Friday, 28 February 2014

Look Who's Finally Turned Up and Poppy Gets Into Trouble.....

I was greeted, when I got up this morning, by the sight of a white bottom flashing past the window. 

This is Not Necessarily The Sort Of Thing you want to see first thing in the morning. Once, when I was out riding, a bald man lurking in the bushes flashed at me. What a Deeply Unpleasant Experience that was. I had a long whip with me at the time but I was so shocked I just rode past as quickly as I could and got back to the yard where I phoned the police. They took it seriously and arrived within minutes, but the bugger had already gone. He turned up in the local area a few times after that and was eventually caught, as one of the women he'd flashed at got his number plate because she saw him driving on the motorway! 

It still makes me cross to think of it, particularly as our children used to cycle that way (although, had someone flashed at my kids, having their doo-dah hanging outside their trousers would probably not have been the best place for it - an incandescent mother on the rampage needs a target after all). The New Forest is renowned for odd things happening. Some friends of mine were riding across a common one summer's evening when they came round a gorse bush to discover four people have tea on the other side. They had a table and chairs, a lace table cloth, tea cups and a teapot etc. All very proper, except for the fact that none of them were wearing any clothes. Another time the same friends were out and one of them (having failed to put on her glasses) called the other one's attention to two pigs struggling in a ditch. 'Just Ride On' said the friend. 'Why?' said the other. 'Because they aren't pigs, they're people, and if I have to tell you what they are doing I shall blush so hard they'll see it all the way to Southampton.' 
I once saw a man dressed as Death in the forest (and I mean the full get-up: long flowing robe, skull's mask and scythe). I came upon him unexpectedly and had no time to turn round, so I just rode past and we exchanged a polite 'good afternoon,' as if it were the most normal thing in the world to walk through a wood dressed as Death. It was so surreal I would have believed I'd imagined it, except that once we'd got past I took the phone out and got a picture (which I don't have any more, before you ask). 
Then there are the people who mutter to themselves, the ones who stand in bushes with their cameras and are probably twitchers, but after all these experiences I take nothing as read. There are the women who insist on walking through the forest in their pink high heels and tight skirts, and those that bring their tiny dogs out in their handbags but won't let them actually touch the ground. There are the picnickers who eat their food inside their cars parked in the car parks and never get out and actually explore the forest, then there are the people who drive their sports cars at a zillion miles an hour and pretend, when you flag them down, that they were only doing 30. They aren't remotely interested when you tell them people have wrapped themselves round trees in the forest and not come out again for driving in much the same way.

Anyway, this morning's White Bottom was one I was happy to see,  belonging as it did to a bird I've been keeping an eye out for ever since I saw him down the lane last week.

It was the gloriously marked Mr Bullfinch. Here he is sitting in our hedge this morning.

He was shortly joined (in a half-hidden capacity, but never mind) by Mrs Bullfinch. So there are a pair, which is Great News and hopefully means baby bullfinches will appear with small white bottoms in due course.

Now all I needed was the Goldfinches to turn up and complete the set, and would you believe it, within half an hour they did....
'What's going on down there, then?'

They had been in the garden very briefly a couple of days ago and I have heard them in the hedges while I've been out walking the doggy people, but this is the first time they've stayed long enough for a good photo-opportunity. I hope this means they are here to stay a la last summer.

I've decided I'm going to photograph the same stretch of lane from the same position at the same time every year, as well as one of the local oaks, to record the changes over the seasons. So here is today's offering:

The trees are beginning to bud, as we discovered yesterday while out walking through the woods in an attempt to do winter tree IDs. What started as a beautiful sunlit walk fast descended into a rain storm that very quickly became hail. Luckily, the hail wasn't strong enough to knock the Blackthorn blossom off the tree at the bottom of the lane. It was looking really stunning against the blue of this morning's sky...


 As were the Alder catkins, who have turned an interesting shade of reddy orange....

 I couldn't resist this shot of some daffs growing near an oak...

 Nor this slightly arty one of the weeping willow behind the other (possibly grey?) willows....

