Three healthy chicks.
They were nesting in the hedge on the top tier and fledged on to the willows by the compost bin.
Cute little brown birds.
It has rained A LOT….and that is all I am going to say about that.
The wild flowers bloomed,
particularly the cuckoo flower which I left last year to self seed all over midge farm because……
…..it brings in these beauties.
A pair of willow warblers are visiting for the first time. They are nesting either in the garden or very close by as I see them collecting insects all day long.
The birds have got a new bird table which they use mainly as an umbrella,
and I have got a new rhodie which produced these lovely, girly, pink bells.
Two years after they were planted the verbascums are finally establishing and putting on a show.
My lovely song thrushes have also established and produced at least one healthy fledgling.
The gold finches have produced two, although they do look more like drowned rats than fluffy baby birds.
Speaking of rodents, the mouse is back but very much a fair weather visitor, I don’t think she likes getting her fur wet.
She would never have dared to sit on the step like this when old fatso was around.
And finally, my new toy, a butterfly feeder, with its first visitor, a hungry red admiral who sat and fed for at least five minutes. I have my fingers crossed that there will be many more over the summer.
Did I say Spring was coming? Humph, rain, hail, thunder lightening, gale force winds, we’ve had it all recently. So I’m back to dreaming about warmer temperatures and beautiful things in the garden. Here they are, my garden ornaments, the butterflies of 2010.
The first butterflies in the garden were the orange tips spotted on 8th May. They get their name for a very obvious reason. This is a male enjoying the cuckoo flowers that bloomed throughout the garden in May.
This is Mrs Tip she doesn’t have the bright orange of the males. I wonder why, because the bright orange is meant to warn predators that these are nasty tasting toxic insects. Are the females not as toxic? Or are the males more at risk because they have aerial battles while the females skim close to the foliage looking for egg laying sites?
The orange tips fly for a short period in Spring. They’re everywhere in Argyll, even on the road verges like this trio, and then they’re gone, brief, bright hints of summer sun.
The next butterfly in the garden was this quiet spotted wood, basking in the sun on 22nd May. In fact I had seen spotted woods much earlier at Arduaine on 3rd May but this was the first one in my garden. A spotted wood was also the last butterfly I saw in 2010, a poor battered specimen in Knapdale forest which is just over the hill from Midge Farm.
Next to arrive were the green veined whites, first seen on 23rd May. These are the butterflies I see most frequently at Midge Farm. They are constant companions through the summer, I presume more than one generation because I see them from May through to late August.
Then there was this big bold red admiral on 25th July who posed so cooperatively for upper and underside wing shots. She let me get close enough to use the macro setting on the camera.
The next pictures are cheats because I didn't actually see these in the garden. I persuaded a poor visiting friend from Edinburgh that she really wanted to spend a Sunday morning traipsing through a bog to look for a butterfly. The Scotch Argus flies in abundance over Moine Mhor - the great moss, just north of Lochgilphead. We spent a happy morning (on my part at least) on 8th August watching these luxurious brown butterflies drifting like scraps of velvet over the mounds of sphagnum moss.
Of course I needn't have inflicted such butterfly geekery on my guest because the very next weekend a walk at Ormsary revealed the Argus flying all along the road verges. I like these images of a hoverfly sharing knapweed with the Argus.
Back to the garden. I used to see large whites regularly in my Tilly garden but they are much rarer at Midge Farm. I think this one had only just emerged from her chrysalis when I saw her on 13th August. Her wings were still filling out. She was a typical grumpy teenager who didn’t want company and eventually crawled into the box shrub To Be By Herself.
I had brief glimpses of the following two butterflies through the summer but these were the first pictures I managed to record. I saw this small tortoiseshell on 29th August. Some butterflies, like the orange tip, have been expanding their range in recent years, but this little beauty has been in decline. I never see them in large numbers in the garden but am happy to find one or two every year.
And finally the last butterfly spotted at Midge Farm, on the same day as the small tortie, 29th August, one of our commonest and most dramatic in appearance, the peacock.
