Moor Birds

pipitpipit11.15 a.m., Peak District, South Yorkshire: A meadow pipit perches on one of the old walls at the ruined farm known as North America overlooking Langsett Reservoir.

wheatearbuzzardA wheatear, the first we’ve seen this spring, perches on a gate post nearby.

As we’re watching a buzzard cruising along down the valley over the reservoir, a red grouse hurries away further up onto the moor, flying almost directly over us. grouseIt’s this rapid, low flight away from perceived danger that makes them so popular as a game bird. I wouldn’t want to shoot them myself, but I realise how much work goes into ensuring that there’s always fresh heather shoots on the moor to bring up the numbers to make shooting viable.

sandpiper sandpiperAs we cross the dam wall a sandpiper touches down on the boulders at the waters edge.

The Dance of the Smooth Newt


smooth newt dance

The tadpoles have gathered in the last remaining patch of sunlight in the corner of the pond, the same corner that the frogs gathered in when they spawned.

A male smooth newt stirs up sediment. He’s enticing a female who has been hidden away amongst the pondweed. He starts wafting his tail towards her then upends as if he’s breakdancing. The pair disappear amongst the vegetation.

Dog Violet

dog-violet85ºF, 29ºC, in the sun, 0% cloud, slightest breeze, pressure, 1034 mb, 30.5 inches

Common Dog-violet, Viola riviniana

We refreshed the wood chip on the paths by the raised bed last autumn so we don’t have lots of violets growing like weeds on it this spring, however these have survived in a crevice between the sandstone blocks on the south-east facing side of the bed, so I hope that they’ll soon start spreading again.

Thanks to the close up photograph that I took of our miniature pansies, I now know that the two white dashes that I can see in the middle of each flower – like a little moustache on its ‘face’ – are the lateral hairs, not stamens or stigmas.

Ripples in Time

rippler marks in sandstoneI’d never noticed this fossil ripple mark in a sandstone block on the raised bed until I noticed the afternoon sun shining on it. The block is nearly a foot across.

fossil ripple marks

It’s the sort of feature that gets astrogeologists exciting when they spot it on photographs of the surface of Mars or on the moons of the major planets as it’s evidence of flowing water (or on Titan it could be flowing liquid methane!).

distributary channelIt’s just a guess but I think that the block is now upside down and that originally this was the edge of a channel through a sandbank. If I’m right, the curve cutting through the rock represents the side of the channel, scoured out by a distributary stream in a river deltadelta and the ripple marks show where, nearer the surface of the flowing water, sediment was redistributed to form the ripples.

These sandstone blocks were in the garden when we moved in and I suspect they came from the old quarry in Coxley Valley which is only a few hundred yards away. In the face of the quarry there are several examples of channels cutting through what were once sand banks.

Rock Pool

rock pool

rock poolSouth Bay, Scarborough, 10.55 a.m., 75°F, 20°C in the sun but a breeze from the sea from the north north-east keeps it pleasant: At last I’ve found my way to a rock pool; I’ve never made it down to this end of South Bay at low tide before. I’m sitting on an outcrop of rock, the upper surface of which is covered in barnacles (but I’ve brought a folding foam pad, so I’m quite comfortable!). Dotted amongst them are limpets, some with small fronds of seaweed attached to the shell.

Scattered about there are winkles, some in crevices, others on exposed edges of the rock which are now in the full glare of the morning sun. The tide should cover them in the next couple of hours.

In this shallow rock pool, which is more like a rock puddle, a few tiny shrimp-like creatures occasionally dart out from beneath the channeled wrack. There’s a small tuft of reddish coralline seaweed in the middle of the pool.

Oliver’s Mount

Oliver's Mountwood pigeonWe’ve never climbed Oliver’s Mount which I sketch from Platform 3, Scarborough station. This afternoon we’ve still got brilliant sunshine with a breeze to cool you down: why are we leaving?!

grey geeseReturn journey: wood pigeons on the unused opposite platform at Seamer station; pair of geese by a farm pond, Vale of Pickering, 2 p.m..

Park Lake

gulls and tufted duckPeasholm Park, Scarborough, North Yorkshire, 12.25 p.m., 55°F, 13°C, 75% cumulus, breeze from north north-west: A pair of tufted ducks float by, ‘sleeping’ and preening.

A herring gull goes into its bathing routine: wings held out, it dips its head and spreads water over its back.

On the sunny side of the pagoda roof of the floating bandstand seventeen herring gulls are snoozing, all facing into the prevailing breeze.