Anyway, I can excuse this because I am ever so slightly tree-mad at the moment, which is a nice kind of mad to be. Here's my pile of reading for the assignment I'm currently working on for college....Trees, Trees and Yet More Trees. It's a nice way to spend time.

We have a lot more Willow round here than I'd first appreciated- I've just discovered another species growing at the bottom of our drive, and there is also a second Goat Willow on the lane. This all bodes well for the wildlife.
I learnt yesterday that beeches, while beautiful, majestic beings, are not great in a woodland setting because they shade everything else out and the ground beneath a beech is dead ground where nothing grows. Oak's your man (or woman) for biodiversity.

As well as trees, it's been a Day Of Birds here (which is appropriate, seen as they are Quite Connected). The garden feeders have been busy, busy, busy all day. It reminded me at some points of a motorway service station, with birds coming and going in a constant stream. Our moorhen was in evidence by the lake, not to mention the mallards. Mrs was waddling along the Very Up High branch of the oak next door while her husband stared anxiously up at her. Potential Nest Inspection.

Here are a selection of today's visitors....

Two blue tits enjoying the peanuts

Bumble. Her foot is getting worse :-(

A Dunnock, who was singing like mad on the Elder stump

Great Tit

Great Tit

Ltt and Blue tit



Mr Sparrow, staring straight at me and looking not at all amused

Mrs Sparrow

Mr Nuthatch (more intense colouring on the flanks than the female- see the darker orangey blob just under the wing area)

Mrs Nuthatch (less dark blob)

Mrs NH


Robin in the Corkscrew Willow

Willow Tit

Poppy has been getting into Significant Trouble this week and by rights should be In Disgrace :-(

She did three wees and one poo on the carpet, despite the fact that the back door was open and she'd not long been back from an escorted loo trip; she shredded my crocs and left bits of pink plastic of varying length and saliva-coverage all round the house; she chewed L's school shoes; dug a tulip bulb out of the container and ran off with it; ate some chicken poo; licked her dad's ear not long enough after eating the chicken poo for it to be OK; chewed up a toy and nearly swallowed the small bag of teeny weeny polystyrene balls she discovered inside it (which she was very reluctant to let me have); bit Teddy's ears till he squeaked; jumped on his head; ran round and round me while on her lead when I stopped to take some pictures, with the result that when I tried to move I nearly fell over because she'd tied my legs so tightly together; walked under my feet as I carried a mug of boiling water and it was only by getting my own arm burnt that I managed not to drop the lot on her; jumped on to the sofa when no-one was looking, stole a tissue she knows I keep hidden behind a cushion and shredded it all over the floor; ate some string and was sick; stole a bit of paper that had all L's codes for his various computer games on it and mushed it up and would only return it when I bribed her with a 'fish for dogs' cube; jumped on L when he was least expecting it and knocked the wind out of him; dived flamboyantly and with seriously misplaced confidence into a flooded ditch which very nearly drowned her, and had to be pulled out and rescued but wasn't in the least bit concerned, just shook herself and scampered off to eat to a disgustingly ancient sandwich she found on the verge; ran UPSTAIRS and pulled my sock out of the toe of my trainer where I'd hidden it (I later discovered it a sodden chewy mess in her bed); ate some of the carefully and lovingly chosen, planted and nurtured pond plants from last year; got pecked on the nose by Mavis for sniffing Mrs Peckham's bottom (Mavis and Mrs Peckham are hens, in case you were wondering); ran with Great Purpose through a flood and kept going, even when it became Very Obvious that it was deeper than she is tall, and finally, had a face-off with Cleo over some fish, which Cleo won (thank God- goodness only knows where we'd be if it had been otherwise). 

So far, Cleo (and M, to a degree) are the only people she has any respect for. If her dad tells her off she'll squirm and polish the floor with her tail, with Cleo she runs backwards woofing. I think it's the claws and the hissing. Perhaps I should try it?

