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8th May 2020 – Stoke Park Estate, Bristol

It’s lovely to see the park being used by so many people but we really had to keep our wits about us to keep at a good distance from others.

It was a truly glorious day (temperature reaching 23 C). We saw our first swift (no photograph unfortunately) and our first damselfly of the year.

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DSC05771Whitethroat

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DSC05844Duckling

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DSC05903Moorhen

DSC05920Greenfinch

DSC06072Coot – have you seen those feet?

DSC06101Hawthorn blossom

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DSC05807Carrion crows

 

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6th May 2020 – Stoke Park Estate, Bristol

We broke bounds today and nervously took an exercise walk to Stoke Park (just a few minutes from where we live). We have so missed getting out and about. The walk was almost essential for our sanity; the decision was prompted by the beautiful weather.

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It was so wonderful to see the beauty of spring with the lush green grass, the trees with blossom and plants that clearly we don’t see in our urban garden.

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There were also some birds (and a butterfly) to add to our joy.

DSC04291Wren

DSC04367Wren diving for cover

DSC04389Whitethroat singing its heart out

DSC04470Great tit

DSC04586Magpie

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DSC04802Reed bunting

DSC04872Carrion crow

DSC04907Mallard

DSC04917Mallard with admirers

DSC04928Canada goose

DSC04932Mallards

DSC04549Ducklings

DSC04541Moorhen

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3rd May 2020 – Self-isolating in Bristol

My neighbours are becoming very noisy. I don’t know if lock-down is anything to do with it but I suspect not as all the humans have been very considerate and very friendly.

No, its the birds that are making most of the noise; calling to mates and dashing around finding nesting material and even grubs for broods that are already sitting in the nest.

Good luck to them all.

DSC03583Blue-tit enjoying the sun. Often they are accused of head banging: I read this comment on Bird Forum “Blue tits made a nest about a week ago in a nestbox and I have since been hearing a constant tapping from inside, like a woodpecker. The box is on the wall of my house and I can hear the tapping for ten minutes or so several times a day, long after the nest was finished.”

DSC03605These Canada geese were very noisy honking as they flew over my garden

DSC03655This starling was making no noise at all but often they have a shrill whistle; this one was looking the worse for wear – clearly he had had a night on the town

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DSC03855The blackbird has a very melodious song but it does carry a long way

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DSC03837Wood pigeons and collared doves certainly disturb the peace as they flutter back and forth and make an almighty din when going in and out of my neighbour’s leylandii .

DSC03964The goldfinches are very sociable birds and  have a delightful liquid twittering song and call

DSC04029The dunnocks are quiet and unobtrusive but when two rival males come together they become animated with lots of wing-flicking and loud calling

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DSC04068 The house sparrows are the worst offenders with their incessant monotonous chirping

I wonder if I’m going to be able to get out and listen to the dawn chorus any time soon?

Today was the International Dawn Chorus Day (the first Sunday in May) –  I’m sure they will be singing for a few days yet..

 

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1st May 2020 – Bonne Fête du Muguet

It is a tradition in France on May Day (1st May) to offer a sprig of lily of the valley (un brin de muguet) to one’s loved ones as a lucky charm (un porte-bonheur).

As a student in France in the late 1960s I can remember seeing on street corners vendeurs de muguet with buckets of lilies of the valley selling little bouquets of these fragrant spring flowers. Today (or rather in normal circumstance) you are more likely to find them being sold in florists and supermarkets. By all accounts the French spend millions of Euros (31.8 million Euros in 2013) on buying the plants.

The plant has long been considered a symbol of spring, renewal and luck since the days of the Celts. However, it really gained importance in France after King Charles IX  was given a lily of the valley plant on the 1st May in 1561. He was told it would bring him luck and, being a superstitious person, he thought it would be a nice idea to give a lily of the valley plant every year on May 1st to the ladies of his court to bring more luck all round.

IMG_1639It is said that whoever finds a lily of the valley with 13 small bells will be particularly lucky

Today I offer here a bouquet of lily of the valley picked from my garden in the hope that it brings a bit of luck to all who read my article.

 

In a corner of my tiny garden lily of the valley seems to flourish (even popping up at times through concrete).

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In another corner (and spreading everywhere) I also have woodruff,  which in French is known as “le muguet des bois”

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DSC03401Woodruff (in French le muguet des bois)

I also share this little story linking lily of the valley with the nightingale:

THE STORY OF LILY OF THE VALLEY AND THE NIGHTINGALE

Once upon a time, the very first lily of the valley was in love with a nightingale. Every night, the nightingale would come to the garden to sing. However, the lily of the valley was shy and hid herself from the bird. So after a while, he grew lonely and flew away.

