Tuesday, 27 April 2021

cold, drying winds ...

Cold, drying winds. Frost most mornings.

Amelanchier 'Lamarckii'

The April showers of folklore seem only a memory now that we are seeing this weather for the second successive year. The farm irrigating machines are working round the clock.

We have almost exhausted the 4000 litres of collected rainwater stored for watering plants in the polytunnel, greenhouse and outdoor pots and containers.

But established plants are resilient. Amelanchier 'Lamarckii' is our 'plant of the week': abundant tiny flowers fill every stem at the moment.

Robin eggs
In the shed, our robin has a clutch of four eggs in a bulky nest tucked away at the back of a shelf. She's completely comfortable incubating her eggs when Jill works away at the potting bench, only feet away. I close the shed door each night, leaving a window open. Before I could open the shed door in the morning I watched the male call the female off the nest from a perch in the tulip pots. She nimbly exited via the opened window for her breakfast.

Feral greylag geese
Two feral greylags joined us today. And a heron on the pond where earlier four mallard drakes dabbled. Feral geese are attracted to the piles of discarded vegetables dumped in the nearby fields. The vegetables frequently appear to be of good quality and take a while to achieve the distinctive fragrance we've become accustomed to. A younger me would have considered setting up a social enterprise to turn the discarded vegetables into something more useful as they are only in the piles due to the exacting aesthetic standards of the supermarket behemoths. 

Voles now appear to be reaching the 'abundant' stage in the garden. Their holes puncture most of the beds and perforate the edge of the lawn. They've colonised the spongy trunk of an old silver birch that fell last year and has been left in the border. Voles are important to food chains. Here a badger has dug out one of the vole nests. Almost daily a stoat is seen hunting around: coal-black eyes with such a lively intelligence. We've yet to see a garden weasel but I'm pretty sure they'll be seen soon, disappearing down vole burrows in search of prey. Our tawnies continue to incubate in the big box above the stumpery: they'll welcome the number of voles we're currently entertaining.
Excavated vole nest

And vole burrows are especially useful to bumble bee queens who use the burrows for their nests. A buff-tailed queen was seen entering one of the burrows this week.

The badgers have discovered the apiary. We're fearing their next move and may need to find a way of securing the hives as a determined badger could easily topple a hive topped with several supers, despite the weight.

Pipistrelle bat
Pippistrelle bats are recorded here most nights, even in very cold evenings. The received wisdom is that they fly when the air is warmer. Perhaps they're getting impatient and fly despite the risks of getting chilled in fruitless search for flying insects.. I watched two bats hunting above the bee hives at dusk - presumably picking-off latecomers who were returning after a long foraging shift. 

Today, overhead, a swallow ... and our first swift of the year. That air-borne scimitar makes my heart leap and it is earlier than previous records here. Some years I have had no records for what was once a very common bird.

My trail cameras continue to monitor the progress of carrion crows, wood pigeons - and pheasants. 
Our Old Warrior pheasant cock is in his third year here and taps imperiously on the window when it's time for more corn. When the seed is cast for him he 'whup-whup-whups' to call one of his harem to feed. He's steadily being bested  by a young pretender. The two cock birds fight constantly and the Old Warrior is losing territory. An unwary hen is ambushed by three fighting males. There's no question of consent.

Last night one of the trail cameras picked up a muntjac. I check the camera cards each morning and delete countless videos of - nothing really.. It's a labour of love.
It was good to begin with 'Oh! Deer!' rather than the usual oh dear.

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