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Friday, 27 January 2017

Middle Spotted Woodpecker and December's tree surgery

Brrrr! We are having a cold snap with real winter weather, something we haven't had for more than a few days here and there for quite a few years. The lake has been frozen over for about a week now and every morning I have to go out and take fresh water to the hens whose water bowls have frozen solid. I'm doing the same for the wild birds' water too as they can't drink from the lake edge. It's still not been as cold as in the early years here when we reguarly had -8C, but it was down to -5C/6C a few times. I'd also forgotten about freezing pipes so we've nearly lost our kitchen cold water feed a couple of times but I've got to the tap to run it just in time, however because it's been so long since we had such a cold period I'd forgotten about the 2nd floor shower room, so the cold feed is frozen solid there! It's the first time I've worn my thermals for quite a few years too. Aaarrgh, roll on spring, I can do without all this! (However, the sun is shining all day long..... it is so much lovelier than the milder gloom and drizzle which is due to come back soon.... you just can't win!) (That blurb was written two days ago and the end of the freeze has just started with cloud and some drizzle!)

We have a new(ish) visitor to the peanut feeder. It's a Middle Spotted Woodpecker which is a fair bit smaller and a lot prettier than the Great Spotted Woodpecker. We've seen it here before many years ago (and a Lesser Spotted too) but this time it has become a regular visitor. I haven't got any very good photos so far because the only times I've had my camera to hand have been when it's been either early in the day with low light, or just plain gloomy with low light!

Having seen the state of the peanut feeder in K's photo it was time for a new one, and thankfully he found a spare feeder in the barn, ditto a seed dispenser too which is hanging on our other feeding station. I've now found a good use for the last of the rubbery windfall apples as the blackbirds are enjoying munching on them. This is the kind of weather when it's really important to feed the wild birds and especially to provide them with fresh water to drink and bathe in. (But you knew all that, didn't you?)

This is Keith's photo.

The ducks have managed to keep a small pool of water unfrozen; unfortunately for all concerned this is not close to the bank where we can put food. At first K managed to break the ice but the next day it was already too thick! Dirk is hopeless on the ice and skids everywhere and looks like he's about to break his legs, and although Rachel is managing to get up onto the ice more easily than him, she doesn't seem to want to walk over to the bank where the food is. Luckily K had a brainwave and the pole he was using to break the ice with was put to good use again - this time with the apple picking basket holding duck food! He can just reach to put the food on the ice and the ducks are happily eating it from the water. Honestly, these creatures don't want much, do they?!!

Going back to December, our 'tree man' came and felled a load of trees again, just like he did three years ago. This time some largish trees had to go, mostly due to crowding out with other trees. I had to decide which ones were most important to keep - for example, although I hate to see a beautiful lime tree being cut down, I have five of them, yet only one cedar, as we already felled one of them which had obliterated the path down to the beach. So out of three specimen trees growing into each other, the lime had to go. In the photo below it's a sycamore which has had the chop as it was shading out my liquidambar. We have loads of sycamores so that wasn't a difficult decision. All this wood will be good firewood in two years time.

The monster shredding machine. This was parked right outside the chicken run and the poor hens cowered indoors for about three days, terrified in case the scary monster started making loud noises again. Sorry hens! We have kept a lot of the shredded wood and put it down on the veg patch paths again, and also on the path leading down to the lake.

The lime tree getting the chop but one of these three trees had to go.

Originally the tree man was going to have a bash at removing the fallen stand of alders in the lake, but as the water level had risen by a couple of feet since he first viewed it this was deemed impossible and he will return next year when the water level is at its lowest. He had a mate in to help as there was a fair bit of work involved here - anyway I had a brainwave and suggested that as they couldn't do the tree in the lake, could they prune my apple trees and reduce the height considerably. We had already asked him to clear the stream banks of brambles which were taller than my head - this is a job that's bad enough doing every year but when you haven't done it for three years it gets out of control. I can tell you we both breathed a HUGE sigh of relief at not having to prune the apples and pears this year!

Taken from my living room window - man up an apple tree.

I'm surprised they managed to climb up these relatively thin branches - and so overcrowed inside the trees too.

Afterwards, one of the trees with lopped off branches. All these fallen apples have been feeding Redwings and Fieldfares this winter.

