Tuesday, 30 December 2014


Today should have been busy.  My sister had planned to visit, with my mother and my niece and her two children.  My morning would have been full of hoovering (!) floors and bleaching bathrooms before dashing to the shops to replenish the biscuits.  I can be SUCH a great housewife when guests are due!

Unfortunately the wintery weather changed the plans.  My mum is 92 and hasn't been well so a trip out this week wasn't a great idea. We have postponed not cancelled.

I lit the fire and settled in to browse the internet, read, knit and watch the birds.


Sunday, 28 December 2014

A Winter Walk

The snow arrived on Boxing Day.  Luckily we had been out and got home safely.  Friends were not as fortunate but they have dinner table tales of long journeys and abandoned vehicles for the future.

Today we set off across the snowy fields at lunchtime.  Starting from the Murco Petrol Station on the A52 to the East of Bingham we crossed the busy main road and followed a bridle path up the hill towards a small reservoir.  Unfortunately the reservoir is on private land so we couldn't walk round that but we had good views of a hare as he ran away from us and a couple of kestrels watched us from the air.  Blackbirds, wrens and robins flittered about in the hedges .... always ahead of us.  The sky was blue, the sun was shining and we were well wrapped up against the cold.


There was a small party of partridges scratching about searching for a cold lunch.  They quickly vanished when they saw us.  It is magic the way they do that! One minute they are there then they sit down and disappear!  The buzzard couldn't perform the same trick ... it sat on a pylon enjoying the sunshine in full view.

We turned left and followed the path across a few more fields before joining the Linear Walk .... the route of the old railway line.  This is a popular Bingham nature trail which is wonderful for butterflies in warmer weather!  The railway closed in the 1960s: the tracks have long gone and volunteers manage the site.

Large flocks of skylarks took to the air and meadow pipits wandered about the fields as a sparrowhawk swooped low looking for dinner.   We spotted rooks and jackdaws, golden plovers and woodpigeons, fieldfares and redwings and grey herons. I searched for a kingfisher when we reached the River Smite but dipped out on that one.

There was a Goldcrest in the tree next to us so we got great views of it but no photos as it didn't sit still for long enough!  The reed buntings did pose but I just selfishly enjoyed the sight and didn't bother with the camera!

I spent some time quietly waiting to see if an otter would put in an appearance but no such luck ... they are frequenting this river apparently, just not today.

We walked for a couple of hours before retracing our path to get home before dusk. 

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Red Legged Partridges

I don't know what happened to the covey of Grey Partridges that appeared on the field a few weeks ago.  Apparently they tend to stay in one territory but these must have been disturbed from theirs for a short time as they turned up, stayed a couple of days then disappeared again.

Grey Partridges 
  Never mind ... they might have upset our Red Legged Partridges and I really like these.
One of the good things about blogging is being able to look back.  I know the first pair of Red Legs arrived in May 2012 because I wrote about them here.  That pair bred successfully so by the end of the year we had five birds.  They disperse each Spring and return around October time.
Last winter we had a covey of eight in the field.  Over the Spring and Summer only four birds remained ... two pairs who divided the field between themselves and stayed very much in their own halves. 

They disappeared altogether for a short time then I was thrilled to see one bird leading four chicks across the newly ploughed earth.  Unfortunately the Magpies saw them too.  I ran out to the rescue.  Poor Magpies!

The numbers have grown to eleven birds this year.  It is lovely to see them close to the house: unlike the Pheasants they don't tend to venture into the garden very often.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014


This female Kestrel was hovering at the side of the road looking for small mammals in the ditch. 

 Her head was held very still as she used her wings and tail to control the wind.


She went up and down the ditch for quite some time before flying off without any lunch .... the voles were safe for a while.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

New Day

The garden was white and the sky was stunning so I was out in my dressing gown and slippers first thing! The light was changing so quickly ... one minute the sky was orange ....
then pink ...
.... all within a few minutes.
It is very cold out there so I didn't stay long!
The Goldfinches were obviously hungry as they ignored me. 
Feeding frenzy going on now ... Woodpigeons, Collard Doves, Dunnocks and Chaffinches all over the lawn and Blue Tits, Great Tits, House Sparrows and Greenfinches all over the feeders.  We are going to purchase a bird table today to give the robins a bit of a chance.
We have had a Blackcap visiting the garden for the last few days so when we went to the BTO conference this weekend I was pleased to see one of the talks was about this little visitor.  The BTO scientists have discovered that our summer Blackcaps are not the same birds as our winter ones.  Our summer birds still migrate south; our winter Blackcaps are in fact coming here from Germany! Once Spring arrives they go back there to breed.

The conference was brilliant and full of food for thought.  By the morning coffee break (after hearing from people working on how wind farms are affecting wildlife; how climate affects birds and how birds are coping with urbanisation) I was not feeling as depressed as you might think ... these people were actually making a difference and I felt I wanted to be part of that process.

Since I have been home I have contacted the council about a small piece of land at the top of the lane.  It has been planted with shrubs that the council chops back every so often (then dumps the clippings in a huge pile in the middle ... I know the wildlife need a bit of shelter but this pile has been large enough for quite some time now!).  Bits of rubbish have been dumped there; brambles are taking over and the ground is covered in ivy.  It has the potential of being a nice green space for the neighbourhood ... a few English Bluebells and Snowdrops .... a couple of bird boxes and a feeding station ... I've already positioned the bench in my mind's eye!  Unfortunately the council do not own the land so they can't give me permission to do anything.  I am now in contact with the Highways Department as they arte in charge of road verges.  I await their reply before I go into Guerrilla Gardening mode.

