Thursday, 29 March 2012

'Not to be Taken Away'

Ben and I went back to Stanage Plantation to try out his new bouldering mat.

As you can see, it's rather large; great once you get it to the crag, but a pig to fit in the car!!

The route for which he is preparing is called 'Not to be Taken Away!'. Climbers choose the oddest names!

He worked the problem a few times and eventually mastered all of the moves to get to the top. The upper section was quite straightforward but the bottom was rather tricky. I couldn't take photos of the lower part because I was too busy 'spotting' (just in case he fell off).

He spotted the pointing camera :)

We were careful not to be caught out by the locked gate this time. I wouldn't want to have to disturb the very kind man again!!

I'm offering this for Jenny Matlock's Alphabe-Thursday, where the letter of the week is S for Stanage Plantation.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

The show-off and the shy

And finally from Blackbrook...

In spite of the resident feline, there were peacocks and peahens wandering round freely, ambling down pathways and dropping in to socialise with other animals.

This one stopped to show off his finery, desperate to impress his lady friend.

Whereas this white peacock was rather more shy, sidling around us, never coming too close...

but wanting a nosey just the same. 

Saturday, 24 March 2012

The curious

Coming towards the end of our day, we had a couple of birds who were very interested to see what we were up to. 

At first glance, this little scops owl appeared to be asleep, but then the huge, round, orange eyes opened wide.

He looks very friendly and his small stature makes him seem as though he would be vulnerable in his native Asian lowlands, but this little fellow can puff up his feathers to make himself look triple his current size.

This goose was just hoping for food!

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Water off a duck's back

Back in February, Lisa and I visited Blackbrook Zoological Park near Leek in Staffordshire.

(Best viewed enlarged to see the raindrops)

It started to drizzle after lunch. Persistent light rain; enough to make us dampish, but not enough to make us run for cover.
Some animals sought shelter, but to others, it was just water off a duck's back. 

These Chilean wigeon didn't look too bothered either.

I'm joining up with Jenny Matlock's Alphabe-Thursday, where R is for raindrops.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

The entertainers

These are Humboldt penguins, native to the coast of Peru and Chile. The species is listed as 'vulnerable' so the breeding of birds in zoos is managed to ensure a healthy gene pool. Every single bird has a unique pattern of spots on its belly, a bit like we have a unique fingerprint.

On land, they are ungainly; waddling from side to side as they shuffle across the rock.

In the water, it is a completely different story. The penguins are amazingly agile and can swim at speed, essential for catching fish; their sole food!.

They are also curious. We watched this guy through the underwater window. He was definitely putting on a display just for us, turning back and forth on his side of the glass, surfacing for air and then returning to dazzle us again. As soon as we moved window, so did he!

What an entertainer!

Saturday, 17 March 2012

The cuddlies

Yes, yes! I know they all have claws and teeth, but they LOOK cuddly.

Don't you feel the urge to pick up this Patagonian cavy and give him a big hug?

In the case of the wallabies, they have a bit of a kick too!

But these are the guys I really love.

I did have the privilege of cuddling a meerkat once. When Mark was in year 10 (age 14/15), I took him to the Derbyshire Skills festival; a kind of gathering of careers exhibitors. One group of exhibitors was called Tropical Inc. They are based in Birmingham but travel to do animal habitat educational shows and workshops around the country. They had quite a number of insects, a couple of albino hedgehogs, two beautiful blue and yellow macaws, plus a meerkat. After quite a while of chatting, I got the opportunity to hold the meerkat.

She snuggled along my jacket and sniffed around my ear, searching for food.

I don't think she found any!

Watching them watching us

This blackbuck antelope was very interested in what we were up to, standing and glaring from across his compound.

Those distinctive horns can have up to four twists and reach an impressive 79cm in length. The female is fawn coloured and has no horns at all. She obviously doesn't feel the same need to show off. 
He is quite handsome though.

Unfortunately, he is also less common than he once was, his species having been classified as 'near threatened' by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Plain dwellers, the blackbuck are now confined to much smaller pockets of India than was once the case.

