LL's Gardening Diary

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lancashire lass
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Tuesday 3rd September 2019

Post by lancashire lass »

And here is a photo of one of pompom flowers (the leaves of the Kerria japonica is the toothed one on the left, the leaf under the flower is off the Jasmine)

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Yesterday I called in at the diy store and got the paint rollers (a 4 inch and a 2 inch) plus an extension pole. When I got home, I didn't feel up to painting so instead got on with repotting the dahlias. I know it's a bit late in the year but some of them were getting pot bound and looking a little jaded and we still have a few weeks to go before autumn truly kicks in. I want to try and save the tubers over winter if I can but they'll need to be healthy. As I repotted, I deadheaded all the old flowers (thanks to Monty on Gardener's World as I would never have known that the flat bottom bud is a flower bud, the pointy bottom bud is a seed head - they all looked like flower buds) and pinched off some sad looking leaves. A lot of leaves had also been munched and I found one caterpillar which I very much doubt was responsible for all the leaf holes. Then I gave them all a little diluted seaweed extract and tomato feed.

Early this morning after tending to the fish pond and slapping some Jungle formula on, I was down at the bottom of the garden at sun up armed with my paint roller on an extension pole and tested it on the top part of the fence. It was actually a lot better than expected ... too many drips of paint everywhere but was so much easier than using a paint brush and so much easier to paint the top half of the fence than expected. I managed to paint 3/4 of the fence (I still need to clear the shrubs at the end of the fence for the last bit) in just over an hour (compared to 3 hours just painting the bottom half over 2 days last week) After breakfast, I gave the painted bits another coat. And one more coat just before 1 pm (the sun on the other side had warmed up the fence and it dried really quickly) I think it needs just one more coat to really finish it off properly but I'll leave that until tomorrow.

I was so impressed with using the paint roller that to be honest I don't think I'll ever use a paint brush on the fence again. My one concern was where the wood pieces overlap and in the past I've had to stipple paint with the brush but the roller just went over it the once and slopped paint against the joint )t'

So the wildlife pond build is one step closer .... but I have decided to add another feature. I'm not sure how it will turn out so for now it's only an idea which might turn out to be a disaster but I'll reveal all if it works out okay LOL. I will need to get some materials from the diy store so I think that might mean another trip out tomorrow.
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lancashire lass
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Last day of the hols ...

Post by lancashire lass »

Today (Sunday 15th September) will be my last day of the hols and still no sign of the pond (yet)

First, the bottom fence has required multiple coats of paint - 4 coats on the top half, 5 on the bottom - inbetween rainy days. As already mentioned, the paint roller was very good but did drop lots of paint around so until the fence painting was completed, I really couldn't make a start on the pond. And then I noticed the old fence panels that were dumped in my garden were already showing green with algae - as it was only a year ago when I painted the old fence, I was a bit concerned that the same would happen with the new fence only the pond would be in the way, so I made a decision which has taken a lot longer to do than expected.

One of the things I had considered a while back was to convert the pergola, which is already in a state of disrepair, into a gazebo - that is, put a roof over the top. The pergola is about 5 metres long and just over 2.5 metres wide (just going off the materials I've bought which are sold in metric rather than imperial lengths and includes the site of the pond between the new fence and pergola) so it was a big job which put me off. However, the more I thought about future fence painting - if I was struggling now, the fence would never get painted ever again. And then the pond itself - it isn't going to be a big pond and come autumn when all the leaves from the trees dropped, they would fall into the pond and it would become stagnant. So I made a decision to put a roof on the pergola.

As with the saga of painting the fence out of reach, the same problem arose with putting the roof on - how to put a support for the roof on the fence when I couldn't reach it. And it had to be higher than the pergola so that rain water would run away from the fence ... I seem to spend a lot of time looking at the fence as I gave it yet another coat of paint and pondered what to do and in the meantime, I also looked at the 2 remaining trees at the bottom of the garden - the willow and an elder (which I have never trimmed back as it was in the bottom corner and virtually inaccessible for one reason or other) Well, the willow is way too big and would need professionals to cut it down (the trunk has a diameter of about 18 inches and has a height of about 20+ feet with a spread of branches) As for the elder, it had a lot of dead wood and last year some branches fell on to the pergola during the autumn storms (which landed on one of the rotting pergola struts including the jasmine it was supporting and which brought it down) And it also blocked a lot of light (for the future pond plants) so it made sense to cut it down. Also over 20 feet tall, it however, seemed more do-able especially as the lower trunk consisted of 3 main branches.

