Monday, 28 February 2011

Tit in residence

Here is a Banceithin exclusive, the first video pictures of activity in our nest boxes. The Philpotts (my sisters family) kindly bought me a next box camera. It’s a dinky little thing that gives great pictures even in the dead of night. It also has a little microphone that picks up their tapping and chirruping, unfortunately in this snapshot, you can only hear Teri, and me nagging Philippa.

The Blue tit has been pecking away at the outside of the box, around the entrance. Apparently this can be to enlarge the hole, but it is probably displaying to any nearby females saying ‘come and have a look at my fancy new house!’

Sunday, 20 February 2011

The Stakeout

I’m discovering that being a Keep Wales Tidy Litter Champion changes how you view the world, or more specifically it changes what you view in the world. A stroll is no longer just a stroll. The eyes flit from hedgerow to river bank, seeing past the tips of emerging daffodils, zoning in on the glint amongst the grasses. Is it a crisp packet? Or maybe a can? A flick of the wrist and quick as a flash the litter picker is in, out and the offending item stowed away in the big blue bag.

It’s just as well that my long suffering Other Half mastered the art of selective listening some time ago as these days every journey, however long or short, involves a mini-lecture on the evils of litter and general bemoaning and bewailing over the ever present roadside detritus. More worrying, for him and other road users, is my habit when driving of watching the verge ahead instead of the road ahead. The litter wagon has plenty of parking related injuries and an encounter with a ditch or, worse still, a tractor could be the end of her.

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I’ve also discovered that trying to collect litter on a beach on a very windy day is an exhausting exercise in frustration. The big blue bag becomes a big blue balloon and I end up collecting the same piece of litter several times over as the wind works like a mini tornado whipping each piece up and out of the bag and back onto the beach. Windy day or not, working the high tide mark is never good for the soul – I end up feeling vaguely depressed by the never-ending plastic flotsam and jetsam. Last week I collected nothing but bottle tops, and no bottles. Is there someone further up the coast collecting topless bottles? 

Meanwhile, closer to home, my arch enemy the demon diet Pepsi drinker is alive and well , with a thirst for low calorie carbonated cola that remains undiminished and unquenched. Yesterday, just 11 weeks since my last litter pick down tin can alley, I collected another 50 diet Pepsi cans. That’s a serious daily intake of aspartame and caffeine! By the law of probabilities, if I keep walking up and down the lane I may just accidentally on purpose catch him in the act, indeed I may even get a diet Pepsi can related injury if I get between car, projectile and hedge at just the wrong moment. The possibility of a stakeout has not yet been discounted – I have a tent, a sleeping bag and a gas stove, and if the quantity of evidence sitting in my big blue bag is anything to go by, I wouldn’t have to camp out too long before a “disposal" incident” takes place. But knowing my luck (and propensity to snooze excessively), I’d probably oversleep and get a face full of exhaust fumes and mud as I poke my head out through the tent flaps just in time to see the offender disappearing over the horizon and another empty can bouncing under the nearest bramble thicket.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

All creatures great and small

It happened while I was in the veg plot. I heard it as I squatted down to whisper words of encouragement to the drooping purple sprouting broccoli. I’d last heard that sound some time back in October but there was no mistaking it. And then there it was again, this time near my left ear. I smiled to myself, feeling relieved and uplifted in equal measure. Yes, the bees had made it through the long winter and on the first day of real sunshine, the kind that feels warm on the face and raises hopes that just maybe spring might really be around the corner, they were out and about, flexing their little wings & stretching their fuzzy legs. It looked like party time outside the hive as bee after bee emerged from the hive, hovered tentatively & then shot off over the field buzzing busily.


I’m a beekeeper with a tendency to worry constantly, so relief soon turned to anxiety. Would my bees overdo the exercise, fooled by the sun into thinking winter is over, fly too far in search of non-existent nectar and pollen sources and not make it back before the sun drops and the temperature plummets? If the queen is still on a winter egg laying break then these precious worker bees still had a vital role to play in keeping the colony alive until there is new brood ready to hatch. No point asking the bees to be careful. Nothing to do but trust that the bees know best. I was itching to lift the roof and peer inside in search of queenie, but as warm as the sun might feel it would be unfair and foolhardy of me to risk the life of the colony by introducing great wafts of February chill into the cluster. Sit tight and keep watching and waiting.

Back on the plot, inspection of over-wintered crops continued – brussels looking like bog brushes, broccoli exhausted by weeks of freezing, thawing, freezing, thawing, winter lettuces stalled at a size that wouldn’t even feed an anorexic fairy.


There’s good news and bad news down in the fruit patch. The bad news is that the winter storms took no time at to deconstruct my carefully constructed network of bird scaring DVD danglers. They’re now tanglers rather than danglers, and I’m picking DVDs out of the grass and hedge. The good news (or perhaps, given the lack of scarers, that should be bad news) is that weeks of way below zero temperatures haven’t killed off the plants – the blueberries and blackcurrants have buds galore… for now.

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