Sunday, 30 June 2013

Knee Deep in June

"Tell you what I like the best --
'Long about knee-deep in June,
'Bout the time strawberries melts
On the vine, -- some afternoon
Like to jes' git out and rest,
And not work at nothin' else!"

-  James Witcomb Riley, Knee Deep in June~

Shots from our Home and Garden 

With balmy temperatures reaching 20C and intermittent rain, everything in the garden just went whoosh. Everything was so green and lush and overgrown. Bright colours bloomed and sprouted from every nook and cranny, nature seeking a toehold in every opportunity which presents itself. I’d to keep up with the mowing, hoeing, weeding, dead-heading, watering. I’ve already harvested the rewards of my labour. For the past 2 weeks, I’ve picked spinach, chard, lettuce, chives and rocket daily to put in my sandwiches and salads. Nothing taste as delicious as something which you have grown yourself. I’m still waiting for the artichokes, tomatoes, sweet corn, curly kale, courgettes, figs, blueberries, leeks, broad and dwarf beans. I have never eaten artichokes before and looking forward to try them out.Shots from our Home and Garden

“He who plants a garden plants happiness

~Chinese proverb~

Shots from our Home and Garden

June was the month of the red rose. The red rose was the symbol of love. The roses in the garden have begun to unfold their tender velvet hearted blossoms. They were looking very lush at the moment … with beautiful big blooms and lots of buds filled with promises to come. They lifted their pretty heads and entwined the arch. By next year, it might cover the structure. I couldn’t wait. Oh how wonderful it will be when they cover the whole arch and we can walk through a golden tunnel, very pretty and fragrant. And the aroma???  Shots from our Home and Garden

“Won’t you come into the garden? I would like my roses to see you.”

~Richard Brinsley Sheridan~

 Shots from our Home and Garden

We started the week with the Warwick Students Art Festival, one of the largest student run arts festival in Europe. An exciting assortment of events was laid out during the 4 days extravanga where spectators were entertained, enthralled and amazed by what they could experience. The festival aimed to showcase the depth and breadth of talent within the arts here in Warwick University. From Street-dance to Symphonies and Salsa to Sonnets, there was something for everyone to enjoy. It was a coup that the first day of the festival coincided with the Undergraduate Open Day. A wonderful way to show prospective parents and students about extra-curricular activities the University offers.Shots from our Home and Garden

During my lunch break, I joined the hundreds in the Piazza for a mind-blowing performance from the Warwick World Music Group, a unique fusion music group. I am a great fan of world music which was a musical category encompassing many different styles of music from around the world, including traditional music, quasi-traditional music, and music where more than one cultural tradition intermingle. On the Big Screen, Andy Murray was on centre court playing against Benjamin Becker of Germany. There was so much to see and the weather was just fantastic.Shots from Warwick University The next day, SLA joined me at the Piazza for another performance from the Drumming Society. It was much cooler than yesterday but we still had a wonderful time being entertained by 2 wonderful drummers while having our lunch. On the Big Screen, Novak Djokovic was on centre court playing against Frederick Mayer of Germany. It was tough to drag our feet back to work. In the evening, as I waited for the bus, the Wind Orchestra Small Bands took their turn on stage. Staff and students were slowly gathering around the Piazza, bathed in the glorious evening sun. What a lovely way to unwind after a hard day at work.Shots from Warwick University 

This week was Nisfu Sya’ban or the Ides of Sya’ban, the 15th day of the 8th month (Sha’ban) of the Islamic lunar calendar.  It was a clear indicator that the blessed month of Ramadan was around the corner and we should start preparing for it. During this month, Muslims were encouraged to perform special prayers in the hopes of obtaining blessings and forgiveness from Allah (SWT) and to fast. On the evening, it was a common practice to recite the Surah Yassin after the Maghrib prayers, followed by special doa or prayers. One of the historical event during this month was the event in which the ‘kiblat’ was moved from Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem to the Ka’abah in Mecca. May the coming days witness a positive change in our community, and ourselves. Amen.

