Tag Archive | wildlife

Wildlife update

The garden is still amazing us with the variety of wildlife that visits. The bird feeders are constantly covered in finches, and both sparrowhawks and kestrels come visiting to try and catch their dinner. Buzzards circle overhead every day, and tawny owls can be heard after dark. Today I was pleased to see a spotted flycatcher.

We are running our moth trap regularly, and still catching new species.

 

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This huge moth is a Poplar Hawk Moth, caught a couple of weeks ago. You can see the size of it as it clings on to the egg box that we place in the trap for the moths to hide in. These moths have a characteristic resting position with their hind wings pushed so far forwards that they protrude in front of the larger forewings. Below is another photo once it was released onto a tree, showing a flash of the rusty brown colour on the hindwing.

 

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Today we caught another new species for the garden, a frosted orange. This is an autumn flying moth, from late August onwards, so it is newly emerged, and very smart it was too. About thumb-nail sized.

 

Frosted orange

 

We haven’t had much time to look for other invertebrates, and hopefully will spend more time next year on beetles in particular, as we both made studies of them at university, many years ago. But we have see a few without trying, including this stunning Spotted Longhorn Beetle that came in and sat on our log basket.

 

Spotted Longhorn Beetle

 

The deer have been absent all summer, which the neighbours tell us is normal, and they should return in the autumn. But the rabbits have done what rabbits do best, and multiplied! There are now quite a few of them all over the garden , but they do seem to be mainly eat the grass at the moment, not my precious plants. Thank goodness! Must buy some chicken wire before next spring, to protect any new plants. (Or shoot all the rabbits…)

 

 

 

A garden of surprises

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Our garden is full of surprises at the moment, delighting us with something new every week. We still have masses of daffodils of many types, and they are standing up to the weather now, so I don’t have to go round and rescue the flattened ones. I am still picking a bunch for the kitchen though, as there are just so many that the garden won’t miss them. I have found a clump of pretty peachy trumpets.

 

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And on the front lawn is one clump of double daffs – not my favourite type, but it is good to have the variety

 

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The crocuses are also doing really well with the improvement in the weather.

 

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Some of our mystery deciduous shrubs have burst into bloom. One small shrub with a very elegant, delicate shape has shown itself to be a Corylopsis, and is covered in creamy bells. Beautiful!

 

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Another large shrub has revealed itself as a flowering currant, which is a shrub that I always like to have in a garden, so that is great news. The flowers are still not fully open, but are a superb colour.

 

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We have added yet another mammal to our garden list, as a badger ran across in front of the car the other evening, and up our steps into the garden. It was exciting, as I can count on one hand the number of badgers I have ever seen, but it is a mixed blessing as they can be destructive, and I don’t really need anything else digging holes in the garden! The rabbits are bad enough – this is supposed to be my herb bed, right¬† by the kitchen door, and a big fat doe dug a massive burrow before we could stop her…

 

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We have filled it in. Grrr. There is also signs of nibbling on one of my new plants, so I have caged it with twigs, and will see if that deters them.

 

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I have finally seen the deer in the garden during daylight, with a herd of seven grazing on the lawn late one afternoon. I have excellent views, but by the time I had fetched the camera they had boinged over the fence and were staring at me from next doors field.

 

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I still have many bulbs yet to flower, and shrubs whose identities I cannot decipher from their twigs, so the garden has plenty more surprises for us to discover. What will tomorrow bring?

 

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Early Spring tasks

The far end of the garden is mainly just grass, and that area is going to become our wildlife garden, where we plant lots of berrying shrubs, and plants that are good for insects. As the shrubs will take a few years to get established, we wanted to start as soon as possible. So we have managed to get an order of bare-rooted native shrubs delivered, just before they stop selling them until next autumn. These are the sorts of shrubs one would plant in a native hedge, but we are planting them far enough apart that they can reach their full size, and provide plenty of food and cover for birds.

They have to be planted immediately on arrival, as they are bare-rooted, so we have been out in the hail and the cold North wind, lifting squares of turf, digging holes, removing stones, and planting these little twigs. We have also had to protect them from our red deer, and the tree guards and stakes have cost significantly more than the shrubs! But we are pleased with the result, and can imagine our little spinney in a few years time.

 

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We have planted guelder rose, wayfaring tree, alder buckthorn, elder, dog rose, and wild service tree.

We have also put up 5 home-made bird boxes, one on a beech tree just by the house, two more in the garden, and two along the private lane (with permission). I hope they all get resident families of blue tits or great tits.

 

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The weather is more spring-like today, with some glorious sunshine – shame about the cold wind!

 

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Time now to go out and collect up all the fallen daffodils to fill my vases. I don’t know if it is just the weather that flattens them, or if it is wildlife, but I get quite a lot that are just horizontal, and sometimes completely snapped off. They look much prettier in the house than flat on the ground.

 

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Caught on camera

We have a camera trap, or trail cam. It is waterproof, and straps to a tree, and is triggered by motion. We have left it in one spot at the far end of our garden for a couple of weeks, and these are a selection of the best photos. The night time shots are blurry due to the difficulty of taking photos at night without using lights which would scare off the animals. I think it is exciting to see what happens when we are not there.

 

blackbird feb 16

deer day feb 16

 

fox feb 16

 

Jay jan 16

 

Pheasant feb 16

 

Squirrel feb 16

 

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There were quite a few pictures of deer, with a maximum of four in one shot. Most were a bit of a head, or a backside, or a blur of fast-moving shapes. I am still waiting for a group shot of deer grazing in daylight. That would be very nice!

Another one for the mammals list!

Our mammals list for the garden is not huge – Red deer, squirrel, rabbit, fox. We hope to add hedgehog and maybe roe deer at some point, and there are definitely small mice or voles, but we are yet to catch a glimpse of them. But today we had a superb visitor – a stoat, and right by the house, no less.

