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Sunday, 30 December 2012

Butterfly count 2012

Not terribly exciting for anyone reading this but I want to list the butterflies that I have seen this year, at home, so I've got it somewhere safe that I can refer back to again!

Family Nymphalidae

1.   Peacock Inachis io
2.   Red Admiral Vanessa atalanta
3.   Painted Lady Cynthia cardui
4.   Comma Polygonia c-album
5.   Marbled White Melanargia galathea
6.   Map Araschnia levana (2nd generation)
7.   Speckled Wood Pararge aegeria
8.   Wall Brown Lasiommata megera
9.   Meadow Brown Maniola jurtina
10. Gatekeeper Pyronia tithonus
11. Small Heath Coenonympha pamphilus (New!)

Family Pieridae

12. Orange Tip Anthocharis cardamines
13. Clouded Yellow Colias croceus
14. Large White Pieris brassicae
15. Small White Pieris rapae
16. Green Veined White Pieris napi (New!)
17. Brimstone Gonepteryx rhamni (the only butterfly I don't have a photo of)

Family Lycaenidae

18. Small Copper Lycaena phlaeas
19. Common Blue Polyommatus icarus

Family Papilionidae

20. Old World Swallowtail Papilio machaon

Family Hesperiidae

21. Small Skipper Thymelicus sylvestris (New!)
22. Mallow Skipper Carcharodus alceae (New!)

23. I also saw something huge that could have been a Poplar Admiral (Limenitis populi) or a Purple Emperor (Apatura iris) - I know that sounds like wishful thinking but it was flying towards me high up from the other end of the lake (where there are poplars), and all I could see as it passed overhead were mottled underwing markings and it then settled high up in a lime tree and I couldn't find it again!

I've seen four new species, but to be honest I'm sure I've seen a Green Veined White before, I just hadn't taken much notice of them and hadn't bothered taking photos of them before! We had plenty of Painted Ladies this year; ditto Small Coppers and Wall Browns, yet I only saw two Swallowtails. I also never saw a single Fritillary which is quite surprising.

Daytime flying moths:

Of the moths which regularly fly during the day and spend time feeding on flowers, I've seen:

1. Hummingbird Hawkmoth Macroglossum stellatarum
2. Broad-bordered Bee Hawkmoth Hemaris fuciformis (New!)
3. Jersey Tiger Moth Euplagia quadripunctaria
4. Silver Y Moth Autographa gamma (New!)
5. Cinnabar Moth Tyria jacobaeae 

If you got this far, here's a few photos of some of the new species I have seen this year, and a few old favourites which I don't always see very often.

Small Skipper. I'd never seen a Skipper before and they
are so tiny it is not surprising!

Mallow Skipper - I saw this twice.

Green Veined White. Very similar to the Small White,
but with obvious markings along the veins - not sure why they
are called Green Veined though, as they usually look grey/black to me!

Small Heath. This was the only time I saw this tiny butterfly on one of my
ornamental flowers - the rest of the time they stayed low to the ground
and enjoyed all the flowering 'weeds' in my lawn!

Broad-bordered Bee Hawkmoth. This was a first this year and I saw one twice!

Silver Y moth - I saw many of them early September.
They particularly liked the Sedums.

Painted Lady - a summer visitor, some years in abundance and other years not

Female Common Blue on a Lavender flower.
Despite the name, they are not common around here, more's the pity!

One final butterfly that I have not seen in many a year, but saw when I arrived at my mum's house in England. We think it was trying to hibernate in her kitchen.

Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae) on my wrist!

Rainfall data 2012

Rainfall for the year 2012

Jan: 53mm
Feb: 21mm (rain and a bit of snow)
Mar: 28mm
Apr: 142mm
May: 65mm
Jun: 90mm
Jul:  73.5mm
Aug: 26.75mm
Sep: 64mm
Oct: 159.5mm
Nov: 72.75mm
Dec: 178mm

Total for the year: 973.5mm

which is the wettest year I have recorded since I started in 2007!!! I still had to use my hosepipe in March after a really dry spring, and again during a two month dry period from mid July to mid September, so I won't have a low water bill this year. What a shame the rain can't spread itself out and we could have 100mm each summer month and only about 50mm each winter month.... but I have to be grateful that this year we have had a really wet autumn which is replenishing the water table, after two really dry winters in a row.

Previous years' rainfall:

2007:  944mm
2008:  878mm
2009:  867mm
2010:  757mm
2011:  663.75mm (over a quarter of which fell in December)

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Planes, trains and automobiles

OK, no trains involved, but trying to get my mum and brother home after Christmas was a right palaver!

