BLACKCAP FEMALE BIRD

New to our bird feeder is the blackcap bird, a female. She has been visiting the garden now for several days running. The first thing that took my notice was the hump on her back, I thought oh what an unusual bird, maybe it is deformed, but then I also noticed the sharp beak and the chestnut brown cap on its head, and I immediately knew that we had a bird not seen on our feeders before. I have not yet heard it and am curious how its song will sound as people tell me that the Blackcap has a nice song, and the guidebook describes it as a series of melodious warbling notes.

Yes she does like the seedcake and I see her more on that than on the peanut feeder. I read that she will have one or two broods per year, laying four to six eggs at a time. What I found interesting is that this little bird would be a summer visitor from Africa and that over the last 25 years Blackcaps have been overwintering in Ireland in increasing numbers, but apparently they come here not to overwinter from Africa but from other colder European countries, meaning that they are a different breeding population. These Blackcaps from the population that breeds in Central Europe migrate here to Ireland to spend the winter.

Even here in this country they will breed in mature hedging which is exactly what surrounds our garden, so I hope that they will indeed breed. Blackcaps are found where there are a lot of Ivy berries and indeed in our Boreen close by there is a wealth of Ivy and the berries are plentiful this winter.

Actually I just came across this YouTube video and was delighted to hear their song. Reference: Blackcap ~ Eurasian Blackcap ~ Bird Call ~ Bird Song ESL and Popular Culture

Birdwatch Ireland also tells me that the majority of the Irish Blackcap population migrate south to winter in Iberia and North Africa. But that there is a small wintering population, mainly in the east and south of Ireland, and it appears that this is what our female Blackcap is a part of.

January is a good month around here for birdwatching and as we are feeding them we see a lot of them in the garden. We have residential Collared Doves, many Finch, many Blue Tits, Dunnocks, Sparrows, Robins, usually at least one wren, Blackbirds, Jackdaws and Starlings. Overhead are flying Seagulls, rooks and hooded Crows. It is amazing the diversity found in an urban garden. One type of bird that I would love to see more of are Thrushes, but they sadly disappeared from our gardens years ago.

THOUGH NATURE IS MEANT TO BE ASLEEP, I SEE MANY SIGNS OF LIFE

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Our garden does not know whether it should be asleep or begin to wake up.  On this peaceful and last Sunday of the year 2019 I took a little stroll to check on my vegetables and herbs.  So far it has been a mild winter except for one morning when all was white with frost.  We did have more than usual rain though, and one or two real destructive storms which blew over our bird feeder and destroyed it.

I found that the few bean plants which survived being served as someone’s dinner (the slugs), are doing rather well, the spinach and the kale are doing great too.  Among the herbs the oregano, thyme, sage, and rosemary are all thriving.  The rosemary is even flowering, but then it flowered all summer too, perhaps it is an everlasting flowering type 🙂

The Camelia that I planted out weeks ago has buds and seems happy where I put it.  The Californian Lilac is also doing great and I cannot wait to smell its flowers, and to look upon the red Camelia flowers later when spring comes along.  Bulbs are pushing through the still very wet soil.  And the young Californian Poppy plant I found fresh and green, early flowering is expected.  It is always nice to take stock of the garden around the start of a new year I think, and to start planning.

A tender young Lupin plant has pushed through some leaf covering. And the Rudbeckias that I have been carefully tending since last spring when I sowed them, are so far doing fine, I hope that they will become strong plants and I know that they will last for years as I used to grow them before.

But I wanted to look a little further than my own garden today and took a walk through the Boreen and further-a-field.  Planning has been received and work has started on building 50 houses for a social housing scheme.  This will mean that from next year onward we will be surrounded by houses, whereas up to now we still had so many fields.  But I understand that housing is needed badly and that the plan for rural Ireland is to have satellite towns and not much housing in the countryside, this to give easy access to all utilities without too much need for new infrastructure.  Anyway that seems to be the plan for the future and the future is now.  While walking the Boreen I found beautifully fresh and healthy Yarrow plants, I also found that the Gorse was flowering, and that the sweet little plants of creeping Hypericum are still intact and have not been affected by the wet weather.

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There had been a certain quietness around the place here with some neighbours away over the Christmas period.   The land was also quiet this afternoon apart from some starlings, a wagtail and a thrush that I saw along my walk.  Year’s ending has that certain feeling about it in nature, a stillness that is a promise of new life and activity to come.  I like it.

Along my walk and in the Boreen, Yarrow, Creeping Hypericum and flowering Gorse.