Our resident hedgehog had been coming regularly into the garden. I always leave the porch door open until it was time for me to go to bed. I could hear him scultering and shuffling around the garden, sometimes snorting as it foraged about. A ‘gardener’s friend’, he eats slugs, beetles, caterpillars etc and he was just adorable to have around. He was free to roam about and he has a huge stack of leaves and branches at the bottom of the garden to call home.Shots from our Home and Garden

Hedgehogs were in serious decline. Their numbers had been freefalling for some time and the latest reports painted a very depressing picture for our iconic and only native spiny mammal. Please don’t let the hedgehog go the way of other wildlife, animals and birds that were once common and now a rare sighting. It wasn’t going to be the government or large organisation initiatives. It was going to be up to us, the ‘little people’, the thousands of garden ‘land owners’ that by making small changes, we can made a difference for this truly lovely mammal.Shots from our Home and Garden

“I am in luv wid a hedgehog
I've never felt this way before
I have luv fe dis hedgehog
An everyday I luv her more an more,
She lives by de shed
Where weeds and roses bed
An I just want de world to know
She makes me glow.
I am in luv wid a hedgehog
She's making me hair stand on edge,
So in luv wid dis hedgehog

Shots from our Home and Garden
An her friends
Who all live in de hedge
She visits me late
An eats off Danny's plate
But Danny's a cool tabby cat
He leaves it at dat.
I am in luv wid a hedgehog,
She's gone away so I must wait
But I do miss my hedgehog
Everytime she goes to hibernate

~Benjamin Zephaniah, Luv Song~

My  colleagues and I sat down for another departmental meeting. AM baked brownies and CC made florentines to wake us through the afternoon. It was greatly appreciated. ST was invited to talk about the redesign of the library website which received a lot of queries from GLW regarding the ‘Search’ button. Thanks ST for keeping us informed on what was going on. SH then updated us on the Competency Framework, Service Review, Digital Preservation Officer post, Reclassification project and the coming CIG-RDA pop-up show. Then the other team members turn. SLA on ResearchMatch, GLW on WorldShare, JG on ContentDM and CC on Get Started and Go Further. Well done to the team for working on such an impressive projects.

We’d another party this week. This time to say goodbye and good luck to LF who was retiring after 24 years of service. Wow…We were going to miss her very much. I got to know her very well because we were members of the Library Working Group for International Students. The party room was decorated with balloons, banners and streamers. And the table, not one but 2 groaning with scrumptious food, mostly home-baked. It was yummy. We’d a lovely time polishing them. We wish you the best LF. Shots from Warwick University

The bird-feeder was busy as usual. Our feathered birds reward us with songs and photographic opportunities.  We loved to watch them as they flit back and forth from the hedges to the feeders. The Starlings were cheeky, bossy and bold while the House Sparrows simply hang back. The Wood Pigeons and Collared Doves would wait patiently by the fence. The Magpies would look on from the top of the Elderflower tree. Dunnocks, Robins and Blackbirds would be on the ground, waiting for fallen scraps. The Blue and Great Tits would fly in and out, snatching bits here and there. Just like humans, they come in different shapes, sizes and personalities.Shots from our Home and Garden

“Hear how the bids, on ev’ry blooming spray

With joyous musick  wake the dawning day”

