Category Archives: Birds

Feeling The Heat

The purpose of our “Selfies” is to try and capture the feel of the day. These are from December… Great long shadows and it is cold and windy.


SelfieNow this is April…

SelfieHer mud is drying up.

MudThese are my holiday snaps and I have been on holiday for a long time.

There may be trouble ahead….

I wouldn’t like to be that Rat when Fizz the Great War Dog gets a’hold of him.

She just needs to practice a bit, she is warming up.

Oh yes, I have bought the Goldfinches a nyger seed feeder.

Nyger feederThey are loving it and empty it very quickly. I will do more about that in another post.

On the subject of birds. The Bullfinches have stopped using the feeders but they are still around. We have an Apple orchard at the bottom of the garden and I think that they are drawn to the buds there.

Disappointingly the Long -tailed Tits have gone. Like the finches I think that their comings and goings are related to the natural food supply but I don’t know what has drawn them away.

The little Robin never came back. There are still lots of Robins about and sometimes I look out of my door and shout, “Come on! One of you must be Christopher.” No, he has gone.

But all of that fades into absolute insignificance because when I opened my door yesterday I heard a song that filled my heart.

Barn SwallowNow I know what they say, that “One Swallow does not a summer make,”  but that is rubbish, it is summertime now 🙂

There is something that I have got to do this year. Swallows pair up for life, each autumn when they leave they separate and then in the early summer when they return they reunite. It is something to witness and I have got to video it this year. They are so excited to be reunited, like little puppies and it doesn’t last for that long but for a little while there is a great video waiting to be made.

Barn SwallowI am going to love hearing their song again.

The little Mud Eaters beat the Swallows back by several days.

House MartinI didn’t really do the House Martins justice last year, they don’t nest outside of my front door like the Swallows but I will try harder this time around. I love their little feathered feet.

I like a little heat.

SelfieWildflowers then, there is so much going on that I don’t know where to start.

Walking along the country paths it just looks like a mess of green…

MessUnless you know it.

Cow ParsleyThis little leaf is the Cow Parsley and in a few weeks it will be painting the most beautiful pictures.

Cow ParsleyThat reminds me of another April challenge. The St. Mark’s Fly.

St Mark's FlySo called because the adult flies emerge around April the twenty fifth (St. Mark’s Day), these are the ones with long dangly legs that trail behind them when they fly.

St Mark's FlyThe challenge is to photograph the female, I just could not find one last year. They only live for a couple of weeks and the window of opportunity is a small one.

But back to the present, this leaf is the Hogweed.

HogweedForget any misconceptions that the name might suggest, this one is a very beautiful flower.

HogweedAlso the large, saucer like, flower heads are an absolute magnet for insects. I am finding my first flowers now and it will be here until the very end of Autumn.

I have got to leave the wildflowers for a bit because I have got to take Fizz for a walk, I will come back to them. While we are out I am going to upload some wild animal videos for you to watch.

These are female Fallow Deer (Dama dama) They are just losing their winter coats and so they look a little bit tatty but they are healthy animals.

This week the trail camera returned 180 videos over two days and nights. 136 of those were of my little friend the Fox but I also got 44 clips of the deer in the daytime, a nice return.

This is the same spot that I videoed the Boar in last week and it is proving to be a good place to set the camera. As well as the Deer, Fox and Boar I have been getting clips of Badgers, nothing exceptional but it is good to know that they are there. I feel happier if I can say that I am putting the camera out to film Deer, they are hunted just the same as the Boar but there isn’t the same hysteria and people are much more likely to go into the forest to look for Deer.

This location is not in the Forest of Dean, it is woodland some way outside of the forest boundaries and the Boar here are the animals that the Forestry Commission have been kind enough to drive out of the forest as they attempt to disperse them across the whole county, or country even.

A few other things that are good about this location, apart from the fact that it is rich in wild life, It is an unmanaged Sweet Chestnut coppice, I wouldn’t normally like that because there is very little else that grows in such a coppice but it does give me quite good views of the animals. This is also a Bluebell wood and that will make a nice backdrop and nobody comes here. I have filmed a lot here and have never picked up Dog walkers or anybody at all, that makes me feel quite safe about leaving the camera out. I will continue to film here for a few more weeks.

Okay I am back and Poochy has been walked. It is quite blustery out there today.

Back to the wildflowers. I like them because they are beautiful…

Ivy-leaved Speedwell(Ivy-leaved Speedwell)

Ivy-leaved SpeedwellFizz likes them because they make a nice soft bed.

Fizz in BedGet off the bed!

I am very pleased that I got pictures of the Town Hall Clock buds last week because this week there were no buds to be found.

Town Hall ClockAnother flower that has just appeared…..

Remember the diminutive Harry Bittercress (Cardamine hirsuta)?

Hairy BittercressThis is the girl of his dreams, Lady Smock and if you think, like Harry that she looks good enough to eat, well, she is.

