Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Thawing Out

In the middle of the morning, hoar frost still clung to leaf and bracken frond as we set off for a walk around the hill.

The bird bath, in a shaded corner of the garden, was still a solid disc of ice.

Out on the heath, the thaw had begun, but shadowed bracken still crunched frozen underfoot.

I found the old hidden clump of mistletoe in a hawthorn tree.

A group of ponies breakfasted on young gorse shoots.

The uphill lane was shaded. Puddles were criss-crossed with shafts of ice.

From the hilltop, mist rose from the wet, thawing heath and the lane snaked away towards the village road.

A little band of young Forest ponies rested in a sunny spot. One of them stood beside her companions, alert and on the lookout. The others dozed in the quiet morning at the edge of the wood.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Rainbow Monday

An ordinary Monday afternoon. People in the supermarket car park looked up from their mundane tasks to see a perfect rainbow reaching its arc behind the trees, over the valley of the River Avon beyond. Total strangers exclaimed with awe and stopped in their tracks, talking to each other and pointing out the rainbow to those who were looking the other way. One or two cameras came out to catch the moment.

As I drove home along back lanes the bow of the rainbow faded, but I seemed to be following one end of it into the Forest. The colours deepened and the rainbow`s end thickened as it hovered over a hill. I stopped the car and found my camera again. Within minutes, the colours had softened and disappeared into the grey air.

The small bright shapes on the hill were a group of New Forest ponies, grazing in the brown heather.

Behind me, the sun shone light beams from behind a mass of dark cloud. A weather front moved in from the Channel coast during the evening , bringing a night of rain.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

A Wander Through Winter Trees

Monday dawned with the land covered in a deep white frost. I waited for the sun to heat the air before Old Dog and I ventured out for a walk. These days, as he becomes slower, we wander more than walk.

Out on the heath, Jennie`s tree, the old wilding crab apple with deep red fruit, held just a few tiny apples on its bare branches. One had fallen to the grass beneath.

Fronds of lichen on its twigs and branches.

Old Dog, looking frail, enjoyed a sniff at the frosty bracken. A few moments later he was walking with a brisk step along the path, with his tail in the air and a keen, alert expression on his face.

Silver birch.......

....a wilding apple that produces bright green fruit enjoyed by Forest cattle.........

... and a lichen covered ash.

One of the wilding trees that produces the loveliest blossom, at the foot of the hill where oak, beech, silver birch and holly grow beside the old coaching lane.

Frost on oak leaves in a dried-up, shaded puddle.

Cattle had passed by in the night.

Along the lane, a log remained from a tree that fell in recent gales..........

....and the understory of the woods was littered with snapped branches after high winds.

Old Dog looked out for a Jack Russell terrier who lives in a cottage that we pass. His friend was not at home.

Oak buds against a cold blue sky...........

....and catkins in a garden, bringing hopes of spring.

Friday, 13 January 2012

A Picnic for Samuel Whiskers

We had a crisp white frost this morning. By lunchtime, the ice had thawed but the air was bitterly cold and garden birds were hungry. I made a Bird Pudding from soaked wholemeal bread, currants and sunflower seeds and I stirred in the last crumbs of a Christmas Wensleydale cheese.

The peanut holder and the fat basket were busy all morning, feeding hungry blue tits and long tailed tits. A greater spotted woodpecker and a pair of nuthatches visited, but stayed away when I had time to wait with the camera.

Bird Pudding......

...and a long tailed tit arriving for lunch.

Two shy brown dunnocks waited around on the stems of the old climbing rose.......

....until one of them found seed and scraps on the ground beneath the bird table.

The cats were watching through the window. Suddenly, Lucy`s ears shot forwards and her whiskers began to vibrate. With body tense, she watched something climbing down a thick old rose stem.

Making his way past the fat balls and down towards the bird table was the reason we have recently heard scuffling and small footsteps in the space between the upstairs floorboards.
Mr Samuel Whiskers and his wife, Anna Maria, have come to stay!

The two sleek young rats climbed down and feasted on Bird Pudding. Each time I tried to photograph them , they moved, quick as a flash..... I need a more sophisticated camera with a faster shutter speed, but I don`t need rats in the attic!

Here you can see the plump, thick-coated abdomen of Samuel Whiskers. He and his grey mate are two beautiful young creatures. Their intelligence and their pair bonding behaviour are fascinating to watch. How we are going to move them on to pastures new is another matter. Maybe Lucy and the Ginger Man will take matters into their own paws?

I don`t think that Forest Cat will bother to go outside and help them.......

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Quiet January Morning

This morning was mild and still. No wind blew and the rainfall of last week had drained away, leaving the Forest dry again. Under the tall hedge of holly trees, a group of ponies came to browse on the lowest branches.

Through a path where gorse bushes are flowering again.....

...and through lichen covered branches, I caught sight of an old bay mare, dozing.......

.....while Spice, her friend, was breakfasting on tender young gorse shoots.

Back in the yard, Spice`s younger brother, Woody, had his hooves trimmed by the farrier........

....and breakfast was served while they worked.