Thursday, 31 December 2009

New Year Cheer

I am so pleased that we are nearly in 2010... I love the feeling of new birds, spring flowers and sunshine...all just a few months away:-)

I found I didn't have much festive spirit this year despite a liberal intake of whisky...Christmas is just such hard work. I think that everyone had a good time though and my mother was pleased with a present of a new bird table. This turned out to be a bonus for me as, when we collected her old one for disposal, we found that it was only the table part that was irretrievably rotten so my husband set to work and made a new top. He had a bit of trouble finding wood strong enough on the old roof to fix the new supports...hence they are a bit wonky, but I now have a proper bird table.

My friendly robin is very pleased as no longer will his grubs blow away before he eats them all. Also, at last there is somewhere for me to feed the blackbirds (they don't like my hanging table as it swings about and because of a visiting cat, it is too dodgy to put food on the ground).

I have positioned it on the bank away from the other feeders so now, when I am sitting in my favourite armchair, I can see the bird table from one window and the hanging feeders from the other...just as well I have my stock checking duties otherwise I would be sitting there all day.

Now the snow has gone the stock checking is done wading along paths of mud. Everything looks rather dull and grey but on closer inspection there are a few shoots of new growth here and there, the birds are happily searching out food and the rabbits are able to dig for juicy roots again. The damp has also brought out some beautiful shades on the tree stumps left after the scrub clearance. It doesn't matter how dull the weather there is always something good to look at in nature...even so I can't wait for spring :-)

Happy Wishes for the New Year

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Snowy Wanderings

I absolutely love early morning country walks in the snow. There is so much evidence of nocturnal wildlife with tracks going everywhere. I could spend all day just following tracks, finding hidden habitats and seeing how far the night time wanderers went.

As the footpaths on the SSSI land have been temporarily closed because of the ponies grazing, the animal tracks are undisturbed. This makes our daily fence check very interesting and rather time consuming.

In the woody area there are lots of rabbit tracks...

As well as fox tracks, badger tracks also criss-cross the whole field...

On the perimeters and edges of the woods there are lots of deer tracks...

They are all so busy with just surviving. I feel quite guilty for being disappointed when I couldn't have a take away the other evening when the roads out of the valley became too icy because of a sudden snow fall and also for complaining that I was too hot when I went to the Paul McCartney concert at the O2 Milleneum Dome last night.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Snowy Walks

As the blizzard raged on Thursday night, I lay awake, watching the horizontal lines of snow passing under the street light. I couldn't sleep because I knew my son was out in it. He and some friends had been to see the film Avatar and were driving back to Biggin Hill where my son would have to walk down into the valley as the hillside roads are too dodgy in heavy snow. He eventually got home at 12.30 am but then I couldn't sleep because I kept thinking about the ponies on the SSSI land. Dartmoor ponies are very hardy and there are plenty of sheltered areas in their field but it can't have been much fun for them.

Next morning I couldn't wait to see how they had fared and was pleased to see them in their usual position, looking rather wet and sporting a few icicle in their manes, but never the less looking happy. We broke up the ice in their water trough and then braved the slippery decent to check the fences. It was a beautiful walk with the sun coming out and lighting up the snow laden trees. I was amazed at the number of animal tracks (deer, badger, rabbit and fox). I'd have thought that most of the wildlife would have stayed 'at home' in such bad weather. This picture is of little Rufus...nothing stops him eating, even the snow, as you can see by his snowy muzzle.

My husband and I are really enjoying our stock checking duties, so much so we are now stock checkers for some sheep that the Old Surrey Downs Project have grazing at another site, fairly close to Biggin Hill. It is in a beautiful situation right on top of the North Downs. I don't have much experience of sheep so it will be interesting to find out more about them and I am really looking forward to seeing what wild flowers appear in the spring.

The Old Surrey Downs Project is such a good set up. It has animals grazing at about 15 sites around Surrey and surrounding areas. Britain has about 50% of all the chalk downland sites in the whole of Europe and a lot of those are in or near to Surrey. Their land management using animals to graze various areas, especially the recovering ones, makes so much sense.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Allusive Pot of Gold

The weather is certainly unpredictable at the moment but with the lure of a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow I decided to venture out for a walk in the field behind us.