High tide, North Bay, Scarborough.
High tide, North Bay, Scarborough.

Herring Gull Mating

  1. South Bay, near the lifeboat station, 3.30 p.m. (top of page, bottom right sketches): A herring gull is standing on the beach apparently just watching the world go by. It starts calling, the laughing cry that instantly conjures up a picture of a seaside town for me when I hear it in a radio play.gulls mating
  2. A   second gull flies down and the first calls at it as if in greeting, but perhaps with a degree of agitation – ‘and where have you been?!’. The second bird responds with a head nod.
  3. The pair see off a rival.
  4. There’s a mating, a successful mating, I guess. It’s the female who has been waiting on the beach.
  5. The female waggles her rear end. The male leaves first, then the female.

It reminds me of a 1980 book, The Golden Turkey Awards, featuring what were affectionately judged to be the worst ever movies. It included a close up of two sea gulls with the caption ‘One of the steamy love scenes from Jonathan Livingston Seagull.’

Bullfinches on Blossom

Church FentonDewsbury station, 9.45 a.m., 69°F, 20°C: As we wait for our train on platform 2, the south-east facing stone embankment is a sun trap this morning. A fresh looking peacock butterfly basks on the wall. large whiteOur first large whites, two of them, flutter over the blossoming shrubs. House sparrows chirrup and argue in the cover of the neatly trimmed laurel. A female blackbird disappears into a dense growth of ivy. She doesn’t seem to be plucking at berries so perhaps she has a nest hidden there. A wren sings lustily from the shrubs. peacockAbove, a grey squirrel climbs a eucalyptus, its grey green foliage contrasts with a clear, deep blue sky.

lapwingScarborough train, Church Fenton, 10.25 a.m.: The floods have subsided but some of the fields in the Vale of York are still sodden; three lapwings stand at the edge of a pool in a ploughed field. I glimpse a llama as we pass a farm.

dogs mercuryIn woodlands near Malton wood anemone is still in flower; there are pale yellow patches of primroses on the embankment; a few bluebells are starting to show and there’s lots of dogs mercury.

buzzard, Vale of Pickering

A heron stands in a marshy field; a buzzard flies over the Vale of Pickering. Cloud is building as we head to the coast.

Peasholm Park

bullfinch1.35 p.m., 45°F, 8°C, dropping cooler as it clouds over: Two bullfinches make a thorough job of nibbling the blossom buds on a small tree that overhangs the path in a quiet side valley in the woodland at Peasholm Park. I say quiet but a chaffinch sings an emphatically chirpy song, and a chiff-chaff is calling. Wood pigeon and great tit join in occasionally.

Marine Drive

redshank0416redshank4162.35 p.m., 50°F, 10°C, breeze from west north-west: A redshank sits out the high tide, perching on a boulder by the sea wall on Marine Drive, keeping its reddish bill tucked under its wing


Lapwing Meadow

lapwingteal2The flood has subsided since I drew the Strands, a field between the river and the canal, a month or two ago. Two pairs teal are disturbed as we walk by; a heron stalks patiently amongst the rushes; and a pair of lapwing seem to be considering nesting on an open stretch of the field exposed by the retreating water. There’s another single lapwing not far away.

tealChiff-chaff and willow warbler are singing from trees and bushes alongside the canal.

heronA hirundine flies over the canal; we don’t get a brilliant view but we don’t spot any tail streamers and it then starts making a chirruping call which we’re familiar with from previous years: house martinit’s our first house martin of the year.

Rosy Garlic

rosy garlicRosy garlic, Allium roseum, is one of the ‘perfect for pollinators’ collection of bulbs that we planted in the autumn. It is edible but is said to be so strong that it deters deer and squirrels, so perhaps I should plant some around the bird feeders!


bitter-cressbitter-cress3.50 p.m., 45ºF, 7ºc, light drizzle, overcast: We’re getting so ahead with our garden this spring that, if I want to draw a weed, I need to go down behind the greenhouse and even then there’s not much to see so far. The bitter-cress is quick off the mark, growing and setting its seeds ahead of most of the other garden weeds. This looks like hairy bitter-cress, but to be sure I’d have to count the number of stamens (it has six).

bitter-cress flower

View from Bagden Hall hotel, Scissett.
View from Bagden Hall hotel, Scissett.

There are five opposite pairs of leaflets on each pinnate leaf. It’s growing in disturbed, rather clayey ground alongside chicory, cleavers and chickweed. It’s only the bitter-cress that has burst into flower.

As it was drizzling, I used pencil and crayons for my quick sketch of the bitter-cress.