Uphilldowndale

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


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Moving meadows

The field, continues it’s journey into summer, never has it provided more pleasure than this year, and it’s always been a delight, but being on our doorstep, it is a wonderful distraction from the woes of the world.

The weather we have had since lock-down has made it quiet magical. So many insects and butterflies  After the heavy rain of the last few days, when the clouds clear and the sun breaks through, the bugs and butterflies rise up with the warmth from the ground. It makes me smile.

This was yesterdays treat, a dark green fritillary  

The name comes, if you are wondering, from the colour underneath the wing.

Fritillary_

They like to feed on knapweed 

Knapweed is a plant we introduced to the field, about eight or nine years ago, having had work done to remedy a problem from theoutflow of the septic tank ( sorry you weren’t expecting that were you?) we took the opportunity to reseed the area with a native wildflower seed mix,  some of the species decided the field wasn’t for them, but the knapweed liked the neighbourhood and flourished

knapweed

The bees are delighted.

knapweed 3


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Run for home

It’s been nice to go out and about today, the weather broke over night and the temperature dropped to a more comfortable level than it has been for the last few days, it’s been necessary to dodge some heavy showers though.  Downpour dodging_

The last week has been a good weather window for the farmers, they’ve been able to cut their grass crop for winter fodder in without too much weather angst, today’s weather forecasting must make the task so much easier than it was for their forebears .

So there I was, admiring the colours and patterns of the freshly cut fields

Downpour dodging 3

and having a very nice time, until the wind suddenly picked up and I realised it had ‘gone a bit dark over Bill’s mothers’. 

Time to run for home, at least it was downhill! Downpour dodging 4


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Socially Distanced

Maybe we should take a leaf (pun intended) out of the sycamore aphids book of social distancing.  They seem to have it sussed.

sycamore aphids 3 However, an Internet search* led me to discover it’s not about them being apart,  on the contrary, it’s actually about them being able to touch one another (but at least the little bugs have a plan how to deal with a life threatening situation and are sticking to it!)

One of the most striking features of the sycamore aphid is the way in which the individuals space themselves evenly under the leaf. the spacing is such that they are just close enough together to touch each other with their long antennae, so if an individual in one part of the leaf is attacked the alarm spreads from aphid to aphid in a wave of antennae-waving across the whole leaf.

Sycamore aphid

Just about every leaf I could see was covered in the aphids,  there must be millions of them; which probably explains why the blue tits, that consume a fortunes worth of food through the winter ( the bird food  bill comes in at more than  the cat and dog food budget combined) are not very bothered about cleaning the aphids off the roses in the garden, you’d think it was the least they could do?

*It’s rather gratifying to find the information you were looking for, in a blog you already follow, Cabinet of Curiosities  by Phil Gates, in addition to reading the authors words in The Country Diary in the Guardian too. 

 


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Welcome

Sunshine and showers, heavy at times.

It’s been a relief to get some rain, after the exceptionally dry weather we’ve had since lock-down began.  Earlier in the year I’d high hopes for the foxgloves, the young plants were so abundant, they obviously loved the very wet early spring, its hard to please everyone. But after the dry spell they were starting to suffer, looking somewhat stunted and under par. 

But with a good dousing of rain they have risen to their full height and glory! 

It’s turned out to be a vintage year for foxgloves. 

Fox gloves bank_

Much to the delight of the insects. 

Fox gloves bee


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On the home front

 

I hope you guys are all OK, I’ve not managed to find my blogging mojo through the last three weeks.  I’ve not really been able to concentrate on much to be honest, I’ve not read a single book.  I’ve made a lot of soup, which comforts twice I always find, its soothing to prepare and to eat, and fills the kitchen with homely cooking aromas.

Outside spring it carrying on a pace, and as far as the garden is concerned I’m not keeping pace!

We’ve Joe is home with us, from what was to have been his final months of study in Swansea, we did a round trip in a day, to gather  up both him and his worldly goods before lock-down. Poor Spud the dog, he was bewildered, he spent over 12 hours in the camper van, and ended up back where he started, without so much as a grain of sand between his toes.  Tom is locked down in Wanaka in New Zealand,  I try not to think about the fact we couldn’t get on a plane and go to him, or he to us if the need arose. But I know he’s in a good place with good mates, and a country that didn’t falter to put it’s citizens health first.

Here are some sunny New Zealand Lupins

Yellow Lupin_

We’re keeping our heads down, and feeling very lucky indeed to have the space both indoors and out for it not to be too claustrophobic.  We’ve been alarmed by the numbers of people that came to Derbyshire and the Peak District, we’d like to keep the numbers down.