By the time I got to the rainbow's end the sun was out and the gold had been replaced by a beautiful Red Admiral butterfly enjoying the sudden warmth. The birds started to sing and a group of at least 12 magpies flew out of the woods. I wonder what the collective name is for a lot of magpies?

Today I discovered where the gold had gone...a goat who is employed to eat the scrub on another nearby area of S.S.S.I. land must have gobbled it up...unless the goats name was Joseph, the amazing technicolour dream goat..ha, ha.

When I got back from my goat walk I decided that Gemma (my sick guinea pig), after eventually costing us £470 in vets bills, was well enough to be re-united with her guinea pig son, Ginger. It was a lovely reunion with lots of squeaks and whiskery kisses.

Sadly, yesterday, I had news that a beautiful horse I used to ride for a friend had had to be put to sleep following a collapse and paralysis. She was a very big horse but soooo gentle, both with other horses and humans. She was always friendly and always happy. I hope she will be just as happy in horsey heaven. RIP Izzy, I will miss you.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Fantastic Fungi

The mystery pony has gone. Apparently a dog walker recognised him and informed the owner who came and collected him. We still don't know how he got there though...perhaps he had very cleverly worked out how to climb stiles..ha,ha.

I am enjoying my daily trips to the ponies such a lot. I had begun to get a bit lazy and not go for walks much but now I am walking up and down hills every day and I am feeling much fitter and more energetic and never want to go home.

It is already interesting to compare the two areas of SSSI land. The area nearest to us is very open and exposed, whereas, the area with the ponies is quite sheltered and surrounded by trees so as a consequence it is a good place for fungi. Over the last few days I must have seen at least ten different types of fungi. I don't know much about fungi so I haven't a clue what they are. When I have time I will try to identifying them but at the moment I am just pleased to have started my photographic record of the land.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Mystery Pony

Yesterdays visit to the SSSI land to check on the ponies needed to be quick as we were due at a family celebration for my mother's 86th birthday. You can therefore imagine how we felt when, on walking through the woods towards the ponies enclosure, we came across some fresh pony sized droppings. Images of a lovely lunch were rapidly replaced with images of having to traipse up and down the valley, through mud and brambles, looking for our charges.

When we got to the enclosure both ponies were there (phew!) but so was another pony. Very odd as the area is really only accessible by stiles or kissing gates and I don't know of any ponies that have managed to negotiate either of these.

Shortly after our arrival a grazing officer form the Old Surrey Downs Project arrived. She had already been told about the extra pony and had been making enquiries with a local horse owner who unfortunately didn't recognise it. She then tried the police who said they could only act if the pony was on the road and then she tried the RSPCA who had no one that could come out as all their officer were in Cumbria helping with animals affected by the flood.

In the end we had no option but to leave him where he was... he was safe, had water and plenty of grass to eat so couldn't come to any harm but the mystery remains...who does this pony belong to and how did he get there?

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Weather, Walks and Guinea Pig

The weather can't make up its mind just lately, one day wind and rain, the next warm and sunny (well nearly sunny). Last Saturday it was blowing a gale and the rain moved in sheets down the valley but Sunday was a lovely warm day so we went for a walk in the fields adjoining us which I hadn't had a chance to do for a few of weeks. I was really surprised to still see quite a few wild flowers, a Peacock Butterfly enjoying the sun and some leaves left on the trees.

My regular stomping ground is now a bit further down the valley, on the SSSI land being managed by The Old Surrey Downs Project. This is because my husband and I are now officially stock checkers for the two Dartmoor ponies they have grazing the land. Their job being to control the growth of various grasses so that the Orchids (and other flowers ) will have a better chance of coming up next year. It is very nice to have a reason to go for a walk, as now we don't have dogs anymore, we often lack motivation to go out especially in the winter.

To update on my guinea pig issue, Gemma had an operation today to remove a very large, knobbly stone from her bladder. She is back home again now and doing quite well. The total cost was £436 !!

