A TMO – a Tree of Multiple Occupancy

I meant to post this a couple of weeks ago – it’s that time of year when the garden seems to take over my life and this year there’s been quite a lot going on in our garden.

This is an old ash tree in the field behind our house and we’ve called it a Tree of Multiple Occupancy. It’s hollowed out at the top with several holes lower down and the occupants are mainly jackdaws and wood pigeons. This is not a happy household as none of them get on and the jackdaws regularly patrol the tree trying to scare off any birds that come near.

In the early mornings I’ve seen a barn owl going into the top hole, chased by the jackdaws. I’ve seen the owl a few times now – one evening it came sweeping out of the top hole followed by a group of jackdaws. It flew into our little wood and after just a short time it flew back into the tree. I wish I’d had my camera handy that day, it’s an absolutely beautiful bird!

I also wish I had a camera inside the tree to see the arrangements – is the tree hollow all the way down? Do they all have nests? And is the barn owl nesting there too?

The great tits and bluetits have been busy – the great tits made a nest in an old hollow fence post and produced four young ones. David’s video shows the fledglings leaving the nest early one morning. We also have had bluetits nesting in a great tits’ bird box on the gable end of the house. And now the swallows are here, swooping around the sky – such wonderful aerial displays.

H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald

I really wanted to love H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald, which  won the 2014 Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction, as well as the 2014 Costa Book of the Year but I found it difficult to read and draining, despite some richly descriptive narrative.  It’s really three  books in one – one about herself, her childhood and her intense grief at the sudden death of her father, one about training a goshawk and another about T H White and his book, The Goshawk in which he describes his own struggle to train a hawk.

When her father died she bought Mabel, a ten week old goshawk and became obsessed with training her. It is the training that made this book so difficult for me to read. I am not comfortable with keeping wild creatures in captivity and in my naivete I hadn’t realised just what training a hawk entailed. Even though Helen Macdonald tells her friend’s husband that it had not been a battle training Mabel because ‘she’s a freakishly calm hawk‘, it came across to me that it had been a battle of wills, as she kept Mabel indoors in a darkened room, in a hood, on a perch or restrained on a leash for much of the time. It was a physical battle too that evoked rage, violence and frustration.

I found it difficult too because it is so personal as she exposed just how bereft she was, how she suffered the loss of her father and became depressed almost to the state of madness:

It was about this time that a kind of madness drifted in. Looking back, I think I was never truly mad. More mad north-north-west. I could tell a hawk from a handsaw always but sometimes it was striking to me how similar they were. I knew I wasn’t mad mad because I’d seen people in the grip of psychosis before, and that was madness as obvious as the taste of blood in the mouth. The kind of madness I had was different. It was quiet, and very, very dangerous. It was a madness designed to keep me sane. My mind struggled to build across the gap, make a new and inhabitable world. (location 219)

This a book unlike any other that I’ve read, about wildness, grief and mourning, and obsession, which made it heavy reading for me.

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1875 KB
  • Print Length: 322 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0802123414
  • Publisher: Vintage Digital (31 July 2014)
  • Source: I bought it

Corvus: A Life With Birds by Esther Woolfson

Corvus by Esther Woolfson is a remarkable book about the birds she has has had living with her; birds that were found out of the nest that would not have survived if she had not taken them in.

‘Corvus’ is a genus of birds including jackdaws, ravens, crows, magpies and rooks. The specific birds Esther Woolfson has looked after are a rook, called Chicken (short for Madame Chickieboumskaya), a young crow, a cockatiel, a magpie, two small parrots and two canaries. But it all started with doves, which live in an outhouse, converted from a coal store into a dove-house, or as they live in Aberdeen in Scotland, a doo’cot.

