Saturday, October 29, 2005

Aggression and the Greater Spotted Woodpecker!

Hurray! Saw our first Greater Spotted Woodpecker in the garden today. It came to a fat ball that John has on a hook in the "front" garden. This is the garden that he can see from his office and so he monitors it well. I come running everytime he yells!

Agression levels seem to be rising amongst our feathered visitors. I don't know why - it's still very mild so I don't think food is getting short yet. Maybe they agree with all the forecasters who say we're in for a cold winter this year. Here's the list of fights we have seen:

1. Yesterday one of the male pheasants chased a squirrel and pecked its tail. It actually stalked the little devil before it attacked! This is good news really because the pheasants tend to feed below the bird feeders to pick up all the stuff that drops and if they keep the squirrels away we'll have fewer problems above.

2. Today there were two males at the same feeders and they both chased a squirrel away.

3. The coal tits only come one at a time to the feeders. If two land at the same time, one of them chases the others off. Sometimes they actually grab onto each other and fall about as they fight.

4. The robin will take up residence inside the mesh (we have some armoured "squirrel proof" feeders) and will fight off any one else who comes nearby. Sometimes he sits there for quite a while and the tits won't come when the robin is there. He tried to chase off the woodpecker, too, but the woodie held his ground. There was much flapping and exitement, but the robin retreated that time.

5. This afternoon there were three female pheasants on the lawn. Two of them had a face-off which included much head bobbing, pretend pecking of the ground, squatting with heads thrust forward and the ocasional lunge at the other. In the end they had a real squabble with lots of wing flapping and jumping up into the air. It all ended when the third female intervened. She's bigger and just ran into the melee and chased them off!

Here's a list of all birds seen in the garden so far. Only 20, not a very long list, realy, but it's a start:

Eurasian Sparrowhawk
Common Buzzard
Ring-necked Pheasant
Common Wood-Pigeon
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Black-billed Magpie
Eurasian Jackdaw
Carrion Crow
Eurasian Blackbird
European Robin
Eurasian Nuthatch
Winter Wren
Common House-Martin
Coal Tit
Great Tit
Blue Tit
Gray Wagtail
Eurasian Bullfinch

Time for dinner .... bye bye!


Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Driving Lessons!

Well, we're taking our driving lessons and it ain't easy. After 40 years of driving, we're having to learn/un-learn an awful lot! We thought we could get away with just a couple of hours of refresher lessons, but it's going to take a bit longer than expected as we have so many habits which would fail us if we didn't change them.

The driving test over here is very strict. First you have to take a theory test, which consists of multiple choice questions based on a book called the "Highway Code". Then there's the hazard perception test in which you watch short videos and click the mouse when you see a potential or developing hazard.

The actual driving test comes after all that. They watch you like a hawk and you have to complete various sections. The backing up part can be parallel parking, backing into a parking bay and/or backing around a corner. You have to do a hill start and a three point turn. There are certain ways you MUST do things or they fail you and that's the part that's really hard.

Still, I think we'll come out of this as better drivers. If it wasn't such a bureaucratic nightmare I think it would be a good idea to re-test people at regular intervals. We all forget what we learned in driving school and we could all do with a refresher. In this country, especially, where the roads are so narrow and people drive so much faster, driving lessons are a great way to keep up your skills and boost your confidence on the road.

I'm experimenting with format for this posting. George asked me to post my e-mail address at the end of each post so you can send me your comments. I would have turned on the "comments" thingie on these postings except that I see people use them to post spamming adverts.


Friday, October 21, 2005

Rain, Rain, Go Away

This isn't the last rose of summer, there are lots more to come yet, but it is looking a bit bedraggled as heavy rain hits the Stretton Valley.


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Here's our pheasant!

I think this is the father! Posted by Picasa

Autumn is here

It's time to report on our doings of the last couple of weeks. These amount to not very much, actually. Progress on the house has slowed right down. We now have lots more boxes - this time full of bookshelves that John has to erect. Once they're in, we can see what else we need in the way of storage.

