Well, that was summer…

I wrote the following blog back in early June just after a long spell of warm weather had ended in typical British weather style with heavy rain and I was reflecting on how changeable our weather really is.  Unfortunately, I never got to publish it or indeed any subsequent articles owing to being particularly busy of late.

Having just stumbled upon the draft for the first time in a while, it strikes me whilst reading it that the title and overall theme of that draft could equally apply to now, for as we enter August, typically one of the driest and hottest of monthes there appears nothing but clouds and more rain on the horizon.

I’m therefore posting this article now (trusting to the maxim ‘better late than never’) and I hope you enjoy my musings on British weather and the wildlife in my garden…

They say that a week is a long time in politics, but look at the apparent change in the seasons between now and this time last week.  We have just had what seemed like the warmest May bank holiday in years (May bank holidays are usually synonymous with poor weather) and it was great to dig out the summer clothes and reflect that perhaps we were in for a nice long hot summer.

I took a few days owed leave and actually had the rest of the week off and was glad I did as the fine weather continued unabated.  It was great to spend so much time outside pottering in my garden, deadheading the pansies in the hanging baskets, sowing more vegetable seeds (radishes, lettuce and carrots) and of course keeping everything watered.

The family of foxes which live behind the garages at the end of the garden also seemed to enjoy the pleasant weather. They could often be seen patrolling the grounds and playing on the lawn. On one occasion last week I stumbled across the vixen curled up on a pile of grass cuttings at the end of the garden enjoying a snooze in the late afternoon sunshine (she soon but reluctantly moved away when she saw me).

The cherry tree was in full fruit last week and one of the foxes, probaby the vixen, could be found most days snacking on the windfalls beneath the tree.

Our large cherry tree produces unreliable crops. In most years there has been hardly any fruit, but two years ago it produced masses. Last year there was seemingly nothing and then this year we have again been rewarded with a bumper crop.

Despite fierce competition from the armies of ring necked parakeets that abound in West London, supported by the best efforts of flocks of starlings and the insatiable appetites of our local wood pigeons, there were still plenty left for me and over several days I picked about 6 kilos.

Many of these were immediately eaten and were delicious, but the majority have been processed and I now have a large Kilner jar full of a slowly maturing cherry vodka that will be ready for Christmas!

At times last week it was too warm to be outside for very long for fear of burning, so occasional respite from the heat was required.  How long ago that seems now!

As this week started we seemed to have jumped from late spring into early autumn and forgotten all about the intervening summer.  Looking out of my kitchen window yesterday morning at the rain lashing down into the garden, my bird feeder was a sorry sight to behold.

Normally, there is a feeding station hierarchy with the larger birds not tolerating the smaller birds feeding at the same time, yet this was not the case today, as the incessant rain yesterday would have limited the availability of many other food sources. The picture presented to me therefore was of a sodden goldfinch hungrily pecking at the niger seeds completely unconcerned about the two equally sodden starlings next to him busying themselves with attacking the hanging fat balls. All were hanging on tightly as the feeders swung back and forth in the strong winds. Flitting amongst them all were the blue tits who focused on the swaying peanut feeder, in a never ending relay of visits between the feeder and the adjacent shrubs where their newly fledged young were hunkered down trying to keep warm and dry and keeping up their incessant demands for more food.

One can but hope that the British weather now lives up to its changeable reputation and we see the rain clouds swept away and again replaced by wall to wall sunshine – a change that will be welcomed by humans and wildlife alike!


A little about me…

I’ve been fascinated by natural history all my life. Indeed, one of my early childhood memories is of planting a conker in the flower beds in the back garden of our family home and the delight in seeing it grow and develop into a small sapling. I was quite upset when my father removed it explaining that it was not the best place for a sapling that would grow into a big tree.

As an older child, I dug a wildlife pond in the same garden and was amazed at how quickly it became home to a myriad of plant and animal species. I can recall lying next to the water’s edge and watching pond skaters zip across the surface whilst tadpoles and water boatmen swam beneath and beautifully iridescent dragonflies hovered above.

The love of nature is one of the reasons I became interested in photography and I like nothing more than being in the great outdoors with my camera discovering something new to record, be that landscapes or close up shots.

However, the convenience and quality of today’s smart phones means that I am always ready to take a picture when an interesting composition presents itself and often and readily use them to take such pictures.   Nevertheless, I still rely on my trusty Canon SLRS for for taking planned or more challenging images.

As a teenager, I joined my local nature reserve at Perivale Wood managed by the Selborne Society.  In recent years I have rejoined after a long lapse and have started attending the monthly voluntary woodland management days.

My aim with my blog is to share with you through my words and pictures the wonder I experience of the natural world and to use it as an opportunity to report (and lament) on its destruction by Man.

I hope you enjoy my articles and look forward to reading any comments you may wish to leave.