Thursday, 29 December 2011

Lucy and the Frozen Planet

Lucy is sixteen months old now. No longer a kitten but still so curious about the world and full of energy. In the photo above, she was caught taking over the dog`s bed. Old Dog had been banished to the floor underneath the table.

Here she is, watching David Attenborough`s wonderful natural history series, Frozen Planet.

Investigating a baby seal.....

....and watching a polar bear who was waiting to catch a fish from beneath the ice.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Christmas Eve - a New Forest Sunset

It was late before we walked the dogs today. Last minute preparations for Christmas took up the daylight hours. We set off across the heath, just as the western sky began to lighten into the pinks and golds of a winter sunset.

The sequence of photographs shows snapshot seconds of the sky as the colours changed so quickly. A glorious ending to a mild, grey day.

Wishing a very Happy Christmas to everyone who reads my blog and especially to Followers who leave comments and share their news and feelings. I know I`m not always good at replying to comments (I don`t know where the hours go every day) but I do appreciate your visits and I love making return journeys to your blogs across the world.

Hoping that this Christmas leads us out of an often difficult year, into a more peaceful world.

Friday, 16 December 2011

A Day or Two of Weather

The last two weeks have been busy ones in our village. Various clubs and societies have held Christmas dinners and buffets. The annual Christmas Bazaar went well, raising money for local charities and recycling treasured bric-a-brac from one home to another. Cakes have been baked, mince pies have been shared and carols have been sung.

The weather has turned cold, with bitter, chilly winds. In the night there has been rain and sometimes frost. Tawny owls hoot across the dark heath beneath clear, starlit skies.

In these short winter days, when the light goes before four o`clock, time seems to speed into a higher gear as so much needs to be done while the daylight lasts. Sometimes, it is good to stop; to look at the sky and watch the clouds rolling in from the sea. To capture winter trees against cold blue skies.

Waiting for a friend at the end of a muddy lane, after a night of stormy rain.........

....I looked into a pool that the rain had left behind....

Later, by the side of the heath, I found new pools at the road`s edge where the ponies and cattle will be pleased to come and drink.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

In Winter Fields

On Wednesday morning, before the storm winds blew in, I walked around the field boundaries to check the fences and to see what changes the December frost had made. In the hedge bottom, a frosted toadstool had been nibbled by rabbits.

The beech trees are almost bare of leaves now, but their beechmast shows against the sky and the silvery buds of next spring`s leaves are waiting, tightly closed on slender, pointed twigs. Oak trees gradually lose their leaves, but so far there are still good coverings on more sheltered trees.

Fruit on the tree ivy is ripening from green to black. A rich food source for winter birds.

Through a tracery of bare branches in the hedge, dry, rusty brown bracken has been trampled down by ponies and cattle on the Forest heathland. There are more bright yellow blossoms on the gorse this week.

This field has been rested, ungrazed, for several months. The grass is a rich green and the ponies will need to be introduced to it gradually over the winter months.

The Chocolate Pony is coming into winter looking much too round! He and the Ginger Pony are having very little hay as there is still enough grass in their summer field. He wandered over to have a chat and to investigate my camera.

In the hedge bottom, I saw an old buck rabbit disappear down this rabbit hole before I had the chance to catch him with my camera.

The hawthorn hedge in Woody`s field was covered in berries this autumn, but only a few remain after flocks of migrating blackbirds and thrushes recently called in for a feast.

Woody was munching his breakfast hay while keeping an eye on our neighbour`s pretty young chestnut mare on the other side of the hawthorn hedge.

A companionable breakfast for the Grey One and his new friend Jay, who was glad to have his rug on when the rain and Arctic winds blew in later this week.

This year we had masses of holly berries and most of them have been eaten by birds. Thankfully, the berries on this tree seem less appetizing than the others in the hedge, so I cut down a few sprigs today and they have come inside, to decorate the house for Christmas.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Last Flowers and Insects in a Forest Garden

I took these photographs two weeks ago, on a sunny autumnal day before the first frosts came.

Underneath a bird feeder, where Nyjer Seed had dropped last spring, some of the seeds germinated. Several tall, straggly plants grew there through the summer, looking like ungainly members of the willow herb family, until the flowers began to appear. Cheerful yellow, daisy-like flowers starred the plants for weeks, attracting bees and other insects. I think that the insect below is one of the false bees. A fly that mimics a honey bee.

Up in the hedge, yellow ivy flowers were attracting insects. An iridescent green bottle fly.....

.......a wasp sunbathing on a leaf....

....... and honey bees and false bees vied for position as they searched for nectar.

A small fly visited an open Peace Rose.

The Liquid Amber Tree`s leaves glowed in shades of red against a blue sky.

A late , pink cranesbill geranium opened its buds .....

....companion-planted marigolds flowered their last in the cleared, raised vegetable beds.......

Grandpa Dixon enjoyed the morning sun......

........and the last nasturtiums tangled over flower beds .

Yesterday, I cleared their wilting, frozen plants away for another year, but I know that seeds will have been sown and that another generation waits in the soil to begin again next spring.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

A Woodland Walk in Autumn

Thursday was a dry day. There has been no rain here for several weeks and temperatures are high for late November. I joined two village friends for a walk , new to them, around the ancient beechwoods . I have photographed this walk before, but every time it is different. The trees change with the seasons, the New Forest foals grow up, fungi and berries come and go.

Here is the hill on my header phototograph, with the two tall beech trees almost free of their autumn leaves. We followed the path and turned into the holly wood, where ponies were chewing on the bark of mature holly trees.

The Old Man of the Woods was still there, in his sentry post overlooking the stream.

Along the path, we crossed a stretch of moorland, where heather and bracken had dried to a rusty gold.

Into the beechwoods....

....where the older trees had shed their leaves but the understorey of holly thrived, dark green.

A bracket fungus on a rotting beech stump.

Some of the beeches and oaks in this wood are many hundreds of years old. When they die and eventually fall, their wood is left to rot. The tree becomes a habitat for invertebrates and a feasting ground for insect eating birds.

Little B, my companions` miniature Yorkshire Terrier, came with us on our walk. We were walking for two hours and he did not tire once. In fact he covered twice the ground that we did! The leaf carpeted woodland was a paradise of smells for a small dog and the occasional squirrel chase was the most exciting way to play. The photo is blurry because he would NOT keep still!

Crossing the stream that drains the peaty moorland.

Back towards the holly wood........

The light was low all day, but pinpricks of yellow gorse and scarlet holly berries brightened dull colours of autumn.

We crossed a carpet of crunching leaves....

....and climbed the hill, out onto the homeward track again.