A first trip of the year

On the 2nd January I had my first trip out of the year and visited the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust’s Martin Mere Reserve. I’ve been visiting the reserve for many years and usually make a trip in the autumn to see the large flicks of pink-footed geese that pass through on the way to their main wintering grounds in north Norfolk. However, largely due to the amount of weekend working I did over the autumn, I missed that chance and this was the first time I’ve been for well over a year.

The weather was cold but very bright and a big change from the recent mild but gloomy stuff we’ve been having and it made the visit all the better for it. There was plenty of wildlife on show as I walked between the various hides from one end of the reserve to the other. I saw over 40 different species; perhaps not the most comprehensive list for the site and I’m sure I would have seen more had I stuck around longer. However, the best sights of the day were a barn owl hunting in daylight and three distant marsh harriers.

Of particular note was the relatively low number of whooper swans. It might just have been the particular day but there were only around 800 present when at this time of year previously I might have seen double that figure. I also learnt that the number of Pink-footed geese that passed through in the autumn was lower than usual. I suspect this may simply be down to the mild weather we have had over the autumn and winter so far and the birds are staying further north. However, there is a bread in me that there is more to this.

Towards the end of the day, I made a quick visit to RSPB Hesketh Outmarsh to see if there was much about. Whilst is was quiet I did get a nice sunset…

Looking back at 2018

In many ways this year has come and gone in a flash but looking back it also seems a long time since some of the events in the early months. With five holidays this year, I’ve had plenty of time away from home doing many of the things I love; travelling, volunteering, watching wildlife, photography and generally being outdoors.

February held my first trip of the year, to a very snowy Poland, looking for wildlife in the winter landscapes. I wasn’t disappointed, with lynx, wildcat and bison being highlights, as well as my best photo of the year; a crested tit feeding off the carcass of a wolf-killed red deer.

After a great trip to London in March, April was the month of a first visit to the Isle of Harris, where I stayed in the most amazing location, in a cottage on Luskentyre Beach. The only disappointment was not being able to get to St Kilda – perhaps in 2019!

June included another trip to the Scottish islands, this time to Orkney at Mid-Summer; a week spent mixing wildlife, photography, island visits and military history – just about perfect. August held my annual trip to see family in Sweden doing some of my favourite things; canoeing on a wildlife rich river and grilling sausages in the wild.

My final trip of the year was to RSPB Ramsey Island where I spent two weeks volunteering and supporting grey seal monitoring.

At the beginning of the year, I made an aim of 2018 to do more exercise than ever before and carried over two aims from 2017, to do more photography and to take up mountain biking. Well, I did 365 separate sessions of exercise and I started visiting the mountain biking trails at Coed Llandegla but I still need to do more photography.

The latter end of the year has been dominated by work, really ever since I returned from Ramsey Island at the end of September, so my free time has been limited and my general energy to get out of the house much diminished – I must not let this happen so much in 2019!

Overall, it’s been another busy year in my world away from work; volunteering, cycling, watching wildlife and being out in nature, and here’s my year in numbers:

  • 1 new country – Poland
  • 1 stay on Ramsey Island
  • 1 weekend away – Pembrokeshire
  • 2 trips abroad – Poland and Sweden
  • 2 weeks on Scottish islands – Harris and Orkney
  • 2 peregrine protection shifts
  • 3 beer festivals
  • 3 mountain-biking days
  • 8 osprey protection shifts – including 2 night shifts
  • 9 counties stayed in
  • 10 ferry journeys
  • 11 bird surveys
  • 22 species of mammal including three new ones – European Bison, Wildcat and Eurasian Lynx
  • 34 days volunteering – Crewe & Nantwich Conservation Volunteers, Glaslyn Ospreys and RSPB
  • 59 blog posts
  • 62 walks
  • 62 nights away
  • 118 runs
  • 157 cycles
  • 161 species of bid including eight new ones – Little Owl, Ural Owl, Pygmy Owl, Grey-headed Woodpecker, White-backed Woodpecker, Red-backed Shrike, Great Grey Shrike and Nutcracker
  • 313 miles run
  • 365 sessions of exercise
  • 2,271 miles cycled
  • 11,000+ blog views

…and here are some photo highlights…

Manchester Buildings

It’s ages since I did a post of images from my daily walk to work across Manchester City centre from Piccadilly Station. Well, this morning I moved into my company’s new office at the First Street development on the southern side of the centre. This now gives me more opportunities to look at Manchester’s buildings, old and new, on a different route to work.

Just a few shots on my way through First Street on my first morning working in the area.

Autumnal Oaks

After a weekend mostly spent working, I went out on my bike on Sunday afternoon to pedal in the lovely late autumn sunshine. With mild temperatures and a clear blue sky, the ride really lifted my soul.

Having not been outside much in the daylight over the past couple of weeks, I hadn’t noticed that the oak leaves have turned. The Cheshire countryside is now washed with an orange made quite startling by the bright sun.

CNCV: Tegg’s Nose

I was out for another of the (usually) fortnightly tasks with Crewe and Nantwich Conservation Volunteers. It was our first outing for a month and we went a little further than usual this time; to Tegg’s Nose County Park, working for Cheshire East Council Rangers. We were tasked by Ranger Martin to clear gorse in one of the fields. First we cleared a section to widen an approach to a gateway, where the cattle usually get a bit spooked by the narrowness of the path. We then cleared a patch encroaching on the field, giving more space for some of the rare species of plant that grow on the hillside meadows.

It started off as a lovely morning but after lunch we could see the cloud coming in across the Cheshire Plain and the rain started coming down just as we finished. It was that fine rain that gets you really soaked and as Tegg’s Nose is high up on the top of the hill, the rain turned into low cloud, dropping the visibility down quite significantly.

The County Park is a lovely place, just on the edge of the Peak District National Park and good starting point for a number of good walks into the hills and valleys. It has great view into the park but also across the flat Cheshire Plain, with Jodrell Bank standing out well above green pastureland.

Next time we’re out, it will be to Wybunbury Moss, and hopefully a first fire of the autumn – sausages at the ready!

A bee day

I spent a bit of this afternoon looking a the smaller wildlife in my back garden, well bees really. I don’t have many flowering plants in my garden but the lavender bushes are in full bloom at the moment and the bees are going mad for them.

This was the first time I’ve tried a spot of bee IDing and I found four different species feeding on the plants; common carder, honey, buff-tailed bumble and red-tailed bumble. The shot below is a common carder (I think)…

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