Archive for January, 2008

More garden bird watching

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2008

(This entry just copied from my WAB blog)

Long-tailed Tit

Today I did some more bird watching in my parents’ garden, again trying to get some photographs with my new camera (I should say that I’ve been living back with my parents for about the last three years now – they keep muttering something about ‘eviction order’!). The day had started well when we had seen a Long-tailed Tit on the feeders right outside the patio windows as we had breakfast.


About 11.45am, I got a plastic chair out of the summer-house, and sat beside the garden shed, about 40 feet from the feeders on the apple tree in the back garden. I had my camera set up on my tripod. I soon saw a Blue Tit inspecting the bird box nearby, and then Great Tits, Chaffinches, Greenfinches and a Dunnock put in appearances. Again I saw the Long-tailed Tit, on the feeders on the apple tree – unusual to see one on its own I thought, they are usually in family groups. Jackdaws and a Magpie flew overhead. A Robin also turned up, eating some of the food I’d spread on the low wall around the apple tree.


I returned after lunch, about 1.45pm. Almost the first birds I saw were two Buzzards that soared across the paddocks behind the garden and then over our neighbour’s garden – I failed to get a decent photo, partly because I had to lift the camera and tripod together and point them at the sky. All the birds I’d seen earlier returned, and I managed to get some better shots of the Long-tailed Tit. A hen Pheasant turned up, but I was too slow to get a photo.


Just a couple of things …

Sunday, January 20th, 2008

Things are very quiet here in Kensworth at the moment, the continuing rainy weather keeping me indoors. My parents and I are all sharing a cold at the moment, too. Highlight of the week has been seeing some Bramblings in the garden for the first time ever! I’ve seen one or two of them a couple of times this week, they seem to be hanging out with our regular visitors ‘the greenfinch gang’.

Just a couple of points to say about this blog (I think that’s an acronym for ‘Boring Load Of Gibberish’, by the way!). I’ve added my contact details (see post near top of the column on the right) so that you can email me. I know people do read this blog, I’d love to know who you are and hear your thoughts. Secondly, you’ve probably noticed I am now including some photos occasionally. These are actually ‘hosted’ on the Wild About Britain web site (where I have another blog and where I’m a fairly regular poster using the nickname ‘Pete Collins’ – original, eh!). If you click on any photo, it is enlarged in a new window on that site.

Canal walk to Berkhamsted

Wednesday, January 16th, 2008

(Entry just copied from my WAB blog, as it’s nature-related)

Greylag Goose

Today I walked along the Grand Union Canal from Marsworth (next to some of the Tring reservoirs, a local birding hotspot) to Berkhamsted. I had a quick look round the castle there (more impressive than I’d imagined), before retracing my steps along the canal back to Marsworth.


I probably walked about 11 miles in 4.5 hours, quite slow really but mainly due to the number of times I stopped to take photos. I don’t usually like long canal walks (they tend to be very flat for some reason!), but I chose to do this today because I figured that the towpaths, being at least partly hard-surfaced, would be much less muddy than the other footpaths after all the recent rain.

Black-headed Gull

I stopped frequently to photograph the birds I saw on or beside the canal. These included Robin, Long-tailed Tit, Blackbird, Jay, Magpie, Mute Swan, Mallard, Dabchick, Coot, Moorhen, Grey Heron, House Sparrow, Collared Dove, Wood Pigeon, Carrion Crow, Greylag Goose and Canada Goose.


Garden bird watching

Saturday, January 12th, 2008

(Entry just copied from my WAB blog, as it’s all related to nature)

I experimented a bit with my new camera today, taking photos of birds in and around the back garden. Nothing too unusual appeared, though I did see a Pied Wagtail which is an infrequent visitor to the garden, and two Long-tailed Tits landed on a shrub but were off again before I could get a photo.

Pied Wagtail

Other than that, it was just a few of the common birds that are usually around the garden – Blue Tit, Great Tit, Greenfinch, Blackbird, Magpie, Jackdaw, Robin.