You would never think she was capable of any of these disgraceful behaviour type-things if you just saw her picture would you? I think the expression she's modelling is called 'butter wouldn't melt'. I suspect this stage is the puppy equivalent of the Terrible Twos, as she has now reached the Grand Old Age of five months...Lord Help Us.....

Ted spends most of his day sleeping, which seems like a sensible option when the alternative is being chased about and pounced on by a small fluffy Jack Russell.

I'll leave you with a pic of our two doggy people, and wish you all a Lovely Weekend.

CT :-) 


Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Making Bird and Dormouse Boxes At College and It's Official Spring Is Here: The Girls Are Laying Again!

We would have been doing some River work at college today, had it not been for the fact that the rivers are all still raging here and ecology students being swept off to their deaths while in the water probably wouldn't have looked good for the college. So, on a gorgeous sunny day, we were all inside the barn making bird and dormouse boxes instead.

Using untreated timber is the most important thing to know, that and trying to make all the edges and corners meet (no chance). As Harvey said, we looked quite a lot like prisoners let out for a working day course, although probably with less success....

Sash and Em won the prize for the Best Box of all the ones I saw. Well done ladies. Incidentally, they are both 20 on the same day next week so: HAPPY BIRTHDAY GIRLS!!!!

The Boys came a very close last with their efforts..... (only joking lads).....They take a nice picture don't they? I suppose that's some consolation for their carpentry skills....

And here are mine, Harvey and Caroline's, which just about ended up passable (as long as you don't look too closely). This was Quite An Achievement when you consider the amount of laughter and general larking about (not to mention nails hammered in wonky and bits of wood sawn at rakish angles) that went into their production...

Tit box on left, Dormouse on right
 And here they are from a different angle, showcasing mine and Harvey's excellent artwork...

If there's ever a market for shoddily built, ill-fitting, gappy nesting boxes with wonky nails and ragged edges decorated with artistic flair and panache, we'll make a fortune.

We were so impressed we took photographic evidence from every conceivable angle.

Back home and we have had a MOMENTOUS EVENT. So much so that I can definitely say, hand on heart honest, that Spring has well and truly Sprung....

Was it the emergence of daffs....?


Was it discovering Mr & Mrs Mallard in our wildlife pond (constructed using child labour, if you remember, last summer) shoveling and generally mushing everything about.....?


Was it finding lots of small flocks of primroses blossoming in the veg patch....?


It was this: finding TWO eggies in the hen house! 

The girls are laying once more, and that means: Spring Is Here!!!!!!!!!! 

I very nearly caught Ruby In Flagrante egg, so to speak, alerted as I was by Mavis making strange noises from inside the hen house (which turned out to be her idea of encouragement). Mrs Peckham was in there too, staring curiously at Ruby, who was standing up with a slightly shocked look on her face and a fresh warm egg on the straw beneath her. Either the girls were offering moral support, or else they've forgotten after their long winter break what egg laying is and were wondering what the hell was going on.

At any rate, as long as these aren't the only two eggs for the entire summer (which isn't as ridiculous as it sounds, given that Ruby drops into broodiness at the first hint of her returning egg-laying-powers, and Mavis follows suit (out of a sense of competition, rather than sisterly solidarity I feel, judging by the way she leaps greedily onto Ruby's nest the split second it's vacated while its owner nips out for a pee- huge and very definitely un-sisterly squawking ensues when Rubes returns, discovers Mavis on her nest and physically drags her off) and this leave Mrs Peckham to carry the can of egg-laying responsibility for the whole hen house all summer) I shan't be spending a fortune on blue Waitrose eggs anymore.

After that momentous announcement, backed up with suitable eggy evidence (which I think you'll agree is indisputable as per the pics, which I hope you notice had real straw and the odd bit of poo on them and were not, therefore, a Waitrose mock-up staged to deceive you all), I'll end with a long stream of Willow Tit photos (and one of Bumble), because I am more than a bit in love with him at the moment and can't resist the pics....

Bumble, holding her poorly foot tucked into her feathers. I think it must have been sore, poor lass

Tit Willow...

Hope you're all having a Jolly Nice Week?

CT :-)