Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Snowdrop Festival & Visits

If it’s real life or virtual Snowdrop walks/visits you’d enjoy then perhaps you might want to pour yourself a cuppa and browse the links below. Yep... if you are wondering where to find Snowdrop displays to visit just now, perhaps I might have found you just one or two. It has been fun searching :-)

Scotland is hosting a Festival of Snowdrops just now. Oops… apologies for my late arrival to the party. I’m hoping I’ll redeem myself now with a bit of a Snowdrop Fest… please do join me :-)

For my blogging friends and visitors outside the UK who will never see snowdrops growing (unless they visit countries that do) this post is dedicated to you.


Below you’ll see links to gardens and blog posts where you can see Snowdrop displays. Here in Scotland they are just beginning but I always forget that down in England and Wales they are a few weeks ahead of us so sorry if you’ve missed an opportunity there.

Fingask Castle

Perhaps you could help me? If you know a garden or blog post that I’ve missed or you would recommend please do add a link below. Please no spam, I will delete your entry and if you persist will close the links completely and you’ll spoil this for everyone.

If you are a blogger and have posted on Snowdrops/visits already (or plan to soon), please add the URL of your post below with the location and area followed by your name as I have done with mine. Snowdrop photo posts are welcome too :-)

Dalmeny Park

As well as enjoying seeing snowdrop displays myself, I do hope many more people will enjoy visiting gardens at this time of year to see them too – perhaps for the first time :-)

I haven’t decided which gardens I will visit this year. Perhaps Cluny in Perthshire for a day visit but I am considering a night viewing of snowdrops at Cambo...

Looks quite a spectacle doesn’t it? Drumroll please :-) Let’s open this Snowdrop Fest at shirls gardenwatch… let’s share our Snowdrops with the world :-D

Yellow Book Openings shown in list below: SGS = Open Gardens in Scotland,
NGS = Open Gardens in England & Wales. NT = National Trust Gardens in England & Wales. NTS = National Trust Gardens in Scotland.

Please note that you won't be able to right click and paste your entry but if you hold down the Ctrl button and press the 'v' key you can add your copied code okay then.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

GBBD February 2011

Five years ago Carol at May Dreams Gardens invited Garden Bloggers to join her in posting the blooms in our gardens on the 15th of the month. Today she is still hosting this very popular Meme which has brought so many like-minded people together. Carol, our thanks go to you for another successful year :-)

Gardeners of all kinds and from many countries have since met, shared plants, seeds, tips and garden visits. Many friendships have been struck and many more meetings will take place in the future, of that I am certain.

Although, in the main, I am seen as a bird and wildlife blogger I do feel very much part of the garden blogging world too and have enjoyed many exchanges and chat with my fellow garden bloggers. I’d like to take this opportunity to say thanks to you all for your continued friendship :-)

February 2011 is much like February 2010 in my Scottish Garden. After another very cold and prolonged snow spell (from Novemeber to January) it is behind in blooms from 2009.

In 2009, the Crocus was fully out as were snowdrops. You’ll see their slower growth for 2011 in the second montage below. No Crocus colour yet and only one Snowdrop bell which hasn’t opened yet.

Clicking on images will enlarge them

Wisteria flowers suffered last year too. We had noticeably fewer. Perhaps it was the cold that hit them too. I can’t be certain of that. However, the montage above shows (pic on right) that frost/cold has hit the stems and you can see that the flower buds there are less plump and look weaker.

A second pruning is due on my Wisteria which will take the stems back to two sets of buds (always a shame to cut away healthy looking ones) so at this stage the weaker ones will go. Although, I only had a quick look around with my camera today and maybe other stems will need to be cut away completely if there is too much die back.

This morning saw a frosty start and by the time I went out with my camera many leaves (like the Hellebore above) were looking like it had been raining. I was delighted to see flower buds with them today.

However, on the main, my Perthshire Garden is still in a relatively sleepy state. Many plants looked like they were beginning their Spring growth after the snow finally cleared only to be teasing us and showing no hurry now.

