Blog Header

Blog Header

Friday, 22 May 2015

Garden to mid May and a few interesting visitors

I'll start with a couple of birds that we rarely see here, which was a very pleasant surprise. We often see Song Thrushes, but not Mistle Thrushes. Looking at my garden bird list, we saw one in 2006, and probably haven't seen one since. Seeing one around on the lawn regularly has been great, and my OH has seen two. As they have been collecting beaksful of worms and grubs from the lawn, then flying off towards the more wooded area of the garden, we are assuming they are nesting here, which is rather exciting!

Funnily enough, having checked to see that we had actually seen these species before in the garden, I discovered three other species I'd forgotten to put on my garden bird list, so it now stands at 62! The full list can be seen on the page Bird Count at the top of the right sidebar.

Mistle Thrush (Turdus viscivorus).

The other even more exciting sighting were two Turtle Doves, seen Weds afternoon. One flew off whilst the other decided to perch happily on the top of the swings (I knew they were good for something!), allowing us a great photo op through the kitchen window. We do hear them in summer, but they are very elusive creatures which are rarely seen. Beautiful birds.

Turtle Dove (Streptopelia turtur).

Turtle Dove (Streptopelia turtur).

We're also happy that after several years of Blue Tits checking out our nest boxes, a couple are actually nesting in one, and have been seen entering with beaksful of green caterpillars and exiting with fecal sacs. However, my OH has seen both Harry and Bertie actually standing ON the top of the box, so my not needed this year cucumber climbing frame has been put to good use around the trunk of the tree, so they can no longer climb up there.

One less happy find was a partially destroyed Long Tailed Tit nest. Some of it is lying on the ground - it was the feathers which alerted my OH that something was worth investigating. However it is possible that it is an old nest as there was dried up poo inside and little specks on the feathers which line the inside that could have been mites? Maybe it was used as a roost during cold weather although I am not sure if they do this. 

Their nests are a miracle of nature as they are so well camouflaged with lichen and moss on the outside and all held together with spiders' webs, making them very flexible so they don't normally drop out when it is windy. This was on a low (face height) branch of a Thuya tree, which is a conifer. The only other one I have found was in a conifer tree too.

More excitement in the butterfly department, with a new species recorded for my garden. My OH and I were chatting in the veg patch when a small unrecognisable butterfly flitted around us briefly. It then alighted on a plant and - "OMG camera quick!! It's a Green Hairstreak!!!". Suffice to say my camera was set on manual mode, and in my desperation to zoom in, focus and change the exposure, I only managed several blurs and this less than good photo before it flew off. But it was wonderful to see and really made my day. So I've now seen two different Hairstreaks here, and both in my veggie patch!

Finally! A Green Hairstreak (Callophrys rubi) in my garden.

Just because they are always around, a common species now -
the Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria).

I also spotted this pretty little moth which I somehow even managed to get down on my knees to take. Can't ID it though - any ideas, mothy expert friends? It's about skipper size, ish.

A pretty unidentified moth.
Now IDed as the Burnet Companion (Euclidia glyphica).

In pond news we have tadpoles - gazillions of them. These are just a few.
All the more strange as we never spotted any frogspawn!

Japonica petals floating on the surface.

Now onto garden photos - the first was earlier in the month when the Bearded Irises were just opening up. The rest were taken during the second and third weeks of May.

Note that black cat sneaking out of the photo......

Our clematis never got pruned but I wonder why they say you should really.
This is 'Miss Bateman' looking splendid. We also decided that rather than have
annual trailing geraniums, we'd plant with lavender so we don't have to keep
disturbing the roots of the perennial plants. The rose is 'Gertrude Jekyll'.
A new paint job is way down the list of priorities this year!

Just a view of the side of the house.

I'm really pleased with the amount of flowers on
the Horse Chestnuts (Aesculus hippocastanum) this year -
and they are very pretty flowers when you look close up
as they are not white like they appear from afar.

View of golden and purple shrubs.

I love dark foliage! Top is Weigela florida 'Alexander",
bottom left Cotinus coggygria 'Royal Purple',
and bottom right is Physocarpus opulifolius 'Diabolo'.

Hallie has snuck in again.... my arch is looking lovely
and another reason not to prune your clematis!
The clematis is 'The President' and the rose is 'Zephirine Drouhin'.

Catmints by the side of the veg patch with some weeds that
have infiltrated - but the little yellow dots which are
buttercups look pretty, so they can stay. For this year!

View of the front bed.

Totally self seeded in the gravel - Chives,
Love in a Mist, and Verbena bonariensis.

