Sunday, 29 April 2012

Cley & Titchwell

We braved the rain and spent the day birding in Norfolk.  I expected to get totally soaked at some stage but we didn't.

A good day.  We saw over 80 species in all.  We watched the summer migrants arriving:

Swallows (50+)
Swifts (50+)
Sand Martins
House Martins
Whimbrel (11)


There was a field alive with the Greenland race of Northern Wheatears (50+).  We saw Sedge and
Reed Warblers but no Whitethroats.  What has
happened to the Whitethroats this year?  We
haven't seen any yet.  No sign of Cuckoos yet either.  They are getting closer though - people have been Tweeting when they have heard one!  The BTO are following four Cuckoos on route from Africa (it was five but Clement died on the way).  When you hear your first cuckoo this year you can donate to the BTO's project by texting CKOO12 £5 to 70070. 

We had a good view of a couple of Bearded Tits. I always love to see them.  A Spotted Redshank very obligingly wandered over to us; a Med Gull put in an appearance and four Spoonbills. 



Black-tailed Godwit


 I got a couple of photos of Spoonbills and Grey Heron but these shots (taken on sunny days) are better!!

Grey Heron

I have just been watching the LIVE webcam images of the Peregrine nest in the centre of Nottingham.  The rain is really taking its toll.  She looks totally fed up!

Photographs copyright of Andy Mason

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Transition Culture

Did you see 'Rowing to the Pole' on TV last night?  It was about six men who took a rowing boat to the magnetic North Pole (to the spot where the magnetic pole had been recorded in 1996 actually) during the summer melt.  They got within a few hundred feet before they had to drag the boat over the ice. 

How scary is that??

I don't mean the journey - but that was scary!  They were miles from anywhere in the freezing fog at times, facing hungry polar bears with Titanic sized icebergs all around them - I couldn't decide if they were very brave or just very stupid!  No, what scared me was the fact that there is so little ice in the Arctic now they can row a boat all that way during the summer!

Scientists have discovered the Antarctic ice shelves are disappearing faster than predicted too.  The initial estimates had been based on warm air melting the ice but they have discovered an added problem: warm water currents under the ice.  Sea levels are rising.

I can't believe there are still people who don't believe in global warming! The evidence is all around us every day.  So what are we doing about it?  Not enough!

Rob Hopkin's book 'The Transition Handbook' (published about 2008) opened up the debate about the future of the planet.  He recognised global warming as a serious threat brought on by our use of fossil fuel.  Why do we continue to use fossil fuels?  Because we need power to improve our economic growth.  Why do we need economic growth?  Because it is good for the country and our way of life.  He put forward an alternative view.  Stop seeking to improve NATIONAL economic growth.  Local economic growth would be better for the community and for the environment.  Go to the website for more details!   It is a very optimistic movement and it is gathering pace with local groups springing up all over the world.  There is a group in our small town.  It is worth checking to see if there is one near you.

Here is what a group in Hong Kong are up to ...

Monday, 23 April 2012

Foliage Photos

Pond edge plants - all began as cuttings from my mum's garden

I met up with some old work colleagues recently.  I had a lovely time.  It was great to chat and catch up and even better to think I was no longer part of the 'Data & Deadlines' set!  Perhaps that is one of the reasons I am late posting my foliage photos! Yesterday was supposed to be Garden Bloggers' Foliage Day ... never mind!

Another small cutting that has now covered the Holly tree and lifted stones on the front path!

Yet another gift from mum - this is growing frighteningly fast at the minute.

Go to 'Creating My Own Garden of the Hesperides' for more GBFD shots.

A small Laurel shrub grows near the door.  I planted it when we moved here in 1993.  It has never flowered before.  It was a total surprise to find it covered in buds a few weeks ago.  It was a better surprise when these tiny flowers appeared.   

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Rhubarb ...

  It appears to be Rhubarb season.  Marks and Spencer are advertising Rhubarb Tart and Lurpak are having a Rhubarb Week,  there is even a whole website devoted to it.

I planted a packet of Rhubarb seeds late last year and grew eight plants, gave a couple away and planted the rest.  They are doing okay but not well enough for me to bake anything yet.   The Patient Gardener's Rhubarb jam sounded delicious so I went to buy the ingredients.  I have always thought of rhubarb as a cheap fruit.  I am wrong.  It isn't a fruit - it's a vegetable- and at £5 per kg (Asda price) it seems quite expensive to me!  I didn't want to make jam that badly anyway!

We were surprised to see this Rook visit the feeders yesterday.  It was eating the sunflower seeds.  Bit difficult with a beak that size I would have thought.  They aren't usually garden birds!

But I don't count Pheasants as garden birds either!  This doesn't do him justice - he truely glows!

