Sunday, 28 April 2013

Out of Sorts

Stags find this time of year something of a trial. They never quite look at ease with themselves. Moulting makes you itchy and generally irritable and losing antlers must disorientate. So they wander round fidgeting and scratching and unable to settle. 

Only when the sun warms their backs do they settle properly, lying in the bracken straw. The older stag who lost his antlers weeks ago looks more content than most, being further on with his velvets and even his coat looks a bit better.

Somewhere around here a fine example  may be lying around. But the rule is well known: you find an antler when you're not looking for them. Rarely are you successful when you try. And there are many deceptive lookalikes.

Friday, 26 April 2013

Another day...........

.......... another stage. Once Spring gets under way....

Rowan buds a bit further on changing the look of the whole tree.

Cuckoo calling Willow Warbler and Chiff Chaff singing, Wheatear watching.

Spring Madness

Preparations go on by Sheffield Wildlife Trust for more grazing. Sheep have now returned. The wall repair has been completed to keep their smelly cattle on the moor. There are now more gates in one small area than anyone's seen before outside a supplier's yard.

There are in fact six gates and no sign yet that the original ones are about to be removed.

Why on earth we have to have the pollution of cattle is beyond the understanding of intelligent humanity. Except that it pays them to designate the place as farmland. Corruption is too kind a word for it.

Meanwhile grazing is taking place all over the moor unmanaged. Why do we need more of it? There is simply no need for cattle here when places are complaining that lack of grazing will make the place revert to woodland. Those who are so minded are complaining that there are too many deer in Scotland preventing tree regeneration. Here this morning deer are everywhere yet the managers bring on cattle to stop the place becoming woodland. Only the mentally challenged could possibly have any faith in these people.

It's one of those mornings when deer are everywhere:
First, two hinds were sparring and dancing in the place where cattle usually favour later on.

When the cattle arrive the deer will go, put off by the signs of industrial-scale urination and defecation. On the top of Blacka Hill were a further group of hinds and young deer.

I'm fairly sure this is the calf I've been photographing since August, and it's confirmed now that he's a young stag from the burr on his head.

On the eastern side of the hill is a separate group of hinds. Notice the flatter area between the ears showing this is a hind.

Closer to the woods a group of mature stags ran off quickly more timid this morning than the females. Another one still antlered appeared a little way off keeping careful watch.

On the slopes on the opposite side of the gorge pale shapes in the heather drew the attention.

Probably two of the larger stags, new velvets showing, enjoying the sun.

On the edge of the woods beside the road there were two roe deer probably does.

With all this grazing who needs farm livestock apart from those who rely on agricultural grants? But don't expect any meaningful consultation on this if we get any at all. When management does stupid things and knows it's doing stupid things it doesn't like to be reminded of it by people who do not have the authority to speak the same brand of nonsense.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Anti-Woodland Horror Story

The wall repair is to help keep cattle in and nature out. How the wall was pushed down I don't know. Whether somebody disaffected or another bit of clumsiness by SWT staff is anyone's guess. Now they've begun on this another small hole has appeared further along.

It means they will be pressing on with grazing and no question that consultation will have any influence on it. There will be a HLS agreement lasting ten years with no discussion. And all utterly shameless. Public money down the drain again and public land degraded. Can anyone doubt that this is corruption?

Here on the other side of the gate nature will be despoiled with a bribe paid for from our taxes.

This is a picture of this Site of Special Scientific Interest as it was after a month of cattle grazing while on the other side out of the cattle grazed area were attractive wild flowers in bloom. Astonishing!
"But if we didn't put cattle on the land it would all become woodland," they say. How dreadful a prospect they must think that to be if it means this cowpat atrocity is preferable. One wonders about the mentality of the people who can bring themselves to say this sort of thing.

Especially as they know it's complete nonsense. Do they really think we're that thick? In parts of Scotland of course deer are seen to be preventing tree regeneration and that's considered a bad thing. But such is the twisted conservation mindset that here they bring on cattle to do that job even when deer are present in numbers. It is madness of course but so what? We all know that the cattle are not brought on to prevent woodland whatever their official line. Their true purpose is to reinforce the principle that all this land must be considered farmland and therefore qualify for large farm subsidies and conform to the PDNPA's stated intention to have the whole national park as a working landscape contributing to the economy.

Deer were all over Blacka Hill this morning looking, unsurprisingly, a bit the worse for wear after such a winter, the moult starting to have an effect.

