Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Sunday 31st October, Tuesday 2nd November

My blogging has become increasingly spasmodic - reflecting the lack of cycle rides!   I'm back in the saddle having done 5.38km and 8.84km respectively.  Not back to 16km+ yet.  Today's trip was over the Downs with a stop at the Peregrine Watch, Jim was there when I arrived, no Peregrines, and he told me there were none around.  This time of year they are not seen frequently at all.  The next thing we will know is the return of the Ravens to their nest opposite.  A squadron of ducks was flying around over the river, high speed and looking like a fighter squadron!

BCC have finished the fencing above Sea Walls, it is now painted black, and looks very good and smart.  It only took them 5/6 years to do the whole couple of hundred metres.   The other fence which is going up concerns the Goat Stalig or Goat Pen.  It was supposed to unobtrusive, but if 7-8' black fencing in non-intrusive, I just wonder what they would put up if they wanted to make it really stand out.  It will be an eyesore in what was an idyllic enclave just off the Downs.  Ugh!   Not only that the cost has been kept very quiet, and as I've said before, maybe over £100,000.  And in the present financial climate.

I said a change of direction for the blog.  I have been diagnosed with permanent AF (look it up!), a consequence of which is that I have to take warfarin daily.  I start this evening:  it has to be taken at the same time each evening, so an iPhone bell rings at 7pm;  the dose needs to be settled so I take 5mg tablets for 3 days and then a blood test;  this gives the 'bleeding time' - remember 'Doctor in the House'.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Sunday 10th October

Around lunchtime, I cycled out via the Downs, around by Sea Walls, the past the Peregrine Watch, along the Gorge woodland path, down Bridge Valley (now fenced) and onto the Portway path.  From there to Sea Mills station and the towpath.  My plan was to try out the Optimus stove that I had for a birthday present by brewing a cup of tea.  I think that the river has flooded the tow path very recently, anyway, where I intended to brew and sit was covered in river mud;  the brew went poorly due to a slight breeze blowing the flame from under the stove!  Result, I used up all the propane before the water boiled - it did nearly boil - so I go the cup of tea.  The stove needs a small windscreen if it is to work properly.  Partial success with the plan.
Above the Raven's nest, high up, two Ravens were gliding around.  A young Peregrine was perched on one of the cliff pinnacles below and to the right of the Peregrine Watch.  He/she stayed while I watched from the Portway, preening feathers, and with an obviously full crop.   A little later when I got to the base of the Black Rock quarry cliff a Kestral circled, went into the woodland of Walcombe Slade, and dived onto something on the ground.  I don't think it caught anything.  By Sea Mills there were gulls on the mud, also a number of Redshank and a couple of Peewits, the latter are unusual visitors to the mud, so I was uncertain about what they were until I saw the crests.  By the Storm Drain on the way back I spotted a Dipper,  then a Cormorant landed ion the river beside it, another Redshank was exploring the nearby mud. 
The sun was out, together with most of Bristol, I returned up Bridge Valley Road and back over the Downs, home.

A rider.  With the collossal cuts due from the BCC in the budget they are still wasting money on goats.  Obviously they prefer looking after goats to looking after vulnerable people.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sunday 19th September

Warmer this morning, but with a cold wind in my face coming up to Sea Walls.  The white flashes from the wings of a couple of Redshank attracted my attention as they flew from one mud bank to the other;  I found one more on the mud below the cliff. Low tide, but still receding.  A heron was standing in the water, and another, just below the storm drain outlet struggled with an eel.  At first I thought it was a large gull, but the Heron was crouched down trying to pull the eel from the mud.  The struggle went on for five minutes or more, eventually the Heron stretched out to its full height, extended its head and neck, and down went the eel!  At the Peregrine Watch I had a brief view of the gray back of a Peregrine as it disappeared among the trees at the top of the quarry.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Thursday 16th September

I've been neglecting my cycling!  This morning there was no excuse, so I did a quick Downs circuit before a lazy brunch.  I'm told that only one of the four young Peregrines is still hanging around in the Gorge, maybe the male, he was often separate from his sisters.  Anyway, today I only caught the briefest glimpse of a Buzzard, down in the woodland over the other side, and then obscured by the vegetation on this side of the Peregrine Watch.
A large tree, an elm I think has been felled.  It grew in one of the front gardens of Ivywell road, and the remnants were sitting, cut up, on the Down.  I'm always sad to see these giants disappear. 

