shelter

The weather forecast was accurate and overnight on Thursday the snow tiptoed in on cat-like feet, silent, soft but with underlying cruelty. It continued all day, fine flakes blown sharply on a biting wind, piling up in corners, swirling around barriers, dancing off the roof in a cascade of ice crystals.

redwing-hedge

Redwing foraging under beech hedge

All day the garden was filled with the flurry of little wings, birds flying to the bird table from wherever they could find shelter. It was a pity that it was not garden Birdwatch Day as Blue Tits, Great Tits, Long Tail Tits, Marsh Tits, Coal Tits, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Nuthatch, Robin,Wren, Dunnock, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Bullfinch, Jay,Magpie,Kestrel,Crow,Jackdaw, Pheasant, Song Thrush and Redwing all put in an appearance at some point.

Many of the larger birds just forage around the edges of the garden or across the lawn while most of  the smaller ones tend to use the bird feeders. The little thrushes and the wrens prefer to hunt under the hedges, vigorously turning over the fallen leaves in search of insects and other small creatures.

Today was the first time we have noticed Redwings in the garden, the smallest of the European thrushes and mainly winter visitors in the UK. At first I saw only one, but after a few minutes I could see several dispersed under the beech  hedge, all busily looking for food. It was a timely reminder of the value of a hedge for birdlife and there is an interesting article on the RSPB site here.

Now I am hoping for  a good attendance on Garden Birdwatch Day over the weekend of 26-27 January 2013, although I am not anxious for a repeat snowfall! I hope you are all tucked up warm and the birds in your gardens are bringing you enjoyment.

a quiet season

Autumn has dropped away into winter, sudden and cold and properly seasonable, although surprising for all that. It is the first season I remember in a long time where the contrast between the two has been so marked. As the floods subsided the frosts arrived and we have entered that period where there is no more than 8 hours of daylight.

When we can get out into the garden the edging continues and pruning and then trying to make use of the debris. We have a chipper, but it is very noisy, a great beast of a petrol driven thing and we haven’t yet warmed to it. It may need the blades sharpening too, so we are hand shredding and holding the occasional bonfire to burn diseased wood. One apple tree is completed for this season-it was very neglected but more remain.pear-wreath

A weeping pear, Pyrus salicifolia ‘Pendula’,  tangled like the hair of a witch, has been pruned to thin out the thicket of growth. I wanted to let more light through the tree as it grows adjacent to the new apple cordons and thought about taking it out completely, but it seems harsh to remove a healthy specimen without giving it a chance to perform. A little elegance restored, and faced with a huge pile of prunings, I made the base of a Christmas wreath, winding the flexible, brownish purple stems around a metal former I bought on Hereford market last week. It looks pleasing so far, I think. Are you making Christmas decorations this year? I saw a lovely wreath here yesterday http://patientgardener.wordpress.com/2012/12/08/how-to-make-a-christmas-wreath-for-nothing/

On the adjacent farms hedging is almost completed in the immediate vicinity of our house and  it is becoming a quiet season, with bird calls the loudest noise we hear. No partridges in my pear tree, but there are pheasants under it….

pheasant