Off we set about 11.30am to take them to Rennes airport for their flight to Southampton. No problems there, no traffic, we arrived in plenty of time as it's only about a 35-40 minute drive. The departure board said that the flight was on time and after check in we went into the cafe for a while until it was time for them to go through security to the departure lounge. During this time the board announced that there would be a 20 min delay to their flight but that's not unusual and wasn't any big deal.

We said our goodbyes and some sixth sense made us decide to wait and see the plane land, which was due to arrive at any time. We waited and waited and 20 minutes after it was supposed to land, up popped a sign saying the plane had been diverted! Well, there wasn't any fog or reason that we could see for that, so everyone (all the people waiting to meet people off the arriving flight) dashed off to the information desk to find out what was going on.

Apparently the plane had diverted to Nantes which is about two hours drive to the south, because Rennes was one firetruck short, making the airport Level 4 security instead of its usual Level 6, and it is up to the individual airlines and the pilots to decide if they want to land with lower security. Obviously FlyBe being British is big on 'Health and Safety', whereas Air France, the usual airline that uses this little provincial airport for internal flights, being French where 'Health and Safety' n'existe pas du tout, couldn't give a flying you know what.

So the passengers who were diverted to Nantes were being bussed back to Rennes; however for the passengers stuck flightless at Rennes.... it seemed nobody could decide what to do with them because first of all two coaches turned up and one would have expected that they would be bussed to Nantes to catch their plane, which obviously had to get back to Southampton airport and then on to other destinations. But no, obviously FlyBe could not disrupt their schedule waiting two hours for the passengers to arrive, so that flight was suddenly no longer an option, the coaches disappeared off empty, and an announcement was made that the flight would be delayed until.... 8.30pm that night. *Sigh*

Out came the passengers from the departure lounge including my mother and brother, who were rather surprised to see us still there (to be honest, if it had been just my brother, we wouldn't have been, we'd have been home by then - he knows that cos I told him, so if he reads this he won't be surprised!). Whilst the passengers were queuing up for their ticket for a complimentary meal (wippee-doo) my OH went to the desk to enquire if we could take passengers back home and found other people enquiring about the same. Yup thankfully that was OK, be back at 7pm they said and took our mobile phone number. Suitcases retrieved. Off we went back home where we arrived about 3pm ish and had some belated lunch!

According to the website the flight which was supposed to leave at 8.25pm was leaving at 8.40pm, but we set off again about 6.30pm just to be on the safe side as we'd been told to be back there at 7pm, only to find in the very quiet (apart from the FlyBe passengers) airport that there was another teeny delay, and the flight would now leave at 9.15pm! At this point it was only 7.15pm so we headed off to the cafe, only to find a man washing the floor and of course, it was closed. This being the evening after all, and the airport wouldn't normally have outgoing flights in the evening, only late flights incoming from other French cities.

We could see people in the upstairs restaurant so off we trot around the airport looking for a lift (for my mum), only to find ourselves at the wrong end of the building to get into the restaurant. Down the lift again, walk along to the other end of the building, find another lift and then we found the restaurant entrance. There were people inside but apparently, oh no, it was actually 'closed'; however you could get a meal if you were a FlyBe passenger and had the voucher for the free meal. Umm, actually we don't want a meal, just a drink (and somewhere comfy to sit for a while for goodness sake because your stupid airport only has hard metal seats downstairs - no I didn't say that but you know what I mean!) - much gallic shrugging and we were told to go and ask at info and get a ticket. Off we trot back downstairs (we did leave mum upstairs!) to the counter, only for the lady there to say 'but the restaurant is closed!'. Aaargh, no it's not, lady, we just need a couple of those tickets you were giving out earlier.... well she tried to get on the phone to the restaurant but they were not answering, so she said 'follow me' and off we trot back up to the restaurant where she and the man had a lengthy discussion in French that I couldn't follow - all the while we'd said we only wanted a drink/coffee/whatever, not the free meal.... eventually they decided yes OK, we could have a drink. 

Mum orders a whisky to calm her preflight nerves, oh but no, sorry we can't serve alcohol because of course we are officially closed.... eventually they agreed that we could all have a coffee (which came free, yes, even to us two who were not passengers!!! Wow!) - yup one of those tiny little three sips and it's gone cups of French coffee that you may as well not even bother ordering. This is one of those times when the English, comes from America thanks to Starbucks et al, bucket-of-coffee size could have come in handy. You just can't linger over a French cup of coffee.

After our 3 sip coffee we were all boiling hot even though we had seats with padded cushions so it was a bit of a toss up between comfort and heat, or hard seats but blessedly cooler, eventually deciding to go downstairs again and wait there. Mum and my brother decided that my OH and I should go home as we'd spent quite a few hours in the airport already, only to find that they couldn't go through to the departure lounge because security was actually closed - at least on the other side there is a vending machine selling canned drinks and chocolate whilst on the public side the most you could get by this time was tap water out of the toilet sinks.... not that I think they had any coins for the vending machines because they usually leave them behind with us! 

