Over the weeks of the school hols Little Boots has crossed off a few more entries from the National Trust “Things To Do” list.

I queried one ‘Go Bird-watching’ (number 44).

“We’ve never been bird watching”, I said.

“But we’ve watched lots of birds”, came the reply. Woodpeckers and nuthatches were cited and true enough on a walk a couple of years ago we’d spied a nuthatch and earlier this year we were very close to a woodpecker (a Lesser Spotted one we later discovered – barred back) and watched him for some time as he searched a tree for food, just a couple of yards from the path where we stood.

“And the Wagtails” added Little Boots.

Immediately my mind went back to late May when, taking advantage of the only dry day of a soggy Bank Holiday weekend, Little Boots and I set off for a womble. We took a route that was new to us identifying trees and plants as we went. Michelle Paver’s Chronicles of Ancient Darkness books have made knowledge of trees and such pretty cool indeed. Cutting across a field and over a railway crossing brought us back to more familiar territory. With a view to making some casts of animal tracks we explored the waters’ edge of a couple of old gravel pits. This did not yield any good prints, but LB did find some coins no doubt dropped by some bivvying angler. Almost enough to buy a bag of elastic bands, since weaving them into bracelets was the latest craze. We wove back towards the village before joining the riverside path. Insects, mayflies mostly, were visible in the sunlight hatching and dapping the water’s surface as they completed their cycle of life. Whist we ambled along I showed the munchkin some mayflies clinging to reeds as the sun dried their wings. This wasn’t deemed very impressive, and so I explained Duffer’s Fortnight, which did at least raise a snort of amusement.

By now we had reached a bridge and stopped beneath it for something to eat a drink. Not that Little Boots needed the latter, having been sipping all along from a long-wished for camelback. It had been my hope that we would see a fish rising to take a fly. A Brown Trout perhaps, I knew there was at least one in here, or more likely a Chub.

That wasn’t to be, but we did see something pretty amazing as we stood eating and contemplating the river. A pair of yellow-chested birds, their long tails hanging down, were perched on reeds that stuck out from the opposite bank. We watched them flitting back and forth searching for hatching flies and acrobatically taking them on the wing. At one point one came within four feet of us, spinning and hovering at the same moment as it snipped its target from the air. Occasionally one of the birds would disappear up under the bridge. “There must be a nest up there” said Little Boots. I agreed, adding that I thought that they might be reed warblers.

How wrong I was. When we get home I looked them up in our bird book and found that they were in fact Yellow Wagtails. A summer visitor to this country the book said and that “Observers of the yellow wagtail are lucky to get within 50 yards of this extremely cautious bird….The nest is particularly difficult to find even when parents carrying food for their young are watched. Rather than reveal the nest site, the adults will refuse to deliver the meal until the danger has passed or the intruders have gone away.”

When I told LB this it was met with a widening of the eyes that always greets something special.

Even more special I now realise, having subsequently read that their numbers are on the decline.

 

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milk

While I don’t bother with New Year’s resolutions, I have this year made a decision that I plan to stick with through 2014 and beyond.

It is to take my camera with me as much as is possible, or perhaps that should be as much as is sensible. I used to carry it a lot, but somehow got out of the habit and since I don’t have a camera on my ancient phone I’ve missed a few things I’d have liked to have snapped.

One was a simple and vibrant piece of street art on some phone boxes near Charing Cross.

The day I remembered to stick my camera in my pocket I found that the authorities had begun painting it over. That made me reach my decision right away.

As is often the case with these sort of things since I’ve had the thing with me, there’s been nothing worth capturing.

However last Thursday I fleetingly took this photo on a different phone box.

At first I thought it was a drawing, but I see now that it’s a sticker. What it’s about I’ve no idea, but things like this always interest me (as several of my blog posts will attest) and it reminded me of a comic strip called Milk and Cheese that used to be in Deadline.

Man I loved Deadline.

Wednesday was an odd day in one respect.

Dead moths.

