Sunday, 27 April 2008

Dog tired . . .

Apologies in advance for an image-heavy entry - new route and new camera too much to resist

Yes, a very tired dog. This morning we ventured deeper into the fens than ever before and had our longest walk. The poor old hound was exhausted, but was a lovely walk and very interesting, too.

On the nature front, I heard my first cuckoo of the year. It seems very early. My memory says (and I think I've mentioned this in a previous blog) that it's usually the end of May before the cuckoo heralds its arrival. I suppose it's either global warming bring them here earlier or my memories are false.

There seem to me lots of yellowhammers about this year - the hedgerows out in the fen seem full of them. Also plenty of reed buntings and the dog and I stood and watched (and listened to) a greater spotted woodpecker for a while.

I had to consult the bird book when I got home to identify a pair of tits we saw - unfortunately, it wasn't able to help me get closer than either a marsh tit or a willow tit. Apparently, they're hard to tell apart, even for experts.

I stopped to take pictures of some cowslips and when I looked up, I could just make out a little face watching me intently through a bush. Of course, the camera was set up to take a close-up picture of a flower, so I struggled to quickly change the settings. I had the autofocus on, so my first effort resulted in a nice sharp image of the bush. I flicked the camera into manual focus and just managed to take one picture - not quite in focus - before the deer broke cover.

It's now Monday - computer crashed while uploading the cowslip picture (now, it's a critic!) and I just gave up for the evening.

Further on our walk, we came across part of the new path being built by the National Trust to connect Wicken Fen Nature Reserve to Cambridge. They've even built a posh new bridge across Swaffham Lode. They're also cleverly making the path twice as long as it needs to be by making it snake across the landscape.

Some time ago, I read how one of the major drainage ditches on the fen (the Commissioner's Drain, I believe) went under Swaffham Lode and I imagined a tunnel going deep underground.

In fact, the lode is at quite a high level, so the drain goes under it at about ground level. It was difficult to get a picture which illustrates this, so I took two - one of each side of the lode, from the top of the embankment.

Next time we travel that way, I'll try to get down to the level of the drain to see the entrance.

Further down the lode we came to the pumping station where it joins the River Cam. There's an old fashioned lock gate, but the work seems to be done by a modern steel rising gate. I thought the river level would be much higher that the lode, but in fact, the lode was higher.

From here, we turned towards Cambridge along the banks of the Cam - a peaceful spot to have a houseboat, though the 'taggers' still managed to leave their mark at the Bottisham Lode pumping station, which is really a long way from anywhere.

Finally, with the dog (and me) flagging, it was time to head for home. Just time to capture one of those big fen skies.

Monday, 14 April 2008

Flash, bang, wallop . . .

. . . what a picture, what a photograph. Or at least I hope so.

New camera this week - back to an SLR after a few years of a compact. I enjoyed the Nikon, it was very versatile but also a bit unwieldy if I wanted to take pictures on anything other than the 'auto' setting.

Anyway, a walk with the dog on Sunday was the first opportunity to use the new 'equipment'.

It was a pleasant walk along a newish route that I'd not photographed before, but the hound was being a bit awkward, making it a bit difficult to stop and look around.

We did find a pond we'd not spotted before - very picturesque but spoiled a bit by all the litter left behind by kids who obvioulsy used the place for drink parties etc.

New pond

This stretch of the walk takes me over a couple of bridges - a narrow footbridge and an old railway bridge, the line for which has long since been ripped up.

New bridge

Railway bridge

There was a pair of blackbrids going beserk in the garden on Sunday morning - giving the cat a right telling off. A bit of investigation uncovered this poor little thing hiding in the undergrowth . . .


Funilly enough, I was reading a piece last week about how fledgling blackbirds often get turfed out of the nest a bit early, but it was important to leave them alone because their parents continue to look after them.

Well, it survived Sunday and Monday, though I do worry that one of the many neighbourhood cats will make a little snack of him.

Sunday pm, we went into Cambridge to visit the Botanic Garden We'd just started taking a look around (a reluctance to pay the entry fee meant I hadn't been there for years) when the heavens opened. We sheltered in the coffee shop for a while, then the glasshouses, but we admitted defeat in the end and beat a wet and hasty retreat back to the car.

I did get the chance to take a few pictures, but not as many as I would have liked.





Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Time flies

Where does the time go?

It doesn't seem two minutes since we were having an Easter egg hunt in the snow . . . 45 eggs counted out, only 41 counted in! I did find one lying in the grass after the snow had melted but I'm not sure where the rest went.

Egg hunt

Then the next weekend, we had the opposite weather and I found myself in Ely for a couple of hours while one of the boys had some cricket coaching. We used to live in Ely and really liked it there but moved away about 10 years ago.

It's changed quite a bit in that time - lots more houses, new park down by the river, new shops etc - but the cathedral is an ever present wonder. It never fails to lift and amaze me.

Ely Cathedral 1

Ely Cathedral 3

Ely Cathedral 4

There's always something to photograph in Ely - like this impressive chimney stack and a nice surprise when a small steam lorry passed me by.

Ely chimney

Steam truck