Wordless Wednesday – Snowdrops at Chippenham Park

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We went for the snowdrop days

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And found masses and masses of them, thickly coating the woodland floor

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And decorating the gardens

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But there were plenty of other beautiful views to see.

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Ready for liftoff  … no sports car payload though!

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The main canal … but which way is up?

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Posted in Out and about, Winter, Wordless | Tagged , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Wildlife Wednesday – January’s Birdwatch

This post is in essence a reminder to myself to submit the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch results … before 18th February.

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A representative selection of garden birds on the feeders for this year’s count. Yes, there was a bit of a take over by the Great tits.

The Big Garden Birdwatch has been running for nearly 40 years. It was started in 1979 as a fun winter activity for junior RSPB members and was picked up and promoted on Blue Peter (a children’s TV magazine programme). As a consequence, it was a runaway success with an amazing 34,000 forms returned that first year. It wasn’t until much later (2001) that adults were invited to participate and last year more than half a million people took part. I’ve being contributing, on and off, for the last 20 years, starting with the kids, but gradually it has become just me.

This year’s survey was pretty routine. There were no surprise visitors, but a reasonable range of species and a good total number of birds seen within the hour.

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The Tit family was the most represented

The biggest percentage representation was from the Tit family. Unfortunately for me, tits are sufficiently restless and fast that their numbers in snapshot views are pretty hard to assess. The task is made more difficult by the fact that most birds hop around in the tangled wisteria over the pergola before dropping down to the feeders. It is a bit like watching ants mill around.

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It was interesting to observe that tits never eat sunflower hearts at the feeder, seeds are always retrieved for nibbling in private in the wisteria or surrounding bushes.

The Birdwatch rule is that the total number of each particular species recorded must be seen simultaneously, to rule out sneaky returners. The only exceptions I’ve allowed to this rule is if sightings are of clearly different birds e.g. a female blackbird followed later by a male or an individual with particular markings (e.g. one of the chaffinches has a distinctive pecked head) etc.

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There are often at least four goldfinch competing for the two outlets, invariably leading to some fighting over the positions.

In contrast to all the movement from the tits, when goldfinches arrive to dine they tend to set up residence on the feeders. They only leave when they are chased off by other birds or when that elusive ‘Move out’ signal goes up.

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The greenfinches are not looking terribly colourful yet, but this one is nevertheless a glossy and healthy specimen.

One of the main competitors for space on the seed feeders are the greenfinches. Greenfinches tend to win in dominance battles, but they also seem to be more sporadic visitors to the garden, so it all works out fairly in the end.

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A robin makes the most of the leftovers on the ground

As normal, there is a different crowd of birds underneath the feeders taking the opportunity to gather the fallen nuts/seeds. Look at ground level and you will typically see blackbirds, robins, pigeons, dunnocks and chaffinches jumping around. In fact this year I didn’t see any dunnocks in the allocated time and that is perhaps a first during a count.

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Chaffinch making its mind whether to compete for sunflower seeds or not

Chaffinches are becoming bolder about taking seed from the feeders, particularly the round sunflower feeder with the larger base. They have an interesting approach style. It is a bit like a cross between a harrier jump jet and humming bird. They tend to fly straight up from the ground and hover at the bottom edge of the feeder:

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“Hello, room for me?”

I tried to capture this, but their wings move so quickly during the hover manoeuver that  the pictures are all fairly blurry. Hopefully you get the idea though.

Away from the feeders there are still some berries and crab apples to eat. The mistle thrushes have become seasonal regulars this winter and are ardent defenders of the crab apple crop. It is a good job they shake more than they need from the tree, as it gives the blackbirds and chaffinches plenty to eat on the ground. The crab apples are clearly on their last legs though.

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“Yes, I am still here in the tree, but the pickings are getting a little rough”

When you submit your Birdwatch results there are a number of additional questions asked about the location and facilities, but I’ve noticed a couple of other factors that definitely affect the number of bird seen during the count. One is the weather, but more crucial is the time of day.  For instance, if I look at the feeders at mid-morning I am likely to see far fewer birds than I would see around lunch-time, when round after round of arrivals takes place.

