Monday, 31 December 2012

Good Riddance 2012


The last day of 2012 and true to this years form, it is continuing to rain. It's official - 2012 is the wettest year on record.

As I write this, it is pouring down and under the bird feeder outside the kitchen window there is a very bedraggled muntjac eating the bird seed alongside an even more bedraggled pheasant. No sign of any little birds - they are all sheltering from the deluge.

Looking back over the year, it has certainly been different to previous years, mostly due to the weather. The plants, animals and birds have all suffered. We started the year with a drought and unseasonably high temperatures in March. Everything changed in April when it became stormy and wet. It seems like it has been wet ever since.

We are lucky to live at the top of a hill and therefore not subject to flooding like some poor souls who have had their homes (and their Christmas) ruined. However, we have lost a few trees to the stormy winds. On the plus side, this winter has been remarkably warm so far.

Let's hope that 2013 will be an improvement for all of us.


Over the last few weeks, the deer have been frequent visitors. The Muntjac family are around every day like clockwork. The little one is growing quite big now and has lost its spots. The photo above shows the buck and the doe.

Roe Deer Twins

The Roe Deer twins, born last May, are also regular visitors and are still sometimes seen with their mother. These photos, taken about 3 weeks ago, show that the twins spend much of their time together. They are easy to identify because one of them has a small tear in one of its ears.

Roe Deer

Food must be in short supply in the woods because they came right up to the house in broad daylight when these photos were taken.

Roe Deer

As we say goodbye to 2012, I wish everyone a happy and prosperous New Year. Let us hope that the elements are kinder to us in 2013!

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Happy Family!

Muntjac Family

Following on from my last post, I now understand completely why the muntjacs were so aggressive with the fox. I think the photo above explains it - a very happy little family!

It is quite unusual to be able to photograph the buck, doe and fawn together. This photo was taken through my office window. It was very sunny but the deer were in the shade, so difficult lighting conditions.

It is also interesting that they come each day at around 3.00pm. It used to be 4.00pm but they did not change their clocks when we went back to GMT from British Summertime!

Muntjac Fawn

The little one is a real cutie but likes to stay close to Mum.

Muntjac Doe and Fawn

Mum spends a lot of timing grooming it - giving it a good lick all over.

Muntjac Doe and Fawn

Autumn continues with lots of rain. The water table is now so high that the smallest amount of rain causes flooding.

Many of the leaves are still on the trees with some beautiful autumn colours but the evenings are now getting darker and winter is on its way.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Animal Wars

Fox and Muntjac

It is a long time since I posted. The reason being that nothing interesting has been happening in the garden - that I have seen, anyway.

Very little is flowering, the animals have been scarce - just the occasional glimpse of a roe deer, muntjac or hare, and nothing noteworthy is going on in the bird world . . . until this week!

A few days ago I went out for a walk and found a little bird dead on the patio. It had obviously hit the window. The interesting thing was that it was a little Willow Warbler (I think), a tiny, pretty little bird. I continued on my walk and decided to pick it up and put it in the bushes out of the way on my return.

When I got back half an hour later, all that remained was a pile of feathers and a few entrails :( I guess there was a magpie around somewhere with a full tummy.

The following day, early in the morning I was just getting down to work in my office when I saw out of the corner of my eye, a tail disappear into the shrubbery next to the driveway. I registered that I did not recognise the tail. It was furry (so not a rat) but definitely not a squirrel. I watched for a while and out came a stoat!

It was too big for a weasel so must have been a stoat. I could not see its tail this time, so was unable to check for the classic black tip to the tail. I grabbed my camera in a bit of a panic but sadly did not manage a photo before it disappeared. My first encounter with a stoat and no photo - I was devastated!

This morning dawned grey and cloudy but when I opened the curtains there was a battle going on between 2 muntjacs, a buck and a doe, and a fox. The fox was trying to attack them and they were attacking back, chasing the fox all over the garden.

The photo above shows a lull in the fighting. Sadly, it was still quite dark and so the photos I took were very disappointing. The furore lasted for about 15 minutes with the muntjacs barking furiously. They were not running away and were incredibly aggressive towards the fox. I noticed later that there was a youngster with them in the woods, which accounts for the aggression.


