Sunday, January 29, 2017

Big Garden Bird Watch

It has been a strange week! A week in which I haven't felt myself, a week in which I've done very little except a couple of walks I didn't feel like going on and reading a couple of books one of which I couldn't put down, I'll write about that in another post. 

I've done the washing and ironing and vacumed the carpets but that seemed to take all my energy.  I even missed Five on Friday as it somehow passed me by.

I managed to summon up the energy to think about taking an hour out to watch for birds visiting the garden in order to participate in the RSPB's Big Garden Bird Watch. We do this every year and I always enjoy it but it is always the case that the birds you see before and after the survey are always absent when you want them.

On Friday we saw eight Goldfinches, four Chaffinches and loads of Blue Tits, Saturday was so wet that we hardly saw any birds. We did the survey between eleven and noon today and below is a list of the birds visiting our garden in that hour.  

5 Blackbirds
10 Sparrows
2 Robins
4 Goldfinches
3 Wood pigeons
1 Collard Dove
10 Starlings
1 Thrush
1Blue Tit
2 Long Tailed tits

We were hoping to see blue tits again and had just about given up when just one appeared about five minutes from the end of the hour.  I was so glad the Thrush visited and it was such a joy to see the two Long Tailed Tits. 

 Squirrel in the foreground with a Robin and a Sparrow waiting for it to go so they could get to the feeders.
Thrush, this one visits everyday at the moment and on Friday we saw two so there is a pair.  There is also a pair of Robins, it's great when you see both at the same time.

 Chaffinch, I took this photo on Friday and we didn't see any during the survey.

Long Tailed Tit,  Paul took the photos of the Long Tailed Tits through the conservatory window on the feeders just outside.

I love these little birds.

The RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch is spread over three days this year so you can still participate tomorrow if you haven't already done the survey over the weekend.  Just click on the link for more details. 

Friday, January 20, 2017

Five on Friday

It's Friday and time once again to join in with Five on Friday organised by Amy at Love Made my Home.

Now who is that strolling in the garden?

Mr Lancelot 'Capability' Brown! On his way from an international sculpture exhibition at Doddington Hall in Lincolnshire to take up his final resting place beside the River Thames in Hammersmith, is taking some time out to survey his design project  at Trentham Gardens and to see how in 2016 gardeners here have worked hard to return the gardens to something he would recognise.

The  bronze statue weighs 207kg and is the first life size, full length statue of the famous garden designer.

It was made for last year's tercentenary celebrations of Brown's birth in 1716 by Laury Dizengremel who is artist in residence at Belvoir Castle in Leicestershire.  His face was based on the portrait by Richard Cosway which was selected as the face of Capability Brown for last year's festival.

I liked the detail in the sculpture, his tricorn hat, long boots and frock coat.  With his garden plans under his arm he looks purposeful, yet somehow kindly,  as he strides out to see how his designs are working within the landscape.

Here are five facts about Lancelot 'Capability' Brown

1.  He was born on 30th August 1716 in Kirkharle, Northumberland the fifth of six children born to William and Ursula Brown.

2.  He was known as the 'father' of landscape design.

3.  He was nicknamed 'Capability' because he always used to say that landscapes showed great capability for improvement.

4.  He worked on over two hundred and sixty sites over England and Wales during his working life.

5.  He died on 6th February 1783 at his daughter's house in London and is buried at the church of St Peter and St Paul, Fenstanton, Cambridgeshire.

Click on the link below to find others who are joining in with Five on Friday

I hope everyone has a great weekend.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Seeking Colour

The last few days have been dank, grey and misty, not cold as such but the still damp air seems to penetrate your bones and make you shiver anyway.

I was craving warmth, light and colour to get through the grey and dismal days and dark evenings. Warmth and light can be found quite easily at home but colour at this time of year is harder to come by.

We did eventually find some colour at the local garden centre.





 Colourful pots and containers just waiting to be filled

 For all I was seeking colour it was the flowers below which really caught my eye.

Beautiful white Hellebores called 'Verboom Beauty.'