Once the cattle are brought back the deer will move on ceasing their impact on the trees. Because they are not fond of cattle whose vulgar habits rather spoil their meal.

Bud Life

An update on the state of buds of Sycamore Rowan and Larch.

Meanwhile on the ground sedges are in flower.

Saturday, 20 April 2013


Soaking up the sun after a cold night. Growing a new set to replace last year's is a tiring business too.

All at different stages of growth.

But some have still to finish shedding the last pair.


The Cuckoo was heard yesterday, Swallows have been seen on three days  but today is the day for the Willow Warblers.

Birches are their concert halls. Like their appearance the song is modest yet perfect. And if you want to see them as well as hear them this is the best time when twigs remain free from leaves. Welcome back.

Thursday, 18 April 2013


I suggested to SWT some years ago that they should have an on-site worker. I meant someone senior, not a skivvy, who spent the major part of their working hours actually present on the site they claimed as their nature reserve rather than miles away sitting at a desk. I'm not sure I still think that. It would be unlikely to have the effect I intended. But it seemed a good idea at the time. Decisions taken remotely in an office environment won't be based in as much respect for what's worthwhile about a place as those that come from a deep association with it. In the office you're likely to say - oh there's bracken in that part so we'll spray it next August, unaware that wild animals bring up their young there or wild flowers wind their way through the bracken fronds in just that spot; or - the number of trees on that hillside does not conform to the landscape assessment that we're working to so we'll cut down half of them (and we get grants to pay for it) with no concern for the landscape value.

Now I know that even being on the spot would not work. Respect for the integrity of the natural world has no place in the ethos of the conservation industry: it is run on a business model and such concerns do not bring in funds. Yet more children of the 'dear departed'!

Each time of day.

Each season.

Monday, 15 April 2013


One swallow, we're told, does not make a Summer. Two on Blacka this morning might be expected at least  to help Spring on its way.

Sunday, 14 April 2013


The pub on Psalter Lane was called The Stag until recently. After a recent refurbishing they've renamed it The Stags Head. Asking why, across the bar, brought the response that this was in fact its original name. So that would be a move back to the traditional? Well no, the pub sign which was a fairly traditional picture of a stag, if uninspired, has been replaced with a new one painted by someone who's probably never seen a stag: it's recognisable as the head of a stag but the antlers are far from accurate. To add insult and weirdness the animal is wearing glasses! Obviously the landlord thought this was a clever joke; I wonder how long it will seem funny?

You're not likely to get a good model for an accurate depiction of a stag's head at the moment. I had speculated that they had decamped and gone off to the western slopes but this morning one was spotted staring at me in one of the wilder valleys. His burr where the new antlers will soon be showing was easy to see: the old ones will be somewhere among the old bracken and bilberry. Other stags were partly hidden further down some with odd bits of antler remaining.

The rise in temperature's not yet brought the long awaited greening, buds remaining firmly closed.

So the spectacle the eyes need is still found in the exuberant lichens.

The closer you get to the streams the more you see of them, their restricted colouring helping to disguise some trees as wraith-like beings.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Delayed Spring

Some may have forgotten that we had a foot or so of snow falling in April last year. Because of the extra foliage this led to the sudden weight causing boughs of some trees to fall.

Nevertheless 11th April then showed an advance compared to this year. There was then a greening of the  larch and the birch.

Evidence in the state of buds today on Beech, Birch, Oak and Rowan:

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Three Views

One tree. Three views.

A Comfortable Bed

Walking through the quieter parts of the woods this morning and not seeing the group of stags I wondered if they had decided to look for places outside the influence of the east wind. After a couple of days of moderate conditions the return of the harsh winds could suggest that things might be more congenial  elsewhere. It's not a long treck to the western facing slopes and five miles is no great distance to deer. It is after all a major reason for usually preferring  Blacka that it is east facing and offers shelter from the more common north west and west winds. The last month has confounded that. Wherever they had gone it left the place seeming under-occupied apart from the finches and a mistle thrush.

But a movement higher up on Blacka Hill provoked a closer look at the edge of the trees. Hinds had another idea about avoiding the winds. Not just the bank of young birch but bilberry, leggy heather and bracken straw were giving some comfort and protection.

Saturday, 6 April 2013


A drop in the wind.

Water moving under last night's fresh ice.
Song from Mistle and Song Thrush, Blackbirds Chaffinches.

Croaks from Ravens and Caws from Rooks.

Flighty behaviour from Pipits and other little brown birds.

Mainly it's sun on the old back.