Although the book is mainly about the rook, Chicken, Esther Woolfson also writes in detail about natural history, the desirability or otherwise of keeping birds, and a plethora of facts about birds, their physiology, mechanics of flight, bird song and so on. As with all good non-fiction Corvus has an extensive index, which gives a good idea of the scope of the book. Here are just a few entries for example under ‘birds’ the entries include – aggression in, evolution of, navigation, in poetry, speeds of, vision, wildness of, wings’

It’s part memoir and part nature study and for me it works best when Esther Woolfson is writing about Chicken and the other birds living in her house, how she fed them, cleared up after them, and tried to understand them. Although at times I had that feeling I get when I visit a zoo – these are wild birds kept captivity and I’m not very comfortable with that, I am reassured by Esther Woolfson’s clarification that reintroducing these birds to the wild was unlikely to be successful and indeed they lived longer than they would have done in the wild. Though Chicken and Spike (and the other birds) live domesticated lives they are still wild birds:

I realise that if ‘wild’ was once the word for Chicken, it still is, for nothing in her or about her contains any of the suggestions hinted at by the word ‘tame’. Chicken, Spike, Max, all the birds I have known over the years, live or lived their lives as they did by necessity or otherwise, but were and are not ‘tame’. They are afraid of the things they always were, of which their fellow corvids are, judiciously, sensibly; of some people, of hands and perceived danger, of cats and hawks, of things they do not know and things of which I too am afraid. ‘Not tamed or diminished’. (pages 115-6)

At times, where Esther Woolfson goes into intricate detail, for example in the chapter on ‘Of Flight and Feathers‘ I soon became completely out of my depth, lost in the infinity of specialised wing shapes and the complexities of the structure of feathers. But that is a minor criticism, far out weighed by her acute observations of the birds, her joy in their lives and her grief at their deaths – her description of Spike’s unexpected death and her reaction is so moving:

I wept the night he died. Sitting in bed, filled with the utter loss of his person, I felt diminished, bereft. I talked about him, but not very much, in the main to members of the family, who felt the same, but to few others.

It’s the only way, this compact and measured grief, for those of us who are aware that there has to be proportion in loss and mourning; we laugh at ourselves for our grief, trying to deal with this feeling that is different in quality, incomparable with the loss of a human being.

We felt – we knew – that something immeasurable had gone. (page 209)

Anyone who has lived through the death of a loved animal can recognise that sense of loss.

Corvus is a beautiful book and I have learned so much by reading it. I must also mention the beautiful black and white illustrations by Helen Macdonald – I think this is the Helen Macdonald who was awarded the 2014 Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction for H is For Hawk.

Esther Woolfson was brought up in Glasgow and studied Chinese at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Edinburgh University. Her acclaimed short stories have appeared in many anthologies and have been read on Radio 4. She has won prizes for both her stories and her nature writing and has been the recipient of a Scottish Arts Council Travel Grant and a Writer’s Bursary. Her latest book, Field Notes from a Hidden City (Granta Books), was shortlisted for the 2014 Thwaites Wainwright Prize for Nature and Travel Writing. She lives in Aberdeen. For more information see her website.

Saturday Snapshots

Last Saturday I posted a photo of the little Japanese Maple still bearing its flame red leaves. We’ve had some high winds this week and this is what it looks like today – what a difference a week makes!

Japanese Maple 23 Nov 2013Just a few leaves are still clinging to its branches:

Japanese Maple 23 Nov 2013 P1090329

The rest are on the ground or have blown away.

Autumn Leaves P1090328

For more Saturday Snapshots see Melinda’s blog West Metro Mommy Reads.

Saturday Snapshots

Autumn in the garden:

Jap Maple Nov 2013 P1090302

The leaves are falling from some of the trees now, but our little Japanese Maple is still bearing its flame-coloured leaves.

Autumn trees Nov 2013 P1090305The Wych Elm leaves are a glorious golden colour.

Autumn leaves Nov 2013 P1090313And in our little wood the ground is now a carpet of rustling brown leaves.

D up ladder P1090314

Finally, here’s D up a ladder doing repairs to the roof – I had to watch because falling leaves are one thing …

For more Saturday Snapshots see Melinda’s blog West Metro Mommy Writes.

