Monthly Archives: October 2014

Bats for Halloween

I have been saving this post for halloween. My son actually spotted this bat in the workshop two weeks ago and I ran to get the camera. It isn’t the best shot, but the bat flew into a tiny gap between the wooden window frame and the wall and vanished before I could get a decent shot.

Bat

Bat

I wasn’t sure which bat it was. We have nine bats in Ireland and I thought it was too big to be a Pipistrelle of which we have three (Common, Soprano and Nathusius). The Nathusius’ Pipistrelle is only a recent discovery and so far the only breeding population has been recorded in Northern Ireland (in 1997), though it has been recorded in other counties on bat detectors. It amazing how little we know about bats here in Ireland.

I sent the photo to a couple of ‘bat expert’ friends but they have come back with two possible answers – either a Leisler’s or one of the pips.

We regularly see bats flying around our house and up and down the hedgerows of the little road that runs past the house. I’d love to get my hands on a bat detector to find out exactly which species they are.

I have been lucky to have been involved as a volunteer on two bat projects. The first was when we lived in the UK near Thetford Forest. Here they had numerous bat boxes in the forest which were checked once a year and all the bats were recorded. Individual bats were marked with numbered rings, the same as those used to identify birds. It was a great way to get really close to these amazing creatures.

Bat from bat box in Thetford forest

Bat from bat box in Thetford forest

The other project was a night time one, so all we got to see were the bats leaving their roost. This was here in Ireland and these were very special Lesser Horseshoe bats. It’s the only horseshoe bat we have in Ireland and it is at its most westerly and northery limit in terms of population distribution. In this project, a number of the bats were fitted with radio tags and we got to track them through the night. I’m not a great person for staying up late but I really enjoy this night-time field work. The world is so different in the dark. You can check out the Vincent Wildlife Trust page for more information on the lesser horseshoe bat –

http://www.mammals-in-ireland.ie/species/lesser-horseshoe-bat

Wishing you all a Happy Halloween!

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New arrivals

Finally, we have some new hens. We had hoped to get some Rhode Island or Marrams but for now, are happy to have four new hybrids.

New Chickens

New Chickens

We kept them in the ark for a couple of days till they got used to the new surroundings. Poor things had probably never seen a green field.

hens1

But now they are wandering about exploring and learning.

hensHensWilliam and his ladiesThis is William, and he looks proud having got some new ladies to look after. They were actually pecking ever so gently at his feathers. Not sure if they were trying to preen him or just thinking he may be good enough to eat.

Even the ducks are happy, as all the rain we’ve had, has filled the pond up!

Ducks

Ducks

Hawthorns

These beautiful haws are not the native Irish hawthorn, Crataegus monogyna but an American form Crataegus ellwangeriana. This species originated in Eastern USA, and is thought to be a hybrid. The haws are about the size of a marble and taste somewhat of apples. It is one of three Crataegus species we have planted as part of our forest garden and the only one yet to produce haws. Compared to our native hawthorn, Crataegus ellwangeriana has a more pleasant flavour.

American hawthorn

American hawthorn

Our native hawthorns usually crop well, which is one of the reason we thought to try some of the cultivated varieties. They are one of the most common trees in our native hedgerows. At this time of year, the haws are an important food source for many birds, especially blackbirds and thrushes.

Native hawthorn

Native hawthorn – in a good year

This year, the haw crop seems very poor and I wonder how that will impact on the thrush and blackbird populations as winter progresses. We had lots of rowan berries in the young mixed wood that is planted close-by but the berries are already nearly all gone – I can only assume they have been eaten already.

Rowan berries

Rowan berries, Sorbus aucuparia

Elderberries too and nearly all eaten. So what will be left?

Elderberry, Sambucus nigra

Elderberry, Sambucus nigra

 

Squash harvesting

It has been a great year for squash in our garden and with the first frost the other night it was time to start harvesting. Last year, I discovered Little Gem squashes which have cropped very well for me again. But this year, I have also succeeded in growing Ushiki Kuri. This is another small variety – about size of small grapefruit. This variety didn’t do well last year – but I think our warm September has benefited them this time. I have harvested eight of them today.

Ushiki Kuri

Ushiki Kuri

Squashes

Squashes

Also included in the photos are the little gem and a large yellow variety. These large ones have soft flesh much like a marrow and not as much flavour as the smaller varieties, but they will keep us in squash soup for the next few weeks. The flesh is a wonderful deep yellow. This one was over 5kg and there are another 5 outside – all bigger!

Large yellow squash

Large yellow squash

The little gems are my favourite. They have a wonderful dark green skin and deep orange flesh inside. The skin is really hard so they will easily keep for a couple of months. We love them just quartered and roasted in the oven

Little Gem squash

Little Gem squash growing a month ago

Little Gem

Little Gem

 

 

 

 

Another day, another climate talk

I wanted to share this post with you because I can’t stop thinking about it since I read it. Inez Aponte’s message about climate change comes from the heart. It is profound and begs us all to listen. Even if you are not a mother, you may be a father, a grandparent, uncle, aunt. This is about all our children’s future.

Some Small Holding

“For sometime now I’ve been terribly worried. I wish I didn’t have to acknowledge it, but everything I have feared is happening.”

Dr Sarah Perkins, Climate Scientist

Another day, another climate talk. And as the climate march leading up to it, the summit itself and the various analyses fade into the media background within a week, I sense that I am another day closer to the conversation that, for the last nine years, I have been hoping and praying I would not have to have.

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Autumn and new garden projects

Autumn has arrived with a bit of a bang, as I expected it would, after a beautiful, mild and sunny September. The rain and wind have returned and only a couple of our sunflowers, now laden with heavy seeds, remain standing! Still, it is amazing what bits of ‘summer‘ you can still find in the garden if you look for it. Check out this ox-eyed daisy.

Ox-eyed daisy

Ox-eyed daisy

The blue fence in the background is the start of our new garden project. Hopefully next summer it will be a buzzing flower and herb garden. It is just a small area outside the living room window that I had always ear-marked as a herb garden. There is already a nicely established bush of sage and rosemary, and a small clump each of oregano, chives and thyme. In the greenhouse, I have started off lupins, Campanula, heartsease, Echinacea among other flowers in the hope that these will make their way to this new garden. The plight of bees and other wild pollinators has made me want to create this extra wild pollinator friendly space.

Though I have a draft plan drawn up, the lovely contrast today between the blue fence and the white/yellow of the ox-eyed daisy made me think I should incorporate these into the planting scheme too. I have some plants that have self-seeded in the vegetable plot so it will be easy to transfer these.

New plans are always exciting, though I know with so many jobs to do in the garden, I will need to schedule my time well to ensure it is completed by next year. Will keep you posted.