Nature’s Valentines

We are experiencing some cold weather here in Shropshire but, although it is still technically winter, there are signs of change. I went on a course the other day to identify trees in winter and it was amazing that, despite the frosts and snow, some of the trees are already bud bursting. Even in the garden, there are those little signs. Throughout the winter, we have had two Robins residing on either side of our garden. One on the right and one on the left 😉

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Yesterday, I spotted them both together on a branch. Meanwhile, we have also had a single Dunnock throughout the winter months. Yesterday, I saw the one had been joined by another and he was sitting up in the tree singing the most beautiful song. For such a plain bird, they have a wonderful tune.

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Our gregarious Long Tailed Tits are still paying a visit to the garden especially on the colder, frosty days.

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As I was walking through the snow yesterday, I also heard two birds flying through the Hawthorne, calling to each other sounding almost like a plaintive mobile phone. It was a sound that was unfamiliar to me, I think I could also do with a course on birdsong.

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Despite the snow, the first signs of Spring are hidden in sheltered corners.

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In our garden, the first flowers are the Iris with that gorgeous splash of colour to soothe tired winter eyes.

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Along the hedgerows and in the woodland we also have the most beautiful of our early flowers in the UK. The Snowdrop. The first signs of Spring are held in the soft petals of in this tiny delicate flower.

TO A SNOWDROP

LONE Flower, hemmed in with snows and white as they
But hardier far, once more I see thee bend
Thy forehead, as if fearful to offend,
Like an unbidden guest. Though day by day,
Storms, sallying from the mountain-tops, waylay
The rising sun, and on the plains descend;
Yet art thou welcome, welcome as a friend
Whose zeal outruns his promise! Blue-eyed May
Shall soon behold this border thickly set
With bright jonquils, their odours lavishing
On the soft west-wind and his frolic peers;
Nor will I then thy modest grace forget,
Chaste Snowdrop, venturous harbinger of Spring,
And pensive monitor of fleeting years!

William Wordsworth

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A Day Without Rain

Well it is raining now…but, at least we had a lovely day earlier for a change. The day started when I looked out and saw a bird on the telephone wire that I didn’t recognise. In fact I still don’t know what it was, it looked a lot like a spotted flycatcher but had red tail feathers! However, this was my cue to grab my camera and get out whilst I could 🙂
The first butterfly I saw was one that I thought I saw a week or so ago but, it was in flight. Otherwise this was a first for me and not a familiar sight in Shropshire:

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Meanwhile, I was treated to an amazing display by the local Kestral who normally disapears quite quickly when folks are about. But, I walked slowly and it was quiet up there today.

Despite the recent weather, the field is full of Brown butterflies right now and here is Small Skipper, Meadow Brown, and Ringlet respectively:

And, to add just a little more colour, there were a few burnet moths flying:

Finally, as I arrived this thrush was out catching worms so I stood a while

What a great day!

Skiathos in Springtime

As you may I have gathered by my lack of posts, I have been missing for a short while. It was somewhat spur of the moment but, the flights to Skiathos went down to a very good price and then my kind friend Yvonne invited me to stay for a week. Yvonne normally runs painting classes on the island but, is taking a break this year. Her blog is here and is a fascinating account of arts and culture of the island. Anyway, I jumped at the chance, who can resist an offer like that? I intended to go and paint too but, seeing the island so fresh and with so few tourists, I just had to go and explore. I did just have a tiny dabble one of the days….. this little watercolour sketch which was the view from my room.

I spent many happy hours sitting on this step. Every morning I watched a hornet come and peel a little bit of wood from one of the posts, roll it up very carefully and then fly off back to his nest. The birds became familiar with Great tits arriving in the morning and Goldfinches in the afternoon. On the flowers in the foreground, the Meadow brown butterflies danced all day.

Skiathos is a busy tourist destination and although you can find quiet places to visit even in high season, I was amazed to find myself walking down empty beaches. The sea is normally very calm in summer but, because they were experiencing a few storms after some lovely weather the week before, the sea was wild and beautiful.

The birdwatching was the best I have experienced. I was lucky enough to see Night Heron, Olivaceous Warbler, Temminck’s Stint to name but a few. I also finally managed to capture on camera a Male Red Backed Shrike which has been a mission for a couple of years!

Wild flowers were abundant and so fresh!

There were plenty of butterflies and I saw one or two to add to my ever-growing list on the island. I had brief glimpses of Two Tailed Pasha, Scarce Swallowtail and Cleopatra. The tiny little ones were starting to emerge and also a large Blue butterfly that I am unfamiliar with. Sadly no photo’s of these!I did get some nice shots of some fresh Mallow Skippers, such tiny little things:

and the very beautiful Southern White Admiral.

The dragonflies were emerging on a daily basis which provided hours of fun with my macro.

