Thursday, 16 November 2017

Criminal Lawmakers?

All seems hopeless too often these days. With Trump deciding to allow trophies from killed elephants to enter USA and now our own politicians redefining what being "educationally subnormal"means - apparently those legislators who attended public schools.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Failures of Imagination

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Late Fruit

As predicted the mountain cranberries have produced another harvest just in time for Christmas. They make super preserves

Ware Gove

Some people can't be trusted, even when they suddenly appear to be on the side of the bees. Gove's news-grabbing rejection of neonicotinoids may be a temporary halo. And a decision to go for a complete re-invention of environmental safeguards may be just a way of putting himself in the driving seat. All is about power.

Saturday, 11 November 2017



In a complete change of character the daws were flying in something close to a disciplined formation. Many hundreds of them all at the same height and on the same course, for once not competing raucously with one another; wave upon wave of them all striking westward. There were some gaps when  the sky was briefly empty then the waves began again with exactly the same behaviour. How do they get to agree?

Like the starling murmurations and many other wonders of the natural world perhaps we should simply treasure the mystery.

In the case of these birds the strangeness is more due to the oddness of their suddenly diverging from their regular practice of ducking, diving and challenging for the lead. Co-operation at this level seems not their style.

A chilling thought is hard to suppress. There is a strong similarity with old newsreel photos of Lancaster bombers in huge numbers heading for German towns - but then in the opposite direction over Lincoln. Perhaps this was the day to remember such things.

Saturday, 4 November 2017

Friday, 3 November 2017

Coming Soon

Organisations need to be prepared. Previous experience suggests that SWT along with Amey/SCC will be servicing the chain saws.

Out of Season

It's not unusual to find the odd out-of-season flowering specimen when all others are dead and decayed.

This is an elegant but typical hogweed, still standing tall, a useful home for spiders and trap for falling leaves.

Not far away is this, lying down as if eccentricity of this kind had cost too much effort.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Migration Mysteries

A lot of research has been carried out in recent years on the subject of bird migration. Much more is known about it but it's fair to say not all the mysteries have been solved. I like it that way. Knowing all about everything is another way of feeding humanity's arrogance.

This morning determined flocks of smaller birds were heading westward. Two days ago geese were flying eastwards.

Every morning the regular traffic of jackdaws heads to their western feeding grounds after roosting in the woods on this side of Sheffield. Everyone who ever looks upwards knows about this but most ignore it not giving it a second thought. But to me it's one of the great wildlife phenomena of the region with a particular beauty that never fails to move me; I could watch it for hours. indeed the numbers of birds involved mean it goes on most mornings for over an hour, some groups being as large as several score.  A major part of the appeal is the way each bird obstinately remains an individual refusing to group in a formation as with other birds while clearly wishing to stick together sharing a common goal.

This can be seen clearly in still photos showing each bird's silhouette distinguished from the others and its position in the group casually chosen to signal its independence. These creatures would not do well in Animal Farm or North Korea.


Regular attendance at the Wall Caff means getting to feed on a variety of seeds, sometimes nuts and even occasional helpings of grated cheddar. Those who were there this morning around sunrise were:

Great Tit
Blue Tit
Coal Tit

At least two were present of each one apart from Robin and Nuthatch although other mornings there are two of these as well. No sign this morning of a Blackbird, normally a regular.
There was also a squirrel.

Friday, 27 October 2017


A cooler night followed by a calm, cloudless morning. What better time to relax in the sun?

Good to see deer again especially when so much at ease. Others are nearby including some young ones.

And a proprietorial stag. His antlers are interesting; they are rarely symmetrical but these are quite different.

Another view shows a good three point crown on the left side leaving the right side unorthodox.
He seems more than happy with his lot. No challenges, no bellowing. All is peace.

Thursday, 26 October 2017


The fascinating BBC4 90 minute programme about the oak tree is still available via the iPlayer.

For study their chosen oak is set in a field from which all competing trees have been removed probably by grazing animals. That allows the tree to spread more than it could in woodland. The multitude of acorns deposited every four or five years might otherwise have created an oak woodland. It might have been interesting to see oak in the context of mixed, predominantly oak woodland. Much of the material in the programme would still have been relevant but there would be differences.

Here on Blacka we had a developing oak woodland still in its early stages. Two young oaks on the edge of birch and alder woodland are changing colour, their position being to the north of neighbouring trees.

More sheltered from north and west this tree still retains more green.

As does this well protected older specimen.

More oaks would be present had the manager not decided that there must be an open area suitable for cow grazing; hence the killing off of several promising specimens.

In the nearby woodland there are oaks competing with the pine and alder.

Despite the shelter their leaf drop is more advanced.

