Saturday, 30 April 2016

Passing the Roebuck

So rhododendron is appreciated by some wildlife. We know that many birds find shelter in it. This young roebuck had been resting inside a patch when we walked by. He quickly shot off and was then seen on the other side.

Blackbirds are nesting  in or around the thicket near the car park as are various other birds. Evidence suggests that a fox's earth is also nearby; a pheasant too.

Friday, 29 April 2016

Trees Up High

Perched in the nearby trees she was looking out for us today before coming down to the wall to be first in the queue.


The special quality of trees and woodland on the hills puts to shame the prevailing bareness of managed heather moorland. Woods are what you get when managers stop interfering. They change regularly reflecting seasons and weather.  This morning was a good example.

There is enough detail in this small section of a birch tree to provide inspiration for many examples of visual art.

And a more distant view.

Poor Welcome

The summer visitors were quieter this morning. The Cuckoo has not called since the first two days.

Heavy snow showers are not the thing and bright intervals don't make up for the bitter wind.

For those who are merely passing through, the fresh green of new leaves can look strangely beautiful in these conditions.

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Unequal Terms

You don't have to look far on social media to see people's photos of bluebells in resplendent springtime displays. Up here we can't compete on equal terms. Woods as high as this have generally lower temperatures. Clear skies overnight interspersed with nightime snow and hail showers just delay things. But some are bravely trying their best.

Looking a bit more closely you might even find one or two bedraggled Wood Sorrel flowers.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Changing Birch

These are the days you want to be out in any natural or semi-natural area, seeing the changes that happen daily.

Honeysuckle climbs towards the light from the wood floor, preferring the birch with thin, twiggy growth near the base.

More birch are putting out leaves drawn by the extra light - sunrise this morning about 5.40. Very soon the bare branches we've got used to over recent months will be all but forgotten.

Catkins may dominate certain trees while on others you're hardly aware of them. On this birch they are all on one side, that facing the morning sun giving an unbalanced look.

Other trees are more evenly covered.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016


April showing its cruel side. Dazzling sunshine but bitter north wind. On some mornings it's the wind that keeps off the frost. Today it carried in arctic air putting a layer of ice over any standing water.

Sensible creatures found places with slopes and walls behind them avoiding anywhere exposed.

Young stags were in the warmest spot known beyond central heating.

Monday, 25 April 2016

Violet and Gorse

We've had Coltsfoot and we wait impatiently for Wood Sorrel, Wood Anemome and Bluebell. There's hardly a time when Gorse is not in flower.

Violet modestly shows itself in the odd corner and we can now see the first Bilberry flowers.

Sunday, 24 April 2016


How often do we see a 'view' and wonder which month it represents? If browsing a calendar is it obvious immediately from the picture alone which month the picture is illustrating.

Two pictures taken this morning. If not immediately after a short while perhaps.

Certain grouse moors would be a real challenge. Try taking a photograph from the same point every week for a year on, say, Burbage Moor.

Cold Feet

For those birds returning to upland areas it's a bit late to get cold feet.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Cold Comfort

Not put off by the temperature.

Five minutes further on a male has found some sun and his breath vapourises.

Friday, 22 April 2016


The energy displayed in sound waves coming from the newly arrived warblers has to be heard to be believed. It is one of the wonders of Blacka. And it is caused by this:

Once upon a time there would have been none of the warbling phenomenon because Blacka was predominantly heathland a word meaning artificially managed to stop trees growing. When that artificial management declined and ceased the trees returned and with them the songbirds and others that love woodland. Great news for those of us who are captivated by the Willow Warblers, Garden Warblers, Chiff Chaffs, Blackcaps etc.

Once at a RAG meeting a conservationist with an avian interest  summarised the results of his bird observations on Blacka. It was mostly gloom: a lot of the birds that *should be* here were absent or in decline he said due to lack of management. He chose to focus on the Red Grouse which he said had not bred on Blacka for many years. Adopting the role of an innocent layman I plucked up courage to offer a mild challenge. "As some species have declined" I said, "have any species been succeeding while this has happened". He pouted, looked thoughtful and then said "Wrens" with something of a disapproving expression clearly having a low opinion of these little birds. This was just one more example of the dishonesty of local conservation people. So many birds have benefited from the re-colonisation of trees on Blacka, especially the warblers already mentioned.