~Alexander Pope~

We ended glorious June with a trip to our favourite playground on the hottest day of the year so far. Britain basked in the warmest day of the year with temperatures reaching 27C. It was so hot that the natives were taking cover in the shade. They must think that we were loco to be out and about. A handsome, bright Bullfinch was feeding at the bird-feeder beside the visitor centre. Common Spotted Orchids were sprouting along the swampy areas by the entrance. Brandon Marsh - HotWe spotted this Swallow taking a breather from the heat under the eaves. We walked through the woods to keep cool. The footpath was covered with nettles because quite a few trees had been cut down. Sunshine had reached the undergrowth. It was very quiet as we made our way through the thick undergrowth. We went straight to Steely Hide because the Kingfishers had been seen flying in and  fishing here. We stayed for about 2 hours but they forgot to turn up.Brandon Marsh - Hot and humidWe were still entertained by a Coot ferrying reeds for nesting. It must be for a 2nd or perhaps 3rd brood because we’d seen another parent chasing off a juvenile away. A pair of Whitethroat was flirting about hunting for food. A tern came flying in and out, fishing furiously. We saw plenty of fishes swimming lazily in the pool. A Blue Dragonfly was busy patrolling the pool. A Sparrow-hawk flew onto a nearby tree but didn’t stay long.Brandon Marsh - Hot and humid We left as the hide became a heated tin can. The hide, too, was beginning to fill up. Along the path, Yellow irises were beginning to bloom, adding  colour to the green and lush surroundings. We spotted Chris trying to photograph a Comma and joined him. He told us about his trip to Pembrokeshire, especially to Skomer. I’m soo jealous. We didn’t stay long as the midges were beginning to eat us alive!! When we left the reserve, a Pied wagtail flew onto the visitor centre’s roof and chirped good-bye.Brandon Marsh - Hot and humid

It had been a fabulous June.  It was hard to believe that June was nearly spent and July knocking on the doorstep. May July continue the same way. Shots from our Home and Garden 

“Sweetest daughter of the year

Smiling June, I hail thee here.

hail thee with thy skies of blue,

Days of sunshine, nights of dew.

Hail thee with thy songs and flowers,

Balmy air, and leafy bowers,

Bright and fragrant, fresh and clear,

Smiling June, I hail thee here”

~Henry Francis Lyte~


Shots from our Home and Garden

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Dancing in the Dark with The Boss

Bruce Springsteen came to town this week. Signs about delays and congestions were dotted around the main routes into the Ricoh Arena. At first, I thought of taking the afternoon off. I remembered about 7 years ago when we first moved to Coventry and Bon Jovi came to town. It took us 2.5 hours to reach our casa when normally it was only 30 minutes. Never again. Now, everytime there was a concert at the Ricoh, I’ll either take the afternoon off or leave early. But this time, I left at the usual time and headed to the opposite direction, to our favourite playground for a late evening stroll. Brandon Marsh - A twilight visit

But first, I spent the afternoon working and listening to the Boss on You Tube while watching the students dolled up in their  finest glad rags walking past my window. I’m brilliant at multi-tasking :-). It was raining and they were shivering while waiting for their coach to take them to their summer ball in Birmingham to dance the night away. I checked out what they were wearing and frankly, I wasn’t impressed. There was no va-va-voom. They were in their early twenties and should dressed to kill but …They should have seen the school leavers prom. Some of the clothes were really over the top but still jaw-dropping.

I made coffee at work while Babe brought some munchies and a cold drink for our rendezvous. There were still a few cars in car-park. The natives were having a final sing-song and dance before they settled for the night. Dozens of Greylags were cruising in the Goose Pool, biding time before flying off to roost elsewhere. At Baldwin Hide, the Oyster-catchers had moved back to the main island. Earlier during the week, Babe had photographed only 2 chicks and they looked like a mini version of their parents. I could see them on the island but it was a bit far for a good photograph. I do hope they make it to adulthood. Brandon Marsh - Hot and humid

It was raining as we walked to East Marsh Hide. We’d our coffee to warm our cockles, ate chocolate bars and enjoyed fresh strawberries. Yum…yum. A Redshank was busy feeding on the mudbanks. We spotted a Sedge Warbler and Whitethroat dancing in and out of the reed-beds still hunting for food. We could hear the young chicks chirping noisily, begging for food. We saw not once but twice, a flash of blue making a quick flypast in front of the hide. It was lovely to see the Kingfisher again.Brandon Marsh - A twilight visit

In between showers, we dashed to Carlton Hide. We were hoping to see the otters but not tonight. A Hobby flew onto the dead tree and went to sleep!!! Sedge warblers were busy hunting for food among the reeds. A Goldfinch entertained us with his melodious evening songs. 2 families of Canada Geese popped out of the reed-beds with their fluffy young goslings and swam past us. They were finding a safe place to roost for the night. We saw at least a dozen fish, Tench perhaps, spawning furiously. It was amazing to see them trying to outdo each other. Brandon Marsh - A twilight visit

