30 March 2006

It's a rain off!

Oh well, so much for feeling good about spring! Sunday’s race meeting was being called off at just about the same time that I posted my Blog last night!

I had been expecting this for the past few days but had still hoped that somehow the track would have stood up to all the recent bad weather. Obviously it has not and with the rain pouring down again as I write this it is probably a good thing that the meeting is off. At least I won’t have to be working on Gary’s car in mud and water like the opening meeting last year!

The only real downside to the cancellation is that when we do finally start racing it will be straight into the qualifying rounds for the National Championships. This will mean that Gary and the car will have to be on top form from the word go if he is to repeat last year’s qualifying results.

With Sunday now being “race free”, I’ll be watching the weather to see if I can get out birding again during the day. More and more migrant birds are coming in to the country each day now so, if we get a dry day on Sunday, I’ll be off out again!

29 March 2006

Goodbye winter!

Today I feel as though winter is finally behind us!

Yesterday evening Lynda and I saw our first Sand Martins of the year, we then chose a cottage in the Lake District, which we have now booked, for our June holiday and this evening I managed to get out birding for over an hour after work. If the rain holds off for the rest of the week, I should be at my first autograss race meeting of the year on Sunday. Once we start racing then it will definitely feel as though spring is now with us!

The brochure photo of the cottage in the Lake District.

The rest of the week will be quite busy one way or another. We will be at the gym tomorrow evening and again on Friday evening, after work on Saturday I hope to be out birding for a few hours before our friends Rob & Jane come over to us. On Sunday, it will either be racing or birding during the day before heading off to Bilston for the Bluehorses gig in the evening. Work had better be quiet on Monday as it will be a late return home on Sunday night!

Things still to do... tidy up all the rubbish on my desk here! Look into places to stay for two trips to Scotland! Find out more about Albannach & Clann An Drumma gigs, which is why I want to be in Scotland! Oh, and look at what music festivals I want to do this year, plus race meetings, birding trips and everything else that I sort of have planned!

27 March 2006

What a difference a couple of days can make; Spring looks to have arrived!

Yesterday's RSPB birding trip to Thetford Forest saw the sun come out and the temperature finally reach something like “warm”. Butterflies even felt as though it was now safe to venture out as we came across five Brimstone and one Small Tortoiseshell along the woodland edge. Migrant birds are now slowly moving into the country but unfortunately, we didn’t find any yesterday!

The new MP3 player got its first try-out yesterday and made the long coach trip to East Anglia, 3½ hours each way, a lot more bearable. I managed to listen to 65 tracks in total - well, almost 65! I did fall asleep through the majority of one CD! This new “toy” will now become a standard piece of kit for RSPB coach trips.

The Haggis saga finally came to an end mid-week. The truth came out when my work mate asked her Mum if they could build a house, and pen, in the back garden so that she could keep a Haggis as a pet! After rolling around in fits of laughter her Mum put her straight on the truth about the Haggis! Oh boy, was I in trouble at work the next day! I’ll be watching my back for a while now, ready for any revenge attack.

We confirmed another holiday this week, a long weekend trip to Center Parcs in the Lake District during June. Just as soon as we, or should I say I, can get around to looking through a few brochures we will also book another 3 or 4 nights in a cottage somewhere in the area to make it into a full week's break. The Lake District is one of those areas that we have been talking of going to ever since we first drove through it on the way to Scotland years ago.

On top of the two holidays already sorted, I am trying to arrange a couple of trips up to Scotland this summer. The first will, hopefully, be at the end of July to the Highland Games at Ben Ledi Park, Callander. This trip will be to see both Albannach and Clann An Drumma play, plus of course, the Highland Games and the scenery in the area. The second trip north of the border will, again hopefully, be to see Albannach play at Stonehaven on the East coast of Scotland.

As well as the holidays that are planned, or being planned, there is also a full season of racing with my mate Gary, various music gigs and festivals, a hot air balloon ride for Lynda’s birthday present and a full programme of RSPB birding trips, including a long weekend away in May. That little lot should keep us busy for a while!

21 March 2006

Me? Crazy? Maybe!

The weather thinks that it is still winter, so I decided I would go ahead with spring on my own today!

I managed to mow the lawns in the short time between getting home from work and it going dark, about ¾ of an hour! I’m usually the first in the street to get the mower out each year and I’ve done it again - the neighbours will think I’ve gone mad, as it started to snow just as I finished cutting the back lawn! Still, it’s a job done and if the weather stays cold then I can forget about the grass for another month or so!

