Love is in the Air

Spring has definitely arrived. As I went to feed the birds around 5am a few mornings ago, I stumbled upon quite a scene. There were two hedgehogs courting in the middle of the path. I froze hoping not to disturb them; this is important business as numbers have declined so much. After a while it was clear they weren’t bothered by me, so I went back into the house to fetch a camera.Photo of hedgehogs mating

I took some video footage which you can view here. It is very ropey I’m afraid due to the lack of light. I didn’t want to get too close to them or shine too bright a light on them.

There was an awful of huffing and snorting as the male bodged his way in circles around a seemingly unimpressed female. They moved off the path and onto the lawn where the female, no doubt worn down by his persistence, allowed him to mount her. If she is agreeable to the process, the female will flatten her spines so as not to cause the male any injuries.Photo of hedgehogs mating

I then noticed that there was a third hedgehog curled up on the lawn. I’m guessing that there was perhaps a fight over the female and this was the loser lying low pretending nothing was happening.Photo of three hedgehogs

If this was a successful enterprise then the female will hopefully give birth to hoglets in around 4 – 6 weeks.

They both seemed very hungry afterwards and went for a snack. Photo of hedgehogs and cat

It seems there was also a cat watching proceedings.Photo of hedgehog in feeding box

The curled up hedgehog also wandered off eventually. Perhaps he’ll have better luck next time.Photo of hedgehog

Marching Towards Spring

Only one more week until astronomical spring in the Northern Hemisphere. Let’s see what is blooming; the cherry plum blossom is still clinging to the trees.

The cream primroses have been joined by purple ones.

The lilac buds progress.Photo of lilac buds

The dwarf narcissi in pots are flowering.

However, the big daffodils in the garden are still thinking about it.Photo of daffodil buds

The yellow crocus has outlived its purple cousins. It has also avoided being eaten by sparrows, I have been informed that they have a penchant for yellow petals.Photo of yellow crocus

The forsythia gets ever more yellow.

The quince is going strong.Photo of bee house with quince and flower pots

Newcomers include grape hyacinths.Photo of grape hyacinth

Dog violets.

The flowering currant.

Red dead-nettle.Photo of red dead-nettle

For those of you who remember the pinnacle of my gardening prowess, the alpine trough, here it is.

Spring is Blossoming

The cherry plum tree has started to blossom. It is not yet in its full glory, but with bad weather forecast I thought I ought to capture it while I can.

The snowdrops, quince, primrose and lilac buds are still going, though the crocuses are past their best now. There were some huge bumblebee queens buzzing about the mahonia, sadly they had made themselves scarce by the time I had fetched my camera.

Blooming Flowers

Vernalization – Whereby a prolonged period of cold (winter) induces plants to produce flowers in the spring. It’s all kicking off folks. It starts with the snowdrops.

Hello hellebore.Photo of Hellebore

The lawn has been covered with crocuses for a couple of weeks now.

However, they will only open up if there is sunshine. Photo of crocus

I blinked and nearly missed it.Photo of crocuses

There was even a yellow crocus this year.Photo of crocus

Primrose looking prim.Photo of primrose

Mahonia.Photo of mahonia

Forsythia having a serious think about flowering.Photo of forsythia

Quince, looking fancy.

Finally, the lilac is coming into bud.Photo of lilac buds

 

Winter Blooms

The weather in the UK this winter has been somewhat variable. I think this might be confusing the winter flowers. Last week the garden snowdrops looked like this:Photo of snowdrops 050217

This morning, not much change. It is as if they pulled back their sepal curtains a crack and said, “Nope. Not coming out.”Photo of snowdrops 110217

The crocuses looked as though they were going to carpet the lawn with purple again this year. However, they seem to have been battered back into the ground by the wind and rain apart from a few still heroically standing.Photo of crocus Feb 17

Oddly the crocuses growing in the cracks in the path seem to be faring better as they caught some snowflakes this morning.Photo of crocuses in path with snowflakeYou might also like: Early Spring Flowers – Vol1 and Snowdrops and Crocuses

Song Thrush

For the first time in many years our garden has been visited by a song thrush, Turdus philomelos. Between 1970 and 1995 it is estimated that the population decreased by 50%, perhaps even as much as 70% vanished from farmland. The loss of hedgerows for nesting and changes to land use decreasing the number of earthworms available for food are probable causes.Photo of song thrush

They used to be a common sight in gardens cracking open snail shells on our paths and delighting us with their beautiful song. You can listen to some audio of a song thrush here. Photo of song thrush

In Chaucer and Shakespeare’s time they were known as throstles, which I think is a much more pleasing name for them. In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Bottom sings;

“The ousel cock so black of hue,
With orange-tawny bill;
The throstle with his note so true,
The wren with little quill.”Photo of song thrush

Thomas Hardy also name checks our spotty songbird in The Darkling Thrush. You can read the full poem here, but I shall quote a verse;

“At once a voice arose among
The bleak twigs overhead
In a full-hearted evensong
Of joy illimited;
An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small,
In blast-beruffled plume,
Had chosen thus to fling his soul
Upon the growing gloom.”

