Saturday, 17 March 2012

Other people's grass

Lapwings mobbing geese
Work life is intensely busy at the moment, including spending a big chunk of last Saturday in the office! So I was determined to do something different with my time on Sunday (and now it has taken a week to finish the blog entry!) 
Primroses: spring is here!
Having lived here quite a while, I'm almost ashamed to admit I'd never stopped at College Lake Tring, so that became my target for the day.
Ivinghoe across the deep-set College Lake
I arrived just after opening while it was still relatively quiet. The site has a nice visitor centre and a really good choice of bird watching hides, sitting above a chalk pit lake. The near lake has been managed to provide shallow wading and duck feeding areas, with two grassy islands for grazing and nesting birds. That turned out to be the highlight of the visit, as the lapwing appeared to be trying to establish nests, and were seriously upset by the pairs of canada geese grazing the island. They were flying around in a large-winged cloud, dive-bombing the geese. Redshank and a variety of duck (mallard, gadwall widgeon and shelduck) dotted the area.  I followed the bird trail, and there were plenty of hides to view from, but not much to photograph except the spring wildflowers in the hedgerow.
To make things worse I only had the old binoculars with me and they weren't that helpful.
The way up - marked by footpath erosion
So I packed up intending to go to Startops, but that was really busy - nowhere left to park the car!
Belted Galloway
 It was way to nice a day to go tamely home so I headed to Ivinghoe beacon, bit the bullet and headed to the top. On the rough grazing along the Ridgeway a small herd of young belted galloways were earning their keep.  These are a breed that my dad would call "thrifty grazers" - i.e. they can live on rougher pastures - but they are also able to pick across sensitive grassland without damaging it, leaving behind tussocks which the birds like larks can use for nesting cover. Ahead of me the path to the top was obvious - carved into the chalk by the high numbers of feet passing by.
It was a fabulous day, I could see for miles, even with the late morning haze.    The day was made by catching a view of a red kite, and by the singing of the larks - fabulous. The biggest winged presence by far though was the number of model planes being flown from the summit! One thing I had expected to see was more difficult to locate. The once bright chalk lion carved on Dunstable down at Whipsnade zoo seemed to be missing. I eventually found it, sadly dimmed and grassed over: Whipsnade managers have obviously decided to let it fade away.
And why did I call this" other people's grass"? Well I reckon the lake on my doorstep - Caldecotte Lake in Milton Keynes gives me better opportunities to photograph birds and as much variety - more in fact than I saw at College Lake on Sunday!!

Altogether a great walk that will have to last me, as I'm housebound with a fever / infection this weekend. Sigh.
The Vale

The Beacon from the car park area

The view northwards
The Beacon, with distant faded chalk lion


  1. Awesome walk for a Sunday. Love the rolling hills in this countryside. I hope you feel better soon.

  2. I must admit that College Lake isn't one of my favourite places. It has some good birds at times, great potential, but seems just too 'clinical' for me.
    You got some excellent views from the Beacon.
    That climb always wears me out lol

    Hope you get better soon.

  3. College Lake always gives me the feeling that everything is a 'bit distant'. I always feel that I'm 'looking in' on the wildlife and never part of it!

    Ivinghoe Beacon, on the other hand, is always a great place to visit, there's always something to see especially in the summer when it's chock full of wildflowers, Butterflies and singing Skylarks...beautiful!

    Looks like you had a good walk though...great scenery.

    And you're right about Caldecotte're never far away from a good photo opportunity!...[;o)

    I hope you get well soon.

  4. Thanks for the good wishes folks! On the mend - should be out and about next weekend that's for sure (work permitting!)

  5. Take care of yourself. Thanks so much for sharing these lovely photos.