Saturday Snapshots

A few weeks ago I posted about the Attack of the Sparrows on the House Martins’ nest. A couple of weeks later the house martins all left and flew off to spend the winter in Africa. Each year they use our house as a building site for their nests. They are beautiful little birds and I love to see them flying high in the sky above our house and the chicks as they poke their heads out of the nest waiting to be fed.

It’s illegal to remove their nests whilst they are building or using them as they’re protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and you could get fined up to £5,000 and/or a 6 month prison sentence for every bird, egg or nest destroyed. And as they’re on the Amber list (because of recent decline in numbers) the RSPB is encouraging people to help them nest.

Well, they didn’t need any encouragement from us and built four nests in the eaves of our house. One was above the living room window, so you can imagine the mess their droppings made on the window and window sill. But now they’ve gone David has taken the nests down and cleaned up the mess they left behind, so he could sadolin the soffits and fascias. The nests came away mainly in one piece. My photos show how they’re constructed – mainly of mud and sticks formed into a cup shape.

House Martins nest P1010917

House Martins nest P1010918For more Saturday Snapshots see Melinda’s blog A West Metro Mommy Reads.

The Attack of the Sparrows

For a few days now little white feathers have been appearing on the lawn at the front of the house – and in the back garden too. We were a bit worried that our cat had been catching birds, but mice are her preferred option. We were wrong – it wasn’t down to Heidi.

This year our house has been home to four lots of house martins, with four families in four nests, one at each of the gable ends and a fourth on the front wall of the house built over the cover of an extractor. These birds have been dazzling us with their spectacular aerobatics as they’ve been swooping and sailing above us high in the sky most of the summer, catching the insects that love to bite me. Needless to say I love house martins.

I don’t know how many broods they’ve had but there are still fledglings in the nest at the front. According the RSPB they can have up to three broods and I suspect each of the families have done that this year. They’ve made quite a mess on the walls and window sills with their droppings.

The puzzle of the feathers on the lawn was solved the other day when we saw two sparrows attacking the nest, pulling out feathers and poking around inside the nest – and the fledglings were still inside. I never knew what aggressive little beggars house sparrows are! The RSPB site tells that they often damage house martins’ nests and even attack adults, eggs and young birds. This attack was rebuffed by the house martins and the sparrows flew off – but there are more white feathers around this morning, the war continues.

Sparrow on HM nest

Peacock Butterfly: Saturday Snapshot

Peacock butterflyWe’ve seen lots of butterflies in the garden recently and I just managed to get a photo of this beautiful Peacock Butterfly when it landed on the decking the other day. It’s quite a big butterfly, as butterflies go, and is easily recognised by the eye-spots on its wings. It flew away before I could creep around it to get a better shot, but you can still see the eye-spots.

For more Saturday Snapshots see Melinda’s blog West Metro Mommy Reads.

Saturday Snapshots: Wych Elm

We have a wych elm in the back garden. This year it’s been absolutely full of seeds, many more than usual:

Wych elm P1080810

The seeds have been blowing all over the garden, covering the lawn and borders. They grow in clusters:Wych elm P1080813One got caught in a cobweb:

Wych elm seed P1010780Here it is in close-up:

Wych elm seed P1080809Wych Elms are hardy trees and have greater resistance to Dutch elm disease than other elms. The name ‘wych’ comes from an Anglo-Saxon word meaning pliable and refers to the tree’s twigs. Its wood has many uses, including underground water pipes (in the past), boat building and the seats of chairs – it’s also the traditional wood used for coffins.

I love trees – and they are good for you:

A garden without trees is as hard to envisage as an art gallery with pictures. Trees soften the landscape. They provide shade in the summer and protection during the winter. A screen of trees around the house can provide enough wind-shelter to reduce by a tenth the energy consumption in the home. Their canopy of leaves acts as a highly effective pollution filter, absorbing many of the major atmospheric pollution gases, including carbon monoxide, nitrogen and sulphur dioxide. Research also reveals that we are happier and more relaxed when we are in leafy surroundings … (The Therapeutic Garden by Donald Norfolk page 105)

For more Saturday Snapshots see Melinda’s blog West Metro Mommy Reads.