Finally, the fox - a beautiful specimen with a magnificent tail, ran off out of view reappearing seconds later with a squirrel in its mouth!

I guess that it gave up the idea of venison for breakfast and settled for squirrel instead. It then raced off across the field for a peaceful meal.

Nature in the raw. It is great to witness the behaviour of these beautiful creatures.

But the day did not end there - this afternoon I spotted another dead squirrel on the front lawn and a buzzard and red kite squabbling over it. Once again, no camera to hand! However, later I managed to snap the red kite sitting in a tree at the corner of the lawn.

Red Kite

So, 2012 continues with some very unpredictable weather. Hardly any of the leaves have fallen from the trees yet and they are very late in changing colour.

After having no harvest of apples or pears, there were also very few blackberries or acorns. Luckily, there are plenty of Holly and Pyracantha berries which is good news for the birds.

The recent rain is bringing out the fungi and there is a good crop of Shaggy Parasols and Shaggy Inkcaps (although I don't feel confident enough to eat any of them).

I wonder what kind of winter awaits us?

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Yo-Yo Weather!

The summer continues with very unpredictable weather - a couple of days hot and humid, then cool, wet and windy. Yesterday there was a thunderstorm which lasted for about half an hour, with thunder rumbling away but no rain or lightning that I could see here.

The adverse weather is definitely having an effect on the trees and plants. We had lots of apples and pears on the trees and every one of them has dropped off before maturing. The muntjacs have had a feast under the trees.

This is a quiet time in the garden and I have not taken many flower photos recently apart from this Water Mint which is flowering in the pond at the moment.

Water Mint

There are plenty of squirrels around. Last week I had some grapes in the house that were past their best. I know the badgers love to eat them, so I threw them on the lawn where they could find them under the bird feeder.

Sadly they did not last long enough for the badgers to eat them. A squirrel launched in on them and I decided to take a few photos.

He was most amusing - when he was full there were still plenty of grapes left, so he then started digging up the lawn all over the pace to bury them! I don't think he realised that they are not like acorns and would rot away quickly underground.

Grey Squirrel

Grey Squirrel

Grey Squirrel

Finally, there seem to be a lot of rabbits around this year. They really are pests because they dig holes all over the place. Here is a photo of a rabbit on the lawn with one of its offspring.

Rabbit with youngster

This weekend is a holiday weekend with a day off tomorrow, so of course, there is rain forecast :(

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Hot, Hot, Hot!

I don't recall a summer with so many extremes of weather. After weeks of cold and wet weather, it was all change this week. Hot and humid with temperatures over 30C (86F) - once again not the usual UK summer weather.

The warmer weather has brought out the butterflies and moths, but still not as many as usual.

  Purple Emperor Butterfly

I managed to snap this Purple Emperor butterfly yesterday. It was a bit difficult to get a decent photo being quite high in a tree but I think it is interesting because you can see the purple sheen on its wing which give it its name. Only the male has this colouring.

A piece of good news about the roe deer twins - I have now seen them with their mother a couple of times. My fears that something had happened to her were happily unfounded.

Just before this hot spell, the hares were spending a lot of time in the garden. I took a series of photos one day when a couple of them were right outside our conservatory. It had been raining so their coat was a bit damp, but I rather like some of the poses.

Brown Hare

  Brown Hare

  Brown Hare

  Brown Hare

Finally, it seems to be the grasshopper season. There have been dozens them in and around the house. I keep picking them up on a piece of paper and depositing them outside, but they seem to leap straight back in again! There were 5 of them on our French windows one day last week.

The weather has now cooled down a bit to more "normal" summer temperatures. I hope the rain holds off at least for the duration of the Olympic Games.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Wet, Wet, Wet!

Roe Deer Fawns Not much to report at the moment apart from the lousy weather. I don't actually recall the last time we had a full day without any rain :(

June was officially the wettest since records began and July is not looking much better.

We have been lucky not to be affected by flooding that other people in the UK have experienced. We live at the top of a hill so we feel relatively safe in that respect.