Cuckoo FlowerCuckoo Flower or Lady’s Smock (Cardamine pratensis). The leaves and flowers are the best bits to eat, they  have a peppery flavour that adds a lot to a herb salad.

Cuckoo FlowerBoth she and Harry are Cardamines and they can cross pollinate but  will she, wont she? That is what Harry would like to know.

Cuckoo FlowerA couple more “firsts” for the week, this little splash of pink is Herb Robert.

Herb RobertLast year I was able to find this one in flower throughout the winter but this year, this is my first.

Herb RobertI have also seen my first signs of the spathe of the Arum Lily.

Wild ArumThere will be much more of these flowers in the weeks to come.

Well it has been a long post and you must be feeling pretty tired.

Tired FizzI have just got one more wildflower to do today and then we can play ball.

FizzThis is Hen-bit Dead-nettle. I found it growing on my steps when I got home.

Hen-bit Dead-nettle

Hen-bit Dead-nettle

Hen-bit Dead-nettle

Hen-bit Dead-nettle

Hen-bit Dead-nettle

Hen-bit Dead-nettleI will try and find it in more picturesque surroundings.

Goodnight Fizz.




ChristopherThank you everybody who voted to give the little Robin a name 🙂

The most popular name was Christopher and that is how I will remember him.

He’s gone 😦

I haven’t seen him since Wednesday. He wasn’t there when I opened my door on Wednesday morning, he only showed up once that day, I think to say goodbye and I haven’t seen him since.

ChristopherWhat happened?

There were too many Robins. I was seeing four birds every time I looked out of my window. I think they were last year’s brood and that they just hadn’t dispersed yet. Christopher must have been one of the juveniles.

I don’t think that he was hit by a bus, just because he did come to see me once on that last day. I think that he had to leave and find a territory of his own.

I put off writing this post. I am a bit disappointed, just because it took me three months to get him eating out of my hand and I miss seeing him when I open my door.

The way that I see it is that it was a wonderful experience and there is nothing at all to regret and I will try again.

ChristopherTake care Christopher (I have to stop calling him little bird now). Thank you.

Now that was a sad post. I have got another post to write today. The Dog has been saying some things about me that are not completely true and I have some beautiful pictures to show you.

Honey Bee

The Boss Speaks

There are two things wrong with today:

One: It is chucking down with rain.

Two: Whenever I look after him, when my mum and dad get back (his owners) they give him a bottle of whiskey for being a good boy. You won’t see him for a while.

So let us start by righting a few wrongs.

The Eagle has landed!

European RobinGreat! So it is “Eddy the Eagle” then. No need for a poll.

Eddy as in a tide. The tide comes in and the tide goes out (Geddit?)

European RobinEating isn’t a trick. Anyone can do eating.

Eating FizzI can do the dishes.

DishesSo I took him for a walk today. At his age it doesn’t really matter about the exercise but I need to keep his mind active, it slips so easily.

Hey Fizz come and look at this beauty.

SheepLeave it Col, it’s not even one of ours.

The last thing that I want to do is mess about photographing lambs in springtime.

It is not a lamb Fizz, it is a Sheep with a very pretty face. No lambs involved.

Pretty SheepIt is hard to keep him on track sometimes.

We are up here looking for Lent Lilies. (Narcissus pseudonarcissus) otherwise know as Wild Daffodils. I found a bunch up here last March and I keep coming back, hoping to catch them from the beginning.

Pictures from last year.

Narcissus pseudonarcissus

Narcissus pseudonarcissus

Narcissus pseudonarcissus

Narcissus pseudonarcissusWe can’t exactly remember where we saw them last year, so we just keep walking this trail and looking for them.

Fizz, Fizz, Fizz!

Spring LambYes! We agreed, no lambs. Remember?

“No lambs involved,” That was his words.

Yes but it’s her lamb Fizz!


Come this way. I need you to focus. Would you like to throw your ball away for a bit? I’ll get it back for you.

Then, a breakthrough!

Lent LiliesHidden in amongst the Bluebells, just where I knew they would be, I found them.

Lent Lilies“Col, come quick! I’ve found them!”

Fizz, Fizz, Fizz!

LambTry to remember that I am a Dog and that technically, I could bite you.

Bite me Fizz! It’s her other lamb.

Other LambSometimes I despair.

SheepHe is just a sucker for a pretty face.

(I know, I work it)

Pretty FaceWe will be back to talk about Lent Lilies in a week or so, when he has sobered up. Until then, I will be running the blog.

Is it Spring yet?

Has anyone seen any signs of Spring?

Pick Puck or Pickle

Nah, Pickle isn’t an option.

It has been a month since we had a proper Robin update, the last one was Valentine’s Day. I asked you for suggestions for a name and said that when I got him eating out of my hand we would have a poll to choose the best one.

Today we raised the bar (by about two and a half feet) and he needs a name. Bear in mind that this is an important decision because after three months of hard taming, he is family now and he will be appearing here, as much a part of my day as walking the Dog.