 

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It was interesting to watch him wiggle his way in and out of our log pile, popping his head up to check for danger, then disappearing again, only to emerge somewhere else. They are just so flexible. This is what we love about living in the countryside; being surrounded by such a wide variety of wildlife.

Our one big fat rabbit is now two big fat rabbits, so who knows how quickly they will produce lots of little rabbits. The stoat could come in very useful in keeping them in check, as they love a rabbit or three. I may love wildlife, but I don’t want all my precious plants nibbled by rabbits!

I am away for the next week, visiting family, so won’t be rambling on about Devon until I get back. Talk to you then!

Whatever the weather…

The forecast yesterday was for heavy rain all afternoon, but we were desperate for a New Years Day walk, to help wake us all up after an evening of indulgence and a late night. So we kitted up in full waterproofs and walking boots, and set off for Instow, to walk along the river and see what birds we could see. I left the big camera behind as it doesn’t like rain, but my little one is waterproof, luckily.

 

Instow beach

 

There were plenty of families with their dogs enjoying the beach, despite the weather. We followed the coast path along the shoreline, and the rain came and went in short bursts, which was better than a non-stop torrent.

 

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The tide was falling. and the exposed mud was frequented by plenty of waders such as redshank, oystercatchers, curlew, and grey plover.

 

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My little camera doesn’t have enough of a zoom to photograph the birds, so you will have to make do with the scenery! There were also at least a hundred teal, some shelduck, and one lovely goosander up close, which was very nice to see.

 

Instow barton Marsh

 

Next to this little pool was a bush with four male bullfinches feeding. Who needs parrots when we have such colourful chaps! The path along the coast finally turns inland and joins the Tarka Trail which runs parallel on the disused railway line, and we followed this back to Instow.

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Like many establishments in Devon, the pub in Instow was offering cream teas, so we joined quite a few other families inside (with their dogs) , and treated ourselves. A lovely New Year’s Day, despite the weather.

 

Getting to know the neighbours…

Our human neighbours are all lovely, but of much more interest to me is the wildlife that lives in and around the garden. Apparently pheasants are reared locally for shooting, but every day more and more of them are finding that our garden is not only a gun-free zone, but comes with free food!

 

 

I keep finding small holes and tunnels in our slate garden walls, which I am assuming make safe, dry homes for small mammals of some sort.

 

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It is very obvious that we get large numbers of red deer in the garden. There are tracks everywhere, as well as nibbled shoots. Precious new plants will have to be protected! This hydrangea has been stripped.

 

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We have caught glimpses of them, but are yet to get a good view of them. These tracks below are just made by deer!

 

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Last but by no means least, this chubby chap is a regular visitor, and remarkably undisturbed by my presence!

 

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Sunday morning river walk

The forecast was good for this morning, so we set off at first light, which is of course not very early this time of year. A mere ten minute drive brought us to Velator Quay, on the small but navigable River Caen, just south of Braunton. The sun was trying to beak through, the breeze was not cold, if a bit strong, and we had a bracing 5 or 6 mile walk down the river until it joins the Taw, and then out to Crow Point. From there are fine views across the estuary to the cute riverfront towns of Appledore and Instow. We saw plenty of waders, a few duck, an egret, and a lovely view of a kingfisher as we walked back through the country lanes. I will let the photos say the rest.

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Pottering in the garden

The weather continues to be a bit damp and dull, albeit very mild, so we haven’t yet taken much time out from getting straight to go out and explore the countryside. We have been sorting out, and trying to get ready for Christmas, and doing a bit in the garden when the weather allows.

The garden is a absolute delight. Let me show you where we are.

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You can just see the cream end wall of our house to the right. The red line shows the approximate area of the garden. We do have neighbours, but they are to the right of the house. The rest of our surroundings is just countryside, and we love it! The garden is full of birds, and they are loving our feeders. We will need to buy a lot of birdseed at the rate they are eating it. I must get some better photos of the frenzy!  There are only 4 goldfinches in this photo Рwe have had up to ten!

 

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I bought some winter bedding the other day, and had a potting up session. Our inherited summerhouse is now my potting shed, as the shed by the house is too small.

 

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I have used the flowers to brighten up the sunken garden. Sounds grand, doesn’t it? It’s not! The house is built into the slope of the garden, so outside the bedroom and bathroom windows (downstairs, remember?) is a narrow walkway, with the view being of the fern-covered dry stone wall behind. I think it is lovely, but I did think some pots would add interest.

 

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Eventually I will plant all sorts of little alpines into the cracks in the wall. Another project for the very long list!

The Toad and the Christmas tree

Once upon a time…

 

No, this is not a new fairytale, just two unconnected photos for you.

 

We pottered in the garden a bit today, cutting a couple of shrubs to improve the views from the windows, and starting the huge task of cutting down the perennials. As I lifted a mat of dead crocosmia leaves, I found this little chap underneath:

 

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He is a common toad, and a new species for the garden. I am very excited by him!

This afternoon we went to the local garden centre to buy some winter bedding plants to brighten up the garden, and quite a large variety of garden sundries. The place was heaving with people buying Christmas trees, decorations, and gifts, and getting in the way of all the serious gardeners. It is very inconvenient for Christmas to be happening when we are so busy doing house moving stuff. Can’t it wait???

Apparently not, so I decided to get into a Christmassy mood, and put up The Tree.

Big living room + high ceilings = a great excuse to buy a big bushy tree! He’s a beauty – not actually that tall, but definitely a nice broad shape. Normally I choose a subset of our tree ornaments, based on a theme, and stop hanging when I run out of hooks. Not this year – I bought extra hooks, and it all went on!

 

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