More self seedings, Ox-eye Daisies appeared a couple of years ago and
the pale bluey mauve flower in the middle foreground is Salsify!
I once grew it as a veg, then allowed it to flower......

Striped Shield Bugs (Graphosoma lineatum) on a plant they love - Bronze Fennel,
although sadly too many of these bugs and they destroy the growing tips,
which have the best bronze colour.

Honeysuckle which a neighbour gave me looking wonderful.

To finish off - look away if you don't like spiders! Although they are only tiny, promise! Another thing my OH spotted (he's my eyes these days as he's in the garden so much more than I am) - I just go out to look at the things he finds for me! ID is thanks to Amanda at the Quiet Walker blog, who posted the same spiders on this post, just before we found these.

Just what is the blob on the water butt?

Why it's baby spiders! These are Cross Orb Weaver (Araneus diadematus) spiders.

Health update (possibly TMI for some)

I hardly know where to begin. I am not a pessimist, but I've got so used to things going downhill again every time they start to get better. After I finished the course of antibiotics which seemed to be drying up my abscess, despite making me sick and giving me diarrhoea, I felt great as the pain had subsided and the diarrhoea etc stopped almost immediately. So last weekend was the best I've felt in maybe five weeks, which is when I posted last saying I was feeling so much better.

However, Monday I started feeling a niggling pain from the abscess area which got worse as the day went on, coupled with a discomfort in my vagina too. Tuesday both got worse. Weds the vaginal pain subsided, only for the discharge to start again with a vengeance. Last time I mentioned this, I'd thought I had thrush and had seen a Gynae who took a swab and sent it off to a lab. It actually came back negative for fungal infections so it wasn't that. I've had this thankfully non smelly discharge on and off ever since my surgery but it always stops whilst I'm taking ABs.

We were going to contact the stoma nurse but she doesn't work Wednesdays, but by some sheer stroke of luck (and believe me, this is unusual!), my surgeon actually called my OH on his mobile to see how I was doing after the ABs!! When my OH explained, the surgeon said he wanted me to have an MRI scan as the CT scan had been inconclusive, especially as I can't have the iodine contrast dye due to my thyroid condition. He then called back about 10 mins later, saying they would fit me in that afternoon as soon as I could get to the hospital. Even more amazing!

The results of the scan were interesting, albeit difficult for a layman to understand. I don't have an abscess! Whatever it is seems to be caused by fat/liquid coming from the omentum which was used to pack out the void where some of my colon was removed and in the space where my rectum was. This is commonly done and is supposed to aid in healing. The omentum is a layer of lacy looking fat which covers the stomach and intestines and you may well know it as caul, which is what it is called on animals. It's used in certain dishes to wrap around meat, notably faggots. How or why this caused holes to appear in my perineal scar, I don't know, and I'm assuming what I'd thought was pus was in fact the liquid leaching out of me. As I said, too much for a layman to really understand, but my surgeon was pleased about this (we haven't spoken to him, but the doctor explaining the scan told us as she'd spoken to him before calling us in after the scan. By the way no waiting weeks for your results here, unlike the NHS.... ). Presumably it'll heal up eventually and that I carry on with the local nurses coming by every day to clean it and dress the wound. If it gets really painful I guess there will still be a surgical option, although the surgeon said he'd rather avoid that if possible.

I've also been to the hospital again today for a cytoscopy. This is having a camera up into your bladder! I hadn't mentioned that I'd seen a urologist a couple of weeks ago. I'd been waiting to see one for several months, only my dear surgeon who was supposed to organise it, had forgotten. My bladder has also not been working right since my surgery. I had a second urine analysis which didn't show any problems like UTIs this time so thankfully no need for any more ABs (I think I would have gone berserk if I'd needed to take more). The test, which I had been dreading, especially as I was already in pain in my nether regions, was actually (almost) a doddle. They give you some lidocaine over the entrance to and just inside the urethra, so when the flexible tube was inserted it was only a moment of discomfort, and once inside, although they fill your bladder with water, there was only a mild need to pee feeling and no pain. It only lasted about a minute! Just glad I don't have a penis though, it's much more pleasant for us women!!

