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Monday, 25 March 2013

More garden visitors and an accident :o(

Hello friends

Thank you for your lovely comments on my last post - you ARE a lovely lot!

I mentioned we'd had a pied wagtail visiting that I hadn't managed to capture an image.  Well, when I got up this morning it was back again and I grabbed the camera and took these through the bedroom window - I'm frankly amazed they turned out so well. 

I love their plumage

as you can see the snow has been melting despite freezing temperatures overnight.

Then I saw a strange bird flitting you can see it was difficult to snap!

it's about the size of a dunnock, but you can just about see a chestnut band that's the base of it's cap.  (The orange blob in the crook of the branches is home made bark butter recipe below)

It was almost as vivid as a robins breast.  After checking my books I realised it was a female blackcap :o)  I've never had one in the garden before...I shall keep my eyes peeled to see if it comes again.

* * * *

Then came the accident.  

Some of you may recall I finally found a reasonably priced glass cloche (here)
I loved it - but this morning I knocked it off the table (sob)

The shattered remnants.  It was not to be :o(

* * * *
Recipe for birds 'Bark Butter'.
(I made half this quantity)

(Taken from Denise at House at Forest Manor, who took it from Whitneys Bird Blog - thank you both.)

2 cups of lard
2 cups peanut butter (smooth or crunchy) I used smooth
4 cups corn meal / polenta / maize meal (depending on where you are!)
2 cups bird seed/dried mealworms/dried fruit mixture (or any one of them)
2 cups rolled oats
1 teaspoon honey

I just put all the mixture into a BIG bowl and mixed it together wearing gloves by 'squidging' it.  It IS VERY STICKY!
The birds love it - especially the starlings (of course!)

I've pushed it into the crooks in the bushes where they meet and into a suet log.

I've stored the remainder in a sealable plastic bag.

I do have a few finds I'll show you in my next post.  See you soon!

Best wishes

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Snow, a Hedgehog, the UK Badger 'cull' (again) and molehills

Hello folks, (another long post!)

It's been snowing since Thursday evening, but as the temperature has been fluctuating around five degrees we've still only got around 4 inches.  The poor birds are struggling and I've lost count of the times I've gone out to top up the feeders.

I was so excited on Monday when I found fresh hedgehog droppings in the garden and food gone from the feeding station.  I kept a keen watch and finally spotted the hog on Wednesday evening.  I just managed this one, blurred snap as it was in Grand Prix mode!
It was certainly healthy looking, and I 'think' there was the remnants of a white emulsion stripe on the spines, so it may be Octavia (?)  My big worry is that it is still visiting and feeding...I'm fairly sure it has nestled down in our number one hog box behind the greenhouse, but I don't want check and disturb it and frighten it off.  Hogs are very susceptible to hypothermia and night-time temperatures have been dropping down to -3C.  In the early hours of this morning (you all know I'm an insomniac) the food had been eaten again and there seemed to be footprints (barely visible) in the snow from that box.  I shall keep a close eye on the situation.

This was the view into the front garden from my bedroom window when I woke yesterday.
and (what you can see of) the pond
Behind the pond.
Latest addition - an Aldi bird feeder pole and fittings

* * * *

I have rigged up a covered area for the ground feeding birds as the food is covered with snow within minutes of putting it out.  I have just replaced the plastic potting tray in the greenhouse, and this seemed like a good use for the old (very perished) one.
There was this pair of blue tits I managed to capture this morning 
then, this afternoon the male chaffinch came to call and this time I actually managed a couple of images!
Though the exposure has been 'tweeked' a little to show his true colours.

Images I missed?  The pied wagtail - a VERY rare visitor to my garden, the pair of green finches
and pair of jackdaws with their beautiful bight blue eyes.

Earlier this week I was travelling along the A5 towards Telford through farmland.  I noticed an inordinate amount of molehills in most of the fields.  As this has been under flood water for some time and the ground is so thoroughly saturated I can only presume that either the moles have been opening up their runs in the hope of drying them out, or alternatively have escaped the flood water I don't know.  Here's a couple of images of just one of the fields...
Has anyone else noticed this phenomena?

* * * *

I have never seen myself as a political animal/activist, but the forthcoming badger cull has made my blood boil.  Living as I do in close quarters with the farming community my views on 
badgers are not very welcome as most farmers are pretty well convinced that 
the badgers that are the bad guys regarding the issues with Bovine TB in the UK. 
I've done quite a bit of reading up on 
the subject to get my facts right, and as the disease is 
spread by the water droplets in breath.  I have realised that the 
cattle themselves are probably the ones doing most of the spreading, as they are kept in such close quarters especially during the Winter months..... and be honest, you 
just don't see many badgers kissing cows do you!  However, the Government
is still going to go ahead with the badger cull that was delayed last year (because of the public outcry against this abomination.)  The RSPCA is still asking for signatures to support them in the 'FINAL COUNTDOWN'.  Below is a copy of the latest email I have received from them, if you too feel that this is a needless murder of a so called protected species please add your name.

Dear Supporter,

It’s round two for England’s badgers as the Westminster Government announce that the misjudged and ill fated plans to cull badgers will now go ahead this summer.

Now, with the culls due to begin in under three months, it’s now or never for the badgers. We want to deliver 250,000 voices against the badger cull via the Number 10 petition to ensure that the Government can’t ignore us any longer.