If anybody has got Facebook then I ask that you just ignore any name suggestions that Fizz may post. I am not going to call him Flighty or Misfit. They will be chums.

Today started just as any other. He waits outside of my door for me to open up and start feeding him, that is usually about six thirty at this time of year.

European RobinHe has been eating out of my hand for a couple of weeks but he likes to eat at ground level and that involves me getting on my knees and stretching my arm as far as I can.

I feel like an idiot.

European RobinI have been trying to get him to approach me from the hand rail and today he accepted that, I haven’t had to get on my knees since.

You can see that he wants this worm.

European RobinYou big, brave, little bird.

European RobinAs soon as he had done it once that was it, problem solved.

European Robin

European Robin

European RobinAll of the pictures in this post were taken today, he is a hungry little bird.

European Robin

European Robin

European RobinNow he needs a name. The names on my list were suggested by you after my February 14th post, except for the last two, I decided to allow Fizz a little input. The poll is open for one week and then we will know who he is.

He is getting very confident and cheeky and I do like a rude bird. He has given me a lot of pleasure today and he will do so tomorrow as well.

European RobinI know that there are people who would prefer it if he was  a vegetarian. I am feeding him live Wax Worms. It is just necessary at the moment to win his confidence. His natural diet is live insects and he would eat them anyway, by feeding him commercially grown animals I am saving the lives of hundreds of valuable native insects. I will talk to him about lifestyle options when we know each other better and probably after the chicks are fledged.

The other thing is  that today was just a lousy day for photography. I thought that if I left this post a couple more days then I would get much better pictures but the post is about today.

I will do the better pictures, I will do both. When the sun shines I will have all of the opportunity in the world and he will sparkle.

European Robin

European RobinWildlife in the Spring 🙂

Little Things Pleasing Little Minds

Starting with Fizz and for anyone who didn’t see it already this is Fizz proving that dogs do actually say, “Bow, Wow,Wow.”

The little bird is still here.

European Robin

European Robin

European RobinHe is landing on my hand now.

I am getting way ahead of myself. I am thinking that he might bring the young to me for food just as he will show them the bird feeders in the garden.

Maybe when it is warmer and I can leave the door open he will learn to come into the kitchen and have breakfast with me.

Shut up, Colin 🙂

European Robin

European Robin

European RobinThe other little thing that I have got today is Primroses.

Don’t worry about the flowers we will have plenty of them. Last year the mice ate most of the flowers and I might have a go at filming them in the act. Pesky little animals.

Today I am looking at the buds, these are really special.

Primrose Buds

Primrose Buds

Primrose Buds

Primrose Buds

Primrose Buds

Primrose BudsOne last little thing that is bringing me a lot of pleasure, the Long-tailed Tits.

Last year they visited the garden but they didn’t stay here, these have been here every day for the last six weeks and obviously now I am hoping that they will stay and nest here.

I couldn’t photograph them today because the light was just too good. At this time of year the sun comes up behind the feeder and I can only see silhouettes and by the time it moves around it has dropped too low in the sky. Cloudy days are better for birds until the summer.

I made a video.

That’s it, no wildflower post because I didn’t have time today, I was too busy walking the dog 🙂

If I had a Goldfish…

It’s your fault.

That DogAll of this mud is your fault. There is mud everywhere.

FizzI don’t feel any compulsion to be fair, I just want to photograph beautiful things.

My camera doesn’t work very well in the winter. One day I will catch these birds in the sunlight.

Female Bullfinch

Female Bullfinch

Male Bullfinch

Male BullfinchThat is my pair of Bullfinches. They have been here for nearly two weeks now, surely they will stay and nest?

We had new species arrive last year that we had never had before, particularly the Goldfinches, because I changed the feeding a bit. There is no reason why we can’t add a few more species this year.

I am a bit worried that they will go when the buds start to appear.

This one is new for this year too.

Coal Tit

Coal TitIt’s a little Coal Tit. We didn’t have them last year but there are lots of them about just now.

This next one is proof positive that I can’t take pictures in the dark but I have to record this. It is a Zombie Robin.

Zombie RobinIt seems strange to me that the birds are moulting now when we are at the start of the breeding season, you would expect them to be in their prime.

I missed some good pictures of a male Robin displaying to another male this morning. He had his head thrown right back and his chest all puffed out and he was bouncing toward the other bird before chasing it off. There are a lot of Robins about in our garden at the moment, far more than there should be. I have only seen four together at once but none of them were Zombies and I think that there are at least six around the back garden and possibly another pair in the yard around the side, including the one that I am taming.

Maybe they can live quite close together when there is a lot of food. They do scrap around the feeder but they only chase each other, I haven’t seen any serious fighting yet.

Anyway, as I can’t take photographs because of Fizz and all of the rain and mud…

FizzI have decided to give you something else to think about.

