Santa was very kind and brought me a new lens (40-150mm) for my camera. So I have been trying it out and am very happy. The garden birds are great subjects – if you can get close enough.
The bird feeder is a great place to get them. We take part in the garden bird survey every year which is hosted by Bird Watch Irelandand record the birds in our garden from December to February. Many counties have similar citizen science surveys (e.g. RSPB in the UK).
Our friendly robin is an even better subject, because we can get really close.
This chaffinch I photographed through the kitchen window.
Yes, I will have fun!
Another frosty Friday though they tell us things may get milder next week. The blackbirds have been enjoying the windfalls and some of the apples that remained on the tree (I picked the rest yesterday). I think the frost has softened the skin making it easier for them to get at the juicy insides and of course the frost is preventing them finding worms and other things so the apples are proving very popular. Yesterday there were ten blackbirds and today I counted twelve along with two lovely fieldfares. A robin and chaffinch are occasionally dropping by to see what they may find too. Unfortunately, the zoom of my lens doesn’t work so this is the best I can do in terms of photos!
Yesterday they were all eating happily but today some arguments are breaking out – probably because supply is dwindling. Thankfully with a good apple harvest this year it is nice to share them.
Fruit is ripening but the birds are trying to get them before we do. The plums are coming on nicely, but then I noticed some of the fruit was being attacked by birds (didn’t think to photo damaged plums).
So I asked the kids to make me some scary faces, which we laminated and hung from the tree. These, with some hawk silhouettes, seemed to do the trick.
At least I thought they did. But then I noticed the birds had moved on to the apple tree instead. Beauty of Bath is an old (1864) English early apple variety. Personally I find them a bit sharp but the kids love them! They are supposed to get sweeter as the season progresses. Ours have a lovely pink flush to the flesh. The apple tree now had it’s own collection of scary faces and a couple of old CDs too. We’ll just have to see where the birds move on to next!
A wet and cold May has been followed by a dry and cool spell here in Ireland. Unusually we are having stiff cool breezes which have been keeping temperatures in the low teens (degrees Celsius) and also drying out the soil. You would think that would be a good thing but it is hard for seeds to germinate when the top surface of the soil is being blown dry.
One of the advantages of the wet May is that our gravel drive is looking particularly colourful with wildflowers as they are probably benefiting from the extra moisture. I thought this photo would work well for the street theme of last week’s day two of the photo101 course. You can see clover (red and white), daisies, buttercups, but there are also wild strawberries and ox-eyed daisies not in view.
Meanwhile, in the vegetable plot, I have made a little friend. He seems to have a particular fondness of leatherjackets (larva of the cranefly/daddy-long-legs) and for the last ten days has come whenever I go into the garden and start digging. There is nothing like getting close to wild animals and both the kids have also enjoyed the experience of him coming within a foot of them. For kids and adults alike connecting with nature is in my opinion vital for our own well being and that of mother earth (Day six theme photo101-Connect)
After a good few days of beautiful spring sunshine, which we all knew were too good to be true, we are back to cold, wind, rain and hail. But worst of all has been the night frosts, which have left the crab apple blossom looking like this.
A few blossoms that were not open have escaped, and thankfully some of the apple trees are only just coming into blossom so we may still get some fruit.
One of the plums may have had time to set fruit and I am not sure how the frost will affect those. The greenhouse appears to have given the pear tree some protection as the blossom is still white.
Today, I checked the wild cherry trees, which are planted in the far wood, and they too are all brown. The photo below was taken before the worst of the frost when they were still in pretty good condition.
The wild sloes (blackthorn), which grow in many of our local hedgerows, are also in flower and will also probably be affected by the frost too.
The weather will probably be having an effect on the local wild birds too. Today, I saw both robins and blackbirds busily collecting food, so they are probably feeding young. I spotted this mossy ball on the fence on the track down to the far wood. It’s a wrens nest. And a bullfinch pair have been eating the dandelion seed heads – another great reason for leaving dandelions in your garden. The photo of the bullfinch is from last year.
As the saying of the title suggests weather in Western Europe can be a bit fickle!
Today, while out re-planting some spring bulbs (something had dug or pulled them up – I suspect a blackbird) I noticed a small bird upside down on the ground. Initially, I thought it was dead, but on closer inspection realised it was still alive. I gently turned it upright and it sat for a few brief moments on my gloved finger. It was a goldfinch. It is so amazing to see tiny birds up close, the patterns and rich colouring of their feathers are so exquisite. I assumed the poor thing had crashed into one of our kitchen windows, a not irregular occurrence and one that has resulted in a few casualties over the years. The bird was obviously a bit traumatized. I looked for a safe and dry spot to place it, also hoping that I may get a chance to take a photograph before it flew off. I tried to encourage it from my finger onto the little gate post next to the house but instead it flew off and landed a short distance away on a rock.
I went to get the camera and managed to get a few reasonable photos. I did feel guilty taking it’s picture while it was obviously still distressed and my presence was probably not helping matters.
I checked on it a while later with the kids and it was still there. I like the kids getting a close view of any wildlife and was reminded of a quote from book I am currently reading called Field Notes from a Hidden City: An Urban Nature Diary by Ester Woolfson. In the book, she quotes the English philosopher John Locke from a treatise he wrote in 1692, “I think that people should be accustomed, from their cradles, to be tender to all sensible creatures, and to spoil or waste nothing at all.” While the City of Aberdeen is the urban backdrop to her book, Ms Woolfson examines our relationship with nature, particularly with some of animals that are ‘looked down upon’ by the majority of the human race like rats, slugs and pigeons.It’s a well written and engaging read and I would encourage anyone to read it.
I am glad to report that the goldfinch did later fly away. I hope it survives. Goldfinches, along with chaffinches and greenfinches are all regular visitors to our bird feeders in the winter, though their natural diet is grass and other seeds.
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.
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.
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.
Elderberries too and nearly all eaten. So what will be left?