So once more we waited with them until security was opened then hooray all the passengers rushed at once, even though there was tons of time to spare and the plane that was being sent over especially for them probably hadn't even left England .....

We said our goodbyes again and home we headed. I heard from my brother by email this morning that the plane did actually arrive on time, they boarded early, they sat around until 9.20pm when there was an announcement that a passenger was missing and so all the baggage was being unloaded to check! They eventually left at 9.30pm and finally got home just before midnight UK time, which is 1am here!

In fact, my family were the lucky ones, because many people, including families with small children, had to spend all the afternoon and early evening in the discomfort of the airport. We never did hear more about the missing firetruck; we can only assume one was brought in from another airport somewhere, otherwise I guess the passengers would still be stranded, even though Air France was in and out.

And just because I don't like to post without a photo, here's a few pics of a little tinker that mum wanted to sneak back home with her.... and our €5 Xmas tree that came from La Foire Fouille with a couple of roots attached about six years ago, and is a scraggy looking thing that I forget to feed, but doesn't look too bad when it's decorated and with the lights on. In a dark corner. :-)

We had a great Christmas by the way and I don't think there were any arguments at all. Amazing!

Monday, 24 December 2012

Happy Christmas!

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and hope you all have a lovely time over the festive season.


Saturday, 22 December 2012

Overflowing lake and a daft duck

This morning when I went to let out the ducks and chickens I noticed a strange noise coming from the lake overflow. It has been very wet lately and the water level is quite high which makes a gloop gloop sound as so much water is trying to get down the vertical overflow hole. However this morning after yet another really wet night with 23.5mm rainfall (nearly an inch), the water level was up so high that the main overflow and its concrete surround had completely disappeared. Water was 2/3rds of the way up the secondary (horizontal) overflow pipe and water was all over the lake bank on the lowest side! From there it just flows straight under the conifer hedge, down the slope into the ditch where it meets up with the stream again.

This is only the third time this has happened in our eight years here - it wasn't as high as I've seen it before but this was the first time I've taken any photos.

Suffice to say the ducks are never bothered by this - quite the contrary - they have more lake to play in!

The stream in the field behind the lake was twice the size it normally is when flowing in winter.

On the garden side the water was right up to the edge!

On the road side the pathway was disappearing. However it wasn't very deep as you can see from my OH standing in it.

The 'moorhen tree' was really low in the water.

Unrelated, but maybe because the ground is so wet and soggy, our very old but not long dead apple tree had fallen over. It wasn't particularly windy but it's a shame because there were plenty of nesting holes in the tree pecked out by the birds and we had planned to leave it in place for the time being for the benefit of the wildlife.

Outside our gates by the road you can clearly see here where the ditch is met by the two overflows from the lake, turning the normally calm little stream into a bit of a raging torrent.

The secondary overflow is up here hidden by an overgrown mass of brambles (note the cardboard rubbish - not something we normally see much of, I'm happy to say, and for now it can stay there....)

This is the other side of the lane where the stream runs beside our orchard. The ditch is on the left, the stream on the right. Normally the water is about one metre lower!

Thankfully it didn't last long and after a few hours the water receded and the familiar gloop gloop sound returned to the overflow. Not before a daft duck decided to investigate the coypu trap though. I had been a bit worried as this was originally half submerged in water so I kept an eye on it in case a coypu got trapped - they will get shot but that's humane whereas a slow death by drowning is not something I would like to see happen.

Rachel is lucky that I was outside with my camera so I was able to check just what that brown thing was inside the cage!

Thursday, 20 December 2012

December veggies

The veg patch is a complete soggy weedy mess that I have no inclination to work in or clear up right now. However it's still productive and I shall attack and clear the dead sunflowers and chickweed lawn in the new year (before passing over to my digging machine, aka my OH, to get it prepared for next season's planting).

I still have salad veggies - spring onions, beetroot, Chinese leaves/cabbage (although that's looking a bit the worse for wear after -4C last week) and rocket, which is still merrily flowering despite -4C last week! I'm quite surprised by that actually.

As for the usual winter veggies, I have purple curly kale which isn't as big as it could be, but there's enough of it and pointless having too much like I had last year. The PSB isn't very big and really needs better staking as it keeps blowing over in the wind, but I feel very bleugh right now regarding gardening so it may just have to grow at a 45 degree angle. My leeks however are disappointing for the first time in 8 years here. I sow seed direct in the spring then transplant them in the summer just as I always have done - by this stage they are usually much larger than the pencil thickness which is recommended - some of mine are more like chunky marker pens! However they just didn't grow much after transplanting, which may have something to do with the 2 month dry period which followed. Then again, we always have a dry period..... so I don't know. Suffice to say we have not yet eaten any leeks as just harvesting enough for a leek risotto would probably need the majority of my autumn leeks which are still small. The winter variety have grown a bit better.