A couple of days ago my landlord asked me to have a look around his pond, something had been making holes.


Hole“What do you think that is,” he said.

“That’s  a broom handle, mate. Somebody’s been poking a broom handle in your grass.”

Well the holes are about one inch in diameter, pretty round and they go straight down.

He thought that they were being made by an animal and he wanted me and my nature detective dog to investigate.

I put the camera out and filmed it and it is indeed an animal and it is not big enough to wield a broom.

I don’t exactly know what it is yet and I thought you might know.

You will probably have to go full screen to have any chance of identifying it and even then the image isn’t very good but then I am not very familiar with these little animals. This video is slowed down to half speed, they are fast little animals.

I have a feeling that the holes might be a better indication of species and the video just confirmation.

All of the holes are around the edge of the pond. This is a garden pond and it has a liner so I am not expecting underwater entrances such as a Water Vole would make. There is a much larger natural pond just a few yards behind this one.





HoleIf I had to guess then I might say Bank Vole but I really don’t know much about that species. I have a feeling that the size of the hole might be indicative. They are pretty uniform holes and there are about a dozen that I can see.

C’mon Mudface, let’s go and get muddy in the mud, mud, mud.

MudfaceIf I had a goldfish then I wouldn’t have to wash my kitchen floor again tomorrow and there wouldn’t be branches of Gorse and worms all over my kitchen table.

Common Gorse (Ulex europaeus)

Ulex europaeus, The Common Gorse

Common Gorse (Ulex europaeus)Also known as Furze or Whin, Common Gorse is a spiky shrub of the Pea family, It bears bright yellow flowers.

Common Gorse (Ulex europaeus)

Common Gorse (Ulex europaeus)

Gorse buds:
Common Gorse (Ulex europaeus) Common Gorse (Ulex europaeus)   Common Gorse (Ulex europaeus)   Common Gorse (Ulex europaeus)

The structure of a Pea flower:

Like other members of the Pea Family the calyx of Ulex europaeus is made up of five sepals but these are fused together.

Common Gorse (Ulex europaeus)When the calyx opens it splits into two halves, a top lip and a bottom lip, giving the appearance of just two sepals.

Common Gorse (Ulex europaeus)The flower has five yellow petals and the petals have names.

Common Gorse (Ulex europaeus)The top petal is called the “Banner” or “Standard” petal. The two petals that form a boat like shape, bottom, centre are called the “Keel” petals and these house the stamens and style. Either side of the keel petals are the “Wing” petals.

Common Gorse (Ulex europaeus)The reproductive parts of the flower are initially hidden within the keel petals and it requires the weight of a large insect, such as a bee to land on the keel and expose the stamens and style, when this happens a small cloud of pollen bursts from the flower.

Common Gorse (Ulex europaeus)

Inside the keel there are ten, partially fused stamens and a central style.

(Gorse flower, petals removed)

Common Gorse (Ulex europaeus)The seed pods of Common Gorse are quite small and they develop within the brown remains of the petals. Each pod contains two or three seeds that are relatively heavy and fall close to the parent plant.

Common Gorse (Ulex europaeus)

Common Gorse (Ulex europaeus)The spines on the Gorse are modified leaves.

Common Gorse (Ulex europaeus)

Common Gorse (Ulex europaeus)The spines have been developed to protect the plant from being eaten but a lot of other species have learned to take advantage of the protection offered.

Common Gorse (Ulex europaeus)Adders, Grass Snakes and lizards all take advantage of the cover of Gorse as do many small mammals. The dense spiny growth also makes an ideal nesting site for many birds but it does not just offer protection from predators. Gorse is evergreen and in the winter months it offers valuable protection from the elements.

The Dartford Warbler, an insect eating bird that does not migrate, could not survive our winters without Gorse for shelter, it is dependent on the plant.

Common Gorse (Ulex europaeus)

Common Gorse (Ulex europaeus)Gorse flowers produce a lot of pollen and so they are a valuable food source for bees.

When it comes to nectar the scientists can not agree on this one, some very reputable sources say that Gorse does produce nectar and many others say that it does not. My take on this could be that it obviously doesn’t produce nectar in any significant quantity or there would be no dispute.

However, it is worth remembering  that until 2013 Wood Anemones didn’t produce nectar and then they found the nectaries. See my post on Wood Anemones for more on that one. Science just doesn’t know everything about everything.

Common Gorse (Ulex europaeus)There are a number of moths and other invertebrates that also rely on Gorse. One example is the Gorse Case-bearer Moth (Coleophora albicosta) which overwinters in a silk cocoon inside a Gorse flower, the larva emerges and eats the seeds of the flower and then lives inside a case made from the sepals of the flower.

Common Gorse (Ulex europaeus)It is not just wildlife that benefits from Gorse, it has been a valuable crop to us as well.

