Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Tiny Tadpoles

Taking a stroll last week on the sandy path between sand dunes and sea the brackish pools lying amongst the small section of salt marsh near Haverigg on the Cumbrian coast looked so tranquil.
But something caught my eye. A seething black mass at the edge.
It was thousands of tadpoles.
 The more adventurous were swimming all over the pool
and I concentrated on trying to get a photograph of their tails wiggling.  Suddenly there was a quiver and an explosion of sand
 as a little Goby fish broke cover and swam across the pool.  I wondered what these tadpoles would turn into. 
This distinctive double string gave a clue
Lets take a closer look.
Some of these eggs will eventually turn into Natterjack toads. It is a protected species in the British Isles and only present in a handful of coastal sites.  Their preference for shallow, warm pools has the disadvantage that these can dry out but they overcome the problem by an extended period of mating from April to July and eggs are produced throughout this season,  normally 3000 to 4000 at a time.  This nocturnal toad's distinctive calls will be heard in the dunes in the night.

I think a warm winter and early spring this year may mean a productive year for all our amphibians whether by the coast or
inland. As part of the National Garden Scheme when private gardens are opened to the public to raise money for charity the owners of Clearbeck opened up their 4+ acre garden for two days this weekend and we made the trip inland into north Lancashire yesterday. I ramped up my tadpole spotting for the year at the edge of their lake
I managed to throw these little fellows into a mild panic as my shadow fell across water and they scattered.  I will not see what happens to these tadpoles, which I suspect are the offspring of the Common Frog, but will be be keeping an eye on my local pools. When I revisited the brackish pools this week there was even more life there, damselflies clinging on the reeds while little water boatmen skimmed the surface in the sunshine and the tadpoles had been joined by new ones, their small size distinguishing them from those who had spent longer in the pool.
 As Arnie says "I'll Be Back" and hopefully see their life journey as they metamorphose into toads .

An entry to ABC Wednesday, a journey through the alphabet this week sojourning at T here


Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Sign of Sheep by the Sea

Trotting along by the side of a tidal channel on Morecambe Bay this line of  sheep attracted my attention as I walked the coastal path.  They seemed to have purpose in mind. The sign says 'Beware", not of sheep, but of 'fast incoming tides. Quicksand close inshore'.  These woolly locals intuitively know that because they are sticking to the rocky outcrop and perhaps are going  in search of sweet green grass.
Heading into western slopes of the Pennines, a duo of signs, one for the farm and one saying "No HGV" although the only reason they would be on this rough road,
which I would be more inclined to call a path, would be the driver paying more attention to his Sat Nav than the road.  Perhaps these two sheep are the farmer's look out, although one of them has more interest in grass nibbling. The stripy legs are one of the indicators they are Rough Fell sheep, a descendant of a breed found in northern Britain in the middle ages.
It is a docile breed, sometimes cross bred, but is very hardy, it needs to be to survive the harsh conditions of the Pennine and Cumbrian fells.
Rough Fell with the Cumbrian fells in the background in the low November sun
The regulations for ear tags seems to change all the time and as I no longer work with my farming colleague who ran a herd and had a wealth of amusing incidents I'm not sure of the significance.  I believe that sheep born after 1 January 2010 have a yellow electronic tag in one ear and either a matching tag on the other or a tattoo.
And just as a change from Rough Fell sheep here is Cheviot; my that coat does look cosy.  This is a wool that is sometimes used by hand spinners.  These white faced sheep have been run in the borders for hundreds of years.  They can be found  up to 3,000 ft above sea level however this one is actually at sea level in the Duddon estuary.The last three photos were all taken in November last year and unlike the previous year the winter turned out to be mild but the waterproof nature of sheep wool might have come into its own.

An entry to ABC Wednesday, a journey through the alphabet, this week sojourning at S here

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Right Royal Rain

Hoods up against the rain as this little group cross Lancaster Square in Conwy. The building in the background is the local police station and the painted statue on the left is of Llwelyn ap Lorwerth, also known as Llwelyn the Great (c1172-1240) who united and ruled Wales for forty years. The statue and the ornamental fountain it stands on was unveiled in 1898 to commemorate a water supply to the town.  The square (which expands behind me) is also home to the annual Honey Fair in September which dates back more than 700 years when local bee-keepers were given the right to sell their honey within the walls of the town by the Royal Charter of Edward I.
Here is a close up of the statue of Llwelyn the Great from Wikipedia with blue sky background. The statue was created by E O Griffith and is in Llwelyn's royal colours.
More rain as we take a turn around the town and pass the traffic lights. The building is Aberconwy House a medieval merchants house and warehouse.
Tourists ignoring the rain while photographing the smallest house in Great Britain with its traditionally costumed curator.
Meanwhile down by the harbour no day sailors can be seen out on the water in the misty rain
But part of the mural by the car park underpass shows sunnier sailing days by the coast and a sunbathing crab.

An entry to ABC Wednesday, a journey through the alphabet, this week sojourning at R here

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Queen Victoria

Here is the Birkenhead's Queen Victoria Monument in Hamilton Square gardens. It is made of sandstone but for the steps something more resilient has been used, granite. Designed by Edmund Kirby in the form of an Eleanor Cross it was unveiled in 1905.   The origin of  the Eleanor Cross shape are from the 13th Century when King Edward I commemorated the sites the coffin of his Queen, Eleanor of Castile, had rested on its journey from where she died in Hertfordshire to her final resting place in Westminster Abbey.
The Queen Victoria monument has the coat of arms of Birkenhead, Cheshire, Wales, Ireland, Scotland, England and the Royal Arms around the bottom. The clock tower in the background is that of the Birkenhead Town Hall.
The monument is 75 ft (23 metres) high and its light and airy construction contrasts to the robust War Memorial built after World War I nearby.

An entry to ABC Wednesday, a journey through the alphabet, this week sojourning at Q here