Thursday, March 21, 2013

Spring ?! Someone is kidding me

Officially it is now Spring in the UK but someone forgot to tell the person/people responsible for the weather.  Supposedly this time last year the temperature was at least 10 degrees higher than what we are getting now.  Since our few lovely days much earlier in the week it has steadily got colder.  We popped off to the Talbot in Market Drayton this evening for dinner and I can honestly say that it is positively freezing outside and now blowing a gale. The forecast is not set to improve much either,
at least we will be cozy inside, so no problems there.  Just won't be a lot of movement up or down the canal if things are too cold.  For now the only plan is to be back in Gnosall for the Easter Banter next thursday, so plenty of days to get there.

Again I have a set of images of another gorgeous UK bird.  The Mandarin is a duck that is quite beautiful and these ones came over for a visit and were happy to pose. The female was a bit shy though.

Monday, March 18, 2013

I Got One :D

After a short (half an hour) chat with Robyn on Skype this morning, we upped pins again as it was such a lovely morning, we just had to cruise.

The Shroppie is just beautiful in this sunny weather and it seems that the birds are enjoying it too.  So much more to see while the trees are still bare.

We were delighted to see at least 10 kingfishers along the way today and I attempted once more to get a really nice picture of one.  They are fairly skittish and some seemed to keep to the shady side of the canal but I was finally in luck. A beautiful male sitting nicely in the sun and not flitting away before I could capture it. So here he is:

Tonight we are stopped in Gnosall, the same place we will be back at over Easter for the boaters banter.  So a bit of provisions shopping in the morning and then we shall carry on for a few days before turning and coming back.

Today's graphic of our short trip

Total distance:10.19 miles Elapsed time:4h28m46s Locks:1 Bridges:22
Average speed:2.28 mph (2.50 lock/mph)

Sunday, March 17, 2013

A Lovely Few Days

Lots of pics in this post.

We have been on the move again for the past 3 days.  Although the weather report forecast rain, rain and more rain the nights have been a bit wet but the days have cleared up beautifully.

In the end we did not do a 360degree turn in Tixall Wide due to the rather cold night and layer of rather thick ice over the whole wide.

 Tixall Wide full of ice

 Ice on the windows
There were some individuals brave enough to break through, after which the ducks and swans were very happy. 
 Path carved through the ice

 Rather thick ice pieces - they skitter across the ice surface on breaking

 Ooohh goody water

 Oops, a bit slippery

and yes Buzzards again

Especially the swans as indicated by this series of images - spring is on the way ;-)

Andrew has thoroughly enjoyed steering the boat along the canals and for a whole three days on the trot and more to come.

This morning before setting off from our mooring above Gailey Lock, the towpath was on the right side for me to clean the other side of the boat. So she is now ready for perusal at the Easter Banter we are attending at Gnosall.

I should also mention that we saw some very interesting male albino pheasant in the field across from our mooring.  Unfortunately I was not able to provide proof as they were way across the other side of the field and just not possible to photograph. But I did steal this image from the internet which will give you some idea. The extraordinary thing was that there were actually 2 of them and they stood out like a sore thumb in the field and on the edge of the woods. I can only think that they must have been very adept at hiding in the woods when very young to survive to adulthood.
and a normal one I took myself today

Tonight we have made it back to the Shroppie (Shropshire Union Canal) the first time since we did our very first canal trip in a hire boat back in 2006.

and todays trip:
Total distance:10.34 miles Elapsed time:4h4m20s Locks:1 Bridges:27
Average speed:2.54 mph (2.79 lock/mph)
Our first heron in a while too -

Andrew very kindly moored us up right by some bird feeders that someone had left in the hedge and I spent a lovely hour or so capturing as many of the common hedgerow birdlife as I could.


Long Tailed Tit

 Long Tailed Tit 

 Blue Tit

Great Tit

Reed Bunting

 Reed Bunting - juvenile male





 Blackbird - female

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

A Barn Owl

We have had a cold but sunny day today.  Looking up out of the windows this morning I realised how dirty they had become.  So out came the window cleaner and paper towels.  After cleaning the windows on the towpath side and admiring my work, the paintwork then looked very drab in contrast.  So this time out came the bucket of soapy water and a sponge and I set to on the paintwork too. Now the towpath side looks good and with tomorrow being hopefully as sunny as today Andrew will turn the boat around, which he can do quite successfully here in Tixall Wide and I can do the other side :-)

While I was labouring on the cleaning, Andrew was mucking about in the weed hatch 'cos we were not moving as well as we should have been yesterday.  What he was not expecting to find was a fan belt wrapped around the propeller.  And yes he checked, it was not one of ours!  I must say it looked pretty new, but Andrew did not keep it as a spare. I guess one does not know where it has been. Plus we now also have a nice dry (and clean) bilge under the engine.

To round off the day rather nicely Andrew spied a barn owl drifting over the field next to us. I leapt out of the boat with camera in hand and we wandered down the towpath to see if we could see it again and maybe let me get some pictures. This time I checked the camera settings before I took the photos.  When we got close, we saw some crows scaring him off and he drifted back to where we started. So back we went and lucky for us, saw him cruising back again. Unfortunately as it was close to sunset, the light was not too great and from the angle I was trying to get pics from (side on) he moved just to fast to get some great pics.  Just a white blur.  Not to be out done we kept an eye on him as he wandered over the field from us. Eventually he made his way back towards us and then popped up across the other side of the canal where I was finally able to get some pics that at least are recognisable as an owl.  I think the dark background helped. So here they are.  I really think that I might need a bigger more expensive lens for all this bird photography :-) (in that case I need a whole lot more fishing gear! - AKH)

And to finish off with, a sunset reflection.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

'Twas sun today we saw

Yesterday has been officially recorded as the coldest March day since 1987, but finding actual temps for the local area yesterday is proving to be a bit difficult. Suffice it to say that it was 'fecking' freezing, in Andrew's words.  It was not so much the actual temp but the wind chill which took it well below freezing.  It was interesting to see snow blizzards one minute and clear sky the next, and then back to blizzard.As we are sensible narrow-boaters, we did not move in those conditions! Instead, the next bear is in progress.

This morning the canal around us was ice but surprise surprise, there were plenty of boats on the move, just like yesterday, even though there was still a bitter wind. Great Haywood really is a very busy junction. So today we moved too. Well we had to, we were on 48 hour moorings :)
The ice had kindly already been broken for us by others. We stocked up on food essentials at the local Canalside Farm shop before venturing around the corner. Well maybe a bit more than the essentials but I cannot resist a good cheese and homemade crumble.

We are happily moored now in Tixall Wide, less than a mile from where we were.  Open fields on both sides of this very wide section of the canal. Along with the Gatehouse, which I found can now be booked as a holiday let (Tixall Gatehouse)  And see, we also had some lovely sun:

More indoors occupations today with a bit of local bird watching.  We saw this cormorant but in my excitement, I had the wrong settings on the camera. So again not great photos but a very interesting sequence.

That fish was huge. Amazing to watch, even through a lens.