Thursday, 29 September 2011

Second chances

Infrequent postings without mention of a blogging break might suggest something is amiss. How much to say in a garden blog on plants/birds/wildlife is a tricky one. It would be very easy just to say there’s been no free time to blog this summer. That would be partly true.

As the UK sees some late September, balmy weather I’d like to wish everyone the time and opportunity to enjoy this second chance of summer! I’m guessing the barbecues and garden tables will be coming back out of storage. I was hearing in the news this morning that many pruned plants have re-flowered which must be great for bees and butterflies in particular.

My front garden sedums are looking wonderfully rich in colour now (not images shown here). I haven't seen butterflies on them recently but I’m guessing they are visiting now. Back in the first week of September the you can see the tiny sedum flowers were only just opening and I captured a few butterfly visits with my cameras.

Peacock and Red Admiral butterflies can be seen feeding on buddleja (now past flowering) in my previous post. The Small Tortoiseshell butterfly can be seen in this post just a few days later and the day before we received the news we had feared all summer.

For visitors just popping by for a bit of light relief over a coffee, I hope you've enjoyed these photos and are enjoying your own garden visitors and plants just now. I’ll post again soon when I am able. Wishing you a great weekend :-)

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I’d like to dedicate this post to the Consultant & Radiographer at our local Hospital (Perth Royal Infirmary) who felt they didn’t have a good enough image of my husband’s kidney stones (annual check) and requested a more detailed image. They picked up a much bigger problem.

During the waiting times between hospital letters and further scans my garden with its plants, birds and hedgehog visitors should have been a place of comfort. However, as my blog and subsequent cameras and nestboxes only came about due to my husband’s encouragement and support I could face neither.

I actually avoided looking out the window (weeds have taken advantage of this) and my PC remained in a tidy, unlit corner of the room in the evenings. Cameras also remained in bags and being truthful bird feeders were being filled infrequently and hedgehogs lost out completely.

The dreaded news we received the day after the photos in this post were taken was that my husband had a tumour in his pancreas. This news came from a specialist in a different hospital. Three weeks ago today we had no idea how quickly things were about to happen.

We only had the weekend to break this news to our daughters (18 & almost 21), my husband’s elderly parents, my elderly parents, immediate family and close friends. Although very hard to do, we had one clear message for everyone – this was positive news too.

The stats we were given by the surgeon was that in 85% of the cases where a tumour is found in the pancreas nothing can be done. My husband was already in the 15%. Although not a small tumour, it was in a rare position in the centre of the pancreas and surgeon’s deemed it operable. Although a scary operation lay ahead this was a very lucky break.

I’ll fast forward past a laparoscopy (to see if Cancer had spread outside the pancreas - it hadn't). I’ll fast forward past the operation that involved the tumour being removed with a large part of the pancreas (my husband will inevitably become a Type 1 diabetic) to test results being expected any day now. We are back at the waiting game.

This has been a major operation where the whole Spleen and Lymph nodes were also removed. My husband was in a High dependency Unit for five days but incredibly he was actually walking again within a couple of days of his Op. Now he is eating meals (with checks on blood sugars) and has only one tube left attached to him! He is looking well too :-)

My carbon footprint isn’t looking too healthy at the moment, but I’d like to share a final surreal image/moment with you. The night before my husband went into hospital for his Op we knew would be hard – especially for our daughters. We couldn’t stay in.

Don’t’s ask me why but I decided to drive everyone into the Centre of Edinburgh on a bit of a road trip. It was a Saturday night with Uni freshers out in force, Stag & Hen night’s, Tourists and locals. The streets were buzzing and with windows down we went people watching!

Driving was a tad tricky at times with pedestrians and Taxi’s going unpredictably in every direction. After many street changes (not planned) I found a parking space. We got out, grabbed Starbucks’ Takeaway drinks and joined the medley of people buzzing about the streets that night. It was just what we needed :-)

Now, here’s the surreal part, purely by chance, we passed by a particular building on our way out of the city. We were on a road that I’ve driven only maybe once before. For locals, I was driving behind Stewart's Melville College and in front of the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art. It was dark but look what caught our eyes...

This is not my photo, see original image here.

The striking blue neon text above is by the Scottish Turner prize winning artist Martin Creed. This work has been on show much longer than the gallery had originally intended. I wonder how many other people have found this as spookily poignant as we did that night.

‘Everything is going to be alright’ with my husband’s health - well we’re a bit away from knowing that yet. We are keeping our positive outlook. I won’t ever forget the moment my daughter read the text above out and I looked across to see the words. We won’t forget that night we spent together either.

