Blog Header

Blog Header

Monday, 31 March 2014

The magnificent month of March

This month it's been hard sometimes to keep remembering that it is only March. Spring seems very early this year and as for the weather - the only time I remember a warm spell in March since moving here nearly 10 years ago was in 2005, when I was painting the chicken and duck sheds wearing shorts! It has been a joy to see many butterflies and bumble bees around and welcome the return of the summer birds. The Chiffchaffs are very noisy but I enjoy hearing them, and in the last few days the Blackcaps have returned and started singing their far more melodic song.

There are few leaves on the trees around here but we have only to drive south towards Rennes which is always more advanced in spring, and it is quite green looking. But we have it all to look forward to and there are already leaves unfurling on one of the Horse Chestnuts and on some of the ornamental Prunus trees, which have been a joy with their blossom. I'm still desperately trying to catch up with the garden but I think it is better this way, than to be ahead and waiting for spring to catch me up! 

Purple Leafed Prunus, which now has more leaves than flowers.

The Forsythias started off looking like they weren't going to be
much of a show but I was proven wrong, thankfully!

The first daffodils are going over but new ones are opening up like this small narcissus.

The weather wasn't always kind, and we had a cool spell with some frosty mornings until a couple of days ago. I captured a few scenes from my 2nd floor shower room, which is the only upstairs window looking out over the back.

Stormy skies moving in....

Ominous sky coming in from the west.
The tree with blossom in the middle is Prunus subhirtella.

But many days we had skies like this:

Damson blossom. Cross fingers for some fruit this year as
last year was rubbish for any kind of plum.

Prunus subhirtella with much larger blooms in the spring than
the small single ones it has during mild winter spells.

Prunus subhirtella again with a silhouette of
my huge old cherry tree in the distance.

I can't remember ever having plum blossom open in March before, but all three of my mature trees are in full bloom!

Greengage blossom.

A zoom through my grubby living room window to the peach blossom in my orchard
and the sheep in the paddock beyond.

In my woodland I have Celandine instead of grass in many places
and it's been flowering for what seems like ages.

And now a few pictures of the ducks, just because I have pictures of them! I missed capturing any of the wild mallards that have been visiting, as they are so wary and see me before I see them. Then they fly practically vertically up and over the trees and off they go. The best way to watch them is through the kitchen window!

The ducks are full of the joys of spring and Dirk is having his wicked way with all of them!

Dirk, my drake Saxony.

Rachel the Rouen.

The other two on the far bank, Doris the Saxony and Freckles the white mixed breed duck.

Freckles is old and needs more time to rest. :-)

Now April is nearly upon us so it's full steam ahead in the veg patch for me as it's ready for planting now.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

The Marais de Sougeal revisited

I'm going back about three weeks when the weather first turned lovely. The Marais is a water meadow that we like to visit around March, because it is flooded on purpose in late winter to allow a resting place for migratory water fowl. Only the last two winters have been wet and the area that is flooded has been much bigger than normal. But comparing with last year's photos the flooded area is even bigger this year! 

Something new this year - a gravelled path
where before there wasn't even a track.

Only we didn't get very far because the path was also flooded!

Further along from the previous pictures there is a hide, but all the ducks were, as usual,
on the far side of the lake area. All the ducks bar one are Pintails (the males are the ones
with the long tails) and there's one Wigeon on the right with a browny red head.
This is seriously zoomed in and I couldn't even ID those ducks with my binocs!

The only bird anywhere near the hide was this gull. (Black Headed?)
It had caught what I think is a newt!

Which it brought up onto the grass and then thankfully lost it.
I have no idea what are all the thousands of little flies (?)
covering the water surface.

Diving in search of something else for dinner!

Another view; this place near a parking area and the path from the first two photos
was less flooded last year.

Just to finish off here's a picture of the chateau at Combourg. I took this the same time as I was taking pictures further up the lake for my Graduation Challenge album. Only chateaux didn't fit the category Nature!

Le Chateau de Combourg.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Life and death amongst the Euphorbias

Warning - Spider Alert!