The weather has played havoc with most of the usual outdoor summer activities - village fetes and the like. But, it is a really tough year for wildlife, too. I have hardly seen any butterflies, moths, damselflies or dragonflies this year. The garden is normally teaming with insect life at this time of year.

The twin roe deer are still around but no sign of their mother. I am wondering if something has happened to her? There are also two Muntjacs hanging round under the apple trees most days eating windfalls.

A very strange event happened last week - and I missed it! A friend saw a mole above ground right outside my kitchen door! There is no doubt that it was a mole but it was on the patio and then started burrowing into the ground under one of my climbing roses growing up the pergola. Sadly no photo. I looked up this strange behaviour and my book says that moles are sometimes seen above ground in wet weather. So, it is not only us humans that are feeling disgruntled with this miserable weather! The strange thing is that there are no molehills around this year, so I have no idea what this little chap was doing or where it is.

When the weather allows I have been out watching the badgers at the sett. Their behaviour is also very strange compared to last year. I watched them for much of last summer and they would emerge from the sett at around 8.30pm and have a good scratch. This grooming would go on for 15 - 20 minutes. They would scratch themselves and then each other.

This year there is less grooming and when they emerge from the sett they start mock fighting. They have a good rough and tumble with each other, sometimes just two, sometimes three or four of them. I am sure they are not hurting each other but there is lots of squeaking and squawking. Very entertaining.

The weather has not been good enough to do much flower photography. Everything is being battered by the rain. St Swithin's day tomorrow and the weather forecast is good. I am hoping that the tradition holds true and the next 40 days and 40 nights will follow suit.

Fingers crossed!

Roe Deer Fawns 

Sunday, 24 June 2012

It's Twins!

Roe Deer Fawns I know that the Roe Deer fawns are usually born in early May. However, Mum has kept them well hidden this year because I had not seen any until a couple of days ago. This year, it's twins! These two little rascals are now old enough to explore without Mum and I spotted them on our back lawn in broad daylight.

They were never still so taking photos was not easy. These two were the best I could get. You can see their spots are just fading, so I guess they are a couple of months old.

Roe Deer Fawn The weather has continued to be very unpredictable - a couple of days of decent weather followed by several horrible days with heavy rain and winds.

I have continued to try to photograph the flowers whenever the weather allows. The wind dropped suddenly the other day so I snapped these Primula.

I have never been a fan of Primula (except wild primroses which are so beautiful and delicate), but because the deer don't eat them I decided that it is a good idea for a bit of colour in the garden.

Whilst in Scotland on holiday the last couple of times, I have visited the gardens at Armadale Castle and Dunvegan Castle, both on the Isle of Skye. Both had beautiful displays of Primula and some really unusual varieties. When I got home last time I bought some and they are flowering nicely in the garden this year.

The one below is Primula Vialii, which originates from China. It is very pretty and above all untouched by the deer!
Primula Vialii

Another shrub which has started to flower is Senecio greyii, also called Senecio Sunshine. Very aptly named because the flowers look like little suns and it is a very cheerful shrub with pretty grey foliage.

Senecio 'Sunshine'
It continues to be a difficult year in the garden with the weather. The butterflies and moths are almost non-existent, which is very sad.

I am also watching the badgers regularly at the sett when the weather allows. I don't take photos but just watch these beautiful creatures at play.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Flaming June?

Juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker British people are renowned for talking about the weather, myself included. It is not surprising because from one week to the next we don't know what to expect.

We had a heatwave in March. April was the wettest in the last hundred years. The rain continued into May but halfway through the month it changed into another heatwave. We sweltered in unseasonable temperatures for about 2 weeks and now it has changed back to winter!

We have stormy winds, heavy rain and it is so cold that we have turned the central heating back on - 2 weeks from mid-summers day!

This weirdness is also reflected in the garden. Some things have flowered early, some have hardly flowered at all, but sadly the wind and rain are damaging the blooms.

The baby birds have all been born early. There are dozens of squirrels, but virtually no moths or butterflies. Completely topsy turvy.

