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!

Sunday, 30 June 2013

Twins Again!

Roe Deer Fawns Each year in May we usually see the new born roe deer fawns. This year, however, I was beginning to wonder if there were any until just a couple of days ago when Mum brought them into the garden. They are quite big already but still have their spots. I guess they were born in early May and Mum has kept them well hidden. They were very frisky - full of energy. I hope they will be back so that we can watch their progress.

Summer, if we can call it summer, is very disappointing. We had a week of good weather in early June but since then it has been cold, changeable and dreary. We have even had the central heating on some days :(

The usual flowers are out in the garden but this year we have a good crop of roses. We have planted climbers growing up the walls of the house to try to deter the deer from eating them. So far, the deer have not found them. Fingers crossed. When I have time, I will try to photograph some of them because the individual blooms are quite exquisite.

It is the silly season again. Last week, I was in my office when there was a bang on the window. I went outside to find a young Nuthatch which had flown into the window. It was okay, just a bit stunned so I took the opportunity to grab a photo. It flew off happily after a few minutes.


Nuthatch


We have a new addition to the birds on our feeders.


Jay

We always have Jays around in the garden but normally they are very shy. It is only recently that this one has taken to feeding on the feeder.

Another newcomer (or should I say newcomers because there are dozens of them) in the garden this year are the Jackdaws. I mentioned that they were nesting in the barn owl box and they obviously had a very successful brood. They must have invited all their friends because they are hanging around the the garden all day and there must be fifty or more. They are very noisy and not one of my favouriote birds but I will try to get some photos.

Let's hope that summer it still going to arrive properly and that I have some decent weather to get outdoors with my camera.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

A Very Late Spring

Bluebell

It has been a long time since I last posted. Too many things happening at home. However, I have still been watching and photographing the happenings in the garden, even though there has not been any opportunity to post them.

Finally some semblance of spring has arrived - weeks late. The bluebells are out and should reach their peak by next week. This is the most wonderful time in the garden but everything is suffering from the unseasonal weather. A short interlude of warm weather in the last week has changed to howling gales, blowing unpollinated blossom from the trees.

Daffodil

The daffodils put on a nice show this year and also the primroses - thousands of them!

Cherry Laurel

The Cherry Laurel is covered in blooms.

Ash Flowers

I managed to get some nice shots of the ash tree flowers this year. When you look close, they are absolutely fascinating and easy to recognise with their black buds.

Roe buck in moult

The roe deer have been moulting in the last few weeks and look very scruffy. These photos were taken in late March when there was still some snow on the ground. There are two roe bucks that have very impressive antlers this year. Of course, the antlers on a roe never grow particularly big, like the red deer, for example, but they do give an indication of age. The photo below shows the velvet hanging off the antlers.

Roe Buck in moult

Another very exciting sighting recently is the stoat! Sadly no photos yet, but we have seen it a couple of times in the front garden.

The hares are also doing well. There were five of them in the field over the garden fence this morning.

Next to look out for are the baby roe deer which should, hopefully, be born around now. We usually see them out with their mother at the end of May.

The birds are frantic with their nesting. A pair of Jackdaws have taken up residence in the Barn Owl box :( I would prefer Barn Owls!

The Blackbirds are doing really well this year.

Another odd sighting - one Saturday afternoon, in broad daylight, a bat was flying around the back garden.

I am hoping that we will get a reasonable summer this year so that the wildlife can get back to some semblance of normality. Fingers crossed again!