Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Swings and roundabouts (and slides) in the snow

It was fun while it lasted - well, perhaps for the first couple of days anyway - but now the rain is washing away the snow and revealing the damage it's done.

The worst casualty appears to be a beautiful large red Camellia japonica (probably 'Grand Prix') which stood about five feet high and just as wide. But the weight of snow that fell on it on January 17th and 18th - probably no more than 4-5 inches in this sheltered spot - split half of it off at just above ground level.

Elsewhere, where we had up to 10 inches of snow that night, we've also lost the tops off at least one cherry which was about 9 feet tall, two plums - formerly 6 feet tall and a load of summer-fruiting raspberries.

The brassicas may take a while to recover as they've been flattened. The sprouts harvest was almost finished as we quickly got through the small crop from short plants. The purple sprouting broccoli was perhaps 10-12 weeks from being ready though, so only time will tell how they recover.

And the leeks will probably be okay and the garlic and onions were will be fine based on past experience.

I gave up sowing broad beans in late autumn or early winter having had my plants flattened a couple of times in recent years. They grow and flower and fruit just as readily as usual, albeit with bent stems. But the beans being so close to the ground just feed the mice which is a tad frustrating.

On the plus side, great snowman, snowwoman and snowgirl; great snowball fights; fun with the dog trying to catch every snowball as if it was a tennis ball (it was the first time she'd seen snow); and perhaps top of the list should be fun with the sledge on our new route.

It went from the top of the garden by the greenhouse, through the orchard and past the "soon-to-be" new lawn to the bottom of the yew hedge. It was a run of about 200 feet with twists and turns like the Cresta Run and a fall of about 30 feet - one of the benefits of living on the side of a valley. And it lasted well but the second sizable fall of snow this week - another 4-5 inches - slowed it down.

So we finished off by making a snow slide on the patio instead, dubbed "Snowmageddon" by my daughter.  And, as she said, it was "awesome".

Swings and roundabouts then from the snow.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Big Garden Bird Watch - our results

Bird life around here is fantastic both in numbers and varieties and we variously feed, water and shelter our local populations. So I  happily spent an hour or so this morning keeping a look out at different birds in the garden and this is a bit about what I spotted:
  • Robins - 5
  • Blackbirds - 4 (and all male)
  • Thrush - 1
  • Long-tailed tits - 9
  • Coal tits - 2
  • Great tits - 4
  • Blue tits - 3
  • Chaffinches - approximately 7
  • Dunnocks - 3
  • Tree sparrows - approximately 16
  • Collar doves - 3
  • Wood pigeons - 2
  • Greater spotted woodpecker - 1 (male)
  • Magpies - 3
  • Jays - 3
  • Sparrow hawk - 1 (male)
The birds I spotted in the garden were concentrated around two feeding stations in the garden and the hedges next to them.

In addition flying over us I saw crows (at least five), rooks (countless, in a flock), more wood pigeons and numerous smaller unidentified birds.

We've had no thrushes for the last year until earlier this week. The one we have here looks like a young bird.

Conspicuous by their absence were:
  • Nut hatches (we have two every day throughout the day at the feeding stations on peanuts and fat balls),
  • Yellowhammers (we have one now, who was around all day yesterday. We had two last summer for the first time in 12 years)...
... and, most sadly of all, no Wrens. We have a wren nest in a large juniper tree next to the patio but our cat caught and brought one in last night. I found it dead on the patio this morning.

Also surprisingly absent were the Buzzards. They usually wheel over us throughout the day on sunny days like today. Perhaps the snow which was still widespread for most of the day limited the thermals they go for. I didn't see or hear any all day. Nor were there any ravens which are sometimes around at the same time as the buzzards.

I'll get some pics of these birds up over the next few weeks. And I'll see if I can find last year's results we submitted to see what's changed.

Anyone wanting to do the Big Garden Bird Watch can still do it - it's supposed to be today and tomorrow (January 26th and 27th 2013). Here's a link to the details on the RSPB's site.