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Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Big Garden Birdwatch and January flowers

First things first, this is just to let you know that my blogging will be a bit sporadic over the next six weeks, as I've just embarked on an online photography course for learning how to use my camera in manual mode, and get away from using auto anything! I'll be taking tons of photos, but many will not be pertinent to my blog anyway, and my time will be taken up with this course. I will occasionally get some photos posted even if I don't write much, as this is, amongst other things, my garden diary, and I expect to see more happening over the next six weeks!

This last weekend was the Big Garden Birdwatch run by the RSPB, and at the same time the French equivalent, the LPO, were also running theirs. As Saturday was a beautiful sunny mild day, I thought I'd have a go. You sit somewhere and count the birds that you see in your garden over a one hour period, discounting birds flying overhead. This is my tally:

Blue Tits 9
House Sparrows 4
Great Tits 3
Chaffinches 2
Moorhens 2
Robin 1
Starling 1

Well that was slightly disappointing, not in the numbers but sheer lack of species, but just goes to show that watching your birds for one hour won't necessarily mean that you will see them all, even some of the more common ones! No blackbirds, dunnocks or magpies, and despite scanning the conifer trees through my binoculars, I saw nothing small, hidden or skulking. I'm not cheating, because I know for sure they live here, but I did position myself in a place where I could see a part of my lake, in the hope that I would see a moorhen or two. Which I did! And then I took a few photos of the tits visiting my peanuts.

Blue Tit

Great Tit

Unfortunately I can't count the birds I saw across the field down the bottom of the garden after I'd done my one hour count. I heard a racket and saw loads of birds which I assumed were starlings up in the tree tops - yes most were starlings, but there were also fieldfares (a species of thrush which are winter visitors) in amongst them. This is very zoomed in!

Several Fieldfares amongst dozens of Starlings (the dozens mostly out of this picture!).

Happened to notice this whilst walking around with my binocs - can you
see the 'frog' in the hole, in the middle of the picture of my big old oak tree?

Back to my plants, a reflection of distant trees and the orangey/red stems
of my dogwood, Cornus sanguinea 'Winter Flame'.

Hooray! In a hurry to post this, because I took this Snowdrop
shot last Thursday and they are now starting to open!

So are my Oriental Hellebores.
Bit of a naff photo because I need to cut off all the old leaves
and stalks to show up the beauty of the new flowers.

And this is one flower bud I am ecstatic to see - Purple Sprouting Broccoli!
I think this is the variety 'Rudolph', which is earlier than the others.
Unfortunately my labels are now useless because I wrote in pencil
which has washed off in all the rain!

I've got dozens of these lying in the weeds of the veg patch.
It's the skeletonised papery husk of a Physalis fruit.
As beautiful and photogenic as skeletonised Hydrangea petals!

And now I must go back to school. I feel like I'm skiving off! :-)


  1. Yes, naughty Mandy, you should have been in school by now! What will your mentor say if you keep him/her waiting! I hope the frog will not squeal on you! Lush set of photo's, Mandy, excellent "Drop" of those tits! I think some blue tits can at the same time be great as well! (OK, I'll go and wash my mouth now). Pass on my warm greetings to Robin and Starling and all the Moorhens at the Chateau, my friend! And.... already in suspense of what will come out of that mentorship, can't wait!

    1. I have snuck out of school for 5 minutes Jan, don't tell anyone! And hush your dirty mouth! I have seen all the usual birds that I didn't see during my count many times since. Maybe I should have just looked out of the window! :-)

      Too many people are expecting me to suddenly show amazing photos after this mentorship. Help!

      As always, thanks for your visit and comments! :-)

    2. Yes, yes, Mandy! Beware of the critics! It'll be alright, dear Mandy, your pictures are already great and you know how to compose. Do you feel you have learnt something already?
      You'll do great! (We're having yet another rather busy weekend ahead here...)

    3. Thanks again Jan! What I'm hoping to get out of this course is not to suddenly produce amazing images, but to understand the settings and to be able to take photos where I decide how I want it to look, and know what I need to do to compensate for poor light, too much light and all the other factors! Then one day I may start to produce better images. :-)

  2. Tits, drops, frog, purple sprouting and a filligreed Physalis. Great mixture. We have fieldfares around here too but I never get near enough to photo them. They seem quite flighty.

    Our snowdrops are only a few days behind yours which is quite surprising. Little else flowering -Viburnum of course. It's covered in flowers but they are pretty tatty with the strong winds and rain. Winter Jasmine is going well - in between your mentor stuffy remind me that I must try and take a shot of it. :-)

    1. Nick - I rarely see fieldfares in the actual garden - see them out of the bedroom window over in the orchard, pecking on apples. There is still a pile of Golden Delicious sitting under the tree! I've looked back at my January photos for the last few years, this year seems to be about the same as last year even though last year we had far more frost and snow. Yet 2012 the snowdrops were in full flower, along with borage, rosemary and even some forsythia flowers on 12th Jan! What's so strange is that this winter has been so mild though (so far). :-/

      Surprised you have winter flowering Jasmine as I thought that wasn't very hardy!

