Happy New Year!

An unnaturally warm day, though the sun is welcome. We do need a decent cold snap soon to clear the air and cleanse the ground but it’s only just January so plenty of time for frosts and snow! The croft isn’t completely quiet even now: the fish are still rising, birds chattering and barn owls going to and fro at night. The ground is thoroughly waterlogged and muddy which is quite normal but makes it hard to do any serious work at the moment so we can just sit back and enjoy the view for a bit.

Autumn colours

As autumn lingers the field is gradually slowing down in preparation for the winter ahead.

The swallows are long gone and the bats no longer flitter across the pond at dusk but the fieldfares have arrived to spend the winter here and there are plenty of haws in the hawthorn hedgerows to eat. The goldfinches should do well with lots of common knapweed seed heads to feed on during the cold winter days.

The bulrush around the pond edge has turned yellow but the roach are still active, feeding on insects on the surface before heading down to the depths out of the way of any predators.

Though there are no barn owls in the nest boxes at the moment they are around, appearing in the torchlight at night, their silent flight interrupted by loud screeching if you get too close.

There’s work to be done still: owl boxes to fix, pruning and cutting of branches but the main hedges will be left alone until there are no more berries to be had by hungry birds.

The first frosts should have stopped any growth in the meadow but there’s the occasional late knapweed flower or even an oxeye daisy around the edges that thinks it’s still summer: small dashes of colour in the late autumn sun.

What a difference nine months makes

As high summer takes hold the pond and field show how much they have recovered from the muddy battlefield of last October. The meadow is lush and the water clear and once more full of life: dragonflies crisscross the surface and squadrons of young house martens noisily practice their divebombing skills. As the sun goes down pipistrelle bats appear silently in the evening above the ripples and plops of hungry roach. And then the barn owls appear.

Ghost of a dragonfly

It’s the time of year for our dragonflies to morph from larvae to adults. Here’s the discarded cast (‘exuvia’) of the old skin, probably from a broad-bodied chaser as we have lots of those here and this cast is quite big (about two inches long).

The ghostly remains of a dragonfly larva.

Spawning roach

The roach are spawning at last as the weather finally warms up. They’ve been getting all splashy in a clump of water crowfoot and have been at it all day.

Normally rather shy, today the roach are behaving like a pod of dolphins.

Swan Lake

A juvenile mute swan arrived today, quite bold and hungry, currently hoovering up the water crowfoot (which is a shame as it’s just started to flower). Lovely addition to the pond though.

Still a little brown = a juvenile
10pm. Looks like he’s staying the night.

A blank canvas

The pond is recovering from some work we did in the autumn and is now wider, deeper and has a proper island for our ducks. The recent rain has filled it to the brim and the field around it is slowly turning from mud to grass again. Things are looking a little bare at the moment (it is December after all) but we’re already planning for a spring of planting around the bank and by the summer it should be full of wildlife again.

Waiting for the wildlife to return