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Peril for Parakeets

I was saddened to read in my local paper that Natural England has put the Ring-Necked Parakeet on their hit-list. From Jan 2010 they can be killed, have their nests disturbed and the eggs destroyed by owners and occupiers of land, as long as they can prove justification and it is done humanely. It's a bit confusing though as the birds also seem to be protected by the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act...????

I personally really like Ring-Necked Parakeets even though they are not native to our country. They feed happily alongside the smaller birds on my feeder and unlike other birds don't touch any of our growing veg. or fruit and lets face it a lot of Britain's wildlife didn't originate in this country. However Natural England have outlawed them because they have had complaints from farmers saying they are ruining fruit crops and that they also act aggressively towards native species such as starlings, nuthatches and woodpeckers that have similar types of roosts.

Apparently they have long been regarded as a pest in their native India so, knowing that, what a shame that the 'powers that be' allowed them to get a hold in this country as there are now so many in the South of England, that by allowing their destruction, it is inevitably going to mean that some of these beautiful, intelligent birds will be subjected to abuse and suffering.

In addition, the Canada Goose, Egyptian Goose and Monk Parakeet have also been added to the list of undesirables:-(

Monday, 9 November 2009

Exciting Visitors to S.S.S.I. Land

On Sunday I went for a walk across the S.S.S.I. chalk downland that is on the other side of the road to the S.S.S.I. land that we back on to. It is being very well manged by the Old Surrey Hills Group who have been sympathetically clearing it of scrub (unlike the area nearer to us). Their initial idea was that they would then put goats on it to keep the scrub down and I put my name forward as a volunteer to look after them. However, on consideration they decided a couple of Dartmoor ponies would be more suited and sure enough there they were busily munching away. I am thrilled as I LOVE horses and ponies and of course have put my name forward as carer for them too... so fingers crossed:-))

Following my previous post I have decided that as well as writing predominantly about wildlife, I will also include more things about my life in general so expect to see more about horses, my pets and my garden. I hope this doesn't put anyone off.

First off is news of one of my Guinea Pigs, Gemma. She has been peeing blood for a few days and today the vet has decided she must go in for further investigations. She is a very nervous Guinea so it will be very traumatic for her. I take her in at 8.45am tomorrow...I soooo hope she will be ok and won't need an operation:-(

Tomorrow is also the day I go horse riding. The horse I ride is being a bit of a problem at the moment in that she can be going really well and seems to be enjoying herself but then suddenly stops and won't move for anything or anybody. The owners have spent loads on veterinary tests, dentist checks and a new saddle, but the problem still persists. I find it very worrying as I hate the thought that she might be in pain. Last week the vet took a urinary sample so it will be interesting to see if that shows up anything. I sometimes think I would be happier just looking after the horses and not actually riding them.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Blogging Block

I really admire all the wildlife bloggers that manage to make regular posts that are interesting. I have hit a bit of a wall in my very short time as a wildlife blogger as so much that I love about wildlife is just repetitive. For example, I still and always will, get a tremendous buzz when my friendly Robin visits the garden but, however much I enjoy his visits, I can't keep writing about them as basically he does the same thing every time he comes so to put that in a blog post would be plainly boring.

When I think about it, it is only very occasionally that something unusual happens. if I am going to give this blogging business another go I think I will have to include a few more posts that aren't strictly to do with wildlife. I will have a good think and hopefully start posting regularly again soon. Meanwhile here is a picture of my Friendly Robin looking very cross because I decided to take his picture instead of giving him his grubby treats:-))

Friday, 4 September 2009

The Spiders are Coming.

The spiders are indicating that we are slipping gradually into Autumn as there is a relentless migration of them into my bathroom and an equally relentless effort on my part to deny them entry. Those that make it in are quickly caught in the spider catcher and returned to the garden, although, there have been three spiders that were too big for the spider catcher!!

I did intend to put a spider picture that my son had taken in macro at this point but I can't bring myself to do it as I am not that keen on spiders due to a couple of nasty incedents with them.

