Back to Danemead Part 1

I returned to Hoddesdon this weekend and Danemead Scout Campsite. Originally I was going to be teaching a small group of leaders, but for various reasons some people cancelled and for most of Saturday it was only me and my friend Stuart.

As I arrived and got out of my car there was a large party of Long-tailed Tits and Goldcrests moving around feeding in the trees. As I was watching I heard the short, loud, distinctive “tsu-weet” of a Yellow-browed Warbler (Phylloscopus inornatus), a bird which breeds in Siberia and Russia and migrates to Asia and has wondered off course. Each Autumn this uncommon vagrant arrives in varying numbers for a brief stay as they make their journey south. During my years of serious birding I spent many ours chasing around looking for them. This bird called several times and then departed with the tit flock and I did not hear it again for the rest of the weekend.

There is a brief piece of video of a Yellow-browed on YouTube here

Stuart had purchased a Tentipi (made not that far from my cabin in Sweden) and was keen to get it set up and try it out.

Here is a view from the front.

After erecting the tipi, we cut and split some logs for fire wood

and then got a fire going and put the kettle on.

Another surprising find, especially for mid November was this Comma butterfly

It gets its name from the white mark you can see on the underwing.

To be continued!!

Autumn in Lapland 26th September 2008

Heavy rain most of the night and this morning, then sunny for the rest of the day.

I went walking around the marsh today to look for birds.

The marsh was very quiet apart from one Whooper Swan.

The marsh is covered with Cotton Grass. This picture was taken by Jon Pickett last year

I stopped for a brew mid morning

Making a fire is so simple here. I collect an armful of the lower dead branches of Spruce and Pine and put some Birch bark into them

and then spark into the Birch bark with the firesteel and with the help of the resin in the dead wood you quickly have a good fire.

I used some larger pieces just to rest the pot on.

Other birds on my walk included 2 Goldeneye and the Grey-headed Woodpecker again. I returned to the cabin and after lunch finished some of the items I had made from antler. Here are some examples of things I made.


From left to right; sewing needle, necklace bead, toggle and finally an awl.

Anki returned to stay at her cabin this afternoon and while we were chatting we met a guy from the Swedish Forest Company who told us that they have decided to preserve a large area of trees behind our cabins. Quite a lot of these trees are large and old, and unlike those in the managed forest, are of suitable diameter for woodpeckers and owls to nest in. This si really good news!!

Autumn in Lapland 25th September 2008

Overcast all day today.

Spent most or the day birdwatching around the cabin today as there were lots to see. 1 Grey-headed Woodpecker (a rare bird in Lapland) was moving around from tree to tree associating with a Great-spotted Woodpecker. There was a Reed and Rustic Bunting feeding around the cabin plus; Fieldfare, Redwing, Waxwing, Goldcrest, Redpoll, Chaffinch, Brambling, Greenfinch, Raven 1 female Goldeneye on the lake and a noisy Jay. There were also a family party of 7 Siberian Jays feedling on a piece of pork I put in a tree. I spent about 3 hours photographing and filming them.

They are such a beautiful bird.

I slit some logs this afternoon

spent a bit of time fishing but still caught nothing!!

Filtered some more water

and then I made a “Moose caller” for Anki’s grandchildren.

You can use a plastic cup or cut the top off of a bottle

then make a small hole in the base large enough to get a piece of nylon cord through (the inner line from parachute cord works well)

Now wet the string and pull gently between thumb and forefinger

Autumn in Lapland 24th September 2008

Rowed to the far end of the lake this morning to do a spot of fishing. A Golden eagle lifted from trees at the lake edge, circled around and then as it gained altitude, drifted away. As I rowed back to the cabin a Sparrowhawk flew across the lake (which is a new species for my list there). I also noticed that all the Waxwings have gone today….presumably on the next stage of their migration.

I washed my clothes after breakfast.

then added another set of legs to the saw-horse

then spent most of the day cutting logs

I decided to make an apple and blueberry crumble for my evening meal.

Lined a tin with apples and then blueberries

and crushed digestive biscuits

then covered the alternate layers and apples and blueberries with the crushed biscuits

I baked it in the oven for about 40 minutes and this was the end result…..BEAUTIFUL!!!


As I rowed to the far end of the lake again this evening to watch the Moose, 62 Pink-footed Geese flew over calling, on their way south for the winter.

Autumn in Lapland 23rd September 2008

Cloudy first thing, then sunny but became overcast late afternoon and cleared just before dark.

This morning I sat and watched a Great-spotted Woodpecker wedge a cone in the crack of a tree trunk as a vice, so it could extract the seeds.

Here is the end result

I decided to make a bird feeder using bits I had found discarded by others. It’s amazing how long such a simple thing can take to make when you have limited materials and tools. The seeds drop out of holes at the bottom of the tube.