In the absence of colourful blooms, the montage below shows the many textures of the garden at the moment. It also shows an oily surface on my small rock pool pond telling me there are leaves decomposing at the bottom. I need to get my net out there and do some fishing :-)

The final image from my garden today is probably one that is common in many gardens throughout the world at this time of year. The corner collection of mixed plants, potted up waiting to be tipped out and planted in the garden. Ah… I’m getting itchy feet looking at them tonight :-)

In celebration of five years of Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day I felt some colour was in order. Purple Iris with yellow Roses caught my eye in the supermarket yesterday and here we have (very quickly thrown together tonight) an arrangement at my front door that we can enjoy for the moment.

Now… this arrangement then got me remembering some yellow summer colour blooms, bees and butterflies on a garden visit last July. I wonder if anyone recognises where this was. I’ve been selecting and cropping many more images from this visit which will be coming soon.

Being absolutely honest, I’m never in a hurry for summer when we are in February. There is a part of me that is quite happy with the slower pace of the garden just now. It won’t last much longer I know, but it is a great time to start planning in ernest for the garden year ahead.

Wishing everyone (especially those taking part in GBBD) a great gardening year ahead! I’m off visiting now to see what’s going on in your gardens in February 2011. I'm heading over to Carol’s post where you can see them all there too :-)

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Llanelli Wetland Centre, Wales

Mount Everest was where I arrived at last night! What a fascinating trip it was too. Don’t you just love those unplanned trips? Let me share this one with you. A great view awaits us. Don't worry… we won’t get altitude sickness :-)

We will begin our trip at Llanelli Wetlands Centre in Wales last July on a holiday visit. After a relaxing coffee in the Café watching birds feeding we'll head out for a wander around the winding paths of the Reserve. Hold on to your paper bag of bird seed now… the rustling is like a dinner bell to the birds.

Jay at Cafe feeder, Bar-headed Geese being fed with seed,
Caribbean Flamingo with Moorhen and Black headed gulls.
From memory, The Flamingos were not to be fed the seed.

Philippine Duck taking time out in a quiet spot.

Ruddy Shelduck drinking. Molting perhaps or is it a Juvenile?

Smart Ruddy Shelduck following the bags of seed closely.

Red-crested Pochard run out the water to feed on seed.
Us squabble? You must be mistaken.

Barrows Goldeneye watches and wonders what all the fuss about.

Bar-headed Goose, quick... the Pochards are back in the water.

Bar-headed Geese, search out food missed by Pochards.
Don't the bars on our heads look smart? Do you know our story?

Being honest I didn’t, and what a fascinating bird the Bar-headed Goose has turned out to be. I only wish I’d known this when I was taking my photos and watching it. As I’ve said before, although I chat about garden birds I’m not what you'd call a birder. I really am out of my depth with water birds and their ID’s ;-)

Thanks go to Jan at the Birdforum for supplying (very quickly) ID’s for my photos last night. I always do a quick Google search on images after I get an ID and this one took me to a very sweet image of a Bar-headed Goose and chick. However it was the content of the article that really caught my eye.

Further searches took me to videos that I am able to share here below. I am delighted to have a couple of short clips from the BBC with Sir David Attenborough narrating fascinating stories of these birds. I’ll let you watch them and we’ll chat some more for those who can’t. Apologies to my visitors outside the UK if you get an error trying to play the videos.

This modest looking, Bar-headed Goose is extremely high-flying. Scientists now have a theory on how, when migrating over the Himalayas with a quarter of the oxygen available at sea level, they are able to do it.

I’ve found a variety of sources discussing this but many are a bit too scientific for me and most likely way to detailed for a blog post. I found the following article in Birdwatch explained it well:

“Bar-headed Geese annually migrate over the highest mountains in the world – the Himalayas – on their way between their breeding areas in China and Mongolia, and their wintering grounds in India. They fly at altitudes of up to 9,000 metres." (30, 000 ft)

"Scientists from the University of British Columbia compared their physiology with that of Barnacle, Pink-footed and Greylag Geese which fly at low altitudes, looking for adaptations that enable them to fly in such thin air.

