Friday, 19 November 2010

Sparrow, Seed heads and Liquid Amber

On a cold, sunny morning last week, I walked around the garden with my camera. My "point and shoot" camera is not the best for taking bird photos, but this male sparrow showed no fear and I was able to photograph him at very close range.

House sparrows are said to be decreasing in numbers across the UK, but we have a thriving community of them. They nest in the cavity walls above the garage and they use a tiered ventilation grid to get in and out. We call it Sparrow Towers.... There is plenty of food for them in the garden, hedgerows and out on the Forest, but they are also regular visitors to the bird table, squabbling and chattering away as they learn to feed on the peanut holder.

Sunlight through the lime tree.

Seed heads .......

........and frost on fallen leaves.

The rampant climbing rose, Paul`s Himalayan Musk, was a profusion of scented white-pink flowers this summer. It now glows with small red rosehips that will feed the birds over the coming weeks.

The last pear.

In the last weeks of autumn, the Liquid Amber tree shines and glows in the sunlight. This tree is around twenty five years old and is relatively young. It was planted by the previous owners of our house and is the most beautiful tree. I tried to catch the different depths and hues of maroon, red, red/orange and yellow that are found among its leaves. The colour seems to depend on the amount of sunlight that falls on each part of the tree. Strongest sun produces the deepest, reddest leaves.

The Liquid Amber (Liquidamber styraciflua) is a common southern hardwood in the USA, and apparently grows well in the temperate states to the north of the Gulf of Mexico. Its wood is used for veneer and for plywood. The tree bark is deeply fissured and the branches break easily. We lost a large branch a few years ago after a summer thunderstorm. It is known as the Sweetgum tree and when mature, it produces spiked fruits which are known as gumballs. Our tree must still be too young to bear fruit. The tree can apparently live for around two hundred years.

The Liquid Amber was introduced into Britain in 1681 by the missionary and plant collector, John Bannister. The first British tree was planted for Bishop Crompton in the gardens of Fulham Palace.
(Information from Wikipaedia)


WOL said...

We are losing our urban sparrow populations here in the US too. I suspect it is due to habitat degradation in the cities -- not enough to eat. Sparrows are such little birds, and they cannot go very long between meals. If it gets really windy here for several days in a row, the younger and weaker sparrows can actually die because it is too windy for them to feed. I used to see lots of sparrows, but in the last 4-5 years, I've hardly seen any.

Kath said...

We have seen the most enormous flocks of starlings coming over. Apparently they are roosting on a nature reserve nearby.
That liquid amber is divine.

Morning's Minion said...

These are especially appealing photos. As I studied each close-up of the liquid amber tree it seemed that the leaves were very like the sweet gum in our dooryard. I was scratching down the botanical name so I could research, when there it was. Sweet gum!
This tree is new to us with the move to Kentucky. We've been unhappy that several big branches have broken off during the summer.
Must be it is a common weakness of the species.

Bernard said...

Hello DW,
I'm a bit behind with your posts, sorry, but there is so much going on these days all over the web.
I noticed you said you didn't know how to move a blog post. I don't know how to 'move' one either, but..
What I do is ...copy the old one to a new one, and then delete the old. :)
Now, go to the 'old' blog, click on the html tag, highlight the WHOLE text and click COPY.
Create a new blog, go to html tag, and then click PASTE. You now have the old bits in the new position. To finish all you need is a new title. Once is is up and running, go back to the 'old' post and delete it. Hey presto!
Hope that helps for future reference. :)

Dartford Warbler said...

MM- what a coincidence that you have one of these lovely trees in your new garden. How old to you think yours might be?

Bernard - thank you for calling in and the posting tips. I shall have a go with this soon. My commuting skills are still fairly basic!

Kath - I believe the Levels are famous for amazing starling "murmuration" flights. We have a few on the bird table and they seem to do nothing but eat and squabble!

WOL - yes, I`m sure you are right about the lack of feed available in modern cities. Before the motor car, cities were full of hay, corn and horse droppings from the working horses, so that must have been a good habitat for town sparrows.

Morning's Minion said...

We know that our little house was built in 1980 on the site of a much older house. The various maples and the sweet gum appear to have been planted after that time. Mr. Rogers mentioned that he transplanted the maples as saplings from the woods.
I can see that our sweet gum has been trimmed up as there was no room for the lower limbs to spread out.