Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Something just clicked!

My little man can drive!
And is also learning "Stand".

Catching up with old ones...

It was lovely to receive an invitation a couple of weeks ago to my friend Toby's birthday party. Toby is one of my oldest friends and it would be a wonderful occasion to get a group of us together for the first time in years. We're slightly older and, ahem, more sensible now, but get on just as well as we ever did.

Obviously the word sensible ought to be used in relative terms since, when Chris and I arrived, Toby and Phil were in the process of lighting the BBQ inside the garage out of the wind! "Yea, but guys, those flames are awful close to the very dry ceiling!"

Toby, Steve, Phil and I were all great friends in our teenage years and have kept in touch ever since. Toby and Phil lived in London at the same time as I was at uni there and helped introduce me to the big city.

The evening was great. We all consumed far too much meat (except the veggie folk of course) and far, far too much alcohol. In fact, we were quite impressed at our continued ability to consume the stuff! Steve looks settled in for the night here.

Of course, alcohol gives a great boost to joke telling ability, and the ability of the listeners to "get it." I've no idea what Phil is saying here, but Jo clearly thinks it hilarious!

Luckily, Toby's wife Hilary, who is also a friend from school, was there to look after us all and make us tea when we started to droop. There was no saving Steve in the end though!

Now I've not played a great deal of poker, but I think it's a pretty good job that I can't afford to gamble! It was great fun, made better by the fact that I won :o)

Everyone went all in for the last hand, except Steve who was zonked out by then. After a game with a surprising number of full house wins, I took the big pot with a pair of queens and an Ace high :oD

Saturday, 24 May 2008

Making friends...

It is a little while since Chris has had much to do with the sheep since he has been working away in Scotland a lot, leaving me to see to them (which is fair enough since the flock is "my baby" really!) but it seems he feels as though he has been neglecting them and insisted on spending a little quality time with the girls this Bank Holiday.

The girls were very happy with the attention, not least because they got a bit of feed in the trough. Not that they need it at all with all that spring grass!

The recent hot weather means that we have to refill the water trough every other day since the piping is not yet in place to do it automatically. We emptied out the trough to clean it and then had to spend the next 15 minutes going through the grass rescuing tadpoles and putting them back in again!

Some of the girls are beginning to roo, and I had been hoping to get them clipped next weekend but it is still a bit on the chilly side. I'm keen to clip them soon though as I'd like to take the fleeces to Woolfest and for the girls to have a bit of fleece grown for the shows in July. Of course their welfare comes first though.

I went out and bought a halter the other day so that'll be fun! I had thought that Ruby would be quite easy to halter train but in the pen the other day be behaved like a right precious little princess so I think we may have a few stroppy tantrums before she gets used to the idea!

Rosy and Chris were getting on just grand by the end of the day :o)

Friday, 23 May 2008

Meet Barney

This is Todhill Immortal Memory (Barney to his friends!). He will most likely be the tup that I borrow to cover my girls this Autumn. I wanted a patterned tup with a long fine fleece, preferably that rooed naturally. I called Lenice to see if she knew of such a creature that I could borrow and she said "well I've got Barney" so I'm going to visit him very soon. He is a Grey Bersugget Yuglet Sokket. I was also keen to check that the tup I used had thrown a high proportion of twins and ewe lambs so have been enjoying reading through the old Flock Books in order to find out. Barney it seems does not dissappoint :o)

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Wild Encounter

I had a chance encounter with a Scottish Wild Cat the other day. My friend Derek just happened to be transporting one to his breeding centre and let me have a peep. I miss zoo work sometimes!

Happy Wandering

Finally a little time off... sort of. Dad asked me to help out with his students and teach them a thing or two about wildlife while he was on a navigation exercise with them. So I obliged and Fox and I were rewarded with a good stretch out in the countryside that I grew up in. It was good to be in the south of the county for a day and the views from Beacon Fell and Blawith Knott certainly didn't disappoint.

Monday, 19 May 2008

Voles Live!

