Country Diary: Gallery visit – one of week’s hightlights

Male tufted duck
Male tufted duck

A recent highlight? Undoubtedly Robert Fuller’s wildlife gallery at Thixendale.

His stunning photographs and paintings, sculptures, and live cameras on barn owls, kestrels, stoats, and even kingfishers nesting in his artificial bank and nesting chamber, were most impressive.

His pet weasel Fidget was filmed running through an assault course Robert had created to keep him occupied. You may recall Fidget on Springwatch in June, when millions of viewers watched him running through a maze live on TV. Truly inspirational.

Surprisingly, having left Thixendale, we were approaching Weaverthorpe when across the road dashed...Fidget? No, it was a stoat, easily confused with the smaller weasel. Always check its tail. The stoat’s is black-tipped.

Birdlife has been pretty quiet, and despite feasts kindly left at bird feeding stations, the grey squirrels seem to have dominated them.

Eight squirrels were seated on eight tables, happily consuming a fair share of food. A pheasant joined them, and later pigeons, nuthatch, chaffinch, and most varieties of the tit family, but numbers were small in Forge Valley.

Seamer Road Mere resembled a monochrome photograph in shades of grey, and black and white. Rats were numerous, and as agile as Fidget as they scamped along the jetty and embankment.

A pair of cormorants stood at the end of the pier, and as usual countless gulls, swans, Canada and greylag geese completely ignored the rats’ activities.

An icy-cold wind ruffled the surfaces of the grey waters, where a party of five or six tufted ducks dived for food. Most conspicuous in its black and white plumage, it’s the most common of our diving ducks on lakes and reservoirs, and is seen locally in Peasholm Park.

On the eastern bank of Seamer Road Mere alongside the nearby railway line, we returned to the site of one of our favourite trees – the spindle.

Close beside railed steps which lead down to the mere, its grey-green square-sectioned stems flaunted masses of bright coral-pink capsules. These were now opening to reveal the orange, fleshy fruit inside. It was most colourful and uplifting amongst the bare boughs of November.

Michael has been creating more bird tables of various designs, along with troughs and wheelbarrows ready for winter planting to welcome the spring.

Nest boxes for bluetits and robins are also sold for charity at Falsgrave’s Blind Society.

Also for sale are a few remaining copies of my recent booklet, Village Rambles. These contain 16 of our favourite villages, and are to draw attention to each centre’s attractions. Ideal for those who just love to stroll, enjoy a change of scenery, and relax away from the pace of modern life.

Any small profits will be donated the The Dogs Trust which does a great job in helping and re-homing neglected dogs. Please help to give a dog a happy Christmas.