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.