Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Christmas Greetings from Suffolk, UK

With all good wishes for Christmas
 and the New Year

The top photo shows a traditional shepherd's hut.

The shepherds ...

... 'hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.'

Luke 2:16 

Monday, 22 December 2014

A Winter's Day on the Beach at Southwold

We always enjoy a visit to Southwold, with its breaking waves and brisk sea breeze!  

The sun was low and there was a lot of spray and sand blowing about. 

This was 20 December, one day before the shortest day, shortly after 2pm. 

The spray was mesmerising ...

... but it was not the only thing to catch my attention ...

The photo above is a close-up of the egg cases of a skate ...

... and there was a discarded mermaid's purse lying about a metre away.

The beaches at Southwold are known for a variety of semi-precious minerals such as carnelian and agate that can sometimes be seen on the shore after a stormy tide. Amber, a fossilised tree resin, can also occasionally be found. 

I noticed an orange pebble, which you can see in the photo below. It was light, but not particularly light. David held it for me to allow a photo before we let it fall back into the sand. I wish I had known or remembered that amber floats in sea water ...

The 'pebble' above was not the only item that stood out on the shore. The small pebble below also caught my eye. Perhaps they are both pieces of carnelian (see photo here), but I shall never know for sure. 

It seemed to be a day for finding sunset-coloured objects along the shoreline ...

The Turnstones near the car park looked pretty miserable. I think they may have been waiting for scraps of cone from the ice cream van.

We were just leaving when this spectacle of airborne geese caught our attention ...

Monday, 15 December 2014

Winter Scenes in Suffolk

The road through the woods that leads to RSPB Minsmere ...

The beach at Minsmere, sunset

Evening Light on the Reserve

A shard of ice, NT Sutton Hoo

Above and below: more frost flowers ...

For more ice and frost flowers, vines and roses ...

Monday, 8 December 2014

Tree Following ~ Silver Birch in December

Tree Following ~ The Silver Birch in November

This post is the eighth in my Tree Following series, part of a wider project run by Lucy Corrander from the Loose and Leafy blog. I am following a Silver Birch, B. pendula, in Suffolk, UK. You will find the other Tree Follower links on the Loose and Leafy blog ... so do take the chance to catch up with happenings in the arboreal world!

Welcome or welcome back!

I'm sorry this post is a little late, but never mind. The wonderful Green Woodpecker has been vying with the Great Spotted Woodpecker (below) for top place in my Silver Birch list this month. The Green Woodpecker, however, was only seen once this month, on an extraordinary morning when the two birds graced the garden within seconds of each other for the first time. I don't think they actually overlapped, but I have never seen them both there on the same day before. 

The Green Woodpecker (look at those tail feathers!) pecked around among the Silver Birch leaves on the lawn. I don't know whether the leaves provide extra shelter and nourishment for grubs at this time of year, but our sandy soil certainly encourages ants in the summer months. Green Woodpeckers love ants!

It has been a joy to watch the little fellow (I believe he is a male) above on his near-daily visits. He has grown so much since I first noticed him. From my window I can see his ivy-clad tree trunk home at the edge of the Local Nature Reserve, but every so often he swoops over towards my house in his wave-like flight pattern to visit the feeder on my Silver Birch. I am always surprised to find just how much smaller he is than his green cousin. 

* * * 

Time for a diary entry interlude:

7 November 2014 - this observation was made very shortly after my November TF posting.
Time: 10.34
Weather: windy, damp and grey

Pecking Order
I look out and see an opportunistic Magpie hovering beneath the coconut feeder while the Great Spotted Woodpecker perches on it. The Woodpecker's bill shaves off more slices than he can eat at once, and some land on the ground. The Magpie conserves effort and energy by waiting for these tender morsels to fall at his feet. A second Magpie perches on a fence post, awaiting his lucky moment ...

* * *

The day of the Woodpeckers also brought a new visitor to the edge of the decking, adjacent to the Silver Birch, in the shape of a Wren. Wrens are shy birds, and while I see I recorded one seen in the garden back on 8 January, before we began our Tree Following enterprise, I don't think I have noted one since.