      Cheers Nick, if you do post the flower I'll catch up after I have completed my week 1 assignments! I. NEED. SUN. :-)

  3. That image of the two snowdrop flowers is adorable. Great to see the garden come to life with flowers along with the birds though I never expected to ever see a frog up a tree! I didn't do the birdwatch last weekend as the weather was awful here - half my flowerbeds were under water for a few days.

    1. Thanks Rosie - already noticing a few buds starting to swell on early flowering shrubs and bulbs pushing up - always nice to see even though we know it is still fully winter! Sorry to hear about the amount of rain you must have had and I hope your garden will be OK. :-(

  4. Good morning mon amie :-)

    You should be an archivist, the way you keep your statistics so neat and tidy (here and previous posts) :-)))

    I enjoyed all your lovely Spring-like pictures... love the touch of sunshine on the Physalis, it looks wonderful!

    PS: As from now, I'm taking an extended break from G+ (but not from Blogger), as it's far too much time-consuming to keep up with everything going on there :-)

    1. Bonjour Marie-Helene!
      I'm not at all well organised in my personal life! Only when I write lists can I be organised, only I usually forget or can't be bothered to write lists..... lol.

      Thanks as always for your lovely comments and I'm glad you enjoy my pictures, as I enjoy yours. :-)

      I totally understand you taking a break. We will keep in touch through Blogger. On this course I am barely looking at the outside world of G+ as there is no time for that! The course is far more important than keeping up with social media right now. Take care and see you in blogland. :-)

  5. Mandy, your photos helped me make a decision this morning! We're looking at two houses, one of which we will make an offer on. The first one is a beautiful house on wooded property, the other is an old, weirdly laid out house with gardens, a pond, and outbuildings. Your photos brought to life why I want to move. I'm sitting here wondering why I've been seriously considering moving once again into the shade.

    Your class sounds fun. Hopefully we'll occasionally here about some of the more technical aspects of your camera.


    1. Oh Rain, I take it you mean the woodland property? But what about the pond.... and ducks! And outbuildings are a must.... Well it all depends on what you want from your property, and the house itself of course. Both sound delightful! So pleased to hear from you too. :-)

      Technical stuff - well I learned how to use a tripod this week!!! Been too lazy to ever bother to try, but now I understand (some of) the benefits of taking pics with slow shutter speeds and (some of) the effects you can produce. :-) It is fun and I'm really learning, but very, very time consuming.

    2. The woodland property doesn't have a pond or any sun! It just has a wonderful house, a chicken coop, and a shed. It's also sits on a larger piece of property. It's the sunny property that has the pond, established gardening areas, and lots of well built outbuildings, but the house is... small, and weirdly laid out. Looking at your photos yesterday, I realized that being able to have my animals isn't the only reason I'm looking to move, I also want to garden to my hearts content. I've lived in the shade for far too long!

      Oh you must tell more about the tripod if you have the time. I bought one when I got my camera last year, but haven't really used it.


    3. Ahhh I think I was confused, I thought you meant you wanted the house in the shade/woodland! What a choice though when that house is the more suitable house.... :-(

      Rain - all of a sudden I see my snowdrops have opened up and I see buds on some daffodils that have already appeared, and pulmonaria and violets have flower buds on too. We had sun both days this weekend, and even though most of these plants are actually in the shade, they have obviously benefitted from the increased light. (Light btw I am suddenly extremely aware of due to this photography course!). So I totally understand you wanting to be able to garden and not be in the shade, and it's much nicer doing it at home than at someone else's place - especially for your veggies.

      It's not my tripod, hubby's had it for years. I just never bothered to try using it before! It's not going to be any good for getting down low or using with my macro lens, but I see so many advantages. I'll post some of my pics taken with it in my next blog post. No idea when as assignment no. 2 has just come in! The major benefit of the tripod as I can see it at the moment is when you have low light, you can have slower shutter speeds but still nice and sharp because the tripod is holding the camera steady. You can create all sorts of interesting effects too. Get it out and give it a go! :-)

  6. I have had lots of birds all week then on Sunday it was raining so hard only a few Sparrows, Starlings and one Blackbird came into the garden... How exciting to be going on a photography caurse, I shoot everything in manual, it's not a fancy camera but a fixed one. My son has all the gear and has tried to show me but I just can't get the hang of it...think I just like pointing and shooting. I love your photos and are a little jealous of how good they are, the image of the Snowdrop is divine

    1. Amanda I added your blog to my Feedly subscriptions and I think your photos are very good! Whatever you are doing with pointing and shooting is working. :-)

      I keep seeing all the birds I didn't see during the bird count! Think they just hid cos I was in the garden! Thanks again for visiting and for the nice comments. :-)

  7. No black bird male or female ?
    No magpie ? Dove ?
    "Amour en cage" is a beautiful name for physalis and your picture exactly deserves it....

    1. Hello Cergie! I see blackbirds and magpies here regularly but just not during that one hour when I was watching and counting them. Sadly I don't see doves here very often, although at other places I have lived they were common garden birds.

      That is a lovely name for physalis! I only just finished eating them a few weeks ago. Even some of the ones I picked in November managed to ripen indoors, although a few didn't develop or went mouldy. I want to grow them again this year! Merci beaucoup for the lovely compliment and for visiting. :-)