Sunday, January 28, 2007

January Weekend

Saturday morning saw us going round the public loop of Pitsford Reservoir, another 7.5mile walk. We'd seen county reports of a Red-throated Diver and as spotting it would be a first we set off full of enthusiasm. No such luck! There were a lot of boats on the water which I guess would have disturbed it. Chances are it relocated to the nature reserve side instead but you never know unless you look! On the way round we found a pair of Stonechats, this male showing well:

Walking along the causeway towards the sailing club, this Goldeneye drake was close to the wall, so I got my best Goldeneye snap so far:

Heading back to the car park and past the tumbledown farm buildings there were a number of Fieldfare in the hedgerow, including this one:

So a good walk before lunch but no Red-throated Diver... hope it hangs around!!

On Sunday it was my wife's birthday so we had dinner and stayed at Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons for a glorious 10-course vegetarian dinner, though the room was a little pricey! In the morning after checking-out we had a mooch around the grounds, in particular the vegetable garden. In one half-full pond this tern statue stood out:

From Le Manoir, we headed on to Otmoor (, thankfully the range was shut for the day! It was a very quiet reserve for birds on the Sunday, being cold, windswept and mostly overcast. We headed out along the extremely muddy path and witnessed these Canada's doing a fly-past:

There was a Willow Tit at the feeding station and we spotted a couple of Bullfinches but they didn't hang around.

On the way back (it's a 2.5km track which you follow out and back) the sun came out making it a much more pleasant spot. This female Stonechat was showing well on the side of the path:

All in all an excellent weekend, we even got around to planting the last three trees in the garden when we got home on Sunday!

Monday, January 08, 2007

The Hedgerow Project - Part 3

A miserable cold, very wet and windy birthday on the first Saturday of January, planting the hedge. A total of 170 plants in all, 6 fruit trees and 164 plants (including more trees) for the hedge. It took four hours and was extremely hard work but a very satisfying feeling knowing it's in and indeed what in a few years time it will become. You can just make out the whips against the fence. They're very small - it'll take 3-5 years before the planting resembles a hedge, but by then it'll be providing both food and habitat for the local birds, which they'll need as a large amount of local land is going to be turned into a new housing estate (some 3,500 residential properties, hotel complex, etc). Hopefuly the hedge will help mitigate the impact of this for us and the birds!

We also planted out the fruit trees including pear, apple (russet) and bird cherry in this mini-orchard and are using our composters to nourish the soil, which should help with both tree growth and fruit production.

The work has been very tough though as we were the last house to be built on this patch in the mid-eighties, and the builders appear to have used our garden as dump for foundation concrete, bricks, glass, clay, metal fittings and anything else they no longer needed, then just added a thin layer of top soil, as you can see from this heap (which is the 2nd heap dug-up and we've covered barely 10% of the garden so far):

Next is the vegetable patch, we're going to need to double-dig and then sieve the soil here which will mean a load more rubble and waste to come out. After that there's a pale circular patch in the middle of the lawn which looks to me like a heap more waste...