Shooting Oneself in the Foot

Guess how many sparrows are perching in this hawthorn tree? Trying to count them I think that I may have shot myself in the foot. Every year I try to improve the conditions for the birds here in the garden and this year has been no exception. The best area is now enclosed on three sides by a Crataegus prunifolia hedge, a common hawthorn hedge and evergreen shrubs. I have wedged the feeders deep in the hedges to deter the crows. I have also planted thorny hedges nearby so that the birds can move from one safe shelter to another with ease. The success of this is measured by the dozens of birds perched in the hedges waiting for their morning feed. However, not only are they safe but they are almost invisible and certainly impossible to photograph. So far, I have managed to capture many photographs of beaks, random feathers and endless thorns. If I am going to get an accurate count of the visitors to my garden, I will have to modify my strategies somewhat.

My climbing and rambling roses have either retained their leaves or produced new ones. This rose blossom survived the gales following Storm Gerrit which is impressive in itself but these changes in the usual cycle of the plant also make me nervous. They have not faced the coldest part of the season and I worry how they will weather frost and ice.

One of my many Robins in the thorny hedge. His colour helps to identify him in addition to the fact that he is as patient as the Dunnocks and poses for photographs like a professional.

This was the first pink camellia blossom to open this year. It was preceded by a number of my red varieties and all have fared badly during the recent storms with many of the petals looking black and battered. I love the dramatic display each year but rather hope that the blossoms hold fore for another few weeks in the hope of kinder weather.

The Scarlet chaenomeles have been flowering for some time and the white variety seen in the background is about to follow suit.

This Lacecap hydrangea started to flower a week or so ago. It seems untouched by the weather and is a cheerful sight after all the rain and wind.

I spend too much time in the garden to take care of indoor plants. A Christmas Cactus is one exception. My mother used to have green fingers when it comes to Cacti and her Christmas plants were exceptional. I have kept up the tradition and this plant is now about eight or nine years old and three feet by three feet wide. It flowers every Christmas without exception and thrives on neglect. This is my kind of plant.

I don’t know the name of this cactus, but you have to see the underside of the flower to fully appreciate it‘s beauty.

I recently took part in the BIBS survey on wildflowers in bloom carried out over three days at the end of the year. I had previously found one violet in the garden and thought it was an anomaly. However, when I started to search for flowers on the designated three days violets were in abundance. I was rather surprised to find a further 15 different varieties of flowers in the garden and the lanes around the house. They included Ramping Fumatory, Smooth and Prickly Sowthistle, Field Woundworth, Groundsel and Sea Carrot. As all of the hedgerows had been cut a month or so ago there was almost nothing to be found at the side of the roads in the area. Despite the fact that they look ‘untidy’ throughout the winter I am glad that I do not ‘weed’ the beds and borders and that all of these wildflowers continue to thrive.

Gorse is in abundance here and almost surrounds my property. It now seems to flower throughout the year. I used to see it as rather a nuisance but have now become its champion. Not only does it provide nectar for bees but it is the perfect shelter for the many small birds that feed on my property. This was particularly noticeable during Storm Gerrit and the gales preceding and following it when they would dart from the cover of the neighbouring bushes to quickly feed from the feeders and the bird table and then return to safety.

The large pine trees at the top of my driveway sounded particularly ferocious for the last few weeks and a medium sized healthy branch was torn from the main trunk. This is probably why this thrush avoided its favourite perch and serenaded me from a tree by the kitchen window. Despite the strong winds it regaled me with its full repertoire of song and brought light to an otherwise dismal week. It seems to be very early for it to be in my garden but there are now at least two in the area and the serenades are becoming part of my morning feeding ritual. Perhaps spring is finally on the way.


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