Signs of Spring

Spring has definately sprung , despite the daffodils being about 3 weeks late, with huge Bumble bees and early butterflies in the garden. We have had dozens of Sand Martins criss crossing the surface of the lake for a good 3 weeks now, and our lovely couple from Liverpool, Michelle and Michael, saw the newly returned Ospreys at Foulshaw Moss yesterday. So, hopefully, we will get some great views of them fishing in the lake again this year. Talking of the lake, there are a pair of Great Crested Grebes gracing it with their presence presently – such a delight to watch their intricate courtship routines – but not sure if they will be nesting in the reeds. Also there are often two Cormorants keeping station on the top of a large Scots Pine. Had a first glimpse of a male Marsh Harrier today – will see if a mate turns up. Our Kestrals seem to have been replaced by a pesky Sparrow Hawk, which has spotted the bird feeding stations. Very impressive with its dive bombing, but don’t like it stealing our Willow Tits !! The first Swallows have now arrived, which is always a sign of Summer being round the corner. Here’s hoping we have another corker, like last year

Autumnwatch returns

BBC Autumnwatch returns to film the awesome nature of RSPB’s Leighton Moss nature reserve, Arnside & Silverdale Area of Oustanding Natural Beauty and Morecambe Bay. ( http://www.bbc.co.uk/mediacentre/latestnews/2014/autumnwatch-2014 )

Last year saw a 50% increase in visitors to Leighton Moss nature reserve and the Bay area following the national spotlight on nature that Autumnwatch brought about.

Last year, guests were able to discover the nature on the show for real, and  see an all star TV presenter or two. There has been a lot of action already. The filming starts on Tuesday 28th and some action will continue into November on the reserve, throughout the AONB and across Morecambe Bay.

The BBC hope to catch on camera the very best of our wild action including:

  • Tens of thousands of migrant birds that seek refuge as temperatures fall in northern Europe and the Arctic.
  • Rutting red deer and families of otters who hunt for fish in lakes and pools.
  • 30,000 starlings that roost in the reedbeds each night.
  • Long eared bats that roost in the caves of Arnside & Silverdale AONB.

But, of course, guests can see much  of this from the sitting room or terrace !!

 

Something to Crow about

I was idling in the garden this week when I became aware that a couple of Crows were making a bit of a noise in the field below the house.  I then realised their attention was focused on a Kestrel trying to hunt.

At first I thought the Crows were just trying to get rid of the raptor.  However, following a few unsuccessful hoverings,  the Kestral dropped to the ground on to a little critter.  At this point, one of the Crows flew off its perch in the dead oak tree and crash landed on the Kestral.  Kestral flew up, but without its prey and the Crow waddled about a bit before also flying back to its perch.

The whole episode was repeated, twice and on the third time, I realised what the Crows were up to – they were waiting for the Kestrel to be successful, and ended up stealing a meal from the Kestrel !!

Well, what a fabulous year we have had. Perhaps the best summer in the 26 years we have been here,  a gorgeous early Spring, the warmest winter on record and none of the rain which afflicted the south. Not only an excellent year for visitors, but the best fruit crop we have ever known.  Wonder if we will have a hard winter to compensate ?

The Harriers and Ospreys all produced chicks this year, so it was good news all round. Otherwise, there was nothing particularly notable in the bird world this year.

Roll on winter !

The Harriers are back !

Much to our delight, we were able to spend some time in the glorious weather watching these magnificent birds soaring and tumbling today. No sign of collecting nesting material yet, but they may be settling in after their long journey, if they have only just arrived.

The arrival large flocks of Sand Martins preceded the Harriers by a week or so and it has been fascinating watching so many skimming just a few inches above the lake surface.

For our botanist friends, the Lathraea squamaria has made an early appearance. In fact many plants seem to be a few weeks early as a result of the unseasonably warm weather we have had. This may also be the reason for a noticeable increase in the amount of moss in the lawn. Oh well, if that’s the worst thing up with which we have to put, we shan’t be too worried !

Wet,Wet,Wet

No not a pop group, but the nature of the weather for the whole of the winter…so far. Mind you, we have had much less rain than folks both further south and further north. We can only remember two frosty mornings, and we desperately need a cold snap, to kill off all the nasties. The lawn seems to have been growing the whole winter !

Busy refreshing the sitting room. Mike disapproves- says it was fine before – but we ladies know best, don’t we ?! The new wallpaper has made a huge difference, even before the new curtains arrive.

Not much else to report, except that Autumn Watch being broadcast from Leighton Moss really put our very special AONB on the map. For weeks you could hardly move down there – they had to set up emergency car parks !

Still, all the publicity may have a dynamic effect.

On the subject of birds, this winter has been, ok, pretty boring. The lack of cold weather, I guess. Still, the bird feeders are often covered with whole families of Long-tailed Tits, and we now seem to have two Cormorants regularly on the lake – a good indicator of the quality of the fish stocks ?

