These were originally posted in News, but got messed up when I had to move the website in October 2012, so it seemed simplest to archive them here.

Garden news catch-up: Birdy world

Monday 16 July 2012

We’ve had record rainfall, it’s been horribly gloomy, and the garden has been really disappointing this year. Lily beetles are eating the lilies, and slugs and snails have eaten everything else. Several bedding plants which we bought in the hope they’d provide cheerful colour appear to have drowned and rotted.

Rather than being ‘awash with colour’ the garden has been merely awash. I should have bought water lilies instead, for the flowerbeds …

It just looked so good last summer, and I look forward to the summer so much.

Anyway, on a more positive note, and what I really wanted to write about - several species of garden bird appear to have successfully raised a brood of chicks this year. Remarkable considering the number of ‘new cats on the block’, and the fact that they like to hide themselves in my garden’s overflowing vegetation, waiting.

We’ve had at least one brood of noisy young blackbirds, being fed by the parents. This is an annual event, but still appreciated, and comical, as the young birds are so big and apparently capable of self-feeding, but still demand food, like teenage humans.

There’s a bird feeder right outside this window, and it has food on it all year round, as I never seem to decide when is the best time to stop feeding, if there is one. It’s only a few quid for bird seed mix and only a short distance to the bird feeder, so it’s not a massive effort. Cleaning the thing is the most tedious part, and I do that regularly now after reading about (and seeing some evidence of) various diseases affecting garden birds.

A family of sparrows has been visiting recently. At one time they were as common as blackbirds, but not any more. I think they’re nesting under our eaves. They like old holey houses.

Again, the young sparrows are perfectly capable of eating the food from the trays, but the male parent carefully places seed from his beak into theirs, every time they ask.

I’m not entirely sure where those birds nested. But I do know that dunnocks had a nest in the ivy, and blue tits used a nest box never before used, on a wall in Kitchen Corner. Both successfully reared their young, and in both cases I was there in the garden the day the birds descended from nest to ground. I’ve seen tiny newly-fledged dunnocks before, but not actually had them fall to the ground near my feet while I’ve been sitting in front of the nest site, and I’ve not seen blue tits so young in my garden.


Photo: young dunnock, just out of nest, 30 June 2012

I’m not sure if the blue tits and dunnocks got away before cats appeared. I tried to guard the garden and shoo off impostors as much as was possible during the first day after the birds had emerged from the nest. But so many people leave their cats out all night, and they’re all prowling about, and at first light, when the birds start feeding.

Our cat, Rosie, is quite sedate and senior now, and the birds know it and ignore her, knowing she ignores them. Particularly since she had a nasty fight with another cat about a month ago and is now rather nervous about being in the garden. More on that later perhaps, and how honey helped (perhaps).


Tuesday 8 May 2012

Just a quick posting, to report the important news that the swifts have arrived this evening, above my garden. Late this year. I haven’t kept proper records year-on-year, but have mentioned their arrival most years.

Every year it becomes more important, that first screech from the skies above, or the sight of that familiar shape whizzing through the sky. I seek them out now, wait for them. This year was more attuned than ever, following #swifts and @SaveourSwifts on twitter.

I’ll never take them for granted.

This year appears to be a good year for ladybirds - they’re everywhere - every plant seems to have one. On the other hand, the local frog population appears to have suffered badly from the harsh winters of late - only one frog in the pond this spring, and no frogspawn.

Clearly environmental factors play a part in these seasonal fluctuations. Some of them we can do nothing much about. But I do worry about the swifts and other migrating birds, navigating their way back to us, such a long distance, past so many phone masts etc. To find, perhaps/probably that their traditional nest sites are now cleared, with sealed-up new apartments in their place.

April garden - photos

Thursday 26 April 2012

Some photos taken earlier this month. To some extent repeating images of plants and flowers already included on this website, but taken from different angles …


A lot of ladybirds this year - everywhere I look. Found this one snuggled into fresh green hydrangea leaves.


It’s that tulip ‘Ballerina’ again …


Narcissi ‘Hawera’ - another scented favourite


And more muscari - from above …


And the fatsia berries (plus aphids) I can see from the kitchen window overlooking ‘Kitchen Corner

My words took wing … all over the web

Recently I’ve read a lot of blog posts and articles regarding copyright issues, in relation to Reading the angry responses of those who felt their work was being stolen made me realise that I’d learned to accept, years ago, that everything I put on the web could easily be taken, without link or credit, and that it had been, many times.