And so we enter the last days of this year.  Tomorrow my grandchildren and their mum and dad are coming to open presents, that will be lovely.  The rest of the week will also be spent with family visiting and so we will enter the new year surrounded by loved ones.

 

 

 

 

PART TWO OF A WINTER GARDEN IN CAMBRIDGESHIRE

So we had just walked through the arch and entered that part of the garden where nature does more or less its own thing, though on the right there is a productive kitchen garden, which put my own to shame when it comes to neatness. And on the left we walked across grass overshadowed by a variety of lovely trees, mostly native to the Uk, and some already fully in blossom.  This is the wilder part of the garden, it is a very important area, thinking of the many bees, bumblebees and other insects which are near extinction, or have decreased in number in recent years, it is good to have an area where they can be undisturbed and feed to their hearts delight. Here is more shadow because of the trees, it is also the quieter part of the garden, where one could sit and read, or just watch nature’s magic happen.

 

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Then in the yet another part of the garden a lot of clearing had been done just recently, overgrowth of roses from a neighboring garden had been removed. In a garden this size there is always some work to do, and this is reflected in the beauty and the variety of the plants.

Here the borders, even though it was so early in the year show a lot of different colors and textures, as reflected in my next collage.  A variety of different Hellebores is to be seen nearer the house.

 

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Ferns, and also Euphorbias make a lovely display.

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The colorful leaves of the Epimedium versicolor are a great ground cover.

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A succulent creeping among the black foliage, the black thin leaves conjure up images of being at the beach looking at some type of seaweed.

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I see boxes for a variety of birds which I am sure they are happy to use, and the white bell-like flowers add a lovely touch, all these early flowers are so important for insects, it is where they get the first nectar of the season which will help them recover after the lean winter months.  All of this has been thought of and planned for.

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 Winter scenting Sarcococca confusa sweet box

Sarcococca confusa or Sweet BoxThis is one more subject that I would like to highlight, it is called Sarcococca confusa or Sweet Box, its scent will delight anyone and perfume a whole area, and its black berries are very attractive too. I am glad that I got to learn about this plant, as one of my future plans is to bring more scent into my own garden.

I’ve really enjoyed my visit to this garden, there is more one could say about what grows there, I have not even touched on the herbs which grow close to the house. Of course as my visit was in winter, I am sure that there is a lot more to see in summer. I am already looking forward to my next visit. I get ideas from visiting other people’s gardens, some of which I will try and use in my own garden. I’m certainly very interested in creating colour for my garden in the winter, it would cheer us all up during those dull and misty days.

My thanks go to Ruth and Colin for their kind permission to use their garden in my blog writing.

 

 

WINTER TREES

With the very wet winter we are having here in West Cork, it is rather showing up some beauty all of it’s own, it is how the trees look fresh, bringing out the colours of the trunk and branches, stark against a sometimes grey sky but now and then against clouds and sunsets. We have five trees in the garden, and these photos I took either from behind the glass if heavy rain, or outside, each brings out different aspects in the photo. Some bring out a rather foggy mood, some are melancholic, but some others bring out a bright clarity, it reflects the way that the mind is affected by the dampness, and according to Chinese traditional medicine, the mind is affected by the spleen, and the spleen is in turn very much affected by dampness, cold dampness, and that is what we get here in winter. It follows then that during these winter months the mind might become a little foggy if not careful, CTM advises us to eat warm stews made from root vegetables, with plenty of ginger to counteract this dampness inside… but that is going away from the trees a bit.
I love trees, I might even be a tree hugger, always want to touch their bark and admire their beauty, and beside that there is nothing as nice as using wood in the kitchen or wherever, the feel of it so smooth after it has been sanded, the lines and colourful markings are very nice too. I have wood on the ceiling and wall in one of our rooms, it often gives me pleasure to take in the many knots and lines visible to the eye. The scent also of wood is so pleasing.
Right now our trees are blowing in the wind, it is quite stormy and has been all winter, but they seem able for it. The silver birch moves most of all, it’s high and thin but the branches are very flexible. The Hawthorn moves very little – that is why the birds like to hide among it’s branches. The oak and the pine sway as if to the sound of their own music, while the chestnut watches over it all, stiff and majestic, even despite it has lost some of it’s branches last summer after we cut some down as they were making the garden far too shady. My trees are very much alive to me, I sense their moods, they are powerful and nothing fazes them, but they do like me to touch them when walking around the garden.
The trees, they give me much pleasure, I feel they are a blessing in our garden, and I am very appreciative.