This leads me on to the photo above. We found this juvenile great spotted woodpecker on the patio. It had obviously flown into the window and stunned itself. I kept an eye open for predators to make sure it recovered before the magpies took an interest. At the same time I got this lovely close-up. The red head shows that it is a juvenile.

I am happy to say it flew off unharmed not long after taking this photo :)

I have continued to take more flower photos after building up the momentum with my April challenge. However, it has mostly been too windy to take flower shots outdoors.
Columbine - Aquilegia
I rather like this picture of Aquilegia. It is an intriguingly complex flower.

Below, is a close-up of the tiny Pyracantha flowers. I find it interesting that the anthers on the stamens are different colours on the same stem. Some flowers have orange anthers and other, white.

Pyracantha Flowers
It will be interesting to see how the remainder of this summer progresses. The year has been full of surprises so far.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

A Sudden Change in the Weather

Germander Speedwell 2012 is proving to be a very varied year with respect to weather - even more than normal in the UK. After 6 weeks of horrible, cold, wet weather, it suddenly changed. The weather forecast did not even predict it. The temperature has been in the high 20's centigrade for the last week with the wind from the East. This is most unusual because our hot weather normally comes from the South. It is also very unusual for May when the temperature is normally 16-20 degrees. I won't complain - I love hot weather!

The wild flowers are continuing to bloom in the garden. The photo above is Germander Speedwell. There are carpets of it blooming at the moment.

Common Vetch There are also huge clumps of Common Vetch in the flowerbed. Even though it is a weed, it is pretty and I don't feel inclined to pull it out.

Star of Bethlehem I found a clump of this Star of Bethlehem. It must have seeded itself because I did not plant it.

Bracken Frond Unfurling The bracken is also unfurling which makes a very pretty photo.

Finally, this evening I saw a Red Kite feasting on something at the bottom of the garden. On closer inspection it was a pheasant. Sadly, I think "Hoppy" who I mentioned last week is no longer with us :(

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Beech Leaves and Partridges

Beech leaves Since I finished my April challenge, the weather has not improved - grey, cold and showery. The plants and creatures are completely confused about the weather. The apple blossom finally came out weeks after the cherry and pear, but there are no bees or other insects around to pollinate.

The leaves are appearing on the trees and I love it when everything looks so fresh and green. I just had to take a photo of these pristine beech leaves before they they are nibbled by insects.

The birds are very busy feeding their young but there has been one casualty of the mating season. I have posted photos before of cock pheasants fighting. They are really quite vicious with each other. Well a couple of weeks ago, one of the pheasants was hopping around completely lame in one leg. Lo and behold, a day or so later, we saw another pheasant hobbling around with a sore leg! I have no idea whether they were fighting each other or whether there was another pheasant that has attacked both of them.

The pheasant that was only slightly hurt seems to have recovered, but "hoppy" as we now call him, is still in a bad way. He can hardly put any weight on the bad leg and hops everywhere. When we see him, we put extra seed out for him, but sadly I think his days are numbered.

There has been a bullfinch around on several occasions landing on some plants just outside my office window. Unfortunately, I have not managed to get a photo.

The couple of red-legged partridges below have been in the garden for a few months and are inseparable. I guess they are nesting, but because we normally see both together, I guess she has not laid her eggs yet. I find them very strange looking birds with their bright red eyes. They are very nervous and don't hang around for long when disturbed.

We are eagerly awaiting sightings of the roe deer fawns this year. We normally see them during the last weekend of May. I hope this year will be no exception!
Red-legged Partridges

New Web Site Live

I mentioned some time ago that I was working on a redesign of my web site

I am pleased to say that it is now live. There are still a few issues that need to be corrected but it's almost all there - more than 500 pages!

I have been replacing some of the old images with better ones on the information pages. I also wanted to showcase some of my best photographs so have created a series of photo galleries.

If anyone cares to visit, you may need to refresh your browser if you have visited before because all the page names are the same.

Any feedback (especially if you find any errors) would be gratefully received.

Monday, 30 April 2012

My April Challenge - Day 30

There were various things that I wanted to try to achieve with this challenge. Rather than just close-up shots, I wanted some wider shots showing lots of flowers and the animals who live among them.

