Wednesday 17 February 2016

Air traffic control at Bird Station 1

Last week the RSPB invited garden owners to take part in 'The Great Garden Birdwatch' as part of their gathering of statistics. We duly downloaded the App to take part and added our list of regular visitors to our bird feeding station.

We inherited this Bird Feeding Station from our dear friends, Les and Anne and have never altered its position in some 12 years or so. Positioned strategically close to hedges for shelter and nesting, surrounded by berried shrubs to perch and feed amongst with ground space underneath for bottom foragers.  It is the perfect place and  a regular delight to us. An old bathing fountain completes the picture tucked in amongst the grasses to provide water for sipping and bathing in.

Making coffee this morning at my kitchen window after a productive gardening session my gaze as ever was drawn to it as a lot of activity seemed to be taking place.

Cocky Locky, our beautiful but dim pheasant was furking around under the bird feeder, trawling through the husks and remnants left by other tinier tidier visitors.  As he turned around his enormous tale, bashed into the newly sown Stipa arundinacea - damn him!  Suddenly he takes off vertically, squawking in that shrill echoing wail familiar to countryside dwellers, crashing through the soft emerging buds of the Magnolia soulangiana behind the bird feeder as he just about clears the hedge. At take off  he almost collides with Fat Boy Pigeon, coming in without clearance who manages to crash-land amongst the plants, bird feeders and  narrowly miss the drinking fountain before subsiding into the Phlomis.

As I notice that the fat balls need replenishing a vivid scarlet flash swoops into the scene,  disappearing behind the Magnolia trunk as if awaiting some invisible command.  It is 'Mission Impossible' ( cue music...) time as the Great Spotted Woodpecker begins his par cour tactics.  Perhaps he doesn't realise there are no laser alarms attached to my bird feeders? But still he avoids the floor, then scales the wooden post claws only, before dropping down as if on a zip wire onto the tube of nuts. He knows he has only 30 seconds to peck, eat and get out of there.....

I drink my coffee feeling like an Air traffic controller on a break, never a boring moment on my watch!

Tuesday 2 February 2016

Snowdrops and Snowflakes

When the snowdrops appear in Della's woodland and adjacent garden at Hill Cottage my neighbours and I breathe a collective sigh. It marks the beginning of the end of winter for many who are just holding on through the dark days. I have written before about the joy of snowdrops and the collective mania or Galanthaphilia but this must be the first year that I have seen both snowdrops and snowflakes ( Leucojum aetivum) in flower side by side. 

Their  beautiful simplicity never fails to enthrall.  Stark white against the deep dark woodlands like pockets of  fallen snow  melting amongst the mouldering leaf litter. Tiny and fragile when viewed in isolation belying a strength and resilience.  In large swathes poking up between the ivies and ferns of the woodland floor they really can stop a walker in their stride.

I try to pot up a few divisions each year into my old vintage clay pots,the better to admire them close up. On my outside table, amongst a collection of other gardenalia they can steal the scene. Mulch them simply with moss or lichen. A mini woodland scene all on their own.

My thoughts turn to a long overdue garden project on my long  neglected shade border.  I am looking to design a lower maintenance, naturalistic option. So I am looking to the woodland for my  inspiration. I have a tall stand of sycamores and some native hedging as a backdrop so I am hoping to create a mid-storey of small trees and shrubs, magnolias, oak-leafed hydrangeas, maybe some acers and then a ground floor of woodland perennials and bulbs. Perhaps I will be tempted with some edible woodlanders like currants too? First I need to do some more research on the woodland and permaculture garden.

One thing is for certain I will be needing lots of snowdrops! So I will have to divide my clumps at the end of February as this is the best method for propagation. A pleasureable task.

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