Saturday, 25 February 2012

Blackbirds join the spring chorus

We love to add Blackbird to our list of singing birds about the garden.. They are so melodic and the song has a lovely tempo; they typically sing in late afternoon and in the evening, their song is another reminder that the light stretches until well after six oclock now: At the other end of the day, i.e. dawn, a full twelve hours earlier, the Song Thrushes are waking me up, with their loud and much more urgent song..

Blackbirds: song is a sure sign of spring

This is the last week of the Garden Bird Survey, nothing really new to report except that I think that our garden bird populations will have survived the winter quite nicely. They will benefit from the mild winter season just passing, after three hard ones, and from the food we provide as they set up territories for the nesting season.

Elsewhere around the garden, I have been disturbing Wood Pigeons from the odd Elder or Hawthorn tree: hidden in the mop of Ivy thereon..

Ivy is a pretty unique plant in that it flowers and sets fruit in the winter with lime green flowers in October, providing nectar for late flying butterflies such as Red Admirals, and fruiting round about now when the ripening fruits are held out in matt black orbs amongst the glossy green leaves of this often maligned plant:  Wood Pigeons feast on the seeds even before the fruit ripens whilst Thrushes, Blackbirds and Blackcaps will take the ripening fruit a little later on in April.

Wood Pigeon in a stand of Ivy

Balls of black Ivy berries

After last weeks inspiring visit to Altamont, it was back to home turf to assess options: always easier when the weather has been so dry and sunny: Vegetable beds were cleared of weeds and compost added, ready now for first spring planting of Shallots; seed onions and potatoes can wait another  couple of weeks. 

Pulmonaria: star performer!

Great to see a mix of colour bursting through: Pulmonaria or Lungwort is a great value little perennial with a super mix of flower colours and foliage, and all this in a shade lover! 

Enjoy the great weather, long may it last..

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Early Spring Colour

Our first spring bulbs are showing now, Crocus, Snowdrops and Narcissi, nothing unusual in that, but no less welcome!

Snowdrops and Hellebores at Altamont.

We decided to pack off for the day to look at and admire a public garden in county Carlow: Altamont Gardens, on the banks of the River Slaney, between Tullow and Bunclody is a great example of a wild garden with a blend of formal and informal plantings in a great setting.  Best of all, the gardens are free to visit, (they were left to the state in 1999).  

Crocuses naturalised in the lawn

Altamont has a great plant centre and you can picnic beside the car park. The old house is closed and probably in need of costly renovations, but the gardens are pristine though yet embracing the wild Robinsonian look with rock scapes and woodland walks and a seemless merging between natural plantings and nature itself.

Swan on the lake, Snowdrops on the Lawn!

Narcissi and Pulmonaria, well nourished and not a weed in sight!

I cant think of a nicer way to spend a few hours at this time of year; the show of spring bulbs is stunning and there are many speciman trees in the Arboretum: I must return later in the year to admire the 30 or so varieties of Rowan in the Sorbus field..

Sunday, 12 February 2012

After the and some fun!

The list of singing birds in the garden gets longer, no virtuoso performances perhaps, apart from the Song Thrushes, who know no other way! 


 I have heard Greenfinches, House Sparrows 'chirriping', Coal Tits, Goldcrests and two that don't advertise themselves around the bird feeders, Wren and Dunnock.  The Dunnock, literally 'small brown bird' has a fragile, short song, with a hint of shyness that belies their more 'interesting' social behaviour.. suffice to say they are frequently seen in threes in the breeding season! Their song may be lacking in drama, but it is delivered very frequently as the temperatures have risen in recent days. 

You probably won't see cooked Basmati Rice listed as a bird food ingredient, but a Jay was very pleased to avail of my largesse and was in early to scoop a few mouthfuls from the lawn.. other crows also joined but they are typically absent from the garden, preferring to patrol the fields for more regular if less exotic pickings. 

Watch the birdy!

A Magpie was attracted in close to the kitchen window, for the crusty remains of a pizza scattered on the lawn, (this only happens at the weekend!). One of the adopted cats was already on the case but was outwitted by not one, but two Magpies, alert to a handy takeaway.. clever or what!

Hey Garfield!

I had enough anyway!

two for joy!

Saturday, 4 February 2012

The Garden Bird Survey


The recent cold snap definitely brought more traffic into the garden: We have been carrying out the Garden Bird Survey  and always look forward to the last 4 weeks of the survey in February, not least because there is a little more light, fresh growth and bird song around the garden. 

Siskins are a real February special in the garden: preferring to stay in the forest and woodlands up to now, until natural food is exhausted.. They descended on the peanut feeder this morning , characteristically perched upside down  and patiently queing while the Great Tits are fed!

This winter was very good for regular visits from Jays: Two birds come , mainly in the early morning, they are incredibly shy, particularly for members of the crow family.  They can make quite a racket, a coarse screeching comes from the woods before they swoop in to the ground under the feeders where there are lots of scraps.. Their gait, or walk is well described as 'muscular and bounding'.  The smaller birds give them plenty of space and they can be quite threatening when they take to the nut feeders: knocking them over seems to be a strategy they adopt to get the maximum amount of food in the shortest time..