Click on the photos to enlarge.

Wildwood: a Journey Through Trees by Roger Deakin

Roger Deakin was a writer, broadcaster and film-maker with a particular interest in nature and the environment. He completed the manuscript for Wildwood, his second book, just before he died in 2006. As the sub-title explains it’s about Deakin’s journeys through a wide variety of trees and woods in various parts of the world. It’s a memoir, a travelogue and also it’s about the interdependence of human beings and trees, or in his own words:

Wildwood is about the element of wood, as it exists in nature, in our souls and in our lives. (page x)

I think parts of this book are brilliant and fascinating, but my eyes glazed over in other parts as I got lost in all the facts and details that he recounts, which were just too much at times for me. But sometimes his writing is poetical, full of imagery. For example in writing about pencils he concludes:

The fine-grained, slow grown mother of all pencils is incense cedar from the forests of Oregon, where a single tree may grow 140 feet high, with a trunk five feet across, enough cedar wood to make 150,000 pencils. It is the incense cedar that infuses pencils with the nutty aroma I remember as I open my pencil-box. In a scooped out hollow in my Oregon pine work table in front of me lies a smooth, round pebble from the Hebrides. It sits snugly in the wood, like the pencil between finger and thumb, and like the hidden vein of graphite, poised inside the cedar to spin itself into words like gossamer from the spider. (page 30)

I love the image that last simile brings to my mind. I also marked these passages: ‘The pencil whispers across the page and is never dogmatic.‘ And this, ‘Rub your finger long enough on a soft-pencilled phrase and it will evaporate into a pale-grey cloud. In this way, pencil is close to watercolour painting.’ (both from page 29)

He wrote about Walnut Tree Farm, his house in Suffolk. It was a ruin when he bought it and he took enormous delight in renovating and restoring it, including personally shaping and repairing every single timber beam  – all 323 of them. His love of trees stemmed from his early years and his school days when in the sixth form he and his school friends camped in the New Forest where their Biology teacher filled them with enthusiasm, setting them to studying and mapping the natural history of a stretch of the woodland, bog and heathland.

He covers a huge area of natural history, not just trees, but also plants, birds, moths, hedges, as well as the uses of wood for living, working and pleasure. He also describes his journeys to numerous places – not just in Britain, but also to the Pyrenees, Bieszczady, Australia, east to Kazakhstan, China, and the walnut forests of Kyrgyzstan. There is so much to take in  – I really think this book deserves an index!

Cracking Box by David Nash
Cracking Box by David Nash

I liked the southern English chapters best, as the further afield he went it seemed more of a travel book. It’s a book of several parts and maybe it would have been more of a whole if Deakin had lived to see it through to publication. I think it’s a bit fragmented.

My favourite chapters cover the work of David Nash, a sculptor in wood and the paintings by Mary Newcomb. Deakin visited David Nash’s studio at Blaenau Ffestiniog, where he was particularly drawn to the Cracking Box made of oak:

As if entering the wild life of the wood, or at least taking its side, Nash has put as many difficulties in his way in the making of the box as he can. … The anarchic work thumbs its nose at the basic rules of woodwork, triumphantly so, because it holds together in spite of the wriggling of the wood as it warps and cracks. The more the wood struggles , the tighter the grips of the oak pegs in their augured sockets. (pages 154 -5)

Very Cold Birds Where One has Flown Away it Knocked the Raindrops Off by Mary Newcomb

Mary Newcomb was a Suffolk painter, who Deakin described as belonging ‘in the greenwood tradition, peering unnoticed from behind leaves like the Green Man’.. (page 179) (There is also has a chapter on the Green Man.) I hadn’t heard of Mary Newcomb and was intrigued by Deakin’s description of her work in which people seem to be part of the landscape, where proportion is very often skewed as in children’s art or ‘naive’ painting. I just had to look for her paintings and found some on the BBC’s Your Paintings. I’ve shown one here, on the left, where the raindrops are drawn nearly as big as the birds on the tree. (Click on the photos to enlarge.)