Friday, January 13, 2017

Five on Friday

It's Friday again and as usual I'm joining in with Five on Friday kindly organised for us by the lovely Amy at Love Made My Home.

Below are five things I've been doing over the last week

1. Reading short stories -  having read the PD James stories over Christmas I then started on the Penelope Lively short stories.  I have to say I enjoyed both books and all the stories, some more compelling than others but all very readable as they would be from two wonderful authors and  I'm a great fan of both of them. I also enjoyed reading Consequences by Penelope Lively over the New Year.  Another author I like is Ann Cleeves and I read one of her Shetland series of books Cold Earth recently too.

2.  Receiving - in the post. We had  a lovely and amusing letter and card from a friend, the RSPB pack for the yearly Big Garden Watch at the end of the month, I do this every year but it is the first time I'd requested a pack.  The book I sent for for someone else as they don't have a computer; they'd seen the book in a closed bookshop window but when they returned it had gone.  I offered to send for it and it arrived within two days of ordering.  It will be passed on as soon as we see the person who wanted it, in the meantime I have permission to read it if I want to and have been reading a little at a time alongside other books.  It's quite fascinating.

3.  Hoping - that the bulbs we'd forgotten about, having put them in a cool, dark place last year and which had begun to sprout will eventually flower.  I can't remember if they were pink or blue Hyacinths.

4. Watching - each morning for the Thrush which visits the garden, we see him/her most mornings quite early.  Also watching for the predicted snow which was falling as sleet all yesterday but this morning we woke up to a winter wonderland of soft, powdery snow which, in this gusting wind, is already being blown off the branches of the trees.

5. Walking - in muddy wellies, under winter trees and lowering skies.

To find other joining in with Five on Friday click on the link below.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Wild and Windy

Gosh isn't it windy today?  Yesterday whilst we were out and about the car started to flash warnings so we had to abandon picking up cat food and drive straight to the garage and book it in.  It was due for a service and MOT at the end of the month anyway. 

This morning, not being able to use the car, we walked to the nearest supermarket for the cat food, well chicken thighs and prawns, which our elderly cat (twenty one in April) seems to prefer now.  We don't eat meat ourselves and haven't done for about thirty years so it seems strange to have chicken in the fridge but we'll try anything to tempt his appetite.


As we walked the wind was humming though the wires and blowing straight into our faces, trees branches were down and wheelie bins tipped over.  On our way back the wind was pushing us from behind, it did feel invigorating, but it was good to get home again.

The weather on Sunday was completely different when we ventured out and about. It was foggy in patches and very wet too, below are a few photos from our walk.

We called at Brierlow Bar Bookshop first and then drove round to the Buxton Country Park which is near Poole's Cavern.
 It was quite cold and damp in the air.

At one point it rained quite heavily. 

It was drier under the shelter of the trees

 Below us the lovely town of Buxton in the mist

There was lots of fungi - this one was filling up with rain water like a little cup.

Out of the woods and through the gate

Solomon's Temple in the distance, we didn't venture up to it on this walk but have been to the top of it on several of our walks here.

 The seat was very wet, no chance of sitting down!

Back over the stile and into the woods again.

 Passing this lovely wood sculpture on the way back to the car park.

Friday, January 06, 2017

Five on Friday

We have enjoyed Christmas and welcomed in a New Year since the last Five on Friday. Christmas was very quiet for us as we did most of our visiting and having visitors at home in the weeks running up to the festive weekend.  I've never been a fan of New Year, I find it a sad time and a time of reflection and remembrance of people and times past.  I know both Christmas and New Year can be sad and lonely times for many people as well as fun filled, happy family days for others and I expect most people experience both during their lifetimes.  Christmas has now been packed away in its bag in the garage and the house is back to normal.  It always takes a while to get used to it even though it is so familiar.

We did get out and about on a few walks between Christmas and New Year and again at the beginning of this week.  If you read my last post you will know that we went on a bird hunt on Monday and managed to photograph both Redwings and Waxwings and I was thrilled with that.  The birds were found in Biddulph to the north of the city where we also visited Biddulph Grange, our nearest National Trust property, below are five photos I took during our walk.