The first incident occurred after I had had a lovely relaxing bath. I slipped on my warm, fluffy bath robe and settled on the sofa with a nice glass of cool white wine but as I picked up the wine glass a large hairy black leg appeared out of the cuff of my bath robe...eeeek! I was not too relaxed after that:-)

The second incident was back in the days of having to get up in the dark to go to work. The alarm woke me up and I heard the Teasmade making me my morning cuppa. I dosed for a few minutes to let it cool down and then, so as not to disturb my husband, I didn't turn the light on, but took my cup from the Teasmade and took a big reviving gulp. Horror, something large got stuck in my throat. After a panicky few seconds as bits of the 'something' went down my throat and other bits didn't, my husband, who had been woken up by the choking noises, turned the light on to find me pulling huge spider legs out of my mouth...eeeeeeeeeeeeek!! Needless to say the Teasmade went in the bin and I only ever have a bottle of water by my bed now:-))

Sunday, 30 August 2009

Love is in the Air

I have an admirer and the feeling is mutual. Every time I go into the garden a young robin follows me around. Whatever I am doing he is there watching me and I really love his company.

Yesterday I was cutting back the overgrowth around the small fish pond and as usual my little friend was there so I thought it was about time I had some photos of him. The first photo was taken standing up bending over the bush the robin was in but as my back was sore it was difficult to keep still.

I decided to chance sitting down to take the next photo but expected that Robin might not like that and fly away. On the contrary, he seemed pleased and came even closer to me.

The next 5 minutes I spent telling Robin what a beautiful, handsome young lad he was (actually 'he' might be 'she' but I don't expect Robin cared). His reaction was to hop up and down the branch almost going onto my knee at one point... bit of luck my old cat has lost her appetite for Bird:-)

Friday, 28 August 2009

Foxy Lady gets Fish

I always find it difficult to decide what to do when I find one of my fish looking very ill and at death's door. Do I leave it in the pond and risk infecting the others if it has something catching or do I take it out and bang it on the head to save it suffering or do I take it out and put it somewhere else where it can die peacefully on its own?

Yesterday I found one of my fish looking in a very bad way so I thought I would put it out of its misery but when I went to pick it up it swam away so I decided to put it in a bucket with pond weed and Lilly Pads to shelter it and wait to see if it would improve.

In the evening I checked on it on route to fill up the bird feeders and it wasn't looking too good and by the time I returned from the feeders it appeared to have died but I thought I would leave it in the bucket overnight as I didn't want to disturb it if there was still a bit of life left.

Next morning I got up at 5.30 am to find the bucket on its side and the weed strewn across the garden. I went out to look for the fish but couldn't find it anywhere and then 5 minutes later female fox came into the garden and went straight to an area under some trees where she dragged out my fish and proceeded to eat it.

I am always amazed at how good a fox's sense of smell is; the bucket with the fish in it had been well tucked away but Foxy still managed to smell it out. I have had similar examples of their very efficient noses when our first hen died and we buried it deeply at the end of the garden but a fox still smelt it out and by morning there was nothing left but a big hole.

Poor old fish...I am certain it would have been dead by the time the fox found it and at least the fox went away happy with a full tummy.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Chicken Welfare

In the past I have kept hens and found them to be bright, active creatures that love to stretch their wings, scratch around for bugs, dust bath etc., in fact all the things wild birds do.

My hens would follow me round as I dug the garden so they could grab the odd worm; if I was sitting in the sun they would sit next to me with their wings stretched out also enjoying the warmth; they would love to go onto their tip toes flapping their wings to have a good stretch and sometimes they would just run round the garden chasing a fly. They were happy hens and showed it by producing lots of lovely eggs.

I was therefore horrified to read on the RSPCA website that Defra is currently considering new EU legislation which would reduce the current space that a chicken raised for meat in this country is allowed. When you consider the current area allowed in this country is only about the size of an A4 sheet of paper you can see why I am upset by this.

We wouldn't allow wild birds like Blackbirds, Bluetits or Robins (or any wild animal) to be confined in an equivalent small space but hens are really no different to wild birds. Their natural instinct along with every other living thing is to move. Sometimes I am ashamed to be human.