The Haggis saga is still ongoing at work but I think I may be rumbled very soon, I get the idea that alarm bells are starting to ring with my “victim”! Tomorrow could see it all fall into place!

If I survive work then we are out for a meal tomorrow evening so the half-hearted diet I’ve put myself on will be forgotten for a few hours! Looks like the gym workouts will just have to be a little harder on Thursday and Friday.

Just as MP3 players start to become old hat, and people look for new things to move onto, I’ve finally ordered myself one! Nothing too special, it will hold around 20 CD’s, but it will come in handy for when we are at Center Parcs in a few weeks. I’ll be able to sit around the pool all day, watching the world go by, whilst listening to my favourite music. All I have to do is decide on 20 CD’s. That could take a bit of sorting out!

19 March 2006

Yet another quiet week comes to an end! I need to find some more gigs or something! Plus, with the weather the way it is I cannot see the autograss season starting on time for me either.

My mate Gary should be racing at his club track on April 2 but I will be very surprised if that meeting goes ahead. The weather is still very cold, and at times very wet, so I am quite expecting the meeting to be "rained off", only time will tell.

Work has been a little more fun this week! The subject of Haggis raised its head again. Now, most of you will know that there is not such a thing as a "living" Haggis! Someone I work with, I'll not name names, has been convinced, by myself, that they are a real creature living on the Scottish mountains! Oh have I played this one for all it is worth!

So far I have been shown pictures of "wild Haggis" that she has found on the internet, been told her favourite choice of colour (I didn't know they came in different colours!) and had to talk her out of trying to buy one as a pet! We have also talked about the sort of things they eat and why they have odd length legs, which, as everyone knows, is so they can run around the steep mountains without falling over! Quite how long this will keep going I do not know, but it could be even more fun when I am found out! Oh, will I be in trouble!

A rare sight! A wild Haggis, with young!

Next week will be another quiet one; gym on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. On Wednesday evening we are going out for a meal with Mark and Sheila so that is something to look forward to. Then, next Saturday, Lynda and I are on an RSPB bird watching trip to Thetford Forest in East Anglia. This will be my first birding outside of Derbyshire this year and should, if the weather is OK, give me the chance of picking up one or two new species for the year such as Woodlark and Crossbill.

15 March 2006


Back in July last year Lynda & I spent a great weekend down at the Saul Canal Festival. The main reason that we were there was to see BLUEHORSES record their headline gig for a live DVD.

Earlier this week, the DVD arrived! If you like Celtic music of ANY type, or rock music of ANY type, or in fact if you just like GREAT music, go and buy this DVD right now!!!!!! This is one of those DVD's that you'll end up playing time and time again! Filmed, and produced, by a top TV film crew and with sound captured using digital 24 track this is one top class production!

As a bonus, you even get a second "behind the scenes" disk with loads of back-stage footage, interviews, bootleg video clips and the now famous "camp site chair race"! The bruising I received in the chair race has just about gone now!

So, all you need to do now is get your own copy! And that couldn't be easier, just click HERE! While you're on that page you can also have a look at a few free video clips too!

As for me, I've got a live BLUEHORSES gig to look forward to, April 2 at The Robin in Bilston. I'm not a huge fan of Sunday night gigs but I'm not missing this one! This band are riding high and I love being a part of the journey!

12 March 2006

Forget Spring for now!

Back on March 1, I thought that Spring was finally just about here - after today, I think we can forget that idea for a while!

The weather has been more like mid December than mid March! The overnight temperature was below freezing again and whilst out birding today I was caught in what can only be described as "blizzard conditions"!

Still, it was worth venturing out this weekend as I managed to add another six species on to my Derbyshire Year List in the past two days. Now, if only Spring would arrive then I could really start and get some good birding done!

This turned into a sleet/hail storm on Saturday...

... and this was the blizzard today! I got caught in both!

Is it really six days since I last posted? I can't believe where the time goes now - must be getting old!

So, the past week... apart from three trips to the gym there's not been much going on. Well, OK, we did have a little bit of fun on Tuesday.

The heating system at work is not the most reliable of things; even though the building hasn't even been open a year yet! At the beginning of the week it broke down again, yet another visit from the engineer was needed. Said engineer arrived mid-morning Tuesday quite confident that he knew what the problem was and that he would have it sorted in no time.