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Being Nice

What important jobs are not being done in the time taken to decide to do this, to plan it and design something that most people ignore or find simply irritating?

This is the worst yet and as for being nice, the nicest thing I can think of saying about it is that those responsible have completely lost the plot as far as understanding their role in the community. I'm assuming that this is the work of officers of Sheffield City Council's Parks Department or its Public Rights of Way Unit. Is this really the level we've reached? Key Stage 2? Is there nobody in a position of authority who sees employees doing this sort of thing and is there no system within the council for alerting senior staff that there are employees who should be transferred to departments that are chronically understaffed because of central government cuts?

I just wonder if this has come through the MTBers, even  via the Local Access Forum? Recent years have seen a coordinated strategy of bikers yelling "Good Morning" as they raced up to us. No understanding that you may be observing a bird or other form of wildlife, or simply enjoying the peaceful atmosphere. It was of course meant to show that those who do not respond in the way they are meant to are miserable gits. And who is it who decides just how others should respond?

Friday, 20 October 2017

How Long?

Does it really take so long for these things to be made illegal?

As with releasing balloons, obviously with an intention to litter the environment. As bad as throwing your sandwich wrappers out of the car.

High Tune

The robin had chosen a high perch to give us a welcome song on a gloomy morning.

A nearby woodpecker had decided to use a high pine branch to provide a percussion accompaniment.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017


From a tweet by Paul Dalton

Old and Gold

Decaying willow herbs.

And when the sun catches there's a hint of gold.

Heard and Just Seen

Geese flying over are usually given away by their calls. You need to be in the open to see them properly. These can just be seen throught the bare branches in the woods.


The higher you go the harder it is to find remaining colours. The winds are harsher and the nights colder. This young oak is well sheltered and has avoided the fate of some similar oaks whose size is tempting for the chainsaws.

The brambles are an excellent source of reds and oranges.

This tiny hawkweed has been trodden on but still manages to light up a small area of the car park where the winds are usually enough to deter any flowers.

Blow Job?

The blower didn't penetrate as far as this minor path fortunately.

It's one of the more attractive paths for walkers only and wide enough for one person only.

Ten days ago just after the managerial blow job we can see how the beech leaves have been corralled to either side.

Just a couple of days later the leaves were back on this section after nature intervened in the usual way.

Friday, 6 October 2017


Other trees may be shedding leaves and joining the rush to autumn but oak is never in a hurry. This one is just thinking about changing colours.

It's one that was missed from the native trees cull last winter. Let's hope it survives another year at least.

Alders have so far been spared, thus allowing us to enjoy the fabulous character of some great specimens.

These would have to be a component of any 'wild' experience that I could enjoy.

The Sycamore Story

I strongly recommend this piece on The Hazel Tree site about the sycamore. It does justice to a tree that has always had a mixed reputation in this country.

I've referred to Blacka's sycamores several times in particular in relation to SWT's controversial plans:

Thursday, 5 October 2017


Even the most patient of regular walkers up here must have had enough of this by now. The one tree is some sort of gesture.

So many of the paths have been so churned up by the cows that you have to walk with your eyes down careful not to slip or stumble.  Not to mention this.

It's many years ago now that Blacka was valued as a place that had been left untouched by farming for many years and all the better for it. We warned that SWT's plans would make it worse. And so it has. I remember the appallingly naive arguments used: "There are cows and sheep all over the countryside, why shouldn't they be here?" And we had to spell it out. And they took no notice of course.


Surprise and disbelief has been experienced on Blacka before. Significantly in respect of those managing the site choosing to call it a nature reserve while bringing in farm animals which dedicate their lives to destroying nature; then adding to our incredulity by themselves cutting down native trees.

But this one was new.

One of the charms of autumn is the chance it gives us to walk on carpets of leaves decorated in innumerable patterns and shades according to which tree species are found nearby. In fact I've been known to take photographs of the ground and hang enlarged images around the house.

Yesterday morning I came across a first, for me. I could hear a mechanical noise ahead but assumed it might have something to do with the repair going on of another section of wall recently knocked down by a car. But no, turning a corner I saw this.

A leaf blower on a nature reserve!

I sometimes wonder if I've been a bit too critical of the managers responsible for Sheffield's green spaces. Obviously not.

Never having understood why people buy leaf blowers I decided to google them. For three pages all I got were sites encouraging me to buy one. Then from the fourth page on and gradually accelerating came those people similar to me who were astonished that such things even existed. Some indeed claimed they were driven crazy by not just the noise they made but by their own inability to come to terms with a world in which a large number of people thought they had to have one.

But on a nature reserve!

How many leaf blowers would be needed in the New Forest here?
And I'm not sure the  BBC has got the seasons right!