If you feel like I do please take a minute to go to the RSPCA's website and join their campaign 'Quash the Squash'.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Pheasant Returns

At last I have a chance to get on the computer. With my grandson round here for the holidays and my husband playing on-line chess it is hard to get a turn with enough time to do all the necessary things and post a blog.

We have also been away in Bournemouth for a while, staying in the rather nice Sandbanks Hotel. Our room overlooked Poole Harbour and Brownsea Island so we had plenty of seabirds to keep us amused not to mention the people learning to windsurf and kite surf. Great to watch but a bit too energetic for us to take part. We plumped for the other side of the hotel which adjoined the sandy beach and as the weather was remarkable good we spent a lot of time relaxing and building sandcastles with our grandson.

Back at home nature has been quietly getting on with the year. The squirrels have taken most of the Cob Nuts while we have been away. The Sparrow Hawk continues with its surprise attacks leaving feathers everywhere when it has been successful. The Roe Deer have been making regular appearances at dusk but always when it is just too dark to get a photo and the few remaining bats that we were left with at the end of the hard winter have now multiplied into a healthy colony again.

More good news, the female Pheasant who has been absent from the garden for a while returned today bringing a brood of three babies...clever mummy avoiding those foxes:-)))))

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Namibian Beetle

I have always been a big fan of the Beatles (the hairy musician type) but I am not so keen on the black, vicious looking, creepy crawly type, although I do have a sort of horrified fascination for them. Just lately we seem to have had an invasion of them in our living room and I am constantly having to turf them out into the garden where they belong.

The only beetle I have ever really liked (apart from the Ladybird) is a beetle I came across while travelling in Namibia in 2007 called the Upside Down Beetle.

This clever little chap survives in the desert by crawling to the top of a sand dune at night where it basically turns upside down on to its head allowing moisture brought in by the sea mists to run down grooves in its back and into its mouth. Amazing and kind of cute looking too:-)

When one is in the desert it is hard to imagine that anything could live there for long but there's a surprising amount of wildlife that has adapted and evolved to survive the harsh environment

While we were sitting round the camp fire one evening, under an Acacia tree, (yes we were camping!) our Namibian guide asked what dangerous creatures we had in England. He seemed to find it hard to believe that all we could manage was the Adder and that it rarely kills anyone. The next morning, while the camp was being dismantled (we were moving on to the Skeleton Coast) a beautiful but poisonous Coral snake made its way out of a hole in the same Acacia Tree we had been sitting under the previous evening.

Friday, 7 August 2009

New Forest Return

My visit to the New Forest was as lovely as ever. The spring foals are growing rapidly and spending lots of time playing with each other; the mares are filling out and looking a lot fitter and there is the usual plethora of wildlife round every corner. What a wonderful place. I wish I didn't have to come home...maybe one day I won't:-)

When I got up this morning I became aware of a very strange bird call. I grabbed the binoculars and darted from window to window trying to see what was making the noise but then I realised that my daughter had left her i-phone here and it was that giving her a wake up call (nice way to wake up). lol.

I did hear another welcomed bird call just as we got back from the New Forest. It was our Buzzard pair who have been absent for a few weeks. They were circling above us and very tenderly encouraging an offspring with its flying skills. Great! It shows things are going well with them. Unfortunately they were too high up for me to get a decent picture with my little camera.

While we've been away not only have the dreaded weeds grown again but I'm pleased to say that all our fruit and veg have too. We are eating runner beans and courgettes with every meal and giving them away to anyone who passes by. The cob nuts are ripening nicely and we will soon be racing against the squirrels to harvest them.

The plum tree was so laden with fruit this year that unfortunately a branch broke with the weight of the fruit while we were away. I wonder if they will still ripen enough for us and the birds to eat them.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

London Litter

I have had a very busy time since my last post because I've been organizing and enjoying my husband's birthday celebrations...he is now officially an OAP:-)) Yesterday we went to London, had a picnic in the park, went to see 'We Will Rock You' and went on for a meal afterwards. It was a lovely day but I was rather saddened to see a pigeon wandering round Charing Cross Station with a plastic tag caught so tightly round its ankle that it had cut off the circulation and his foot had fallen off. It didn't seem particularly distressed, more uncomfortable as the tag suck out, but it could have been avoided if people would just pick up their litter.