Easier said than done - even that involved a lot of thought of how to cut it down without it (i) landing on the new fence and breaking it (ii) landing on the pergola or (iii) landing on me! Even the dead wood was significantly heavier than anticipated and to complicate matters, as it came down it got stuck on the branches of the main trunk }hairout{ One of those moments when I wished I hadn't started cutting it down. I persevered and eventually cut the tree down - and yes, the tree was so heavy that once it came down I had to cut the top branches off just to be able to drag the main trunk out of the way. Suffice to say it took a whole day just dealing with one tree.

Finally I could start on the roof. I had to buy timber to support the roof but transporting long lengths was a problem - I could only get 6 foot lengths into the car. So I've had to make multiple trips to the timber yard. While there I noticed they had water butts on special offer so I also bought a 300 litre butt on a stand to catch rain water off the chicken run roof. Meanwhile I thought about the rain water from the pergola roof - easily 4x more roof space than the chicken run which would mean water landing at the front of the pergola ... So I have also got some guttering which will direct the water to the sides of the pergola (and possibly to fill future water butts but I haven't given that much thought at the moment). As for how to fix the wood to the fence out of reach, I came up with fixing lengths of wood onto the 2 main uprights on the new fence that I could reach on which the horizontal supporting lengths could be fitted on top (I will post piccies later which explains better)

The roof consists of corrugated clear plastic - I've had to buy 12 sheets (with the potential to use the 4 sheets I already have for the fish pond which I use to cover it over winter) Yesterday I put the last of the wood struts on top of the pergola and have fitted 6 of the roof sheets. I hope to finish the rest of the roof today.

So no wildlife pond, but one roof. At least it will all be under cover so I can get on with it come rain or shine. Meanwhile, a quick catch up of other garden news. I harvested my potatoes last week:

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I grouped the potatoes according to each bed in the polytunnel - the bed that got the best light at the 12 o clock position, the bed with the least light at the 6 o clock position, with decreasing light levels at 2 and 4 o clock. The random potatoes on the left hand side where out of the planters. It wasn't meant to be an experiment but you can see how light levels makes a lot of difference to the harvest. One thing I definitely noticed - all the potatoes were unblemished ... no holes or scars - I think growing them in the polytunnel has been a thumbs up. And I have already eaten some - baked (microwave) and in a hash - and they are lovely. I can recommend the variety Elfe if anyone ever considered growing them.

I've also harvested one of the chilli peppers - absolutely no heat in it whatsoever but made a good pepper for cooking all the same. I trimmed back the tomato plants so that the fruit would ripen - sadly a lot of the fruit have blossom end rot (my fault when the growbags dried out especially during the June rain and forgetting that the polytunnel plants were not getting watered) I'm pleased with the number of fruit on the chilli plants but out of 10 aubergine plants, only one had a single fruit set. This year was the year I decided would be the last chance to grow aubergines - I won't be growing them again. Meantime, here it is ....

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The other week I bought some pond compost, grit and bigger baskets for the plants and while at the garden centre, also got some more pond plants in anticipation of finishing off the wildlife pond. Pond compost - well, it just seems like sand to me, and worse, the bag was so heavy I barely got it out of the shop trolley into the car boot and had to empty the bag into smaller bags while still in the car when I got it home. I repotted some of the pond plants, and even split some of the newer ones. The plants are sitting in crates of water at the moment:

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I hope to update progress on the pergola/gazebo later today. So I'd better go and finish it off now ...
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lancashire lass
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Re: LL's Gardening Diary

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I've been so focused on the pergola, forgot to mention a couple of other jobs done during my holiday break (more of a reminder to myself that I have been busy particularly as I am disappointed that the pond has not been built and it was meant to be THE main task during my 3 week leave)

All the sweetpeas have been cleared so the planting troughs are ready for the spring bulb planting. I had hoped to have collected lots of seeds especially as I know the flowers were well visited especially by hoverflies during the summer. However, I suspect the wet June had a lot to do with the lack of seeds. On the other hand, I'm glad I repotted the last of the dahlias and trimmed off the seed heads as I have noticed a new crop of flower buds which I'm happy about.