Anyway, we had a wonderful time at the conference listening to interesting people of all ages, meeting friends and having dinner with Chris Packham!!  We were with the BTO media team so he sat at our table.  I didn't do any of the 'star struck fan' stuff ,,, no photos or "please sign this napkin"!
So a very memorable conference.

The BTO Garden Birdwatch Pack would make a good Christmas present if you want to encourage a young person to take an interest in nature,

She was up early too ....

Sunday, 30 November 2014

End of the Month View: November 2014


This is the sorry state of my garden today.  In amongst all that wreckage there are a surprising number of small flowers.  The two delphiniums are still blooming but looking very sorry for themselves; a few periwinkles have appeared and the japonica has decided it must be Spring.  This is the view from my greenhouse showing how it got this way through 2014:

Visit The Patient Gardener for more End of Month views.

Friday, 28 November 2014

Grey Seals at Donna Nook

We drove through the rain, drizzle and fog yesterday to see the seals at Donna Nook.  This is one of four thriving UK colonies of Grey Seals (also known as Atlantic Seals).  Britain has about 40% of the world population of these creatures: the other colonies are at Horsey, Blakeney and Farne Isle.

They spend most of the year in the sea but this time of year they pull themselves onto land in order to give birth, argue, mate, shout at each other, sleep, eat and fall out!

Seal count 24th November 2014:  Seal count: pups 1,220, cows 1,314, bulls 516. 

We thought we would be the only people there .... Thursday on a miserable, wet day .... the car park was packed though! There was even a school trip!  The hotdog stalls were doing a roaring trade!



Monday, 24 November 2014

Starling Murmuration

All over the country every Autumn and Winter Starlings flock in their thousands and perform superb acrobatic displays at dawn and dusk.  It is called a murmuration and it is really incredible to watch.
The light was great; the sky was pink and golden as the sun was setting over the empty lagoon. 
We were surrounded by the sounds of geese and starlings gathering for the evening roost.  Every available spot on the pylon was taken but flocks continued to arrive. 
There have been flocks of seven or eight thousands recently.  The display began with a few hundred and grew as more birds joined the dance. The flock became a living creature moving as one being across the sky then suddenly dividing and meeting up again, rolling and diving, changing colour as they changed direction, seeming to disappear altogether at one point.  Breath taking!
Perfect evening's viewing!
The Starlings settled in to roost and the swans and geese arrived with the darkness. 

 The noise was deafening as they greeted one another and the empty lagoon was filled.

Andy took this one .... I'm sure you can see the difference! 
Head over to Cock of the Rock for more brilliant Murmuration pictures.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Christmas Decorations for the Garden

I was reading Landscape magazine and saw a simple idea for making a tree decoration using twigs and string.  We have a bare fence running up the side of the drive to the garage and I immediately thought this would look great.  I can't show you the magazine but I found these photos to give you the general idea.  We have some long branches to be cut up for fire wood that I could use; I have dried poppy seed heads and dried honesty for decorations; there's colourful berries in the garden and teasels on the lane so plenty of stuff to use .... and if it turns out looking as brilliant as my attempted willow obelisk I can always pull it down again!!

While I was looking for these I came across a few more ideas for a festive garden:

Follow this link to see how to make a Mistletoe (or Kissing) Ball:
Click here to make a pine cone wreath:

Or make your own version of this by using your garden canes:
My garden won't be full of lights and plastic Santas but I hope it will be oozing Christmas spirit. 
Andy was asked to take photographs at a flash mob event yesterday so I went along too.  It was in the middle of a busy Tesco.  People with shopping trollies suddenly started singing along to the piped music - it was Nottingham Sinfonia Chorale  and they sounded heavenly (follow the link to listen).  It was really good to be "in the know" ... I could enjoy the singing and watch the reaction of normal shoppers. 

Saturday, 22 November 2014


Our name is on the deeds but ......
Spotted this little hog scurrying across the lawn and disappearing into the Crocosmia leaves.  I was so pleased to see her. She stood very still when we approached, hiding in full sight!  I put a trail of cat food towards the hedgehog box ... hopefully she will move in.  It is still very mild though so I don't think she will be hibernating yet.  It is such a small hog it will need a few more weeks of good food to survive a harsh winter.  Good supply of cat food at the ready .... hope the cat doesn't mind!

The sparrows have gathered into a large flock of about 40 in the hedge. They roost in the ivy growing up the house on the wall near the warm chimney.  There is a steady supply of food in the garden and on the lane.   They sound really cheerful as they squabble over access to the fat ball nets.  They can be quite vicious at times.

We can't keep up with the demand for fat balls. At 10p - 15p each it gets expensive when you hang out 6 or 7 at a time but the view from the window makes it worth it. We could make our own fat balls using seeds and kitchen scraps in melted lard but it doesn't work out that much cheaper and they tend to fall apart more quickly.  The nets are positioned so that the birds are not in full view of the sparrowhawk or kestrel that patrol the field.  That sounds a bit mean towards the predators but we know they are clever enough to survive without our assistance.