This afternoon I collected two fallen Birch for firewood for a winter trip I am planning. I cut the trees up using a sabre cut saw (a kind of hand operated chainsaw with teeth pointing in both cutting directions).

Then I carried the sections back to the cabin for cutting up and splitting.

some were too big to carry on my shoulder so using this piece of rope


I made a simple handle for dragging the logs back, which reduced the strain on my back.

On one of the trees there was a really nice bur (a bur in Swedish is called a “kasa” and so as I understand it is not the cup that is truly the kasa, but the item it is made from). In Finland they are called “kuksa”.

There has been a male Crossbill singing around the cabin most of the day and a pair of Northern Bullfinch appeared briefly. There was also a black form of the Red Squirrel around and when I rowed to the far end of the lake at dusk there was a female Moose feeding on Bog Bean. A male then appeared calling to her, she replied and then they both disappeared into the forest.

Autumn in Lapland 22nd September 2008

Cloudy, then sunny and warm in the afternoon with many mosquito’s and midges.

I was out in my boat fishing early this morning but although i did actually have one bite I didn’t catch anything again!

Went walking today and found fresh Reindeer droppings but no sign of any Reindeer. I thought there was a Capercallie calling from some trees but it turned out to be a Raven mimicking a Capercallie (you may have to turn your sound up to hear this!)

A nice find was a Three-toed Woodpecker feeding both on the ground and in trees. I found out when I returned to England that there had been an influx of this species into Sweden and Finland.

I removed a nice flake from a piece of granite and experimented with using it to work in the Reindeer antler to make sewing needles. Although of course not as good as flint, I was able to score through the antler to split it.

But it was very impressive for abrading the antler to shape the needles.

I continued to work with the antler in the evening by lamp light.

Autumn in Lapland 21st September 2008

Overcast with sun later, but cool southerly wind.

I spent this morning fishing and chopping wood. Those of you have read Bushcraft by Mors Kochanski will be aware of the amazing property of Black Spruce Picea mariana to be split into evenly thick boards with a variety of uses. Here I have made a netting shuttle for making fishing nets.

I was splitting a piece of Birch with my knife and got my finger trapped between the Birch and my knife blade.

There is lots of Yarrow Achillea millefolium (Achillea referring to Achilles who is said to have used this plant to treat his soldiers during the Trojan war and millefolium meaning thousand leaves referring to the “feathery” leaves). The crushed leaves are very good for treating bleeding and it is also said to be very good for treating nose bleeds.

I used some bricks to make a simple grill to cook some sausages.

I collected three different types of rock to experiment with for abrading and working the reindeer antler and for creating sparks with a piece of carbon steel file..

It has been very quiet for birds; 50+ Waxwings this afternoon feeding in the Rowan tree, Bramblings, Siberian Jays and a couple of Ravens.

Autumn in Lapland 20th September 2008

Rain first thing and then sunny, 11 degrees.

Went for a row and fished early this morning. Didn’t catch anything but the views were beautiful.

We cooked drop scones and entertained ourselves trying to make faces from them……….a bear?

I washed some clothes


I went to help a neighbour put out fishing nets in the lake and was invited to Ingvar and Anki’s for a bbq.

Ingvar gave me a Reindeer antler to make things from (the results will come later in the trip).

I spent the afternoon fishing and then baked a blueberry oat cake before returning to Ingvar and Anki’s for the evening to learn more Swedish.

Birds included; Fieldfare, a male Crossbill singing at the cabin, 1 Greenfinch, 1 Golden Eagle flying over the forest and 2 Snipe flying around calling at dusk.

Autumn in Lapland 17th September 2008

Cloudy today with a maximum temperature of 9 degrees. There is light on the horizon at 4am and at 9pm.

Up at 06:30 this morning to make the most of the daylight. I cleaned the stove and then went for a row on the lake.

When I returned Liam and Phoebe were up and so we cooked breakfast and then filtered some water. While Liam and Phoebe went fishing I went for a walk in the forest.

Phoebe caught a Pike (infact the only fish caught during the whole trip!) Liam gutted it and then we baked it for lunch.

After lunch Liam and Phoebe sawed logs and I painted a couple of windows (though unfortunately the frames were very wet).

Birds seen today were; 15 Waxwings feeding on Rowan berries, Willow Warbler, Chaffinch, Siskin, Reed Bunting, 4 mallard, Raven, Redpoll, 1 female Goldeneye, Robin, and 2 Siberian Tits in a Willow Tit party.

Little Egret

An nice surprise yesterday was a Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) feeding around one of the pools on the reserve. This is only the third record for the reserve.

The Little Egret is a member of the Heron family

Little Egrets used to be a rare migrant in Britain but as a result of our milder winters they are now a resident and are breeding in many places.

Here’s a video grap from one I filmed previously

There is more information here; http://www.rspb.org.uk/wildlife/birdguide/name/l/littleegret/

For those interested in tracks, here is the print of a Grey Heron

and here’s the Little Egrets