Two hours later and all the staff and customers were stood outside, in the pouring rain, listening to the fire alarm going off! Heating professional had set fire to some of the insulation in the room that houses the heating/air-con system! No real fire as such, just a lot of smoke that was pulled into the air distribution system and then blown all around the building! Some choice... we either freeze to death without any heating, or burn to death when the heating is on!

The workouts at the gym have gone well again this week, no problems with the knees, managed to get time for another long swim in the outdoor pool on Thursday and also did the "treadmill class" again on Friday. The class was taken by a different instructor this week and was a lot better. The routine was much more varied and at a lot higher level, so I felt as though I'd worked hard this time!

06 March 2006

Catching up...

Friday... Went to the gym and did a "treadmill class" with Lynda and Sheila! Well, I did say that I'd take it a little easier with my Friday workout! To be fair, it was a good class, it's just that I'm used to working at a higher level on the treadmill.

Saturday... Work in the morning, which was a pain in the butt, then a quick trip into Derby for a haircut. Why is my hair growing so fast now a days? In the evening, Lynda & I went over to Nottingham to see our friends, Rob and Jane.

Sunday... I had planned on heading up onto the north Derbyshire moors for a morning's birding. The overnight snow put paid to that! We didn't get a large fall here on the lower ground but the roads were very icy so I didn't risk the drive north but instead settled for a few hours closer to home.

After a rather nice cooked breakfast, I headed out to Elvaston Castle Country Park, arriving there just before 7:30AM. In a little over 3hrs I saw 40 bird species including Siskin, Lesser Redpoll, 6 drumming Great Spotted Woodpecker, Green Woodpecker and an escaped Harris's Hawk! The latter will not be making it on to my County List, but it was good to see anyway!

Elvaston Castle and grounds in the snow...

After Elvaston, I moved on to Ambaston gravel pits. This site proved to be very quiet bird wise with just 14 species located. The "highlights" were a flock of around 400 Wood Pigeon and a count of 150 Black-headed Gull on the main pit. Yes, it was that quiet! I only stayed here for just over half an hour.

My final site of the day was Aston on Trent gravel pits. There I was hoping to pick up another new bird for the year, Pintail. I'd heard reports of one or two birds being seen over the past couple of days so spent an hour and a half there. I still left without finding the Pintail! I did see 27 species though including Buzzard, Dunlin, a pair of Smew, Shelduck, Grey Wagtail and Oystercatcher.

At just after 1:15PM I headed back home to a roast beef dinner! By the end of the morning, I'd seen a total of 57 species (not including the Harris's Hawk!) and added one more year tick to my Derbyshire List in the form of Oystercatcher.

02 March 2006

I'll never learn...

Today was one of those days that just got to me! No major disaster, no big issue, just one of those days!

So, what did I do? I went to the gym after work! Great, it helps get things out of my system, but it sure as hell hurts now! I always go way over the top with my workout if I’ve had a bad day! It would have been so much easier to just come home!

The swim I did afterwards was nice though... I had the outdoor pool to myself, as I swam under the stars. It's a good job the water was nice and warm tonight as it was already below freezing outside by the time the sun went down.

Tomorrow night I'll be back there again, only this time I'll be taking things just a little easier!

01 March 2006

Is this spring then?

Today, we managed to get home from work in what could just about be called daylight, the first time this year that I have felt as though we are coming to the end of a rather long winter.

Another sign of warmer days to come was the arrival of my NASA mechanics licence in the post the other day. No, I'm not going into space! NASA, for me, is the National Autograss Sports Association! The licence means that I can, legally, be in the pit area at race meetings this year whilst working on my mate Gary's car. One or two clubs have meetings planned for March 12, if they go ahead remains to be seen, as there is still the chance of snow in certain parts of the country over the next week. The first meeting that I think we will race at is April 2.

Whilst out birding last Sunday, I noticed that quite a few birds had started singing and showing signs of looking for nest sites. Today I saw my first report of a summer migrant, a Sand Martin in Cambridgeshire. Just how long it is before we start and see the first major fall of migrants will depend on the weather, but I think it will be at least another couple of weeks yet.

If we aren't snowed in by the weekend, I'm hoping to have another go at adding to my Derbyshire bird list. Still not a lot around as regards rarities but there are one or two easy ticks that I've not picked up yet this year.

Oh, the KT Tunstall CD - it's a cracking set of tracks!