The Garden Diary 2007
January - Part 1
1 January - New Year's Day
Last night the clouds lifted enough for the fireworks to celebrate the New Year, and this morning started with blue skies and sunshine, although the grey clouds returned in the afternoon, bringing rain once again.
No wildlife notes today as we were preparing our lounge for the work to be done there. I actually made more progress than expected, and by the end of the afternoon more than half of the old stonework had been removed - a task that will completed tomorrow.
2 January - It's been a bright, largely sunny day with a high of just over 8C, and another day when the house took priority over the garden (other than making sure that the feeders were topped up!). By tonight we had done all we could ready for the professionals to turn up tomorrow, and a couple of old floorboards have been chopped up to provide kindling for the new stove!
After a wonderfully warm afternoon and evening, we now have to let it cool down, and as tomorrow's work involves plastering some areas of wall around it, we will not be lighting it again until the weekend!!
Back to the garden, or at least, the back door. At the moment, every time the door is opened, especially at night, there seems to be a queue of these insects waiting to come in. There are large numbers of them outside, attracted to any lighted windows.
They are similar to small crane-flies, and belong to the genus Trichoceridae and are known as winter gnats. Their length from head to wing tip is between 7 and 8mm.
The ones I photographed have banded abdomens, suggested that they may be T. annulata.
Being true flies, their hind wings are highly modified into club-like balance organs called halteres which provide stability as they fly.
In this photograph you can see the halteres in their 'parked positions' below the front wings. In flight they vibrate and act like gyroscopes, allowing the insect to sense changes of direction.
11 January - Over a week since my last entry, and I haven't taken a photograph in all that time! Thanks to the people who sent e-mails to check that everything was ok.
We have been rather pre-occupied with the work that has been needed since the arrival of the wood burner. So far, the wall on the same side of the room has been stripped right back to the bare plaster (that was a struggle!) and been primed. Next, I need to sort out some essential shelving for a stack of books, and replace some sockets before I repaint all the woodwork in the room and put new wall coverings up. However, all that is on hold for at least a few days while we take a break to recover from the initial efforts and enjoy the fire.
With my attention focused on the house I have hardly looked outside in the last week. As it happens the weather has hardly encouraged outdoor activities. With just a couple of brighter days, it has been grey, wet and on occasions rather windy - I don't think the winds eased up at all last night. And it has been mild, with a few nights seeing 'lows' of around 12C - a weather forecaster was talking of records being set, but I haven't seen confirmation of that as yet.
In the garden we have some Primroses open now, and from here I can see the white tips of the earliest Snowdrop buds. Those plants are dwarfed by the lush growth of Bluebell plants close to them. The forecast for this afternoon is more hopeful - perhaps I'll get out into the garden with the camera to take a better look.
14 January - Probably the nicest day since Christmas, sunny and a bit colder than recently. After starting up the pond diary a couple of days ago, today it was the turn of the birdbox diary after a Great Tit inspected the box this morning.
In the garden the first Snowdrop flower bud has flopped over.
We have a few Primroses in flower now, all of them badly nibbled by either slugs or caterpillars. I really do need to get out with my camera to record the culprits at work...
On our two Elder plants the leaf buds have started opening.
I didn't record this event last year, but in 2005 the first leaves didn't emerge until 7 February.
15 January - A dull day with periods of dampness, and another day spent stripping wallpaper!
16 January - On another dull and very mild day (see Pond Diary) it has been the turn of the ceiling to be stripped, with the much appreciated assistance of one of my sons. It's the first time since we came to lived here in 1975 that the room has been completely bare of decoration!
18 January - A day when the temperature rose to nearly 13C, the pressure dropped to 988mb and we had wind, lots of it!
I couldn't see any signs of structural damage to the homes around us, but numerous tv/radio antennae succumbed to the winds, and mybitoftheplanet also suffered some damage.
The roof of our caravan shelter has been torn from end to end and will have to be replaced. That was a job that should have been done before the winter as it was already leaking (hence the blue tarp visible under the green cover).
The tree is in the Brickfields Country Park. It was already at a bit of an angle, but I think it is leaning more now - I half expected it to topple this afternoon. The winds had subsided by this evening, but I phoned my tree surgeon son after dark and he was still busy going from one emergency call to another.
The damage to the caravan cover was a shame, but with reports of at least eight people killed around the country I think we got off lightly!
19 January - The quiet after the storm! A bright morning followed by a cloudy afternoon with the occasional sound of distant chainsaws, no doubt being used to sort out damaged trees (can't help thinking 'logs for the fire'!). A new tarpaulin has been ordered and the forecast for the first half of next week looks good and dry for fitting it.
At lunchtime it was around 12C outside, mild enough to bring out a visitor that has so far surprised me by its lack of night-time appearances (not even droppings seen) during the mild conditions since Christmas.
I spotted this small Hedgehog foraging amongst the foliage of the Garlic plants (no signs of flower buds on those yet). To minimise stress on it I took just a couple of pictures before going back indoors. As a result I don't know where it went after leaving the area under the Hawthorn.
With the forecast promising colder weather next week I hope it finds enough suitable food and has got a safe place to return to.
On the bird front, I'm seeing the Blackbirds as a pair more often now, which is encouraging. Goldfinches continue to feed here, although no more than five at a time now. The Blue Tits (at least five of them) continue to feed here frequently but I haven't seen them make any visits to the nestbox. A couple of Great Tits make occasional feeding visits (see nestbox diary) and there was a single, very vocal Long-tailed Tit here this morning.
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