Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Spring in a pot!

There's nothing like spring flowers for lifting the spirits.  Inbetween the rain showers, I took my camera out into the garden the other day to record this none too tidy (I don't 'do' tidy) mix of springness!
In the overcast light the colours seemed to glow.
The Anemone blanda was particularly luminous!
Snakeshead Fritillary is one of Chris's favourite spring bulbs. These were putting on a fine show.
This beautiful Hepatica wasn't in the pot but is one of the few things that is flowering in the ground right now.  They are difficult plants that hate any disturbance, so I was amazed to see it come up the year after my sweet husband dug a hole right through it to put up the Arts and Crafts birdtable that he'd made me!
I was given this plant about 25 years ago by a lovely old gent who I used to serve when I worked in a garden centre in London. Thanks Mr Hunt! Long may it survive! (-:

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Birding the Forest of Dean

After ALOT of rainy days, the forecast for Saturday was dry, at least for some of the day so a birding friend and I decided to take a trip across the River Severn to Wales. Well, it's not quite Wales, the Forest of Dean is still in England, but it feels like you're in Wales. There are two bridges spanning the Severn over to Wales and the photo below is a view of the newer one.
The title of this post is 'birding' the Forest of Dean, but I can't say we were too serious about it.  For a start we didn't get up at the crack of dawn and we spent more time nattering than birding, but it was still great to be out in some dry weather and in a beautiful part of the country.  The woodland below is an RSPB reserve called Nagshead. We were there to try and see Lesser-spotted Woodpecker (no chance) and Firecrest (little chance).  Needless to say, we were unsuccessful (L S Woodpecker is one of the most difficult birds to see in Britain, in my humble opinion).  We had a lovely walk here full of the song of the more common woodland birds.
As always, I had to stop and take a photo when I noticed this lovely group of moss, lichen and fungi together.
The sheep in the Forest of Dean are left to wander anywhere which makes for careful driving, specially at this time of year with young lambs about.  This one was safely off the road enjoying it's breakfast!
One of our target species for the day was Mandarin Duck.  These beautiful ducks were originally from east Asia.  A feral population thrives here in the Forest.

The male is simply stunning.  A true courtier of the water!
The female is beautiful in a softer more graceful way. 
I'd go out with him if I wasn't already taken! (-:

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Standen - National Trust

Just outside East Grinstead (where we were staying) is Standen, an Arts and Crafts house preserved by the National Trust.  For more information on this house, click on the link. We've visited here many times in the past, but not for a few years now.  This is one of the first places that inspired Chris to make Arts and Crafts furniture.
I love the view of the house from this direction,the naturally weathered oak boarding at the front of those roof gables and the conservatory area on the left are beautiful parts of the architecture of the house.

In the conservatory, I couldn't resist taking a photo of this stunningly vibrant orchid.
As you can see from the reflection, Chris was trying to help me get the best angle on this photo of a copper repousse mirror.  I think it was a bit high up for me! (-: Copper repousse work was one of the major crafts practiced during the Arts and Crafts period. For more information on copper repousse work being done today, click on the link.
After spending about 2 hours wandering around the house, it was time for some fresh air and a walk around the gardens.  The mixture of crocus and daffs around this tree was a lovely splash of colour.
I guess March isn't the best time to visit any garden.  The grotto area is still atmospheric none the less.  Imagine this a bit later in the year, lush with ferns and other foliage!
This was a handy seat where we could rest weary feet!
Chris with his aunt Viv.
The crocus and daffs in this dark and dank area seem almost luminous.
The way out to the top of the garden.
As we were walking around the fruit and vegetable area of the garden, we came across this beautiful bug home, made from old pallets, odd tiles, pots, stones, canes and twigs.  We all completely fell in love with it and Viv and I are determined to make one for our own gardens!
Back home, I've found just the right place for one under my Strawberry Tree. Hopefully, when I've made it, I will do a post on it! (-:

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Exotics on the way to East Grinstead!

Last week Chris and I took at couple of days break after finishing our annual Arts and Crafts exhibition that we stage from our home each March.  We went to stay with his aunt and uncle who live at East Grinstead in Sussex.  Rather than go the quicker way along the motorways, we decided to take the slower but more scenic route.  About 2/3rds of the way along there is a nice small lake near the town of Midhurst.  Here we stopped to have our lunch.  Now although these two species of bird are not native to Britain, they're handsome enough for me to enjoy taking a few shots after our lunch.  The Black Swan is a native of Australia.  It was introduced here and is found on many lakes around Britain.
That white in the wing makes a stunning contrast to the rest of it's inky black plumage.
It seems to have a much kinder looking face than our native Mute Swan.
Across on the far side of the lake is a pleasing folly.  I don't know anything about this lake and so dont know who built the lake and folly or who it belongs to now, but it's definitely a great place to stop for a break from driving! (-:
The other non native bird I found here is the Egyptian Goose.  It was introduced in the 18th Century from Africa.
That golden yellow eye stands out beautifully!
It's certainly one of the weirder looking geese I've seen, not the prettiest!
I like this shot of it preening.
It certainly seemed happy to have it's photo taken!

Friday, 19 March 2010

Birds at Rodden Reserve

My walk around Rodden Reserve didn't produce anything particularly exciting birdwise, but it was just lovely to be out walking under a beautiful blue sky. The resident Buzzard was sitting in the sunshine in one of the larger trees along the river Frome.
I can never seem to get very close to raptors, so here are some cropped photos to show him (or her) a bit better.
When it started to bend over, I thought it was just about to fly off but.....
......instead, it was going through one of those necessary functions!
Luckily I missed the most relevant moment! (-:
The Canada Geese seem to come and go from the reserve.  Last year a pair did breed here and raised 5 young.  Being an non-native species and also given their possible aggressive natures towards other wildlife, breeding here is met with mixed emotions.
They were certainly viewing me with interests, but with little fear
One of several pairs of Mallards that breed on the reserve.  One of my BTO survey tetrads covers this reserve, so it will be interesting to see what stays around to breed this year.
On my walk around, one of the loudest and most distinctive bird songs came from the Song Thush. It was great to hear this varied but repetitive song again after the long winter!
Again, I wasn't able to get a close shot, so here's a cropped version of the photo above.
The forecast is for rain for the next few days, so it might be a while before I get to walk around here again.