Thursday, 17 July 2014

A Beautiful Summer

Dahlia

I would hate to jinx the weather but this is turning out to be the best summer in many years. Just the right mix of rain and warmth to make the garden look really good and fine enough to be able to enjoy it.

It is very hot and sticky today and forecast to be even hotter tomorrow. I love it!

We have been making serious inroads into remodelling and replanting the garden. We have brought in some expert advice regarding the planting and maintenance and everything is looking very colourful. Mostly July is a very boring month when the spring flowers have finished and there is very little left to flower.

We were advised that deer don't seem to eat Dahlias so planted some in our new flowerbed. They look stunning (see above photo) and so far uneaten! We have also planted lots of Clematis on the pergola and the new archway. Again lots of summer colour.

Allium Purple Sensation

Another addition to the flowerbeds this spring were the Alliums. Not a flower I had ever considered planting but these ones, Purple Sensation, were absolutely stunning. Thank you, Jane for suggesting them. We also planted Allium Christophii - not quite so colourful but massive blooms the size of footballs. We will definitely be planting more Alliums this autumn in the new flowerbeds.

Green Silver-lines Moth

There have not been so many butterflies this year, although the hot weather this week has brought more out - Peacocks, Comma, Fritillaries, etc. However, I have been spending time investigating the moths in the garden. I have occasionally been running a moth trap (a device with a bright light that attracts the moths and collects them in a container). It does not harm the moths and they are all released after I have identified and photographed them. The photo above shows one of the prettier ones, the aptly named Green Silver-lines.

Roe Deer

We have not seen much of the deer this summer except for the Muntjacs which are always hanging around. However, last week I saw the first fawns of the season. Mrs Roe has twins again this year. Unfortunately, I did not manage to get a photo of them all together.

Roe Deer

Last weekend I was watching a fox eating windfall apples (sadly not many apples this year). He was a fine looking creature and I managed to get a quick photo.

Fox

Finally, this year has been good for woodpeckers. There have been numerous Great Spotted youngsters on the bird feeders and there has been a pair of young Green Woodpeckers with their mother regularly on the lawn and down by the pond. No photos unfortunately.

So a great summer so far for flowers, wildlife and weather. Long may it continue!

Friday, 9 May 2014

Spring in full swing

Garden Pond

Once again it has been a long time since I posted and springtime is in full swing. We have been very busy working on the house and garden. The garden developments are very exciting - a new patio area by the pond and lots of new plantings. In addition, we have built an archway over a new pathway which will become a significant feature of the back garden.

The picture shows the new bridge that was built over the pond last year. I will post more photos of the new developments when the plants are more established.

Getting back to the wildlife - a sad story for Mr & Mrs Mallard. She laid 14 eggs in the bole of a tree by the pond. Unfortunately, the nest was not very good and all the eggs fell out! I guess one of the magpies had a real feast. Such a pity because it would have been lovely to have 14 ducklings in the pond. The couple are still together by the pond so maybe they will try again?


English Bluebells

The bluebells have been lovely this year. They were very early and are now fading back already. They are such a spectacle it is sad to see them disappear so quickly.

English Bluebells

The butterflies have been doing well this year, probably because we had a very dry spell in early April. I have seen orange tips, brimstone, peacocks, commas and lots of whites. The brimstone in the photo has really great camouflage against the primroses.

Brimstone Butterfly

There is a baby muntjac at the moment sticking closely to its mother, but I have yet to see any roe deer fawns this year. They should be born around this time and I have no doubt we will catch a glimpse soon.

The other birds are having more success than the mallard ducks. There is a pair of long-tailed tits nesting in the berberis on the front lawn and a pair of great tits busily feeding their brood in the nesting box on the pergola. Lots of new life. I love springtime!

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Wildlife of Africa

Wildlife of Africa

I have finally completed my new web site - Wildlife of Africa.