Suspension bridge New Zealand

NZ bridge x10

Stay safe xx

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

i thought I’d share a sunny


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Meander

More from our travels through New Zealand November 2019

The staircase in my last post, was much admired, so I thought you might like this beautiful boardwalk.

Why travel in a straight line when you can meander. This is a typical Department of Conservation path

NZ DOC curve walk

Like the staircase, they allow the average visitors (and locals) to access places that they could never see otherwise.

NZ DOC board close up

 

NZ swamp walk_

Mr Uphilldowndale stopped on his meander to watch the  little fish swimming in the swamp beneath his feet.

NZ DOC swamp fish

The DOC provide information boards, and suggested routes and the time needed to complete them, perfect for the travellers!

NZ DOC board_

Walk across the swamp and the path leads you into the rain-forest,

NZ Spanish Moss_it seems possible almost everywhere in New Zealand  to walk through every type of environment in a few strides.

NZ DOC zone 3

New Zealand has a fern for every occasion

NZ DOC pink fern

NZ brown fern

To my untrained eye its difficult to know what is a fern

NZ fren 2

and what is a moss or a leaf

NZ bridge Moss 1

But I can tell you there is abundant beauty

NZ tree buds

 

 


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Kea, a very smart bird

 

More from our travels through New Zealand, November 2019

Kea are alpine parrots, found in parts of South Island, New Zealand,  my first sighting was in the carpark at Arthurs Pass, sat on top of a bus shelter!

Sadly this  particular bird wasn’t interested in coming down to see us, which was a shame as they are very inquisitive birds, with a reputation for being a bit cheeky,  how did we find a shy Kea?.

So I was delighted to get to see one up close, this time in the car park at the Fox Glacier ( car parks, a reoccurring theme?)

They are a beautiful bronze green colour, not much smaller than a domestic chicken, with  bright crimson red feathers under their wing, which flash as they take flight.

NZ kia moss

Will you look at that beak!  This beak and the birds intelligence, its  ability to learn from each other is what drove them to the brink of extinction,  they developed a taste for mutton fat. This didn’t endear them to the  European settler farmers.

Kea NZ

 

Some birds perch on sheeps’ backs and dig through skin and muscle on the rump to reach the fat around the kidneys, which can result in fatal septicaemia. This behaviour is not common, but was the reason why kea were persecuted for over a hundred years.

Between 1860 and 1970, some 150,000 birds were killed for bounty.

If that wasn’t enough, ground nesting birds, the Kia are vulnerable to large ‘wipe out’  from  predator rodents when the beech mast is heavy. (It was not very long ago that the it was explained to me that ‘masting’  is a movable feast  and I call myself a country girl? )

Date:  08 April 2019 Source:  Office of the Minister of Conservation

Results from extensive seed sampling across the country in February and March point to the biggest beech mast for more than 40 years with exceptionally heavy seed loads in South Island forests. Rimu forests and tussock grasslands in the South Island are also seeding heavily.

Forest seeding provides a bonanza of food for native species but also fuels rodent and stoat plagues that will pose a serious threat to native birds and other wildlife as predator populations build up next spring and summer.

We saw evidence of this plague strolling in the forest near Arthur’s Pass, dozens and dozens of little rodents scampering across the path.

NZ rodent beech mast Arturs Pass

It was more  a climb than a stroll, through the forest. Stunningly beautiful.

NZ steps Arturs Pass 2

To the  Devil’s Punchbowl waterfall

NZ waterfall Arturs Pass 2

The Kia are curious and smart birds, they know, that wherever tourist are they are in with a chance of being fed, despite many notices explaining how this is not good for these rare birds.

So now to the most disturbing image of a Kia.  From the Department of Conservation social media feed.

My social media feed is awash with  birds,

https://www.theguardian.com/science/2020/mar/03/study-finds-parrots-weigh-up-probabilities-to-make-decisions?CMP=fb_gu&utm_medium=Social&utm_source=Facebook&fbclid=IwAR1_aJMi782ixSsngw7L0TYFsc0Al2cK5x60qY7DP5OYMekYPFIWUnUIj2w#Echobox=1583269684

And  penguins,  I had to share this, for Shoreacres 

And this because it made me smile. People who care for birds make me smile.


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Oh little blue

More from our travels through New Zealand 2019

Whilst I’d resigned myself to not being able to identify most of the wonderful birds we came across on our trip, and I’d no desire to go to see captive birds, we were agreed it was worthwhile putting some effort into seeing a couple of species we were unlikely to see anywhere else in the world.

Penguins were were in pole position.  We were extremely lucky, whilst on a trip to Doubtful Sound, to see Fiordland Crested  penguinn, look it’s here, in the centre of the photo, sat on a rock, can you see it?

