Spring Awakes (briefly)

Hello blogworld wherever you are.  Hope you are all coping with whatever restrictions your governments have put upon you.  Here we should only leave home to go to work (which I must), buy essentials or one daily exercise.  It’s not been a great hardship this week as after early morning frosts we have had wall to wall sunshine and temperatures up to a whole 11c!  Which means we have had visitors to the garden, yes butterflies!

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Blue sky + blossom + butterfly = Spring!

Much like a repeat of last year the first species spotted was a lemon yellow male Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni).  Not long after I noticed a dark shape flitting about the flowerbed, could only be a Peacock (Aglais io).  Straight out of hibernation they spend a lot of time sat on bare earth to absorb as much warmth as possible.  Not much feeding is noticed apart from the attraction of the blossom when they first wake up.  Then it’s all down to fighting!  Territory is important as the testosterone kicks in.

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Comma (Polygonia c-album) on Spring Snowflake (Leucojum vernum)

Next seen was the Comma.  It has a very distinctive fast glide with flickering wingtips.  These too like to bask in the sun and squabble among themselves and with the Peacocks.  The garden has been like an insect battleground at times.

Since Saturday the weather has changed.  The wind has swung 180 to the north, got very strong and being only a couple of miles from the North Sea it’s a bit chilly, as I was typing this we had a snow shower!  Stay sane everyone.

 

Don’t Worry Bee Happy

The sun is shining and the garden is starting to look lovely.  The wind is from the east so when you venture out it’s not as warm as you think but the bees don’t seem to mind.  This last week I’ve noticed more and more Hairy-footed Flower Bees (Anthophora plumipes).  They love the pulmonaria.  These are hyperactive critters zig-zagging from bloom to bloom with more of a distinctive buzz than the others.  Time to dust off the macro and give the auto focus a hammering!DSC_0002a

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“Yes I do have hairy feet”
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“It’s a dirty job but someone has to do it” Honey Bee approaching a daffodil
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“Target located I’m going in”

Here in the northern hemisphere spring is unfolding.  Down south it will be your autumn.  Wherever you are try and get out to enjoy your season in these troubling times.

Restless

Spring is coming.  Leaves are starting to break from their buds and in the country lanes blackthorn blossom is emerging.  The few daffodils that survive our heavy soil are in bloom along with the gorgeous hellebores.  Bright yellow forsythia and the small blue and pink pulmonaria join the primroses and winter heathers.  When the sun shines and temperatures rise a little the first honey bees and bumblebees have been making use of this new source of nectar and energy.

Blue Tits and Great Tits are inspecting the nest boxes for suitable homes in the not too distant future while the Blackbirds and Song Thrushes are starting to find their voices.  Yet things seem a bit restless.  It’s still a little early and far from warm, though we have not had a proper winter it may not have finished with us just yet.

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Grey Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea) on the old lock wall

Mid-week and with the prospect of a little sun I took a look at a section of derelict canal a couple of miles from home.  I was delighted to see a pair of Grey Wagtails in the old lock.  These gorgeous birds are more at home on fast flowing streams but with the lock gates long removed forming a waterfall they looked well suited to this habitat.  The strong wind cut right through you and half an hour was long enough for my fingers to go numb but these birds were obviously getting the spring urge.

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Male Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs) in the neighbours pear tree

Back home and from the comfort of indoors I managed to get this pleasing shot of a male Chaffinch.  Lots of birds visit our neighbours feeders and they are in easy view of the bedroom window.

This period in 2018 we had the ‘Beast from the East’ with heavy snow blocking the roads.  In 2019 we enjoyed two weeks of sun and temperatures in the 70’sF and five species of butterfly in the garden.  This year its been storms, gales and periods of heavy rain and none too warm, the joys of living in England!  And this photographer is getting restless too.

MAGIC!

It’s coming up to that time of year when the blog celebrates it’s third birthday.  I would like to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of you who read my posts and pages, cheers guys & gals!  It has also been good this last year to discover even more interesting blogs.  I have recently been doing more posts that are not nature or drag racing themed, so it’s been pleasing so many of you have ‘liked’ and commented on them.  We are sitting out the second big storm to hit us in a week but rest assured when spring gets here normal service will be resumed.

So for this post we go back to last November.  We thought we had sold our property, unfortunately it all fell through more or less at the last minute.  The only good thing to come out of it was we managed to declutter and clear out 30+ years of “oh that might come in handy one day”.  When I was up in the roof loft space I came across a box of old photos, a quick rummage through and I found two packs with ‘ drag racing’ written on them.  I could have cried with joy!  I thought these were lost for ever having searched for them before without success.

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Two well known Comp Altereds line up. The big v8 powered Ford Pop ‘Liquidator’ driven by Tony Merry or Pete Goddard and the Jag engined ‘Paranoia’ of Loten and Thomas

Ah the memories!  Well to be honest I really can’t remember taking most of these pictures.  They date to the early 1980’s and some can be assigned to certain meetings by maybe the car/bike name or colour, those on the ‘UK & European drag racing photo’s’ fb page have been a great help.  I scanned them onto the computer, a couple of things were obvious, 1. My photography skills in those days was somewhat lacking and 2. Some of the old prints had suffered with age and turned red!  So I asked Uncle Google if anything could be done to restore the images “Yes” he said ” You need to download one of them expensive post-processing softwares”  Hmmm, a look through the options and here’s one offering 30 days free trial!  Well it would be rude not to.