I have been fascinated by Africa for many years. It is a spectacular continent, teeming with wildlife and home to some of the most majestic animals on the planet.

I decided to put together a web site similar in style to English Country Garden to maintain a record of the animals, birds, flowers and trees that I have seen and photographed. I have researched each and tried to include some useful information.

You can visit the web site at www.wildlife-of-africa.com. I would appreciate any feedback and also would love to be informed of any inaccuracies.

I will be adding to it frequently because I still have photographs that have not yet been included/researched. We are also planning another trip later this year.

I hope you enjoy it.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Rain, Wind and More Rain

Storm damage

I have not posted for a long time mostly because there has been little to say about the wildlife or the garden. However, it has been a miserable winter - storm after storm coming in from the Atlantic depositing huge quantities of rain.

We are lucky to live at the top of a hill so have not suffered the terrible floods like so many others in the country. Absolutely devastating for them.

We have had some awful winds and have lost 5 trees already this winter.

Last Friday’s storm was the worst I have seen since the hurricane of 1987. It started in earnest around lunchtime and howled and poured until the early hours of Saturday morning. It is a complete miracle that our power stayed on. I had candles and torches distributed all over the house and filled the flask to make sure we had a hot drink in the morning but luckily we did not need them.

The photo above shows one of the trees that came down - a massive silver birch.

On the positive side, we have had no snow and the temperatures have been reasonably warm.

Snowdrop

Spring is most definitely on its way. We have snowdrops, daffodils, primroses and crocuses in bloom but the ground is so sodden that it is like a quagmire trying to get close for photographs.

This photo is a beautiful double snowdrop. I am not sure which variety because we did not plant it but looking closely it is quite exquisite.

Poor Robin

The animals have been quite elusive this winter although I have caught glimpses of a baby muntjac with its mother.

There are lots of birds around including this poor little robin. I am not sure what is wrong with it. It's head is almost completely bald. It has possibly been in a fight (robins are very territorial) or maybe it is something like mites.

My bird feeder was another casualty of the storm, so I have ordered a posh new one. We are making some big changes to the garden so hopefully I will have more photos when everything starts to grow again in the spring.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

A Trip of Hares

Brown Hare - Lepus europaeus

We have had a lot of hares in the garden all summer but yesterday afternoon there were six of them right outside the conservatory! Too good an opportunity to miss, so I got the camera out and got a bit carried away.

Hares are one of my favourite creatures and they seem to be thriving these days, which is very good news. I think they like the combination of fields in front of our house, woods to the side, lots of luscious lawn grass and windfall apples.


Brown Hare - Lepus europaeus

Brown Hare - Lepus europaeus

I was wondering what is the collective noun for a group of hares? So, I looked it up and there are lots of them - husk, flick, drove, down, leash, mute, trace, and probably my favourite, a trip of hares.

I am hoping next spring to get some photos of them "boxing".

Brown Hare - Lepus europaeus

Brown Hare - Lepus europaeus

For late October, the weather has been unseasonably warm. I am happy about this because the grass seed that we planted by the pond is coming through nicely. However, on Monday we had a very bad storm, predicted well in advance by the Met Office. It was forecast to be the worst storm since the hurricane in 1987 when we lost six big trees and had no electricity for a whole week.

I am happy to say that although very wild, it was not as bad as 1987. We lost part of our electricity supply for a day and a half, but suffered no other damage. Surprisingly, there were no trees uprooted, just quite a few branches down.

The clocks went back last weekend, so sadly, the darkness of winter is closing in :(

Sunday, 13 October 2013

A Fruitful Autumn

Roe Deer eating windfall apples It is a long time since I have posted due to other commitments, but this year has certainly been interesting.

We started with a dreadful spring followed by a summer that was better than average, temperature-wise. Autumn has been fairly changeable but certainly not cold. We have had no frosts here yet and probably less than average rainfall.