Well, the weather has been against me much of the time but today was the best weather we have had for a while so I went out snapping. Today I am going to post extra to make up for the lost opportunities of the last few weeks.

Firstly, another close-up. We have hundreds (maybe thousands) of Dog Violets. They are so pretty. I really wanted to take a shot of a clump of violets but that did not work out so here is a close-up instead.

Dog Violet

Next, the bluebells are really disappointing this year. There are probably only about half the usual number. They started to flower in mid-March but stopped when the weather changed back to winter. They don't seem to have recovered. This is the best wide bluebell shot I could manage.


Finally, those animal shots. There are lots of pheasants around at the moment and their colours are brilliant.

Pheasant among the bluebells

While I was out with the camera, I came across 2 muntjacs. Sadly, I had my landscape lens on so I could not zoom in closer. This photo shows one of them. The other is behind the big tree on the right!

Muntjac among the bluebells

None of these are brilliant shots, but the best I could do in the time I had available and it was very windy.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

My April Challenge - Day 29

On the home straight now . . .

If anyone had said today's weather was going to be worse than yesterday, I would not have believed them. I was wrong. There has been torrential rain for most of the day. In the late afternoon, there was a bit of brightness, so I rushed out to try to get today's shot but it was quite windy.

This is a shot that I was hoping to get. This Azalea has been in bud for some time and I have been waiting for it to open. When it is fully in bloom it is a mass of yellow flowers and the scent is amazing. I could wait no longer. Here it is just starting to flower.

The purple/blue in the background is actually a carpet of bluebells.


Saturday, 28 April 2012

My April Challenge - Day 28

I definitely chose the wrong month for this challenge. It's official - the wettest April for many, many years! Today was no exception - rained almost all day and when it did stop, it was so dull that (flower) photography was impossible.

Yet again, I had to pick something to photograph indoors. I am a bit fed up with low key photographs so thought I would try high key which I have never attempted before. Not sure whether it worked but here it is, a floret from a beautiful bright pink Rhododendron.


I was very distracted today by a little bird which obviously had a problem. It was a tiny little Goldcrest, a baby I think. It was walking up and down the window cill of my office window. If disturbed it would fly off and immediately come back.

It was very nervous and not still for a second, so it was difficult to get a photograph. The weather was so bad and dull that I had to use a high ISO, so the photos I took are a bit noisy.

This little thing was there all day and seemed to be trying to get through the window. When I went outside, I realised that it could see its reflection and possibly thought it was its mother.

I don't know what happened to it. The mother was nowhere to be seen and it was very distressed, but there was nothing I could do, except hope that it found its way back to its mother. Fingers crossed.



Friday, 27 April 2012

My April Challenge - Day 27

I am longing to get out to do some outdoor shots, but the weather is against me. Very heavy squally showers on and off all day today and just too windy.

I rescued this Greater Stitchwort from a very heavy downpour. Happily the rain did not wash off all the pollen. This is one of my favourite wild flowers - so small and delicate.

I could not make up my mind which shot to post today. I have a rather nice close-up shot of the flower head, but I think the lighting is more interesting on this one. I just wish the flowerhead was pointing downwards slightly towards the camera.

Greater Stitchwort

My husband has just come in and said he prefers the other shot, so I thought should post that one too. Here it is. Any takers for this one?

Greater Stitchwort

Thursday, 26 April 2012

My April Challenge - Day 26

Gale force winds and heavy showers interspersed with short sunny intervals. Not good weather for outdoor flower photography.

The Lilac bush was getting a hammering in the wind, so I cut off a branch to photograph indoors. I am reasonably pleased with this one.


Wednesday, 25 April 2012

My April Challenge - Day 25

Torrential rain and gales today but the sun broke through on two short occasions around lunchtime. Definitely April weather.

Two shots for the price of one today. I tried a close-up of a daisy with the Raynox again. It is okay but I find it rather lacking. The lighting is not really clever enough. So, I tried another shot with a bit of PP. I very rarely do much PP except for removing blemishes, tweaking the levels and sharpening so I would appreciate feedback about whether anyone thinks it works or whether it is a load of rubbish.