Wednesday 1 December 2010

Feathered and Furry Thanksgivings ..

We, in the northern hemisphere, all seem to be having snow, poor weather, storms or just plain cold, grey skies and thus feel gloomy and miserable .. as have our fluffy friends. I’ve been watching them recently really going for it – seemingly like a race for the Olympics .. stocking up on all the berries, seeds and insects possible.

The pair of squirrels, the blackbirds, the robin, the tits, the wrens, the glossy (not so popular) magpie and a few other birds then there’s all the little insects scrabbling around amongst the fallen leaves – as well as the fox who has just started to visit.. and as they dash about under the trees, sway on the branches, dart in and out of the bushes .. I’ve been thinking – do they know something we don’t. Nature is usually one step ahead of us humans, and this year that definitely seems to be correct: the trees and bushes have been bountifully endowed.

Robin: 1880 Engraving

The weather has gone from the warmest November day to the coldest November night, with the deepest recorded snowfall – this is in Yorkshire, but applies to us all across Britain. Once the woodlands cool down, the birds migrate into our gardens – which is why retaining our gardens are a vitally important for our wildlife.

Rowan Berries

The rich pickings in our hedgerows, the undergrowth retains lots of extras at this time of year for the foraging wildlife – seeds, berries, nesting materials, shelter from other predators, or from the winds, the freezing weather, snow and rain that is bedevilling us now.

The insects, snails, centipedes, ants et al .. all need to find an insulated spot away from the extremes of the weather .. under log stacks, pots, cracks in garden walls, amongst the cuttings pushed and left in parts of the garden; the pond too has a life under the ice – the Dragonfly and Damselfly feed on the daphnia – the water acting as a temperature buffer.

Daphnia: tiny aquatic crustaceans, commonly called water fleas

Birds have been migrating to find new feeding grounds with longer hours of daylight – so they come from the Arctic or Scandinavian regions to Britain, and go from our shores onto the continent and some on to Africa. I saw a northern lapwing this week – I was surprised to see it – but from its picture you can see how I was able to identify it: bird with a crest!

Northern Lapwing

The robin continues to sing through winter – that surprised me. I’ve put out fat feeders, some peanuts and some wild bird seeds – and they are being gobbled up, especially as the snow has receded somewhat. I probably need to get some other feeders – but I am using those already in the garden, which needed to be restocked.

Animals adapt to their surrounds – the fox being particularly good at it. The adder, our only poisonous snake, hibernates the winter away; dormice can shut down for six months of the year; the harvest mouse is nocturnal once the winter sets in; the stoat gains his ermine – he turns white during the dark months; the hedgehog hibernates, it may come out if we have a warm spell to forage, but may have a problem getting back to its nest; while bats hibernate – but will almost certainly move to another roost feeding on the way.

Adders: normal and melanistic colour patterns

Our English dormouse is called the Hazel Dormouse after its predilection for hazel nuts – the native nuts found in our hedgerows ... the cobnuts, the commercial variety, have produced bumper crops – one farm where it normally takes four weeks to pick the nuts, this year needed six weeks. Birds too adapt to their surroundings .. and utilise the crushed nuts of beech (and pecan in the States) after the traffic has driven over them.

The Hazel Dormouse: our only native species

It’s really cold here – but berries still abound on the shrubs .. these yew seed cones are highly evolved – the fleshy outside is not poisonous and is eaten by the thrushes, waxwings and other birds, which disperse the hard poisonous seeds undamaged in their droppings. However the seeds can be split open by some birds and eaten harmlessly: the Hawfinches and Great Tits. Amazing this world of ours – the wonders of its evolving life.

European Yew shoot with mature and immature cones

Dear Mr Postman .. my mother has her days when she’s awake – we watched one of the Masters’ Tennis semi-finals on Saturday, which she thoroughly enjoyed. She was wide awake for Susie’s healing/massage visit yesterday – so that was excellent and seemed extremely cheerful – giving me a huge smile as I left.

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories


Betsy Wuebker said...

Hi Hilary - I've been watching the squirrels get fatter and fatter off the seed from our bird feeder. They really are determined this year, and I, too, wonder what this bodes for the kind of winter we'll have.

Love your photos, especially the vintage Robin. When my daughter Robin was little, I filled her room with those. She grew up so quickly, and now they're gone of course, but the spark of recognition when I opened this post was really nice. Thank you!

Theresa Milstein said...

I'm so sad winter is coming, even with your positive spin on it. I don't want to rush time away, but I'm already looking for spring.

It's nice to learn how these different animals adapt to the cold.

