The garden in early spring

Not much has been happening in the garden during the winter months but in March and April the new growth is starting to pop up and the flowers are appearing. So I thought I’d share a few photos!

I hope someone could help to identify the first two bushes as I’ve never known what they are – some kind of flowering currant?!

 

 

Herb Planting in April

Last summer I tried to grow tomatoes, courgettes, peppers and all kinds of herbs – everything but the herbs failed. It’s difficult to grow vegetables in pots in a garden that is just a patio so I think this year I’ll try the tomatoes-in-a-bag and use all the pots to grow herbs and salads instead as they won’t let me down!

I don’t have the indoor cupboard space to sow seeds and keep them in the dark and warm until they’re ready to go out so basically I need hardy things that will do fine from start to finish in the little pop up greenhouse in the yard.

Herbs and salads I’ll be sowing in April

  • Coriander
  • Dill
  • Parsley
  • Chives
  • Spinach
  • Watercress
  • Basil
  • Oregano
  • Sage
  • Thyme
  • Mint
  • Rocket

Wish me luck!

Ticking off the early signs of spring

It’s just past Easter and it’s still not warm. In fact, we’ve had more snow in February-March than I can remember for 5 years.

But I’m still spotting some of the early signs of spring so clearly the birds and flowers and getting ready regardless. So far I’ve seen:

  1. Blackthorn bushes flowering
  2. Snowdrops, crocuses and daffodils everywhere
  3. Frogs in the garden pond
  4. New growth on the sedum plant
  5. Buzzards skydancing
  6. Bumblebees in the garden
  7. Blue tits preparing the nestbox
  8. Coots nest building on the river
  9. A slight tickle of hayfever
  10. My cat is staying outdoors for longer

What signs of spring have you spotted so far?

Big Garden Birdwatch 2018 Results

Good morning! I’ve not been blogging very much lately because – to cut a dull story short – I accidentally removed my WordPress plan and now I have basically no storage space. As most of my posts involve photos, this is a problem. I expect I will have to rip myself off and upgrade again but in the meantime I’ll try to blog using words rather than pictures.


So the results of the Big Garden Birdwatch have been released and I’m always interested to compare how my own garden fares against the rest of the country. I posted about this in January when the event took place but I don’t think I shared my own results. So, I saw:

  • 7 long tailed tits (44%)
  • 5 house sparrows (31%)
  • 1 blackbird (6%)
  • 1 blue tit (6%)
  • 1 dunnock (6%)
  • 1 woodpigeon (6%)

It was disappointing that my goldfinches didn’t make an appearance on the day but I do see them most days. The blackbird, blue tit, sparrows and woodpigeon were obviously fairly typical sightings, but the long tailed tits are less common in the nationwide results. Long tailed tits in fact went up one place compared with last year so perhaps they are doing a bit better these days – or just moving into gardens.

Did you take part this year? What did you see?

Wildlife focus: great-spotted woodpecker

Welcome to the second in my wildlife focus blog series (did you catch the first on the mole?) and in this one I’m sharing some facts about the great spotted woodpecker. You can tell them apart from their lesser cousins by their distinctive black and white wings, white shoulder part, and scarlet flashes on the adult males and juveniles. The crucial difference is the red underpart on the great, which the lesser does not have [here’s a video by the BTO that goes into more depth.]