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Thursday, Sunday, August 19th, 22nd

The Goat Pen
Very little bird life to report on on Thursday, however I'll soon be able to observe the goats!  This is a truly mad-cap scheme, supposedly to improve the habitat of the Gully, aka Walcombe Slade, and return it to the grassland that it never was. Because goats have been introduced in various other locations, the Downs Committee and its Natural England advisers,  think they can do the same in Walcombe Slade.  Firstly, it will cost a lot of money, at the BCC meeting to approve this scheme BCC were noticeably coy about the cost.  And that was before the present financial crisis.  Secondly,  all the other schemes are in areas about 100x the size of Walcombe Slade, so this will be a pen rather than a free area for the animals to roam.  Thirdly, we all know (or at least those who are followers of Sean the Sheep) that "goats eat anything", so they will surely munch on the many beautiful Whitebeams in this area - some very rare.  Thus in Cheddar the N.T. are somewhat worried about the fact that the goats there are already chewing on a newly discovered Whitebeam species which is unique to Cheddar Gorge;  a recent BBC feature showed one of the botanists, busily going around taking cuttings of the rare ones! A safety precaution! Fourthly, as if they didn't have enough to do with clearing litter, the Downs Rangers will have to keep an eye on them most days - also the fencing.  Maybe someone will find a Heidi to do the job!  Fifthly, the goats are very close to a large population area, they may prove a tempting tasty morsel;  having eaten goat myself I can vouch for it as a pleasant meat.  Sixth. Looking at the "temporary" fencing being instated, it is unlikely that the goats will escape - unless someone damages the fencing - but they are highly intelligent and have a great curiosity.  When goats escaped on another conservation site they had to be shot.  Seventh, weasel words were used to assure everybody that the said fencing was "temporary", so how long is that?  Five years, ten years?  And what plans are there for the time when they are removed - if ever!  Remember that the "temporary" Zoo car park has been around for 40 years!  Enough said, but I'll be reporting about anything I learn about our coming  capra aegagrus hircus or maybe plain capra aegagrus.  

On Sunday I cycled through Bristol and onto the Portway, this was another day when the traffic was excluded.  Heavenly!  I could not see any Peregrines on the cliffs below the Peregrine Watch, though it is plain to see where they roost from the guano patches below various pinnacles on the rock faces.  Neither were there any Peregrines in the quarry.  At Sea Mills I watched as a flock of twenty or more Redshank gathered on some patches of seaweed - and went to sleep!  Elsewhere numerous Ducks and Gulls sat beside the river, and Martins dived around above the river catching flies.  Occasionaly they scooped water from the river surface.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Thursday August 12th

The magnificent Horse Chestnut trees on Saville Road show obvious signs of leaf miner moth attack, and it looks more severe than for previous years.  It has been around for several years now, even since I started these Blogs.   Given BCC and the Downs Ranger's propinquity for felling any tree that looks "dangerous" (and not replacing it), the outlook for these trees is bleak to say the least,  and it is probably too much to hope that Chris Sorensen's advice to sweep up dead leaves will be heeded. {Advice from  Chris Sorensen, Forestry Commission officer for the 4,500-acre Savernake Forest near Marlborough, said: “There are quite a few that are affected here but the problem is limited, because the horse chestnut is not generally a forest tree.  For those who have horse chestnut trees at home, I believe the advice is that you should rake up dead leaves and bin them, that way you at least kill off that year’s offspring.”
There was a lot of peregrine activity at the Watch, I could see two young Peregrines and possibly a third one over in the yew tree beside the quarry, and lower down in the dead tree the fourth sibling was facing me.  Looking as ever like a little white beacon.  When you know where to look the Peregrines are very visible if they face over the river.  After that the birds moved around a lot, one flying off up river, another sailing around the quarry, moving around the top of the yew, and there were several trips over to the cliffs underneath my vantage, and one 'fly past'.  The tide was very high and starting to recede, other birds flew warily and rapidly over the river!   A Cormorant flew up river, and two Ravens came across and perched in an ash tree just up and behind the Peregrines.  I expected an altercation - but the Ravens disappeared into the Leigh Woods trees.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Sunday August 8th

I decided to take my breakfast to the riverside by Sea Mills - Sunday is usually croissants and egg.   I cycled through town and onto the Portway, where I discovered that there was a charity event on, puzzled as to what it was at first, I later discovered that people were being taken over the river from the cliffs to the towpath on an aerial runway - for charity. Many other were walking and cycling on the Portway, enjoying the peace and quiet.  The closure of the Portway to traffic makes for a heavenly ride, no noise, no huge lorries rushing past, the gulls and other birds are audible, as are people talking on the other side of the river.  There were some very raucous ducks around.
Just before the Suspension Bridge there was a Heron standing at the river edge in the mud.  Then there were numerous ducks, sleeping on the mud, dabbling at the water edge, flying busily.  At Sea Mills I watched a Cormorant fishing, it would dive and surface every few yards, I did not see it catch anything, but later a cormorant was standing down river with its wings out, as they do when digesting food.  Maybe it was lucky.  Another Cormorant flew up-river, very close to the surface so I'm reminded of the Russian Ekranoplan!
At last I spotted some Redshank feeding on the mud. There were other birds, Martins, Swifts, Gulls, and a small one flitting among the reed tops;  later at the Peregrine Watch a Spotted Woodpecker flew past.  No sign of the Peregrines, either from the Watch, or below on the Portway.