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Monday, 25 January 2021

New Insect Hotels

 Today I took delivery of two insect hotels I bought off eBay. I meant to buy them last Autumn in time for hibernating insects but for some reason it never happened. 

I bought a large one that has a chamber with a slotted entrance, I think that is intended for winged insects like Butterflies, Moths and Ladybirds to hibernate in. I also bought a smaller one that just has hollow canes and wood with holes in for Bees to nest in. Both have fir cones in the bottom, I'm guessing that this is to provide nooks and crannies for insects and spiders. 

The larger one has no makers name on it, only a distributor called AM/63 in the Netherlands, the other is branded as Lifetime Garden by a company called A.I.&E. based in the Netherlands. Both are manufactured in the People's Republic of China.       

The small one has no instructions for where to site it but the large one says to hang it in a sunny and rain protected spot. The east facing wall of the house is the only spot I have that fits that the best. I fixed the large one about head height next to the patio doors.   

The smaller one I fixed on the same wall, under the kitchen window, there are already screws in the wall there so that saved drilling.

I hope something uses them.

Sunday, 24 January 2021

Snow, Squirrels, Snow Troll, Blue Tits, Great Tits, Blackcap, Long Tailed Tits, Starlings, Blackbirds, Robins, Goldfinches and little Jenny Wren.

 Today we had the first snow fall of the year. It wasn't much by global standards but a fair bit for here.

The Squirrels were taking things in their stride, easily finding food under the snow. 

They would be quite endearing if they weren't so greedy and destructive.    

I spotted this Snow Troll on the lawn, a very rare sight in this part of the World, some of the younger Gnomes have never seen one before.

Gnomes seem to love the snow, I suppose it breaks the monotony, it certainly cheers them up anyway.   

The usual birds were to be seen, Blue Tits and Great Tits where diving out the hedge to the sunflower seed feeders, taking a seed and then darting back, sometimes chasing each other off, Mr Blackcap and the Long Tailed Tits made fleeting visits. The Starlings were feeding on the suet feeders, in their usual noisy and quarrelsome manner.
the Blackbirds were on the lawn.

The Robins were making themselves known, not as aggressive as they can be but still chasing off other birds. 

The Goldfiches came, not in as large group as normal. 

Little Jenny Wren was doing the rounds, looking for the little beasts that lurk in all the nooks and crannies, always a delight to see.  

The Birds do seem to be getting on with each other better than before, I suppose the shock of the clearing work has started to wain. 
 The snow is almost gone now, a brief moment of wonder.   

Sunday, 17 January 2021

Hedgehog, Fox, Mute Swan, Mallard and a walk along the river Thames.

So last year I was concerned that I hadn't seen any Hedgehogs in the garden, well I managed to capture some video of them with the camera trap. The reason why I hadn't before seems to be due to the way the sensor works on the camera, it is blind to anything lower than the camera so it's only by chance that a Cat or the Fox has been on the lawn at the same time as the Hedgehog that I was able to capture them.  

It was good news that I still have Hedgehogs in the garden. 

In September me and the other half had a walk along Culham cut and the river Thames at Culham. 

A Mute Swan.

A female Mallard.

It was good to get out and see the other half, it was a really nice day.

A new year is here, winter is in full swing now that we are in mid-January, it hasn't been too frosty yet but we did have a thin covering of snow that lasted on the ground till about mid-day. 
In the land beyond the bottom of the garden, work has started for what I presume is for the building of houses. The land was what was left after the clay pit works had closed, a mix of bushes and some large trees that had established themselves around a large pond. 

The view over the back fence.

It's really sad to see, it's been a little wildlife haven for over 50 years.
I hope the Deer and Foxes have found somewhere else to go, I also worry about what has happened to the Hedgehogs. The big Willow tree, the last of two that was part of an old Rookery has gone, it was an old friend and I miss it.   


Saturday, 8 August 2020

Reynard the Fox, Common Green Bottle, Sunflower, Holly Blue, Jacket Spuds.

 A short camera trap update, Reynard the Fox has been back to the garden, twice. Once on the 3rd of August,

and once on the 6th of August.

I now know what he's eating, it isn't the dried mealworms but suet fat sticks that the Birds hadn't found. To test this I put the suet in piles instead of scattering them, and the piles were gone after his visit. Still no sign of the Hedgehogs. 

In other news:

Common Green Bottle flies were finding something interesting in the grass.