The soft, coconut fragrant flowers are edible and have been used as decoration and flavouring but it is the tough spiky foliage that we really prize. It is very nutritious and available all year round and has been grown as animal fodder, particularly for horses. They can’t eat it as it is, it has to be milled and there were Gorse mills built for this purpose.

Gorse was also grown as a fuel. The woody stems burn with a lot of heat and produce little ash.

Common Gorse (Ulex europaeus)There are three species of Gorse native to the UK. The other two are Western Gorse (Ulex gallii) and Dwarf Furze (Ulex minor).

Common Gorse grows to two to three metres and it’s main flowering period is from January until July (Although it can be found in flower at any time of year)

Dwarf Furze as it’s name suggests is a small plant growing to about thirty centimetres (12 inches) and flowering from July until September.

Western Gorse is also quite small, not making more than about forty centimetres (16 inches) and again flowering from July till September.

Common Gorse has small bracts growing at the base of the flower, between two-four mm long. They do exist on Western Gorse but less than one mm long so if they are noticeable it is almost certainly Common Gorse. Although often these bracts remain attached to the calyx and are not so evident.

Common Gorse (Ulex europaeus)Common Gorse in the hedgerow:

Common Gorse (Ulex europaeus) Common Gorse (Ulex europaeus)   Common Gorse (Ulex europaeus)   Common Gorse (Ulex europaeus)Taxonomy:

Kingdom: Plantae

Order: Fabales

Family: Fabaceae

Genus: Ulex

Species: Ulex europaeus

Common Gorse (Ulex europaeus)

Common Gorse (Ulex europaeus)Wildflowers on a wet and muddy winter’s day 🙂

The End of Scruffbag

There is not an awful lot to report today.

We have had new visitors to the garden. This is a mixed pair of Bullfinches (Pyrrhula pyrrhula). Apologies for the quality of the pictures but the weather was awful, I offer these as a record of species.

Bullfinch male(male)

Bullfinch female(female)

It has been about a year since I saw a Bullfinch in the garden, then it was just one male and he didn’t stay. These have been around for about a week now and obviously I hope that they do stay. Bullfinches are very fond of buds, especially of fruit trees and we have an apple orchard at the bottom of the garden, so hey, what’s the problem? At the moment they are digging into the sunflower hearts and the seeds are sticking to their faces, I don’t know if it was just because it was raining when I took these pictures but they look like babies plastered with food. I hope that they nest here.

Now I am a famous Botanist, Entomologist and Big Game Hunter (Heck, I am probably even an Astronaut, I haven’t checked) but despite all of my qualifications, most people still come here to see Scruffbag. So here is Scruffbag in the weather.

It has been very up and down, that’s all I’m saying.

BTW. This post is called “The End of Scruffbag” because tomorrow my valued associate is going to the beauty parlour to get fixed, after today you won’t recognise her.


FizzSo Fizz is planning a post on FB saying that I only love animals that eat worms. That is not really true, there is plenty of room for one more animal in my life and soon there will be three of us writing this blog and that will be better than two.

European Robin

European RobinWe spent a lot of time playing “how close will you get?”  Then yesterday the bird started eating out of my hand but.. It is not perching on my hand yet. I have to put my hand on the floor. This is just awkward because it involves a lot of me being on the floor and it is uncomfortable but we are getting there.

Wildflowers next and after a very slow start things are picking up.

On Sunday I found my first Wood Avens, I would say, out of season, but I did find a few early flowers last year.

Wood AvensMonday brought White Dead-nettle and…

White Dead-nettleMy first hazel flowers. (female)

Hazel FlowersTuesday brought Red Dead-nettle and about time too, this one is two weeks late..

Red Dead-nettleThere are still no Primroses though but please don’t write in on this subject.

PrimrosesIn the garden we have got yellow ones, red ones, we have even got a blue one and have had since the beginning of January. I am just not finding them in the wild.

My area is at a bit of altitude and a good two weeks behind sea level so you may well have wild primroses around you, plus they will come out in the open before they come out in the woods but I was photographing them here on February the third last year.

Okay, say goodbye to Scruffbag.

Sccruffbagand for those who really can’t get enough of her, here is a video.

You are only going to want to watch this if like me you are a student of animal behaviour or if you like big eyes. She is keeping the ball from me but she doesn’t just run off with it, she walks a few paces and waits for me to catch up and as I bend down she takes another few steps out of reach and waits for me again.

If you think that is weird you should see her play the gate game. There is a gate on this track, she crawls under it and waits for me to climb over. As soon as I climb she crawls under the gate and sits on the other side watching me. She thinks this is so funny 😀

So I wrote about Hazel. In February I am having trouble keeping up with the wild flowers as they appear, White Dead-nettle isn’t on Easy Wildflowers yet. It is pretty obvious that I will fall behind in the summer. Oh well, I will just do my best.

I left a lot out of this post, there are no leaves or bark, I am not even sure that I mentioned that Hazel is a tree. It is one that I will come back to.

