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Saturday, 22 March 2014

A day at the river

Yesterday was the first day of spring, which seems strange when we have had so many days of hot weather already. We needed to go into a local town to get some stuff for the beehive we are getting in May, so decided to stop off at Dave's favourite spot on the river and see what we could see. It was another glorious day and the difference in just a few days was astounding. All the dead brown trees have either bursting leaf buds or blossom, the fields are either freshly ploughed or vibrant green and the grass and weeds are growing fast and covering the brown verges. The gypsies are everywhere with their carts and very sweaty ponies or donkeys, with their winter coats all curly.
Blossom everywhere, the white van in front is an X reg British one.

What a big pompom for a little head!

The first animal we saw was a jackal crossing the road ahead of us. The birdsong was loud but with not much variety (we have a great tit constantly singing in the garden, so monotonous it drives you mad!) It was quiet by the river, we beat the anglers to it. We were hoping to see hares, but not this time. Dave enjoyed a dip, the first since the snow melted, and it brought a huge smile to his face. As he rose from the water a kingfisher was just landing on a perch behind him and if I had not been videoing I might have caught it on camera. As it is I had to tell him what was happening which sent the kingfisher on it's way. You can take snaps while videoing at the same time and I managed one with a small flash of blue over Dave's head, and when we looked at the photo there was another kingfisher on a perch in the distance, only visible if you zoom in. What might have been eh?

Female pheasant

You can just make out a tiny flash of kingfisher blue above Dave's head. The other kingfisher is on the perch in the distance...honest!

Dave drove the car into the river and rinsed off a couple of months worth of dust while we were there while I tried (and mostly failed) to get some more photos. There was an unidentified woodpecker close by, larger than the usual spotteds, which Dave thought had a crest. But we were looking into the sun and photos impossible so maybe another day. There were flocks of noisy jays and something we rarely see, lots of blackbirds. We even heard a thrush, but couldn't see it. It is still quiet on the bird front as a lot of the migrant birds have not yet returned. While I was waiting I also saw a waterbird we haven't seen before, since identified by Mike, my bird identifier, as a green sandpiper. We also saw suslik there for the first time.
Green sandpiper

The site of the bee-eater nests. Looking forward to seeing them back

Greater spotted woodpecker
Mr blackbird


We left for the shop, and on the way home saw a flock of ten or twelve white storks circling above us. It was frustrating but we couldn't stop for a photo till they were almost out of sight. It is a memory to be treasured though, an amazing sight. We needed to call in at another village on the way home so decided to explore the river here, a new site for us. A little way along the track we were disappointed that it seemed to be the village dump, with mounds of rubbish and animal bedding everywhere, a lot of old ones covered with vegetation. We carried on regardless and were glad we did as we saw the most incredible black stork, something which is so much more majestic in the flesh than in any photo. As I made my way to a pit there was a lot of splashing as frogs and terrapins crashed into the pool. It made me jump as I hadn't expected it, though it explains why a stork and heron were resident. These seem to be where sand and gravel have been dug out, and the resulting pits are naturalised with reeds and other water plants making the water crysal clear, frogs, toads and snails as well as terrapins/turtles. None of which will be visible once the vegetation grows up again, though the noise will give the game away. How can such small animals make so much din? There were also many butterfies, white, yellow and darker, a feature we first noticed when we moved here last year. They wouldn't pose though!

Grooming a prized Shetland pony at the side of the road

While Dave was in the shop, this cob was driven past, you rarely see cobs in this area, usually ponies or donkeys....

Like these waiting outside the feed store. They are tethered with a rope around a hoof and stake driven into the ground

Gypsies going through the bins to see if they can find anything useful
Undulating mounds of rubbish and excavation, now grown over

One of the pits alive with animals

Sand and gravel

Black stork

And off he goes....

We left reluctantly as we had food in the car and it was very hot, but we will return soon, before the reeds grow and cover everything up.
Buzzard just outside the village

Back at home, two newly hatched shumen chicks were moved out to the nursery, leaving a rather weak poland chick which had just emerged, we thought we had lost them all. It is the cutest little mite, but there is no future for him if he doesn't get up off his hocks. The shumens looked minute next to the marans, who are now over two weeks old, and much prettier than them too.

Today the marans have gone out for a play in the sun, and they have taken it completely in their (long) stride. Totally unfazed by nanny Bella and the two young shumens wanting to know what was going on. The older hens were not bothered, the ex-batts only wanted to know what food they had, and Cagney and Chubba have seen plenty of chicks before and don't care.
Bella and Darcy finding the small things interesting

They look a bit like mini ostrich
Bonnie would rather keep out of it

I have started my new summer routine of going out and doing some weeding first thing. I know we could still have bad weather, but I want to keep on top of the weeds from the beginning so that it doesn't become a mammoth job. The tulips are coming out now giving another splash of colour to the garden, and the plum trees are blossoming. The pear is showing leaves before blossom.

Venka came round the other day to see if we needed any tomato plants. and when Dave said I already had dozens we got a 'Bravo!'  Dave says the ones she had were smaller than mine so we must be doing something right. Planning on pricking out aubergines and peppers tiday, into large modules. We have not seen any small pots over here, but are going to a garden centre tomorrow so will see if they have any.
Turn your sound up to hear the bees in the apricot blossom.


  1. Lovely blog post and blog. Brilliant photos! Thankyou so much for sharing. :D
    I shall keep reading and following with interest!
    Best wishes in all you do :)

    1. Thank you so much, all encouagement is happily recieved.

  2. Lovely photos. Greetings from Montreal, Canada.

    1. Thank you Linda, spring is so uplifting isn't it?