Sunday, 23 April 2017


Classy entertainment for early diners at the Wall Caff, rapidly moving upmarket these days. Again all three warblers were around though the undoubted star is again the Blackcap.

For a while the Robin, while waiting to be served, made a contribution of his own as if to show the newcomers that the residents are not so easily eclipsed.

Perched higher up the Blackcap politely paused then started again.

It's easy to tell Blackcap from Garden Warbler when you're lucky enough to see them. As the days go on trees become less open and more leafy so there's less chance of that. The songs of these two virtuoso warblers are remarkably similar. My own rule of thumb for identifictaion is simply that the Blackcap's phrases tend to be shorter - most of the time.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Residents and Guests

 These days are among the very best of the year.

For those of us who see and hear the same place day by day throughout the seasons the sudden transformations are little short of a miracle. Go back a week and we felt privileged to hear the songs of Chaffinch and Chiffchaff, names confusingly similar for completely different birds with completely different songs. Now the sheer beauty of the songs of Willow Warblers and Blackcaps provides a lovely backing to the home-grown Blackbirds, territorially spaced out across the woods and open land.

Our little residents who've been with us through winter months now feed at the Caff to the astonishingly rich accompaniment of three different warblers. Dining in style. There seems no competition between the regulars and the newcomers who don't feed at the bird table, quite unlike the winter warfare, mainly restricted to Robins, of which we now have just a pair. We must remember that the summer visitors qualify for UK passports, blue of course, having been born here, unlike the winter visiting robins who are Europeans currently persona non grata and the source of all evil for readers of certain newspapers.

Deer are currently enjoying the new leaves of Bilberry, plus young Rowan and Birch saplings, a welcome change from their  restricted winter diet mainly consisting of bramble leaves.

This small herd is doing, unmanaged, wild and without subsidy, what SRWT would have us believe makes the introduction of cattle necessary. And doing it better and less intrusively in today's vivid Spring sunlight.  And soon, too soon, the wretched cows will be dumped on us, and, forgive the reminder, dumping on us, just that. But you can understand the managers' view. We can't have the unmanaged doing a decent job. That's surely the preserve of managers! If we're not careful it will get about that nature can manage without human guidance.

Looking just a little unsure of himself a yearling stag sports his new velvets.

Friday, 21 April 2017


Just so.

And wandering across moorland kept artificially treeless is what?  ...   alien and dispossessed??

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Philloscopus trochilus

Those who are thrilled by the sudden invasion of Willow Warblers filling the woods with a song that says so much about the meaning of Spring, should be out early any sunny morning now, even frosty ones like today. Now they have a better chance than ever to see the birds before they remain hidden behind leaves.

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Eyesores Update

The view from Blacka, at its best, and from certain vantages, can be as fine as anything in the district. When taking photographs or even painting landscapes we tend to choose the best outlooks if we can and ignore those that, for various reasons, offend our senses.

But when we are simply walking and casually scanning the surrounding view our eyes take in more than the limited selection framed by an artist and there are a few eyesores that force themselves on the attention, by virtue of disproportionate scale or poor design or just being the wrong thing in the wrong place; sometimes it's a combination of any or all of these. A number of these have reduced the appeal over recent years. By recent I mean the last 30 years or so; after all the landscape has been here for many thousands of years and for much of that time remained largely the same to any observer looking down from the western hills. Because Blacka's view looks east as it slopes up to higher ground to the west, the best middle distance views are in the area around Dore, Totley, Bradway and Holmesfield. Inevitably the least attactive aspects are also in those parts and mainly in the Dore vicinity.

The most offensive buildings are usually the largest. The retirement flats at Fairthorn have been the subject of controversy since they first went up. The building's prominent position should have made it only suitable for an example of the most distinguished architecture. Instead it was designed by a jobsworth firm to a brief that was changed partway through to allow for an extra floor, hence extra profit for the owners. Aesthetically it's a scandal and the worst of that is the ease with which it sailed through Sheffield's planning system, upvc windows and all. Each time my eyes turn that way I still find it hard to believe it's there; but then Sheffield's Town Hall is not noted for good taste and professional enlightenment. The sun still catches the roof tiles in early hours of the day making it impossible to ignore.

This view combines the blot in Dore with one of SWT's latest blots. The heather might as well have been burned for grouse production. It beats me that some people enthuse about 'open' heather moorland yet don't seem to make the connection - that this too is an industrial site prone to being scarred for industrial purposes.

Whatever King Ecgbert's School's internal values are from the hills around the unrelenting straight lines are ablot on the landscape almost as irritating as Fairthorn.

Not long ago Old Whitelow Farm at the head of Whitelow Lane looked to be a positive story. After many years of storing caravans intrusively all the caravans disappeared, seemingly coinciding with sales of the land. The stone buildings seen from Blacka are not unattractive in themselves and compatible with similar local properties that blend well with a district that visible from a national park. For several months we've been able to think the previous incompatibility had been removed. Now suddenly all has changed and things are back to what caused the initial problem. But instead of 30 or so caravans there have now appeared many more cars obviously stored for some industrial purpose.


Oilseed rape crops have recently been appearing in May. They are not favoured by those with a sensitive eye for the landscape of 50 years ago and earlier. Should any more of the green fields seen from these hills take on a yellow look in early spring it will take the edge off the enjoyment of many.


There's not much wrong with a morning in Spring like this. It bids to be one of the best in the year in fact. The air is full of new arrivals amazingly singing with energy after that remarkable journey from the other side of the Sahara.

Flowers are blooming in the moss over dead wood. The light is perfect and our fellow mammals are loving it too.