Another one watching us with more than a touch of suspicion, was this rather large and powerful looking emu. Inhabitants of Australia, emus live in the plains, deserts and woodlands, feeding on vegetation topped up with fruit and the odd tasty insect to add a bit of protein.

As he was looking as though he'd like to add us to his menu, we moved on to admire the Dalmatian pelican, made famous by the limerick

A wonderful bird is the pelican,
His bill will hold more than his belican.
He can take in his beak
Food enough for a week,
But I'm dammed if I see how the helican.

Actually, it expands, coming ready fitted with a convenient pouch.

And, talking of expanding, its wings are also deceptive, reaching a span of up to 9 feet; necessary when you consider that it is one of the heaviest birds with the ability to fly.

As for me, I'm beginning to feel decidedly watched!

Friday, 16 March 2012

Sneaking just a little bit closer

Blackbrook Zoological Park!

What a frustrating place to live if you are a cat!

All that creeping, stalking, shadowing, waiting...

...and all those big wire mesh fences!

It's actually almost a month since Lisa and I visited Blackbrook. We'd never been before and the weather was not super-brilliant, but I'd got a voucher and we'd got the place practically to ourselves!

More than anything else, there were birds. These are Versicolour Teal, generally found in the southern third of South America (below Bolivia and Brazil). They are dabbling ducks; the kind that tip up to feed off the bottom of shallow water, amusing us all with a display of bottoms up!

The black necked swan is a rather larger waterfowl from the same part of the world, though confined closer to the southern tip of South America.

And I believe that this is a Black Bellied Whistling Duck, though I didn't hear it whistle. It also is from South America (we were obviously walking through the South America waterfowl section), living along the coasts.

I'm pleased to say that none of these birds were going to end up on the feline menu.
(In fact, there were other birds wandering freely, so I suspect that this sleek, well-fed moggie was all play and no pounce!)

More to come :)

Thursday, 15 March 2012

My garden is coming back to life

It was beautiful on Monday afternoon so, work done, I grabbed the opportunity to do a little clearing and sorting in my garden.

Spring is definitely here :)

The hyacinth smell is intoxicating!

Couldn't you just breathe it in all day long?

The pale yellow primroses showed their noses weeks ago, but they are now joined by their bright pink cousins.

Lots of daffs!

At this time of year, the Derby outer ring road also looks at its best, with the blossom trees in flower all along the central reservation of Warwick Avenue and daffs in abundance all round the western loop.

I have clumps of daffs and narcissus scattered all over my garden

including these very sweet mini versions.

Last year, I'm sure someone told me what these are called. I've forgotten again. Sorry :(

(It's an anenome nemorosa. Thanks Ian and Karen from Narrowboat Tacet.)

I do recognise that wee beastie in the top left corner though. I had a bit of an argument with many just like him. As a result, my blackberry patch is looking well tamed but my arms are covered in nasty red scratches.

Such is life!

PS: It's very blurry because it was taken through the glass of my patio door, but someone is looking for food. She's almost touching the pane.

I wonder if we'll see cubs this year.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Interesting stuff going on in the night sky

There have been some interesting things going on in our night sky this month, due to peak this Thursday (I am informed). 

Jupiter (left) and Venus line themselves up every thirteen months, but this particular occurrence has got astronomers extra excited because the planets are so clearly visible. 

It all depends on how long after the sun the two planets set. Next time around (May 2013), Venus and Jupiter will be closer together but will set very soon after our sun, making them visible for a much shorter amount of time and seeming to dim their brightness in our relatively lighter sky. This time around, the two planets are hanging about for nearly four hours after sunset.


and Venus

on a beautiful moonlit night.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Gateway @ Taylor's Lane

Another gateway, this one in the Derbyshire Dales above Wirksworth 
(and I can assure you that it isn't my picture which is sloping).

This gate falls into the category 'lift and swing ;)

Monday, 12 March 2012

Taylor's Lane; above and beyond

Turn off the B5023 Wirksworth to Duffield road, and there is a network of quiet country lanes crossing a beautiful rural landscape.

The gorse is yellowing nicely.

In this rolling countryside, even a little bit of height can give distant views.

It'd be lovely to see with the hedges and trees all greened up. Not too long now :)