Fiordland penguin NZ bird

I know, hardly a National Geographic image is it! But never mind, we got a better look with Mr Uphilldowndales binoculars, which were a gift from his employers for 30 years service, and are very useful for seeing into the future. */**

We tried again at Curio Bay. We waited, and waited as dusk fell, but they didn’t show.

NZ penguin only

We’d been told that the town of Oamaru  held the best chance to see the Little Blue penguins,

I can’t think about the  little blue penguins  without out this song running on a loop in my head.  Little blue, how do you do.

The town is very proud of its penguins, this ‘green box’ (utility box) made me smile.

NZ penguin Oamaru

The residents look out for their welfare,

Penguin sign NZ

(although I was a little alarmed by the speed of the tourist coaches leaving this area, after dusk, when they were still coming ashore)

You can pay to see them from a visitor centre, but we were told we didn’t need to do that.  I got very excited when I saw footprints in the sand.

NZ penguin footprint_

Down by the waterfront we found one of the penguin wardens, clad in hi-vis vest, they were more than happy to tells us all they knew about their special residents.  And tell us where to wait and how not to disturb them as they waddled back to their nests.

They come ashore in rafts, as in swimming together, not sitting on rafts! The thought of rafts coming ashore does kind of conjure up an image of something slow moving; wrong, they are more like little torpedoes!

NZ penguin landfall

It was too dark, to capture much in the way of images, as you can see. But I’m thrilled to say I saw them

NZ penguin shoreline_

And what’s more, a pair were nesting under some decking, very near where we were staying, and I drifted off to sleep that night, listening to their distinctive calls, (starts at 11 seconds)

Which was every bit as magical as the  NZ dawn chorus.

*we forgot to take them out with us 75% of the times we needed them, on the Doubtful Sound trip we remembered them, but forgot the packed lunch!

**At Mr Uphilldowndale’s long service awards dinner, every employee at our table was, like Mr Uphilldowndale, working their notice, having been made redundant. It has to be said though, he’s never looked back.

30 years of employment with the same employer is a thing of the past I guess. 

 

 

 

 

 

https://www.penguins.co.nz/

 


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Bird talk #1.

More from our travels through New Zealand, November 2019.

One of the first things I noticed when I stepped out of the car at our accommodation in Wanaka, was the birdsong, beautiful melodious birdsong.

Tom told me ‘This is nothing, wait till we get to Fiordland’.

I’m going to like this place I thought. I’d better buy a bird book. So the next morning I tracked down the book shop and bought myself a copy of The Field Guide to the Birds of New Zealand. A weighty tome.  Later with a glass of nicely chilled Sauvignon  Blanc I started my studies, I opened the page at cuckoo, good place to start, I know what a cuckoo looks like,  only to find that  there a possible six species of cuckoo in New Zealand, two endemic and four vagrant. Humm, this is going to be a bigger job than I realised.

New Zealand is home to over 200 native bird species, many of which are found nowhere else in the world. 

So at that moment I decided that trying to identify different species, or even attempting to photograph them, was missing the point, much better, I thought, to simply enjoy.

And wherever you are in the world, garrulous gulls are always going to pitch up, if only to see what is in your pack-up.

NZ able tasmin gull posturing

So be it a little bird

NZ bird fan tail -!

a big bird

NZ Picton bird

a wading bird

NZ bird spoonbill

a pair of squabbling birds

NZ bird waders

or a bird enhancing a photo composition. NZ bird on fence

Every bird is a joy.

 

 

 

 


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The scent of the sea.

More from our travels through New Zealand, November 2019

A stroll to Nugget Point,  Catlins Conservation Park,  South Island, the rocks were named by Captain Cook, because of their golden colour,

NZ Nugget point light house 2_

The the drop from the path was precipitous in places, not Mr Uphilldowndales favourite kind of terrain.

NZ Nugget point light house 4

We could look down on dive boats and fur seals wallowing in sun warmed rock pools.

NZ Nugget point divers_

The east coast of South Island, it’s not a sheltered spot.  The wind shorn shrubs, look like they’ve been applied with a palette knife, smeared on to the exposed cliff face.

NZ Nugget point lighthouse cliff

Each shrub finding its own crevice to anchor its roots.

NZ Nugget point shrub root

You’d think the predominant scent of a place like this, would be the tang  of brine and seaweed (but it seems there is more to the scent of the sea than that).

But  to my surprise and delight, the strongest scent was that of flowers, this one seemed to be the most perfumed, but I don’t know what it is.

NZ Nugget point scented flowers

But I’m pretty sure this is a daisy, clinging to the edge of the world. A Catlin costal daisy?

NZ Nuget point_

It is so nice to be looking through the photos of our trip, with their sunshine and colour, whilst storm Dennis rages at the window.