Last Sunday was spent cleaning the pond diy biofilter (the boxed in 200 litre drum filled by the small submerged pump in the pond) It virtually took all morning to do - the filters were very dirty and with lifting out the netting, I disturbed the sediment on the bottom. The water was filthy black but surprisingly did not smell (well, it smelled like fish tank water but its appearance looked like sewage) So as a biofilter it was working very well. It also had a lot of animal life especially the water lice and leeches (not the parasitic type - these eat the detritus in the water) Moving 200 litre of water out of the drum was very time consuming so in the end I hooked a hose on to the small submerged pond pump and put it in the water butt to drain the water into the water butt in the garden (it worked surprisingly well) Meanwhile, the fixed hose from the pond to the biofilter was blocked - I had my suspicions and poured a little hydrogen peroxide into the hose and then blew the water out into a dish and out came a load of blackfly larvae (the same thing happened exactly a year ago) It is quite likely the black fly emerge from the larvae in the hose and are trapped in the boxed in biofilter and a few spiders have taken advantage of the bounty, including this ginormous one which freaked me out when I lifted the lid up! Easily 4 inches in length, I didn't need to do any close up photography to capture it:

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Re: LL's Gardening Diary

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It's always the jobs that you need to do BEFORE you can start on a job that take the time.
Preparation is never wasted.
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lancashire lass
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Roof on the pergola

Post by lancashire lass »

Finally, the roof is now fitted to the pergola. Just a couple of photos:

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The elder tree cut down (I could do with cutting it further down the trunk) and showing the last fence panels that still need to be painted:

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Today it has been cloudy so the light levels inside the pergola have seemed "brighter" and diffused unlike the stark shadow from the fence when the sun is shining. I think when it is all painted white inside, it will be a lot brighter and I'm feeling a bit more confident that the pond plants will be fine when the pond is finally built and filled.
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Re: LL's Gardening Diary

Post by Cheshire Chick »

Lovely photo's and info, as usual LL. The pergola with the roof looks brilliant. You always have so many lovely projects on the go. Looking forward to seeing your wildlife pond. )like(
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Re: LL's Gardening Diary

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Cheshire Chick wrote:Lovely photo's and info, as usual LL. The pergola with the roof looks brilliant. You always have so many lovely projects on the go. Looking forward to seeing your wildlife pond. )like(


Thanks CC - I have to confess I am feeling really quite chuffed with myself as it was quite an ambitious and challenging project putting the roof on. There's still a lot more to be done to "batten" it down before we start getting stormy weather - strong winds would easily rip the roof sheets off if it got underneath them. Luckily most gale force winds come from the south or west which means the roof will protected by (i) the above height new fence at the bottom of the garden and (ii) for all my complaints, the neighbours privet hedge including the Leylandii hedge he planted along his bottom fence just a few years ago (unfortunately he hasn't trimmed them so they are growing out of control now - why would anyone ever plant Leylandii if they can't keep on top of the trimming?) Still, I want to make doubly sure that the whole thing is not going to collapse at the first hint of a wind.

During one of my many breaks while working on the roof, as I sat on the chair I'd left down in the pergola I was reminded of when I first moved and was so pleased there was a pergola when I bought the house until I realised that just about everyone in the street had a view of the pergola and anyone sitting there. It didn't feel at all private and one of the reasons why I rarely went down there. Now that all the fruit trees and especially the hazel have grown and matured, I could barely see any of the other houses so I can definitely say I got the privacy I yearned. However, I have found that all the fruit trees (and hazel) are actually overgrown and need some serious pruning. I think my main task this winter/early spring will be busy cutting them back so I'll probably not have many, if any, flowers or fruit next year (especially the tip bearers)

The fruit trees don't take that much light from the garden except perhaps the Bramleys as their branches spread out and lean towards the polytunnel and polycarbonate greenhouse. Cutting back my side of the privet hedge on the other side helped a lot and when the neighbour trimmed part of his side of the hedge, the light levels definitely increased. As he seemed to take his cue from my trimming my half, I think if I were to cut back the elder in the middle of the hedge, it might encourage him to do the rest of the hedge .... perhaps wishful thinking?

