman.

I have since found out the ice extrusions are probably ice needles as per the Wikipedia article