It’s not the technology we should be worried about - Pinterest would appear to be an ‘enabling’ and creative facility - it’s the people using it. If people don’t understand the principle of intellectual copyright, if they don’t respect the work of a creator, then they should be taught better, in school, at college, via the internet itself.

Most people don’t steal content in a malicious way, but taking other people’s content without credit or link to the source is stealing, and is very common. On and everywhere on the net. I think it’s probably more common amongst people who don’t produce their own content, so don’t know what it’s like to have it ripped off.

Anyway, this post was prompted by a particular paragraph, written a decade or more ago. It’s on an early page on this website.

It reads:
“Because in particular moments, in the dusk of a late May evening, when everything glows, when green seems greener than you’ve ever seen it before, and the roses you planted are beginning to flower, future tasks don’t matter, neither do past worries - because you witness a perfect moment of soul-restoring beauty.”

It was included on another site, with permission. This website, like mine, was lovingly created from a simple desire to share some of the good things in life. I was very happy to say yes to this. A credit to ‘Turning Earth’ was included, with a link. Unfortunately the link was to the early version of the site, in free webspace, and is now broken. But the credit is still there, to Turning Earth, and we do have search engines to help us locate where words may have first appeared …

I don’t go hunting round the internet trying to find people who have used material from this website. But I was looking at my website search stats recently and noticed that someone had searched for a phrase from that paragraph of mine, and that it had brought them to the appropriate page.

Clearly it’s easy to find who wrote those words.

So why is it, that when I duplicated that search, and found my words quoted, I found these results … ?

It’s used as a signature in postings on Yahoo Groups - ‘Author unknown’ - really? Try a bit harder?

And appears drifting in the middle of a blog posting where it’s not clear it’s a quote at all.

It’s rather nice, in a way, that a paragraph of mine written ten years ago has been quoted so much, as clearly it means something to others, and I’m happy about that.

I just wish people would apply a little more thought and try to find the source of creative work - whether images, words, whatever - if it’s not immediately obvious to them. Even when it is they often don’t bother to include the source or link. The attitude seems to be that if it’s on the internet then you take it.

I could bore you with other, far more annoying examples, photo-related, but don’t want to think about it too much.

I just wanted to point out that the problem isn’t, it’s (some) people, and a general lack of understanding of the importance of linking back to the source, and perhaps a lack of appreciation of creative work in general.

When I saw photos from this website pinned on it was delightful, a welcome improvement, as those images of mine clearly stated the website address above, and linked to the relevant page.

Believe me, that’s progress.

Birds and bees, frogs and flowers

Tuesday 10 April 2012

Blue tits have been building a nest in one of the boxes on the house wall. Not the same box as a few years back, but round the corner from it. There has been a lot of excited chirruping, and carrying in of fluffy things (looked a little like old clematis seed-heads).

No frogspawn this year. Probably because there appeared to be only one frog, and although nature is clever she’s not that clever - clearly two frogs are required. One year we had five, and some rather competitive grappling as a result. This year the pond is not a happening place. I’m wondering if it might be a good time to replace the liner, as I’ve been planning to at some point, and make the pond a little deeper. Not just at the moment though, as it would be a muddy and disruptive job, and I’ve only recently got the garden looking fairly well-tended again.

The hyacinths have been fantastic, and following on from them several varieties of tulip, and Narcissa ‘Hawera’. The Skimmia ‘Kew Green’, in a pot near the kitchen door, has been in full bloom for a while now, and seems to be a favourite with the bees.

It’s not just the flowers of course, bringing colour to the garden. Bright green growth appears, so welcome every springtime. The low box hedge now has new bright leaves, seeming all the brighter because of the contrast with the older, dark dull green leaves I’d been so used to seeing over those long winter months.

Hurrah for spring.


Spring happenings

Tuesday 6 March 2012

Hurrah, the buds are breaking, and birds are bombing about investigating nest boxes.

The weekend before last I saw the first bumble bee of the year, buzzing around in the sun by the garden wall. On 1 March, a frog appeared in the pond, head sticking out of the water.

I’ve tackled most of the pruning and tidying, and there’s now a huge heap of prunings waiting to go to the green waste recycling.

Perhaps the collared dove I saw yesterday had been rooting through these prunings. She appeared on the bird feeder, with a very long, curvy piece of old akebia stem in her beak, sticking out at both sides like a handlebar moustache. She seemed a bit reluctant to let go of it, but eventually realised this was necessary in order to eat the bird seed on offer.