Common Hazel (Corylus avellana)Corylus avellana, The Hazel Tree

Hazel catkins are an inflorescence of small flowers that form in the autumn and are with us all winter, they can begin to open in January if the weather is mild.

Common Hazel (Corylus avellana)(Catkins in November)

Common Hazel (Corylus avellana)(February)

Each catkin is a flower head, comprised of about 240 small flowers. Each flower is covered by a triangular downy bract, beneath the bract are four stamens and each stamen has two yellow anthers (the pollen producing male part of a flower).

Common Hazel (Corylus avellana)

Common Hazel (Corylus avellana)

Common Hazel (Corylus avellana)A single anther will produce around nine thousand grains of pollen and one catkin, nearly nine million. A Hazel tree produces a lot of pollen.

Hazel is wind-pollinated and not reliant on insects so most of the pollen produced is blown away and doesn’t find it’s target.

Common Hazel (Corylus avellana) Common Hazel (Corylus avellana)   Common Hazel (Corylus avellana)   Common Hazel (Corylus avellana) The target for the pollen is the style of the female flower.

The Hazel tree is monoecious, meaning that each tree has both male and female flowers. The female flowers grow in clusters from small buds above the catkins. Only the red styles of the flowers protrude from the buds and the female inflorescence typically measures 2-4 mm across, It is a very small flower.

Common Hazel (Corylus avellana)Despite anything that you may read to the contrary (or that I may have told you in the past) the location and timing of the female flowers has nothing to do with avoiding self pollination. Corylus avellana is self incompatible, it cannot self-fertilise.

Common Hazel (Corylus avellana)Each female flower has two red styles (The pollen receiving female part of a flower). Each bud contains a cluster of between four and fourteen female flowers. Only the styles emerge from the bud.

Common Hazel (Corylus avellana) Common Hazel (Corylus avellana)   Common Hazel (Corylus avellana)   Common Hazel (Corylus avellana) Once pollinated the female flowers produce the fruit.

Hazel nuts in July.

Common Hazel (Corylus avellana)Unripened Hazel nuts are white and appear either singly or in small clusters. They are surrounded by a leafy, green sheath called an involucre.

Common Hazel (Corylus avellana)

Common Hazel (Corylus avellana) Common Hazel (Corylus avellana)   Common Hazel (Corylus avellana)   Common Hazel (Corylus avellana) The fruit begins to ripen and turns brown in August.

Common Hazel (Corylus avellana)Note that in this next picture, taken on the twentieth of August, next year’s catkins are already growing on the tree.

Common Hazel (Corylus avellana)In December a few nuts remain.

Common Hazel (Corylus avellana)Now the trees are characterised by the dried involucres that stay on the tree long after the nuts have gone.

Common Hazel (Corylus avellana)

Common Hazel (Corylus avellana)There is a mass of misinformation on the internet. I used the following sources to verify the accuracy of my post.

Acta Agrobotanica Vol. 61 (1) 33-39 2008

Molecular Biology Reports April 2012 Vol. 39 Issue 4 pp 4997-5008

Common Hazel (Corylus avellana)

Common Hazel (Corylus avellana)

Common Hazel (Corylus avellana)Taxonomy:

Kingdom: Plantae

Order: Fagales

Family: Betulaceae

Genus: Corylus

Species: Corylus avellana

Common Hazel (Corylus avellana)

Common Hazel (Corylus avellana)

Common Hazel (Corylus avellana)Wildflowers in winter 🙂


Wee, sleekit, cow’rin, tim’rous beastie,
O, what a panic’s in thy breastie!

It’s only me 🙂

European Robin
I’m truly sorry man’s dominion,
Has broken nature’s social union,
An justifies that ill opinion,
Which makes thee startle
At me, thy poor, earth-born companion,
An’ fellow-mortal!

Those are lines written by the poet Robert Burns in 1785. Okay he wrote that poem To a Mouse but my bird is just as tim’rous.

I am really startled that in 1785, without the benefits of social media, a man could be so aware.

Robert Burns was way ahead of his time.

European RobinMy tim’rous beastie has been obsessing me. I am so close to fixing nature’s social union, so close but not quite there yet.

I noticed that the bird was following my hand. What happens now is that he sits outside my door singing and his song is very clear, so I go to the door. I say hello and I put out a worm or two and the bird is watching my hand because almost before I can withdraw, it swoops down and takes the worm.

So I reasoned that if it knows the hand provides the food then let me offer the food on the hand.

I am doing a lot of this. The neighbour’s think I’m nuts, we’ll see 😉

FeedingIt is still dark outside as I start this post. The Robins started singing at six thirty this morning. I know what I will be doing as soon as it gets light. I have put off writing this post just because I keep thinking, any time now, I will get the pictures that I want but no, this is just going to be an update.

European RobinI need a name for my soon to be tamed European Robin.