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NEW BEGINNINGS

Though colder the last few days, we are experiencing some sharp frost and even snow not too far away, there are nevertheless signs of early, very early spring and new life.

I took a stroll through the garden today, underfoot the grass is still very wet, because of the very mild but wet winter so far the slugs have not hibernated in great numbers and have been eating my kale with a relish, meanwhile creating real pieces of lacy art.

I found some white fungi on logs that are lying around waiting for dryer weather and to be stored properly.  Our little Korean Fir is back outside after the Christmas festivities, there are signs of new growth, fresh and delicate, a delight to the eye.

The sprouts, leeks and parsley are doing great in the garden, the rhubarb though, has disappeared, and as a result of all the damp and wetness there is moss to be discovered, beautiful bottle green moss, growing healthily and bountifully.

Normally during January I start to get a real early ‘spring’ feeling and it releases a lot of energy, the last few years this did not happen, however, this January I got the feeling back again, my energy is on the up, full of plans and excitement for the coming year, whether it is in the garden or in the house, the plans are being laid.  I have always like this saying:

Early in the year, early in the week, early in the day…. that is how I like to get things done, it works for me.  At the same time, life is not all about ‘doing’, it’s much about ‘being’.

I guess a balance in everything is the best.

 

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Korean Fir

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Korean Fir new leaves

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Hydrangea buds

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A fungus in the garden

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Bud on the Woodbine

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Winter Brussels sprouts

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Kale leaf after slugs

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Moss in the garden

GARDEN SURPRISES

It’s amazing what can be of interest or beauty in the garden even in December while all the tree branches are bare and stark against the winter sky.  For a while I have been watching the barks of our five trees, and the knots one can see in them, I actually never knew the connection between a knot in the bark and a branch, and that a knot is a branch that got enclosed in the wood of the trunk during years of growth. I see these knots all the time in the wood panelling inside the house. Today I took note of them outside in the garden. My Hawthorn tree has many knots, the douglas fir, chestnut, oak and birch less so. While observing the fir tree bark I found a variety of colours, some quite red, the bark is also covered in white in certain areas, not sure if it is lichen, fungus, or even bird droppings, there are quite a few birds that like to use this tree, this morning a lot of twittering came from it, there was only one starling sitting on it’s branches though.   On the fir I came across a tiny little snail, and on the hawthorn bark around the knot there was a slug to be seen, so I guess bark is quite important for wildlife.  Once I was thinking that I would have to cut down the fir, but during last summer I observed so many of our garden birds using this tree, I decided to keep it despite having to sacrifice a little bit of vegetables due to less light, as birds are after all so precious, and some of them are declining, sad to say.

At this moment another big storm has been forecasted for Ireland, we have had more stormy days than quiet ones the last week or two, but today was a perfect day, wind still and 10C.

As Barbara Winkler once said:

“Every gardener knows that under the cloak of winter lies a miracle. . .
a seed waiting to sprout, a bulb opening to the light, a bud straining
to unfurl.  And the anticipation nurtures our dream.”

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A DUSTING OF SNOW

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A dusting of snow on my garden this morning, it does not snow very often here, but during the night there was just a little dusting of snow.  The temperature dropped to under zero and the road are very treacherous, so cancelling that early morning appointment, and go for it later on.   I shall be away from internet for a couple of days, travelling to a most beautiful part of Ireland, county Wicklow where the mountains have snow on them at the moment, colder too, should be most beautiful!

A BIG BEAUTIFUL SURPRISE

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A most beautiful surprise this morning.  Our little Christmas tree, which is alive, gave us some lovely tender young cones!  So this Korean Fir is doing well and healthy, and producing more growth, very pleased about that.  On the seventh all the decorations are coming off it and then I will keep it inside to make sure that it survives the winter.  It’s been a lovely experience having this life tree in the house, and this morning we were both so happy to see these lovely young cones.

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The new and the old cone here.

 

A MILD WINTER’S EVENING

Today has been very mild (around 6 degrees Celsius, with sunshine, and a little drizzle this afternoon. I was able to go out and give some attention to the garden. There were a few Kale that still needed planting out, so I did that, and discovered that the soil is improving, it has become more crumbly, though in places still very wet. Well I mulched a bit around the newly planted Kale. Took in some bamboo sticks that were still sticking in the soil, and checked how the garlic are doing. I also still harvested some beetroot which is nice and fat. There were two Robins in the garden with me, coming quite close to pick some creatures out of the soil. This evening we were treated to an amazing sunset once again, which I’d like to share with everyone.
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