Although I find London quite interesting for a days visit I always love coming back to the fields and woods of home. I just wish the weather would improve as it seems that, just lately, I start a walk in the sun but end it in the rain. When I went out today the butterflies were enjoying themselves in the warm sun and I was hopeful of getting some good pics of them on the Wild Thyme which grows in abundance in the fields. By the time I had got to the top of the field the sky had darkened and it was tipping it down with rain so I had to make do with pictures of the Thyme and Harebells without their colourful companions who had flown away to take cover somewhere.

Talking of taking cover, my poor garden birds are constantly having to fly for cover because of a Sparrow Hawk who keeps swooping down at incredible speeds to snatch the little birds from the feeders. He is coming so often I think I may have to stop putting feed out for a while to try and break the habit. I am off to the New Forest for a few days so I will get my son to monitor it over the weekend and make a decision when I get back.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Worm Brew

For a long time we had loads of worms in one of the compost bins so with that in mind my husband asked around to see if anyone was getting rid of a wormery. Almost immediately someone on Freecycle sent him an email offering him one, so since Easter we have been nurturing lots of wiggly worms.

The great thing about having a proper wormery is that as the worms eat their way through our leftovers they produce a liquid and as the wormery has an artificial floor with holes in, it allows this liquid to pass through to the bottom where it can be drained of by means of a tap. We now have our first brew of wormy wine ready to treat our plants with. Lets hope the plants like it:-)

Friday, 17 July 2009

Ragwort: To be or not to be?

At this time of year the fields behind us are usually covered in Ragwort; however, this year there is a lot less, so I am guessing Mr Farmer has sprayed it.

I am not a big fan of chemical weedkillers but as I have mentioned in a previous post, I do think Ragwort needs to be controlled as it can kill grazing animals, particularly horses, and its yet to be decided if it is dangerous to humans. Having said that I have really enjoyed this year, seeing the masses of Cinnabar Moths, whose larval food is Ragwort. In turn, every strand of the remaining Ragwort is now covered with their attractive stripy caterpillars.

A lot of people in the horse world feel that Ragwort should be totally eradicated but surely we need to try and respect that whilst it can be deadly to one species it can be a lifeline to another. I really do sympathise with people who have lost much loved horses to this weed though and hate the thought of any horse, let alone one of the horses I ride, dying in such an unpleasant way. All very confusing...I really don't know what to think.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Insect Takeover

The young birds in the garden now seem pretty self sufficient and it is all a lot quieter. The exception to this is the Magpie family and they are still going around like a group of hooligans hell bent on destroying the runner bean supports and the garden chairs by pulling at any loose thread. If one manages to get a bit of thread or anything else interesting they all chase it madly round and round the garden. They also desperately want to be like the smaller birds and eat from the feeders but they only manage to hold on for a couple of seconds during which time they gobble like mad...very amusing to watch.

Where the birds have quietened down the insects have taken over. The bumble bee's nest that the fox uncovered a few weeks back is thriving. The only problem being that it is right in the middle of the lawn. We also have a wasps nest that is in an unfortunate place; in the rockery, right next to the bridge that hides our filter box that needs cleaning just about every day. It puts me in mind of when I saw a wasp flying around the wildlife pond with a red spot on its back. I was very excited and convinced that we had some rare species in the garden but when my boys got back from school they informed me that they had marked the wasp with a little dollop of paint so they could monitor where it flew. I felt sure they were destined for jobs in wildlife conservation but both went into computing.

The other problem insects that we have are the grasshoppers and crickets. We have a fly curtain at the patio door that is made out of lots of little bits of bamboo on strings but when they blow together it makes a clickety noise that attracts the crickets and grasshoppers so we are forever having to turf the little hoppers out of our breakfast room. We will definitely have to buy a new fly curtain. This little chap hadn't got that far and was well camouflaged amongst the weeds in our lawn.

