Swallows

Thursday, August 20th, 2015

Swallows have been nesting in the sheds here since before I moved here. At that time the sheds were cowsheds and open hay storage barns so it was easy access for the swallows. These dilapidated sheds had to be replaced for workshops. Naturally when the swallows appeared the following summer from their winter in Africa (lucky swallows!) they expected to use their homes as normal. I had to refuse my workshop to them as they do make such a mess it would mark the wood forever. Huw, however, was more than happy to share his workshop space so we cut a slit in the the wall (box profile zinc on sides and roof) of his workshop for them to fly in and out as they wished.

swallowsThe first year the swallows built their nest on the south side but the shed was no longer full of holes so it warmed up too much on that side and the babies died so we stopped them nesting there. Since then they have chosen better nest sites. They were so used to Huw being around they paid him no heed as they flew around. He could even make a specific sound that would get all the baby swallows popping their heads over the top of the nest and opening their gapes for food. However, their parents would give a warning chirrup as they flew off for more food to remind them to stay quiet till they returned.

nest on nestSometimes the swallows have used the same nest the following year. This year they had no chance of that as someone else thought it was an excellent spot. Blue tits I think, but after building the nest they abandoned it so I’m not sure. However the swallows had no problem finding somewhere else and successfully raised a brood. When the fledglings were young and vulnerable the parents were most upset with Puss wandering around minding her own business. When she was following me around when I went into the vegetable garden or just sunning herself she would be dive bombed repeatedly by very noisy and incredibly brave swallows. Since she has caught a swallow years ago I know she is capable of catching them so was full of admiration for the swallows to risk their lives for their babies. However, since Puss gets told off when she catches any bird but not when she catches field mice or baby rabbits she does seem to leave birds alone. Sometimes instinct gets the better of her but only about one or two a year.

swallows (2)swallows (3)swallows (4)

I only ever saw three babies this year until I came to take this last photo. They could hardly fit into the nest. After I’d taken the photo they all flew out so they were already fledged and I’m unsure if one of them might therefore have been a parent. They were certainly cosy in the nest by the end! I see the swallows on the phone line occasionally but they seem to have left the nest and the shed for this year. They will spend some time here again before they go off to Africa for the winter.

The Sap is Rising

Friday, April 17th, 2015

This time of year is so wonderful yet intense, isn’t it? The sap is rising, the garden is getting sorted, everything is growing, the birds are nesting, the days, though getting longer, are way too short. I can hardly drag myself in from the garden before dark but then I’m so exhausted in the morning it is hard to drag myself out of bed.

I have a wonderful commission with the wood turning so that has to take priority. When I feel I can allow myself to stop it is straight out to the garden. I can see the vegetable garden as I am wood turning which is both wonderful and can be a constant reminder of what needs to be done. And if the sun is streaming in it is even more tempting to leave the dusty workshop by early afternoon.

Flowers and Veg gardenThe vegetable garden is an oasis of order in my chaotic wildlife garden and I want to keep it so. I know without regular weeding it will soon revert to nature and be harder work for me. So the veg. garden is my priority. I have most of it weeded, where needed it has been given manure and I’ve even managed to plant some of it. I’m not too bothered about the planting – the soil is still cold and the vegetables will soon catch up if planted later once the ground warms up. When I look at my previous years’ planting dates sometimes it has been weeks later yet it always works out fine. I do like a few early potatoes though. The other vegetables which have already been planted are more so I can see where I’m going with the garden and so I don’t have to plant all at once.

Weeding the garden feels like it has taken forever. This is partly as all the Foxglove, Daisy, Self-heal, Feverfew, Forget-me-not, St. John’s Wort, Lemon Balm, Wild Strawberry (and probably a few other I can’t think of as I sit here typing) have to be carefully lifted, with a bit of a root ball if possible, and healed in somewhere in the wildlife garden. As I’m finding places to put them I am delighting in the changes in just one year. Everywhere I look there is new growth busting forth. All my little trees unfurling their leaves for their second year here, the fruit trees (bought last summer through a very generous gift from a beloved friend) are coming into flower – the Damson are blooming already, the Plum not far behind.

There are tadpoles in the pond. I have now confirmed what the rustling I can hear above my head as I am in my workshop turning. Today I saw a Blue Tit with nesting material in its beak, disappear into the roof.

A Blue tit's nest built on top of a swallow's nestI understand the Swallows are back in the area though I haven’t seen them yet. I wonder how they are going to feel when they find out what has happened to their nest! This is in another shed as sadly I can’t allow them into the workshop as they are so messy, especially the young ones just after fledging and their mess does stain wood rather badly!

Swimming With Seals

Thursday, September 25th, 2014
swimming with seals
I couldn’t believe it when I ended up swimming with seals. Near me is a beautiful little cove. It is at least twenty minutes walk and since the path down the cliff at the end of that is very steep with hairpin bends it is usually deserted. At high tide it is just rocks but there is a small beach when the tide has gone out. There are old worn steps carved into the slate rock helping the descent. Who created them a long time ago? Smugglers, maybe?
When I haven’t been working this year I have been busy in the garden so I haven’t been swimming once in the sea.  21st September, autumn equinox and the day was as hot as summer so I decided to take the afternoon off and go for a swim. As you can see others were there before me. By a lucky co-incidence I had my camera with me.
I went swimming, always hoping I could get closer to the seal. One stayed nearby but every time s/he rose out of the water too close s/he dived instantly and with a great splash to re-emerge at a safe distance. I got well out of my depth and it was difficult swimming one handed, reading specs on my nose to see the photo I was taking, camera held high as the waves bobbed me up and down so in the end I gave up with getting really close and swam back to the beach to leave my glasses and camera so I could have a proper swim.
It was only as I was leaving the water I saw the little one. I knew there would be one somewhere at this time of year but I never dreamed that it would be on the beach. Quiet though the beach is it does get regular visitors. I felt ashamed of having disturbed them and left immediately. Hard to think of a greater privilage than to end up swimming with seals.
swimming with seals