Friday, 26 June 2009

Update on the great tit chicks

I promised an update on the great tit nest so here it is.

When I checked the cupboard this morning I found that the catch had been moved by someone and, seeing one or two flies going in through the gap above the door, I feared the worst. I had to open the door to see what damage had been done and found a dead chick outside a very ragged, mossy nest on the shelf and three very subdued chicks tucked in a corner of the nest. Concerned that the parents had abandoned them to starve because of interference, I feel desperately sad.

Still I waited from a distance and after a while there was one of the great tits bringing food again, thank heavens! I felt such relief, having watched them for so many days. I'd decided not to put a sign on the cupboard saying 'do not open, birds nesting' because that would very likely make someone want to open it.... but apparently there was a family with a teenager late on Thursday & he had come in the shop and said 'did you know there was a dead chick in the cupboard?' to which the person who was working questioned 'you didn't open it did you?' which he denied ... but it would be the only way of knowing. Anyway, drama over for now, and the birds must be tougher or more used to people than I thought. I've now put some discreet but strong poly tunnel mending tape over the catch to make anyone think twice about opening it....

wait for the next installment...

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Of peonies and quirky birds nests

Just now the peonies are in bloom, sumptuous bowls of cupped petals with yellow stamen hearts and gorgeous foliage. There are some wonderful rich colours, deep, deep red, crimson, sugar pink, white and salmon and the wilder natured herbaceous plants flow in and around them (pretty Geranium asphodeloides for example, with its tracery of stems and stars of pink and white). The lady's mantle is at its absolute best, frothy green flowers lapping over the gravel of the paths, breaking up the edges to create instant informality. As soon as it starts to go over, I will be cutting it ruthlessly back to prevent self seeding and to bring on new foliage.

Everywhere our abundant wildlife can be seen, blackbirds and thrushes eating the cherries (happily sacrificed to them in return for all the good work they do), blackcaps singing in the walnut, newts lazing in the pond and in the greenhouse a nest of great tits ..... in the cupboard. The birds get so used to visitors that they become very tame - our bird feeder is a great place to get close to nuthatches. And every now and then a bird nests in a quirky place - wrens in an old compost heap, duck on top of one of the walls, pheasant right next to the path. This year it's a great tit that has nested in the old wooden cupboard and flies in through a gap above the door! You can hear the chicks cheeping inside and I darent put up a notice saying 'do not open door because of bird nest' because if I draw attention to it, someone may do just that. They nip in and out when people are not looking, even though there is lots of coming and going in the greenhouse. These are not brilliant pictures but I didn't want to disturb them too much.... I'll give an update when they fledge!

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Scented clematis and gypsies on their way to Appleby Horse Fair

I went over to the Lake District to see some gardening friends and the weather over there has been Mediterranean hot for some days. It has made some plants go over quickly and brought others out into flower, though watering has been a problem... not something normally associated with that area of the country! They have a beautiful clematis with a fabulous scent - Clematis montana wilsonii - that scrambles amongst shrubs below a tall retaining wall so that you stand at eye level with it and the scent wafts up to you. It's usually described as smelling of chocolate but I think it is spicy rather like sweet rocket.

Coming back through the village of Melmerby at the bottom of the Pennine escarpment, large numbers of gypsies and travellers were camped on the green, their horses tethered in the long grasses. It's a traditional stopping point after descending the long, twisting road from Hartside. The gypsies are on their way to the great Appleby Horse Fair, a place where families from all over the country can meet up and buy and sell horses amongst other things.

The main weekend of the Fair is always the first in June and this year Cumbria County Council have a series of school workshops and visits from Roma artists, storytellers etc. in the run up to the event. The Horse Fair is the largest in Britain and an amazing and vibrant event.