Tags: garden

Dublin

Garden Safari

Lots of wildlife in our garden still. Here are a few pictures (which also link to bigger versions on my Facebook.)

Swift


Our Swift is nesting again in the eaves of our house, or at least has been making exploratory visits. The entrance to the nest is the tiny black square just to the right of the red lintel over the window. I snapped this picture quickly so it's a little blurry but I'm quite pleased with it. Its black belly marks it out as a Swift rather than a House Martin.

Collapse )

Collapse )

Collapse )

Dublin

The Birds

Our garden has been invaded by Starlings. More precisely, several local Starlings seem to have done very well this year and had large broods, so the Dawn Chorus has been transformed into the Dawn Squawk, and our garden is full of fledgling Starlings eagerly fluttering their wings and being busily attended to by their parents. It's very sweet, but also makes it difficult to sleep once the sun comes up. We have three coconuts full of bird fat-feeder: every day Janet fills them to the brim, and every day we get home to find them pecked bare.

Sadly today we found the half-eaten remains of one fledgling in the middle of the lawn. Since we lock our cats in during the day, and our two felines have yet to work out that if you successfully kill a bird it turns out to be full of cat-food, this can only have been the work of one of the local Toms. Sad, but the Starlings are doing fantastically well and I'm sure their gains are far exceeding their losses.

We also have a Blackbird nesting on the side of our garage, underneath a big trailing clematis. It's managed to have at least two chicks despite being right next to our garden gate, and frequently spotted by the cats who sit nearby staring at it greedily. At one point Pixie even clambered up the wire mesh frame that the clematis has been trained up, and wound up sitting in the nest. Thankfully the chicks hadn't hatched at this point, but with Pixie incubating them it's a wonder they hatched at all.

Dublin

Ups and downs

A day of excitement, thrills, gardening and wildlife.

Today was the annual ceremony of the removal of bubble-wrap from Janet's greenhouse. We use the bubble-wrap as added insulation when there's a threat of frost, but the greenhouse is a much lighter, airier place once it's gone. It takes quite a long time because everything in the greenhouse including all of Janet's carnivorous plants and the aluminium staging have to be moved onto the lawn, then moved back in again. Naturally we had cat help.

At lunchtime I was startled by a noise - let's call it a squeal of terror - from upstairs. Janet had been sitting on the toilet when a large black spider had crawled over the top of her bare leg. When I got there she was in some post-traumatic stress, not least because she could no longer see the spider. I eventually located it by turning her trousers inside out in the bath. It was fairly juicy-looking. You can only imagine what would have happened if she'd put them back on without checking. :-)

Later on this afternoon we were standing on our patio when a bird crashed very inelegantly into the top of the huge Leilandii tree next door. The tree is home to vast numbers of birds so we assumed that an enforcer for the local Pigeon Mafia had fumbled its approach, but then a bird of prey launched back out of the tree and flew right over our heads. It was speckled on its belly like a thrush, and about pigeon-sized. We reckon it must have been a Kestrel or a Sparrowhawk. It's really good to know that there's one patrolling somewhere near our house. Janet was so pleased about this it nearly made up for the Spider of Doom earlier. However she wishes me to be clear that nothing could ever make up for the HORROR.

We also found a couple of frogs in our pond a few nights ago. The newts are still there -- we've counted at least three of them anyway -- but we had a fine pair of yellow-brown frogs lurking under the surface. We've seen them a couple of times since then, always at night. I love the fact that we live in a suburban semi-detached house and yet we can see newts, frogs, toads, hedgehogs, bats, birds of prey, spiders and a wide variety of garden birds.

Dublin

Newts!

We have frogspawn in our garden pond! Not much, but it's there. More importantly, we were examining the pond today and saw not one but two newts swimming around in it... which may expain why the frogspawn is dwindling. Ahem.

Janet is over the moon. Getting either newts or frogs into the pond was one of the main reasons we built it. We knew we'd had newts in the garden at various points before installing the pond, but the pond has only been there since the middle of last year which is not long for it to naturalise in. Now not only are there the small snails we introduced but an entirely different species of snail, various insects, at least one itinerant frog who left the frogpsawn, and the newts we saw today.

CRAZY WIFE UPDATE: At Janet's insistence we just went out in a thunder storm with a torch to check on our newfound newts, and there were at least six in the pond, which has to be a thriving colony by anyone's standards. This is a rubbish photo of one. Then again it was dark, raining, thundering and lightning at the time.

We're very pleased.

Christmas

The Official Blog of Christmas

Today Christmas officially began. We're on holiday until 2nd January, we have all our presents bought (or at least ordered), the house is decorated, and several batches of cards have been sent. I even managed to get a proper holly wreath for the front door. Phear my l33t Christmas skillz.

It helps that while snow is notably lacking, today our garden was in the grip of a hard white frost of the kind that leaves the blackbirds pecking fruitlessly at soil which has the consistency of concrete. Our little pond was entirely frozen over, as was the bird bath, and everything looked very beautiful and very wintry. I felt so sorry for the small birds hopping around this desolation that I went out to break the ice and add some new fat-feeders to the ever growing number of peanut and seed feeders and hanging bird tables that festoon our apple tree. Fortunately for the birds we've been very lax this year in tidying up the windfall apples and the birds seem to be making a feast of them--either that or they're benefitting from the various insects and worms that are making a feast of them.

In fact it's been absolutely freezing for the last few days, with the kind of wind that makes it difficult to stand still at pedestrian crossings or bus stops without fidgeting from foot to foot. I know this because we went out for a christmas drink with Janet's office last night and the walk there and back was bloody nithering.

