Sunday, 20 March 2011

Don't blame it on the sunshine, don't blame it on the moonlight...

The C17th windmill at Windmill Farm Nature Reserve
Hmm, sunshine…. Rather lovely and most welcome at this time of year but I hold it wholly responsible for yesterday’s action-packed Lizard adventures, involving five buses, a cuddly toy dog called ‘Black Ears’, Highland Cattle, mud, fungi, catkins, a historic windmill, copious amounts of chocolate and a very magical animal encounter. Mind you, perhaps I’m rather hasty in attributing all of the blame to the sunshine, as thinking about it, last night’s super perigee moon could easily have been at least an equal accomplice…

Rather ironically (and not a little annoyingly), despite a more-or-less cloudless sky for most of the day, come the evening, it was the exact opposite, and attempts to even locate the moon proved fruitless.  Still, I will look again tonight.

Anyway, less of this moon-talk – what did I get up to yesterday? Fuelled by a desire to venture further afield than my usual stomping ground, the previous night was spent identifying suitable places to visit and perusing bus timetables in order to create a shortlist. So, to the Lizard it was - to be precise, to Windmill Farm Nature Reserve it was – a 75+ha farm owned jointly by Cornwall Wildlife Trust and Cornwall Birdwatching & Preservation Society:

Mr. Yappy-Pants 

Not entirely sure of where we were heading, we jumped off the bus about 2 miles from Lizard Village, took a while to find our bearings, then reassuringly embarked on the relatively short trek along a track with what definitely appeared to be the remains of a 17th-century windmill at its culmination. En route we passed a field of friendly horses, a vocally-fierce but doddery and old small terrier, daffodils galore and all manner of additional signs of Spring.

On arriving at the reserve, the decision was made to first head to the bird pools and hides, in the hope of seeing some interesting birdlife. After plodding along paths, stopping to view the Highland Cattle, passing through gate after gate, we finally arrived at one of the hides – a delightfully compact affair, which was just the right size for me and the Small Person to rest our already weary feet and have a few bites of our lunch. Unfortunately, there was a distinct lack of birdlife to be observed but the vista was most pleasing!

Highland Cattle

View from the hide

After retracing our steps, we then pootled off in the other direction, passing through a number of fields and a small area of woodland before reluctantly admitting that we had insufficient energy to complete the full circuit of the reserve, and so turned back.

Despite a rather disappointing turn-out on the wildlife front, with blue tits and chaffinches being the main avian representatives, and dandelions and daffodils doing their bit for flora, all-in-all, we had a lovely time at Windmill Farm, and are now very keen to return a little later in the year when there should be a far greater abundance and variety of wildlife with which to be entranced and captivated!
Inside the Information Centre @ Windmill Farm Nature Reserve

According to available information, the above-mentioned track to Windmill Farm is located approximately a mile from Lizard Village. With this in mind, and due to being unfamiliar with the local bus routes, we slowly began the walk from the reserve to Lizard Village, stopping en route to say, ‘Hello’ again to the horses, and stopping also to acknowledge the fervently yapping dog. The walk from the end of the track is along a main road (bearing in mind this is the Lizard…), with only an overgrown narrow grass verge on each side for walking purposes. After walking for about 15 minutes, our energy and will to even move rapidly waning, we passed a road sign, along to discover that it was still 1 mile to Lizard Village. With a heavy heart and no other option but to continue with our mission, we slowly plodded on, jumping up whenever a car passed, to squeeze together onto the verge. Singing helped somewhat to distract us from our weary ennui but still the road felt endless, and rather frustratingly, there routinely appeared to be no increase in the size of the Lizard houses on the horizon…

At long last, we passed the signs to Kynance Cove, and soon found that the above-mentioned houses weren’t actually figments of our imagination – an oasis in the desert of our collective exhaustion – and were now rapidly looming upon us. Then, unexpectedly, out of the corner of my eye I caught sight of something flying low across the small piece of rough grassland on our left. Instinctively I thought ‘Barn Owl’ but didn’t allow myself to fully trust my instincts until I’d had a better look. Carefully lifting up the Small Person so that she could also see over the wall, we watched in awe as the graceful bird soared silently across the grass, passing only a few feet from us, allowing us to take in its features sufficiently to identify it as a female bird due to its dark coloration and large size. After feeling so well and truly fed up, this was just what we needed to raise our spirits and provide us with the boost we needed to walk the remaining (relatively) short distance to the bus stop. On arrival at the bus stop, it was in some amazement that we discovered that the hourly bus was due immediately, and so it wasn’t long before we were enjoying the luxury of a warm and comfy seat, whilst being transported exactly along the route that we’d just walked… Typical, eh?! But we now know for next time, and of course, if we’d waited at the end of the track to the reserve, we’d never have experienced that breath-taking and enchanting encounter with a Barn Owl.

And, on a different note, I’ve just discovered that it’s World Sparrow Day:

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Time to wake up and smell the daffodils!

Anatomy of a Psyllid

Plagues of psyllids, small aquatic mustelids morphing (and multiplying) into friendly prehistoric reptiles, each called ‘Wolbachia’, going into university lacking undergarments and trousers, only to discover that the entire Biosciences department has been redeveloped, and now features both open-plan bathrooms and individually-attended compost toilets (reached by ladders that are too steep to climb), in-your-face colourful poster depictions of exciting departmental research, TV soap actors dressed as lawyers using the office computers, oh, and Mozzarella and tomato sandwiches made from battered waffles for breakfast…

Well, now that I’ve finally woken up, it’s time for a rest. In order to give my brain (and accompanying body) some time-out, I’ve decided to resist the enticingly-beckoning allure of my psylloidean-based research and instead opt for a day of adventures with my Lovely Other Half and the Small Person. The latter is in charge today, and prescribed missions thus far include a visit to the Merry Maidens stone circle, a picnic (subject to varying degrees of sun/wind presence), a game of football, a treasure hunt on the beach, and a little bit of bird observation (my special request).

Let’s hope some breakfast (fortunately not a battered waffle in sight) and a couple of painkillers will serve to restore some clarity to my poor over-worked brain, which is still feeling rather thick, woolly and generally nonsense-filled. I desperately need to attempt to reclaim a far less erratic sleep/wake schedule, as this past week or so, I’ve been all over the place – not necessarily something that I have that much control over when it comes to having a silly narcoleptic brain but I’ll do my best. So:

• no more staying up late to do work - even if I am enjoying it – from now on, I will be in bed by 11pm at the latest, and I will read not use the computer

• no more reclining on the settee whilst using the computer – I will remain in an upright position at all times (note to self: SIT UP NOW!)

• no more ‘relaxing’ by doing puzzles on the computer – you know what happens when you do that

OK, that’s enough for now!

I haven’t forgotten that I’m overdue a more ‘down to Earth’ entry – will be on to it in due course. For now, I think I’d better get on with breakfast-eating, showering and general adventure preparation, especially as the Small Person is busy gathering picnic supplies as I write…