Blog Site by Appointment to His Regal Majesty the Maalie King

He who would be a Leader, let him be a Bridge

Crown Copyright: The Royal Maalie Court

Friday, October 22, 2010

Maalie's new format

Maalie's blog continues


Regular readers are invited to bookmark the new site. There are links back to this site if required.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

I'll tak' the high road...

With high pressure building over Scotland last week, I made a snap decision to down-tools and head north to Argyll in Scotland for a few days kayaking, birding and fishing. My first night was spent camping in my X-trail on the shore of the eponymous Loch Lomond. At first light the next morning I was out on the loch paddling among the islands in near mirror-calm conditions.

First light at Loch Lomond, looking north

Sunrise behind the mountain range, the clouds catch the first rays of the new day

Gradually the mountain tops gather the sunlight

At last, Ben Lomond, one of Scotland's iconic landmarks, welcomes the day

And here you can listen to the famous song of Loch Lomond:

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Kayak fishing

Fishing from kayaks for food is an ancient skill developed by the Inuit and other indigenous people living in the Arctic regions, who used the boats to hunt on inland lakes, rivers and the coastal waters of the Arctic Ocean (indeed 'kayak' is an Inuit word). In recent times the manufacture of recreational kayaks from strong, light-weight materials has resulted in a gain in popularity of fishing from kayaks for sport. There are a number of web-sites devoted to this activity.

Recently my friend 'Drinking Ken' brought his kayak to Cumbria to join me for some sessions of kayak fishing on Coniston Water.

Ken's kayak is the sleek, classical "sit inside" type and although not designed for fishing,
he was able to adapt with some ingenious modifications

My own kayak is of the "sit on top" style and, although not as elegant as Ken's,
is more suitable for fishing

If Ken looks the more stylish, guess who caught the fish!
A small pike of about 3 pounds weight

But that was a mere tiddler compared to the monster I had caught a few days before,
weighing in at eleven and a quarter pounds. Use the net as a scale to compare the two fish.

Maalie in kayak-fishing battle-dress with his pike!

So what next?
Well, take a look at this - we can but dream!

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Up in smoke

Recently my friend Ken and I were on our way to a kayaking session when our route was blocked by a horse box that had pulled over to the side of the road ahead off us. There was some black smoke issuing from under the bonnet. The driver had already jumped down from the cab.

Frighteningly quickly (within a minute or two) the whole cab was in flames...

...and moments after that the whole vehicle was on fire with black smoke billowing into the sky

Scary though it was, it could have been a lot worse. Thankfully the driver was out in good time (though coughing and spluttering); there were no horses on board at the time; and the country road was quiet at that time of day - it might have been in a crowded city centre.

Monday, September 27, 2010

More migratory waders

Following my previous post (below), I was able to observe a few more species of wading birds passing through the Seewinkel National Park (Burgenland, Austria) on their migration from the Arctic tundra towards Africa and the south. Here are a few of them.

Common Sandpiper - this juvenile is completing its post-juvenile moult

Dunlin - this bird is showing the last remnants of its black belly-patch
as it moults into winter plumage

The Knot is a little larger than the Dunlin and this individual is already in winter plumage

The Ruff - many pairs breed in the National Park
but many pass through on migration from further north

The Avocet is not strictly an Arctic breeder,
but they migrate south to avoid freezing temperatures in winter

Monday, September 20, 2010

Festival of Mabon

Mabon is the Festival of the Autumn Equinox and is usually celebrated on September 21st. After Mabon, the nights in the Northern Hemisphere are longer than the days and, although we may still enjoy some lingering warmth in the sunshine, we know that summer is efectively over and autumn is upon us.

In the bird world, Mabon is the time of frenzied migration. Many species have already departed, and for others, like wading birds, it is the time of peak flow as they vacate their breeding quarters in the Arctic tundra to head south to warmer climes. I am spending this period observing migration at the Biological Station at the Seewinkel National Park in Burgenland, on the Austria-Hungary border. Here, the birds pause on their way south in order to rest, feed and build up strength for the next stage of their journey.

The Turnstone is a rare bird away from the coast and this youngster must have become disorientated on its first migration south to Africa

The Little Stint is one of the tiniest shore birds, scarcely larger than a sparrow, and works its bill rapidly like a sewing machine as it probes the shoreline incessantly for invertebrate food

The Spotted Redshank is passing through in hundreds and uses its longer bill for
picking out prey from deeper water where it can wade on longer legs.

Kingfishers are not normally thought of as migratatory birds, but many move away when rivers and lakes freeze up. The Biological Research Station in the Seewinkel National Park caught 69 Kingfishers in a period of three weeks; one of them had already been ringed in Poland

Mabon sunset over Burgenland

A Happy Mabon to all my readers!

Friday, September 10, 2010

There's an old mill by the stream...

There are scattered around the Norfolk Broads some old structures that look like windmills. However, these were never mills, for grinding grain but wind pumps that were used for distributing water around the Broads network to maintain navigability. You can find more information about the old wind pumps here. Nowadays the pumping is done by electrical pumps.

What is that structure at the end of that backwater? Shall I paddle down and explore?

Ah, it's an old wind pump. It has lost its spars and sails.

I discover another - this one still has remnants of the old spars

Now, it is but a sad reflection of its former busy working life - a home for Starlings and Jackdaws.
Can you see something sitting on the top of the spar?

Oh, it's a Cormorant!

Horsey pump with stratocumulus; this is one of the best preserved wind pump in the Broads. With a head wind and the water getting a little choppy, I did not go closer.

As I settle down for my last camp in the Norfolk Broads, there is an inviting pub,
tantalisingly on the other side of the river.
But, hey! I have my very own ferry!!!