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Monday, 14 April 2014

Watching nature

This time of the year is wonderful for nature watchers, and this year we have the added interest of it being in another country. We have always enjoyed spring in GB, and May in Greece. Bulgaria is a bit of a mix of the two. And lovely.

Today we called at the river (again!) on the way to get chicken food. On the road we came across three jackal crossing. Dave pulled up as quickly as he could and I snapped away but the rape they were against contrasted so sharply with the dark track thet you can't make them out. What a shame, a great opportunity spoiled by the dreaded rape.

There are mega field of rape, I have been told that the land is farmed by huge foreign investors using cheap labour, so little benefit to the local people
 There were a few tricky places by the river as it has rained for a few days and the mud here is super slippery. The added humidity the aroma of the tip, and the heaps of dumped manure were steaming well.

But does nature mind? No, the fauna and flora will thrive wherever they can get a hold. And there is plenty by the river. The butterflies, as usual, were abundant but will not sit still for their portraits. But the first excitement was coming across a colony (or two) of sand martins. We have never seen this before, but knew there must be something coming back from the winter quarters in Africa to take up residence. There are still plenty of pits with steep sand banks full of holes still lying vacant, so it will be interesting to see what else might move in.

We had a mooch around to see what else we could see, the frogs were making their usual din and I am always suprised that there are not more frog predators around. They would have a feast as the pools are so clear. On the way back to the road we came across a hoopoe having a morning wash and brush up and I managed to get some nearly in focus shots. I have only seen one other in Bulgaria, when it landed on our electricity pole early one morning, though Dave has seen them on the lane. What a lovely bird.

By the road there were cormorant, white stork, heron, sandpiper and egret. What riches. It was hard to pull ourselves away, but we needed to get to the feed merchant and we consoled ourselves with a promise to call in at Dave's swimming place on the way home.

A weird thing happened when we pulled off the road. We took a little used track to follow the river round and stopped to listen to the birds, thrush, nightingale and blackbird (can you imagine the din?) and Dave realised that we were being followed by a white van. He hadn't been keeping an eye on the mirror as we were off road and there is never anyone there. We drove off and returned to the track and the van followed. When we came to our regular stop we pulled off to see what would happen. There was a car parked in our spot (maybe just as well) and the van drove past. Shook me up a bit I have to admit. The only thing we could think of was that there is a...ahem...lady by the turn in, she is usually there when the weather is good, and we had seen her wandering towards the river. We wondered if the white van was her 'boss' and was looking for her. There are a couple of new 'ladies' working the laybys today, someone must be dropping them off and keeping an eye on them. The river one was at the river, hidden from the track, when we drove past.

So we decided to take the track on the other side of the road. We stopped so Dave could try to get a shot of a really lovely black and white butterfly while I wandered to a pool for a look. The frogs were active and I managed a couple of shots of a very handsome chap making a din with pouches inflated. Dave missed the butterfly!

Blowing his cheeks out in sone. Might be a pond frog....

We stopped a couple of times by the river but the ground was very marshy with all the rain we've had, but we could see and hear that there were plenty of kingfishers about, and we scared a heron off before we saw it. I managed a couple of shots of butterflies though.

We eventually found somewhere to stop where we could watch the river to the song of a nightingale and Dave could swim. There was a notice, in Bulgarian obviously, nailed to a tree which we could not understand. Turns out it means swimming is prohibited. Oooops! But the kingfisher were very obliging, flitting about, all jewel coloured. One posed a few times for Dave to get a few photos.
Cow crossing

Kingfisher, there are many

Errrrmmm...Dave, no swimming!

Common frog

Reluctantly we left as the dogs had been alone for three hours. If they would only have a run around and swim, then settle down, we could take them with us, but they get over excited and don't settle until the car is moving. To round everything off we watched some bids of prey riding the currents.

