Location:United Kingdom

An avid tea-drinker who likes nutmeg in her coffee and warm lavender-scented quilts. She knits, crochets and partakes in random acts of craftiness (and kindness). She likes obscure works of literature, philosophy and the idea that her mind exists separately from her body. She enjoys moving furniture around, literary criticism and baking bread. She writes haiku about nettles, would like to swim with seals and become completely self-sufficient. She writes as if her life depends on it, listens to beautiful music, and loves her darling husband Mr. VP.

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Thursday 11 June 2015

Meadows in June

Is there a more beautiful sight to behold than this?  I mean, it’s not grand or austentatious; it doesn’t inspire awe to most as, say, a vast snow-tipped mountain range might.  But to me, this little world that barely breaches ankle-height is no less awe-inspiring.  It is the sight of June, these lush meadows full of green and growth and I realised it had been far too long since I last saw meadows like these.

This is the best bit of summer; before everything is crispy and brown, when everything is still gloriously green.

I still can’t get over a good larch, all pale green and softly-needled.

This beauty is a pyramidal orchid (Anacamptis pyramidalis) and was the reason for our evening walk.  I love our wild orchids and try to make it out to see them whenever they’re in season.  Having seen a few on the roadside verges as I whizzed past in the car, I knew it was the right time to seek them out.  Upon first scanning the meadow, I couldn’t see them, until I trained my eyes towards the deep pink-purple splodges of colour that could be nothing else.  After seeing one, I saw a whole meadow full.

I mean, it’s quite something, isn’t it?

When I say that this meadow was alive, I don’t just mean the flowers.  Bees, beetles (can you see the cardinal beetle on the clover?), spiders and all sorts of winged insects were busily going from a to b as we watched.

It’s also really nice to see that after May’s chill winds, we have gained a bit of warmth back, with evenings staying mild well into the night and days often too warm to stay any length of time in.

Clover love.  Our former neighbours used to cast aspersions at our lawn for having clover in it.  There would be the odd pointed comment about how nice lawns looked if they have only grass in them…  At which point I’d say how terribly fond I was of the pink and white clover that not only fed the lawn but helped to feed the bees that would hum busily around them.

This is a grass spider whose latin name, Tibellus oblongus, speaks of its long, oblong-shaped body.  At first, I thought it was a grasshopper moving through the grass, as it was so big (large house spider sized), but lo and behold, once we got up close to it, we realised that it was a spider and that she was carrying a huge ball of her eggs around with her.  Whilst I’m not a fan of spiders in the house (money spiders and zebra spiders excepted), I am quite happy to see them in their natural habitat.

Most of the May is finally over, but in shadier, cooler spots, there is still some to be found.  This  pink May is such a picture of beauty.

As we headed back to the car, I came across these pine trees and their showy pollen heads that will eventually become cones.  Don’t they look exotic?

Who says that pine trees are just green and brown?!  I think I can deal with all of the pollen dust on the car for a few weeks of tropical-coloured pine trees.

Tuesday 9 June 2015

Woodland Wildlife

It was perhaps the mistral winds on Saturday that kept the crowds away, but when we arrived at one of our favourite woodlands, it was all but empty.  This made for a peaceful, if windy, walk and a nice chance to get out of the house for a decent amount of time.  Whilst I am struggling to get to grips with the notion that it is already a quarter of the way through June (I’m sure it was April last time I checked?!), the birds are deep into the swing of chick-rearing and feeding and it’s taking its toll on the parents, who are beginning to look a little weary and hen-pecked as they juggle moulting and rearing simultaneously.  Judging by how many fevered dashes backwards and forwards to the feeders were made in the time we were watching, there must be a good many plump chicks to feed.  Each bird approaches feeding their little ones differently; some favouring peanuts to sunflower seeds, others (the great tits) bullying their smaller cousins (coal tits) off the feeders; some are content with just plodding around (pheasants) where others skittishly analyse each feeder for its contents (jackdaws).  Did you know that jackdaws mate for life?  They’re rapidly becoming one of my favourite birds as I watch them each morning from our kitchen window and see them on the roofs of neighbouring houses.  Thankfully they don’t seem to like our chimney as much as they do some of the other houses, so our chimney sweep shouldn’t have too much of a job when he next comes to sweep ours!