We left at about 9.30 pm and arrived at the casa at 10 pm. The party was still going strong at the Ricoh and I bet the hordes were treated to a consummate display of glorious songs and adrenalin-pumping showmanship. We could hear the roar of appreciation from the crowd. I switched on the local radio station and Dancing in the Dark was on. Co-incidence or what?? I bopped while warming the ostrich burgers that I bought at the market day in the University. SLA and I checked them out during our lunch break and I bought the ostrich burgers and freshly-picked strawberries. Not many stalls were set up and there were too many burger stalls. My verdict on the burgers? Both of us weren’t keen on the taste. Would I buy the kangaroo burgers? I don’t think so. I don’t really fancy eating Skippy :-).Shots from Warwick University

My week started with uploading the e-books into the library system, making sure they met my very high standards and then linking them to the appropriate publisher’s website. I was into my 10th record when I noticed a few discrepancies. Something was not right. There seemed to be 2 different links to the same bibliographic record. I made an enquiry and found that the library had purchased a new platform called EBL Patron Acquisition without warning me first. Typical … The person, moi, whose job was to make these books available on the catalogue was the last to know. After a few tinkerings here and there, I was finally able to proceed. It had been a looong day.

Thankfully, I was able to de-stress by really bashing the rounders bat. Hit Squad had another match and we were playing against Stuck at First Base. What a fancy name. We’d another new team member and he played well to earn a place in a team. So well, that he used his tummy to stop a ball. Ouch … It was a lovely evening for a game of rounders but we lost again, ????. The opposite team had an advantage against us. One of their members played for the England team. But we learnt a lot from watching her play. And we need more practise on our throw and catch. Shots from Warwick University - Rounders league

I only knew about the Protect the Public University (PPU) protest when I read about it on the BBC website. A room of the Senate House building had been occupied by a group students to protest against the “privatisation and marketisation “ of higher education. It had been going on since last Friday and it was kept very hush-hush. They’d outlined 8 “objectives” including that the VC gave up his £42K pay rise and used it to fund a bursary for local students. The authorities were hoping to contain the protest but it was simply impossible in a savvy social media world and soon the major newspapers picked the news. I kept up to date with the news ping-ponging from the protest group and the university authorities. At first, it was treated as a splash in the pan but as more and more major newspapers highlighted the protest, it became a bit nasty. The last straw was when the PG Hub which was attached to Senate House was closed, depriving students from using the facilities.Shots from Warwick University

The protest continued on during the Undergraduate Open Days. The University opened its doors to more than 8k people on Friday and Saturday. As cross-campus events, the Open days involved all academic and service departments showcasing their work at pre-booked events with many facilities available for drop-in sessions during these days. The University buzzed with prospective students and families as they checked out what the university had to offer. Shots from Warwick University

At the Piazza, the Big Screen had been installed onto the side of the Rootes Building. A wide and varied stream of content for the campus community and visitors were shown as well as entertainment by the Brass band. Outside the Arts Centre, the Warwick Glee group were wooing the passerby’s with their impressive Accapela songs. And opposite them, was the tent city. The PPU group had set up camp to highlight their causes with teach-ins and rallies. They also handed out information to parents and prospective students and explained the objectives of their protest. I wasn’t pleased with the presence of burly security guards patrolling the grounds. It was another way of intimidating anyone who got close to the group.Shots from Warwick University

It was also the Summer solstice, a signal to celebrate summer. It marked the longest day of the year. Then early dawns. Long days. Late sunsets. Short nights. The sun at its height each day, as it crossed the sky. This year’s solstice stood out because it was followed shortly by the largest “supermoon” of the year. In the early hours of Sunday, June 23rd, the moon officially reached its full phase and was closest to Earth all year. And guess what, I missed it. I kicked myself !!!

