Transmission power lines are an intrusive and ugly sign in the landscape reminding us of how unnatural man made constructions can be. But today, in the warm afternoon sunshine, I spotted a row of 17 doves making good use of them.
I guess nature decides when its spring. It is 15C today, warm and sunny and I have just spotted my first butterfly of the year. I had a walk around the woods and there are plenty of signs of spring. Dagfodils, snowdops, primrose and bluebells (no flowers yet) were all present, as was abundant wild garlic. The plum and hawthawn trees were flowering and a number of trees had leaves unfurling. I also spotted a pair of blue tits looking for nesting sites.
During the week of the 23rd we had warm sunny weather almost everyday and a top temperature of 19C. It was very unusual.
SheOur ducks and geese come and go as they please. A few weeks ago two pairs of mallards came and spent a few days on the pond then one pair flew away leaving the just one pair who seem perfectly at home. Because I have been in and around the pond for a few hours each day cutting the dogwood they have got use to me so more or less ignore me now, In fact they usually come to have a look at what I'm doing. They are so interesting to watch as they glide through the water causing the most amazing ripples.
Two days ago my wife spotted another duck that we hadn't seen before splashing in a large puddle on the drive. A little while later she was on the roof of the summer house so I went out to take photographs and was surprised how close I could get to her. Later I noticed her by the side of the pond and that is where she has been ever since. I think she is a Muscovy Duck and it so nice of her as a new resident on the pond. She is quite friendly and has a calming effect on the mallards. She is happy to sit with them preening herself.
I remember tackling the overgrown dogwood at the bottom of the garden exactly one year ago prior to the new fence being built. This year, in February I find myself back in the dogwood but this time in the pond. Its nearly 14 years since I adopted this garden and I'm ashamed to say I haven't once cut back the dogwood. Consequently it is now over 3m high and extends 3 metres over the pond and sometimes upto 5m along the bottom of the pond.
The pond gives us so much pleasure. It is the focal point in the garden and it is a haven for life on it and in it. Even at this time of the year there are usualy some ducks on it and our family of geese are frequent visitors. It is featured in many of my video films and it is a stimulus for my sketching and painting. Mostly I have just cut the saplings and brambles that spring up on its banks but this year I have decided to spend more time, effort and money on enhancing it and the first step is to clear the dogwood along its banks and perhaps on the small island used for nesting in the middle of the pond.
At this time of the year the pond is cold: in fact the surface is often frozen in the morning. It's quite shallow at the edge (around a foot deep) so I started off gingerly cutting the dogwood back in my wellingtons. But it was easy to slip off the narrow edge into deeper water and after a few wet feet experiences I realised this was not the way.
It was -2C at 8am this morning. There was a heavy frost and it was misty.
By lunchtime it was sunny and 14C
By 4.15 the sun was going down and it lit up the willow tree.
There is something really beautiful about a low winter sun and we had a few of those days in January.
January had some cold snaps, heavy frosts and frozen pond. I found some ducks looking a bit lost on the ice.
But who decides its spring? Of course there is the official calendar view of March 1st or the astronomical view March 20th, but there is also the view of the plants and trees that decide its time to put up shoots and declare, at least for them, its time to grow again.. In the first week of January I spotted the first daffodils and seeds on the hazel tree so at least for them spring has begun.
These signs reminded me that it was time to 'prune' the hedges and shrubs that have been neglected for a long time. So I started with the beech hedge. Two sides of a 40m long by 5m high hedge, overgrown with ivy and in places tangled with brambles and a mass of creepers is a big job by any measure. I chipped away at it a couple of hours a day, most days for the best part of three weeks but by the end of January it was completed and burning what I had cut gave me a lot of satisfaction.
I came across a squirrel lying on the grass. At first I thought he was asleep but when I got closer I could see from the involuntary twitching of limbs that this squirrel was close to death. I watched him close his eyes and breathe his last breath. I have no idea why he died but it reminded me of a recent bereavement in my own family. I came across a poem by Michael Prihoda which provides a nice tribute to the little fellow.
I have often wondered what happened to our family of geese once they have flown away. I imagined they split up. But today our family of geese returned. Only for a short while but they let us know they were here and I was able to go out and take a photo. So now I know they stick together, at least for a while.
When I look back at my photos autumn was coming from early September when the dogwood leaves started to turn red. 6 weeks on and the dogwood has lost most of its leaves leaving the red stalks. We have a red maple rising above the dogwood and the scene is so beautiful that I got out my paints.
Astronomically autumn starts at the equinox (September 23) but meteorologically it starts September 1st so we are nearly 6 weeks into it. I decided to record the changes in my photos throughout the autumn so I will keep adding to my movie as we move through October and November.
Shorter daylight hours and colder nights are what trigger leaf drop – or senescence – but frost and rain can damage leaves and cause early leaf fall. Plenty of sunshine is needed to encourage concentrations of colour pigments which help to intensify leaf colour. Our cold spring and hot summer will have helped ready the leaves for a beautiful autumn display, but it also hinges on what the weather does now. Today was like summer again blue skies and temperatures in the low 20’s.
Leaf fall or senescence, is an “altruistic death” allowing the degradation and redistribution of nutrients produced during growth back to other parts of the plant. This strategy evolved to maximise the fitness and survival of the plant. Leaf senescence is highly complex, involving multiple genes and numerous biological, chemical and physical processes. At the heart of it all is a pigment called chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is what gives leaves their green colour, absorbing and reflecting different hues from the colour light spectrum, as seen in a rainbow. In leaves it absorbs mainly red and blue light, reflecting green, and it is this reflection that makes leaves appear green to the human eye. In autumn, chlorophyll, mainly in deciduous plants, is slowly broken down and reabsorbed by the plant, diminishing the green colour of the leaves. It is this reabsorption that ensures they spring back to life the following year. As chlorophyll is broken down, pigments called carotenoids and flavonoids are revealed and it is these, again, through the absorption and reflection of different colours from the light spectrum, that are responsible for the yellow and orange hues of leaves. Sugar concentration in the leaves also increases anthocyanin production, which causes some leaves to turn a shade of red.
So that’s the science…here is my film of autumn to winter watch.
But my most enjoyable experience was on the beach pottering around the rock pools with my daughter and watching the tide submerge and reclaim them. The deep crystal clear pools, on the north side of the beach at Portreath by the harbour wall, were ful of life - darting blennies, sea squirts, numerous varieties of seaweed, molluscs and other shell fish. Tide dependent rock pools are habitats that a gardener cannot create. But then I learnt that several of the pools had been carved out of the rocks to prvide a bathing place for Lady Bassett!!