Alone in the garden, the lily of the valley waited in vain for the nightingale to return. Eventually, she grew so sad that she stopped blooming. She resumed flowering only when the nightingale reappeared (in May) and her happiness was restored.

 

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26th April 2020 – Self-isolating in Bristol

The lovely sunny weather has continued all through the weekend which has definitely helped to lift morale in these difficult times.

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DSC03094Wisteria Avenue?

The birds have been more difficult to photograph with the leaves growing on the trees and so that is probably why I found myself in the garden without my camera yesterday morning when a CUCKOO flew over making its way, it seemed, from Eastville Park to Stoke Park and probably way beyond – definitely the best of my garden record (if I kept one). There were several other flyovers with birds moving from Stoke Park to Eastville Park (and back) but I failed to photograph the mallards, Canada geese and grey heron.

I wandered down the road opposite our house early this morning, more to see the 5 wisteria trees, than to see birds but I did manage to photograph house sparrows, goldfinches, a robin and a blackbird. They were all in full voice at that time of the morning.

DSC01949An inquisitive goldfinch

DSC02041A rather glum robin

DSC02117Crazy woodpigeon

DSC02796I’m told there are sunflower heads in the back garden

DSC02352Flirting blue tits

DSC02383Starling with breakfast

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DSC02918The house sparrows are persistently noisy (is that a dust spot on my sensor or dirt on the drain pipe?)

DSC02409Even a lesser black-backed gull paid me a visit

DSC02828A cheery blackbird

DSC02965A jackdaw taking the coronavirus seriously

DSC03179Show-off blue tit

DSC03189Curious carrion crow

Later back in my garden a grey heron flew over. I have photographed these birds in Eastville Park and Stoke Park more than any other bird and I am sure it recognised me as, before flying off, it did a circle over head in a sort of fly pass.

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DSC03318A fly-by salute from the grey heron

The other notable bird I saw was a buzzard but I only managed a distant shot before it disappeared in to the azure of the sky.

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The blue tits, woodpigeons and collared doves have entertained me regularly too.

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I have had a go at photographing the aphids on my roses and aqualegias and ants on my peonies but I must admit I’m not very good at it because everyone says its a great macro lens!

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Slideshow of my photos over the last two days. On an iPad you can pinch and stretch.

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22nd April 2020 – Self-isolating in Bristol

Another glorious day. I’m sure that on such a day I would have been looking to go further afield for my dose of nature or at least taking a walk in one of the local parks.

Recently in Stoke Park Estate there have been lots of exciting bird sightings including ring ouzels, wheatears and a tree pipit and even the first brood of ducklings. In Eastville Park I gather there was a mandarin duck on the lake this morning.

However, not for me as to keep safe and away from the coronavirus I am staying here in my garden and, for a while this morning, in my neighbour’s garden whilst she was doing essential shopping for herself and friends.

The variety of birds is very limited but it all helps to keep my sanity. A friend commented I must have taken a photo of every plant in my garden. Maybe that is the case but fortunately for me they change a little and I am still challenged by photographing them.

And again there’s only so much bread you can bake! So here are some of the stars for me:

DSC00513Goldfinch

DSC00569Dunnock

DSC00602Dunnock fascinated by bee

DSC00616House sparrow “up the wall” – I know the feeling

DSC00627A timely reminder why I am here

DSC00639Blackbird takes a leap of faith

DSC00659Jackdaw

DSC00760Herring gull

DSC00929Magpie

DSC01063Starling

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DSC01227House sparrow

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DSC01399Wood pigeon

DSC01597Collared dove

And some of the botanical photos:

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DSC00979Magnolia still performing well

DSC00854Our flower tubs from the local Elmtree Farm are loving the sun

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DSC00955Many of my neighbours have wisteria – we had two at one stage but I couldn’t control them

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DSC00983I’m sure we will be eating our figs before lock down ends for us!

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DSC01018I don’t normally see this lovely tree but I could see it from my neighbour’s garden

DSC01845Wendy picked the first bunch of lily-of-the -valley. The aroma is amazing.

Slideshow of all my photos from this morning:

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19th April 2020 -Self-isolating in Bristol

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I didn’t spend long taking photos at home today (maybe because I didn’t see many) but for the short time I had a camera in my hand I was lucky to see a comma butterfly.

I have already seen a few varieties of butterfly in my garden this year (peacock, orange-tip and a white which I didn’t manage to identify)  but this one was the first I have managed to photograph.

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In fact the only bird photo I took was a jackdaw. Was this the corvid answer to Covid-19?