Walking to the train station I saw a dead moth on the pavement. It was huge, but that didn’t surprise me particularly, I knew it was some kind of Hawk moth and we see a fair few hereabouts. Hummingbird Hawk Moths are regular sightings in the garden (except when the summer is rotten like last year) and I have seen the impressive caterpillars of the Elephant Hawk Moth a couple of times. The best occasion was when a pet cat had found one and was completely freaked out by the thing waving its “trunk” at him. The dusky pink body on the pavement was, I later looked up, an adult Elephant Hawk Moth and I was still marvelling at its size when I reached the station.

As I walked down the platform rooting around in my rucksack for my book I noticed what I took to be a sweet wrapper on the tarmac ahead of me. Growing nearer I realised that it was not litter. It was another moth (again dead I’m afraid) and it was stunning. Immediately I put my bag and book down to take a photo.

tiger 2

Squatting on my haunches I marvelled for several minutes at this beauty. Stone dead, but somehow still full of life. Later I used my photo to look it up and discovered that it was a Scarlet Tiger Moth.

tiger 1

A wild, beautiful name befitting such a shamelessly exuberant looking creature. But how I had never seen one before? It’s not the sort of thing you could fail to notice. Putting aside short-sightedness and stupidity on my part (both possible) there was only one answer I could find, which was that because it was one of the moths that fly in the daytime any I’d seen before had seemed like butterflies (Red Admirals?).

I will pay closer attention in future – I wouldn’t want to miss a live one.

This sometimes gets called extreme knitting, but I think guerrilla knitting is the correct term.

These knits may look a bit odd and doubtless make a few people think WTF?, but I personally think they add interest to a really municipally ghastly bridge that incongruously spans a beautiful stretch of river.

Back somewhere around June I saw that Jaws was on at a local cinema. Whilst I’ve seen it many times I’ve never watched it on the big screen. When it was originally released I was too young to go, but remember the pangs of envy as older cousins filled us smaller kids in with all the scary details.

Discussing the re-release with a friend over a beer and we enthused about going. Then promptly did nothing about it. An opportunity missed.

Luckily a nearby arts centre shows some movies a while after they’ve done the rounds and so another chance to see it surfaced. This time we actually got organised enough to buy tickets. To be honest this was actually a superior option. Whilst it’s always better to watch a movie on a cinema screen rather than a TV one, not all cinema theatres are equal – sometimes even within the same multiplex.

And the reason that the arts centre was a much betteroption than the local multi-screen, is that it has a modern and marvellous little cinema tucked away in the top of the building. It only seats about 40 and manages to feel both huge and intimate at the same time.

The movie itself has been cleaned up to mark 100 years of Universal Studios, and although there’s still the odd murky scene, as a whole it really did look fresh.

That and watching it on a big screen did make it feel a bit like seeing it for the first time. Whether it was that, or watching it in an environment that allows one to truly concentrate on the film, I don’t know but I can honestly say, I’ve never enjoyed a viewing of that film so much. I even noticed a couple of touches that had never registered before, or perhaps were brought to life by the bigger screen

And yes, I even jumped at the scene where the head appears in the bottom of the boat then laughed at myself for doing so.

“Farewell and adieu to you fair, Spanish Ladies…..”

Another visit  to Bristol, and it takes very little time (this lot in 20 metres) to gather a collection of pics of street art, home-made tags and advertising.

But which is which?

Love that city.

What does love look like?

It looks like this.

Instead of sitting, full of cold, on the sofa watching cheesy old films, I spent a recent Saturday making this Mandeville headpiece.

Little Boots was hell-bent on having suitable fancy dress for an Olympic party. ‘It’ll only take an hour or so’ I told myself as I acquiesced to the design brief.

It was more like six hours and although a reasonable amount of that was spent waiting for glue to dry (or at least ‘grab’ properly), and the process was no-doubt extended by cold-fuddled synapses,  I was so very glad to finish it.

Tho’ not as glad as Little Boots – ‘It’s awesome!

And that of course made it all worthwhile for me, although a share of the chocolates that made up first prize would have been nice.