In the garden there’s an olive tree. Sadly it doesn’t bear olives because the climate isn’t warm enough to support them, even though the tree itself does just fine.
While looking at this year’s new growth I noticed this well camouflaged green orb weaver spider. I know spiders aren’t everyone’s favourite creature but I’ve always found them fascinating and this one is a very fetching shade of green.
I get a lot of spiders at home but most of those I find in the garden (and the bathroom) are big, brown and hairy. Some bathroom spiders are very big and very fast, ideally suited to frightening the life out of spider-hating visitors from the city who aren’t used to the range of critters you share your home with when you live in the countryside.
This almost fluorescent green arachnid wasn’t what I expected to discover hanging out in the olive tree. It’s such an attractive colour and so well adapted to its habitat that I couldn’t resist taking its photograph. Notice it’s already caught its lunch? That’s the reason I never allow spiders to be killed… Lots of spiders in and around the house = very few flies :-)
Just because it’s raining outside (as it is today) doesn’t mean being away from nature’s vibrant beauty. I love flowers, the garden is full of them, but rather cut them or buy expensive bunches that only last a few days I grow orchids. This is a rather stunning moth orchid and in the right conditions it will bloom for 10 – 12 weeks.
This year I decided to grow some tree lilies and here’s the first bloom. I’m told they can reach 6 feet in height by their second year of growth. I hope that’s true because the perfume from this one is delicious and I’d be perfectly happy reading, writing, day dreaming or even darning socks under a canopy of tree lilies surrounded by their heady fragrance and the warmth of a summer evening. What could be nicer as a tonic for countless busy days at work? :-)
I often see these birds on the university campus where I work and around the Sedgemoor waterways when I’m staying in Somerset. They’re surprisingly large and very good hunters, feeding on fish, frogs, ducklings and even small mammals like voles and mice. They’ll also take fish from garden ponds, often completely emptying the stock if there’s no netting to prevent their feasting antics.
Although herons can be a nuisance around garden ponds their colonies (known as heronries) are a good indicator of the health of the freshwater ecosystem. Where herons are plentiful the waterways support a wide variety of aquatic life.
This is a pencil and watercolour sketch of a grey heron with an unlucky fish… The one that didn’t get away!
These stunning birds of prey were once mistakenly considered vermin in the UK and as a result were almost hunted to extinction. It was thought that they competed for food, in particular game, so were often shot, poisoned or trapped. Their eggs were also taken by poachers.
Human persecution of red kites was unwarranted; their diet consists of carrion, earthworms and small mammals – mice, rats and the like. Fortunately a long-term reintroduction programme has seen colonies develop in several areas including the Shropshire/Herefordshire/Welsh borders. During a recent journey I saw at least ten kites soaring over the Powys countryside and they can often be seen over a stretch of the M40 motorway in Oxfordshire. They are adept at riding air currents and easily spotted in flight due to their distinctive forked tail.
At this time of year there are many fledgling visitors to the garden. One of the most stunning is this young woodpecker. It doesn’t look very eye-catching from this angle but when you see it in totality it’s quite a handsome bird.
This one is especially fond of peanuts! Capturing the woodpecker on camera is quite difficult because they’re edgy birds and the slightest movement sends them flying off to the cover of surrounding trees. I managed to snap this one while it was busy eating breakfast.
This is a young Greater Spotted Woodpecker. It’s red tail is still salmon pink instead of the brilliant red that shows up in adults.
Collared doves came to the UK from Asia. In the 1950′s there were no recorded sightings but today they are a common garden bird throughout the country. These doves are not overly shy and will often take food from your hand (as well as seed feeders and bird tables). This one and it’s mate live near my garden and visit several times a day. When the sunflower seeds run out the doves sit just outside the window willing me to replenish supplies. If they could tap on the glass I’m sure they would!