I could not see anything in the grass, but they are quite a nice shiny green.

The Sunflowers that had sprouted from spilt birdseed are opening up.

I spotted another female Holly Blue feeding on the Ivy flowers, I thought at first she was laying eggs but after she had flown off, I inspected the flowers and saw nothing egg like. I now question my assumption that the behaviour I witnessed last time was egg laying.  

I have also done another outdoor cooking test, my aim is to do a jacket spud without burning them, personally I think the burnt bits are the best bit about this sort of cooking but it's not to everyone's taste. After quizzing Becky, of Girl Outdoors on YouTube (, She suggested to keep turning them, no flame and not too hot. I usually just bury them in the fire. 

I wrapped them in foil, I suspect this isn't what a proper outdoors person would do but it keeps them clean. 

I turned them a quarter turn about every five minuets, after about an hour I gave them a poke with a skewer and it went in fairly easily, so I opened up the foil so the skins would crispen up a bit.

When the skins had dried out and crispend up, I deemed them ready. I served them with butter and cheese, that's probably over indulgent but that's what I like and they were really nice. There was a little firmness right in the centre but this wasn't a problem.

I would count this as a success, no burning happened, I now have a time frame that I can adjust for better results. 

Monday, 3 August 2020

Wittenham Clumps, Woolly Thistle, Buff-tailed Bumblebees, Common Knapweed. Kestrel, Red Kites, Teasels, Red Admiral, Blackberry, Wild Carrot, Chalk Hill Blues, Blackthorn, Marjoram, Field Bindweed, Clustered Bellflower.

A trip out for a COVID-secure walk with my other half and little Dougal, to Wittenham Clumps, ( or as it says on the OS map The Sinodun Hills. 
There are two hills, one called Round Hill, 

and one called Castle Hill with an Iron Age hill fort on top. 

We started our walk from the car park up the slope of Round Hill, there is a mown path in the grass field that takes you to the summit. The field has large clumps of Woolly Thistle dotted about, their big flower heads attracting Buff-tailed Bumblebees. 

There are also Common Knapweed trying to attract the Bees attention. 

Above us a Kestrel was hunting, it would start by soaring high in the sky, then it would hover, from there it would stoop to a hover at a lower height, it would glide off and then return to the same spot for a hover, slowly drop height while in hover till it nearly reaches the ground, there it would drop to the ground and then fly off to start again.  

There were also two Red Kites, zooming about but I only managed to photograph one.

Once at the top of Round Hill, we stopped to take in the views.
Castle Hill with the Chiltern Hills way off in the distance. 

Those two upright dots on the horizon in the centre of the photo are the chimneys of Didcot B Power Station. It feels odd not seeing the big chimney and cooling towers of Didcot A, it had been part of the view all my life and a good landmark for when coming home. 

The harvest in full swing.

The River Thames and Days Lock.

As we walked around the trees on top of the hill, we came across some Teasels in flower, with a Red Admiral feeding on the flowers, we watched it go from one flower to another, bewitched by it and snapping photos like hungry paparazzi till it flew off. 

Next to the Teasels was an extensive Blackberry bush, looking like it's going to be a good year for Blackberries. 

Walking down the slope of Round Hill towards Castle Hill, the clumps of Woolly Thistle are joined by some Wild Carrot. 

In the grass we came across this amorous couple of Chalk Hill Blues, I took my photo and then felt embarrassed, so I bid them good day and moved on.

At the top of Castle Hill there were some Blackthorn bushes, with lots of dusty blue Sloes. It seems this year is going to be good for all fruits. 

Dorchester Abbey is clearly visible from Castle Hill. 

It was getting quite hot in the Sun, poor Dougal had to cool off in the shade. He wanted a pint of beer but he couldn't have one on account of him having to drive my other half home.

It's a shame the old Poem Tree has died and rotted away. It is locally famous, only this plaque remains to tell the story. Poet Joseph Tubb carved the poem into a Beech Tree. On the Earth Trust website is a trans script of the poem, . 

Artist Paul Nash did a water colour of this view. 

The view to the South.

Walking around Castle Hill back towards the car park, there was a different assortment of wild flowers, in amongst the Bird's-foot Trefoil and Field Scabious was Marjoram,

Field Bindweed,

and Clustered Bellflower.

It's always nice to be up the Clumps, what ever the weather, but it was time well spent with my other half and little Dougal.