I also liked the chapter on walnuts, entitled Among Jaguars, describing how shapes of delicate walnut veneer are cut for the dashboards and door panels of Jaguar cars, and how the rare walnut burr veneer is produced. Walnuts figure quite prominently in Wildwood, with chapters on the walnut forests of Ferghana Valley in Kyrgyzstan.

Throughout the book Deakin referred to other books – one that stands out for me is Thomas Hardy’s The Woodlanders, one of my favourites of Hardy’s books, full of beautiful descriptions of the landscape and woods.

Overall, then I found this an interesting book, with some outstanding chapters. It’s not a book to read quickly and some parts are written much more fluently than others, but it’s full of fascinating information and meditations on the natural world. One final quotation:

To enter a wood is to pass into a different world in which we ourselves are transformed. It is no accident that in the comedies of Shakespeare, people go into the greenwood to grow, learn and change. It is where you travel to find yourself, often, paradoxically , by getting lost. Merlin sends the future King Arthur as a boy into the greenwood to fend for himself in The Sword in the Stone. There, he falls asleep and dreams himself, like a chameleon, into the lives of the animals and the trees. In As You Like It, the banished Duke Senior goes to live in the Forest of Arden like Robin Hood, and in Midsummer Night’s Dream the magical metamorphosis of the lovers takes place in a wood ‘outside Athens’ that is obviously an English wood, full of the faeries  and Robin Goodfellows of our folklore. (page x)

Saturday Snapshot: Snow Scenes

It snowed here most of yesterday and today it’s snowing again with  more to come for the rest of the day and the next few days.

This is the scene in the front garden:

and in the back garden;

Close-ups of the empty bird boxes:

and the wonky one:

For more Saturday Snapshots see Alyce’s blog At Home with Books.

Saturday Snapshots

My snapshots today are of Inchree Wood and Righ Falls in Glen Righ, on the eastern side of Loch Linnhe, near Glencoe. It was a cool day in September this year when we walked up the woodland trail to see the waterfalls, but the views were still spectacular.

The walk is through woodland with views of Loch Linnhe below:

The waterfall comes into view:

It cascades down the hill side:

The trail continues uphill through broad-leaf and conifer trees:

It’s a good place to see red squirrels:

through the viewing holes:

But we were disappointed not to see one!

See more Saturday Snapshots on Alyce’s blog At Home With Books.

Saturday Snapshot

We’ve had mixed weather this week, with days of torrential rain and a few sunny, although not hot, days. One sunny evening we were eating dinner and looking out onto the back garden and to our surprise saw this hedgehog marching purposely across the grass.

It was making for the bridge over the little stream in our garden. I wish I’d videoed it to capture the way it walked.
When it got to the bridge I could see its legs more clearly – such long legs, I thought. I found this fact on the Hedgehog Preservation Society fact sheet: ‘They have relatively long legs – about 10cms (4″) – and these enable them to run as fast as we can walk.’

Hedgehogs do carry fleas, but I read on The Mammal Society website that they have only one specific type and they don’t carry the type that bite cats and humans, which is good because we’ve just got rid of Heidi’s fleas – that also liked to bite me!

For more Saturday Snapshots see Alyce’s blog At Home With Books.

Nice Weather – for Ducks!

It’s pretty wild and windy here this morning with sleet, which is almost snow. Not the weather to go out in, but these visitors to our garden seem to like it.

They went further upstream – below you can see the male’s head bobbing above the bank:

Then they tried a little walk. The photo below shows the female in the sleet.

 Thanks to D, who took these photos.

Happy Mother’s Day

Today is Mother’s Day, or Mothering Sunday. My son knows what I like and sent me this book:

OakOak by Stephen Taylor

It’s a beautiful book telling and showing how British artist Stephen Taylor has painted the same oak tree in a field in Essex, England, dozens of times over a period of three years in extremes of weather and light, at all times of the year and hours of the day.

I’m fascinated by how artists create their pictures and this book is excellent. Not only is it full of illustrations, but Stephen also describes his methods of painting, outside and in the studio and explains what he was aiming to achieve.