Their findings, published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, show that they have a higher density of capillaries around their muscles. These muscles also have between six to 10 per cent more aerobic muscle fibres than in other geese.

The team also found that the Bar-headed Geese's mitochondria– the cell's power sources – are distributed closer to the cell membrane and therefore closer to capillaries. These traits allow oxygen to be carried and diffused more effectively to the flight muscles.

These physical adaptations are found in Bar-headed Geese that are bred in captivity and have never flown, and must have evolved overtime specifically to survive and perform at high altitudes. They are also known to breathe more than most other animals do when oxygen is scarce. “

If you are interested in the more Scientific explanation you can find it here.

Where other birds migrate over a longer route around Everest and the Himalayas, the Bar-headed Goose takes the harder but shorter route over Mount Everest! It flies up there with the Jumbo Jets, it has adapted to this, and looks pretty impressive in the first video above.

My unplanned trip last night was fascinating as it unfolded. If you haven’t heard of this bird I hope you have enjoyed the trip with me. I now won’t look at images of the snow-capped Himalayas without thinking of the Bar-headed Goose.

I’ll also think of my daughters (in the first montage) where they were throwing seed to it before running off alongside it. Little did they (or we) know they were trying to out run a bird that could fly up at the height of a Jumbo Jet and over Mount Everest. Wow!!

Friday, 4 February 2011

Contrasts - Blooming Friday

Swedish Blogger, Katarina at Roses and stuff hosts ‘Blooming Friday’. This week she has chosen the topic ‘Contrasts’ and after much talk, this week I'm finally going to walk the walk and join her.

If you’re a blogger perhaps you might like to join in too… I’m sure she won’t mind if you post over the weekend – just leave a link in her post for everyone to find yours. There are many, many memes in the Blogging World but this one has caught my eye a few times. So, here goes with my first contribution.

With a topic of Contrasts, I knew instantly which two photos I would include…

Colour contrasts at The National Botanic Garden of Wales last July.
Full garden tour to follow (was keeping this for a snowy day).

Contrasts in Architecture/Industry during a garden visit was the other.
July 2009. Clicking on all images should enlarge them

The view from this garden always catches my eye. Now owned by the NTS, Culross Palace (a Merchant’s House in the late 16th - early 17th century trading in coal mining and salt production) with its restored garden on one side of the Firth of Forth. Grangemouth Refineries (an oil refinery) with smoking chimneys on the other side.

Back in my garden, contrasts in garden visitors are always fun to watch and observe from the bold ‘intelligent’ Jackdaw, to the tropical ‘out in all weathers’ Goldfinch.

Jackdaw, Goldfinch, Wood mouse, Hedgehog.

Then you’ve got the contrast of night and day visitors with mice and hedgehogs usually visiting feeders at night – not always though which is great for catching photos and video :-)

Finally, the biggest contrasts of all for a gardener…

A partially shady back garden with plenty of ground cover,
climbers and foliage providing shelter for birds and other wildlife.

An open sunny front garden with plants that enjoy the sunshine
providing food for butterflies and the very important bees.

Carder bee with pollen sac feeding on Nepata (Catmint)

Other contrasts I considered included the many textures of my plants and the contrasts in plumage between male and female birds. Standing up for the female birds visiting my garden, I think it’s a bit unfair that the males get the coats of many colours ;-)

The one species that has caught my eye in the bird Kingdom (although I should add here my knowledge is limited) would be the male Superb Fairywren found in Australia. My friend told me about this bird a few years ago and I’ve never found the right time to post an image until now.

Male Superb Fairywren. Photo from Wikipedia

Nope… no Photoshop has been used to enhance anything here. Isn’t he a beauty? I just can’t imagine this bird flying from feeder to feeder in my garden… quite a contrast he would be! For those who missed my profile on our Wren, you can see the contrast here where you'll find video too.