Theresa Milstein said...

I hit send too early. I'm glad to hear that you had a good visit with your mom.

The Exception said...

It seems, some years, that winter appears as if out of thin air. One day it is gorgeous and autumnal while the next the winds are touched with ice and snow lingers just beyond the corner. We were in New England last week – and there is no doubt in my mind why the region is called that… the weather is English in character though there was no snow where we were.
Today started at 64 and will end freezing tonight…

I love seeing and learning about the animals that you share your world with Hillary – I would love to spend a few days nesting, preparing for the cold dark months, and then burrowing in to sit out the cold before a fire!

Chase March said...

The weather has been unseasonable warm here.

Chase March said...

Hi Hilary,

I didn't mean to send that comment off just yet. Oops.

What I wanted to say was that the weather here has been unseasonable warm as well.

Last night didn't feel anything like the typical cold, Canadian winter. It was so warm last night that I didn't need to zip up my coat.

I wonder what is going on with the weather and whether or not this is just the calm before the storm.

I for one, could do without a heavy snowfall before Christmas Holidays.

TALON said...

I'm glad your mother has been enjoying tennis (one of my favorite sports).

The birds cleared out our rowan and elderberries in record time this autumn. Now they've been feasting on some corn cobs I placed about for their (and the squirrels) enjoyment. :)

Anonymous said...

Wonderful post. I enjoyed the pictures. We got our first amount of sticking snow today. Haven't heard any birds outside the window, so I think they've all gone into hiding.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Betsy .. - yes haven't they - the two little ones here are very puffed up - well were .. and like chipmunks sitting up on what was a lawn - now snow! It's still freezing!

Thanks - a good selection of the birds and bees - or should I say other little creatures! I too loved the Robin - he had to go in .. and amazing that you called your daughter Robin - that I didn't know. The robin is humans favourite creature - always around each other.

Glad it brought back some happy memories for you .. lovely seeing you here and now I know a little more .. daughter Robin! Have a good week - if it's not snowing yet .. Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Theresa .. seems to be day of iced fingers .. Chase does so a couple of comments down!! Yes - some warm weather would be nice!! I can't believe we had so much snow in November .. I'm not sure I remember it snowing in November -

Thanks .. these sort of posts coming in occasionally seem to ring the changes! I too just like remembering or learning new things about some of the creatures.

Yes - & thanks for coming back with the note about my Mama .. she seems fine - we chatted about Victoria & Albert today!

Have a good week .. Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi TE .. we just are having an early winter - I hope it doesn't linger too long ..!! Yes & the smallness of New England too .. green etc, unsettled weather .. seems like home! Oh today started at 0 or minus one or two .. and hasn't raised its game much! It'll be about that tomorrow I guess. 63 deg F seems like a heatwave!

So pleased that you've enjoyed the few animals, birds, reptiles and insects I've featured .. and I absolutely agree with you .. if I had my way - I'd have nested down and been fast asleep!!

Never mind lots of experiences ahead .. and Christmas coming - and then the New Year .. thanks for coming by .. Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Chase .. thanks for both comments - no worries .. Theresa did it above! How amazing that you're having a spell of warm weather in London - Ontario!

It's alright here .. but much worse further north .. and is quite cold - I haven't got that warm walking around.

Well frankly I could have done without snow before Christmas - & I'm sure most people feel the same way .. little ones - perhaps not! - they're just enjoying it.

Enjoy your warm week .. Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Talon .. thank you - having the Masters in London was a treat for me .. and Mum when she came too. It was good tennis too - though I only saw a few matches.

The berries still seem to be hanging on - not sure why! .. but thank goodness .. at least the birds and animals have something to forage for.

Corncobs .. now that's a good idea .. I might get some of those - if there's any fruit and veg around.

Thanks - & I didn't use your picture .. another day .. I was rushing: sorry!

Talon takes wonderful pictures - see her blog! Cheers - Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Susanne .. thanks I love putting the pictures in .. & often find other things to write about!

Sticky snow - good phrase .. ours is sticking around .. just sort of sleeting on and off all day - thick grey clouds & definitely not melting.

I was surprised to hear the birds at dawn (which I couldn't see!) this morning .. and they've been buzzing around. If they've gone into hiding your end of the world - probably very sensible!! Great to see you - Hilary

Barbara Swafford said...

Hi Hilary,

At this time of the year our weather can be unpredictable. Sometimes snow is predicted but then the mountains catch it all and we end up with a sunny day or some ice. Since we do snow removal and ice control, our work schedule can be quite erratic and as you know, can keep me up late.

