Saturday, 21 June 2014

How does your garden grow ?.....the last few days in Mum's garden, aka Marks Mansion

Pull up a chair, it's going to be another long blog post from Mum's back garden.
Bird-wise, the gardens at Marks Mansion are full of juveniles.
Two of our juvenile Blackbirds are still around and being fed by Mr BB. The one above was in the bramble patch in the field at the bottom of the 'estate', and I only spotted it because I was watching where Mr BB was flying too with his beak full of food. Mr BB still has his distinguishable grey 'chest', so is incredibly easy to pick out amongst other male Blackbirds (not that any dare venture in to the garden as they're quickly seen off, but I often spot a few dotted around the field gathering worms). However, Mrs BB has disappeared, and as she hasn't re-used the nest by the conservatory, she could be on a new one else where.
Bobbin, the juvenile Robin who came from next door, is also exploring more. Only twice did I see him in Mum's garden over the last few days, the rest of the time it seemed to be going in and out of the field and the neighbours on the other side. The only time I managed to grab a photo (below) was when it briefly perched on the dividing fence.

We now have two juvenile Goldfinches visiting the nyger seed feeder. For such youngsters, they're quite aggressive. They tend to sit on the feeder, without feeding, as if the feeder belongs to them alone and woe betide any House Sparrow that tries to land. The little juveniles soon see them off.

Where I found one of the juvenile Blackbirds in the bramble patch, I also managed to spy on some of the House Sparrows. This is their nesting patch, and I found these two very newly fledged siblings.....
and this gorgeous little one......

In a few days time, they'll be joining the rest of their family members and neighbours, and feeding in Mum's garden.
The younger Starlings are still squawking for food.....
but the older juveniles are starting to get some adult feathers through, as you can see on the back of this 'teenager' below.....

There's been a Wren consistently singing at the bottom of the garden. His territory includes Mum's garden plus both neighbours either side. After each outburst of song, another Wren sings back from the farthest corner of the field. When I saw a Wren pottering about in the firs by Mum's conservatory, I got excited thinking it might be a nest site, but nope, it was just looking for a few juicy bites to eat. Photo below, taken through glass so apologies for the quality.....
Not much in the way of critters around. There are both Blue-tailed and Common Blue Damselflies, but I've been unable to photograph either yet. I've also seen a few Ladybird larvae, several micro moths, and this rather stunning Green Shield Bug...
Maybe one of my next blogs should be all about Bees. Mum gets plenty of them in the garden, and they really do deserve a blog post about them. After all, it is being said that if all the bees died world wide, after a few years so would us human beans. More gardens need to be insect friendly. There's nothing wrong with leaving an area of your garden to grow wild. A nettle patch is great for insects, as is a patch of wild flowers. Leave a strip of your immaculate lawn to go mad. Let your wild flowers set seed. Don't use insecticides or slug pellets, instead grow plants that will attract natural predators for greenfly and other plant pests. A little pond takes up less than a square metre. If you don't like your carefully nurtured plants and shrubs being eaten by pests, try growing something that wont be.
 Don't whine when the insects are gone, you had time to plant more native plants.
Rant over.
Back to the blog.
The foal in the field at the bottom of the 'estate' is turning in to a proper character. Regular little naps amongst the buttercups, feeding from his Mum and then a mad run around the field......