As the wheel turned, here’s a Wiccan blessing  for this midsummer day

As the sun spirals its longest dance,

Cleanse us

As nature shows bounty and fertility

Bless us

Let all the things live with loving intent

And to fulfil their truest destiny 

To celebrate the new season, we went for our 2nd. trip to bird city at Bempton Cliffs. Although morning showers were forecasted with heavier afternoon downpours and a band of Atlantic rain hitting in the evening, we were hoping to arrive in time for the “occasional” brighter spells. It was 16C in the car when we left Coventry and drove through dry, sunny spells with a few scattered showers. Looked promising when we drove through countryside that had turned to gold with fields of rapeseed especially against a backdrop of clear blue skies. Roadtrip Bempton Cliffs RSPB

After 3 hours, we finally arrived at one of our favourite playgrounds. And as usual we weren’t alone. The car-park was nearly full and we’d to park in a puddle at first. We’d just missed a thunderstorm by the looked of it. After freshening up and using the facilities, Babe spotted an empty space very close to the visitor centre and quickly moved the car. We met 2 BMNR regulars who’d been here earlier and was soaked. We’d a little natter and KOB told me where the Puffins were. Woop…woop. I couldn’t wait but of course, we’d to photograph these curious Tree sparrows who were checking us out from the roof top.Bempton Cliffs RSPB

The air was still full of song as we walked down towards Bartlett Nab. As we got closer to the cliffs, a cacophony of noise greeted us along with the overpowering aroma from thousands of fish-eating birds guano. Gannets were still criss-crossing the sky, either two-ing and fro-ing from hunting missions at sea or gathering grasses for nest-buildings. After a slow start, the breeding season was finally in full swing. Most species were at least two or three weeks late breeding.Bempton Cliffs RSPB

We’d to braved very strong winds as we walked towards Jubilee Corner and it was worth every penny. I’d to squeeze myself onto the platform as some of the visitors were reluctant to budge. And I know why? It was Puffins paradise. Once you know where to look, these Common Puffins were appearing from every rock crevices that was not occupied. My oh my …I’d a permanent smile on my face and rattled hundreds of photographs. It was amazing to watch them interact with each other as one flies in another flies out. Bempton Cliffs RSPB

“Every puffin we see tonight is a miracle”

Stephen Kress~

Bempton Cliffs RSPB

Unlike other sites that nest in burrows, these Atlantic Puffins (Fratercula arctica) nest in rock crevices,. For this reason, it was relatively difficult to get a close view of them. The curious appearance of these adorable birds, with its brightly coloured bill during the breeding season and its striking piebald plumage, had given rise to nicknames such as '"clown of the ocean" and "sea rooster". Together with their comical, waddling walk, it was very difficult not to feel cheered by the sight of puffins. It was the only puffin species found in the Atlantic Ocean.  Bempton Cliffs RSPB

There Once Was a Puffin

Oh, there once was a Puffin
Just the shape of a muffin,
And he lived on an island
In the bright blue sea!

Bempton Cliffs RSPB

He ate little fishes,
That were most delicious,
And he had them for supper
And he had them for tea.

~Florence Page Jaques~

Apart from the Puffins, we scanned the towering white chalk cliffs to see if any extra-ordinary activities were taking place. True gulls of the open sea, Kittiwakes were cutting through the sea breeze with their shrill ‘kitti-waaark kitti-waaark’ calls. They were still sitting on nests. They seemed to be having a particularly late breeding year, and had only recently begun to lay eggs. We wondered whether the clutch sizes might be smaller than average this year as they limit the effort they put into breeding.Bempton Cliffs RSPB

We also spotted a pair of Gannets courting. It was an amazing ritual to watch as they raised their beaks upwards and their bodies forming a perfect point. This was known as ‘sky pointing’. After this introduction, they delicately preened each other, affectionate bonding with displays of bill-fencing  and, wallah, started mating. After they’d calmed down, a set of neighbours began to argue. Jealous, I bet. And what an argument. They locked bills, wings flapping, trying to twist and topple their opponents. Thankfully, the spat was short-lived.Bempton Cliffs RSPB