Blue Tit

Great Tit


Chesham and Latimer

Thursday, January 10th, 2008


A 14.5 mile walk today, a bit more like the usual distance after a couple of months of mainly 12-mile walks. The forecast said there might be showers in the afternoon, but I chose to walk anyway as it looked like this would be the best day weather-wise all week. It started bright, clouded over after an hour or so, brightened up again by lunchtime and was starting to cloud over again when I got back to the car – fortunately the showers never came my way.

I started at the car park by the railway station in Chesham. I followed a paved footpath, then went left over a railway bridge and was soon puffing as I climbed a steep and muddy hillside. I crossed a ploughed field following very muddy tractor tracks, then followed hedgerows round two sides of a grassy field close to a farm. After crossing an empty paddock, I followed another hedgerow beside a school, and then crossed another ploughed field on more muddy tractor tracks.

I said ‘Good Morning!’ to a dog walker as I turned right at the bottom of a valley, and followed Bottom Lane for some distance. I then bore left up Green Lane, another bridleway betwen hedges, gradually going uphill for some distance then passing a farm to reach a lane. I went a short distance left then, as I was about to take a path on the right, the same dog walker appeared again from the left, and we both said ‘Hello again!’. The path now took me across a pasture, over a lane and across another field to a wood. There was a good path through the wood, then a narrow but clear path across a large arable field – although the Chess valley was only a short distance away, this seemed quite flat, with woods close by in most directions. I then had half a mile or so of lane walking before crossing a meadow into the charming village of Latimer.

From there I took a path for quarter of a mile or so along the delightful Chess valley. Here I had the good fortune to get a distant view of some Little Egrets – I’ve seen these a lot along the coasts of Norfolk and Suffolk, but this was the first time I’d seen them inland. There were some buzzards and/or kites here too, but they’d disappeared by the time I got my camera sorted out.

Little Egret (honest!)

I turned left on a bridleway going uphill out of the valley, soon passing through quite a large wood. The path here was very muddy in places. On the other side of the wood I continued on a track between hedges, turning left onto a similar track, then descending steeply through a narrow wood to a lane in the valley of Flaunden Bottom. I went right for quarter of a mile, then bore left on another bridleway, gradually going uphill. This was also very muddy in places, as bridleways tend to be this time of year. I heard and then saw a pair of buzzards over to the right, above an old chalk quarry, and also got a glimpse of a bullfinch flying the other side of a hedge.

The bridleway flattened out and eventually reached a road by a farm. I turned right and followed the road for a third of a mile into Ley Hill, with a golf course either side of the road. I took a path, initially between garden fences and then across a paddock, to reach a wood. The paths are a little confusing here, but as I’d been here a couple of times before I managed to navigate my way through to the correct stile on the other side. I crossed an empty passture, following an intermittent old hedge, then turned left along a track called Broomstick Lane.


When I reached a lane, I turned right, uphill a short distance into Botley. I took a path through a farmyard, then continued northwards alongside hedgerows (I saw some redwings here). I crossed a minor road and continued on through a large empty pasture to reach Lye Green. A path across fields soon took me to the A416, the main road between Berkhamstead and Chesham. Here I turned from north to west, still  on a route almost ‘circumnavigating’ Chesham. Another path through green fields gave me nice views north over Chesham Vale. The path descended and passed through a farmyard. Across a lane, I followed a track to reach the Ostrich farm in White Hawridge Bottom.

I turned left, going quite steeply uphill – I noticed that work was being carried out on the path along the valley next to the far end of the ostrich farm, which had been impassable due to deep sloppy mud a few weeks ago. My path took me through the edge of Ramscoat Wood, and on to a road near Great Hivings. I crossed over, and followed a farm drive a short distance, before crossing a field of rough grass to Captain’s Wood, where I took a path going left. When this reached a crossroads of paths, I turned right, going downhill through the wood, then on between paddocks to a lane in a valley bottom. I then followed a track that went uphill again to reach the village of Chartridge.