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Before and after, not a 100% but very acceptable. Ron Pudney’s ‘ Magician’ a 1968 Mercury Cougar

The magic button was fade correction and this could be altered for more or less reduction.  However the images still needed working on.  Full size on a 16″ laptop screen the 5″x 3.5″ prints were a bit grim.  They looked very ‘noisy’ possibly due to the type of paper so hit the ‘noise control’ button, better but now soft so saved the results and in Nikon View NX which I got with my first camera I cropped and sharpened the images also adding some contrast or highlight protection and straightened one or two.  Now things were looking good.

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Now you see me, now you don’t! Hazze Fromme ‘Ragnarok’ nitro Funny Car

Further investigation into what this software could offer and with a bit of practice I could remove dust spots or scratches and even more impressive a photographer or two!  The images were now good enough to use on my blog in my various drag racing pages.  Some might say it’s cheating and yes it is but it is also a great way to preserve memories, plus I still have the original prints!

So did I purchase the software?  Actually no.  I made full use of the thirty day trial but at the moment all my post-pocessing needs can be taken care of in Nikon NXD.

Shakespeare’s Waters

On our return from Wales at the turn of the year the coach driver decided to have a quick detour so we could stretch our legs and grab a coffee.  He chose Stratford-upon-Avon, birth place of a rather well known Tudor poet and playwright.

Some of you may think I’m a philistine but the thing is, I’ve never read any of the works of Mr Shakespeare.  My secondary education didn’t require such a high level of learning, after all we were only being readied to work in field or factory.  However I do like a bit of history.  We wandered into Stratford’s centre and took a stroll down the pedestrianised Henley Street.  Here on your left is the Bards birthplace, a fine old preserved Tudor building complete with the obligatory tourists taking selfies and, oddly, a lady dressed in period costume sitting in an upstairs window.  When you glance around the house looks somewhat out of place.  Surrounded by modern emporiums such as ‘Ye Olde Hamlet Starbucks’, ‘Ye Olde Macbeth McDonalds’ and ‘Ye Olde Othello Betting Shoppe’.  OK not the real names but you get my drift and what on earth a Harry Potter gift shop has to do with Shakespeare I can’t fathom out.  We continued our walk, past the Royal Shakespeare Theatre (not my favourite piece of architecture) and came to the river and canal, this is more like it!

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Messing about on the river, those rowers are a hardy bunch!  The church is Will’s resting place

The Warwickshire Avon is, to me, a big river.  We have several rivers in Norfolk but not as wide or long.  The Avon rises near Naseby in Northamptonshire and flows 85 miles (137km) south/west to join the river Severn at Tewkesbury in Gloucestershire.

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The eight span Tramway bridge built in Victorian times
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Lock 56 which links the Stratford-upon-Avon canal to the Warwickshire Avon.  The water was the colour of milky tea!

I do have a fascination for old canals, some of you may remember this post https://blhphotoblog.wordpress.com/2018/11/10/big-city-manchester-canals/  Nowadays these man made waterways are used for gentle boating holidays but their origins were far from romantic.  Dug by hand, mostly by Irish ‘Navvies’ at the start of the industrial revolution, the canal system was designed to transport goods and materials in bulk across the Country.  This was when the roads were little more than dusty cart tracks.  The coming of the railways killed off most of the canals including the Stratford-upon Avon.  Construction started in 1793 on the 25.5 mile (41km) canal which heads towards Birmingham and has 56 locks to raise or lower the barges.  By 1945 the southern section was un-navigable.  It was restored by the National Trust and re-opened by the Queen Mother in 1964.

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If you fancy a canal holiday allow plenty of time and make sure you are fit!

Why use mono images?  Well colour just didn’t cut it on a gloomy day.  Several bloggers use mono images and this inspired me to try and I rather like them.

I See Sawbills

Ducks with teeth?  Well not quite.  There is however a group of quackers that collectively go by the name Sawbills.  This is due to the edges of the beak being serrated which comes in handy when your diet consists mostly of slippery fish and you have no hands to hold them!  There are six species worldwide.  Of these four are seen in the UK.  The Hooded Merganser is a very rare vagrant from North America, the gorgeous Smew a winter visitor in small numbers from Scandinavia, the Red-breasted Merganser and the Goosander both breeders in the north and west.

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Two drake and a duck Goosander on Llandrindod Wells Lake

On new years day, after a bit of a late night, we went for a walk to get some fresh air.  Not too far from our hotel in the Welsh town of Llandrindod Wells was a park with a beautiful man-made lake.  Apart from the usual Mallards, Canada Geese and Mute Swans all trying to scrounge a crust or three I noticed a small group of four ducks out in the middle that were not familiar.

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Waiting for the lady to get herself ready

They turned out to be Goosanders (Mergus merganser).  In my part of the country they are a scarce winter visitor, I am more used to seeing the Red-breasted Merganser.  Here in Wales they breed in holes in trees next to fast flowing rivers but in winter will visit still waters where the feeding is a touch easier.  The drakes are very dapper with their mostly white plumage and dark heads with a deep green sheen.  The ducks are grey with a ginger hair-do.  They were quite nervous.  Although attracted to the commotion when children fed bread to the usual suspects when I pointed a lens in their direction they sidled back out to the centre.  In all there were about eight.

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I’ll let you draw your own conclusions to this shot!

This area of Mid-Wales is very well known to bird watchers.  It was in the remote valleys of Powys and Ceredigion like the Elan where, in the 50’s, the last handful of Red Kites survived in the UK.  In Medieval times Kites were common across the land and protected by law as their scavenging helped clear up man’s waste.  This changed in the 16th century when they were declared vermin and hunted to near extinction.  Now thanks to a re-introduction scheme they are once again flourishing and can be seen almost anywhere.  I saw many on my break but the light was poor and photography difficult.  So here’s a shot from Norfolk in 2017 when I had a close encounter!

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Red kite over Foulden Common