July 2021 – Week Two

Glad to say that everyone in the Ratz household has now had two Covid-19 vaccinations, so Bill Gates can enjoy tracking our every move. Sadly I probably have to point out that was my attempt at humour, I’m sure Bill Gates has better things to do. We all had Oxford-Astrazeneca vaccines and apart from the expected mild immune response effects we have had no problems at all.

grey ball with red bits

Image of Coronavirus from CDC

Back to the Ratz garden. The lawn clover has been joined by these purple flowers. They are Prunella vulgaris, or self heal. As you might imagine this plant was used medicinally. It was used on wounds traditionally, modern research shows that it is high in vitamins and antioxidants. It can be eaten in salads or made into herbal tea or a pesto.purple flower on lawn

The Lychis coronaria is doing very well and I’m happy to say attracting the bees.bee flying away from white flower

The Alstromeria add a dash of exotic colour.3 orange lily flowers

My hedgehog friend came to say hello again.hedgehog on path

Then wandered off to hunt for insects in the clover.hedgehog on lawn with white clover flowers

Meanwhile, there was a very strange bird on the peanut feeder early one morning. mouse in peanut feeder

The Mahonia, or Oregon Grape as it is sometimes known, has produced distinctive blue berries. The young blackbirds have been learning from their parents and flying up to snatch the berries off. As you can see from the stripped stems they are getting very good at it.green leaved plant with blue berriesThe latest “lawn weed” to flower is the sweet smelling Yarrow, Achillea millefolium. As you might guess it was named after Achilles; apparently he used it to staunch his wounds on the battlefield (and we all know how that worked out for him). However, it is claimed to have medicinal properties and is apparently edible. It was also used instead of hops at one time to make beer, you can find a recipe here.white flowers

July 2021 – Week One

July seems to be carrying on in much the same way as June; chilly and with frequent rain showers. Between the showers the flowers continue to flower, like this St John’s Wort.yellow flowers

Following on from the white and yellow roses, it is the red roses turn to bloom.red rose flower

The laburnum flowers have turned into pea pods.pods of seeds

My little prickly friend hedgehog is snuffling about the garden and stopped to give me a good sniffing.hedgehog

The white flowers on the privet are attracting lots of bees, bumblebees, hoverflies and butterflies – none of the latter would pose for a photograph though.bee on white flower

I think these purple flowers are some sort of salvia, the bees approve of them so that’s good enough for me.bee on purple flower

Indeed worthy of two photographs.bee on purple flower

The Evening Primrose blooms in the evening as you might expect, but the flowers also last through the morning. During the day they attract bees and little beetles. At night they should be attracting moths, in turn these should be attracting bats. Sadly I haven’t noticed any bats for the last couple of months, I hope nothing has happened to their roost.yellow flowers against blue sky

June 2021 – Week Three

June 21st was the longest day, so now the British can officially say every evening, “The nights are drawing in.” The third week of June was rather chilly and overcast most of the time, although we were treated to some fluffy cumulus clouds one morning.fluffy cotton ball cloudsThe foxgloves are fully flowering now.purple and white flowersThey are enticing bees with their hairy, spotty landing strips.bee inside purple flowerI tried in vain to get a decent photo of the swifts as they circled and screamed above my head. This was the only shot I got out of many many photos of empty skies.bird against blue skyThe young magpie was more accommodating, still begging food from the same sized parent.magpie feeding young magpieFeathers were ruffled and there was embarrassment all round as the magpie interrupted the wood pigeon’s bath.wood pigeon in bath and magpieWe also have a dishful of juvenile starlings.6 young starlingsOur regular hedgehog visitor is still regularly visiting, but there is no sign of any hoglets sadly. A few years ago the lawn was full of little hedgehogs running around my feet. The garden is very hedgehog friendly so their decline is clearly down to other environmental factors. There has been a new housing estate built nearby and climate change is affecting their hibernation habits meaning they wake when there is not sufficient natural food to support them.hedgehog in infrared

Slug Patrol

As the sun sets on another day, the slugs and snails come out to play. Fortunately we have natural slug control here. Photo of sunset

Firstly the hedgehogs, including this adorable young hoglet, patrol the garden for pests.Photo of young hedgehog

Later on the slug devouring night shift is joined by this beautiful frog. Photo of frog

Just look at those eyes, who wouldn’t want to kiss him?Photo of frog

A Rainy Night

Every Herefordian checks their apples regularly, even if it means turning out on a rainy night. Apart from a suspicious looking moth, they seem fine.Photo of wet apples at night

The waning moon was visible between scuds of rain clouds.Photo of waning moon

The solar light makes a pleasing pattern. There used to be a rotary washing drier thing here, but all that is left is the metal holder. Despite painting it white I was forever tripping over it in the dark, so I have put a solar light in it. I have probably just given myself something else to trip over …Photo of solar lightOf course, there is the inevitable hedgehog. This is one of the hoglets, it seems to quite like me.Photo of  hedgehog

Yet Another Hedgehog Post

I wonder if it is possible to get bored with the UK’s favourite wild mammal? I certainly don’t! As hedgehogs hibernate during winter and are nocturnal, I feel I need to make the most of the short summer nights. There is just enough light left, when they first rouse themselves, to be able to take photos and video without annoying them with artificial light.Photo of young hedgehog

Here is one of the three hoglets. As it is growing it is taking on that pleasing and distinctively hoggy roundness. It will need to get good and fat ready for hibernation. If you have seven and a half minutes spare you can watch a video of it doing its best to fatten up here.

The Early Bird ….