Another of the Birdwatch rules is that birds must land in the studied area to be counted. That ruled out these two buzzards, but they are regulars overhead and I often hear them when I am gardening.

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Buzzards … if only they would land, they would count!

So to summarise my birdwatch, there were no unusual visitors this year, but plenty of birds to count and I would say that the numbers of great tits and chaffinches were up comparatively in our garden. I wonder if these are trends elsewhere too. We shall see. The results should be out in March.

This is my contribution to Tina’s (mygardenersays) monthly Wildlife meme. I see that my last photo links nicely with Tina’s report!

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Short Film Showcase* – Dancing flowers

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If you’ve got a moment (OK 4 minutes), then you could hardly do better than to watch this beautiful, mesmerising short film by Jamie Scott, shot as time-lapse photography, which shows springtime flowers blooming and dancing. I loved it. Go on, just click below.

Enjoy!

 

* The Short Film Showcase spotlights exceptional short videos created by filmmakers from around the world and selected by National Geographic editors.

Posted in Art, Nature, Whimsy | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Wordless Wednesday – Raise your Scarlet Elf Cups

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Scarlet Elf Cups, Sarcoscypha coccinea, amongst the moss and leaf litter being foraged here by cute elf doll (by Tatjana Raum)

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The edge of my finger gives an idea of scale … this one was about 2cm in diameter, but they can grow to about 5cm. Scarlet elf cups grow on decaying sticks in damp areas of woodland and appear in winter/spring.

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The underside to the cups and stalk is much lighter in colour. The fungus is considered by some to be edible, but is probably too tiny and tough to be bothered with.

Posted in Nature, Winter, Wordless | Tagged , , , , , , | 15 Comments

Wordless Wednesday – A choice of routes? No contest!

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Imagine the scent as you take the middle path … That’s Daphne Jacqueline Postill‘ on both sides. Delicious!

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Daphne bholua Jacqueline Postill

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The Winter Garden at Cambridge Botanical Gardens is designed as a dell and surrounded by hedges. Shielded from the noise of traffic, it is veritable sense sensation.

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Chimonanthus praecox ‘Grandiflorus’

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A brilliant green grass-edged path winds through the shallow valley which was designed so that sunlight illuminates some features and backlights others.

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Star of the show (IMHO) currently is Hamamelis × intermedia ‘Jelena’

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The plan is available as a PDF, as is the planting List

 

Posted in Out and about, Walks, Winter | Tagged , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Wordless Wednesday – Hot stuff

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Anglesey Abbey’s Winter Walk – Vibrant, even on the dullest days

Posted in Out and about, Uncategorized, Winter, Wordless | Tagged , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

In a Vase on Monday – Snippets between showers

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Stormy view across Well House Meadow on the afternoon walk

I’ve been dodging rain showers all day. This afternoon it came down to a decision between nipping out to look for a few flowers or going for an immediate dog walk round the village (I couldn’t face a second deep-mud onslaught across the fields today) to miss the rain. Ah, poor dog!

In the meantime I managed to find these floral snippets:

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Snippets in an inkpot

A little bit of beauty: A pristine snowdrop

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A little bit out-of-season: Limonium suworowii spikes and the mexican daisies

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A little whiff of perfume: Winter honeysuckle and viburnum bodnantense

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Winter honeysuckle

A whole lot of cheerfulness: Smiling violas and in-your-face polyanthus ‘Firecracker’

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And a handful of fresh green: Dianthus ‘Green Trick’

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Luckily, the dog and I missed the downpour shortly afterwards, but only just.

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Thanks to Cathy at Rambling in the garden for hosting the motivating In a Vase on Monday meme. Why not use the link to pop across to her blog and explore the beautiful vases around the globe.

Posted in Flowers | Tagged , , , , , | 21 Comments