On Sunday we did our second car boot sale. It was a very slow and cold start, brrrr.  Despite the assurances from the people who run it that no-one did cakes and biscuits there was a seller there, an Artisan baker, and the exira baking I did was a waste of time. We sold most of the cakes and some biscuits, all the carrot and orange went first, but we need to sell more to make it worth while, so may not do so much next time. However, I sold quite a few cards and Dave was amazed to sell hs stork painting. The couple who bought it were very kind to us when we first moved here last year, showing us the town and where the market and supermarkets were, and where to get animal feed. So the painting is a birthday present for the lady. How good is that? There seemed to be a lot of interest in the paintings, the most enthusiastic were the Bulgarians. So now I need to make more cards and Dave needs to paint more affordable paintings before the next one. Then at the end of May we will be doing an arts and crafts sale at the request of the organiser. All go! But we need more paintings so that we can leave our own (Bonnie, Murphy and the rhinos) at home. There is too much interest in Bonnie and Murphy for comfort, we don't want to have to refuse anyone a painting.
A cold, wet and miserable start to the day

The village vines have been pruned

We're ready!

Poor Dave, he's shattered, but he'll get a crick in his neck

The rain of the past week has done wonders for the garden. Everything has shot up, as have the weeds of course. Dave has earthed up the potatoes today, the soil was too claggy really but we have been given bits of rain for a while and he felt there was no point putting it off, we don't want the colorado beetles coming to get them! A few of the beans have been washed to the surface so they have had to be pushed back in. A little bit of warmth should see them sprouting now, they are plump from the rain. The anemones are also enjoying the rain and the rainbow of colours is amazing, we even have a different coloured tulip coming out. The rhubarb has perked up, icebergs hearting and strawberries putting on a spurt. The rose which flowered non stop last summer through to December is huge, not sure if it supposed to be a climber. The last of the blossom is out now, but in next door's gardens, apple and quince. The quince is beautiful, large fragrant flowers. Hope we get lots of lovely quince again in autumn. The troughs planted with flowers and tomatoes and residing on the outside stairs are flourishing, the tomatoes growing better outside than in.

In the greenhouse we have had fatalities. The snails around here are enormous edible ones, and slugs are big too but there aren't that many. But despite walking on salt in there we have lost a whole cell tray of scented stock and one of cucumber and peppers, so annoying. Luckily we have plenty. But I was hoping to sell a few. Never mind.
Oh dear............

Aubergines and peppers


A few more peppers

They don't seem to like okra, can't say I blame them

We have found out what the grub was, it turns into a beetle much smaller than it, a chafer, and they are quite a pest apparently, eating the roots of lawns. We don't have a lawn of such, and the patch of grass can go as far as we are concerned.
This looks lika a cranefly

The chicks are growing like triffids. They are the cutest little things for about a week after hatching, then turn scruffy and not at all pretty. One of the maran boys is up for re-homing, the little ones need to be integrated with the other small shumen who are only a week older, to make way for any which hatch, due tonight/tomorrow. The araucanas all look infertile and Cagney is still sitting on six, due next week. If everything surprises us and hatches we will have to be juggling and making new partitions.

Hershey the boy shumen is still here, but he is trying to get cheeky with Sevi's ladies, they tell on him and Sevi tells him off. He needs to go before Sevi forgets he's a gent!
Hershey in the foreground....

....soon chased off!
Forgot to mention the lovely little meeces Dave bought for our anniversary, from another ex-pat friend who makes them for sales and a shop, along with other knitted toys. Cute or what?


  1. Delightful post. Between your garden, chicks and painting, I bet you two are very busy! But the kind of busy that doesn't stress you out I hope. The anniversary mice are adorable. Happy Anniversary to you!

    1. Thank you Tana. Yes, we are very busy, though once the animals are done we are confined to the house due to the very welcome rain continuing, so catching up with more paintings, cards and cooking. The freezer is nearly empty so needs filling with bread for when we are too busy to make it later.