I hope to write more about this book when I’ve had more time to study it. One thing that struck me immediately was this fact stated in Alain de Botton’s introduction:

The oak is estimated to be 250 years old. It was therefore already home to skylarks and starlings when Jane Austen was a baby and George III the ruler of the American colonies.

I love such connections! Thank you, Paul.

Saturday Snapshot

There is a field at the back of our garden which is on a steep slope (it is much steeper than it looks in my photos). A couple of weeks ago I spotted three roe deer at the top of the field, grazing, and quickly took a few photos using the zoom lens.

They soon were aware I was around and began to move away.

They jumped over the fence and were soon out of sight. You can just see their white rumps – one getting ready to jump and two on the other side.

See more Saturday Snapshots on Alyce’s blog At Home With Books.

C is for Chaffinch

There are countless numbers of chaffinches in our garden. It’s the second commonest breeding bird in the UK, so perhaps it’s not surprising that there are so many around. They eat insects and seeds, but they prefer to eat the seeds that have fallen to the ground rather than from the bird feeders.

We have put a tray of seeds on a garden table outside our kitchen patio doors and can watch them at quite close quarters as they come to eat the seeds. Whilst they crowd together on the ground they’re more cautious closer to the house and they only come one at a time to the table. David took these photos. (Click on the photos to enlarge them.)

I think this one is so lovely. It’s a female chaffinch that has just landed on the rail of the decking and the wind is ruffling her feathers.

In this next photo her feathers have settled down:

Then a male chaffinch arrived. He likes the sunflower seeds.

I love his colours.

An ABC Wednesday post for the letter C.

Saturday Snapshot

Here are a couple of photos taken in December 2010 when we were snowbound. I came into the kitchen early one morning and there on the decking outside was this little mouse, eating the bread we had put out for the birds:

There were actually three mice climbing all over and round the back of the loaf nibbling it. I wasn’t the only one interested. Lucy came to the patio door and wanted to go out for a closer look.

See more Saturday Snapshots on Alyce’s blog, At Home With Books.

 

Saturday Snapshot

Earlier this year we visited Conundrum Farm:

We walked the farm trail where you can feed the animals. Our granddaughter liked the pygmy goats:

I wasn’t too keen on this somewhat larger goat that apparently often jumps over the fence and wanders around the farm:

There’s also a Battle Trail, which we didn’t do, across the battlefield of Halidon Hill, where the English recaptured Berwick-upon-Tweed from the Scots in 1333. We’re saving that for another visit.

See more Saturday Snapshots on Alyce’s blog At Home With Books.

Saturday Snapshot

There was a loud bang the other day. I looked around the house but couldn’t find anything that had fallen down to explain the noise. Later I noticed that the front room window was looking rather dusty, and then I realised what the bang had been:

There are lots of wood pigeons and collared doves flying round our garden and it looks as though one had tried to fly through the window. It had certainly left an impression, probably seeing the reflection of trees in the window and thinking it could fly through. Fortunately there was no dead or injured bird anywhere to be seen!  We’d better get some stickers on the window!

See more Saturday Snapshots on Alyce’s blog At Home With Books.

Saturday Snapshot: The Birds Have Flown

I’ve posted a few photos and videos of the collared doves’ nest – first the empty nest, then the eggs were laid, the chicks hatched and now we have an empty nest again. On Thursday evening the second young collared dove left the nest and has not returned. I do feel a little sad – empty nest syndrome!

Empty Nest!

Here is a video showing the final moments as the young bird left the confines of the nest behind the satellite dish for the last time and flew off into the wide world beyond. It looks quite big in the video but in reality it is still very small.

To participate in Alyce’s Saturday Snapshot meme post a photo (new or old) that you (or a friend or family member) have taken, but make sure it’s not one that you found online.

Collared Doves – Update

The young collared doves have been growing rapidly this week. We’ve been watching as the parent birds take it in turn to sit on the nest and feed their young. Today, for the first time the young birds have been left on their own in the nest – there’s not much room for them, never mind an adult bird as well. I expect they’ll be leaving the nest soon.