The stream is visible! The other side has now been cleared by the owners of that land - it will grow back but K is going to try to strim it and keep the brambles and nettles down. In the past I've wanted to keep the nettles for the wildlife, but there are times when nature just has to be controlled. There are tons of nettles out in the ditches for the butterflies and moths to lay their eggs on.

At this time (December) there were still some leaves clinging to the Liquidambar tree and glowing in the sunshine.

Even on the ground they retained their colour for a long time. This way you get to enjoy the colourful leaves for much longer!

I'm jumping backwards and forwards in time but I have already uploaded the photos and can't be bothered to delete and rearrange the order here! In this cold sunny snap it seemed a good time to burn all the crap we've been piling up in the veg patch waiting for there to be enough to have a good bonfire. We are not supposed to have bonfires anymore for environmental reasons and because of the nuisance to neighbours. Well we didn't really know that but we do now, although having googled to try to find the law on this one for our department, all I can find is a lot of conflicting information on government sites. What else is new?!

You can see how much stuff there was - a mix of brambles, whippy elm growth, sycamore saplings, ivy and a fair bit of dead thuya hedge, plus a lot of veg patch weeds. The official advice is to compost or shred your garden waste (we do, but you can't do this kind of thing!) or take it to the tip. This would be quite a few trailer loads plus a lot of the twigs and stems would need to be cut to fit into our small trailer, all of which takes a lot of time. I've been cracking on with clearing the jungle much faster by not having to snip up bramble stems along the way.

It did produce a lot of smelly smoke but it's not like we're doing this every week - in fact it is only our fourth bonfire here in 12 years! We won't have one again though now we know it's not permitted. Since I wrote this one of our neighbours has had a smelly bonfire..... :-)

To finish off, whilst I was clearing up our overgrown pathways I found this twig with some interesting fungi on it. It's dead wood and the twig is thinner than my finger so the fungi is really small. I wasn't entirely sure if that is what it was but the underside of the fungi looks a bit like Turkey Tails. The small bits look like scale insect though!

Honestly, the less frequently I blog, the longer my posts get. If you made it this far, well done! It's been quite a marathon for me writing it..... :-)


  1. Definitely look like turkey tails to me, but I know very little about fungi.

    Odd that the middle spotted woodpecker would avoid the UK, when its bigger and smaller brothers don't. Has a definite yellow-buffness to the underside our species don't really have, I think.

    1. Thanks Simon, maybe that is what Turkey Tails look like on the other side but I have only seen them on tree stumps before so can't look underneath!

  2. Made it to the end Mandy. Best like is your Turner smoke and house picture. The last shot is weird as my brain interprets it as upside down and I imagine you doing a headstand as you took it. :~)))

    1. Oooh, yes it is weird that last image. I took it just looking straight down on it. :-)

  3. What a lovely post, it's been nice to catch up with you. the woodpecker is a lovely bird. They cut the trees back over the road from me, it does make it better for the other trees in the end, and I got to keep the wood for our wood burner :)Still cold and foggy here, not even getting light today. I miss the warmth of the sun... Take care.
    Amanda xx

    1. Thanks Amanda - pond melting now and ducks happy to have part of it to swim in properly after a week or so being stuck. Very mild now and I just noticed how my snowdrops had suddenly popped up yesterday and are nearly flowering. Spring soon. xx

  4. Wonderful post Mandy and good to catch up on all your news :) The Middle Spotted Woodpecker is a gorgeous bird (looks to me anyway like a cross between a Great Spot and a Lesser Spot) - what a shame we don't get them over here!!! I will swap you one of my Waxwings :))))))) It must be wonderful to have had a visit from a Lesser Spotted - very elusive and rare over here these days. I've only seen 3/4 individuals in my whole life!

    Interesting to see your tree surgeons at work - we need to have an Eucalyptus chopped to a manageable height as it is huge (didn't realise when we planted it that they have shallow roots and I have to horrors every time it is windy!!) :)

    Love the novel way of feeding the ducks :)

    1. Thank you Caroline. I won't swap it for a waxwing as I only have the one. ;-) We saw a lot of more interesting birds in our early years here, including a Crested Tit, but most seem to have disappeared!

      Eucalyptus grow really big but they are magnificent trees and I would love to have one in my garden, lucky you! Ducks now happy - see what I wrote to Amanda above. :-)