Having tried out the process, I’m looking forward to improving my skills and uploading something a bit more substantial.
It’s hard to believe that the top end of Newmillerdam Country Park was ever as open as this. Richard Brook photographed the upper end of the lake from the end of the Causeway on Sunday, 9 September, 1973. He describes this as the ‘fish hatchery and cleared area’. I remember the slope on the right being birch woodland before it was clear-felled and, like Richard, I took photographs here, in my case before the felling started, so I must set about archiving those too.
But for the time being, I’m taking a break as I’ve now finished the first two boxes of Richard’s slides; there are three still to go. I’m looking forward to more glimpses of familiar habitats as they once were.
As with the Stanley Ferry Flash photograph, Richard returned to the scene, in this case seven years later, on Monday, 26 May, 1980, but this time he’s looking down the lake across what he calls the willow swamp with the Causeway in the background (to me it looks like the lake-shore path in the distance, rather than the Causeway).
Again there’s a bare slope which I believe was as a result of felling conifers which had been planted in the 1960s after the original deciduous woodland had been felled.
Very different from the dense woodland of today.
Against a clear blue sky, the winter sun picks out slashes of creamy white on the top branches of a tall sycamore, which I suspect are the result of grey squirrels stripping the bark. There’s no sign of damage on the adjacent oak but its bark, loaded with tannins, is probably not as nutritious as that of the sycamore.
In the topmost branches of another sycamore, a squirrel leans out to pick off buds from slender twigs which it eats, one after the other: a healthy snack.
In the summer and early autumn, hornets nested in an old ash trunk in the parkland near the Pleasure Grounds. By mid-autumn the trunk had rotted through at the base and come adrift from its roots but it was prevented from falling towards the path by the surrounding stout stems, which had sprung up around it: a natural equivalent of coppice shoots.
Now it has fallen back in the other direction and it lies on the ground. I can’t see the cavity that contained the hornets’ nest – it’s probably hidden on the underside – but all the timber is riddled with tunnels, some of them stuffed with frass, which has set hard like fine-textured chipboard.
The fine cold morning has brought in fieldfares, twenty-five of them. We’ve been expecting them to turn up here on the grassy slopes of the Obelisk Park.
Also back this morning, on a small, partly iced over pool in the corner of a grassy field just beyond the park boundary, are fifty wigeon, which often graze on the short turf here.
Joining the regular great tits, blue tits, coal tits and robins in the lakeside woods is a goldcrest, which, thanks to its size – along with the firecrest, it’s our joint smallest British bird – can inspect the slenderest of twigs.
It settles for a while, looking out over the lake. We rarely get such a good view of a kestrel and I make a mental note of its yellow beak, tipped in black; the tear-drop shaped dark patch beneath its eye; and the russet tan plumage of its back, speckled with dark brown.
Mallards and Mute Swans
One of the two cygnets of the mute swan family on the Middle Lake has now lost the last of its grey feathers. It’s now almost an adult, except for its bill which gives it away as a juvenile: this looks as if that has been given a coat of grey undercoat prior to the final coat of orange, which looks so striking on the adults.
The other cygnet still has a some grey on its back, as do the four cygnets of the swan family on the Lower Lake. They seem to be spending more time away from the adults, this morning at the far end of the side arm of the lake.
Five pink-footed geese have touched down on the Middle Lake at Nostell Priory, but they’ve been spotted.
The cob mute swan of the lake’s resident family increases his speed as he draws nearer to them and the geese appear to be increasingly uneasy.
They soon decide that it’s time to make an exit and they take off heading down the lake, then double back to fly up the lake, heading off in the direction that they appeared from, only fifteen minutes earlier.
The goosanders (in the foreground in my last photograph) don’t get involved.
The cob mute swan has defending his territory uppermost in his mind. He spends a lot of time looking up at the small waterfall where the overflow channel beneath the bridge on the Doncaster Road flows through from the Upper Lake. There’s another family of swans on that lake and I’m sure they’d expand into our resident cob’s territory if they got the chance.
Meanwhile the four cygnets of the Middle Lake family are looking increasingly like adults, with fewer and fewer grey patches. I’m afraid that he will soon want them to move on, so that he and the pen can start raising their next brood.
