Thursday, 28 February 2013

Comfort for Sprayers

Those who are employed as professional landscape meddlers are rejoicing that they can, under an Emergency Authorisation from Europe, apply herb poisoning sprays to wild land to prevent natural regeneration during 2013. There's been a well orchestrated lobbying campaign by the bird-shooters to achieve this, using the funds obtained by charging a fortune for a day's grouse bagging to investment bankers on bonuses. Advantage will doubtless be taken by certain wildlife trusts and bird charities with an ambivalent relationship with the gamekeeping fraternity.

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Staring In The Woods

A good time of year to look at lichens and mosses.

The birch polypore has been doing well lately too. One revealed itself fresh and inviting as the first snow thawed. Not edible though. But some claim it has its uses.

Further off the watchers can be found. Being stared at is a common experience for those seeking wildlife in the woods.

I was interested in the BBC Radio 4 Living World recently visiting central Sweden looking for wolves. The ranger there mentioned often coming across a pack of them staring at the human intruder, then turning and wandering off. Not aggressive he insisted. They are powerful and can bring down a moose, and their role as top predator is vital for the whole wildlife balance. Not just the expected scavengers like foxes benefit. Even great tits and coal tits feed on the fat left over from the kill. I'm not sure whether that turns out to be preferable to the way my local friendly great tits and coal tits get their fat - via supermarket grated cheddar each morning at the Old Wall Caff. Would you rather rely on a wolf or a suspicious looking pensioner?

Monday, 25 February 2013

Wild and Weird

There was an other-worldly feeling to the east wind this morning. Lower places had soft drizzling rain. Blacka had hard snow falling and covering  dangerous ice on the stony routes. Not hospitable at all. Thinking this might be a good day to test a fairly obvious assumption I went looking for deer in just the place I would myself choose to spend time in such bitter conditions. It doesn't always work out like that but this morning it did. This secret place is now crossed by numerous deer tracks and they have a perfect bedding area where sunny mornings provide an ideal raised lookout from which they can soak up the first warmth of the day. Today they were below there having agreed that the east was not the way they wanted to be facing. Woodland offered extra shelter.  Being downwind I thought I might have avoided being noticed but not so. They were quickly off into the trees.

Later on as I returned across the hill another herd appeared. Or was it some of the same group?

It would be odd for them to have moved so quickly onto another part of the site. But not as odd, even weird, as the view of the young stag looking down at me. Wild and weird indeed.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Lost for Words

What can you say about the people responsible for this? Apart that is from the fact that they are called Sheffield Wildlife Trust and don't give a damn about what the place looks like.

Friday, 22 February 2013

Water Trapped and Free

Still water trapped beneath ice produces some of the best patterns.
Moving water does too.

Animals and Human Mindsets

When I get the time I read the papers on the web. Most titles offer their own brands of entertaining hypocrisy and mixed messages. Anyone who looks at this blog for pictures of deer may enjoy the following links on The Daily Telegraph. The first one is a column from someone expressing a view that country people don't like the idea of eating horse meat because they feel the horse is a noble creature.

The second article from the same paper is telling us that all women should shoot a stag and then eat it. Not the same person of course but I wonder which people in the 'farming community' would have nodded in agreement at the first and then found themselves agreeing with the second? If a horse is too dignified to eat, how would you describe a stag?

I can think of at least one person from the local wildlife trust who would probably have no difficulty in reconciling these two positions.

I suppose it would be expected for the Grauniad to be different. And so it is.

Birch Appeal

Birch trees have been poetically referred to as if they were of feminine gender. Elegant specimens waving in the breeze may have been the inspiration. But wrinkles are not usually considered a desirable attribute for the fair sex. They can though be a most appealing addition to the charms of the elderly male. So a fusion of the two. As it bears male and female catkins it seems only right that other aspects of its character reflect the dual nature.

 Birch gets its crevices and its age related charms early in life, bringing a mature look to younger woodland.

For several decades after the moor ceased being a grouse shooting facility the slopes to the east became host to many of these trees. In a few weeks time as they green up they will be resounding to the songs of warblers. Until then we have these wonderful textures to admire.

