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.

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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

 

 

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.

Rime Frost

We had another night of freezing fog. The fog was still pretty dense by the morning. Bulmer’s woodpecker was well lit though.Photo of Bulmer's woodpecker in fog

The happy thing about a foggy night when it is very cold is that rime frost is created. The water droplets in fog are very much smaller than rain droplets. When these tiny droplets hit an object that is below freezing, such as a branch of a tree, these droplets release their heat very rapidly. This results in them freezing at high speed and pretty much maintaining their form. These frozen droplets build up on top of each other with air gaps between, this makes them appear white. And so rime frost is formed creating a very pleasing effect upon objects.Photo of Frosty trees in the fog

The effect is similar to hoar frost; this is formed when the air is humid, but it is a clear freezing night. Glaze frost is created when rain droplets freeze onto objects, being larger they spread before freezing and so form a clear “glaze”. Enough of the science, let’s enjoy the pretty pictures. First of all, some rose hips in the hedgerow.Photo of rime frost on rose hips

A rime frosted seed head.Photo of rime frosted seed head

The frozen field.

Some frosty trees.

Some more frosty trees as the sun starts to burn off the fog.

Frosty Mornings

After some unseasonably mild weather, we have had a couple of frosty mornings. This always makes the garden look prettier.

It does seem that my poor apple tree has a case of coral spot. This is a fungal infection caused by the pathogen, Nectria cinnabarina. Apparently it is a sign that the poor tree is already ailing. I fear that neglect followed by amateur pruning has brought it to this sorry state.Photo of frosty apple branch with coral spot

Last night the frost rime was even thicker. The cobweb draped frosty seed head of the golden rod looked like something Miss Haversham might have in a vase.Photo of frosty golden rod seed head

The fallen leaves looked like the Ghosts of Autumn Past.Photo of frosty fallen leaves

The holly and laurel berries were given a wintry sugar frosting.

Who doesn’t love a frosty log covered with ivy?Photo of frosty log with ivy

The rose hips were looking good too.Photo of frosty rose hips

The orb weaving spiders always give good value in a frost, or a dewy morning.

This is what freezing fog looks like in the camera’s flash, similar to a car’s headlights, which is why you must drive so very carefully in it.Photo of freezing fog in flash

Christmas Eve Dawn

We had a beautiful start to Christmas Eve with this gorgeous sunrise. The carpark of my local Tesco Express might not be the most glamorous place to view it, but we take what we can.Photo of sunrise

Here is another view of it.Photo of sunrise

It was more impressive than the sunset from a couple of evenings ago. Can you spot the sun skulking away?Photo of dismal sunset

Happy Christmas Eve folks.

Winter is Here

Wednesday 21st December 2016 is the start of astronomical winter. It is also the Winter Solstice, the shortest day and longest night. For northern European Pagans it marked the start of Yule, a 12 day festival.Photo of sparrow in bare branches

A Christmas carol, “In the Bleak Midwinter”  was originally written by Christina Rossetti in the 19th century as a poem. Here are the first and last verses:

In the bleak midwinter
Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone:
Snow had fallen, snow on snow
Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter,
Long ago.

What can I give him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb;
If I were a wise man
I would do my part;
Yet what I can, I give him –
Give my heart.