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17th April 2020 – Holland

No, I’ve not gone barking mad (not yet anyway). I have not really made off to Holland but (in a way) a little bit of Holland has been transported to our home and it has a tenuous link to my nature blog.

My wife, Wendy, has completed her most recent patchwork quilt and we have managed to mount it in our dining room. I am sure she is delighted to be able to see the culmination of months of her work but it has in fact lifted our spirits for both of us.

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I feel I have contributed a tiny amount to this beautiful work of art as I bought her the book with the initial design for the quilt. I have spent a fair number of hours sitting looking at the library of books at Midsomer Quilting  (her favourite shop for all matters quilting and probably most of the UK’s favourite shop too) and it was there (drinking their coffee and eating their chocolate biscuits) that I was attracted to a book “Promenade dans un jardin hollandais” (Petra Pins & An Moonen). I love the series of books produced by the French publishers Quilt Mania as the main text is in French (there is also an English translation) and they always have the most amazing photographs. The photographs are technically brilliant and the quilts are also displayed in the most imaginative ways.

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Wendy’s quilt is a tree of life and there’s the tenuous link to my nature blog.

Wikipedia tells me that

“the tree of life is a fundamental widespread myth (mytheme) or archetype in many of the world’s mythologies, religious and philosophical traditions. It is closely related to the concept of the sacred tree. The tree of knowledge, connecting to heaven and the underworld, and the tree of life, connecting all forms of creation, are both forms of the world tree or cosmic tree, and are portrayed in various religions and philosophies as the same tree.”

I would love to visit “L’Ecomusée ou musée de Plein Air de Arnhem aux Pays Bas” which is where the quilts for the book were photographed and which in the book is described as:

” a magical place that relates several centuries of Dutch history through a 100 acre park. Founded on April 24th, 1912, the museum opened in 1918. Nowadays , this site includes ninety-six buildings and points of interest such as farms, windmills, a drawbridge, houses, workshops etc. from different eras, with one of the most recent attractions being a tram station from Amsterdam.”

A visit to Arnhem would also be very poignant as it was there that my Uncle Cyril (a glider pilot in the RAF) was killed in the Second World War.

 

 

 

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17th April 2020 – Self-isolating in Bristol

I so miss my dose of nature. It’s been such a crucial part of my life since I retired. I love the exercise, I love being in the fresh air, I love the way my photography skills are challenged and I love the mental challenge of trying to identify (mainly) birds and (occasionally) flora and the intimacy that that provides.

I have been very lucky through these first few weeks of lock-down in that I have been able (especially with the very good weather we have had) to be outside a lot and to see and photograph a surprisingly large variety of birds in and around my garden.

However, I think that is going to change as the leaves on the trees are coming out thick and fast and (from the experience of the last few days) my view of the birds is diminishing.

This morning the weather was very dull and, as rain was forecast from 10 o’clock, I pressed on and tried to photograph some of the nature (mainly trees) in and around my garden. The purpose of this exercise was simply for self fulfillment. I am not trying to “show off” my garden as it is tiny and designed for minimal effort so that we are able to take off either locally or further afield whenever we want and not have to worry about the consequences. However, it does provide us somewhere to cook a barbecue and to sit outside when the weather is good. I didn’t realise how important it would become to me.

We probably have too many trees for the size of the garden and since I realised that I have reduced the number.

The highlight has been the front garden where we have planted a crab apple and a magnolia, which this year have really been at their best. In the dull weather this morning they probably weren’t at their best for photos but I do restrict my blogs to photos of any particular day.

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DSC00130When the 20 mph signs were erected I thought “what madness, who could possibly do more than 20 mph done this road?” but I have eaten my words more than once when some crazy fool has sped by.

As well as the crab apple and the magnolia there are a couple of other shrubs (I don’t know what they are called).

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As the viburnum has finished blooming two peonies are about to bloom but there are some worrying signs with loads of ants on them.

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DSC00156I love this plant (is it an aubretia?) which clings to the outside wall

In the back garden the best has been the acer with its very delicate blossom. But a rowan tree (mountain ash in such a tiny garden – madness?) is about to come out in blossom and the scots pine seems to have more cones on it this year.

The holly had a severe trim last year as did the bay tree and the fig (not featured as it was just too dark to photograph).

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DSC00099The rowan has blossom appearing.

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But beneath the bay the lily of the valley is already out (it will always be “muguet” to me for the special connotations it has on the 1st May in France).

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DSC00116An aquilegia has self sown among the lily of the valley.

But the best of all the trees is not outside (!) and I hope to be able to show it (and explain) in my next blog.

 

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