Finally, I have wanted to meet a gentleman who lives on the island for some time. Vasilis Korallis takes town and nature walks which run from Skiathos town. It was so lovely to finally meet him and get a copy of his book which has wonderful walks and is written with delightful humour. It is rare to read a reference type book and find yourself laughing out loud. I recommend it highly, further information can be found on Skiathorama. Incidentally, this new site is a project by some more friends on the island and is a wonderful site covering the flowers, nature, culture and artists of the island. Do take a look around while you are there. You will also find one or two of my photo’s 😉
Many, many thanks once again to Yvonne once again for her generosity in sharing her beautiful corner of Skiathos and providing me with an opportunity to discover more delights of my favourite Greek Island.

*Whispers, I will be back again soon………..*

Moving into May

Although, it doesn’t really feel too much warmer. However, there are plenty of new arrivals. Last week I saw the first swallows and this week the first swifts. The recent weather has meant that for much of this week, we have had flood alerts here in Shropshire. The River Severn is very high right now so after a winter where it was below normal levels, in the image it is well above. Normally you can walk under this bit of the bridge.

The butterflies that I would expect to see by now are still absent and the Orange Tips are the only one that I have seen in any number. This one very kindly posed for me in the garden.

But, an old friend did materialise on a trip out over the weekend. This is the first damsel that I have spotted for the year, newly emerged, a week later than the first spotted last year.

On the same trip, we also saw two Mistle Thrushes hunting for worms.

The bluebells are now in full flower:

Whereas, these Ramsons flowered only this week:

Have a great week!

The Birds & the Flowers

I am afraid that right now the poor bees don’t get a look in, although I have seen a few dodging the rain here and there. The rainy week has also seen very reduced numbers of butterflies. The good thing is that the plants and trees are loving it and everything has turned green as if by magic. The bluebells are blooming in the local woods, the scent is beautiful right now when walking though the glade.

Some of our summer visitors have arrived and being lucky enough to live by a small coppice, I get the opportunity to watch them at quite close quarters. There are several pairs of Chiffchaffs and I have watched the female scurrying around and building the most wonderful nest as Mr Chiffchaff sings loudly up in the tree.

We have several Common Buzzards up on the Hermitage. As soon as the clouds break, you can see them soaring above our house. Normally they are by far too high to get a decent image but, the other day they were being harassed by the Crows. If you are looking in from across the pond, I am pretty certain that you don’t get these over there but, they are a lot like some of your Hawks. I even managed to catch him in a little blue sky 😀

About, two years ago, I did used to see a very occasional rabbit up there. But, it was very rare! Now they seem to be making a comeback and instead we have a lack of Grey Squirrels. I am not certain why, nature has a strange way of evolving when left to itself.

Along with the season, it has also been terribly windy. I had to smile at this little one sitting on a garden fence getting a little bedraggled!

A lot of the wild flowers in the meadow are common, it is always nice to see the return of them. The first daisy, the first dandelion or in the case the first buttercup. I see them all emerge and know that the butterflies and moths that like each plant will follow.

Have a lovely weekend 🙂

….and it was all Yellow

Actually it has been a very wet rainy day here in Shropshire and so to brighten the day, I am choosing some of my most recent “Yellow” photographs. Besides, this one should be bright and cheery, it is my 100th blog post! I always think that colours seem to change throughout the year and often become predominantly one whether this is due to nature or man-made. The daffodils have all but finished now but, these Narcissus have been brightening up my days this week from a neighbour’s garden.

Whilst in our own garden, the birds have been the most active on out feeder that I have seen for ages. They all look very smart in Spring I think. No doubt they will look a little more ruffled at the end of the breeding season.

Meanwhile, a little further afield and the first primroses are blooming in the woods and on the grass verges.

For miles around we can see bright yellow fields of rapeseed for oil.

The first Yellow Wagtails are arriving and looking around the hedgerows and you can spot the Yellow Hammers dive to the ground as you drive past.

Finally, for the house I bought some Yellow Chrysanthemums, it cheers it up whilst it is raining!

Have a great weekend!

The Nature of April

The nature of April here in the UK is showers! Despite an earlier warm week and some area’s of the UK experiencing drought conditions, here in Shropshire April has been pretty much as it usually is. It heralds the return of many old friends which I delight in seeing again. After several months of catching a rare glimpse of a butterfly, lots of insects emerge, the sound of the Chiffchaff is heard on their return from Africa and the first Spring flowers appear like magic.

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Different birds seem to be arriving daily and this week, I saw my first Swallow.

Despite the showers we have been out and about watching and listening to the new arrivals. The butterflies arrived very early on the South Coast but here in the Midlands my first spot of Speckled Woods was actually a few days later than last year. On the same day I caught the first glimpse of a Brimstone and Orange Tip. I normally have to wait a while for my first image of an Orange tip, they fly at an incredible rate. However, down by the river on Sunday, one rested a while under cloudy skies.

A little patience waiting for the cloud to move over was rewarded:

A little further afield just into Staffordshire on Saturday and this was the first Green Veined White:

Almost on cue, I spotted the first glimpses of the Cuckoo flower or Ladies Smock which is a favourite of both of these butterflies. It always fascinates me how nature know the right time!

Meanwhile, we have a pair of Robins feeding each other in the garden. How I would love to get a picture. For such a feisty bird, they are so gentle with each other!