As for the woodland itself, it seems only a month ago that it was thick with frost and ice, but no, it was 4 months ago, which goes to show that time stands still for no man (or woman!).  The vast, empty, leaft-littered spaces have been replaced by lush greenery, bracken, nettles, wild strawberries and grasses.  It really is the start of summer.

Saturday 6 June 2015

The Trials and Tribulations of Nest-Building

Each time we visit fulmar beach (as we’ve come to know it), it seems the fulmars have changed ledges and abandoned nests, only to occupy new positions.  Unfortunately, the fulmars who were moving their egg, had either dropped the egg (unlikely) or had it predated by a larger gull species (much more likely), as the broken egg shell lay on the shore beneath the nest.  It was pretty heartbreaking to see, but I suppose it is difficult to raise chicks in a cushy nest, let alone on a narrow, windy ledge facing the sea.  Such are the trials and tribulations of nest-building and chick-raising.  On the upside, there are still another few couples nesting, or attempting to, on that cliff.  Surely one will manage to make it through?!  I do hope so.  I love going to see how they’re doing and watching them swoop over my head as their partner comes back with a gullet-full of fish.

Tuesday 26 May 2015

Sandwich Terns

Wheeling, diving, plunging and shaking – all on the wing.  It is so nice to hear their sharp little barking calls to each other.  I am always awed at how far these little birds travel each year from their wintering grounds in Africa, just to breed on our shores.

Monday 25 May 2015


It never fails to amaze me how many birds it is possible to spot on a relatively short late-Spring walk along the beach. After a few seemingly difficult nesting starts where we’d see proper nests and then empty ones a week later, it seems that two pairs of fulmars have made their nests on this one little section of cliff. How do we know they’re serious? They had laid an egg (can you spot it?)! The fulmars did their egg-turning maneuouvre as we watched with baited breath, hoping that it wouldn’t fall out of the nest. The sand martins are back, too, and how glad we are that we have seen them! They are almost impossible to take photos of because they hurtle around, like all of their long-journeying, winged-insect-eating avian relatives, at break-neck speed.  But when they return to their nest, you can sometimes, if you have a sensitive picture-taking finger, catch them for their brief pause!  We also spotted a curlew on the wing and a cormorant too, as well as the requisite oyster catchers and pied wagtails.

When not enjoying the huge array of wildlife that just happen to wander or fly past at this time of year, I get a little too carried away in the beauty of the sea and its reflections.  This time of year is officially magical and pretty wonderful too.

Saturday 9 May 2015

Usually Heard, Seldom Seen (especially over the sea!)

Whilst keeping our eyes peeled one evening for sandwich terns, Cuddy’s ducks (eider ducks) and red-breasted mergansers (check, check and check!) (not to mention the bonus shelduck! Check!), I noticed a bird flying over the shoreline that I thought looked like a bird of prey.  It was the right shape in flight and had the right shaped wings, so I turned the lens towards it and took a rapid succession of pictures.  It wasn’t until I looked back at them on the camera’s screen that I thought – it can’t be! – it looked awfully like…  A Cuckoo!  Indeed, this little fella was most likely just arriving up here from his African wintering spot (the only reason he’d be crossing over the sea, surely?).

It is exceedingly magical as it is the first cuckoo I’ve ever seen and moreover, I saw him arriving!  Isn’t he splendid?  Not that I agree with cuckoos in princple, given their parasitic nesting behaviour (watch out little reed warbler – if you see a giant egg, it’s not yours!) but even I coo (and think of this C13th song) whenever I hear one. Yep, signs of summer are everywhere!

Friday 1 May 2015

Fulmars On the Wing

What a way to welcome May into being!  Despite being fairly exhausted after a busy day, it seemed a waste to miss an evening walk as the sun was shining and it wasn’t too cold.  We opted to drive a little further and visit a ‘special’ beach and we are so glad that we did!  The sea was almost at its lowest and had exposed a whole swathe of pools and seaweed-encrusted rocks.  I was really pleased to see that the fulmars that I mentioned here hadn’t disappeared after all (the second time we visited all of the nests were empty and we thought they’d been scared off by something) but were back in even larger numbers than before.  It was amazing to see that they had survived and even more amazing to witness one fulmar on the wing, as they are known to do, riding the thermals that rise in front of the rocky cliff-face. I couldn’t contain my excitement as I stood there watching the fulmar glide overhead, doing aerial acrobatic displays.

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