Drawing on the New iPad Pro

iPad Pro sketch

We were at Meadowhall today, so I couldn’t resist calling in the Apple Store to try drawing on the new iPad Pro with the new Apple Pencil (the old Apple Pencil isn’t compatible with the new iPad).

It feels as if there’s no delay between the movement of the pencil and the line appearing: apparently they’ve got it down to just a few milliseconds. And they’ve also added a little bit of resistance, presumably to the tip of the pencil, to try to reduce the feeling that you’re drawing on glass.

In the very basic drawing program in Apple Notes, the colour I selected felt like using a large chisel-ended marker pen, but I think the sketches of passing shoppers that I made with the program’s virtual felt-tip pen produced results that would be difficult to distinguish from my efforts the real version of the pen.

Look forward to trying it out with Clip Studio Paint.

November Woods

View from Blacker Hall

I always go for the table by the French windows when we call for coffee, and in my case a date scone, at Blacker Hall Farm Shop cafe. The original of this sketch is 2.5 inches, 6 cm, across.

Newmillerdam woods

A few weeks ago we were commenting on how few goosanders we were seeing at Newmillerdam, but today there are twenty or thirty in loose groups scattered across the open water and the reedy narrow section.


Remembering Georgie Wood

G and E Wood
George and his brother Ernest in Woodseats Albion Football Club, 1935-36.
George Wood, on holiday on the Isle of Man, 1937.

George Wood joined up at the same time as my father at the start of World War II.

“They both came around to see us in their uniforms,” my cousin Margaret recalled at a family get-together in Sheffield yesterday, “George was a gunner in the RAF but just a few weeks later he was killed.”

As it’s Remembrance Day, one hundred years since the Armistice that ended World War I, I’m doing a little research into a friend of my father’s who I never got to meet. Continue reading “Remembering Georgie Wood”

Insects on Ivy

wasp on ivyIt’s now twenty years since I started writing this online version of my nature diaries and sketchbooks and I remember my first ever post on my Wild West Yorkshire website included a sketch of wasp visiting the flowers of the ivy.

fly on ivyToday wasps and flies were busy visiting the flowers on next door’s ivy. The clusters of male and female flowers might not be showy but there are plenty of them. The decadent fusty-ness of ivy is a scent that sums up autumn for me, as much as flowering privet does for late summer.

It seems like one last party for the assembled wasps and flies before the onset of winter.


My first blog postInsects on ivy from my first blog post (although the word blog hadn’t been invented then) for Sunday 8 October 1998.

The drawings were scanned from my A5 page-a-day diary and coloured in Photoshop, probably, at that time, using a mouse rather than a graphics pad.

I quickly moved on to drawing in an A4 sketchbook, which saved having to erase the ruled lines in the diary. I didn’t start using watercolour until three months later, which was far less fiddly than adding colour with a mouse.


View from Charlotte's
View from Charlotte’s Ice Cream Parlour, Whitley, on Monday.

We’ve recently started feeding the birds again after taking a break over the summer. This was partly to reseed the bare patch in the lawn trampled by the pheasants that had spent so long pacing about in tight circles below the feeders, pecking at the spilt sunflower hearts but also because two or three small mounds of earth had appeared at the edge of the lawn.

We thought that this might be a sign that brown rats were moving in but a neighbour has since told me that at that time there was a lot of mole activity in his garden, which is the most likely explanation as there were only piles of soil but no sign of any entrance holes.

Today the feeders were visited by coal tits, blue tits, great tits, nuthatch and greenfinch but outnumbering all of them were goldfinches. At one stage all eight perches on the feeders were occupied by them, with another ten on the ground below and six or seven waiting their turn in the branches of the crab apple.

Pigeon Food Pyramid

At breakfast time, a loose flock of wood pigeons flew over the house, followed later by a grey heron, which appeared to be struggling to clear our roof.

Top Predator

Calder & Hebble Navigation at the Strands, Horbury Bridge.

sparrowhawkThis evening down by the canal, a sparrowhawk perched briefly in a tree then flew off on its rounds. I suspect that a sparrowhawk killed the pigeon that we found on our back lawn a few days ago. It’s not going to be short of prey with so many wood pigeons about.

Lichens on Langsett Moor

Cladonia, Langsett

This cladonia lichen was growing in the shelter of the roots of a stump amongst a lush growth of polytrichum moss, by the path that leads up onto the moor at Langsett.

The ‘golf-tee’ shape of the fruiting bodies, with their dusting of flour-like powder is typical of Cladonia fimbriata, which is found on rotting wood, disturbed ground and crevices in walls, particularly amongst mosses.

The powder, known as soredia, is a way of dispersing the lichen as it flakes off the fruiting body. An individual soredium contains a few cells of algae and a few strands of the fungus that together make up the lichen.

Langsett moor

The gritstone alongside the track is mainly lichen-free but a few rocks near the edge of the plantation support some crustose lichen species.

‘Pores in a Ring’

lichen with black sporangia

This grey crustose lichen is dotted with black fruiting bodies. Where the gritstone has been chipped away, the fresher surface is stained red with iron. I’m guessing that the gritty crystals in the dark grey weathered surface around the lichens are quartz, so the surface would be acidic.