Here I turned left, and followed the residential road for about half a mile, entering Chesham again. I then took a path on the right, which ran for some distance between garden fences and hedges, then followed hedge on the left with the fence of a large paddock on my right. This was an attractive valley, right on the edge of Chesham. The path continued past a field of very rough grass, then reached a park and took me back into the centre of Chesham. It was then a short stroll along the high street and back to the car park by the station.

It was 2.30 when I got back to the car, and I then ate my packed lunch – there had been nowhere to stop and sit down, so I’d just had a couple of extra Alpen bars to keep me going. It had just turned a bit windy in the last 20 minutes, and clouds were now racing across the sky. It looked like the forecast showers were on the way, but it remained dry as I drove home.

This was another enjoyable walk, despite the muddy conditions. Seeing the Little Egrets was an added bonus!

Bird watching at College Lake and Wilstone Reservoir

Saturday, January 5th, 2008

This entry has just been copied from my WAB blog

 Mute Swan

Today I did some local bird watching, the first time in over a year I think! I started at College Lake, the BB&O Wildlife Trust reserve near Tring. I saw Shoveler, Teal, Wigeon, Gadwall, Mallard, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Mute Swan, Greylag Goose, Canada Goose, Great Crested Grebe, Black-headed Gulls, Cormorants, a Green Woodpecker and a Bullfinch.

 Canada Goose

The highlight though was an incredibly friendly Robin, which walked round my feet and then flew into a bush inches from my shoulder (I took a photo, but the Robin was so close it was slightly out of focus). After eating my sandwiches in a hide, I gave the Robin some crumbs on my way back to the car.

 Great Crested Grebe

I then went the short distance to Wilstone Reservoir, one of the Tring Reservoirs. I saw pretty much the same selection of ducks there, and the only new bird for the day was a Grey Heron.


South from Buckland Common

Friday, January 4th, 2008

This circular walk passing through Chartridge and Cholesbury was the same as one I did about six weeks ago, but in the opposite (anti-clockwise) direction – the original walk is on my web site :-

The walk was about 12 miles and took four hours – slow going considering I didn’t take any photos at all. The reason for not taking photos was that it was grey, damp and misty. I hoped the mist would clear, but if anything it got worse. It was foggy rather than misty at times. So it really ended up as a walk just for the sake of the exercise. Shame as there were some nice views over lovely countryside when I did it before.

The highlight of the walk was Cholesbury Camp – again I did the full circuit of this impressive Iron Age hill fort. The only wildlife I spotted in the very limited visibility was a Muntjac Deer – this was right at the end as I passed the Alpaca Farm at Buckland Common, where I also saw one last time.

South from Stoke Row

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2008

I parked in the same spot in Stoke Row as I did on Monday, but today I walked south rather than north. It took about an hour and a quarter to drive there, the journey enlivend by numerous sightings of Red Kites. It was a really dark and grey morning as I started walking about 10.25am.

The first half of the walk was rather ‘bitty’ – lots of short footpaths, often across paddocks, and always seemingly close to some form of human habitation. Having said that, Checkendon was the only village that I touched on (nice church, and an attractive grand house).  I had to alter my planned route at one point, as I’d misread the map and thought there was a public footpath where there wasn’t one. Eventually I crossed the A4074 main road and entered some woodland – most of the rest of the walk would be on woodland bridleways.

I headed back north on a road called Deadman’s Lane and then re-crossed the A4074. I then just carried on along a long series of bridleways, heading north-east for several miles. I eventually turned left at a crossing of bridleways, and started heading north-west through a wood, now heading back towards Stoke Row. I managed to get lost – I came to a complicated path junction which just did not seem to correspond to the map. After trying a couple of paths, neither of which were correct, I got the compass out at a path crossing, and took the path that was going almost in the direction I wanted. Unfortunately, after a quarter of a mile or so, it turned left, further away from the direction I wanted. So I ended up coming out of the wrong side of the wood, and had to take a dfferent route back to Stoke Row than I’d intended.

I only walked about 10 miles today, in about thre and a half hours. Again the paths were very muddy in places, but most of the walk would be fine on a nice warm day. It was colder today than Monday (2C), but the grey skies started to clear up after about 12 and it was quite sunny by the time I got back to Stoke Row.