There’s just a few months to go before this unnecessary slaughter begins, unless we can stop it! Here’s what you can do:
  • Step 1:
    If you haven't already, sign the Team Badger petition today!
  • Step 2:
    Badger your friends and family to sign! Copy and paste this link: onto your facebook and twitter pages. Don't forget to use the #StoptheCull hashtag!
  • Step 3:
    Forward this email to your animal friendly contacts and ask them to take action!

Last year, thanks to your support, badgers were given temporary reprieve as the proposed cull of badgers received widespread condemnation from the public, politicians and scientists alike. We need to demonstrate that we will not sit by and allow this war on our wildlife to go ahead unchallenged.

Thank you for your support!

Violet - RSPCA campaigner
Follow me on Twitter: @VioletRSPCA

The Welsh Government have seen sense and have already started a long term badger vaccination scheme (Please click on the link for the you tube story.)  Don't be hoodwinked by our 'leaders'.

Right, I'm off my soapbox.

* * * *

And finally...I've received an email from Google saying my storage plan is due for renewal in the next 30 days.  As far as I can understand. as long as I have kept my bank details up to date it should still renew on the old 'annual plan'.  Fingers crossed on this.  Has anyone else out there had a smooth original plan renewal?  I'd love to know.

Best wishes to all, stay safe and warm.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

New fencing

Hello folks!

I am still in the land of the living.

The new fencing is finished and I've been busy, besides all the 'normal' stuff trying to get the gardens sorted out.  I did take most of the before and after pictures so here goes (sorry, image heavy post.)

Back garden 
 (45 feet long (total) x 25 feet wide)

Before, please note the post (just behind the green covered washing line) at an angle holding up the fence!
(The panels were, despite needing treating actually in a good sound condition, but after 33 years the posts had rotted through!  I think we'd had our money's worth though ;o)
Draped in all that flamin' ivy(that has been a nightmare to keep under control) and the lovely pink Clematis Montana. 

after I'd cut down the ivy that was on the rear wall of the house (I forgot the 'before' of that)
It was around 12 feet high! (Not for the faint-hearted - balanced on a ladder that was slowly sinking into the border soil)  I managed to rescue the robins nest from last Spring too :o)
I have to get the rest of the brickwork 'pointed' now, where the ivy had broken it warned if you have ivy on your walls :o(  


Much better, though please excuse the dustpan, brush and garden bag in bottom right hand corner -  I was tidying up at the time...still a very cold day, and I was in five layers of clothes!

The fencing guys were great.  They worked extremely hard and were very accommodating for that 'weird woman' that had the work done...they didn't flinch when I asked for two 'hedgehog holes' to be cut in the gravel boards giving access to my neighbours garden :o)

and the second one
Still getting the border straight hence the rake...
The black 'leaky' hose also had to be staked out later.

We had also arranged that on the same day they would erect a fence in our front garden.
Before view from the pathway.  (Our houses are in a crescent and there is no vehicular access to the front of them, just a pathway.)

Garden measurements 
25 feet x 24 feet
You all know the view from the house due to the MANY hedgehog photos :o)
The little dry stone wall is around a foot high and covered in ivy (and filled with field/wood mice!)
The pile of logs besides the shrub (variegated pink Wegelia) is covering over hog box no. 3, I had to move this one for the fence to be erected - underneath it was another little wonder of nature :o)

 The entrance to one mouse hole, surrounded by ivy leaves and sticks.  I was careful to leave it undisturbed of course and have since lifted the hog box higher.

And now the 'After' shot
(From the pathway)
MUCH better!  
We have lived happily here for 35 years without a fence or gate, but over the last six months or so have experienced some problems with youths vandalising the garden at night and also younger children brazenly standing, staring into the house and garden and so had to remedy the situation.  Wish we'd done it years ago :o)
View from the other way,

Plenty of spaces for my spiky friends to visit though...

and under the gate as modelled by a stone variety!

We were so pleased with both the new fences that we decided to also replace the other fence between us and our adjoining neighbour, and so last Friday...looking towards the pond.

of course there was the obligatory hoggy hole.
(At the rear of the waterfall and next to hog box No. 3)

Where the new fences meet

The new fence view from our neighbours garden.

Then from by our conservatory into the garden towards the new gate

I've also put a few new 'wildlife' additions into the garden.

2 new 'Bug-huts'

(Thank you Aldi - special offers.  I was going to make some but these were so cheap..)

1 old one re-homed
With the 'door' open

a new nesting box - hoping for blue tits - fingers crossed.
Hidden behind the shrubs.

I've also placed a Robin's Tea pot nest in the tree by the pond but forgot to take a photo :o( but here's a link to a similar one.  I got mine from the Lakeland end of lines last Autumn - at a much reduced rate - of course ;o)

I've cropped a photo, the 'nest pot's' handle is visible 

It has snowed here every day since Sunday, but luckily hasn't stuck.  Once the Spring feel comes back I have some nesting materials I shall hang out in fat block holders for our little feathered friends.  (Dryer fluff, cat hair (!) wood wool and whatever else I can think of.)

Happily (though I have kept food out all through the Winter) there are no hedgehogs about. My friend Joan at the Rescue centre still has Otto and Olivia for me.  They are thriving well and will be returned once it is warm enough for them to be released safely.  Joan was telling me last week that she has 22  hogs in residence and hardly any of them have goodness knows what her cat food bills are like.  I still collect food and shredded paper for her, and give monetary donations when I can.

Things are much the same with Mom, though her depression is certainly lifting with the new drug regime.  Still no contact though from the Memory Service - I shall have to chase them up.

Thank you all again for all your wonderful, supportive comments and emails - I really do appreciate all of them :o) and for sticking around even though my posts are sporadic.

Best wishes to ALL.