It has been a busy week.  The allotment has taken my time and the dream of a flower packed lane came a little closer as I cleared a few more weeds and planted some Oriental Poppies - they won't do much this year but I'm hoping to have years to appreciate them yet!

Here is a photo of my packed greenhouse - the poor cat is getting squashed out!

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Nature's Air-fresheners

Not sure what this is.  I bought it as a very small shrub in a 1 lt pot about ten years ago ... it liked our garden and quickly established itself.  It has beautiful blossoms with a heavenly scent but they don't last long.  Unfortunately there are only a few blooms this year because I cut it back quite late last summer ... won't do that again!

Anyone any idea what it is?  I'd love to know.

The Oriental Cherry Blossom is out and the Lilac trees are covered in buds ... another heavenly smell.  I have been looking for a Mock Orange shrub.  We had one at a previous house and I loved sitting near it on a warm evening. I have looped Honeysuckle over the side door and placed pots of Hyacinth on the step.

We have Robins feeding young in the Holly tree and a couple of Long Tailed Tits are fighting a couple of Starlings for access to the fatballs.  No-one has moved into the titbox yet but it has had a couple of viewings this week.  The tadpoles are now jelly-free and I am sure I saw a Magpie fishing some out. I had a wonderful view of a Heron flying over the house as it left a neighbour's pond a little emptier of fish.  Yesterday the Pheasants gave me a wonderful photo opportunity ... he was standing in front of a bunch of red tulips which complemented his plummage to perfection.  I should have reached for my camera.  Unfortunately the female was busy digging up my newly planted seedlings!  I shooed them away instead!

The cat discovered a mysterous hole amongst the border plants.  She waited patiently for most of the day but the occupier didn't come out to play.  We think it is probably a vole but it is rather large!!

Saturday, 14 April 2012

...and your drinks for free ...

The humble Dandelion
 Apparently Global Warming is causing havoc in the coffee industry.  The demand for good coffee, particularly Arabica, has increased as the supply has gone down.  Experts are blaming the weather as the Colombian coffee regions are experiencing heat waves, record rainfalls and plagues of pests(read 'The End of Cheap Coffee').  We will all be paying higher prices for our daily fix or drinking less cups a day .... or you could try the alternative - Dandelion Coffee!

You dig up the roots, wash them, roast them, grind them and they're ready to use. 

It actually tastes terrible!

A drink that is worth making though is Dandelion Wine.  We made this last year and it tastes lovely!  You need a sunny day to pick the flowers and an hour sat in the garden preparing them.  You will be glad you took the time when you are sampling the goods next year.

Tonight is the centenary of the sinking of the Titanic.  My Great Uncle was on board (see 'Family' section above).

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

The Good Life

 An old couple drove down Memory Lane today and stopped for a chat.  They were brother and sister and their grandmother used to live next door.  They hadn't seen the place for 72 years! They recalled eating delicious Victoria Plums from my garden. There was a battered Victoria Plum tree when we moved in.  It was in such a sorry state a Blue-tit was able to nest inside its trunk.  The few plums produced were tasty though.  A Derry Plum tree still dominates the garden and provides more than enough fruit each year for us, the neighbours and the wasps. 

We had two Derry Plum trees when we first moved in.  There was a Pear tree; four Apple trees; Rhubarb; Gooseberry bushes and blackberries. Foolishly we never made use of the fruit.  Once we sold part of the garden we were left with the large Plum tree and two Apple trees.  We cut the maurading blackberries back but didn't succeed in killing them completely.

This week I have been working at replacing the fruit.  I cleared space at the back of the garden and planted two Black-currant bushes; gooseberry bushes and two Raspberry canes.  Last year I grew some Rhubarb from seed and now I have eight small but healthy plants and the Strawberry plants are multiplying nicely.  Oh, I also planted two cherry trees to go with the Pear tree I put in a couple of years ago.  The fruit will be appreciated this time round.  Last Autumn we discovered the pleasure of home-made Apple and Blackberry jam on warm toast for breakfast.

The spring flowers are competing for attention and it is difficult to decide which I prefer.

Forced to make a choice I would opt for the Tulips .... but the narcissistic Daffodils are beautiful too.  Daffodil is an old English name for them.  Originally they were known as 'Affodell' - it is thought the 'D' was added because they came from Holland and in translation to Dutch 'the affodell' would have been 'de affodil'.  In other parts of the world it is called a Narcissus and thought to be named after the young man from Ancient Greece who drowned because he fell in love with his own reflection in a pool of water.  The Narcissus plant sprang up where he died.

A friend has asked me to share an allotment. I jumped at the idea. The weather was terrible today so I have had some time to read up on how to rota crops; what to plant when; how big to make the beds .... I am really excited!!  It will be lots of work at first but I can't wait.  I now have trays of carrots and cauliflowers in the greenhouse!