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Sunday, January 20, 2013

Big freeze!

With temperatures dropping to at least -2.5C, the roads were very icy this morning and there was adefinite crunch underfoot.

Many of the bushes and trees are bowed under with the weight of the remaining snow and branches are in danger of snapping off, so beware if you walking underneath!




The views are all still mostly monochrome, except for a few places where unexpected colour, like this red fencing, adds some relief.

Remember to keep putting out food for the birds as they struggle in the cold temperatures. Things with high fat content like suet are welcome and birds like blackbirds and thrushes love fruit, bruised apples, sultanas etc will be gobbled up, if you can keep the wood pigeons, rooks and jackdaws off


Another important thing to provide is a supply of ice free water. You can get some ideas of how to do this on the RSPB website here . I use the first method with a tea light under the bowl. Remember to empty the bowl at night though or you will end up with solid ice in the bowl in the morning!

Next weekend, 26/27th January, is the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch, so keep topping up your feeders all week to ensure you get some good birds in the garden for the count.


Saturday, January 19, 2013

What a difference a week makes!

The contrast in the weather between last weekend and this one is really marked.
Last week the squirrel in the garden was happily feeding on the bird feeder.
Then the snow, which was correctly forecast, fell over Thursday night, so that by Friday morning the world had turned black and white and the squirrel was nowhere to be seen and the view looked very different indeed.

The views of the village from Stony Down (below) on Saturday were picturesque, but still black and white.

The birds were flocking to the garden feeders or, in the case of the song thrush, was taking advantage of any berries still left on the yew trees in the churchyard.

The churchyard in the snow.

Sunny morning walk in Combe

Last Sunday we went for a walk around the village and the sun shone for change! We were not the only ones about though and as we walked along the gated part of the lane at Woolhayes we watched a fox as it crossed the boggy field of sedge and reeds.

It was clearly hunting as it regularly paused and listened to any movement in the undergrowth. It pounced a couple of times but didn't catch anything but it put up about a dozen snipe which were sheltering in the long grass.


Continuing on to the sewage works is always worth a scan for something unusual. (last spring there was a yellow-browed warbler from Siberia that attracted many birdwatchers).

We were rewarded by a lovely grey wagtail, a species that likes running water and often hangs around here, probably because of the insect life.


Along the lane we heard a bird singing what at first sounded like a song thrush, but without the repeat phrases. It was high up in a tree and the picture is not great but I am pretty sure it was a mistle thrush.

All in all a great walk, how lucky we are to have such a variety of wildlife in our parish.


Sunday, January 13, 2013

White headed blackbird

There is always something interesting to see when out walking in Combe and on Friday, whilst scanning the blackbirds feeding on the school playing field which had just been cut, I saw this bird with a white patch on its head. This is known as leucistic a is quite common, especially with blackbirds.



Early flowers in SSW

A lonely primrose made an appearance in the SSW this week but it may be sorry if the promised snow arrives next week.

Snowdrops are also appearing on the bank between the graveyard and the wood. They are noticeably smaller than the ones in my earlier post this month of the flowers at the CME entrance area.


The CME snowdrops are probably cultivated, hence the larger and earlier blooms.


Mystery print?

While walking along the path between Stantway and Combe Wood Lane earlier this week I noticed a number of odd prints in the mud. As it is not a bridle way and there is no gate only a stile at the end there is no easy way out of the path for large animals.

I tried googling some images of animal prints and thought it might have been from a cow but this seemed very odd as recently there had only been sheep in the fields.and there was no sign of any cattle.
The next morning was a bit misty as as usual I had my binoculars with me and was scanning around for any wildlife when. I saw , emerging from the gateway across the field this cow, happily consorting with the sheep!

I watched it walk across the field and then squeeze through the hedge into the next field, so I guess that is how it got into the field in the first place. No doubt it escaped from the field it was usually in and having walked along the path decided this field was as good as any to stay. It stayed for a couple of days before disappearing again, so presumably the farmer who owned it either reclaimed it, or it just went wandering off again! I suppose it was a case of, it always seems greener on the other side!

Barn owl at dusk

On Monday afternoon this week we visited friends whose land borders on West Moor near Muchelney. The area has suffered severe flooding recently and many of the fields are still under water. As a result they have been getting some interesting birds closer to the house than usual. These have included lapwings and, the reason we popped over there, Barn Owls. This is especially pleasing as they have put up a barn owl box as part of the Somerset Wildlife project to install a box in every parish in the county.

Anyway, after a walk to the bottom of their garden and a short wait we were rewarded with the sight of a beautiful owl flying over the field and landing on a post where it sat and posed for us. My pictures are rather dark, but then it was 4 .30 pm on a dull day and it was 100yds or so away so I was quite pleased.

I had an email from someone else who said they had seen two barn owls very early in the morning alongside the A303. I think the flooding has meant the more barn owls are being pushed off their usual hunting grounds also, their feathers are not wateproof so they can't hunt when it is raining hard, hence they take every opportunity to hunt when it is dry even in daylight.


Sunday, January 6, 2013

Snowdrops brighten a dull day

The mild weather is encouraging Snowdrops to flower early this year and whilst not unheard of in early January, the display on the bank near the entrance to CME is lovely to see.

A range of varieties of Snowdrops have been planted on the bank, all carefully labeled, and it will be interesting to see the order in which they flower and for how long the display will last.

The first are Galanthus atkinsii and / or colossus. I'll be watching out for which flowers next.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Almonds in Combe?

If you are walking around the lanes in the next few weeks and think you can smell almonds, (some might say vanilla) you are probably going passed a locally common wild flower called Winter Heliotrope. It started flowering over Christmas, slightly earlier than some years due to the mild weather and will continue for a few weeks to come, unless there is a hard frost, which usually kills off the flower, though it is a perennial so will return next year.

It was introduced from North Africa as an ornamental ground cover plant in the early 19th century, which perhaps explains why, despite the fact it is a winter flower, it is not very hardy. It escaped and naturalised but despite being dioecious (having separate make and female organisms on different plants.) only the male plant occurs in GB.

This is what to look out for, especially along the verges in the Clayhanger area.

Happy sniffing!