Have I mentioned how much I love my Euphorbias? Well yes, I know I do keep harping on about them, but it's not just about the early colour! I miss my bugs during the winter months and whilst there are insects about, they are few and far between at the moment. But the Euphorbias are a real hive of buggy activity and I spent an hour or two sitting beside them watching and taking photos one sunny afternoon last week. The main interest for me is the Nursery Web Spider (Pisaura mirabilis) of which I counted eleven! Most were on the low growing E. myrsinitis, waiting for flies to arrive so they could pounce. What's fascinating about this spider is the diverse range of colours and markings. And it's a pretty spider too. If you've read this far, you may go further and then I'm sure you'll agree. :-)

Some further information about Nursery Web Spiders:

Here comes a fly, attracted to the nectar on the Euphorbias.

After eating, it becomes necessary to have a wash and brush up. But beware....

If they are not careful, this is what awaits them!

A female Nursery Web Spider with a grey brown appearance.

Another female with a pretty reddy brown coloured body.

And this one's a male! He reared up in a defensive position when he saw me.

This Common Yellow Dung Fly (Scathophaga stercoraria) was chancing its luck.

It could have ended up like this!
This spider has yet another variation in colour with very pronounced markings.

This may be the same one but I came back later with an extension tube on to get in closer.

Here is a spider moult - I find it hard to figure out which bit
went where (apart from the obvious legs!).

Not a good capture but this cool dude is Dicranocephalus medius, a Spurge Bug.
Spurge is the common name for Euphorbia and these bugs are found on it
as that's what they feed on.

And this is not Euphorbia, but couldn't resist adding this Pisaura mirabilis which had
decided to try its luck hunting on a freshly opened Anemone de Caen.

Lastly, here is one from last year. This is a female with her egg sac.
It never fails to amaze me how they manage to get around carrying such a huge thing!

If you are not normally a spider lover but you managed to get to the end here, very well done and have a happy Spider Sunday! :-)

P.S. Very pleased to say the first returning Swallows were sighted here flying over the garden on Friday!

Monday, 17 March 2014

Meanwhile, back in the garden

It's like a race against time here trying to catch up with the garden, especially now our run of good weather is about to come to an end, with the return of rain and colder weather forecast for Friday onwards. It's been wonderful working outside and hearing buzzy bees and watching butterflies flitting about and listening to the birds singing. But I haven't been reaching for the camera - nope, too much to do! I did manage to take some photos last week especially for sharing, but the rest of the time I am concentrating on getting the garden in order. And anyway, sometimes you need a rest from your camera. Yes really!

Most spring colour is around the front of the house where all my Euphorbias are, most of the daffodils, and a number of spring flowering shrubs in front of the boring Leylandii hedge. 

Can you tell that I love my Euphorbias yet?
These flowers are covered in flies - and spiders!

My Forsythias are a bit pathetic this year
as I gave them a harsh chopping back last year.
I do this about every 3 years when they get too big.
The little bulbs in the foreground are the ones shown below.

Glory of the Snow (Chionodoxa) bulbs.

A Nursery Web Spider (Pisaura mirabilis) on a Glory of the Snow flower.
There are lots of these spiders on the Euphorbias as well.

The Euphorbias against the house wall are all self seeded.
The stump is the remains of the Mimosa which kept getting frosted.

Most of the Aubretias that I planted years ago have disappeared
but this one survives underneath a large Lavender.

The tree that I call the 'Purple Leafed Prunus' - common as muck
and wonderful at this time of year! This is the first time it has
flowered really profusely since I planted it about 5 years ago.

I have tons of these double daffodils that came with the house;
the more interesting ones which I planted will flower later.

A pink Primrose, which has spread seed and there are many
around this area with tones of pink now!

But I still love the originals best which just glow, especially the ones growing naturally
in the grass which look cheerful even on a cloudy day.

Dried Hydrangea flowers revisited. I guess it's time to snip them off!
This is the time of year I dread harsh frost
which will get those tender new leaves.

Peach blossom is out now - one of my favourite blossoms.

Japonica or Flowering Quince (Chaenomeles) by the lake.

I could have done with the big zoom lens here!
The moorhens are very active and have already built a nest.

I don't have much opportunity to get close to the ducks since they don't leave the vicinity of the pond any more. However one day I found Freckles lying on the bank up the woodland end and as I crept closer to her I wondered if she was injured as she was not moving away from me. I needn't have worried, she was just chilling out and when I got too close for her liking she slid off into the water and sailed away!

Freckles, my old white duck, about 7.5 years old now.

And off she sails into the evening light.