The downside of all the tree trimming past, present and future is that I do have a lot of tree wood to deal with. As I had expected, the trimmings pile has gone down quite a lot over the summer months since the privet hedge trim in February but is still a sizeable heap all the same, and I still have to sort out the remaining trimmings that I never finished sorting. So there's plenty still to do - life would be a lot easier if everything stopped growing once cut back but they have a habit of springing back with twice the vigour than before. One of the elder trees that I cut back has easily grown about 6 or 8 feet branches this year alone yike*
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Re: LL's Gardening Diary

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lancashire lass wrote:life would be a lot easier if everything stopped growing once cut back but they have a habit of springing back with twice the vigour than before. One of the elder trees that I cut back has easily grown about 6 or 8 feet branches this year alone yike*

Don't they just.

All my apples grow 3 twiggy shoots from every branch that I've shortened. And there are parts of my garden that are no go areas until I get the trimmers out.
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Re: LL's Gardening Diary

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I am currently nursing a particularly bad cold that started a week ago so I did absolutely nothing last weekend but the weekend before (after a week back to work) I did manage to part finish the gazebo roof off to at least make it more weatherproof.

What a palaver - first, I needed to buy wood to put across the top of the roof to weigh the sheets down and to prevent them from lifting up in case strong winds got underneath. My plan to buy the wood on that Saturday changed when forecast of rain was forecast for the Sunday when I had hoped to finish the job off. That meant picking up the wood on my way to or from work (as the store was more or less in the same direction) but being 6 foot lengths, one end had to rest on the top of the passenger seat to fit in the car ... not a problem if I didn't also give someone a lift home from work }hairout{ In the end I had to make 2 trips - set off early to get to the store when it opened at 7.00 am, take the wood home then come back in again for work.

Then I had to put at least one coat of fence paint on the wood before it went on the roof because I would never reach it once done. Again, how to paint the wood when I was back at work. As it happens, the "new" car was due for its first MOT yike* A reminder that I can't really keep referring to the car as new anymore so I booked the Friday off work to sort that out. Unfortunately, by the time I'd dropped the car off and walked the mile home I received a phone call an hour later to say it was ready (I had been told that it would be much later) so after walking the mile back to pick up the car, I decided to give up. The wood was eventually painted very early on Saturday morning and by the time I got back from a very quick local shop, the painted wood was dry and ready. The side of the wood seen from inside the pergola was painted white while the outer sides were painted dark brown to match the pergola posts before it was all fitted across the roof and fastened to the side most likely to receive the brunt of any stormy weather.

I didn't have time to put the guttering up but I moved the new water butt I had got and positioned it under the guttering from the chicken run. That said, the water butt doesn't quite fit and the overflow from the guttering landed almost on the edge of the butt so the fill up has been slow despite the volume of rain we've had in recent days. I'm going to have to re-jig it for a proper fit later on.

Meanwhile, the combination of going back to work, having to set off early to avoid the peak traffic and make sure I got a parking space now that the new term has started plus later sunrise times has meant I have been unable to attend to any early morning gardening chores. I think also the arrival of rain has taken the pressure off watering outdoor plants but of course those under cover did not get any. I eventually went down to the compost bin with some kitchen scraps and cardboard and as I looked up and could just see inside the polytunnel, I was surprised to find a sea of red ripened peppers! That warranted a visit despite feeling ill from the cold and wow, all the tomato plants were dead but all the fruit were ripe. I think forgetting to water the veg in the polytunnel had triggered the ripening process so I am well pleased with this little harvest:

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I decided to harvest my one and only aubergine as it felt ripe to the touch, and also 2 Potimarron/Uchiki kuri squashes from the pallet fence pots as the plants were dead. That night I made myself a vegetable curry but I underestimated the chilli heat of the peppers - normally they are only spicy when eaten raw and this seemed to disappear on cooking but not this time. Again, maybe it had something to do with lack of water? One of the peppers I had picked a couple of weeks ago had no heat whatsoever so maybe lack of water triggers a heat response?