The conclusions there were what had been suspected all along, that there was some neurological ("what's that?" "oh right, nerve, why don't you speak in patient language, mutter mutter") damage, for which I have some pills to take. As far as the urologist is concerned, it is nothing to worry about and is just likely due to trauma from both the radiotherapy and the surgery, much as the vaginal problems probably are (I had the same discharge after the radiotherapy, which eventually went away of its own accord as I recovered from that, before my surgery). So I guess I have to be patient and that at least some of these things will resolve over time..... though they've had nearly three months..... well, we'll see. Probably having chemo isn't helping with my ability to heal. I've also been really tired this week, but that could be a delayed reaction to last week's chemo, which didn't give me nausea this time, which is most surprising. The effects I get seem to change each time! One good thing is that I managed to gain a whole pound since round 4 of chemo, instead of losing 2 pounds which I usually do. So I can end this great long essay on a positive note. :-)

I will catch up with your blogs over the weekend, as I haven't felt up to it much this week. Have a great weekend, everyone! xx


  1. Lovely photos as always. Good to catch up with your health progress - makes a change for a woman to want to gain weight doesn't it! lol I saw my GP on Monday this week which led to an urgent surgeon appointment on Wednesday. With painful probing he found that it would be necessary for me to having an operation to remove polyps but I will first have a colonoscopy at the beginning of June to see if there's anything further untoward. Fingers crossed. Bottoms!

    1. Thanks Sandra - even though I've been naturally slim all my life, I still would put on weight if I wasn't careful once I hit 40! So it's been weird being able to eat anything (thyroid probs last year) and now desperate to put some on! Even weirder when I don't fancy cake or chocolate. Chemo does strange things to your tastebuds and puts you off favourite foods!

      I'm sorry you have more health issues and an upcoming op - but at least here they put you under for a colonoscopy, so nothing to fear there. xx

  2. Wonderful pictures as usual, love your thrush! You have overtaken us with some things in the garden but we are hoping for a mass of colour soon, but with different plants.

    So sorry you've had more health problems, but it must be a relief to know it's not abcesses as you thought. It must seem never ending. Hoping you'll be feeling better soon.

    1. Thanks! I'm surprised we are ahead of you with anything as your garden seemed to shoot ahead after your last snowfall! Luckily I've got a good mix of perennials and bulbs that flower from Feb through October or even November, if it's mild enough. Thanks for the well wishes - it's certainly frustrating being so up and down. I guess I'll get there in the end but I am impatient. :-)

  3. Wonderful photos - your garden is just stunning :) Great news re: the Mistle Thrushes, Green Hairstreak and Blue Tits nesting - really lovely to see all the wildlife in your garden. Nice to see Turtle Doves too - haven't seen one over here for years and years and they are declining so rapidly.

    I think your moth may be Burnet Companion?

    So sorry to hear of the continuing health problems - really do hope things improve soon and am sending positive thoughts in your direction. It must be so wearing and frustrating for you.

    1. Hi RR and thanks very much. I've had another Burnet Companion ID over on facebook, so I guess that's what it is! I'll edit this post when I'm on my desktop. I had looked at that moth in my insect book but dismissed it, as the markings are very faded looking on this specimen!

      We have some other Blueys nesting in a gap under the roof slates - they nest there every year and it's near my potting shed (boiler room), so I can hide in the doorway and watch them going in and out of the gap, and hear the noise of the young, which is so cute!

      Thanks for the well wishes - yes it's frustrating as hell as there is so much happening outdoors and I hate missing anything, but at least the flowers are there when I do venture out, and I usually find something wildlifey of interest. Takes my mind off it all for a little while. :-) xx

  4. Wonderful post Mandy, interesting and full of lovely photos.
    We are OK for Mistle Thrushes at the park, so a lovely bird to have in your garden, and Turtle Doves too would love to see one of these. Front garden looking stunning, and well done to OH for spotting the spiders.
    Hope the sun is shining with you...
    Amanda xx

    1. Hi Amanda and thanks. I'm amazed that I've never come across these spiderlings before, as the garden spiders are common! At least now we know what they are! :-) Sun is due to shine today..... xx

  5. I've just spent an hour looking at your blog, so interesting and such lovely pictures. We have a large Horse Chestnut tree here in Lydford so I am off to take a closer look at the flowers in a minute.
    Those baby spiders are really cute, I may be a bit ignorant of spider activity but where would the parent spiders be?
    When the wild flowers get going I'll e mail you some pictures.
    Take care.

    Philippa xx

    1. Thanks Philippa! Great that you have a horse chestnut, we still like picking up fresh conkers as they are so incredibly tactile, although they get dull and not so smooth soon after, which is a shame. I look forward to seeing your pics.

      As for the spiders, well with some species, the mother stays with the babies to protect them for a while, and wolf spiders carry around their egg sac with them, and then when the young hatch, they are carried about on mum's back! That I have yet to see but really want to. I guess with this species the eggs are laid and left to fend for themselves.... I haven't read about it, to be honest. As for dad, he may have been eaten by mum after mating. :-)

      By the way I cannot get on the Gits forum via my Kindle, no matter what password combination I've tried. I'll have to see if I can still log on from my Mac. I don't normally log out of there. I did want to say hello a few times, especially when there was a post saying where are certain people (like me). xx

    2. Thanks for enlightening me a bit about spiders. We don't see many in the Garden here in Devon but there are some big ones in our posh en suite bathroom!