1. The Entrance Hall where the Christmas tree was still on display and a fire had been made in the lovely fireplace.

2.  I love the two empty wooden benches, on the frosted grass.  In the early summer of last year we sat in deck chairs and ate an ice cream from the kiosk nearby.  Hard to imagine now how warm it was then.
3.  One of the tunnels in the garden, this one leads into the arboretum where all the tall redwood and monkey puzzle trees are.  It was so cold and frosty and yet the sun glowed through at the end of the tunnel.

4.  The Wellingtonia Walk -  when we first came to this area over twenty years ago we were as tall as the newly planted trees, just look at them now!

5.  Frozen cabbages - the hanging baskets in the kitchen garden had been planted with  lovely pale lavender coloured, decorative cabbage plants.  They looked so pretty covered in frost which was gently melting in the bright midday sun.

We are heading out for another walk this morning so I will catch up with everyone later today.

To find other bloggers joining in with Five on Friday use the link below.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

A Good Day

Alerted by Caroline at Ragged Robin's Nature Notes blog that Waxwings had been seen to the north of the city we'd hoped to go and find them at Talke on Friday but we woke up to thick fog and icy paths and it wouldn't have been wise to go out on the roads.  I'd been following the link I'd been given to the staffs birders twitter page, even though I'm not on twitter I was able to read the postings.  On Sunday I read that there were Waxwings in Biddulph so the next morning we decided to go up to Biddulph Grange for a walk and hope that they  were still there.

I knew where the Biddulph Arms public house was and we scanned the road as we went towards Bidduph Grange but didn't see anything so we went into the gardens, had a good walk around and a scone and coffee in the cafe.  We came out and spotted Redwings on the berries just opposite the cafe. It was lovely to see them and I thought I would have to be content with seeing and photographing them.

We left the garden to drive back towards the town and as we drove up the road saw a small group of people with cameras near some Rowan trees with orange berries.  We pulled up and went to join the little group and three waxwings flew in and onto the trees.  What joy!

I'm afraid my little camera wasn't as powerful as some of the huge ones on tripods the other photographers had but I did manage a few photos and Paul took some too.  A couple of those above are his and the other two mine.   I was thrilled they were still feeding there as I've never seen them in the wild before.  
Such gorgeous birds.

Monday, January 02, 2017

Paint Monthly - Mary Ellen Best

I was looking through my postcard album recently for something else but came across two postcards I bought from an exhibition I visited in York with a couple of work colleagues.  It must have been more than twenty five years ago now and I don't remember exactly when but it was an exhibition at the York Art Gallery of the works of Mary Ellen Best.

Mary Ellen Best was born in York in 1809, the daughter of a doctor her family lived on Little Blake Street which is close to York Minster.  The family later moved to France but returned to York after her father's death in 1817.  She attended boarding school where she was tutored in art by George Haugh.  Most middle class women of the time were tutored in painting and drawing but Mary achieved success as an artist both in her home town and further afield.

Her most prolific painting was done between the years of 1830 to 1839.  She exhibited in York, London, Leeds and Newcastle and was awarded a silver medal from the London Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufacture commerce (now the Royal Society of Arts) for the best original painting in oil or watercolour
by persons under the age of twenty one.

She mostly painted interiors and domestic scenes in her own home and the houses of others. The painting above shows  Mary Ellen herself at her work desk in her home in Castlegate, York.  She was also much in demand, mostly by women, for portraits.  It is thought that she painted around 1,500 paintings in total. In 1840 she married Johann Anton Philip Sarg and moved to Germany.  Her painting career seemed to end in about 1851 when Mary inherited quite a lot of money but it is not really known why she did give up painting.

I remember being fascinated with the detail in the paintings.  The way furniture was laid out, the colours, the fabrics and wall coverings. 

Mary Ellen Best died in Darmstadt in Germany in 1891.

Here is a - link - to more of her paintings.

Linking with Barbara at Coastal Ripples for Paint Monthly
follow the link to find more posts.