Ok, so I'm showing you yet more photos of poo! But this is proof that my released voles are alive and well in the streams at Warcop. I even managed to spot one of the little fuzzys themselves. So here is another photo of the animal itself.

Saturday, 17 May 2008

VIV Day: Very Important Vole Day

The big week finally arrived! The go ahead came through from the army, to release on their land, and from Natural England and finally my 111 water voles could be released into the wild. A team of us set to work on Wednesday and micro-chipped all of them so that they could all be recognised if the data loggers managed to pick them up.

Only 5 bites between us... pretty good going really, though I was a bit miffed to receive my first vole inflicted wound! Alison, Julie, Cat and Michelle were all such troopers that day and worked their socks off so thanks for all your help :o)

On Friday morning the voles were all looking fit and healthy and the weather was good so we boxed them up and drove to Warcop where they were released into their pens. Michelle, Rob, Bunty and Wal were a great help so more thanks due for those who mucked in.

From Devon to Cumbria we didn't lose a single animal. How very satisfying. I can't wait to see how they do in the wild!

Monday, 12 May 2008

Batty Canoeists

What a glorious evening to be out on the lake. A group of us from work toddled down to the lake (a few miles from my village) to test out a new "wildlife encounter" idea. Using canoes we could take people out to less accessible spots in order to introduce them to the wonderful world of bats. Being a bat worker myself it was too good an opportunity to miss.

It was so tranquil out on the lake... although this didn't stop the competitive nature of our two teams getting the better of us for a short time! I'm not sure that our supervisors (and potential rescue crew) were prepared for unruly conservationists paddling at speed in opposite directions.

When dusk fell however and the bats began to show themselves, all was calm again and we got on with the serious business of trying to clock up as many species as possible. My team found three. Soprano Pipistrelles, one of our commonest species, was first to emerge, hunting for midges around the trees on the shore. Their splashy clicks on the bat detector are very distinctive.

Stars of the show were of course those water hunting specialists the Daubenton's Bats. These guys were on form and their rapid fire echolocation made the detectors vibrate as they zoomed past in pursuit of prey.

We were also lucky enough to find a Brown Long-eared Bat hunting in the broad leaved trees along the shore. These bats are also known as whispering bats since their echolocation is so quiet. They sneak about so as not to be detected by the moths that they hunt, and their hearing is so acute that they can tell the difference between a leaf and a moth sitting on a leaf. Pretty impressive!

Needless to say, our team were first home, LOL.

Sunday, 11 May 2008


Chris and I have got quite into the idea of producing as much of our ow food as we can and have taken on an allotment... well half an allotment actually... we need easing in gently! I took a day off this week to spend some time on the house and garden. My first view of our patch this week had me thinking "Oh dear!" But with a bit of elbow grease I'd soon worked my way across half the patch and got carrots, onions and courgettes planted.

Today Chris provided some extra muscle and dug over the remainder of the plot. Fox decided that digging looked great fun. I'm not sure that we want to encourage that on our veg plot, Chris!

Our friend Tash, who has the plot next door, told us that there is another plot going free this year, so we are going to make a joint effort at potato growing on that bit.

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Voling Again

Sunshine at last and, happily, though I'm back at work after an exciting weekend, Fox and I were out and about enjoying it. The data loggers are now back out at Warcop recording any activity by voles that I released last year.

Every vole has a microchip which can be read by special antenna attached to a data logger. The antenna sits out on a vole run or on a latrine and, when a chipped vole runs past it, information about the time and date is stored until I download it onto my laptop.

The first recording period successfully showed 3 of last year's voles using that particular area of pond! Very exciting stuff. Vole 2D5D, male, was a large juvenile when released last year very close to the location of the data logger in pen R3. He's obviously either a good surviver and secured the territory by the release pen, or he's very lazy as he has only moved 30 meters!
Vole 236A, male, was a rather small juvenile who was released from pen G10 on Goulds Tarn. He has been rather more adventurous and has travelled 0.8km to his current location.
Vole 22AF is a little female who was released at R7, 135 meters from her current recorded position at the bottom end of the tarn.