However, the conditions have obviously been just right to produce a massive harvest of fruit, nuts and berries. The apple trees are groaning under the weight of fruit. I have stashed bags full of blackberries in the freezer. The oak trees are laden with acorns and the horse chestnuts have more conkers than I have ever seen before.

Of course, this is all good news for the animals who are constantly present under the apples trees gorging themselves on windfalls.

The photo above shows a couple of roe deer.  The photo below shows a muntjac and even the hares have been getting in on the act along with crows, jackdaws and jays.
Muntjac eating windfall apples

Hare eating windfall apples

Roe Deer eating windfall apples

The recent rain has also brought out the fungi - various types of inkcaps, parasols, honey fungus, boletes and sulphur tuft. Here are a few photos.

The Hare's Foot Inkcaps are intriguing. They are very delicate, open up like a flower and only last a few hours.


Shaggy Parasol Mushroom


Hare's Foot Inkcap border=


Glistening Inkcaps

We have been very busy with some long overdue reorganisation of the garden. We have had the pond dredged and tidied up and it is quite transformed with a new bridge and waterfall. The banks of the pond were quite steeply sloping which made it difficult to get close. We have reduced the slopes and hopefully next year I will be able to get better photos of some of the pond life.

It was very frustrating this summer. There were huge numbers of dragonflies but I was unable to get any photos.

We are also planning to create new flowerbeds around the pond but we will not be planting until the spring.

Look out for better pond photos next year!

We have also been reorganising the flowerbeds around the house. They had become rather overgrown and untidy.

We have created a fern garden below the kitchen window in a spot that does not get a lot of sun and is usually quite damp.

We have planted Hellebores for winter colour and hundreds of new spring bulbs. I really cannot wait to see the results next spring. I will be sure to post some photos.

The garden reorganisation does not stop there and we will be working outwards from the house to get the other flowerbeds in better shape next spring.

Let's hope that the winter will be kind to us.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Summer with a Vengeance

Small White Butterfly Since last posting, summer arrived with a vengeance. Until this weekend we have had virtually no rain for weeks. The temperature went up and stayed up, some days over 30 degrees centigrade, which is not a regular occurrence in this country.

We missed the thunder storms that have been moving across the country and the lawn is quite brown.

This is the first extended hot and dry period that we have had for quite a few years and there are some wildlife benefits - the butterflies have been out in force! Much has been written about the plight of butterflies and moths which have struggled for survival in the last few summers with the adverse weather. Hopefully, this year will see them bounce back. There are hundreds of them in the garden at the moment and I have been taking a few photos.

There are a lot of whites, both large and small. The photo above shows a small white.

Gatekeeper Butterfly
There are also dozens of Gatekeepers, shown above. They love bramble blossom and can be identified by the two white pupils in the eye spot.

The next is a Small Tortoiseshell taken in the conservatory. Not a very interesting background to the photo but I included it because it shows the detail on the wings so nicely. I have not seen any Tortoiseshells for several years so it was a welcome visitor. No photos, but I have also seen Peacocks, Red Admirals, Brimstones and Commas.
Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly
Other news in the garden - the jackdaws that I mentioned in the last post seem to have disappeared to be replaced by a family of crows. Interesting that I did not see both in the garden at the same time.

We have a cherry tree that each year bears fruit. However, as soon as the berries start to ripen, the birds come along and strip the whole tree. The berries usually disappear within 24 hours. But not this year. For some reason the birds are not eating the cherries and I don't understand why. Too many other things to eat perhaps? Something wrong with the berries? This is the first time in more than 25 years that we have lived here. Very strange. Photographic evidence below.

Cherries
Plenty of apples on the trees this year, too. Last year there were no apples or pears at all.

Finally, I have not had time to get any decent photos of the roses which are doing very well this summer. But, I thought I would include this quick snap of one of the roses just outside our kitchen door. We just planted it last year and it is very pretty.


Rose
Fingers crossed that the summer weather continues!