It could be argued that birch demonstrates as much diversity in its bark patternings as any other native tree. So much for the land managers who love to identify it as scrub, the sound of the word itself justifying a level of persecution only outdone by those who wish to cull deer, corvines and other independent wildlife.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Never Alone

However individual and twisted and sometimes sinister the trees in the 'Narnian' wood a sunny morning lightens the atmosphere. Then a quick look into the one of the denser parts reveals that we are being watched.


February views from the boot camera.

Two different ferns and their responses to winter.

Sunday, 17 February 2013


Objects in the shade with muted colours are transformed by early morning sun.

More typical and  natural-looking red coats are seen in summer and autumn  after the spring moult. That moult is already beginning in some and it will only be a matter of weeks before the first antlers are dropped.

Light distortions offer new ways of seeing familiar things. The best are early in the day.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Dim Light Values

The time before sunrise is not everyone's choice. Which is one reason why the dimness is valued by others. It has also its own character. The promise of daylight to come is sometimes better than the real thing when it does come. Animals moving among the trees secretively are a bonus.


After their first taste of tough conditions over the last month,the young deer looked more than just a few weeks older. Before the cold and the snow struck there was a scarcely definable softness about their manner. The winter seems to have been toughening them and there is less looking around in wide-eyed  curiosity and more getting down to the main business of eating to survive. There are still moments that remind you they have much to learn.

This one was momentarily confused when coming across an annoying intruder with a camera. Should he go this way or that? Two of the hinds looked on, concerned, and one moved forward protectively.

Another of the young animals is the one with the recognizable hair style. He looks sturdier than last time I saw him so cannot have been going short of food.

Green Twigs

As a reward for coping with dire underfoot conditions we hope to see just a little glimpse of green. The lichen is all we get on the twigs though strong green grass shoots are to be found around the woods.

Friday, 15 February 2013

Backs to the Wall

Just a few days can make a difference, from this ...

Those who live within the wall will notice it. And those who use its services too.

The advantage of having your backs to this wall is that you're sheltered from  the wind from the west behind and can soak up the sun in the east. A careful look reveals five of them, three lying down.

Thursday, 14 February 2013


They were clearly happy to be lying down in the heather and bracken (and snow), so well hidden, despite their size that we walked straight past them. You wonder why they then stand up  revealing themselves. Perhaps just to make an impression. They manage to do that.


The moment a thaw comes along we're looking for signs of green shoots, buds and the like to compound the hope. But it can be that the only promising colour nearby comes from lichens and bits left over from last year.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Clicking and Foraging

There's been the occasional meeting with some immature stags during this extended wintry spell but not much sign of the older ones. Attention was caught this morning by a clicking sound ahead and I found two definitely older going head to head. Obviously they've been foraging well enough to have the strength to do this. One had snow on his nose. While reindeer use antlers to clear away the snow and thus reach the vegetation the antlers of red deer are not quite so well adapted to that. Bramble leaves must be a great bonus on Blacka where there is a plentiful supply. How appetising the leaves are when eaten frozen is an interesting speculation.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Monday, 11 February 2013

Narnian Vision

After a snowfall we who relish the experience of walking among festoons of white drapery will make first for the woods and preferably sheltered parts. This feast for the eyes is rare in some winters but not this one. Even so, this morning outdid the efforts of recent weeks by some margin. It’s due to the stickiness of snow and the way that conditions allow it to cling and build up along the twigs giving an impression of thick clothing gathering round you.

C. S.Lewis’s Narnian books were essential reading for several generations of children. The first of these had a girl entering a large wardrobe in an old house, working her way towards the back through various coats and suddenly coming out the other side into a magic land where winter trees were suitably snow covered. The woods near Blacka’s car park have been compared with Narnia for this reason by numerous people independently. 
Squeezing through the overhanging rhododendron you came to a new land quite different to that you had come from. And following a snowfall this illusion was complete.  Much of the experience was there this morning with thick untrodden snow and an almost suffocating whiteness.

One can’t refer to this effect without mentioning that the atmospheric  wardrobe entrance is no more because SWT’s work programme has so attacked the rhododendron that it is no more. I’ve not the appetite this morning to lambast SWT however much they deserve it, so let’s just hope the shrubs grow back to where we expect them to be (and that the managers take an extended sabbatical).

Saturday, 9 February 2013