Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Kippered!

The house still smells like a bonfire having spent most of last Sunday out on Malling Down getting seriously kippered. Despite putting my jacket outside at every opportunity to try to rid it of the smell, it was still lingering.

It was another sunny day, although a lot windier than usual so the bonfire smoke was getting blown everywhere but mostly down where we were working. A cold wind at that, so although the sun was warm it was a mite chilly sitting down having our lunch break.

Being Mother's Day, there were only three of us that initially met up but we were joined by a few late-comers and by the end of the day there were about eight of us working to clear brambles, hawthorn, ground elder, old man's beard and more brambles from near the quarry. A couple of people were working to finish off raking up the debris from the area we'd cleared the previous month. Unfortunately, anything that still has a decent amount of soil on it is likely to be covered in nettles and bramble regrowth - rather than the hoped for download flora which needs impoverished soil to thrive but it's a start.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Slowworm

For a couple of days now, I've noticed the kids on their way to school looking at something on the path across the way from me. This time I decided to go out and investigate myself and discovered it was a slowworm. Poor thing being proded and picked up by the kids. It wasn't moving much but it was obviously still alive.

I picked it up, out of harms way and brought it inside. It's quite a young one - not quite a foot long, pale copper-brown in colour with light speckles under it's chin. It appears to be undamaged but has some raised scales so that may either be from being prodded, poked and picked up by the kids or it may have been caught by a cat, although there don't appear to be any puncture marks as such.

Anyway - I have administered first aid in the form of warmth and water - what do you do with a poorly slowworm. It's not moving much but occasionally flicks out it's tongue and it's now indoors in an old plastic fish tank with some of the moss I raked up at the weekend, so I can keep an eye on it.

If it recovers enough, I'll transfer it to the compost heap. It can then do it's job of eating the slugs in the garden ... and there are plenty of them.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Nature Red In Tooth And Claw

It took me a few seconds to register that the brown bird at the bottom of my garden was a sparrowhawk. I've only seen it in the garden once but this time it was facing towards me and sitting on the ground. On closer inspection I noticed that it had just caught a bird which I was hoping was a sparrow rather than the robin I'd seen out there all morning.

It was plucking the feathers from its happless victim and I could see the pale breast and grey feathers being pulled out. It didn't seem too troubled by me as I grabbed the binoculars to get a closer look, standing at the door and trying to work out what bird it had caught. I even had time to dash upstairs, grab my camera and come back down. It was there for at least 10 minutes until I tried to creep slowly out to try and get closer, when it flew off over the fence with it's quarry.

A closer inspection of the feathers scattered on the ground confirmed that it was indeed the sweet little robin that had been ambushed by the fast flying predator. A pile of grey feathers tinted with orange at the ends and the longer brown wing feathers. I just hope that it wasn't one of a pair on eggs (possibly still a bit early) as there were a pair in the garden last month.

A uniquely amazing if slightly sad spectacle.