Saturday 29 May 2010

Halcyon Days At Barleycorn In The Month Of May

Taz, the Barn Cat

Hal Borland is quoted as saying 'April is a promise that May is bound to keep' and I couldn't agree more. After such a long winter, with five weeks of snow and freezing cold, we have had a relatively mild May with a mini-heatwave into the bargain.

Orange Tipped Butterfly

The sunny weather brought the return of the garden fairies...the butterflies. So swift is the Orange Tipped in flight, that it took me a whole day to capture one photograph, though I managed to take video snippets of the Large White.

Wasp on A Centaurea

From the beginning to the end of the month my camera has been set, more or less, at video mode. All manner of interesting insects, bees and butterflies with their diaphanous wings, appeared, as if by magic, as the days grew warmer.

A Carder Bee, Bombus Pascuorum, on a Centaurea

Anyone within earshot of the garden was serenaded from dawn to dusk by several male Blackbirds singing their madrigals and the hum of the all-important bees, as they gathered nectar and pollinated the plants. Joining the Spring dance, the trees gradually donned lush Spring coats, and some even covered themselves in vibrant blossom.

Female Blackbird With Grubs

So far this year we have four pairs of Blackbirds nesting around the garden, three pairs of Swallows in the eaves of the barn, many Sparrows nesting in the ivy growing up the outside of the barn and a pesky Heron helping himself, unfortunately, to the colony of frogs in the two ponds.

Crab Apple blossom

Apart from chasing him away when I see him, there's not much else I can do, as I love all wildlife and believe that each plays its part in the magical web of life. After all, the ponds could not support all the tadpoles growing into mature frogs.

Pagoda Lilies, Erythroniums

Though we have seen several Martins flying overhead, so far, none has taken possession of the old nests...and a pair of Sparrows have now moved into one. The Martins were also a week late in returning this year, which may account for the Sparrows grabbing the main chance.

The Barn

Since April 2009, I have been keeping a record of photographs and videos of a few Great Spotted Woodpeckers which come to the garden. The slightest sign of movement and they fly off. It is usually their drumming which alerts me to their presence.

Great Spotted Woodpecker, Male

These Woodpeckers are about the same size as Blackbirds. The male has a red nape, while the female does not. The juvenile has a red hood. They all have red rumps. They are aggressive towards other birds at the feeders and think nothing of using their beaks to see them off.

Great Spotted Woodpecker, Female

In the video of the Woodpeckers, aggressive females commandeer the feeders and swing between them to chase off the smaller birds. Their behaviour always reminds me of Rudyard Kipling's poem...Now this is the law of the jungle...

Great Spotted Woodpecker, Juvenile

Even the juveniles are strong enough to play King of the Castle at the feeders, and, if hungry enough, they will fly at the smaller birds to shoo them away. I am so grateful for a fleeting visit, for, often, all I catch is a glimpse of the flash of red on their rumps as they fly off to the nearby wood.

Human subtlety will never devise an invention more beautiful, more simple or more direct than does Nature because in her inventions nothing is lacking, and nothing is superfluous.
Leonardo da Vinci

Enjoy the videos...and turn up the volume at the end of the second one, Halcyon Days At Barleycorn In The Merry Month Of May, to hear the Spring lambs bleating. The first, Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Apr09-May10, has Saint-Saens' Pianists for accompaniment.

Wednesday 5 May 2010

Every Spring Is The Only Spring

Tadpoles In Egg Cells

Please click * (footnote before the videos) on each photograph to see the amazing detail, and you will see why, for me, Spring is the most marvellous season. I was born in the month of April, and each year I am filled with Spring Fever. Having not one, but, two ponds here at Barleycorn, I am fortunate to be able to observe each stage in the life-cycle of the common frog at close quarters.

Taddies With Gills

Each Spring I marvel at this miraculous spectacle of Nature with renewed enthusiasm. It matters not that I have witnessed it for each of the past twenty years since my Hubbie first created the ponds...for every Spring is the only Spring.

Tadpoles Swimming Freely

With my camera set to video mode, I went out each day and recorded the changes in their development, from spawn to tadpole. You can watch the results in the first little video, Barleycorn Taddies, at the end of this post and be filled with wonder at the metamorphosis.

Female Blackbird Gathering Nesting Material

As well as the frenzy of activity in the ponds, beginning each day with the Frog Chorus, we have also had the pleasure of being awakened by the Dawn Chorus, and a wonderful serenading Song Thrush...both of which are better than any alarm clock at enticing me out of bed. Because we have a lot of chaff left over from last year's spent flower stems, the usual suspects have been gathering their nesting material.

Blackbird's Nest

Each Autumn, I leave a crown of growth around my plants to protect them from severe frosts and to offer nesting material for the birds in Spring. This year, we have watched three pairs of Blackbirds, a Thrush, three pairs of Jackdaws and Titmice gathering chaff, moss, wool and twigs to make their nests.

Goldfinches And A Siskin

Nuts and seeds sustain the birds when they are feverishly engaged in building their nests. In the second video, Billing And Cooing, you will see a female blackbird using her beak to wrestle and tug chaff from the earth, for a whole day, and persevere until her beak could support no more strands, before flying off to a nearby Pine, where she began to weave her magic.

Siskin On A Garden Light

I do not use the word 'magic' lightly, to describe the truly wonderful creation of a bird's nest, for their intricacy never ceases to amaze me, knowing that, even with the use of a pair of hands, my effort would be a poor attempt. Though we found the nest lying on the ground the next day, the Blackbird began the marathon all over again, this time building the nest in a more sheltered Pine.

Double-Petalled Daffodil

Whenever our daffodils burst forth, I am always reminded of the exuberant song from the Mikado...
# The Flowers That Bloom In The Spring, Tra La #
... because they are further confirmation that Spring has arrived at last at Barleycorn. Another sign is the first appearance of 'our' Swallows, newly returned from their long trip from Africa to their nests in the Barn. This year we are fortunate to have three returning pairs.

Naturalised Daffodils

With the Swallows playing Spitfires, zooming in and out of the Barn from dawn to dusk each day, the car is once again sporting a dustsheet for the duration of our Barn visitors' sojourn. Further evidence of Spring is the fact that my log-piles have dwindled as pairs of Jackdaws replenished their nests in the Barn's three chimneys.

Orange-Centred Daffodil

There are five Dandelion plants in full bloom at the moment, given house-room in our garden so that Queen Bumble bees have sustenance when they crawl out of their underground hideaways each Spring... for our garden is very much one designed to encourage wildlife to take up residence.

Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly On Scilla

Small Tortoiseshell and Large White butterflies overwinter in the Barn. Several times over the years I have managed to rescue a few from cobwebs to enable them to fly off and begin their life-cycle. In the third video, Flowering At Barleycorn, you will see Taz, my constant companion, as I took the footage. Though our garden is very much in the early stages of Spring, with many joys still to unfold as the season progresses, I already feel I am bursting with joy, blessed with the wonder and majesty of it all and feeling positive about what the garden means in terms of conservation...reminding me we are the stewards of the earth.

Don't forget to turn up the volume to enjoy the musical accompaniment and the sounds of Nature in the background. Enjoy!

Click * If you decide to click to enlarge a photo, you can then click on a corner and the photo will open up to the size of the whole page...and then you will see everything in glorious detail!

The music accompanying Barleycorn Taddies is Delibes' Pizzicati.

The music accompanying Billing And Cooing is Kriesler's Schon Rosmarin.

The music accompanying Flowering At Barleycorn is Grieg's To The Spring, from his Lyric Pieces.