One has to wonder what the situation is between these three!
Fox didn't find the vole information terribly exciting. However, he did enjoy becoming a swamp dog!

Monday, 5 May 2008

Whoooo's That?

I was very glad to have a day to potter about with the sheep. I've rather missed them and the tranquility of Crook Lot. One of our neighbours even came out to greet me! I managed to get this photo of Mr Tawny (or Mrs, looked to be quite a big owl!) sitting out in the sun.

The girls seemed pleased to see me and all looked great as they happily grazed in their sunny pasture. I've noticed that they really enjoy browsing the gorse flowers.

Sunday, 4 May 2008

Vole Farming

After the thrill of Badminton, you might have thought that Kath and I would be ready for a break... we were, but still had an important trip to Devon to make in order to pick up Water Voles for my release project. So we headed south again where we found my friends and vole experts Derek Gow and Kathy Holder with 103 voles packed up and ready to move.

It was a long drive home to Cumbria, but we all got back safe and sound. Looks like I'll have my work cut out for me for the next week or so until this lot go out!

Saturday, 3 May 2008

Badminton Horse Trials Cross Country Day

Kath and I were thrilled that fellow Cumbrian Ruth Edge was sitting in second place after the dressage test and looked forward to cheering her on around the Cross Country.

We managed to arrive pretty early again and did a spot of shopping before heading toward the stands to watch the first horses off the mark.

Kath is thinking about getting a new horse box, and it looks as though this could be the one. My spending was at the other end of the spectrum: I got a new leather hat as my poor well traveled old one is rather the worse for wear!

In true Badminton style, the course was as imposing and technically demanding as ever. Only the fittest, cleverest and best trained horses get around this Cross Country. Here Jane Doherty and Art Attack demonstrate how to take the hay cart with apparent ease.

Many came unstuck at the Blue Cross Roundtops, which were deceptively tricky.

Here a horse puts a knee in the pansies sending petals flying. They got over the obstacle however and galloped off looking fine. As did William Fox-Pitt and Ballincoola.

Of course the water always gathers the biggest crowd since it is one of the most exciting points of the course and one which causes the most problems. Sadly this combination was the downfall of Ruth Edge and Muschamp Impala who both tumble into the Lake. Both were fine and no doubt with have their day again.
Below Georgie Spence and Running Brook II show how it should be done.

In the end we were happy to see Lucy Wiegersma, who was on the British Team with Kath when she took Gold in the European Championships, come in second on Shaabrak

Badminton Horse Trials 2008

Despite a long day yesterday, Kath and I jumped up from our temporary lodgings in the van, no time to set up camp last night, and set off for Badminton like a pair of kids on holiday. As we drew close to the ground, we switched to Badminton FM so that we could learn what had happened during the first day.

We were so early that we actually managed to get a very good parking spot right next to the ground. A bacon butty was the first call of the day and we happily munched while plotting our day.

Being dressage day, we planned to watch our favorite riders between walking the cross-country course. The hunt were out showing off as we wandered round. You have to admit that a hunt is a fine sight. however much I admire the riders and love to watch the antics of the hounds though, I can't justify killing an animal in that manner for sport. I hope that the trailing can be developed to give a better day out rather than simply a sprint for the finish.

On our way back to the stands we spied Pippa Funnel and Ensign looking immaculate on her way to perform their test.

The dressage was amazing to watch. Those supremely fit powerhouses of horses being handled so skillfully by their riders in order to show how finely tuned their training is. The rounds were not without their mishaps as horses primed and fit for the four miles of cross country the following day can not always hold in all of that pent up energy and have a tendency to "boil over" now and again! We did however see some excellent examples of equestrianism, mixed in with the not so good! As Kath said of one mount, "He'd better be a machine over the course tomorrow!"
In the photo Zara Phillips pulls off a reasonable test, but pink cheeks were clearly visible as Ardfield Magic Star managed to play her up in front of the very critical Badminton crowd!

Kath and I rounded off our day with an excellent BBQ feast back at, this time a properly pitched, camp.