      Gits is very quiet these days, I try to post to keep it going but that's probably put people off. We are coming over to France tomorrow evening from Plymouth to Roscoff for 4 days to cut the grass. Hate to think how high it is by now but we have 2 ride on mowers there as one died last year, so we replaced it. Alan then had a tinker with the dead one and it made a full recovery. So we will be doing double mowing as long as the weather is ok.


    3. Well at least with two mowers you'll get the job done in half the time - what a good thing Alan managed to fix your original mower! I hope he is not squealing and asking you to remove those scary spiders from the bathroom, haha! :-)

  6. Hi , such lovely pics...the garden is springing to life and you have a good eye with the camera. I know it is so frustrating....but focussing on what you have managed and improvements made is important just now.
    I planted 30 pea plants 2 days took me all afternoon, resting after each row/half a row...ridiculously small amount of work compared with previous ability...but each pea plant was more than I could do last week or last year! so hurray for small steps...pat yourself on the back for every little improvement and matter how small or fleeting as there will be more to come. I recently had surgical review and surgeon, whilst pleased with me, reminded me that recovery will take 12-18 I am having to pace myself...and watch the ground elder take hold as hubby cannot do everything. Watched Chealsea on TV and was aptly reminded when I heard Monty Don talk about the frustrating return to gardening after his stroke, so I think it helps when others tell their story and you dont feel quite so frustrated and alone with ristrictions/recovery/setbacks. BTW did you manage to get any apple cider vinegar? enjoy your weekend and go gently xxx Suz

    1. Hi Suz! Well done for accomplishing that - that's a lot of pea plants - would be tiring anyway! I managed to thin out some lettuce seedlings this morning, and thinned some bigger cos lettuce which are big enough to make salad with tonight. And took photos of some bugs! :-)

      I keep feeling so tired in the afternoons though, so I have a nap as there is no point trying to fight it. I completely forgot about the cider vinegar!!! Oh dear, I must write it on the shopping list! I suspect my recovery will be around the same time frame, with the chemo happening as well. Hopefully next year things will be a bit more normal. It certainly does help to know that you are not alone, especially when it's fellow gardeners who are in a similar boat.

      Take care too! xx

  7. Really beautiful garden Mandy. thats a pretty good shot of the G/Hairstreak. They are never easy to photograph, in fact they are never easy to see in the first place. Good to see the Turtle Doves. I have seen one this year, they obviously were able to avoid the guns of those idiots in Malta and other places South that like to blast them out of the sky on their flight path.

    1. Thanks Roy - it's a poor image compared to most of my butterfly captures, but for my records it's good enough for now! It flew off to a flower bed but I couldn't spot it at all on so much green foliage, and didn't see it until it flew off again quickly round the side of the house!

      I know what you mean about the idiots that blast everything that flies by during migratory season. We sadly witnessed this in the northern Pyrenees (Basque country, Spain) in October. At the same time, the LPO (French equivalent of the RSPB) were in the same spot doing migration survey, so we hung out with them for about an hour and ignored the idiots, and got lots of useful info from them. :-)

    2. Oops I mean the Basque country in France, but it was practically on the border and they shoot on both sides...

  8. First off, I hope you are feeling more comfortable now and thank goodness you have some answers. I actually find it fascinating reading about your recovery, probably because I've been involved with healing for 20 years! And as I've said before, by documenting it you are giving an honest and articulate account which may well help others facing the same thing. Bravo you!

    Secondly- TURTLE DOVES!!!!! They are almost extinct here so I am SO JEALOUS. How absolutely wonderful to have them in your garden :o)

    Ditto the Green Hairstreak (one of my fave flutters).

    Garden looking good too.... XXX

    1. ps- forgot to say Burnet Companion for the moth xx

    2. Hi CT - I almost don't dare say but the pain level has gone down a notch, and amazingly this morning I was able to bend down right to the ground! I won't be doing that too much, but it's good to know I'm getting a bit more supple. I managed to pick a load of strawberries on my hands and knees, great as they are not only delicious but healthy too. :-)

      Ragged Robin gave me the moth ID but I was counting on you to help! Funnily enough I've already posted a photo of that moth here a couple of years ago, but didn't recognise it as this one doesn't have such obvious markings.

      Was dead chuffed to see the turtle doves as they hardly ever make an appearance. Was also very excited about finally finding a green hairstreak. That really made my day!!!! :-))))) Cheers my dear xx