As we made our way back, we spotted another pair of Puffin chilling on a ledge, surrounded by nesting Kittiwakes and ranks of Guillemots. While photographing the pair, Babe spotted that the Guillemot was shielding a very fluffy chick. The chick was squashed between the cliff face and its parents on a very precipitous cliffs. What a risky start to life. This chick looked like it was ready to leave the nest. They jumped into the sea only half-grown and once landed, find their male parent and swim together for a month before the chick goes its own way. Bempton Cliffs RSPB

We also noticed that there were no Razorbills nesting. Have they already hatched? Although we noticed a few flocks bobbing up and down in the sea below us. We were also pleased to see a pair of Fulmar nesting. Looking like gulls, they’d grey wings with pale patches in the primaries. The whiteness of their bodies and relative thickness of their head gave them the nickname of “flying milk bottles”. I wished another bird would get closer so that I could see them defending the nest. They launched an evil-smelling stream of stomach oils from their throats when attacked. To photograph this would be amazing but not today.Bempton Cliffs RSPB

The Grandstand was packed. I don’t blame them. Bempton Cliffs was a dream destination for bird watchers  and especially photographers as it provided endless opportunities to capture the constant action on and around the cliffs.  From here, we could see stunning views of towering white chalk cliffs that vistas right down the coastline with dramatic waves crashing against the bottom of the cliffs. Together with the amazing sight of thousands of birds flying everywhere against the backdrop of precipitous cliffs and the open North Sea. From here, you can see Flamborough Head to the south-east and Scarborough Bay to the north.Bempton Cliffs RSPB

We headed back to the car for lunch and spotted these Tree Sparrows having a bath in one of the puddles. We ate our sandwiches, washed down with lovely hot coffee while watching these adorable birds having a splash.Bempton Cliffs RSPB

“In simple suit of russet brown

I thus am daily dressed,

While other birds on me look down;

Yet I’ve a peaceful breast.

No envy for the loud and gay

Shall e’er my bosom harrow;

More lowly, I’m more blest than they,

A fearless, trustful sparrow!’

~Hannah Flagg Gould~

Then we continued our adventure. At the New Roll-up, the heavens opened. We were well-prepared and stood close to each other to shield from the rain and strong winds. Thankfully, it was only a cloud burst and the sun came out again. Here was Gannet territory and hundreds were gliding and soaring. Some flew so close to where we were standing that we were literally eye-ball to eyeball and felt the rush of wind as their six-foot wide spread of the wingspan fluttered past us.  What a gorgeous pale apricot colour head with blue eyes thickly ringed in black like a burlesque dancer. Bempton Cliffs RSPB

“Thou art clothed on with plumes, as with leaves,

Frond-like, and lighter than air;

Thy pinions are arrows in sheaves.

That carry thee none knoweth where

~Edith Matilda Thomas (1854-1925) ‘The Life of a Bird’~

Bempton Cliffs RSPB

As we got closer to Staple Newk view point, the incessant sound of the ‘cackling ‘ call of the Gannets greeted us. We peered down onto the arch and saw nests decorated with fishing nets were everywhere. Sitting in them were Gannets, just a pecking distance apart from each other. We slowly scanned the birds and finally we spotted a fluffy chick sitting beside its parent. We were hoping to see more but it wasn’t to be. Still pleased  to see one.

Bempton Cliffs RSPB

“I am watching the white gannets blaze down into the water

With the power of blunt spears and a stunning accuracy--

Even though the sea is riled and boiling and gray with fog

And the fish are nowhere to be seen”

~Mary Oliver (1935- )~

Bempton Cliffs RSPB

Then it was time to head home. Dark clouds were dancing towards the mainland and we don’t want to get caught in the Atlantic rain that was predicted to hit the area. We still had a long drive home. It had been a long day for us and a lovely end to the week.