As well as putting food out for the hedgehogs at night, I also put some for the birds first thing in the morning. This morning I was distracted by the striking sunrise.Photo of Sunrise

Then I heard a crunching noise and thought, funny – birds don’t usually crunch. I turned around and found this funny looking early bird getting the worm. Photo of hedgehog in dish

It is one of the three baby hedgehogs I have noticed around the garden recently. Presumably he was on his way back to bed and didn’t want to pass up this opportunity. Shortly afterwards he was still munching his way nonchanantly through the birds’ rations while 5 bemused magpies watched. I did put more out once he’d gone to bed.Photo of young hedgehog


The first ripe blackberry has appeared. Let’s hope that they are all ripened and picked by Michaelmas.Photo of blackberry

Another first for me; last year I planted a load of bulbs of freesias, lilies and alliums and now the first lily has flowered! I’m chalking that one up as a success.Photo of lily flower

Oh, and the hedgehogs say hi. They were very grateful for all of the shallow bowls of water dotted around the garden during the recent “summer heatwave” in the UK.Photo of hedgehog

Close Encounter

I don’t know about you, but I like to lie down on a damp lawn of an evening; admiring the fungi.Photo of fungi

Marvelling at how tall daisies grow when you don’t mow the lawn for a couple of weeks.Photo of daisies on lawn

Wondering if this is a rare orchid or a “common lawn weed” – I shall try to take some better photos in the daylight.

Alarmed by a sudden loud snuffling noise.Photo of hedgehog on lawn

It’s getting closer.Photo of hedgehog on lawn

“Hey, don’t get snot smears on my camera lens!”Photo of hedgehog on lawn

See the look of intense irritation when the hedgehog realises I’m not a tasty beetle.Photo of hedgehog on lawn

That’s more like it. If you want to spend one and a half minutes watching this hedgehog munching on mealworms you can here.Photo of hedgehog eating mealworms

A Chase Through the Undergrowth

Late last night I heard a lot of rustling coming from the overgrown shrubbery. I waited for the inevitable hedgehog to come bumbling out, but was taken by surprise when this fine looking common frog hopped out!Photo of common frog

It was swiftly followed by a hedgehog, giving me his “innocent face”. Hedgehogs will eat frogs, though I suspect the chances of them catching one are pretty slim.Photo of hedgehog

As for the fledgling crow; he spent most of yesterday climbing up into the trees and falling-with-flapping out of them again. Oddly, as night fell he decided to go to sleep on a ladder we have on the ground. As this is a cat super highway I didn’t think it was a safe place, so I picked him up and placed him on the branch where he’d spent the previous night. He did feel very thin and bony, I am worried his parents aren’t coming down to feed him often enough. However, they are still coming down two or three times a day at least and are looking out for him, so I am loathe to intervene. I am putting more foodstuffs about including meat and boiled eggs, but he is still too young to get it for himself. Photo of crow fledgling

Today he spent most of his time lurking in the undergrowth. On the one hand it is good he is learning to keep a low profile, but on the other he is not practicing flying or getting fed much.

Friday Night

After a day grazing in the supermarket, the trollies are herded together and locked safely in their corral for the night.Photo of shopping trollies

It is an undeniable fact that life has boring bits in it, perhaps this should be reflected in our photography? However, I felt that I couldn’t just fob you off with a photo of some shopping trollies. So I made an attempt at a long exposure to get some light trails from the traffic. I think I need to be at a higher elevation, above a longer stretch of road and armed with a tripod!Photo of light trails

So my pursuit for providing you with a documentary of an exciting Friday night saw me outside, attempting yet again to try to get a decent photograph of the moon using my limited kit and skills. Mainly I just wanted to use the name, “waxing gibbous”. This refers to the fact that the moon is over half illuminated and that the illumination is growing; it will be a full moon on the 24th January. The moon was full enough to cast a beautiful glow onto the clouds.

As I was stood photographing the moon, something ran past my legs. Its little feet pattered upon the paving and there was a rustling sound like the bristling of crinolines. Sure enough, the sudden change back to mild temperatures had brought a hedgehog out of hibernation. Our prickly friend was making straight for the mealworms and peanuts that are put out every night. Photo of hedgehog

So it ended up being a mildly interesting Friday night after all.

Christmas Full Moon

bauble-bokehFirst of all I would like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas; Frohe Weihnachten; Joyeux Noel; Kreesmasko Shubhkaamnaa; ‘S Rozhdestvom Khristovym; God Jul; Feliz Navidad; Meri Kurisumasu; Sheng dan Kuai Le; Shubh Krismas; Geseende Kersfees.

Photo of Full MoonThe full moon this month falls on Christmas night for the first time since 1977 and won’t happen again until 2034. This December moon is also known as the Full Cold Moon or the Long Nights Moon.

Here in the UK we have had an unseasonably mild December so far. This is in part due to the El Niño effect. This has caused flowers to bloom early and wildlife to delay hibernation.Photo of hedgehog A Christmas treat was meeting my prickly friend the hedgehog tonight. As well as his usual treat of mealworms and peanuts, he seemed rather interested in these tomatoes.

The quince has also started to blossom a couple of months early.

I shall leave you with a quote from “The Night Before Christmas” by Clement Clarke Moore:

Photo of moonThe moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow,
Gave a lustre of midday to objects below,
When what to my wondering eyes did appear,
But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny rein-deer,
With a little old driver so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment he must be St. Nick.

Big Butterfly Count 2015

The Big Butterfly Count 2015 is on now until 9th August.Photo of speckled wood butterfly

All of the information and resources you require can be found at the Big Butterfly Count website.

If you are not in the United Kingdom, why not carry out your own butterfly survey. Spending fifteen minutes in your garden or local green space counting butterflies can never be a waste of time. Consider it therapeutic mindful relaxation.

What? You want to take part in more citizen science? Photo of hedgehogIf you are driving off on your holidays in the UK why not take part in the Mammals on Roads survey? Details here.

Happy counting.