Anyway, to get you in the mood here's a little festive tune. Because nothing says Christmas like Tom McRae being a miserable drunk. I'm currently downloading carols from iTunes, something I've been meaning to do for a couple of years. Janet's enquiry desk at work has been playing Christmas pop tunes on endless repeat, and so to preserve her sanity the house has been declared free of any hint of Band Aid, Aled Jones, Wham or Slade. Carols however can be tolerated. Although I'm an atheist there's something about the sound of church choirs singing traditional carols that really gets me in the mood for Christmas. I'm sure it's partly the result of all those Midnight Masses at our local Catholic church when I was growing up. When you get right down to it what is that fuzzy Christmas glow if not nostalgia for all those childhood Christmasses?

Dublin

Slow glass and fast food

We have this week off on holiday. That's good.

So far we've spent it in backbreaking labour. That's bad.

The backbreaking labour is Janet's new Greenhouse. That's good.

We rewarded ourselves last night with our first fast food order of the year. That's double plus good. Janet had Chinese. I had Pizza Hut. It was great. The best thing is we have no need to feel guilty because it was low in sugar for Janet, and the fat's irrelevant due to the aforementioned backbreaking labour.

The greenhouse itself is Janet's new pride and joy. She already had a 6 foot x 8 foot one, but her carnivorous plants were beginning to complain about the lack of space. By "complain" I mean that several of them were quite grumpy and more than a few were developing into hunchbacks. The danger of them running amok and taking over the City was ever on our minds. Well, it was on my mind. Janet seems very blasé about the idea of her plants 'pulling a Wyndham', as it's almost certainly known.

Getting back to the story: plants big--greenhouse small. Janet's foolish husband suggested that we could make room in the garden for a bigger greenhouse, and suddenly there was a Janet-shaped cloud of dust dissipating beside him as she rushed to the internets. She ended up ordering a 6 foot x 14 foot one - nearly twice as long, and also the "High Eaves" version (meaning that the walls are taller before the roof starts).

We spent Sunday taking the old greenhouse down, two VERY long days on Monday and Tuesday assembling the new one, and today fitting all the staging and moving the plants back in from the porch (where they were, quite frankly, unnerving the postie). Thankfully the rain mostly held off despite the odd bit of drizzle, and we've even had some warm sun for part of it.

We had Janet's Mum and Dad helping us to put the greenhouse up, for which we can't thank them enough. Without them whole eons could have passed before we got the darn thing assembled. It's a lot trickier than it looks, even having built one a few years back.

Inevitably there are pictures, as with all our projects. Look, just be thankful you don't have before and after photos of me composing this journal entry...

Collapse )

Oh, and we had Cat Help, but naturally Pixie was forced to retreat to shelter in the face of a light drizzle:

Collapse )

Of course we now ache in places that are only found in medical textbooks, but Janet's really happy with the greenhouse which makes it all worthwhile.

To cap it all, work starts on our fitted kitchen next week so we need to chisel up the kitchen floor tiles before the end of the week. Sob.

Dublin

Rocks, water, newts and cats

When last we left our struggling hero he was attempting to build a pond. Thwarted at every turn by the evils of pond liner, water, and pretty much all the other things you need to make a pond, not to mention gravity, it would be fair to say that he was making a bit of a meal of it.

Now read on...

So over the last couple of weekends we've continued pottering with the pond, on and off. It's still not finished but now looks a lot more complete.

I must confess there was a stage after I'd done most of the rocks that I felt pretty fed up with it. We don't have the budget or heavy lifting equipment to throw great slabs of rock into the ground as if a mountain spring had coincidentally thrust its way out of the earth in the corner of our garden. As a result it's fairly small and stylised, and has an awful lot of cobbles and small rocks in heaps. However since Janet put some plants in I'm feeling much more positive. It looks like what it is: a nice, small garden pond. It's certainly tranquil.

Collapse )

We've still got lots more plants to come, and a pump so that we can get the stream running. Hopefully some wildlife may move in. I found two more newts in the garden today (Palmate Newts I think), one tiny and one pretty sizeable (about three inches long) so you never know. Sadly I didn't think to get a photo, but if they do move in I'll take a few close-ups. Janet's got some pond snails in the water already who seem to be thriving and/or getting amorous, and the oxygenating plants are in, so we may yet have a semi-wildlife pond.

I'm quite pleased.

Dublin

Pond life

As mentioned we're creating a pond at the moment, turning a patch of scrubby garden non-entity into a nice little water feature and, potentially, home to the occasional newts and frogs that visit our garden. So far it's occupied the best part of the last two weekends and it feels like it's taking a very long time to come together. There are a number of learning points emerging from this exercise:

1) Pond liner is composed of purest evil and refuses to lie snugly in a hole no matter which way you fold it.

2) Swearing at pond liner accomplishes little but feels good.

3) Pebbles may lie there blinking sweetly at you in a Miyazaki-type way, but no matter how many times you wash them they'll still turn your water a muddy brown colour.

4) My back still hasn't recovered from going "oh bugger-aieee-twang!" last year.

5) Water simply can't take a hint, even when you patiently explain where you need it to go.

6) Ow, my back. This one is worth mentioning twice.

Collapse )

During construction we've discovered a couple of newts snuggling under nearby stones and we're hoping that they may decide to move in, once the oxygenating plants are properly established. The only downside is that the pond wasn't really designed for wildlife so we'll need to make sure that the pump isn't going to suck in the poor little things. At the moment the plan is to cover the pump with an upturned aquatic plant pot with a mesh small enough to stop a hapless newt from being pulled to its newty doom.

More pictures as and when we get the thing finished.