It’s sunny again today, but very cold. Perhaps too cold to garden comfortably. Instead I might have to content myself with looking at it through the window. From here I can see the first flowers on the akebia quinata, very handsome with the sun shining through them.

Anyone want to invite me to …

Tuesday 21 February 2012

… which I’ve just learned of after noticing a lot of links to this website coming from there.

… I’ve tried to like other social media sites, but can’t. This looks like just my kind of thing, and might solve my ‘too many browser tabs open of things I want to look at again later’ problem.

If the nice person who included my site’s photos is reading this, thank you for your kind comments about

If there are invitations available, I’d love one to be sent to me via the contact link at the foot of the page …

Update - 6 March

Thank you, Duncan, I now have an invitation to join.

Encounter with a tree creeper

Monday 6 February 2012

Occasionally, birds fly into one of our windows. Usually young birds. If they’re stunned and not moving, the advice is to put them quickly and quietly into a pet basket/large box, and cover it to exclude light, and put them in a quiet warm place. This worked some months back with a young blackbird, which after 20 minutes or so flew back into the trees in the garden.

A few weeks back, I was sitting here at the computer (in the back room looking out onto the garden) when something hit the window, and slid down it, rather like in a cartoon. But when it happens in real life it’s not that funny.

The bird on the ground just below the window looked like a dunnock, on first glance. I went to investigate, to see if it would fly off immediately, but it didn’t. There on the slate chippings, by the compost bin, in the corner where two brick walls meet, was this tiny bird, with brown and grey feathers on its back, like a dunnock, but not quite. It didn’t move when I got near, so I dashed off to get the cat basket from the shed, got a cover to put over it, got ready for that difficult ‘efficiently and quickly and gently getting hold of a wild creature when you don’t do it that often and are not a licensed wildlife rehabilitator’ scenario.

I noticed its long thin downward-curving beak, and white underparts, and said ‘What are you?!’, aware that talking to birds is probably silly, but then having to grab hold of one and rescue it from the potential stresses of concussion isn’t an everyday event.

My first attempt failed, and this stunned-looking creature briefly lost its dazed demeanour and grabbed onto the first course of bricks just above, like it would work its way up a tree.

Tree Creeper! I was in no doubt now, despite never having seen one close-up before. I thought I spotted one in the garden years ago, but wasn’t sure. I’d looked it up on that occasion, so on this occasion was in no doubt.

My second attempt at careful grabbing worked, provoking tweetings of protest - a previously unheard tree creeper voice. If they call out and are feisty that’s a good sign, in my experience. Didn’t spend any time thinking about it though, just got the creature into the cat basket immediately, covered it up so no light got in, went away.

Went back after ten minutes, the bird was sitting with its back to the door of the cat basket, not looking good.

Went to get camera, wondering if I could get a photo.

Went back to see how the bird was doing, lifted the cover over the basket, and the tiny bird was out of there like a rocket, before I’d opened the door, through the gaps in the mesh (big enough for a tree creeper, not big enough for a cat).

So, I don’t have a photo. And doubt I’ll be that close to a tree creeper again.

And because I won’t, and because most people will never meet one and hold it briefly in their hands, I can tell you that it’s a tiny, beautiful, exquisite creature – and that it’s adept at a) gauging the gaps in a cat basket door and b) avoiding having its photo taken.

Winter and its snowy woes

There’s a lot of snow suddenly descended. I like the way it makes things seem quiet, being a blanket over everything, but that’s the only thing I like about it. My short walk to the local shops yesterday evening felt like a major expedition across the Arctic, as easterly winds carrying yet more snow blew into my face.

Today the birds in the garden hung around more anxiously than they have been in this previously mild winter. Every time I looked out of the window it seemed there were birds sitting on the top of the bird feeder looking worried at the empty trays cleared of contents by the previous birds. Particularly tugging at the heartstrings were the collared doves who sat there as a pair looking at me and then looking down at the cleared feeders in unison, with feathers fluffed up against the cold.

The doves are daily visitors, as are many other birds, all year round. Others arrive in winter, and are brief visitors, and occasionally so little known that I have to go to the bookshelf (or Google) to identify them. In January 2012, very briefly, I met a tree creeper, held it in my hands.

No photographic evidence of this, I’m afraid, only words (see above).

Water bowl
Brick circle