Here is a short video showing the two chicks being fed:

Saturday Snapshot – Update on our Collared Doves

Last Saturday I posted photos of the nest the Collared Doves had built at the back of our satellite dish.

Earlier this week we had a sight of the two eggs in the collared doves’ nest –

Here is one of the parents sitting on the eggs –

and here is a short video we made of one of the doves settling down on the eggs –

 

We hoping to video the chicks as they hatch – it’s just like Springwatch here at the moment!

To participate in Alyce’s Saturday Snapshot meme post a photo (new or old) that you (or a friend or family member) have taken, but make sure it’s not one that you found online.

Saturday Snapshot – Collared Doves

We were away from home last week and on our return we noticed this pile of sticks behind the satellite dish on the back wall of the house.

We thought it was the beginnings of a nest and the birds had abandoned it – it’s just a pile of sticks. Then yesterday evening as we were sitting on the decking having a barbecue we noticed two collared doves on the roof and one flew down and settled on the nest.

This was the best photo I could get, but Dave’s camera can zoom in closer and this is his photo:

I’m very fond of collared doves, even if their coo – COO – coo call can get very repetitive, so I do hope we get some chicks. We had young collared doves in the garden last year but didn’t see where their nest was.

To participate in Alyce’s Saturday Snapshot meme post a photo (new or old) that you (or a friend or family member) have taken, but make sure it’s not one that you found online.

Saturday Snapshot

Early yesterday morning I was sitting at the computer when a movement outside caught my eye. My desk faces the window looking out onto the back garden. I thought maybe someone was taking an early morning walk along the footpath just beyond our garden fence, but no – it was a deer. For once my camera was on the desk, with a card in and the battery wasn’t flat. Quickly I zoomed in and took a few photos because normally wildlife doesn’t hang around when I’m taking photos.

He was eating the leaves and blossom off the little apple tree and then walked on,

going behind the trees and out of sight. I thought that was that and he’d left the garden, but not so. For the next 30 minutes or so I could see him wandering around that part of the garden going backwards and forwards eating leaves and generally mooching about. I began to wonder if he couldn’t get out, but presumably as he’d got in he could get out. So I had my breakfast and then saw him again, this time moving towards the house. He jumped over our little stream and ran across the side garden.

This photo of him running is a bit hazy from the reflection from the window and my haste to get a photo! I was able to get a better photo from the side window:

He then went towards the road side fence and we were bothered he’d jump over onto the road. So Dave went out to the front garden to the other side of the fence from the deer and he ran back over the stream and disappeared. Later in the morning I went over to the back garden and found strands of hair caught on the fence where he had jumped over it.

He was in the garden for nearly an hour! He was much bigger than he looks in the photos and I think he’s a Roe Deer.

To participate in Alyce’s Saturday Snapshot meme post a photo that you (or a friend or family member) have taken. Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. All Alyce asks is that you don’t post random photos that you find online.

Sunday Scene – More Snow

We woke up this morning to yet more snow, as in most of Britain.

The birds were flocking to the feeders – which now need replenishing. Today the woodpecker stayed long enough for me to take some photos.

The tits are bolder and come up onto the decking outside the kitchen.

This one landed in the snow and nearly sank.

Lucy, who hasn’t ventured outside since the snow first came at the end of November, sits and watches the birds as they come near the window.

This is what she wished she could catch

Can You Identify This Bird?

The snow is still here, we’re getting a bit fed up with it, but it does make a pretty picture. Everything looks as though it’s covered in royal icing.

The field across the road is sparkling in the sun this morning – click on photo to see the sparkles:

D has been feeding the birds every day, topping up the feeders. We had lots of visitors, including robins, bluetits, great tits, greenfinches, goldfinches chaffinches, sparrows, wood pigeons and a woodpecker too.

We can identify most of the birds but this one has us puzzled. What is it?

It appeared on the decking where D had put a tray of birdseed and ventured very close to the patio doors. I tried several times to get a good photo and this is the best I could do.