Yesterday I was feeling a little better and felt up to a bit of pottering - an indication I'm on the mend when I'm a bit more mobile. The truth is, my plan to plant the spring bulbs last week were totally thwarted when I was ill and when I looked at the packets of bulbs, most were starting to push a shoot through and was becoming a bit more urgent. The plan was to plant them in the trough planters where the sweet peas had been growing on the patio - a total of 14 daffodil bulbs (one out of the packet had rotted), 9 hyacinth and about 30 crocus. The planters were already cleared and ready so was just a case of poking holes in the soil and popping the bulbs in and then putting a layer of fresh compost on top so didn't take very long.

This year our weather has definitely got a more autumnal feel to it than it did last year. And that has put me under pressure to sort the fish pond out before winter arrives. First, 2 of the 4 corrugated PVC roof sheets I normally keep for covering the pond were sacrificed and used for the gazebo so I will need to replace them ASAP! Secondly, with the amount of rain we've had, the pond level rose well above what I like to have it so I'm going to have to empty it and check the water chemistry. Meanwhile, the pond plants I'd bought last month were sitting inside crates ready to be moved down to the gazebo when (if) the wildlife pond is set up - with all the rain this past week however, many of the smaller pots were drowning under about 4 inches of water. Unlike most plants, these bog / marginal plants were not at risk of dying as they can cope with being in water but still, I felt the need to empty some water out of all the crates. The sooner the wildlife pond is sorted, the happier I'll be when the plants are in their final planting areas.

So that's been my sum total of gardening since I went back to work on the 16th September and already it is Friday 4th October and it's unlikely I'll be doing much this weekend. Sad to think of summer on it's way out already. Just a few more tasks to do before winter arrives and then time to look forward to a new season.
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Re: LL's Gardening Diary

Post by Gwenoakes »

WOW WOW and WOW, LL.
What a lot you have achieved, well done you. )t'
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Re: LL's Gardening Diary

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Gwenoakes wrote:WOW WOW and WOW, LL.
What a lot you have achieved, well done you. )t'

Absolutely agree....i love reading your posts )like(
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Sunday 27th October 2019

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After nursing the cold started on the 30th September, it turned into an annoying cough that disturbed my sleep and very slow to shift, but just as it turned the corner of improving, I got a lower back pain (which I'm still trying to fathom out how and why though I know sitting in the car and the chair at work made it worse) so it's been a month since I last ventured in the garden. Yesterday it rained, and rained, and rained .... not surprisingly there have been news of local flooding everywhere and cancelled outdoor events in Derby & Nottingham on Saturday, but this morning it was beautiful with blue sky and a very bright sun though it was also very cold just above freezing. So I ventured in to the garden to assess the damage - I missed getting the pears in on time (I could barely get down the steps let alone pick the fruit and carry them indoors) and I could see the birds had been busy pecking all the windfall - has anyone ever noticed how they peck at all the fruit but never completely eat one at a time? Same with most of the apples too. My task today was mainly to salvage the peppers from the polytunnel and greenhouse but I ended up raking the soggy leaves and rotting fruit off the weed suppressant membrane so that I wasn't slipping and sliding everywhere and also help it to dry quicker.

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First thing to meet me as I opened the back door - the crates on the table on the patio with the pond plants were filled with about 8-10 inches of water and the tops of the plant baskets were a good 3-4 inches below water. For pond and bog plants this was not a big problem but still, even they don't like drowning so the first thing to do was empty the crates of water. I ended up emptying the water into already soggy trough planters and plant pots. The bucket under the table (under the hole for the umbrella) was filled to the top from all the rain this month (bearing in mind all the crates above were also collecting water so just goes to show how much rain we've had this month!):

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I'm glad I got the 2 roof sheets for the pond (2 from the original were used for the pergola/gazebo roof and had to be replaced) and put the cover over the pond about 2 weeks ago - the original idea was to try and keep some of the heat in the water for as long as possible but without it, I'm sure the water level would have reached the top after all the rain!

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Then I made my way into the garden and all the Cosmos and sweetcorn were completely flattened (the weight of the tall Cosmos had been falling over before but now had landed ... they'll need to cleared soon.

