Uphilldowndale

Watching nature take its course, from the top of a hill in northern England


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Turn of the tern

Belatedly, it is back to the Farne Isles, and it’s the turn of the tern, the artic terns.  They seem to build ridiculously  scant nests,  not so much a nest, as outline planning permission for one.

Tern nest

Some don’t  seem to bother with even that much effort, when there is a footpath available (see bottom left of this photo).

What no nest_

But they are not any old terns, one at least is a record breaker

Tiny bird flies 59,650 miles from its breeding grounds in Farne Islands in the UK to Antarctica and back again, clocking the longest ever migration recorded

They are feisty in defence of their nests…

Tern attack

Mr Uphilldowndale had borrowed my hat, a hat designed for snugness rather than its bird deflection properties.

Tern attack 3_

The birds are protected and nurtured on the Farne Isles, and we felt very privileged to get so close to them, but we did wonder how much energy they were putting into attempting to ‘see off’ the endless stream of visitors…   They must be grateful for the days when the weather is too rough for the tourist boats to land.

Tern attack two


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Did someone mention Spring?

Well, it came and went

snowing april_

Cold winds blew

snowing april lamb

Then the sun shone, but it seemed no warmer, although the sight of a curlew always warms the heart.

Curlew_

Then clouds blew by again, I’m fascinated by how different fields ‘hold’ the snow longer than others.

All kinds of weather_

Strangely the life force that is spring growth, has kept moving despite the chill of winds from the artic , you know I’m a sucker for larch trees

larch cones  3

The icy jewels were a very pretty adornment, that kept my rapt attention, for quite some time. 

larch cones  2_

Then it was drawn to my attention to the fact,

larch cones_

that I did promise I’d play ball….

larch cones  and spud


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Slow to germinate, part one

It would be churlish of me to complain about the weather, its been wet grey and dismal, but we’ve had nothing like the troubles of great swathes of the UK.  I’ve not been out with the camera, I’ve been very happy to fall into a state of semi hibernation. It’s the time of year where curling up with a seed catalogue in front of a warm fire seems like an ideal  way to pass  the time.

So it perhaps seems fitting to dig up a post that has been lying  in  a dormant state in my  blog drafts since June 2014. Yes 2014

Some of you may have been around long enough to remember that the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew hold a special place in the  hearts and history of Mr Uphilldowndale’s family.

It was as a result of this connection we had the privilege of visiting Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank  at Wakehurst in Sussex ;  in a nut shell, the aim of the seed bank is to provide an insurance policy against extinction of plants in the wild.

seed bank ext

When HRH Prince Charles opened the Millennium Seed bank he described it as a ‘a gold reserve … a place where this reserve currency, in this case life itself, is stored’.

It’s a special place.

breathing planet_

We  had a full behind the scenes tour.  Seeds arrive from all over the world, some are collected by Kew scientists in the field,

so many seeds

others are sent directly, volunteers help sort and prepare the seeds for storage.

MSB4

Just sometimes, the seeds arrive  from the four corners of the world with excess baggage, the staff need to keep their wits about them, and a sense of humour.

big spid

Identified and catalogued

seed vault 4

this most precious of treasure is prepared

seed jars

to be stored in an underground vault, at a chilling –21C

seed vault 2

You need specialist clothing to hang about in there, and certainly not shorts;

seed vault 3

We settled for pressing our noses and camera lenses against the glass

seed vault

It’s one thing keeping all these seeds, and knowing where you’ve put them, I’d be rubbish at that! But you also need to know, what you’ve got will germinate.  I was very taken with the x-ray images of seeds, that can tell the trained eye, a lot about the viability of the seed samples; I thought they were rather beautiful.

xray seeds_

Part two to follow.


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Sun Store

I wish I could keep a box of sunshine on my desk. So that on grey, driech days like today, I could lift the lid and let it spill out. 

It seems churlish to complain really, as this time last week, I was in south Wales and we had the most glorious weather; whilst ‘up north’ was shrouded in mist and fog.

This is Marloes Sands

Marloes Sands

 

As we strolled down the path, I think I was expecting a little bay,  but the size and beauty  of this beach catches your breath. If you’d ask me what my favourite UK beach was, I’d probably have said, Laig on the Isle of Eigg, I’m now ranking them joint first. 

Spud the dog loved it too.

Spud Marloes Sand_

I pondered on the powers of nature, looking at the mighty upheavals of rock and near vertical bedding planes,

bedding planes Marloes Sand_

I didn’t discover until later that it is a great place for a spot of fossil hunting


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Shooting the Sun

Point and shoot obviously, I wasn’t going to look directly at a solar eclipse

Eclipse 

Whilst the light changed, the birds carried on about their business,

Eclipse blue tit

it didn’t seem as dramatic as the one in 1998 which I watched with Mum,

Mum in the Moon

it was the shadows I remember most vividly on that occasion.

 

It made me think of a favourite poem, by Roger McGough

 

Everyday eclipses

Roger McGough

 


The hamburger flipped across the face of the bun

The frisbee winning the race against its own shadow

The cricket ball dropping for six in front of the church clock

On a golden plate, a host of communion wafers

The brown contact lens sliding across the blue iris

The palming of small change

Everyday eclipses

Out of the frying pan, the tossed pancake orbits the Chinese lampshade

The water bucket echoing into the well, well, well

The lifebelt spinning past the open porthole

The black, snookering the cue ball against the green baize

The winning putt on the eighteenth

The tiddlywink twinking toward the tiddly cup

Everyday eclipses

Neck and neck in the hot air balloon race

Holding up her sign, the lollipop lady blots out the belisha beacons

The foaming tankard thumped on to the beer mat

The plug into the plughole

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Two thin slices; first salami, then mortadella

In the fruit bowl, the orange rolls in front of the peach.

Everyday eclipses another day

Goodbye bald patch, hello yarmulke

A sombrero tossed into the bullring

Leading the parade, the big bass drum.

We hear cymbals but cannot see them

One eclipse eclipses another eclipse

To the cold, white face, the oxygen mask.

But too late

One death eclipses another death

The baby’s head, the mother’s breast

The open O of the mouth seeking the warm O of the nipple

One birth eclipses another birth

Everyday eclipses.


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An afternoon with added value

Yesterday morning, it rained and rained, it was hard to imagine anything much could be salvaged from the day, but I was wrong, about two PM the clouds parted and the sun shone through. I grabbed the camera and shot off to Mam Tor, we’ve been there before. The sun gods turned on the charm.

Top of Winats Pass

and gave me a much needed blast of lumens, to keep the blues away.

The Edale valley.

Edale

came complete with a bedraggled looking film crew, something to do with a man on a bike, but more than that I can’t tell you

Edale film crew

Love how the bonfire smoke is flowing off down the valley.

Rushop Edge

The reason for my visit was that I’d been to a presentation about the geology and scenery of the Northern Peak District,hosted by Derbyshire Wildlife Trust; and I wanted to see if I could identify some of the features I’d heard about. However an added bonus was an encounter with a stoat

Stoat 3

He bounded along by a nearby wall (stoats bound, weasels hunker down to the ground)  at times  airborne

 Stoat 

it looked in good form, weaving in and out of the tussocky grass

Stoat 4

its coat had a conker gloss

stoat 4-2

In the end it was chased off by a rook, and it slunk away under a fence in to a marshy field (you can just see the stoat by the fence post).

stoat and rook 2

Well that was an unexpected treat.

By the time I worked my way back to the car, the sun was low enough to catch the marsh grasses,

marsh grasses_

and some very large puddles,

marsh grass 3

I’d have been wise to take a change of footwear.