Monday, 1 December 2008

Frankie goes to Holyoake

The safari set off in thick fog this Saturday morning. The post could have been called 'Yorkshire Fog and Lancashire fog'. Yorkshire Fog is an attractive summer flowering grass that is still flowering, as a weed, in my neighbours garden. Lancashire fog was the weather conditions it was a real 'pea-souper' with visibility down the hill less than a hundred yards. The frozen ice crystals just seems a little unusual on the green flowers of this species of grass.
Just to prove it is actually flowers here are some dead stems with a fresh flowering shoot as evidence.
A safari in to the countryside was called for to enjoy the surreal ethereal surroundings.

The hoare frost had covered all the vegetation like an early Christmas card. And the thick fog was having an effect on new safari guide, Frank. I don't think his eyes were giving him much information as he was quite nervy.

But it was pretty much white-out conditions. That is a person with a large dog appearing in the murk about 30 yards away!

With little to see we had to use our ears to find the wildlife. There were flocks of Pink Footed Geese going over, or maybe the same flock going round in circles, and it was nice to hear the clear whistles of some Wigeon over head. A solitary Redshank 'teuu teuu-uu'ed trying to find some friends in the mist.
Along the track a Wren clung to a tree trunk like a Treecreeper and scolded Frank as we walked by. what a racket by something so tiny at something so much bigger! All of a sudden it started to rain?, but it wasn't rain - it was icicles being knocked of the twigs at the top of a huge Willow tree by a very ungainly and unsure of what it was trying to do Moorhen. It was at least 40 feet up. Had it too been flying around in the fog. I've seen them climbing about in low waterside bushes before but in over 45 years of watching Moorhens I've never seen one that high off the ground and if it needed to hide in cover there was plenty along the edge of the stream, which incidentally wasn't frozen. So it remains a mystery as to why it was up there struggling about in the tiniest twigs so far off the ground. But isn't that the exciting thing about venturing out on safari. You just don't know what you are going to find - it could be something completely new, or something completely ordinary doing something completely new. Like 'they' say - you live and learn.
As it happens today (Monday) after two days of sub-zero temperatures many of the ponds and lakes have started to freeze. After mentioning the Moorhen story to the Rangers I got a call a couple of hours later telling me they were watching 5 Moorhens at the top of some medium sized trees at an ornamental pond near the nature reserve. It seems here that disturbance was the reason; with the pond frozen the only safe place from predators was up!
Where to next? The safari still has an eye on those Waxwings. The numbers seem to be building up, we just hope the berries last until we have a chance to go and get a look at these Scandinavian invaders.
In the meantime let us know what you have found in your frozen or tropical outback.
Why Frankie goes to Holyoake not Hollywood - well, as you might have already guessed, Holyoake is the name of the area we took the safari to. Crickey...literery genius or what!

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