"Spring being a tough act to follow,
God created June."
-  Al Bernstein ~

Bempton Cliffs RSPB

Friday, 7 June 2013


“My, oh my what a wonderful day

Plenty of sunshine heading my way

Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, zip-a-dee-ay”

The Disney classic song from Song of the South film summed up this day perfectly. We’d plenty of sunshine. After the coldest spring for 50 years, the summer month of June had a lot to make up for when it arrived. And it didn’t disappoint, ushering in warm temperatures and clear skies across the UK. Dry weather with delicious spells of long,crisp, twinkling sunshine. It was often said that there was no more beautiful thing on earth than a sunny day in Ole Blighty, and a sunny June day in England had to be the best thing of all. It was worth dropping everything and going out and lapping up the sunshine.  Roadtrip Paxton Pits - Shots from the car 

In fields across the country rapeseed or oilseed rape (Brassica napus) and buttercups were in full bloom, turning huge swathes of the rural countryside with great swathes and sheets of gold, stunning bright, vibrant  and yellow. They added much needed colour to the green patchwork of gleaming green fields with sheep and horses grazing under the sun. Very pretty, although I know those who suffer from pollen allergies won’t agree with me. But, hey, I do suffer hay fever. Itchy, watery eyes, runny nose … you name it, I have it. And I still enjoy these lovelies …Roadtrip Paxton Pits - Shots from the car

“Blessed the Lord for the Beauty of summer and spring, for the air, the water, the verdure, and the song of birds.”

~Carl von Linnacus~

On such a lovely day, we went for an hour drive to Paxton Pits Nature Reserve in Cambridgeshire. One of Brandon regulars, GH, mentioned that he was going to check this place out and we thought we might as well do the same. It was 20C in the car and it was only 10am. The GPS took us on a different route to what we were expecting and the 79 miles took about 1 hour 25 minutes driving in the glorious sunshine. Paxton Pits - hot day

After freshening up, exchanging pleasantries with the friendly wardens and purchasing a brochure, we checked out the grounds of the visitors’ centre. A Jay made an appearance at the bird-feeder and according to the warden, this was the first time he saw a Jay feeding at the feeder. The usual Reed buntings, Green finches, Chaffinches, Great and Blue Tits were also taking turns on the bird table. We checked the pond full of sun-bathing frogs and Smooth Newts hiding among the broad-leaved pondweed. We spotted these scarecrows in situ, taking part in the annual Little Paxton Scarecrow Festival. Paxton Pits - hot day

Paxton Pits was a 77 hectares of lakes, meadow, grassland, scrub and woodland. We decided to walk along the muddy Meadow trail first. Speckled Woods fluttered about in the dappled shade of the woodland edge bedecked with white flowers of the Hawthorn blossoms and pinkish Dog roses. Common Blue settled on the Buttercups. The meadows was a sea of yellow as far as the eye could see. These were managed as a hay meadow. Grazed by cows and then cut for hay encouraged a variety of wildflowers. Paxton Pits - hot day

I often roam a minute from the path
Just to luxuriate on the new mown swath
& stretch me at my idle length along
Hum louder oer some melody or song
While passing stranger slackens in his pace
& turns to wonder what can haunt the place
Unthinking that an idle ryhmster lies
Buried in the sweet grass & feeding phantasys
This happy spirit of the joyous day
Stirs every pulse of life into the play
Of buoyant joy & extacy---I walk
& hear the very weeds to sing & talk
Of their delights as the delighted wind
Toys with them like playfellows ever kind

~John Clare (1793-1864) ‘The Meadow Hay’~

Paxton Pits - hot day

Deep within the scrub, woodland and other songbirds sang in seeming celebration of both stunning weather and this most beautiful of seasons. From the open water of Rudd Lake, we saw territorial Mute Swans, Common Mallards and Coots, some still sitting on eggs. We walked on the boardwalk to cross the wet meadows, Yellow Iris provided a lot of colour. Rushes with their straight cylindrical stems and brown spikes were popping everywhere. These beds of reeds were important for birds like the Reed warblers. They wove intricate nests out of grasses between them.Paxton Pits - hot day