These have such stunning upper wing markings they always surprise me when they fold their wings and transform into mysterious dark butterfly shadows.
So that’s it for 2010. I’m hoping 2011 will bring these beauties and others back to the garden. Meanwhile I’ll keep dreaming by the fire.
Long tailed tits in the garden. I’ve seen them in the woods behind the house but this is the first time they have visited the garden. They’re tiny birds but full of character. They travel in family groups and constantly chirp and tweet to each other. A pleasure and privilege to see and hear in the garden.
The RSPB site describes long tailed tits as little balls on sticks, but I have never seen a bird look more like a feathered ball than this goldcrest. He was scurrying up and down some conifers behind the house. Goldcrests compete with firecrests for the title of Britain’s smallest bird, neither of them weighs more than the equivalent of five paper clips.
This little fellow had fluffed his feathers out until he looked like a puffer fish but he wasn’t sick, just cold. It’s difficult to keep warm when you’re so small. It had been a freezing night and there were still patches of ice in the woods were the sun couldn’t penetrate. I know he wasn’t sick because he was so active, he bounced about the tree like a hyperactive ping-pong ball. I took 23 shots and he was only vaguely in focus in three of them, in the others he was either a blur or a handful of tail feathers disappearing into the greenery.
I have lots of photos of birds bottoms, they are the most uncooperative subjects. Another tiny bird I regularly see, who refuses to stay still is the wren. He is constantly on the move, searching for insects, and ignores all my pleas to pose for the camera.
But bird bottoms are better than no bottoms. What a pleasure to know these three tiny species, who are so vulnerable to prolonged cold weather, all survived the harsh December. Temperatures are still regularly sinking below zero at night, but there’s a lift in the air during the day heralding Spring. The birds have started to sing their hearts out, competing for territory, the evenings are lighter and the catkins are out. Spring is coming.
And I have used the last of 2010’s vegetables. This pumpkin has been sitting in the dining room since October while I wondered what to do with it, never having grown pumpkins before. I ran out of veg this week and decided to try pumpkin soup. YUM. So simple, so low in calories and so good. I softened some onions in fry lite (I’m on a diet so olive oil is not allowed but would be better) bunged in some chicken stock (from a bottle), hot water and the pumpkin in large chunks, a hefty pinch of nutmeg and masses of fresh ground pepper. Cooked until the pumpkin was soft (~30 mins) and then whizzed the whole thing with a hand zapper. It had a luxurious, smooth, creamy texture without the calories of added cream. A perfectly pleasurable Winter soup. If I had another pumpkin I think it would use a mix of cumin and chilli powder rather than nutmeg. I will definitely be growing more pumpkins this year to experiment with the other spices.
A Happy New Year to all, including my poor birds who had to put up with another fall of snow yesterday. Then their breakfast was late and I practically had Mrs Blackbird tapping on the kitchen window in her impatience.
The thrush wasn’t far behind her, he’s cold and hungry and has lost his habitual shyness.
In fact there are now regularly two thrushes in the garden but I can’t tell them apart.
Hundreds of chaffinches.
I tried to count them but couldn’t so did a block count and scaled up across the garden.
The bramblings are still about. Mrs is shy and hangs back in the shrubs,
but Mr gets stuck right in.
I went for a walk up the hill this afternoon, the footprints showed many people had the same idea,
but they tailed off as I went further up, until eventually there was just me and what looked like the prints of a pogo-ing sheep.
It was beautiful still day. A lot of the pine trees have been felled recently, leaving stands of tall larch lone against the skyline.
High in these I could hear excited bird calls. Long tailed tits! At the absolute limit of my camera zoom but recognisable.
Then amongst the cheeping tits a flash of bright red and yellow… bigger, bulkier, acrobatic birds… parrots in snowy Scotland? No, cross bills! The first I have ever seen, feeding on the larch cones.
The boys are red and the girls are yellow/green. Both a welcome splash of colour in our monochrome landscape.