I can only hope that this iconic bird is making a comeback. If you have a couple of minutes to spare, I have put together a few clips from my wildlife camera of the thrush pottering about with some other feathered friends here. Oh yes, and now that the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch is over, guess who showed up? Yep, Woody the great spotted woodpecker.Photo of great spotted woodpecker

My Big Garden Birdwatch Results 2017

As I mentioned in my post #BigGardenBirdwatch 2017, the world’s biggest wildlife survey took place at the weekend in the UK. You can find out more at the RSPB website.Photo of blue tit

Although we were allowed three days to choose from, the weather Saturday through to Monday was pretty much non-stop rain. This seems to deter a lot of birds from visiting feeders. I was particularly annoyed that the great spotted woodpecker didn’t show up. Other notable absences included long tailed tits, coal tit, dunnock, wren, sparrowhawk, crows and jackdaw; I know they are lurking around somewhere in the garden! Also my chaffinch count was considerably down from a couple of weeks ago.Photo of great spotted woodpecker

However, I was highly delighted by the well timed arrival of an old favourite that I have not seen in the garden for many years; the song thrush. This is another British bird that has suffered greatly from habitat loss due to changes in farming. This shows how important our gardens are for birds. I wasn’t able to get a decent photo of it, indeed most of my photos of wet birds on a dark day were terrible!

Illustration of Song Thrush

Song Thrush by en:John Gould, Birds of Great Britain, 1862-73 – Via Wikimedia Commons

The blackbirds put in a good show, as usual.Photo of blackbirds

There was a robin.Photo of robin

Indeed there were two robins.Photo of two robins

One of the woodpigeons bumbled along.Photo of woodpigeon

Yet again Mrs Fancypants-Squirrel tried to get in on the action, but she was fooling no one.Photo of wet squirrel

Later on that night, one of our hedgehogs woke from hibernation for a snack.Photo of hedgehog

Here are my results:

4 sparrows, 2 blue tits, 1 wood pigeon, 2 robins, 1 great tit, 9 blackbirds, 3 collared doves, 2 starlings, 3 chaffinches, 2 black caps, 9 feral/rock pigeons, 2 magpies and a song thrush. The RSPB provided a chart of my top 10.Chart of top 10 bird sightings

And compared it to the national average based on results so far. Chart of national bird watch results

 

 

Foggy Street Scenes

Looming out of the fog is this abandoned old house. Its plaque informs us that it is dated from 1884 and named Clifford Place.Photo of empty building in fog

Incidentally, 1884 was the date of the Post Office Protection Act, part of which made it an offence to set fire to post boxes. Photo of post box in fog

Protection of Post Offices, Postal Packets, and Stamps.

Placing injurious substance in or against letter boxes.

3. A person shall not place or attempt to place in or against any post office letter box any fire, any match, any light, any explosive substance, any dangerous substance, any filth, any noxious or deleterious substance, or any fluid, and shall not commit a nuisance in or against any post office letter box, and shall not do or attempt to do anything likely to injure the box, appurtenances, or contents.

Any person who acts in contravention of this section shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and be liable, on summary conviction, to a fine not exceeding ten pounds, and on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment, with or without hard labour, for a period not exceeding twelve months.

You have been warned.

First Full Moon 2017

January 12th 2017 saw the first full moon of the year, the Full Wolf Moon. Photo of full moon

I took my usual blurry images of it as clouds scudded across the night sky.Photo of moon with halo

These high cirrus clouds on a cold night form ice crystals, these refract and relect the sunlight bouncing off the moon. It is these that form the halos that you can see in these photos.Photo of moon with halo

And of course the moon always looks good and spooky when viewed through bare branches blowing in the breeze.Photo of Moon behind trees

Frozen Bubbles

I have always loved blowing bubbles. I had a great excuse to continue buying bubble blowing kits for kids, as my rat pals liked to play with them. Well here’s another great excuse; frozen bubble photography.Photo of frozen bubble

I took advantage of another frosty night and blew a couple of bubbles onto the the frozen lawn. The bubble freezes and pretty patterns are created. It seems as if the best results require temperatures of around -15 Celsius. It was probably around -2 C here. Most people in the UK will get very few chances to practice this technique.Photo of frozen bubble

I played around with red and white torchlight. Then I got very cold and came indoors and played around with photographic software filters.

Later on the sun rose and the bubble was still there!Photo of frozen bubble

Night fell and the bubble, looking rather tatty but with extra frosting, was still in existence.Photo of frozen bubble

If you want to try this yourself there is a recipe for bubble mix using water, washing-up liquid and glycerine here. If you want to see the stunningly beautiful results of a professional take a look at this gallery of frozen bubbles here, and there is an interview with the photographer here.

December Gallery Added

Well I did it. I have completed my personal photographic record of 2016 and added the December gallery to my page 366 Days- 2016 in Photographs.Photo of rime frosted seed head

Typically I chose a year when, for various reasons, I barely set foot out of my own garden. However, putting on my rose tinted specs, it might be interesting to see how the same old scenes changed throughout the year; no doubt the subject of some forthcoming blog posts. I had hoped that this project would improve my photography, but I haven’t really had the time to put the effort into it. It has perhaps changed my mindset so that I now look for a picture, even in everyday mundane things.Photo of sunrise

This year I shall now only do a blog post if I have a photo or some information that I feel is worth sharing. I hope it won’t be too infrequent! I would like to thank you all for being so kind and supportive of my efforts. I look forward to your blog posts in 2017.Photo of happy new year written in sparklers