In my mind I am making the association with Robin Goodfellow. The bird is cheeky and mischievous but also capable of meanness. Puck just doesn’t sound right (Something that you might play ice-hockey with) but there is a name there somewhere. I am open to suggestions.

European RobinThere is more than one bird and I may need more than one name. I have seen four Robins together outside of my door. That is a bit odd. I have just mentioned that the Robin is capable of meanness, a male Robin will not tolerate another male in his territory and while many animals settle such disputes with a good display of bluster, a Robin will kill an intruding male.

So how come, four birds? The only thing that I can think of is that these are last years chicks and they haven’t dispersed yet. They will have to go soon, the breeding season is starting.

European Robin

Ducks on the Pond!

Mind your language now.

MallardsAs predicted our solitary male has been joined by another male and a female.

MallardThe two males are quite easy to tell apart.

MallardSo the Ducks can have names too, if you like 🙂

MallardsThe trail camera is out watching the Ducks. I would like to make a “sex tape.” The breeding habits of Mallards are quite interesting and deserve some explaining but we can talk about that when I get the video.

I think that this one is my favourite, he is the underdog duck.


MallardIs Fizz being neglected while I play with my birds?

If I ever do a post called, “Interesting things you can do with a Dog,” it will involve mud.




FizzThe Sheep are meant to be having their toenails painted today but it is raining. Apparently you do not want to handle wet sheep, the fleece holds quite a bit of water. Well that is something that I have learned today.

SheepOn with the flowers.

Dog's Mercury (Mercurialis perennis)Mercurialis perennis, The Dog’s Mercury

Dog's Mercury (Mercurialis perennis)Dog’s Mercury is a green woodland plant that does best in partial shade. It appears very early in the year (January) and forms dense mats on the woodland floor.

Dog's Mercury (Mercurialis perennis)A member of the Spurge family,  (Euphorbiaceae) it spreads from it’s rhizomes (rootstalks) to form a large mass of plants that can shade others out.

Dog’s Mercury is dioecious, meaning that there are separate male and female plants.

The male plant carries spikes of flowers that open to reveal between eight and fifteen, pollen producing, stamens.

Dog's Mercury (Mercurialis perennis)

Dog's Mercury (Mercurialis perennis)The flower has no petals, it has three, lime green, tepals (a term used when sepals and petals are indistinguishable from each other)

Dog's Mercury (Mercurialis perennis)

Dog's Mercury (Mercurialis perennis)The female plant is much less conspicuous and most easily recognised by the lack of a flower spike.

Dog's Mercury (Mercurialis perennis)

Dog's Mercury (Mercurialis perennis)Female flowers are carried singly on a long stem.

Dog's Mercury (Mercurialis perennis)The female flower consists of a two lobed stigma above the ovary. The also have the three lime green tepals, soon hidden by the growing seeds.

Dog's Mercury (Mercurialis perennis)The leaves of Dog’s Mercury are spear like (narrowly elliptic-ovate) and grow in opposite pairs. Most of the leaves are at the top of the stem.

Dog's Mercury (Mercurialis perennis)They are finely haired and have a toothed margin.

Dog's Mercury (Mercurialis perennis)The stem is unbranched and by this I mean that the leaves and flowers grow directly from the central stem.

Dog's Mercury (Mercurialis perennis)

Similar species: The leaves and flowers of Annual Mercury (Mercurialis annua) look very similar to Dog’s Mercury, the big difference between the species is that Annual Mercury grows on branched stems, by this I mean that they grow on stems which branch off the main stem.

I don’t have pictures of Annual Mercury because in the UK, it only grows in the South East of England but if you are unsure of your identification then just Google for images of Annual Mercury and look at the stem.


Dog's Mercury (Mercurialis perennis)(Dog’s Mercury growing amongst Wild Garlic)

Dog’s Mercury is extremely poisonous. The first recorded case of fatality comes from 1693 when a family of five ate it and one child subsequently died. They had boiled the plant before eating it. The most recent case of poisoning comes from the 1980’s and was reported in The British Medical Journal. A couple boiled and ate the plant, mistaking it for an edible. They were hospitalised for two days but recovered without any serious ill effects. Their recovery was put down to the fact that they had boiled the plant before eating it.

Serious cases of poisoning in Humans are rare because there is little reason why anyone would eat this plant, most cases must arise from mistaken identity, or just not noticing the leaves when you pick your Wild Garlic.

Poisoning is more common in animals with several cases of Sheep poisoning being reported. I have also read a lot of reports of Dogs being drawn to eat it and subsequent vomiting. The plant has an unpleasant smell that repels us but may attract Dogs.

Dog’s Mercury in January:

Dog's Mercury (Mercurialis perennis) Dog's Mercury (Mercurialis perennis)   Dog's Mercury (Mercurialis perennis)   Dog's Mercury (Mercurialis perennis)Taxonomy

Kingdom: Plantae

Order: Malpighiales

Family: Euphorbiaceae

Genus: Mercurialis

Species: Mercurialis perennis

Dog's Mercury (Mercurialis perennis)

Dog's Mercury (Mercurialis perennis)Wildflowers in winter.