We walked along Hayling Lake and was stalked by a Cetti Warbler, heard but not seen. Common Terns were practising their fishing techniques, dropping sticks and flying after them. We continued walking along the path that backed a housing estate and the sheltered path were teeming with fledglings. They were either practicing their flying skills or were waiting patiently to be fed. After passing through the well-tended allotments, we retraced our steps back to the visitor centre. Paxton Pits - hot day

Along the way, we spotted a Sparrow Hawk and a Hobby riding the waves. A Reed Warbler was singing its heart out on the tree top. I checked the wet meadows for Common Spotted Orchids but it was too early for them to bloom. After about 2 hours, we completed the circular trail and headed for the car to recharge our batteries. It was 29C when we ate our beef sandwiches, all washed down with litres of ligonberry juice. Paxton Pits - hot day

Then we tackled another circular walk, the Hero n Trail, past lakes, through woodland and along the riverbanks. As we walked through a thicket of bramble, we were entertained by Long-tail Tits taking a short break on the electrical lines. To our left, was Heronry Lake, the oldest gravel pit in the Reserve. It looked like a creche because we saw a few gangly, noisy juvenile herons waiting patiently to be fed. The sighting of our first dragon-fly kept us occupied. Was it a Norfolk Hawker???Paxton Pits - hot day

We continued on, walking in the shade, trying to keep away from the strong rays of the sun. Cuckoo calls echoed around us. At Hayden Hide, a Great Spotted Woodpecker was playing hide-and-seek with us. We gave this hide a miss because it was full of school children. At a rough grassland interspersed with Hawthorn and Dog Rose, a group of people were looking intently at something. They heard a Nightingale and was trying to see one. Between the end of April and the beginning of June, the males sing to attract a mate. This reserve was a hot spot for these birds. Unfortunately today, it was too hot to be seen.Paxton Pits - hot day

We checked out the very windy and cool Kingfisher, a nice welcome from the hot weather, not that I’m complaining. A Mute Swan was chasing after every swan in sight. A Great Crested Grebe swam past the hide. Buoyant Black-headed gulls were bobbing up and down the lake. Another visitor spotted a fox feeding at the opposite end of the lake. I spotted 2 Red Crested Pochards swimming leisurely at the end of the lake. Why on earth were everything so far away?Paxton Pits - hot day

We chilled out in the hide. It was peaceful and comforting. Not much about except for Tufted  ducks demonstrating their spectacular diving skills and Cormorants flying in circles. Babe commented that why was the hide named Kingfisher when such named bird was never seen. And guess what. Not one but 2 Kingfishers flew past with its shrill calls trailing and straight into the island that was close to the hide. It was hilarious :-0.   Paxton Pits - hot day

We continued the trail through meadowland along an ancient hedgerow. This route followed the River Great Ouse but we decided not to walk further. Both of us were exhausted and Babe had a long way to drive home. Cuckoo calls were getting closer but we still can’t see them. Whitethroats were busy flirting among the hedges hunting for food. We went to the visitor centre to freshen up, had coffee and ice-cream. We might check this place again, especially the trails that we’d not been through. Paxton Pits - hot day

This week the Hitless Squad had another game of rounders against Sons of Lupin again. The last time we played, we’d to stop at the first inning because of the atrocious weather conditions. It was a lovely evening as the sun came out to cheer us on. And we still lost 26:10 :-( . Oops… But a few days later, we found out that the History Society had forfeited a match which meant that we got our first point. woop…woop. Big smiles all around :-)

Then it was time to say good-bye to EC who was leaving for greener pastures up north. It was quite sad to see good friends leaving. But, then, we got to meet new colleagues and, fingers-crossed,  new friends. All the best EC and we promised to stay in touch.Shots from Warwick University

“In the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter, for in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.”

~Kahlil Gibran ~


We also checked out 2 air-shows, so far. There were so many being held around the country. We chose the one which was closer to home and affordable. It was a different atmosphere and I think they deserved their own posting. I had a wonderful time under the sun and I hoped the sun, too, had shone on you this week. After all it was officially summer.

Paxton Pits - hot day

“Summer is a promissory note signed in June, its long days spent and gone before you know it, and due to be repaid next January.”

~Hal Borland~