I haven't seen too many birds recently, but did see two fat squirrels playing in one of our trees. The cold doesn't seem to bother them at all.

((Hugs)) to you and your mum. Sounds like she's feeling better. That's good news.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Barbara .. ah! that's what you do .. no wonder you snow watch at night! & yes - I meet you at coffee time here & I guess late night keeping awake coffee in Bend!

The birds are flying around now - but not nearly so many as usual .. & during the night there've obviously been visitors as the snow shows various trails.

Thanks - yes when she's awake and happy to talk .. all is well - I'm going to trudge up today if I can!

Enjoy the rest of the week .. Hilary

Jannie Funster said...

You are so good to the animals, Hilary. You will keep seeds out all winter? Poor little things having to fend against the winter.

That little water flea is actually kind of cute -- until I read your description I thought is was some kind of a glass figurine.

thank you for your kindness to all.


Blue Bunny said...

deerist hilree.

i jist loves seeing all the frends yoo helps survive the wintir.

and yoo kno wot?!?!? my frend angilla is a mous wot werks in a hotel to open the doors for peepils -- she is a reel door mouse!!

she evin maeks mor salaree than me. i now gets $3.27 a weeks and angilla maeks $3.65 a week.

wit loves,



Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Jannie .. not sure - depends how bad it gets .. but possibly - it really has been freezing & we need to protect our wildlife - as so much is vanishing. I haven't got the right feeders - as I was using what's available .. which the old dears hadn't filled up (elderly residents). When I can drive out again .. I'll do something else ..

Unfortunately they feed the pigeons (or fed!) .. which I don't like .. but can only do what I can do.

The little water flea is 'sweet' isn't it .. I had to include the picture ..

Pleasure Jannie - I know you'd do the same for your fellow creatures .. would love it if everyone did it and thought compassionately about others ..

Have a great weekend .. more singing? and recording? cheers xoxox Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi BB .. I tought U mite like the littl cretures .. and it's gud to have pictures so we can see wot we're talking about.

U hav a mous .. who is a reeel door- mous .. she vas v clever to gets dat job.

End her salaree is more dan U gets .. I 'spect dat's wiv tips? U R worth your weight in gold BB ..

But I'm zur Jannies luvs theee lots .. end U gets beer .. end gud foods wiv lots of carrits en greens ..

Wiv loves and hugs to U too .. xoxoxo Hilreee ..


Lovely blog, Hilary. I always wondered what a dormouse looked like since I first delved into Lewis Carroll. Now, can you feature a Cheshire Cat? Is that adder wrapped around a dormouse, or is that an illusion? My best.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Count Sneaky .. thank you very much - lovely compliment.

The little dormouse on the hazel branch is great isn't she/he! Well - Cheshire cat - I could go to Cheshire (county) and find one .. probably amongst the cheese?! The true dense, rich crumbly variety of Cheshire cheese - would look good with a grinning black and white face hiding behind the half eaten cheese?! Stuff of dreams?!

Re the adders - they are two twined together .. one normally coloured, the other with dark tendencies in colour (opposite of albino) .. I loved the picture. So the dormice in that area are safe for the moment!

Good to see you and thanks for your good wishes - enjoy the weekend .. Hilary

Liara Covert said...

One can be grateful every moment. Human beings encourage you to be thankful on a particular day. Beyond this distraction, you are thrilled and satisfied every moment that you are remembering and expanding into who you are. You notice you have duality going on within you. You see with increasing clarity your connection to all beings and creatures. This inspires new ideas to emerge from within you. Although you do not know when your deepest desires come into being, you can be enlivened and thankful that the universe is on your side.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Liara .. Thanks for this .. things are changing as you say .. and to connect with all beings and creatures is so satisfying & I can believe that the universe is on my side as I move forward with my life. Great to see you here and appreciate the comment .. Hilary

J.D. Meier said...

> The robin continues to sing through winter
That surprised me too, but I think that's a wonderful thing. Birds make some of the best music.

R.S Mallari said...

Thanks for letting me experience the winter in front of my computer. Its amazing how wildlife survives the extreme of weather but sadly not the greed of humans.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi JD .. well some birds are singing now .. and it's still dark - but it's lovely being here with their music in the background. Lovely seeing you - thanks for the visit .. Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi RS .. I was a little late on the post - after Thanksgiving! .. but we all seem to enjoy little snippets and reminders of our flora and fauna. Yes - I too am grateful to be inside and warm .. but as you say - the greed of humans doesn't do anyone any favours. Great seeing you here - thanks for coming by .. Hilary