I think that this might be a species of Porpidia; the name means ‘pores in a ring’. The pores are the fruiting bodies – the apothecia – which have been described as ‘like wine gums with margins not the same colour as crust’, distinguishing them from other lichens which have fruiting bodies that resemble small ‘jam tarts with margins the same colour as crust’ (quoted from the FSC Guide to Lichens of Heaths and Moors).

Porpidia crustulata is very common on siliceous rocks, such as this millstone grit, but there are similar species, in fact I think that there might be two species in this photograph, as the larger lichen in the top left corner is different in colour and in the pattern of the pores.


crottle on wall

crottle frondThere’s a lush growth of what looks to me like a Parmelia lichen, and I think this is the one known as Crottle, Parmelia saxtalis, a species which has been used to produce a reddish-brown dye.

Grey Crusty Lichen

grey lichen

grey lichenFinally, growing alongside the crottle but not as lushly is this plain grey crustose lichen. I can’t make out any apothecia on its surface, so no ‘wine gums’, ‘jam tarts’ or ‘golf tees’ to help me here.

I should have gone in closer with the macro setting.

Bonfire Moss

moss on wall top

Also on the top of the wall, this moss has white, wiry outgrowths and its reddish-brown sporangia have screwed up, curly stems.

In mosses the stems of the spore capsules are called seta. The bonfire moss, Funaria hygrometrica, is distinctive, with its abundant, swan-neck seta. The British Bryological Society field guide says that this is a common plant that beginners will soon learn to recognise, so I’m pleased to have made a start by identifying it.

Although it is characteristic of old bonfire sites, it will colonise any patch of bare, disturbed nutrient-rich soil. Perhaps here it has colonised a bare patch of the wall top which had initially been colonised by the crottle.

Yellow Brain

orange fungus

orange fungusThis small orange fungus was growing from a conifer stump near the cladonia lichen. I think that this is Yellow Brain, Tremella mesenterica, a common jelly fungus, which appears as knobbly outgrowths before it grows into a brain-like mass. The field guide tells me that it’s commonly found on gorse, hazel, birch, ash,

beech and other woody species.

Crow with Sweet Chestnut

crow with sweet chestnut

fungi on stump
Fungi on stump.

Perching on the iron fence by the Lower Lake at Nostell, a carrion crow is struggling to extract the sweet chestnut nuts from their spiky green casings. Two of the spiny husks have become firmly Velcroed together.


Fungus by woodland path.

The experts at nut gathering are the grey squirrels. They are so intent on burying their cache that you can walk past within a few feet of them and they won’t even bother to look up.

They’ll poke their heads down amongst the leaf litter in several spots in succession. One suggestion is that they’ll dig several ‘fake’ holes which they’ll leave nothing in, to confuse any rival squirrel that might be watching them.

The Pleasure Grounds by the Lower Lake are the most popular with squirrels, not just because of the sweet chestnuts but also because no dogs are allowed. Up by the Obelisk Lodge we’d seen a dog walker we know chasing her dog along the cycles-only path.

“She’d seen a squirrel,” she explained, “They’ll stand there, deliberately teasing the dog!”

We think that we saw the squirrel that the dog had chased. It dashed at a frantic pace across the driveway beyond the Obelisk Lodge and shot into the bushes, which resulted in a startled cock pheasant bursting out, grockling in alarm.

Some squirrels do seem to egg on the dogs. In the park, one spaniel was barking in frustration and straining on its lead but the squirrel it had spotted was on the other side of the electric fence (and probably knew that it could scamper about with impunity).

Cirrus and con trails

There’s a windy swirl of low pressure, the remnants of ex-Hurricane Oscar, approaching across the Atlantic. Over to the west we can see a distant bank of cloud but here it’s sunny and still with wisps of cirrus and streaks of con trails against the blue sky.

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Wood Pigeon CSI

wood pigeon

sparrowhawkWhen we arrived home yesterday afternoon, we found a wood pigeon casualty on the back lawn, with a scattering of small downy feathers around it. A few moments later, Barbara spotted a bird of prey, probably a sparrowhawk, flying over the houses on the other side of the road, so perhaps we had disturbed it as we returned.

pigeon quill

In a sparrowhawk kill, there should be marks on the quills where the sparrowhawk has grasped the feather with its bill. Most of the feathers were too flimsy for this to show but on two of the larger feathers there were traces of marks.

It’s not conclusive but I think that sparrowhawk is most likely. We’ve had a cat visiting the garden that lurks in the flower border then pounces on the birds that have gathered around the feeding pole. We’ve yet to see it catch a bird but two days ago it chased a grey squirrel up the crab apple.

squirrelThe squirrel had to escape by leaping from the top branches into next door’s garden.

Sparrow Nestbox

Photographed, then drawn (well, I admit it, traced!) and coloured in Clip Studio Paint, on my iPad Pro, using an Apple Pencil.

First visitor to our new sparrow nest box: a blue tit. It checks out hole number three first; no, that’s not quite right; then hole number two and it’s just about to investigate hole number one when a second blue tit appears, there’s a skirmish and off they fly.

It’s likely that, as this RSPB box was made specifically for sparrows, the blue tits will find the entrance hole a little too wide for their liking but the old box, single-holed variety, attracted blue tits one year, sparrows the next (and finally bumblebees), so we’ll have to wait until springtime to find out who finally takes possession.


RSPB sparrow terrace nestbox