Monday 30 January 2012

Birdwatch Results

Photo by Nigel Blake
(from the RSPB website)
It was a rather disappointing hour on Sunday morning 9.50 -  10.50. The weather was grey, frosty, slightly misty and windless and I think our usual birds were huddled away trying to keep warm.

The results during the hour were:

Dunnock           2
Great Tit           2
Blackird            2    (a pair)
Woodpigeon     1    (There's usually about 8 sitting in the walnut trees. I think they may have been on the sprouts which I can't see from the kitchen window!)
Robin                2
Blue Tit             2
Magpie              1
Carrion Crow    1

No woodpecker, chaffinches, collared doves or long-tailed tits which we usually expect. Just after the hour a flock of about 8 noisy Jackdaws descended. The numbers are a count of how many birds are seen at the same time.

Sunday 29 January 2012

Lettuce seedlings

Tray of lettuce seeds planted two weeks ago and placed in the boiler room (it has a window) have sprouted. These are Tom Thumb - small round lettuces which we'll grow on in the conservatory and then plant out.

Friday 27 January 2012


The RSPB are holding their annual Big Garden Bird Watch this weekend. All you need to do is spend an hour on Saturday or Sunday looking in your garden and recording what birds you see and send your results in on-line. More here:

I'll have a go - although it's sometimes frustrating when regular visiting birds don't turn up to be counted during your hour!  I'll report here on Sunday evening what we see this year.

Saturday 21 January 2012

First snowdrops

After the cold snap last week it's much milder and Spring is now continuing apace. Thr rhubarb is looking a bit chirper and snowdrops are starting to flower.

Friday 20 January 2012


We've seen no hedghogs here since 2007. One of those we rescued from a post-hole. The little chap had fallen in and couldn't get out. More recently, the only hedghogs I've seen locally have been squashed on the road - and those have not been so many. Froggarts Cottage is surrounded by a field used to graze cattle with old hedges all around - ideal habitat for hedgehogs one would think. A friend gave us a "Hog House" for Christmas a few years ago which we put by the hedge and covered with leaves but it's not been used.

A Prickly Affair by Hugh Warwick

This is a fascinating little book from a dedicated hedgehog researcher A Prickly Affair by Hugh Warwick  Really interesting. Apparently one of the main predators of hedgehogs is badgers. There's certainly badgers around here, there are sets along the hedges a couple of fields and a main road away but I've never seen any in the adjacent fields.

A piece on BBC News interested me both from the hedgehog and the environment change point of view.

"Hedgehog numbers fell in the last 50 years, largely due to land use change. From an estimated 30 million in the 1950s, the UK population shrank to about 1.5 million in 1995, and has almost certainly fallen further since then."

The climate thing is interesting. Last year was definitely drier and warmer than previous years despite the very cold spell at the start of the year. Each of the 5 years we've been at Froggarts Cottage have been quite different weather-wise so it's difficult to spot a trend. For a couple of years we logged when we planted vegtables and when and how much we harvested. I think we should be a bit more diligent and note when fruit blossom opens and fruit sets and so on. Otherwise we're relying on our imperfect memories.

There's a link on the BBC story above to a site where people can log sightings such as "first snowdrop", "first elder flowers".

Tuesday 17 January 2012

Fox and Frost

Last night the security light came on and I looked out the back window. A very fine-looking fox was boldly staring back at me. A beautiful, well-fed creature. He trotted round the bird-table and picked at some bits then looked back at us and trotted off through the hole in the hedge into to the field. I usually put out any kitchen scraps for the birds and any interested wildlife. There's never anything left in the morning so I hope that even though I don't get to see them very often that some animals, birds, slugs whatever are getting an extra boost. I'm really concerned about lack of hedgehogs. I've not seen one here for 4 years.

It's been very cold for the last 5 days. The nights have been minus 6 degrees C and although the days are sunny the frost has only melted where the sun has been shining for a couple of hours. We are on a south-west slope which means we don't get sun-up until quite late and the sun dips behind the trees quite early on.
The rhubarb - which I covered with fleece at the beginning of the cold spell - has suffered. I'm sure it will recover as soon as it turns warmer, promised for Wednesday / Thursday.

Friday 6 January 2012

Rhubarb & sprouts

This morning was lovely and sunny with no wind. After the last few days of near-gales it was lovely to be able to go up the garden and see what's going on. It was still very cold with the grass crunchy with frost and leaves edged with white.

The bulbs are starting to come up big-time and the lilacs and magnolia stellata have healthy-looking buds. Rhubarb is about 8 ins high. I may cover this tonight to protect from any heavier frost. They are from Siberia so are fairly robust and can stand a little cold. Maybe some rhubarb fool next weekend! I don't force rhubarb. I don't really see the point. It comes up beautifully pink and usually we are picking some by early February. We have 8 plants, 5 of an early variety and 3 ones that come up later on.

Wednesday 4 January 2012

Warm New Year

A New Year and a whole new weather pattern to come to terms with! Every year we've been at Froggarts we've had different weather. Last January was sooo cold. This year, despite the strong wind over the last couple of days, it's relatively balmy. The helibores are already in flower. Blackbirds are singing and a great tit has started building a nest in the boxes under the summer house roof.