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

Happy New Year 2017

Happy New Year, Gott Nyttar, с новым годом, Prosit Neujahr, Bonne Annee, Feliz Ano Nuevo, Gelukkige Nuwe Jaar, Blwyddyn Newydd Dda, Khushi Nayam Varsa, Xin Nian Kuaile, Nav Varsh Ki Subhkamna, Aremahite Omedieto Gozaimasu. I wish you all the very best in 2017.Photo of happy new year written in sparklers

Yes, I have been playing with sparklers again 🙂

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

Running out of Festive Cheer

I noticed in my local Tesco Express that the self-service tills no longer make their Christmas jingly noises. Also, these Christmas Malteser reindeer chocolates were being sold for half price (I only bought one for the purposes of this blog post, honest). No doubt this is to make room for their “Malteaster Bunnies”.Photo of Malteser Reindeer

The shops have been hyping Christmas since at least October, yet the minute Boxing Day is over it is all packed away. People; the Twelve Days of Christmas commence on Christmas Day. The original Pagan Yule festival was twelve days of feasting between 20th and 31st December, and the Christian celebration is supposed to last until Epiphany on the 6th January. We have put all of this effort into preparing for Christmas, let us make the most of it before we start clearing up the tinsel and buying our Easter eggs.