Thursday, 31 December 2009

Goodbye to 2009

Cup Lichen - Cladonia spThe snow has finally disappeared, but the weather remains cold and miserable. During one of the sunny interludes this week, I had a good look around the garden and noticed that the tree that came down a few weeks ago is covered in lots of mosses and lichens. I don't know much about either, so perhaps one of my tasks for 2010 is to find out more!

This cup lichen nestling among the frosty moss is probably Cladonia sp. I won't hazard as guess as to exactly which one. Lichens are amazing organisms which come in all shapes and sizes and which are very easy to overlook. These cups are tiny, just a few millimetres across.

Also, this week I spotted a new baby muntjac. It was alone without its mother, but I suspect she was somewhere close by. Muntjacs breed all year round and have a gestation period of 7 months. The females usually become pregnant again very quickly after giving birth, so it is possible that this is a sibling of the fawn I mentioned back in May. Sadly, there was no possibility of a photo of it this week. The weather was too dull and overcast.

Here's to a happy and healthy 2010 and hoping for lots of interesting flora and fauna in the new decade!

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Winter Wonderland

Winter WonderlandWhat a difficult couple of days. More snow started to fall yesterday afternoon and about 6 inches (15 cms) fell in a few hours.

The UK can't seem to handle snow for some unknown reason. Every seemingly minor snowfall causes complete chaos on the roads and yesterday was no exception. I spent three and a half hours picking up my son from work - 6 miles away! The roads were competely gridlocked.

Just before bedtime last night the electricity went off. It was a very cold night so we lit the wood-burning stove in an effort to keep the house warm.

The electricity was still off this morning. Frustratingly, we found that for most of the village the power had come back on within a few hours. There were just a few of us without.

We don't realise how much we rely on electricity until we find ourselves without it. It was a big relief when it came back on at 4.00pm.

We had such a bad experience after the hurricane of 1987 when we had no power for 7 days, that I always fear the worst when the power goes off!

On the plus side - I managed to get out for a short time with my camera. The trees look very pretty with their white winter coats against a beautiful blue sky.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Winter with a Vengeance

Cold winter sceneWinter arrived with a vengeance on Thursday night. The temperature fell to -8 degrees C (17 in fahrenheit) according to the thermometer attached to our kitchen window. It does not often get as cold as this.

The snow came from the east and most of it dropped on the east side of England. By the time it reached us, it left only a couple of inches (5 cms).

I did not manage to get out in the early morning to take photographs and by the time I took this photo the sun was going down and much of the snow had disappeared.

There was another half inch (1 cm) last night, but because the temperature is not rising above freezing during the day, the snow is not disappearing quickly.

The birds are in a frenzy on the feeders and I noticed a couple of new robins encroaching on the territory of the usual one and causing a bit of a stir. So, I went out and sprinkled some food in another part of the garden to try to keep them apart. Robins are very territorial and the only time we see more than one together is during the mating season.

It would be nice if the snow lasted until Christmas. I don't remember the last time we had snow on the ground at Christmas.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

First Snow of the Winter

Green Woodpecker in the snowThe first snow of the winter fell today. There was not much of it and it did not stay around long, but this male green woodpecker (Picus viridus) did not look too comfortable.

There has been a lot of wildlife around recently. After seeing no deer for several weeks, a herd passed through a few days ago. Firstly, the roe doe with her adolescent fawn (male, I think) crossed the lawn in one direction.

Half an hour later about five or six roe deer came racing through. It was misty so I was unable to count them exactly.

The muntjacs have also been around - the buck on several occasions, but there were two of them on the lawn yesterday.

My neighbour told me that while we were away, there was a big fight between two buzzards on our back lawn. When he went to investigate, they were fighting over a hare. I was really annoyed to miss this spectacle, but rather sad at the demise of the hare. That's nature, I suppose.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Sunshine, Wind and Rain

Fallen treeIt has been a week of sunshine, heavy rain and winds.

An inspection of the garden today found the pond level two or three inches above the overflow pipe. It must have rained very heavily during the night. I hope the level falls to normal soon otherwise the bog plants in the shallow end may suffer.

A huge tree has recently fallen in the corner of the garden furthest from the house. Luckily it did no damage. It is not actually our tree but has fallen over into our garden from the woodland next door, just missing demolishing the fence!

I think it is an alder (although difficult to tell when there are no leaves). I have read that alder wood does not give out much heat when burnt in a stove, so I hope I am wrong about the type.

I also found lots of holes dug in the flower beds next to the house with lots of tracks leading to them. I guess it must be rabbits causing the damage. I think it is unlikely that badgers would dig there. Whatever it is, it is causing a lot of damage. I must put out my stealthcam to see if I can get a photo of the culprits and try to find a way to dissuade them.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

The Quintessential Toadstool

Fly Agaric - Amanita MuscariaI found this toadstool in the garden - Fly Agaric (Amanita Muscaria). They are not uncommon and we regularly find them in the garden during autumn and winter.

The reason I am posting a photo is because I don't often find such a good specimen. They are usually nibbled and damaged and I could not resist a photo of this one. They are so pretty.

I think of Fly Agaric as the quintessential toadstool - those that appear in kiddies' story books and the type that most people conjour in their minds when you mention the word toadstool.

They are usually found around birch trees and, of course, they are poisonous so best not to touch.