I wonder what springs to mind with you on the topic of Contrasts? Care to share? Wishing you a great, contrasting and fun weekend. :-D

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Reviewing February

Don't worry… you haven't been dreaming it’s only the 1st of the month :-) I'm on a waste not, want not theme. Trying to keep my pledge on shorter postings (for me) and not wishing to leave this on the internet cutting room floor I thought this would be a different take on a review of the year. Twelve montages were completed for a Review of 2010 but time and words ran away from me last December.

So here we are at the beginning of February 2011, although it is a bit breezy out there we have blue skies and sunshine. Yay!!! There is still no snow on the ground although I have heard whispers of some on Thursday. I’ll pretend for now that I haven’t heard that ;-)

My garden is beginning to show signs of new plant growth and the Spring to come. Bird feeders are swinging in the breeze this morning but my garden is spookily quiet. Mm… looking at my review below I wonder if there’s a pattern here.

Montage of images from February 2010.
Clicking on this image will enlarge it

February 2010 began with my stats for the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 2010. Observations of a Coal tit hiding sunflower hearts were seen. A snow covered garden returned. For a welcome break I took myself/everyone back to warmer days and a garden visit to Cambo during the previous September - albeit virtually.

I can see now that there is a pattern here with other bloggers doing the same at the moment. I have been enjoying winter garden visits by bloggers just now too. Although, I don't have snow on the ground and if I did it would be summer visits I'd enjoy more.

Our Cambo virtual garden tours began with Autumn crocus, went on to a cut flower area before finally stepping out on to an American Prairie for a Cambo weekend of garden images.

Returning to my own garden again, the Spring crocus planting in my lawn had shown some colour with their flowers only to be covered again in snow. My February GBBD posting showed plant winter casualties too. Shame, I lost my Rosemary and Sage plantings that I’d grown from cuttings.

Already I am seeing crocus and Snowdrops in flower in other blogs but we will be later in the month and into March before we'll see this here. Last year I discovered a new love for crocus. As for plant losses, that will be known by the end of this month. Many shrubs have suffered broken branches with the weight of snow there was on top of them.

By the 3rd week in February, we had seen the first interest in our new B&W camera nestbox and (not so good for the birds) we were seeing regular visits by a female Sparrowhawk. The garden feeders had become a nervous place.

Wonderfully this B&W camera nestbox has had a Blue tit roosting in it all winter. Even better this morning I’ve just seen a pair inside (too late to get video footage or a pic). I’ll need to keep an eye on this box now. I see last year at this time we were seeing many more Sparrowhawk visits. I wonder if they visit gardens more at this time of year.

Sharing the technical stuff I’ve picked up whilst blogging seemed a good plan (it would have been of interest to me). I’ve been asked a few times about my camera to video set-up. February saw the start of my Tech Tuesday postings. I hope to post more regularly on this for 2011.

I’ve yet to get this idea properly off the ground but I do have some posts partially written and still like the concept.

February also saw a tripto fav SWT Reserve Loch of the Lowes where interesting video footage of a Treecreeper on a peanut feeder was captured.

Note to self: Renew our membership of the Scottish Wildlife Trust before our next visit and experiment more with the settings on my new video camera :-)

At the end of the month, I decided to join other bloggers for an on end of the month posting with views from my garden where I included some sketched out thoughts for my new pond build that was still at the ground clearance stage.

Oh dear… another couple I failed to follow through. This year will be the year to complete my pond. There I’ve said it! I guess I’m stalling parts of it as I am frightened to fully commit a permanent area of this scale to my garden and I’m a tad out of my depth on how to best do this. Perhaps if I took this area for an end of the month review that would push me into achieving something with it. That’s a maybe then ;-)

So that’s it for February 2010 and onwards we go into February 2011. In my garden I can expect love in the air with visiting birds as many pair up and start looking for nesting sites.

Valentine’s Day will see the start of the BTO’s National Nest Box Week so for any budding DIY nestbox makers out there that could be a good goal date for you. You can get plans/instructions on how to build one from the BTO link if you don't have any.

Swoon… yes love will be in the air in the plant Kingdom too… bring on these crocus, snowdrop and snowflake flowers. Wishing everyone a very Happy February :-D