We expect Blacka's trees to be behind those on lower land in recognising spring. But there's a huge difference within a few paces.

This one is the most advanced birch. Nearby some show almost no greenery.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Recent Appointment

Every decent eating place needs a greeter to welcome us as we come through the door. Being outdoor shouldn't make a great difference. And the loyalty of regular customers must be rewarded.

But the proprietors are now thinking, "Having found the perfect candidate just our luck if she goes on maternity leave"

Woodland Bedding

Those not addicted to sprung mattresses might find some excellent bedding in the woods.

Crushed leaves and bracken are usually preferred to bramble and holly.

Tuesday, 19 April 2016


With snow now gone and mild sunshine the scene is set for today's two returners. The Cuckoo was heard though not seen, first of the year.

Wood Sorrel's lovely leaves push up through the leaf litter, to be followed some time soon by its equally lovely flowers.

Monday, 18 April 2016

Herd Behaviour

Snow covered much of the higher parts as the sun began to climb. Lighting effects were spectacular. All became even more picturesque as a group of stags, mostly fairly young, slowly moved across the moor.

There were ten of them and they were moving in the direction of the woodland where I could just make out a smaller group of stags partly concealed.

They had been watching the others intently without moving themselves. What followed was like a choreographed ceremony. As the approaching group came closer postures became guarded and slightly suspicious.

Then one of the stags came out to meet the leader and there was nodding and bowing and what looked like a rubbing of noses.

Not close enough to report any conversation.

The remaining stags followed the leader with one troublesome youngster being occasionally seen off by older males not prepared to put up with any nonsense.

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Green Shoots

These are the most advanced of the birch leaves in the higher parts of Blacka and that is because they are on birch scrub near the ground and well sheltered.

Woolly Thinking Exposed

Those who listen to and watch the BBC on farming may have heard coverage of the National Sheep Association's opposition to the re-introduction of the lynx in Britain.

There's a devastating critique of the NSA's report here on Miles King's blog:

One To Go

Path Through the Woods

The question was asked why continue coming here when it it is obvious that people are bent on destroying all that made it special? Nowhere else within easy travelling distance could provide these experiences and those with the legal authority, the machinery and the required level of insensitivity see it only as a place to be exploited.

But some experiences still happen for now that provide enchantment.

Early morning in the woods in April with bright sun reaching down to ground level, snow on the ground and willow warblers and blackbirds in song is one.

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Light Snow


Snowfall in April should  be followed by strong morning sunlight.

It also helps if the greenery of the lower land has been freshened up by heavy rainfall overnight.

Friday, 15 April 2016

No Makeover Needed Thank You


The local birds love their neighbourhood eating place. They love its naturalness, its friendly comfortable rightness. No novelty here. No makeovers and refurbishments. High Street coffee houses are always changing. Some even try to look retro.  This genuinely is old and has evolved accumulating years and bits of nature, friendly and natural. Please do nothing to change that. All around we see old walls rebuilt and looking neat and tidy. What's the value in that?  Just look at the decor here. Surely there are people even in this philistine age to appreciate these marvels of unmanaged nature? We don't, do we, need to pretend,  like reproduction William Morris?

These walls have their own flock wall coverings, no manufacturing necessary. Just stand back and wait a few years.

Mosses are abundant.

Lichens everywhere. Who cares about the terms but there are fruticose lichens.....

Crustose lichens ...........

Foliose lichens ...........

Sundry delightful combinations overlapping .....
Sadly the fungi wedged in the wall proved to be nothing of the sort, just a small sponge ball - but a brilliant disguise.

Why is this wall and its caff not a tourist attraction?

Time for a pretentious generalisation?
Is this humble wall caff a microcosm of Blacka at its best? Once managed but flourishing in the luxury of neglect.


Two heads are better than one though to get maximum benefit it's best to face different ways. In the case of this hind and young it's likely the ears serve at least as well as the eyes when sensing danger.