So we've had juvenile birds (with some more to come), and a young foal. Next on the list, and another first for me from the gardens, is a young Toad......
We found this little three inch lovely when I was trying to empty Mum's compost bin with some help from Mum and Aunty Linda.
What I had really hoped for when emptying the bin, was some Grass Snake egg casings, or even some young Grass Snakes, purely because we had been so lucky to have a large female Grass Snake in the garden last week that I had hoped she was 'our' snake, and had therefore made her home in the compost. But sadly it seems she had probably made her way from the canal, which is on the other side of the field, or maybe from the allotments which are situated to the left of Mum's back garden (or to the left of the rear of the estate if you want to talk in Marks Mansion terms).  
Oh well, you win some and you lose some.
 But on the 'win' side, I can now confirm we have FOUR juvenile Great Spotted Woodpeckers visiting the 'estate', along with THREE separate adult males, and at least ONE adult female.
I spent four hours on Thursday morning and two hours early Friday morning, in my little pop up hide trying to photograph and identify all of the Great Spotted Woodpeckers visiting the garden. Over the last few weeks, I've accumulated and established a proper photographical library of photos. My only downfall so far, has been the adult female birds. Because they have pure black heads, with no red feathers at all, trying to find distinguishing marks has been hard. So there may be more than one female, but until I find the time to go through every photo I have taken over the last few weeks, I'm going to assume we have one family (Ben, Jen and the four juveniles), plus two other adult males whose features are easily distinguished by their beaks.
  And a little by-note: these beautiful birds are NOT called 'Greater' Spotted, they are called 'Great' Spotted. An easy mistake to make when their distant cousin is called the 'Lesser' Spotted, and one that I always want to correct when I see it in print.
We laid on a pure feast fest for them. Four peanut feeders and two fat ball feeders deposited at various points along the side of the garden, sorry I mean the 'estate', and all within eye sight from my hide which was tucked away. 
Female - all black head

Male - red patch at back of neck - this is Ben

Juvenile number one - red patch on top of head
Juvenile number two

Juvenile number three

Juvenile number four

The largest fat ball feeder was the most popular. The Woodpeckers spent a lot of time chasing off any Starlings that thought they could share.....

As mentioned in one of my previous blog posts, there are some House Martins nesting under the eaves on the houses opposite Mum's. Originally there were just two, but a third has appeared and is in use. This could be because one of the original nests has sustained some damage, and is more like a shelf now. House Martins raise two-three broods per season before returning to Africa for the winter, and I think these House Martins are on their second brood now. Adult birds have snowy white underparts, where as juveniles underparts are more of a dirty white. Sorry for the quality of my photos, where they nest is nearly always in the shade, so I've had to lighten the photos. What I couldn't capture in my photos was the lovely noise they make.


Back to the garden of Marks Mansions, as well as pruning, planting, tidying and emptying compost bins, I also took on two little projects.
Mum has a gorgeous pot holder hanging on a sunny wall. But the pots are made of clay, with a tiny drainage hole and are small. Mum's not had much success growing anything in them. The site gets full sun for most of the day, and because the pots are both terracotta and small, what ever plant that's in there only lasts a few weeks as it gets baked and there's no room for extensive root growth. Mum was going to revert to plastic artificial plants, which I couldn't bare, so I persuaded her to let me try. I filled the pots with a mixture of our home made compost mixed with some fresh seed compost, and planted sedum Lydiam. One medium sized plant split into three. If that doesn't work, then I'll try planting House Leeks. But after planting, the over all effect was quite nice.....
My second project was a large shallow terracotta bowl. The only plant that seemed to do well in it, was toadflax. The Pulsatilla (pictured at the back of the bowl) was not happy. So I re-planted the Pulsatilla in to the garden, where it's roots had no restriction, and set about taking out the old soil from the bowl, adding new, and finding some suitable plants dotted around Mum's garden.



The final finished product.....
Let's just hope the Lady of the Manor doesn't clutter up the table again !
Mum's got a bit of a reputation for being an Orchid Doctor. Anyone who cant get their indoor orchids to flower, including myself, gives them to Mum. At the moment there are five flowering orchids, and I'm not going to even try to remember all their names.

They all live in the conservatory, where a little tapestry picture I made for Mum many many many moons ago, also lives....
The back garden always looks lush in mid June. Here are a few of Mum's plants and shrubs that are flowering at the moment (and this is just a small selection - I haven't included most of the roses, hardy geraniums, campanulas and some others).
Early summer flowering Clematis tend to do well grown both in pots and in the ground.

This one is proof you don't need to grow Clematis as a climber. It's been left to grow up and over, as it pleases. It's obviously happy like that, it's full of flowers and buds.

Black-eyed Susan

White Foxglove - digitalis

sp. fuchsia
Lilies also do well both in pots and in the ground. 

My favourite photo. A sp. Penstemon growing amongst a golden leaved Fern

Geranium 'Splish Splash'
And finally, this is Mum's new project. A mini water garden.
All of these flowers, plants and shrubs (except for one of the sp. Clematis) are in the rear of the estate, I've not even started with the front of the estate yet. 

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