Like a Puppy on a string…

We do have quite a bit to report today. The Badger cam turned up an astonishing creature that I really didn’t expect to see, I will show you that in a little bit.

Fizz is on a bit of string for a reason and it’s not just because I lost her lead, I am keeping her out of trouble today.

But first, our first butterfly of 2015.

Small TortoiseshellIt has been hibernating in my flat. It was quite sunny yesterday and I guess the poor little thing thought that spring had arrived.

I had exactly the same thing last year with the same species waking up in February. I kept the curtains shut in my bedroom to keep the sun out and it went back to sleep. I let it go in March.

I have given this one a good book to read and sent it back to bed.

Small TortoiseshellThis is last year’s stowaway.

Small TortoiseshellI was out searching for wildflowers this morning and I found this one.

Common-field SpeedwellI found two of them in flower. This is Common–field Speedwell. There is so much that isn’t in flower that should be but I wasn’t expecting this one until March.

Common-field SpeedwellSo another nice surprise 🙂

Common-field SpeedwellThey may not look like much at the moment but in the summer they will look like this.

Common-field SpeedwellThe third nice surprise was that the Mallards are back.

Well the drake is, no sign of the female yet.

MallardShe will be here soon. They breed on our ponds but last year she didn’t nest here. That was a shame I would have loved ducklings on the pond.

MallardFor the next couple of months they will strut about the garden as if they own the place. It is nice to have them here.


MallardSo what has Fizz been up to?

FizzWell yesterday I said that I would take her for a picnic.

FizzShe announced it on Facebook and all sorts of rabble turned up.





GatecrashersIt’s all gone Pete Tong!

Next is a little video that I made yesterday. This little bird sings for me every day and I always want to remember this.

That brings us to the mystery animal, this is the last thing that I expected to see up there.

The mystery is not what it is but what is it doing up there?

The only water around is the stream that feeds the pond the ducks are on. That is only a couple of feet wide and nearly three quarters of a mile from Badger cam.

It is of course a European Otter, Lutra lutra. I am told it might be a dispersing juvenile but dispersing from where?

Could there be Otters breeding on our little stream out back of the farm? I doubt it. I don’t know anything about Otters, I really didn’t expect to see one here. It is an exciting mystery 🙂

The Big Garden Birdwatch

That is what we have been doing today.

Every winter in the UK (since 1979) the RSPB asks the British public to take part in a survey of the birds in their garden. About half a million people take part and it has become the worlds largest wildlife survey.

So for one hour over this weekend we were asked to record the birds that visit our garden. They don’t want you to count how many times Blue Tits visit your feeder because that would be the same birds over and over, instead they want you just to watch and record the largest number of each species that you can see at any one time.

So during my allotted hour there was one point that I had four Blackbirds on the grass together, four is the answer, not how many Blackbirds I saw in the entire hour, get it?

This is my view of the garden from my kitchen window that will do. Most of the birds will be around the feeder, I have put plenty of food out on the grass to try and bring them into my field of vision and if I get three or four of one species on the feeders at the same time then I am scanning around to try and see more.

The GardenMy results were not very spectacular. Some birds that I could almost guarantee to show up, didn’t. So for Collared Doves the answer was none, there are a pair that live here and I see them every day but during my hour they didn’t show. I hope they don’t get the idea that Collared Doves are extinct in Gloucestershire.

Blue TitIt is quite a fun thing to do. It requires a lot of attention. We had ten species visit during our hour and it could have been quite a few more. They all visit at the same time so I am trying to keep track of three House Sparrows over there and two Blue Tits on one feeder and two Robins squabbling amongst the bushes and so on.

BlackbirdI couldn’t take pictures while I was counting, I was too busy and then I couldn’t take pictures afterwards because it was just so murky but I did my best to try and show you what it was like.

RobinThe results that I returned were..

6 House Sparrows
6 Blue Tits
4 Goldfinches
3 Great Tits
2 Robins
4 Blackbirds
3 Chaffinches
2 Dunnocks
4 Bumbarrels
1 Wren

My favourite was the Wren, I hardly ever see them in that part of the garden and didn’t expect it.

It doesn’t look like a lot of birds but there were quite a lot of birds, they just didn’t all appear together and I was just following the rules. Quite a few local species would appear to be extinct if they just looked at my results but I expect that other people will report seeing them and an hour isn’t very long.

Blue Tit

Blue TitI could easily have missed the Bumbarrels too (Long-tailed Tits). They are not regular visitors but they have been here for a few days and just at the right time for the survey.

Long-tailed Tit

Long-tailed Tit

Long-tailed Tit

Long-tailed TitSo that is the Big Garden Birdwatch. The RSPB will collate all of the results and tell us which species are in decline and which are doing well and they will use that information to focus their conservation efforts on the birds that need the most help.