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The dahlias are still flowering but the Busy Lizzie vertical garden has now come to the end of its season. Ideally I'd like to get the dahlias into the polytunnel before the frosts but my back is still "delicate" and I can't risk it (this next week at work I have training courses to do as well as a trip to a day conference in Manchester which I can't afford to miss)

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Next - harvest the winter squashes. Not the best harvest but considering some of the light levels in the garden and generally a poor summer, the Uchiki kuri are undoubtedly the best ones to grow in my garden with maybe the Harlequin as a close second but the others were a disaster.

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My hedge trimming pile has been a success - after last year's garden rescue and the harsh trim of the hedge over winter/before spring this year, the pile was well over 9 feet high by late spring. As part of my "climate friendly gardening" and carbon sequestration plans, the idea was to leave the trimmings to naturally rot down (that is, no burning or using fossil fuel to transport, and letting the pile build up a mini ecosystem with natural fungi & bacteria / insects to break it down - the "carbon" is transferred to living matter which excrete / die and become part of the soil carbon) With all the rain this summer and autumn, the pile has definitely settled down by about 4 feet so - this time last year, I would not have been able to see the roof of the greenhouse:

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As I made my way down to the bottom of the garden, I needed to see how the pergola/gazebo roof had fared - not only from the rain but we had had some strong gusty wind (not quite gale force but enough to concern me). Well, the roof was absolutely fine but the pergola floor was wet and seems my roof isn't rain-proof - I had hoped the angle away from the fence end was high enough for water to flow down, but the wood support underneath the roof sheets had bowed a little so as rain dropped off the higher end, the lower roof sheet was more or less level so allowed rain to run back and drip inside the pergola. However, the original point of the roof was to keep the fence dry so that I didn't need to paint it often and I can say that this is the case so not all bad news. I just need to strengthen the supports over the pergola but not today (I have an idea how to do it but will mean balancing on the step ladders and is a big task) The soil of the pond site was damp but I had upturned trays (old plastic dog baskets) which were clearly bone dry so most likely the dampness was soaking through from the garden behind the fence (and the original boundary used to be a little stream before it was filled in)

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As I took photos as evidence for my records of progress in the pergola, I heard a screech and a bird flew between the hazel and willow and landed on the winter jasmine trellis fence. My first reaction was that it was a pigeon by the size and shape and generally pale grey and white plumage on its back and head. As I looked at it, it slowly turned its head and looked at me and I suddenly realized that I was looking at a bird of prey going off the size of its big eyes and hooked yellow beak but before I could lift the camera up to take a photo, it dropped off the trellis fence on the other side and flew low out of sight. I caught glimpse of a chestnut brown colour as it did so, but for the life of me I can't identify what it might have been. Most google photos show images of the bird from under its body while flying or facing it on the ground rather than from above it and nothing seems to match. My first thought was maybe a kite but most websites indicate more likely a harrier or sparrowhawk but I can't be sure as I didn't see the front of its body. Still, it was an amazing sight and not something I expected to see in my garden - I know I am trying to be more "wildlife friendly" but even I never thought I'd see anything like that! Of course, having a bird of prey land in my garden doesn't mean much other than there must be a population nesting nearby and part of its territory - but as most birds of prey populations in the UK are struggling, it is a lovely sight all the same. Shame there's no photo ....
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Re: LL's Gardening Diary

Post by Mo »

A quick look at the RSPB page suggests golden eagle - but I don't know how big it was (doesn't sound very likely somehow)
How exciting. A buzzard has a yellow beak too
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Re: LL's Gardening Diary

Post by KarenE »

You'd recognise a kite by it's tail, and with its wings out it is a big bird. Perhaps it's a sparrowhawk, they are quite common these days. Or a buzzard, they are a lot bigger of course.

How exciting though! Can't beat the majestic sight of a bird of prey, as long as they aren't going for anything in your garden of course :-D
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Re: LL's Gardening Diary

Post by Freeranger »

We live in a raptor conservation area, so am starting to be able to recognise them. Sounds maybe like a red kite:
https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/trees- ... /red-kite/
or a sparrow-hawk or a kestrel, because they all might go into a garden. This page talks about distinguishing them from each other:
https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildl ... arrowhawk/
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