A Foretaste of Spring

This morning we made a supreme effort and managed to drag our weary bodies out of bed early. After a brief breakfast, we headed off to Rufford Abbey and country park.

 

All week there have been up to ten hawfinches in the trees surrounding the car park and we wanted to see these birds. We crossed the city in record time and found ourselves getting out of the car less than 45 minutes after we had set out. Following the know of birdwatchers in the car park gave us directions to nine hawfinches obligingly perched high in a tree.

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They remained in full view for approximately 15 minutes. It was the best view of hawfinches I have ever had. Around us, blue tits great tits nuthatches and chaffinches all sang at the top of their voices. We had limited time due to an appointment at 11am so we headed for the lake. 

Although the weather was cold four degrees it was bright and sunny and we found our first snowdrops in flower. You may not be able to feel spring is around the corner. You may not be able to see it but these small signs are the foretastes and promises of the spring and they always make me happy.

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Hazel trees were full of catkins and we saw wild arum just poking above the soil. Great tits, robins, and blackbirds have been shouting all week about how sexy they are and proclaiming territory. Indeed earlier this week a blackbird was still singing well after dark just near the library

Our diligence was rewarded with four goosanders two males and two females on the lake. Some species of birds were obviously accustomed to being fed regularly by visitors. A crowd of robins followed us hopefully whilst blue tits and great tits hovered nearby. At a bridge, we were treated to sights of a coal tit a few feet away from us great tits and blue tits were everywhere as were dunnocks robins and an occasional wren. A goldcrest hovered at the edge of a yew completely oblivious to our presence.

 

 

Our pleasure was increased by a flock of approximately fifty siskins who flew into the trees at the edge of the lake. One of two of us were sure there was redpoll amongst them but your father refuses to be convinced. None of those I saw had the red forehead but they did have the streaky pattern and buff wing bars of immature redpolls. 

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We headed back to the car seeing treecreeper, nuthatch and two great spotted woodpeckers on the way. We missed the brief flash of a kingfisher as it shot past. However, despite this disappointment, we saw three new species for the year Hawfinch, siskin and treecreeper. The drive home took twice as long as the early morning drive. For a short trip, we picked up four new species for the year, had wonderful views and had a lovely walk in the sunshine. A really lovely morning. As you can see the close-up shots of birds courtesy of Nottinghamshire birdwatchers are far superior to anything our camera can achieve. Hope everything is going well.

Love Mum 

 

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The Big Garden Bird Watch

This morning we carried out the big garden bird watch. Well more accurately your father carried out the bird watch whilst I enjoyed edited highlights.

(I have had my paper accepted for publication. The proofs came through on Thursday and had to be returned within three days. Consequently I spent this morning carefully checking the text and figures for errors and we posted the corrections back before midday.)

As you know we have been putting out mixed seed, fat balls, Niger seed, meal worms and sometimes fruit. We lay this on the ground as well as on the feeders. This has encouraged both more species to visit the garden in addition to greater numbers of each species. The ground feeding birds have particularly enjoyed our generosity.

Six wood pigeons have taken up residence around the garden waiting for free hand outs.

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Whilst a pair of collared doves fed on the seed feeders balancing precariously on the platform.

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As a result of all the free food on the path we had five blackbirds in the garden at once. The territorial rules have apparently been suspended  in the quest for food. A flock of nine goldfinches landed on the feeders and proceeded to feed. Over the course of the hour there was not a moment when there were not goldfinches on the Niger seed. However, since the dramatic decline in the numbers of Greenfinches  a few years ago, we rarely see these birds in the garden.

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The chaffinches are prospering and we had seven of these on the seeds. They appear to prefer to feed on the ground, and, since we have spread seed on the path, the numbers of these birds has increased.

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Likewise the pair of Dunnocks and the house sparrows have taken to visiting the garden daily.

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The fat balls were host to a pair of blue tits and a pair of great tits. These birds also search the current bushes and roses looking for invertebrates to scoff. A wren was searching these bushes this morning. A magpie watched from the damson tree at the bottom of the garden.

A few days ago a coal tit was seen on the currant bushes, today it was on the apple tree. We have also seen the odd Goldcrest on the bushes.

Unfortunately the over-wintering male Blackcap did not visit during the alloted hour.

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With so many of these birds in pairs I suspect that various species are already pairing up ready for the breeding season.  So one hour 12 species and good numbers of most of them. The only usual ones absent this morning were the robin, the goldcrest, the coal tit and the blackcap.

Most of the photos are from either the wikipedia website or the RSPB  and many thanks for these.

Small Gardens

I am fascinated by what can be done in a tiny space with a small yard or strip of garden and here I want to share some ideas I found on holiday. They say that Kent is the garden of England and whilst I thought it was full of gardens, many counties of England are full of beautiful gardens. Indeed gardens are something we do very well.

I believe it is relatively easy to make a lovely garden in a larger space where there is room for a water feature, trees a shade area a lawn bedding plants etc. Not to mention the money to buy all these things and perhaps a gardener to care for it all.

However, to make a small awkward area look interesting is much more challenging.

Here are some of the ideas I have seen and photographed on my travels this summer.

This is the garden of the hotel where we stayed.

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I thought it was rather a tribute to bedding plants and brash colours but in the sunshine it was rather pretty. I would rather sit amidst flowers and shrubs that surrounded by grass and concrete.

 

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It is amazing what you can make with a narrow passage beside your house. This one was in Hythe.

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If however you only have a wall and your plants get wind blasted and salt encrusted. It is still possible to plant in containers. What a great idea these were!

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Once again this time a narrow strip between two houses this time just behind the sea wall so subject to salty winds and storms. This is a real garden complete with a few weeds and grasses.

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This garden really made an effort not only was there the model pheasant on the balcony, but the plastic crabs and lobsters  next to the front door. I don’t think I would have them in my garden but beside the beach it didn’t look too tacky. I am not too sure about the pirate flag though. Just as well those troughs are secured.

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Then there was a small space in Rye between the church and the street, that was overflowing with plants. It was very romantic and atmospheric.

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Even where there were three storey victorian houses, many of the small patches of garden had been lovingly nurtured. This one was just beside a basement and had to be photographed over the wall looking down. I was inspired with how much could be done with just a few metres of space.  Again this one was in Hythe.

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Finally the Romney Hythe and Dymchurch had its own style of gardening. The small gardens beside the tracks tended to contain small models of animals and gnomes. However, the signal boxes and stations had some really lovely tubs and hanging baskets.

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Railway sleepers obviously make excellent plant containers. The gauge on those railway lines is approximately 15 inches and this shows in the photograph above.

Do you have any ideas of what can be done in a small space?