Monday, 7 April 2014

The fields are full of lambs right now and the cowslips I grew from seed are flowering.





And where is baby Oleg? My pet ferret Bramble lost her toy teddy and we hoped baby Oleg would arrive and keep her company but he seems to have gone awol.


Here she is with teddy just after an operation to remove a cancer from the tip of her tail, she's also had a stomach ulcer and got a cataract. She knows none of these things of course and just wants her walks and plays like a maniac as usual.

Got some new Colour Soft pencils and thought I would have a go at drawing a Sexton Beetle that came to my moth trap last summer. I love Sexton beetles they are the undertakers of the animal world, big and robust looking (for a beetle) with a striking orange and black waistcoat. They are also usually covered in tiny orange phoretic mites that hitch a lift to the next corpse and which don't seem to affect their host particularly. I like to hold a Sexton beetle on an outstretched finger and watch it unfurl its wings - at this point all the mites usually hunker down and hold on ready for take off! Before you have a go I should also mention that Sexton Beetles smell appalling whether this is down to their activities or secretions to put off predators I don't know. When the beetles find a suitable corpse, like a mouse or rat they excavate the soil beneath it until it is completely underground then lay their eggs on it and feed their young on the decomposing flesh. The phoretic mites  feed on fly eggs and maggots so ensuring the flies do not compete with the beetles for food. The picture was done in coloursoft pencils and a dip pen with indian ink, using several photos for reference.

Sexton Beetle ( Nicrophorus investigator ) with two mites near head.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

The unseasonably mild weather of the last two weeks has really brought the garden on. However all the lovely primrose flowers and fresh new growth of my herbs has been a huge draw for all the local rabbits and pheasants who spend the day pecking and nibbling a little bit of this and that  and add insult to injure by then burrowing beneath the roots or dustbathing and piling soil up all over the paths. The Curlews arrived back here March 2nd, we had the first Bumble Bee and Small Tortoiseshell on the 10th and the first bat of the year on 11th which we listened to with a bat detector as it flew round the house. We were late putting bird boxes up, last weekend for most of them but already there has been plenty of interest. The Nuthatches in particular  are hammering away at entrance holes and one even removed nest material taken in by Blue Tits. A lot  of trees came down round here in the winter storms and we wondered if there is now a lack of suitable nest sites.
Rabbit climbing garden plants to get at new growth

Hopefully this box will get used

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

The fields are now full of mole hills as the moles set off in search of mates. I wonder how they cope with the wet weather, can they drain their own runs. I saw one on the surface of the waterlogged field behind the house, sort of frantically swim-splashing uphill and disappearing into the ground. We are getting large flocks of starlings feeding up here, sometimes the gurgling sound of them all calling makes me think a pipe has burst somewhere. Driving down the lane to put the bins out I saw a tailess squirrel, it ran easily up a tree to sit and watch us in a fork of the trunk. The squirrels in the garden use their tails to signal constantly to each other, so basically its now mute. The snowdrops are out in the garden and the wild primroses have buds, though I've noticed the pheasants have taken a fancy to pecking them as they do all the new growth put out by the perennials.  

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

The crows gather at sunset in the bare trees behind the house, mainly in pairs. Squabbles break out as a bid is made for someone elses partner, then all fly off at once to the roost for the night. We have been very glad to see the Long tailed tits back in the garden after the dreadful storm last week and only a few old or diseased trees came down or lost large branches.
There are still active insects around, a little bit of late afternoon sunshine brings tiny gnats out to dance in the garden and driving home the headlights often catch pale moths in their beams. We put the moth trap out last night  and caught 5 Mottled Umbers in a variety of forms. The males fly from October through to January looking for the flightless females who crawl onto the trunks of deciduous trees after dark.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

First Snow

Woke up to a light dusting of snow and bright sunshine with the rich colours of the larches and beeches contrasting beautifully against the clear blue skies. Every week there seems to more bad news about  the spread of tree diseases like Phytophthora ramorum and it makes me wonder what the view will be like in a few years time. In the garden we have lots of Coal Tits coming to the feeders and we are a bit worried they have become welfare dependant. We have a Robin that roosts every night in the coal shed and last night we startled a Blue Tit that was roosting in one of the outbuildings. The Robin is really cool he has discovered that if he sings in the barn the acoustics make him sound much louder than he really is and it's very pleasant to listen to as you work.




Thursday, 10 October 2013

Autumn

Its now dark at six o clock in the morning, flocks of thrushes are back feeding in the fields, the leaves are turnimg  and I'm making Jam, so it must be Autumn. All the pumpkins are drying out in the conservatory, along with a wasps nest that has been in the woodshed all summer. I had to remove it with a bread-knife so its in cross-section. Some of the plums from the garden went into jam, the rest the wasps and pheasants have enjoyed. They also liked the pulp from the Rowan and Apple jellly I made- the lawn will probably sprout lots of Rowan seedlings in the spring. The woods and fields are full of fungi at the minute,I've taken some photos but not identified any , I feel a bit mean picking them for a spore print when they look so spectacular though the ones on the fallen trees behind the house are probably honey fungus. The oak trees are covered in acorns for the first time in a few years and the Jays are noisily flying around gathering them. The Sparrowhawk seems to be visiting most days, flying at and round the holly bush trying to flush out the Coal Tits that sit in there before flying to the birdtable.