Last week we had a beautiful June evening, the kind we wait all year for. I went down to the birdhide to see what was moving there. An enchanting family of goldfinches skipped through the boxwood. The grey wagtail stopped by the river for a drink and a bedraggled-looking blue tit had a bath. All around me I could hear blackbirds, thrushes, greenfinches, long tailed tits and jackdaws calling. That was in 10 minutes. Imagine how much we have seen and heard in the gardens in a week of weeding, planting and pruning.
Here are some of my nature highlights :
Tadpole-froglets are changing daily from round-bodied, long tailed black blobs to sleeker, flightier camouflaged animals with eyes, back legs and bulging bodies.
A few (very few this year) butterflies are on the wing and, like the bees, they love the catmint (Nepeta) which lines the iris bed. The irises are in full flower and range from deep blue to pure yellow.
Grey mining bees: stylish bees that live in holes under the Osmanthus hedge where you can see them watching you as you watch them. Val Littlewood, whose amazing portraits are shown below and who is running our art courses here, has more about these little creatures on her website
Hairy-footed Flower Bees are busy in the white comfrey in the Cottage Garden. These two species are making up for the lack of bumblebees who, I think, had a tough winter here, but it may just be that they are preoccupied with their young in the nest.
The Chiffchaff has been making himself known with his persistant call ‘Chiff, chiff, chiff-chaff’. He has come all the way from Africa to tell us this vital news. A delicate, brown bird with spindly legs, he can be distinguished from the garden warbler by his bobbing tail.
The swallows are fellow migrants and are back in larger numbers than ever this year. They are nesting under the gatehouse arch, in the tool tower and the potting sheds. The spotted flycatcher, my favourite bird, is either keeping very low this year or has not made it back from Africa. I am still hoping they have made it.
Goldfinches have increased noticeably in the gardens since we started 10 years ago. Here they sit on the high points of the gardens watching and chattering.In late summer, Goldfinches and Greenfinches feast on the sunflower heads in the pickery.
The pied wagtail. In the summer we see grey wagtails busy around the river.
Out in the park that surrounds the gardens are lapwings, buzzards and the french partridge. The buzzards compete with jackdaws, rooks and sometimes, red kites for the skies.