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Archive for May, 2012

Injured cirl bunting

May 31, 2012 Leave a comment

This afternoon there was a loud thump as something banged into the patio window and I found Kepler about to grab a small bird, so I fended him off and picked it up.

The injured cirl bunting

It crouched in my hand, panting with its beak open and its head leaning back. I was convinced it had a broken neck.

In case it recovered and so it wouldn’t fly round the house acquiring further injuries, I put it in a box on top of the barbecue.

A few minutes later I was checking it against the picture in my birdbook, when it suddenly fluttered up and vanished.

I thought I might as well take the box into the house, moved it and in so doing disturbed the bird’s hiding place. It flew away, circled round in the air, landed on the terrace, then shot straight into a rose bush and disappeared.

That was quite a swansong if it was on the point of dying. I hope it was a sign that it will live long and prosper.

A toad

May 30, 2012 Leave a comment

I took Kepler to relieve himself late last night, and when I opened the door two unusual things happened: he stiffened, and I saw a black shape the size of a kitten move slowly away from the doorstep.

I shut Kepler in with Clive, grabbed a torch, and went to investigate.

A large, squashy toad

A large, squashy toad was crouching against the wall.

I’ve seen this sort of toad before – quite probably the selfsame toad. In autumn they dig themselves into loose soil to hibernate, and I’ve felt them in there with my hands.

On the first occasion, not knowing what I’d felt, I dug the toad out completely and held it. It filled my palm and spilled over the sides.

This particular toad was only intent on getting itself into the shadows and it lolloped away.

When I collected Kepler he could tell where it had gone, but he was on a lead so that was one thing he didn’t get a chance to hunt.

Why do I feel persecuted?

May 29, 2012 Leave a comment

A rainbow, or weather that can’t make up its mind

I don’t know what it is about me and the use of any kind of spray in the garden. As soon as I apply something that needs a given number of hours to dry and be effective, I can be absolutely sure that it will rain well within that timeframe, even when there was no rain forecast.

Today is a good example. I’ve been meaning for weeks to apply some weedkiller to a fast-growing patch of brambles which is threatening to invade my old vegetable patch, and today I finally did it. Good job done, I thought. It should at least slow it down a bit.

Two and a half hours later, when the minimum stated drying time for the product is six hours, it rained. It hasn’t rained for days prior to this!

It didn’t even have the good grace to to rain properly. It delivered a sharp shower – just enough to wash off all my weedkiller – and then stopped.

The same thing happens when I spray the orchard with insecticide and pesticide.

Could it be that in the high-up location where we live the weather is somehow sensing my intentions?

Some people would say it serves me right for using these products, but I say: you’re extremely welcome to come and tackle these brambles by hand!

Identity crisis

May 28, 2012 Leave a comment

Foxglove and burdock – hide the top and spot the difference

In the early spring it would be possible for me to kid myself that the foxgloves we introduced to the garden had seeded themselves in all sorts of interesting places.

Sadly I know this isn’t the case. We’re in fact harbouring a powerful and (where it gets comfortable enough to grow a tap root) almost indestructible weed – burdock.

Until they declare themselves, foxglove and burdock plants look remarkably alike. The photo shows a foxglove growing and a burdock uprooted and set alongside it.

The main difference is that the central vein is reddish on foxglove leaves and starkly white on burdock leaves.

In our case there isn’t much danger of pulling up foxgloves by mistake. Basically if you don’t remember planting it there, it’s a burdock.

Paper wasp nest

May 27, 2012 Leave a comment

Paper wasp nest with wasp (probably the queen)

We were sitting outside having lunch today when I noticed a small wasp flying up underneath a hollow block at the front of the barbecue.

I picked up the block and looked inside the hollow. Sure enough, there was a grey, papery, honeycomb-style nest with a couple of wasps crawling over it.

Paper wasps are smaller, more focussed and much less agressive than larger wasps, although if cornered they do sting.

I think it says it all, though, that I was able to turn the block upside down and take photos of it while the queen clung to the cells and none of her workers gave me any grief at all.

The pool opened

May 26, 2012 Leave a comment

The swimming pool at sunset

The swimming pool has now been cleaned by the robot and filled to the correct level.

The pump still has to be started and the fine particles, stirred up by the robot, hopefully cleared by the sand filter.

But I’m getting nearer to the point of being able to go in.

It would have been nice to swim at sunset today and break through those cloud reflections!

Opening the pool!

May 25, 2012 Leave a comment

View of the pool tarpaulin

At last the weather has become just about warm enough to take the tarpaulin off the outside swimming pool.

The weird landscape in the photo is actually the surface of the tarpaulin. The hillock in the middle  is made by one of the ice-expansion-compensators floating on the water underneath. The dark patches are fallen leaves.

When the tarpaulin is rolled back, all the water lying on top of it accumulates and is then too heavy to lift over the rim of the pool. I actually got into the pool and tried pushing it from inside, but it didn’t work. The only thing to do is to drain the water by means of a syphon.

Kepler had a wonderful time playing with the jet of water as it was syphoned off and then dashing in and out of the folds of the tarpaulin where it lay on the ground.