Here it is enlarged:

We’ve checked in the RSPB Charts and our bird books – A Field Guide to the Birds of Britain and Europe, the Reader’s Digest Field Guide to the Birds of Britain, and Collins Bird Guide, but I’m not sure if I can identify it. Is it a meadow pipit?

Just look at that stare?

Saturday Scene

It’s a little bit warmer today, the icicles hanging from the gutters are melting, and the sky is blue. This is the view of the back garden where the sun is shining.

The front garden all is in shade. The birds disappeared when I opened the door to take this photo, but the feeders are tremendously popular.

I had to crawl to the window in the front room to take this photo of a lesser spotted woodpecker on the bird feeder as the slightest movement and it flew away.

It’s difficult to see the woodpecker’s beautiful plumage because the tree is in the shade and the woodpecker refused to move round so I could take a photo of it’s lovely colours.

A Walk Along The River Till

The other day D and I went for a walk by the River Till. From where we parked the car the path ascends above the river along a tree-lined path. 

The remains of an old chapel, St Mary’s Chapel are just below the path – only the outline of the chapel and a cross can be seen.

D recorded the route on his iPhone – this extract below shows the position of the chapel.

The path gradually descends to the river side.

 

Then we spied a heron motionless on the opposite bank.

It saw us too and flew away. Then I spotted it in the river.

Again we were seen and it flew away. I just pointed the camera and hoped to capture it flying – you can just see it over the water

 and landing on the bank further upstream.

We continued our walk along the riverbank, meeting a group of cyclists struggling to ride on the stony surface (the route is Sustrans 68).

After a rest on this seat we turned round and walked back.

Just a Glimpse of the Orient


On Monday D and I went for a walk with a friend alongside the Wendover Arm of the Grand Union Canal. It was a beautiful, sunny day and we enjoyed these views. This is the start of our walk.

The Wendover Arm was first constructed in 1797, but as sections of it leaked it was “de-watered”. From 1989 onwards it has been restored and this is what it looks like today.

Kingfishers can be seen along the canal, but we didn’t see any on Monday. There were lots of other birds though, ducks, moorhens, coots and dabchicks (otherwise known as little grebes), busy diving and collecting nest material.


The ducks were in fine form, taking off a high speed and then landing with legs flailing before splash-down.

Further along the canal we saw a swan sitting on a large nest over on the other side.

 

The canal opens up into an area known as the Wides, with areas of grass and shrubs with a tiny island on the far side. Trees have invaded what was once open water and without management the canal would disappear in a few years.

Then came a surprise – a pair of mandarin ducks. I’d never seen these before; they looked very different from the other birds on the canal, but just so beautiful. The male has very distinctive chestnut brown and orange fan wings sticking up above his body, whilst the female is a duller brown with white spots. They were swimming together in and out of the trees. When I came home I looked them up in our bird books. Originally from China these ducks like streams and overgrown lakesides in broad leaved woodland and they nest in tree cavities. The canal is the perfect place for them.

 

Bat Rescue

This is the usual view of a bat flying – in the dark, but I was surprised yesterday afternoon to see a little bat flying in the garden in bright sunshine. It swooped down over the back fence and flew to the flowering cherry tree in the middle of the lawn, where it flopped down to the ground at the base of the tree. Before I could get there Lucy, our cat, was there like lightning, most interested in the little bat. I called her off, but the bat seemed to be stuck at the bottom of the tree, with its wings spread out wide. We tried to move it gently away from the tree and it flapped its wings feebly and then folded them around its body and crawled slowly along the grass.

Unsure of the best thing to do, we decided to take it to St Tiggywinkles the local Wildlife Hospital. They identified it as a “teenage” Pipistrelle and thanked us for bringing it in. They thought that it would be ok. They will release back in our area as soon as they are sure. Bats are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, which prohibits anybody catching them or disturbing their roost. However, it does allow for the handling of bats that are injured or obviously in difficulty, especially those clinging to walls away from a normal roost site, although they must be released as soon as they are fit.