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Essential facts

  1. Woodpeckers drum on trees and other objects in a show of territory and to attract a mate. Unpaired GS woodpeckers can drum 600 times a day, while a paired male may drum around 200. They can even smack their heads into trees at 15 miles per hour with apparently no ill effects.
  2. And about that drumming – the woodpecker has a cushion, shock-absorbent tissue between the bill and skull to lessen the impact, though it’s thought that this drumming actually gives woodpeckers brain damage!
  3. The great (not greater) spotted woodpecker is a species of fairness and equality – both sexes share the duty of excavating the nest holes and incubating the eggs on the nest. This is quite unusual in birds, as usually the males go out for food and return to the nest to feed the nesting mother and their chicks. For the great spotted woodpecker, however, both the male and female will incubate the eggs for around 12-20 days until they hatch, at which point the chicks fledge the nest, though they continue to be looked after for 10 days as they grow increasingly independent.
  4. Woodpeckers have started visiting garden feeders in the last 20 years – if you want to attract them, put out suet and peanuts.
  5. They primarily eat insects but will feast on small bird chicks in spring.
  6. Juveniles have a red hat and adult males can be identified by the patch of red on the back of their necks.
  7. Like other woodpeckers, they are zygodactylic – they have two toes facing forward and two toes facing backward, which enables them to climb trees.

Cley, Norfolk, February

A few photos from a recent trip to Cley marshes on the Norfolk coast on a (very) windy day. So windy that we couldn’t even spend long in the hides as opening the hatches creating a wind tunnel.

We did also see – as well as the usual waders – a couple of stonechat but I couldn’t get a photo, a marsh harrier scaring off the ducks and geese, and possibly a water pipit. I did get some photos of the latter but they were too blurry to tell for sure.

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A family of avocets
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A coot in the reeds
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A couple of shovelers
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Think this was a redshank (left) and a plover (right) but couldn’t get close enough
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Redshank
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A LOT of brent geese
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Pebble beach & sea
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Gorse

Wintry walks: the beast from the east

If you’ve been anywhere near a TV screen or radio or – god forbid – been outdoors, you may have noticed we’ve quite a bit of snow. I don’t remember snow like this for about 5 years and it’s so rare.

I’m not one for snowball fights – I have a very low tolerance for extreme temperatures in either direction – but I am one for taking photos when the landscape changes so dramatically. Here’s a few I’ve taken over the last few days as the office has been closed and I’ve been snowed in working from home.

Geese, gulls, and waders.

This post has one theme and one theme only – it’s random photos of various wader birds that don’t fit comfortably into any other blog post but I would like to share them regardless. All were taken in February at Pensthorpe Natural Park in Norfolk, which has a large collection of water birds.

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Avocet
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Ruff
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Goldeneye and smew
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Pochard
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Puna teal
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Black headed gull
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Black headed gull (female)
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Bar-headed goose
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Greylag goose
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Black headed gull (female)

A nuthatch in the woods.

The nuthatch has got to be one of the most elegant woodland birds. The way it feeds upside and hops acrobatically along the branch is really quite artistic. It’s colours are muted and simple – grey on top, chestnut underneath, that stripe of black across the eyes like the Mask of Zorro.

I took these photos at the woodland hide at Pensthorpe in Norfolk on a Spring-like day in February. This is one of the most satisfying hides I’ve ever visited and it never fails to perform – there are so many birds that it’s almost too much to take in.

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Wheatfen: Ted Ellis Nature Reserve (January 2018)

I used to visit Wheatfen, the Ted Ellis nature reserve in Norfolk, usually every year with my parents as a kid and haven’t been for many years, so this spontaneous trip out to the reserve was a nice idea. It’s known for swallowtail butterflies, which of course we didn’t see in January, but we’ll try to go back in summer.

We did, however, see about 4 marsh harriers, a little wren, robins, blue tits, and a party of long-tailed tits. It was  beautiful sunny day and so warm we didn’t need our coats – worrying January weather.

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Marsh Harrier
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Robin
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Wren?
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Belted Galloway

We also saw two very stubborn swans who did not move out of way and completely blocked the path so we had to turn back. Has anyone had such an experience with swans? What do you do, just charge right past? If we had attempted that, we might have fallen into the marsh, so there really wasn’t space.

You’ve got to pick your fights, and I didn’t fancy a fight with 2 stubborn swan.

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A party of long-tailed tits followed us through the woods before one posed perfectly on the reeds for me.

 

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And some random photos to finish off.

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Snowdrops
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Reeds

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Gorse