The garden is sinking into a decline as the autumn comes on. There's lots of stuff lying down and I'm not sure whether to cut it off or just let it go back into the soil. Other things seem to just be coming into flower so it continues to be very interesting. Next week I'm having a driving lesson in Shrewsbury and I think I'll hit the library to get some more info.

I'm loathe to really get stuck into the garden when there's so much to do in the house, but at the same time the house is at a standstill till we get the storage problems sorted out. AAAAARRRRRGH! It's all just excuses for me to loll about and feel sorry for myself. ;-)

We've been adopted by a family of pheasants. At least, I think it's a family. There are two females and two males. One female and male are definitely mature adults, and we think the other two are just now growing up. They're very pretty and John has been putting out some corn for them. The male calls everynow and then - it's very exciting except when he does it in the middle of the night!

The garden is also full of coal tits. They're everywhere. We've got several feeders up and there's a constant stream of birds (mostly coal tits, but also great tit, blue tit, nuthatch and robin) to all of them except the nyger thistle. We haven't seen any finches at that yet. There are chaffinches about, but they haven't visited yet. We haven't seen any green finches or gold finches though John saw a small flock of bull finches coming through up the drive.

The weather has deteriorated a bit, now. It's raining a lot more now, although there are usually bright spells in between the showers. Temperatures are now mainly between 8 and 13 C (or just between the upper 40s and lower 50s for our American friends!), which is just right for a light jacket when you're out walking about. We still haven't had a frost, which is a bit peculiar. Usually, we would have had a light frost by now. Still that isn't stopping the trees from turning.

We have a good few maples in this area and they are doing their fall thing and turning beautifully. Our next door neighbours have a sweet chestnut that's dumping spiky fruit in our driveway. The chestnuts are shrivelled and inedible, unfortunately. At the top of the drive there's a thick, wet covering of beech leaves and at the bottom we have a good coating of moss on the tarmac. Things could get slippery so we're going to have to do something about this soon.

Well, it's time to stop avoiding work and get on with something .... maybe I can put it off a bit longer by making a cup of coffee ..... mmmmmm

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Pictures at last!

Hi all!

Thanks for your patience. I've finally dug out my camera, taken some pictures and hooked it all up so I can upload them to the web. You'll see a representative sample below.

Autumn is on its way now. The Virginia creeper has turned a deep, dark red and there's quite a bit of colour in the trees now. The local churches and schools are having harvest festivals and the evenings are really drawing in. I'm not looking forward to the long, dark nights of the winter - let's hope we'll have the moving chaos sorted out so that we can get on with some indoor projects.

Welcome to our patio - all we need now are some friends, some warm, dry weather and a gas grill! We put a bit of cat food out there the other night, hoping to see a hedgehog! We didn't, we got a badger instead! The next night we got a cat, so we've abandoned that project and will let our local mammals fend for themselves.Posted by Picasa

Here's what you see when you get to the bottom of our driveway. The kaffir lilies are just beautiful right now. This bed is the one that's going to need a bit of work. There are lots of wonderful plants in there, but we may have to cut some back to expose others, and we may have to move a few about. Those of you who know how I garden, know that I'm a bit afraid of moving things about and digging and splitting things up , so this is going to be hard for me!Posted by Picasa

The garden is still looking lovely - it's amazing how many plants start or continue to bloom in the winter here. Behind the little rock garden is the stream. If you sit in those Adirondack chairs you can hear it as it splashes over a little waterfall a few yards away.Posted by Picasa

We have the living room set up enough so we can sit and watch the telly. Thanks for all the cards! What you can't see in this picture are all the piles of "stuff" behind me. Posters and pictures are stacked against the wall, there's a second rolled up rug and we have a complete collection of my Mum's living room furniture in this room as well!Posted by Picasa

This is what the chaos is like in our house right now. This is going to be my study one day! Other parts of the house are equally messed up, but we're making progress - honestly!Posted by Picasa

Here's a picture from the window of my room, taken just after a shower passed over us. I have the best view from the house. Posted by Picasa