Stoke Row and Nuffield

Tuesday, January 1st, 2008


Very grey day today, completely overcast throughout the walk, but dry and very mild, about 7-8C.

After a lengthy drive, I started walking from Stoke Row in Oxfordshire about 10.25am. I left the village by a lane, then taking a bridleway going north, downhill through a beech wood. I crossed a couple of lanes and continued northwards on a long farm drive. I was disappointed, as on the map it looked like it would be a nice long track between hedges, but in fact it was tarmac, like walking  along a lane. It was slightly softer surfaced when it went through a wood, but when I turned right just before finally reaching the farm, I was back on another lengthy tarmac drive. Still, I did now see my first Red Kites of the day as I neared Nettlebed – there were three or four on the ground in a field on my left. I also saw a bullfinch (again!) in the hedgerow here – it actually posed briefly in the open, but I was too slow to focus my camera.

I crossed a road on the edge of Nettlebed, and continued north through the village allotments. The path took me to a road, but instead of crossing it I took another path going off sharply to my left. This was quite muddy in places but not too bad. It was generally a good path between hedges, which eventually led to a farm or stables. Here I turned right along a lane, heading towards Park Corner (where I photographed some deer recently). But before getting there, I went left along another bridleway. This passed a couple of houses on my right with a wood on my left, then ran close to a field on my right.

I then came to a junction, where I turned right to follow a path through a long thin belt of trees – this was part of the southern extension of the Chiltern Way, heading from Park Corner towards Ewelme. The path was occasionally muddy, but this was an enjoyable stretch, following the tree belt and very gradually descending a shallow valley. After about a mile, I reached a junction where the Chiltern Way crossed the Ridgeway, and I turned left onto the National Trail.

As I left the tree belt to cross an arable field on a clear but narrow path, I stopped to try to photograph another couple of Red Kites. As with all such atempts today I was unsuccessful – they were too far away, and I really need to use a tripod to get a sharper picture as I don’t have the steadiest hands. On the far side of the field the path went uphill and to the left through a wood. I then crossed a busy main road, and followed a path through a golf course to reach Nuffield – there were several Red Kites flying over the village, as there were when I walked through here on my Berks-Essex walk about 18 months ago.

I turned right and passed the ancient church that dates back to the 600’s, then took a field path on the left. After quarter of a mile I turned right and followed the Ridgeway through a very long thin belt of trees. For the next couple of miles I was on the line of an ancient earthwork called Grim’s Ditch, sometimes a wide and deep ditch between banks, sometimes just a small bank. It was very gradually descending down from the Chilterns towards the river Thames.

When it reached a lane, just after following a row of Scots Pines, I turned left (my last walk on Swans Way started here, and I was now rejoining part of the Chiltern Way route). I soon turned left off the lane and followed a track to a farm, where I went right, slightly uphill through a wood. I heard more Red Kites here, and as I left the wood to cross a field I saw three or four kites in the trees to my right. The path took me on past Poors Farm and into the hamlet of Hailey. I turned left and followed the lane past the pub and one or two cottages. The Chiltern Way soon turned off right, but I went straight on, the lane now replaced by a farm track between hedges. I saw a buzzard and a song thrush amongst other birds as I walked along here.

This track went on for about a mile, gradually uphill for a long time, and passed through a wood. Eventually I reached a few houses and a farm, where the track became a lane again, which I followed for another half mile to a road. I crosssed over and continued on another bridleway. This passed what seemed to be a scrap merchants, with a lot of skips parked next to the path, but soon became a green lane, a rathery muddy track between hedges. This took me back to Stoke Row, where the track became a lane as it passed a farm and a few houses. When the lane met the main road through Stoke Row, I turned left and was soon back at my car.

This was a very grey day and the paths were often quite muddy. For some reason I wasn’t in the best of moods and didn’t enjoy the walk as much as I should have done. But on a decent Spring or Summer’s day, I can see that this would be a really fine walk, with the additional historic interest of Nufield church and Grim’s Ditch.