The Starlings have been occasional visitors to the Silver Birch feeders in the last four weeks, but they tend to arrive in a small flock of about five and make their presence felt as they squabble and squawk. 

Tree-wise, there has been a lot of change this month (at last!), probably due to three frosty nights. The Silver Birch leaves have finally fallen, and you can see the difference between the photo above, taken in mid-November and the one below, taken a fortnight later at the start of this month. 

I rather like the effect of the winter sunlight on the leaves in the picture below. I can't quite tell (or remember) whether the white spots were drops of rain or dew. Like the photo two above, this was taken before the frosts. 

The one below was taken at the end of last week, and you can see just how bare the branches have become. BUT you might care to look again, for there on the stems are signs of new growth, reminding us that the new seasons of 2015 are not far away. I find this a lovely thought as we move towards the pivotal moment of the shortest day. It reminds me of our years in South Wales when we would visit Aberglasney, the garden lost in time, and enjoy the tiny early flowering Daffodil buds in November

I mentioned that we had had some frost. You can see the frostflowers on the roof of our car ...

... and on the fallen Silver Birch leaves on the lawn below.

Before I add my sighting update list for this December Tree Following post, I would just like to express my thanks to Lucy, and to add a festive picture of a feisty Christmas Robin.

* * *

Tree Following Sighting Update  . . .

I have marked the 'wild things' seen during this last month in yellow.

Previous avian sightings (on, in and around the Silver Birch) are in pink.

  • TFb1   Great Spotted Woodpecker 
  • TFb2   Great tit (several frequently on feeder) 
  • TFb3   Long-tailed Tit
  • TFb4   Blackbird (I saw four at once, but no sign of the bald one) 
  • TFb5   Song Thrush   
  • TFb6   Blue tit (several frequently on feeder)
  • TFb7   Robin (frequent appearances)
  • TFb8   Magpie (about three frequently around below the feeder)
  • TFb9   Wood Pigeon (up to ten perching around the feeder area)
  • TFb10 Dunnock (two frequently below feeder)  
  • TFb11 Starling (several on feeder, noisy!)
  • TFb12 Carrion Crow    
  • TFb13 Goldfinch 
  • TFb14  Jay
  • TFb15  Green Woodpecker
  • TFb16  Wren

Mammal sightings include ...

  • TFm1 (?Wood) Mouse
  • TFm2 Bats
  • TFm3 Shrew
  • TFm4 Grey Squirrel

On the insect front, sightings include ...

  • TFi1 Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly [March]
  • TFi2 Buff-tailed Bumblebee [March] 
  • TFi3 Brimstone Butterfly [April]
  • TFi4 7-spot Ladybird [April] [October]
  • TFi5 Skipper Butterfly [July]
  • TFi6 Meadow Brown Butterfly [July]
  • TFi7 Large White Butterfly [July]
  • TFi8 14-spot Yellow Ladybirds [July]
  • TFi9 Small White Butterfly [May]
  • TFi10 Orange tip Butterfly [May]
  • TFi11 Harlequin ladybird [May]
  • TFi12 Garden Chafer (Phyllopertha horticola) [June] 
  • TFi13 Ruby-tail Wasp [June]  
  • TFi14 Blackfly [June] 
  • TFi15 Marmalade Hoverfly [July]
  • TFi16 Shield bug [July]
  • TFi17 Migrant Hawker dragonflies [July]
  • TFi18 Unidentified Damselfly [August]
  • TFi19 Comma butterfly [August]
  • TFi20 Red Admiral butterfly [August] [October]
  • TFi21 Peacock butterfly [August]
  • TFi22 Green bottle flies [August]
  • TFi23 Ants [August]
  • TFi24 Squashbug aka Dock Bug, Coreus marginatus [August]
  • TFi25 Birch Shieldbug (late instar?) [September]
  • TFi26 Lacewing [October] (about fifteen) 
  • TFi27 Harlequin Ladybird [October] 
  • TFi28 Moths (though not so many in December) [November/December]