Tonight, is the first time I have sat at my PC writing a blog post around midnight (my usual time) in quite a long time. When I uploaded my photos earlier this morning, I wasn’t sure I would actually post this and how I would write it. I also had no idea that I would get a call from my husband to say he is being let home from the hospital for the weekend. He called it his weekend pass. He is now fast asleep upstairs as I publish this :-)

Enjoy your weekend with those that are dearest to you. Thanks for listening and thanks for putting up with my infrequent posting :-)

This post was written by Shirley in September 2011 for shirls gardenwatch.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Buddleja, Butterflies & Fledglings

The late summer garden gets a huge thumbs up from me. Late butterfly visitors are sometimes seen on sunny days feeding in my front garden. They do make me smile. They also make trying to capture photos and video quite a challenge. As others will agree, this can be a tad compulsive too :-)

I never see large numbers of butterflies visit my garden at any one time and I’ve only seen a few species. Seen (so far) here in my small Scottish Garden have been Red Admirals, Small Tortoiseshells, Peacocks, Painted Lady’s & Small Whites.

However, as regular blog visitors might expect, I do try my best to encourage wildlife to visit my garden by providing a variety of food. My nectar feeders didn’t appear to interest the butterflies (that I saw) but at the moment the plants in my front garden are.

Understandably known as the butterfly bush, my young Buddleja with only a few flowers is proving very popular as you will see here in a few of many photographs taken. Considering the butterflies will pass this way I have increased a planting of sedum earlier this year which is nearing flowering time.

Where butterflies/insects are concerned I am working on the theory of grouping plants that they may visit all in the one area to attract them. Some gardeners may call this a nectar bar. Lol... short on space for planting in my front garden you could call mine a mini bar ;-)

Winter damaged plants that were left to regrow sadly haven’t. So planting space free, with a bit of revamp to my window border we have the return of Verbena Bonariensis.

Yep… Verbena Bonariensis will be a very popular tipple in my butterfly mini bar when it flowers. I’ve a plan in mind to protect it this winter and plan to take cuttings too. Oh yes… and I have a pkt of seed to make sure I have some plants for next year.

As ever, I am optimistic that I will see new species arrive in my garden one fine, sunny day. This gardenwatch blog has shown me to expect the unexpected and always to keep a keen eye out the window!

Looking out my window tonight to wet, windy weather where bird feeders have been knocked off their tree hooks my thoughts went to the people and wildlife of Texas as wildfires rage there. I hope my blogging friends are safe and well.

Safe and enjoying the Buddleja in my garden on Sunday were bees and a Peacock butterfly. Safe too yesterday was a Red Admiral butterfly - although it did have a challenge holding on during gusts of wind.

My eye is always drawn to the eyes of the bottom wings of the Peacock butterfly.
Wings out fully like this it isn’t easy to miss.

It’s easy for the eye to miss the Peacock butterfly
when it feeds vertically with its wings tighter together.

In contrast, the Red Admiral is easily spotted when it feeds vertically.

Most butterflies can be easily missed when their wings are folded completely up and they show their camouflaged underside pattern. Photos of the Red Admiral yesterday switched back and forth to the activity at the House Martin nest built at the front of my house.

Youngsters could be heard chirping excitedly for food with the fledglings of earlier broods hanging around the nest too. I’m not sure how many broods we have had since nest building began back in June. Books suggest they could have 1-3 broods.

I might guess our House Martin nest has had three broods but how successful they have been I couldn’t tell. They are pretty high up under the eaves of our house and I have great difficulty seeing the camera screens when trying to capture images due to light coming in from the side angles.

As it was windy yesterday and the grasses and bamboo next to my Buddleja were making a rustling noise I was able to get closer to the Red Admiral butterfly with my camera which was a bonus.

Round in my shadier back garden there has been even more activity with late juvenile birds arriving at the feeders. Getting photos from my window is tricky and not so clear but I loved this shot with the juvenile Goldfinch with a sunflower heart taken at the end of August. Much fluttering of wings was done to get it too.

The middle of August saw begging Blackbird juveniles too. Note how close the seed feeder and fat ball is too! Taking photos in this area is a tad tricky too with extremes of shade and strong sunshine together.

A little closer and a bit easier to adjust light levels for images is the area right under my window. I had to end with this shot of another juvenile and one that has been a delight to watch from my window. The Dunnock is more of an insect feeder but this juvenile has taken a liking to sunflower hearts.

At a guess, based on when the first juvs were seen in my garden earlier this year, I’d say the Dunnocks may have had three broods but definitely two. I’d say both Goldfinches and Greenfinches have had two broods (maybe three). I’d also guess our Siskins have had two broods too.

What a busy place the garden is isn’t it… then there’s the border revamps… just how many can a gardener have in one season? What are you up to in your garden just now? What birds and butterflies are visiting you? Do share them in a comment – we’d all love to hear about them.

Sorry, you’ve not been hearing so much from me lately. Hope to get back to normal blogging service soon :-)

This post was written by Shirley for the blog shirls gardenwatch in September 2011.