Category Archives: At Home

Posts about events occurring at my home.

Mid-April

The first swallow of the summer, tumbling over the back field first thing yesterday morning as I opened the gate. Only three days later than last year, despite this dreadful spring. If previous years are anything to go by—although why should they be, these days?—it will be a couple of weeks yet before they're back in great numbers. Which I guess is why one of them doesn't make a summer. It's good to have them back, though.

The afternoon was glorious, with a strong, warm breeze, so I headed up to the Moor. Unusually, I didn't spot a single red grouse, although the meadow pipits were back in decent numbers, and there was a lone skylark belting it out high above me for all he was worth.

Stoodley Pike Monument from the Moor
Stoodley Pike Monument from the Moor

Moorland pool
Moorland pool

The wheatears will be back soon, I reckon.

Springy

It's finally starting to feel just a little bit springy.

Last Friday, I took a circular walk down Burlees Lane, through the woods, up the hill, and back home along Height Road.

Stoodley Pike Monument
A view from my walk on Friday.

A hormone-fuelled green woodpecker screeched incessantly (but, unfortunately, invisibly) from the small copse at the end of the lane. I could hear him for almost the entire walk. I spooked a snipe from the field at the side of the wood. Then, as I climbed out of the wood, I turned round to take in the view, and spotted a distant white flash: I'm 95% sure it was my first wheatear of the year. That's a big deal for me.

Yesterday, I glanced out of our dining room window to see three siskins and a large collection of long-tailed tits—comparative rarities in this neck of the moors—feeding on our bird table. The local dunnocks were also being extremely frisky.

Famous last words, I know, but I think we might finally have broken the back of this incessant winter. Having said that, there were still several redwings perched in our neighbour's oak on Friday evening!

More photos from my walk on Friday »

A case of mistaken identity

I lay in bed yesterday morning, listening to a curlew calling from the field in front of our house.

It was calling again this morning as I went to open the gate in the unforecasted snow. So I sneaked round to have a peek. It turned out not to be a curlew at all, but a starling in our cherry tree doing a very passable impersonation (imbirdation?) of a curlew. They are impressive mimics.

Then, as I went to open the garage door, I heard my first lapwing of the year calling from somewhere in the fields behind the house.

Well, I say it was a lapwing, but, for all I know, it was another starling.

Postscript (2 hours later): I've just seen it. Definitely a lapwing. It's great to have them back! Now, if it would only stop snowing, it might begin to feel a bit more like Spring.

Jew's ear fungus

I've just noticed that the Buddleia in our garden is absolutely covered in these:

Jew's ear fungus

Jew's ear fungus

According to Wikipedia, Auricularia auricula-judae, the Jew's ear fungus, grows especially well on elder. Both its common and scientific names are said to derive from the belief that Judas Iscariot hanged himself from an elder tree; the common name Judas's ear eventually became Jew's ear. But I always take folk etymology with a pinch of salt.

A weird, and pleasing fungus, though.

A sign of spring

I needed to drop something off at the farm this afternoon, so I decided to walk the Nook Circuit. It was bitterly cold, but wonderfully fresh.

Greenfinches taking flight
Greenfinches taking flight in light snow

Back at the house, I noticed that we have some more gelatinous blobs (star jelly) just a few feet away from where the last batch appeared. I'm now semi-convinced that moles must be behind them. There has been a lot of mole activity under that patch of lawn recently. I'm guessing the blobs are discarded food. Slug mucus, maybe.

Star jelly
Star Jelly

I was just heading in for a brew, when something caught me ear. For a second, I thought I'd imagined it. But there it was again—no mistaking it this time—the call of a curlew. And then it was answered by another nearby. The calls continued for a couple of minutes, then the two birds took off together and headed off in the direction of the Moor.

Curlews! Might Spring really be on its way?

Moss

Photographed on the roots of our sycamore last week.

Moss

Moss

Spring cleaning

Every year, on the weekend nearest St Valentine's Day, I clear last year's nest from our blue tit nest box, and disinfect the box with boiling water.

Last year was the nest box's tenth anniversary. We have had birds successfully nest in it every year so far. Last year, however, it seems that, for the first time ever, not all of the eggs hatched:

Nest box
Nest box with three unhatched eggs (and one empty shell).

Last summer was dreadfully wet. I'm frankly astonished that our blue tits managed to rear any young. But I suppose that's what blue tits are good at: making more blue tits.

Here's hoping for a bit more sunshine in 2013.