Chillies looked like this when we came back from our trip to the UK, so whilst they'd survived mild frosts with temps above freezing, they weren't happy with temps of zero C! The background here is of dead marigolds and sunflowers - and happily thriving weeds!

Frosted chillies - I don't need them as I already harvested plenty

Rocket flowers with leeks in the background

Frozen rocket leaves - they survived!

Pathetic leeks. Left two rows are 'Bleu d'Hiver' which have grown
better than the autumn leeks 'Prizetaker' on the right.

They have been better as photographic subjects!

Chinese Leaves looking a bit frosty

Purple Curly Kale

This kind of kale also makes a great subject to photograph when covered in drops of rain.

This is my wildflower meadow after I'd cut back or pulled out all the dead growth, mostly annuals. There are plenty of biennial or perennial plants here which I'll be leaving in place to see what happens next year. I think I spot one Honesty which I am pleased about, various things I can't identify and quite a lot of what looks like Centaurea montana. There are also two Foxgloves which is rather amusing, as I weed them out all over my flower gardens - however they just might be white which would be great, as I only have pink ones.

Wildflower meadow.
When I know what these plants are, I'll be able to transplant anything
that I like to other parts of the garden.

Look! Something still flowering! (I don't know what it is)

Beetroot leaves - the chickens love these.
They are edible for us humans too.

Chunky Beetroot Soup
Only had time to take a quick snap at the last moment so that's why I've cropped
out all the background!

There's only one slight problem - I still haven't planted my garlic yet!!!

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Autumn colours

A final catch-up post for November so that I have a record here of a whole year in the life of my garden. I can't believe it's just over a year since I started this blog, so I'd like to thank everyone who has ever looked in, commented, or followed my blog - it's really appreciated!

At the beginning of November the trees around my lake were hardly even changing colour, whereas many of the shrubs and trees elsewhere were already colouring up beautifully. For some trees and shrubs the colour seems to last for ages; for others it is fleeting and to be enjoyed in all its glory whilst it lasts.

1st November, some leaf fall but not much colour change

Smokebushes are fantastic shrubs for autumn colour - not only do they have great leaf colour anyway but in autumn they really come into their own for a final fiery display.

Cotinus coggygria 'Royal Purple' turning a lovely red colour

I usually just call this plant 'Purple Smokebush'

Coloured bark Dogwoods have lovely autumn colours too before losing their leaves and then really coming into their own for their lovely winter display of coloured bark. It's a shame I had to remove a large dogwood with red stems but it had outgrown its place; however my orange stemmed one remains. Here it is as a background to a Blue Tit at a feeder that I can't resist sneaking into this post!

Cornus sanguinea 'Winter Flame'

The Liquidambar tree is late colouring up but is late to come into leaf in the spring. This tree still had a few colourful leaves lasting into early December.

Liquidambar looking great

A close-up of the leaves showing the amazing different colours all at the same time

Spirea japonica 'Goldflame' ends the season with beautiful bright red tints.

Spirea japonica 'Goldflame'

My little evergreen Abelia has pretty leaf colour all year round but looks particularly pretty in the autumn, although the tiny flowers aren't that noticeable unless you get down close to it!

Abelia - think this is 'Kaleidoscope'

The other Smokebush that I have which I think is called 'Golden Spirit' turns from lime green to spectacular shades of orange and red. Here it is on the 3rd November.

Cotinus coggygria 'Golden Spirit'.
Taken with flash turned on
to show the colours against a dark background.

Without flash

In sunshine it just glows

6th November - leaves turning colour

Below are: top middle and right are Sycamores; top left is a Horse Chestnut; middle peeking out behind the conifer is the Liquidambar; bottom left is the Dogwood 'Winter Flame' and behind the bird feeder is the Smokebush 'Golden Spirit'.

Various trees and shrubs 12th November

The picture below shows on the left: an ornamental Cherry, which sadly never has many leaves at the best of times and is rather straggly, which is such a shame as those leaves turn an amazing orange colour! On the right, a Lime tree (Tilia) and right foreground, my Purple Smokebush.

Garden and lake 12th November

When we arrived in England mid November we were rather surprised as there were far fewer leaves on the trees and autumn seemed far more advanced than here; however by the time we returned at end of November there was hardly a leaf left on a tree here! How quickly it all changes.