CALLING BUZZARDS

A couple of days ago i took a nice walk in the sunshine in a favourite ara of mine. The skies were blue with a few white fluffy clouds drifting past and it was warm, but comfortable as there was quite a windy blowing. As i was strolling along the gravels pathways that run around the lakes perimeter i was pleasantly surprised at the amount of predatory birds that were out looking for their lunch. Every few hundred yards, or so, i would come across a kesterl hovering in the wind as it surveyed the scrubland for its next meal. I love watching these beautiful birds in action but as yet i,ve not been able to get a decent picture of them as they drift off on the wind as soon as i get ready to take their picture. I also saw 3 different kingfishers darting along the shoreline, often hearing their high pitched ‘peep’ before actually seeing them. The water here is alive with fry and small invertebrates which are ideal food for these speedy little electric blue beauts. Everytime i,ve been to this water i,ve seen kingfishers.

As well as the above there is also a few pairs of resident buzzards which can be seen, and often heard, wheeling around the skies above the woods there. It was no different on this visit as before i saw them i could hear them calling, but this time i believe it was a pair, which were soaring on the thermals, that were calling to each instead of just a lone bird. I watched these birds for a while as they drifted above me hovering on the wind before tilting a wing to one side and drifting off a ways, as they called to each other. I managed to take a few minutes of video, on my phone so excuse the quality, of them and have posted it on my Youtube channel. Turn up the sound and have a wee looks…..

WILD ROSES

There are numerous varieties of ‘wild roses’ in the Uk but they all have the one thing in common, their beautyand the fact that are my favourite. From crisp white in colour to pastel pink right through to purple these beautiful flowers can be found growing in most areas of the UK. Happily growing in hedgerows, woodlands and scrubland the sight and scent of these colourful plants always puts a smile on my face. Although there are may different varieties of wild rose it is very hard to identify which species is which as they can look so similar, even the differing colour of their flowers does not mean they are differing species. The most common rose though is the ‘Dog Rose’ with its pale pink flowers.

I believe that all the varieties of wild roses produce rose hips, the bright red, oval berry like fruits that we used to break open, when we were kids, and stuff down the necks of our friends to irritate their skin and make them itch, or was that just a mischievous younger version of me. The hips are said to be high in vitamin C and are used, in the foraging community, to make a sweet syrup for cooking purposes or turned into an oil for skincare use.

Wild rose flowers are an important source of nectar for insects and the fruits they produce are a good food source for birds found around scrubland. The stems of the plants are laden with nasty thorns which latch onto anything that touches them easily which in turn means that only the smallest, nibblest of birds can feast of the fruits.

Most of the roses, in the pictures above, were growing within the same country park, in fact some were only growing a few meters apart. Some of the flowers are your more traditional looking petal shapes but some, as you can see, have a delicate crinkly look to the edges of the petals.

ALTON WATER

A couple of days ago i spent some time fishing a very large and attractive reservoir called ALTON WATER. I’ve fished here a few times before as it holds most species of coarse fish that i enjoy angling for, but its not just the fish that draw me back to this water its the sheer beauty of the pace. While i was there i had a buzzard land in a tree above me, numerous waterfowl frolicking in front of me, could hear cuckoos in the distance as well a woodpecker hammering away at a nearby tree, but the ‘PIECE DE RESISTANCE’ was having a little electric blue flash drop down and sit on my rod tip, for just a few seconds, to say hello. I do love kingfishers and had been watching this little fellow whizzing too and fro for best part of the day, unfortunately he didn’t sit still long enough for me to take a photo.

Alton Water, the actual waters surface that is, is roughly 350 acres and tree lined around most of its banks. Located just outside Ipswich, in Suffolk, its easy to get as being only a few miles from the A12. There is a level gravel pathway around the whole of its perimeter, approximately 8.2 miles, and is ideal for those who enjoy a nice comfortable stroll in some glorious natural surroundings as well the more active amongst us who prefer to pedal around on two wheels or , god knows why, jog along . Theres a nice little cafe and picnic area located at the dam end, as well as a kiosk where you can hire a bike to propel yourself along the pathways. Further along towards the dam is a watersports centre for those who like taking to the water on sail boards, paddle boards and sailed dinghies. Theres also a caravan park on site to pitch up and enjoy the scenery.

Above are a few pictures, i took on my way back from fishing, which i thought might give an idea of the scale and beauty of the place. They are only a taster as i plan to do a vlog there pretty soon so will go into more depth about the place then.

DANDELIONS

DANDELIONS

Dandelions or ‘Wet The Beds’, as we used to call them when i was kid, are an abundant little flowering plant that grows literally wherever it likes. With a beautiful, bright yellow flowerhead and an intricate seed head, ‘clock’, which once picked and blown upon releases dozens of parachute type seeds which float on the tiniest of breezes before settling and propagating, these plants can grow quickly and cover large areas of grassland in most places around the UK. This bright little flowering plant provides food for butterflies, moths and bees, via its nectar, as well as some species of birds which feed on its seeds. Its hated by gardeners for its evasive growth rate and difficulty in eradicating but is loved by wild food foragers for its leaves and flowerhead for its taste and medicinal properties.

GROUP OF DANDELIONS

CULINARY DELIGHTS

Dandelions can be eaten practically from flower to root. The flowers can be eaten raw as they are apparently sweet with a crunchy texture, or they can be deep fried, tempura style, or can be used to make dandelion syrup and added to honey. It can also be used to make drinks, like the dandelion and burdock we used to drink gallons of when young, and also fermented to make wine. The leaves can be used in salads, although the larger leaves have a slight bitterness to them the younger smaller leaves are better. You can also steam the leaves and eat like spinach as well use in soups. The roots can dried and roasted and used as a coffee substitute or they can be just used like any other root vegetable. I’ve not experimented properly with eating dandelions really, just a nibble here and there, but i do plan on doing so soon.

DANDELION SEEDHEAD ‘CLOCK’

You can harvest dandelions all year round but there are a few people who believe that it is best to leave them alone during the beginning of spring as they form an essential part of a bees diet as they awaken from their winter snooze.

MEDICINAL PROPERTIES

Apparently the Dandelion contains beta-carotene and polyphenols which are antioxidants, they can also help reduce cholesterol and help regulate blood sugars. Theres research studies which indicate it can also help reduce inflammation, help lower blood pressure, aid weight loss and boost the immune system. The main medicinal uses of dandelion that i have heard of, through the foragers and wild food experts that i know, is that its good for the complexion by reducing the risk of uv damage caused by the sun and that it helps with aiding digestion and shifting constipation. Personally i,ve not used the plant for any of the above so i write only from hearsay and information i,ve gleaned through research.

DANDELION FLOWER

So next time you tug a dandelion out of the cracks in your paving or cut a patch down with the lawn mower, spare a little thought as to whether its really doing any harm. It could be a fly-in takeaway for a passing bee or maybe you could have a nibble and help shift that pizza, that’s bloating you out, through your system a bit quicker……….

HOLLY BLUE

HOLLY BLUE BUTTERFLY

I spent a while chasing this little beauty around the garden trying to take its picture a couple of days ago. Every time it settled and i got my camera down close to it, it would flutter up and and a couple feet away. Finally i managed to get a few shots off and i think this is the best one.

Apparently the Holly Blues are quite common, living mainly around holly bushes, oddly enough, but i think this is the first time i,ve actually seen one. I reckon he’d fluttered in from the garden behind mine as they have recently chopped their big old holly tree down, which i,m not too happy about as a lot of the local songbirds used to sit in that tree, but what could i do!!!