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Glow Worms

It is the time of year when our daytime walk becomes a night time walk. This is so we can count Glow Worms. The females of these fascinating little creatures glow brightly to attract a mate from around mid June to the end of July. They are often seen on grass land, particularly in chalky areas. They usually start glowing at around 10pm and keep going to about midnight. Unfortunately, because I usually get up around 5 am in the summer (thanks to Lizzy, my old cat, pestering me soooo much that it is just easier to get up!) I really feel like going to bed at 10pm rather than going for a walk; however, it is worth getting tired to see these amazing glowing insects. There are several things in nature that the camera just can't do justice to and the brilliant glow of a glow worm is one of them.

This is a favourite poem of my grandson's, although, sadly neither of us know who wrote it:

I wish I was a Glow Worm,
A Glow Worm's never glum,
'Cos how can you be grumpy,
When the sun shines out your bum!

The greatest number of Glow Worms we have seen in any one night is 74 but that was several years ago when the children were young and we all used to go on family glow worm hunts. So far this year we haven't seen many but hopefully we might see more if the weather improves a bit.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Clever Birds

The frenetic feeding of baby birds in the garden seems to have calmed down a bit over the last few days. I don't know if this is because of the stormy weather we've been having or because the youngsters are now managing to feed themselves. Either way I think the parent birds have done and incredible job in raising their young. They have built their nests, kept them clean, fed their babies and all with no hands just a things.

The Parakeets do use their feet quite a lot though and often spend several minutes just hanging around but I wonder if they use them in parenting. This one hung by just one toe for about a minute and a half.

Now there aren't so many protective parent birds around the squirrels have returned to the feeder. Over the years I have tried several ways to make it more difficult for them to get at the bird food. Not that I mind them having some but they eat soooo much. Anyway they are just too agile so I have now given up and they help themselves along with everything else.

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Seeds and Weeds

Yesterday my husband and I went to Wakehurst Place in Sussex. We were amazed at the sizes of the trees; some must have been growing for years as they were massive. I have never seen any photo or painting that can truly capture the magnificence of a large tree; they are just one of those things that have to be seen to be appreciated.

While we were there we visited the Millennium Seed Bank. I have always appreciated the importance of plants but never really considered the future of plants and the devastating effect of certain plants dying out. The Millennium Seed Bank Project is incredible as not only do they have to collect the seeds but also work out how to store them in a way that will enable them to germinate again maybe in hundreds of years time and each seed has different requirements. They said that they have now collected seeds from every plant known in Britain except for a couple of rarer ones. What a job...I'd love to work there.

Anyway when I see the weeds in my garden I will now think that in generations to come people might be pleased to see these plants. In fact just at the moment I have to say that some of my weeds are looking quite pretty:-)

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Bird Battles

For those of you that get lots of Starlings in your gardens you would probably be surprised that I was not 100% sure that this was a baby Starling. There were no parent birds around and I didn't realize juveniles were so brown. I sort of guessed it was a Starling by its walk but was pleased to have it confirmed after watching a video on MIDMARSH JOTTINGS' blog. Obviously there are adult Starlings around nearby so I wonder why they don't come into my garden.

Just about every other bird has been paying us a visit along with their broods of youngsters. The garden seems like a bird version of Piccadilly Circus with all the comings and goings.

The Magpies have taken command of the ground and go around in a gang, like delinquent teenagers, terrorising everything and trying to undo the string that holds the runner bean canes together. Even the Pheasants get their tails pulled.

The feeding tree has become the domain of the Woodpecker family. They don't mind the smaller birds but hate the Parakeets and there are frequent wing flappings and squawkings as they argue it out. Once the Woodpeckers have driven the Parakeets away they seem to like to show their supremacy by drilling a few more holes in the poor old tree. I don't think the tree will survive for much longer.

There is so much going on I think I could happily spend all day just watching at the window but despite the hot weather I am still trying to do at least one walk a day. Today I chose a nice shady bridleway to wander down but other than lots of butterflies and a vole there wasn't much going on. I think everything was sitting sensibly in the shade taking it easy which is probably what I should have been doing as I got very hot. So something to cool down with; this is a picture of the same bridleway that I walked down today but when the photo was taken, only a few months ago, it was below freezing:-)