10.30 a.m.: Most of the mallards and mute swans, along with a female goosander and a female wigeon, have gathered in a patch of open water on sunny side of the frozen Lower Lake at Nostell but increasing numbers of mallard are making their way to the corner near Sheep Bridge, where there’s a chance that visitors might feed them.
Not wanting to be left out, the resident swan family starts making its way over, keeping close to the shore where the ice is thinnest.
I think that it’s the male, the cob, that is taking the lead, pushing through the ice. He’s the larger of the pair and has a thicker a neck than the female.
Males have a larger knob on their bills than the females but I can’t see much of a difference between the two. Perhaps this is something that becomes more pronounced as spring, and the mating season, arrives.
You could imagine The Lady of the Lake emerging with Excalibur from the Lower Lake at Nostell Priory this morning. There’s a mist hanging over it, which melts away as we walk along the shore. In the shade of the trees, ice still covers half of the surface but it’s covered by a film of water so that mallards can stand about in groups in the middle of the lake.
Most of the Middle Lake is ice-free and eight drake goosanders have gathered in the middle of it, probably accompanied by as many females, but it’s difficult to make a definitive count as at any time one or more of them is likely to be underwater.
As we stand on the top of the banking, trying to count them, I’m aware that the lake’s resident pink-footed goose has started swimming towards us. As I lower my binoculars, I’m astonished to find that it’s waddling along beside us. While we were counting goosanders it must have walked up the near vertical banking!
The track edges on the middle section of our walk from Leaplish to Tower Knowle look like illustrations from a field guide with a greater variety of wild flowers than you’d find many nature reserves.
Greater knapweed with its stout stemmed, wine-glass sized purple thistle-like flowers is the most impressive but there’s such a variety of colour and shape: pink ragged robin; yellow vetches and buttercups and mauve cranesbills but my favourite today has to be the bog asphodel growing in drifts on a boggy slope. I’ve never seen so much of it growing together. It’s small, narrow-petalled palish yellow flowers looks like chain stitch flowers in an embroidery.
I sometimes get the feeling that, rather than drawing a comic strip, I’m acting as production designer and storyboard artist for a big budget movie of The Life of Charles Waterton.
I’ve been watching period dramas such as Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, which is set in the same period and was filmed in Yorkshire on locations that included two Georgian streets in Wakefield which Waterton would have known.
The BBC Films 2012 version of Great Expectations included costumes and scenes that would have been perfect for my comic strip. At the climax of the film there’s a scene on the Thames which had me thinking about the dawn procession of boats across Walton Lake which was arranged for Waterton’s funeral.
In today’s illustration – a premonition of Waterton’s funeral – I tried to suggest dawn light on eddies in the water. The gradation of watercolour from lemon yellow to indigo called for some forward planning. My Winsor & Newton watercolour box didn’t have enough divisions in the palette for all the colours, so I moved on to another box for the French ultramarine and indigo.
A perfect September morning to walk around Langsett Reservoir; through the conifer plantations, across the river Little Don and up onto the moor.
Not such a restful day for the red grouse and the brown trout though. The gamekeepers and beaters were getting in place (you might spot them moving through the trees on one of the shots of the river) to wave flags while walking across the moor whooping and hollering, accompanied by their dogs, driving the grouse towards the guns.
We hurried across the moor before they started and missed out on our coffee stop at the ruined farm known as North America, pausing instead by a lichen-covered rock overlooking the stream on the far side of the moor.
A student in full-length waders emerged from the stream. He explained that he was from the University of Hull, setting up a project to monitor the movements of brown trout by tagging them and installing a couple of electronic sensors, one where the stream runs into the lake, the other further upstream.
Unfortunately my recordings of natural sounds – running water, bird calls and the wind in the heather – were interrupted by the sound of the plastic lens cap, which is attached to the camera by a loop, rattling in the breeze so I’ve added a music track.
My thanks to Silent Partner for making Days are Long available for use on my YouTube video.
If you’ve got a fast connection, Langsett looks good in HD.
Filmed with my FujiFilm FinePix S6800. The shots that I didn’t use my little ‘Spider’ tripod for needed image stabilisation in iMovie.
Link; Silent Partner on YouTube