Until next time, keep safe and dry …….

Well, what a scorcher !

It seems as though ever since my last post we have had nearly unbroken sunshine. Certainly I have been able to spend much more time in the garden and we have done more breakfasts on the terrace this year than any before.

Sadly, we were missing the Harriers this year. Perhaps they didn’t get far enough north in the extended winter cold, or decided they needed a safer nesting site, after the flooding last year. Will keep fingers crossed for next year.

Still, the good weather meant lots of butterflies and moths, to the delight of our lepidopterists.  The programme to re-introduce the Lady’s Slipper Orchid continues to be successful.

 

All in all, a great Summer.

Possibly the best Sticky Toffee Pudding……….

…in the world, was the reaction to Charlotte’s pud last week.

 

She has finally given in to the requests from guests to do the occasional dinner and will now do an evening meal when possible ( and with advance notice ), so far to rave reviews.

She did not learn the STP recipe at Leiths ( where she spent 3 months some years ago ), but slightly adapted the famous Miller Howe recipe when she had the Priory Hotel in Cartmel. It became so popular, people came from far and wide for this and a couple of other specialities. When we left the Priory, the nice people at the Village Shop spotted the possibilities for “Cartmel Sticky Toffee Pudding” and the rest, as they say, is history !!

 

The blossom is out finally and all the plants are trying to make up time ( as is the wretched lawn ! ).

 

We are very much looking forward to welcoming back shortly our old friends the lepidopterists from the Upper Thames Branch.  I just hope we get a bit of warm dry weather to make a BBQ possible and also encourage the Lepidoptera, which, like the plants, are behind schedule.

Mike

Drought !

There seems to have been a general misconception ( fuelled as usual by the selective reporting of the press) that in this part of the world we have snow up to the eaves blah, blah. Not only have we had no snow, we have had so little presipitation this year that we have had to resort to using the sprinkler on the garden !!

It is, of course, still unseasonably cold and the spring plants are really struggling – our daffodils are still not fully out.

Since my last jottings, Natural England have very kindly cleared all the rampant scrub, mainly Alder and Willow, in the marsh area on our side of the lake, so we now have an uninterupted view of the lake once again.

Seen a lone Marsh Harrier, but not one of our usual breeding pair – keeping fingers crossed. Many birds have suffered in this long cold spell, and, as result, the types visiting the feeders have varied this winter. Gone are our unruly Starlings, and we have only seen a lone Bullfinch, but the family groups of Long-tailed Tits monopolise the peanuts much more so than in previous years ( one of them is completely missing its tail, which seems very odd, but doesn’t seem to bother the bird – probably had a close encounter with the nasty resident Sparrow Hawk…. ). The Siskins have been evident again, but the star has been the odd visit by a Hawfinch, which is very unusual.

Happy Easter to everyone.

Murmurations

For some reason, watching the Starlings swirling and girating in the sky over the reed bed in front of the house yesterday, before collapsing into the trees, reminded me I haven’t posted anything for some time.

Well, perhaps subconsciously this is because there hasn’t been much “good” news to report.  Apart from a good Spring, the weather in 2012, along with most of the country, has been awful.  Sadly, because of all the rain and the resulting higher water levels, the Harrier nest got flooded and failed – apparently this was a fairly common story elsewhere. ( After such a poor year, the poor birds couldn’t face the long trek back to Africa, as the RSPB say that as many as 5 have over wintered at Leighton Moss. )

Conversely, guest numbers were the best ever, which seems rather odd.  Maybe it is simply that more people are “staycationing”, “nearcationing”, or simply re-discovering this wonderful country of ours.

Back to the Starlings, they have taken to roosting in front of the house more often recently, so the sights from the terrace are often spectacular when we have a bit of good weather in late afternoon. It is always awe-inspiring watching them – I still can’t understand how so many birds can fly so close together weaving hither and thither, without colliding !! Can anyone explain how they do it ??!

Here’s hoping for a much better 2013 generally and we wish everyone a happy, healthy and, hopefully, prosperous New Year.

Charlotte.

 

Osprey for Breakfast !

The hot weather has enabled us to offer breakfast on the terrace – always thoroughly enjoyed. ( The trouble is getting people to drag themselves away….)

This week, while watching the Harriers, the breakfasters were treated to sightings of the Osprey ( and again one evening ).  On one occassion the bird hung around for an hour, showing a clear preference for a particular large Scots Pine.  The experts tell us that a bird takes perhaps 5 years to reach breeding maturity.  As this one has been hanging around for about 3 years, maybe he/she will find a mate next year……… watch this space !

This is a fascinating time of year.  Word has spread about the Kew Gardens project to reintroduce the Lady’s Slipper Orchid, and guests have come from far and wide to view these rare, exotic plants, which seem to be thriving.

Caught 3 moles in the lawn – what a mess.  Makes the Croquet interesting, especially with the borrow.!! Still, this is the country…………………………………