So, that’s dark and dreary January over. Thank goodness. February here may still be dreary but at least the days are getting longer in soggy England. February hasn’t gone well so far for us. Only three days old and already three bad things have happened. First, a close family member on my husband’s side has passed on. The next we heard some other bad news which upset us both. And this morning,… click to read more
So, it’s the middle of February, and the middle of winter, the spring equinox still some six weeks away. Yet here in the West of England spring has well and truly arrived today. Gone are the chilling winds, the grey leaden sky, the snow, the sleet and the rain. Today the sun is shining, the central heating off as the temperature rises, and out in the garden flowers are everywhere.
The first to greet any visitor to the house is the front lawn along the driveway – a technicolour mass of white snowdrops that are self-seeding and thus multiplying each year, and crocus popping up everywhere in many shades and hues of blue, violet and yellow, and with the sun out today, the flowers are fully open. Wonderful! I even noticed the first yellow flower, just one mind, on the forsythia hedge. There’s a yellow haze on the hedge which means it will not be long before it, too, bursts into full golden glory.
Out in the rear garden, cyclamen are in flower along with most of the red hued hellebores; the white clumps are still in bud but should be fully open by next weekend. I love hellebores, the flowers last for weeks. I sometimes pick a few flowerheads and float them in a pretty glass dish of water indoors so we can admire the flowers. In the garden, most varieties always have their heads down. I might try a plant in a hanging basket next winter and see how it fairs.
Already some of the daffodils are open too, the majority of which are the small, dwarf types. The stock of these has been building up over several years as I am wont to buy small pots of them in the supermarket each week instead of buying bunches of, as I used to. My sister gave me the idea of buying the potted ones for indoors and then after they have finished flowering, to plant them in the garden for next year. Now why didn’t I think of doing that sooner?
If the weather forecasters are right, next week here is going to be even more mild and bright so I shall have to get my skates on (no, forget skates, snow’s gone…) garden shoes on and bring the rest of the garden to life. There’s much tidying, pruning, dead stem pulling, general clearing and maintenance to do. Already there are fresh leaf buds on the clematis and honeysuckle, things are moving fast. I shall be popping outside everyday looking to see what else is coming up.
It’s such a delight hearing the birds singing in the early morning. The dawn chorus always gets me off to a good start knowing the dark days are behind us. And to think, before much longer I shall be able to enjoy coffee and breakfast in the garden again. Yippee!
So, where have all the sparrows gone? There’s plenty in my garden, a flock of at least thirty. There always have been lots here, mainly because I feed them all year round and they know I chase the cats away. However, if you wonder where all there rest are, I think I’ve found them, some of them anyway.
They’re all over in Spain, at least the ones with any sense are, well, in Nerja anyway. I recently holidayed there, in a lovely hotel, the Rui Monica, on the beachfront. The hotel is Y shaped and within its form is an enclosed patio, only accessed from the basement, 3 floors down from ground level. The patio is surrounded by high walls. Growing within are several tall trees including palms, there is a constant supply of water from the dripping air-conditioning units hanging on these walls and, because of its location, is impervious to the many cats, mostly feral, that roam the resort. Thus, a perfect, safe haven for these delightful birds.
It was at dusk, on our first evening at the hotel, we noticed from our balcony, four floors up from the basement and just above the treetops in this area, hundreds and hundreds of sparrows flying in to take roost for the night here. Once they were perched on the various trees, you could not see them, such was the dense leaf cover. For a good half-hour flocks and flocks of them flew in. Once they had all settled, silence ruled.
Until dawn. The cacophony of these little birds was tremendous as they came awake, chatted and chirped to each other before, in twos and threes, they took off to spend the day wherever they spent the day (many stayed around the hotel gardens and outdoor snack bar). We didn’t mind the noise; we enjoyed the spectacle and it ensured during our ten days there we were never late for breakfast or missed the coach on the few day trips out we took.
I had hoped to take a small movie of their dusk decent on my tablet, but after that first evening, we were never there at the right time to capture it. Always a good reason to go back there, of course, as Nerja is lovely.
To read more of my adventures in Nerja, click here
Whilst my husband would say I’ve wasted most of this morning, it’s his fault — he bought me the bird feeding station. This morning especially, it’s brought me and the birds a lot of pleasure. I am a bird watcher (not a twitcher), I just love watching them. They are fascinating.
This is the first winter I’ve had the station and the amount of birds drawn into the garden has been wonderful. I’ve always fed the birds — they need help in all seasons — and I’ve always had a flock of sparrows here along with a dunnock, blackbird, wren and blue tits year round. Winter always brings in a blackcap or two, the familiar robin, and occasional thrush and redwings depending on how cold the weather is. This season hasn’t been particularly cold, certainly no snow here (thankfully), yet the birdlife is booming.
This morning I’ve spent over an hour watching two wrens whereas normally only see one darting in and out of the shrubbery. This morning they are gorging themselves on insects and grubs they find in the various flower troughs of bulbs and pansies around the koi pond. It’s such a pity the zoom on my camera isn’t good enough to capture them. One of them has been singing his heart out most of the morning, a gloriously loud song from such a tiny bird.
The robin sees off the blackcap but ignores all the other birds, while the blackcap will see off the sparrows, who generally ignore everyone else. Meanwhile, the dunnock will mind his own business and quite happy to rummage about the undergrowth in search of his fill. At first glance he is very much like a sparrow to look at, but has different coloured legs and behaviour and is always on his own. I’ve never seen him feed off the station, but always pecking on the ground beneath it.
Four blue tits are frequently flitting to and from the peanut feeder and occasionally feasting on the crumbs and bits on the plate feeder; three great tits are also flying in every so often to feed.
Then there’s Waggy, a pied wagtail that struts his stuff around the garden as if he owns it, ignoring the other birds but he’s very nervous and will fly off at any sudden noise or movement.
Instead of just one blackbird, there are four males in the garden this year, two in particular are always together. Despite this, they maintain a distance from each other where the food is concerned, one chasing off the other from his favourite feeding spot. So far, all the bulbs poking through— the hyacinths and bluebells, have been left alone by the slugs and snails, although I’m finding lots of empty snails shells. Thank you, blackbirds. I hope you stay during the rest of the year and keep these pesky pests in control. The snails decimated my hostas last summer despite an all out attack by me. Believe me, eggs shells, grit, coffee don’t work!
A short while ago, a noisy flock of seven long-tailed tits flew in, pecked and fed on the feeder and in the shrubbery before flying off again.
Other rare visitors today were a pair of goldfinches who munched at the seed feeder for several minutes before moving on. Beautiful birds which rarely come into the garden. Wished they’d call more often.
I’ve observed some interesting behaviour from the magpies too today. I know they like shiny things and will steal and hoard them but one here this morning has been taking large beakfulls of food (crumbs and bacon rind) and burying it elsewhere in the garden. I’ve watched him drop the food into various holes on the bare veg patch, then pick up a large stone and drop it in the hole before placing a large twig across the hole, like some sort of marker. I never knew they did this, and am interested to see if and when he comes back to claim his treasure. I don’t mind the magpies as they see off the pigeons, of which we are plagued with here.
So, maybe to some it was a wasted few hours when I should have been doing other more productive things but I don’t care, for what is life if for several minutes we cannot stand and stare and enjoy the beauty in nature around us.
Right, off to make coffee and wile away another half-hour watching the birds.