Friendly Robin

 I can’t be alone in delighting in the company of the friendly robin when I work in the garden.  They have a delightful lilting song in full cry but it’s a simple chirp that alerts me to their presence and it’s always very near, only just out of reach and within actual reach a moment later. I turn the soil over and they seize opportunity, insect, seed or worm. I used to regularly throw food to a particularly tame one through the patio window until a mouse also took an interest and my infatuation folded. Anyway this little beauty has been at the same spot at a local RSPB  reserve for our last three visits. The exact same spot and today I noticed s/he had been ringed which seems excessive for a tiny thing even for a bird reserve. No hint of resentment however. Jewellery.

RHS Garden Harlow Carr in Harrogate, North Yorkshire

RHS Garden Harlow Carr in Harrogate, North Yorkshire is a great visit and today the sun shone all day, the bees emerged, and one could see the plants opening out to welcome spring. So here are the highlights.



I’m no great lover of heathers though ….



Catkins can be as good as blossom



“Anna’s Red” and certainly on my newly created shopping list



Another of those catkins



Skimmia japonica “Red Diamonds”



The head only of the towering reed sculpture



Kale “Redbor” is tasty too



Primula palinuro



Primula allionii ‘Mrs Dyas’



Primula ‘Joan Hughes’



Primula allionii ‘ Apple Blossom’



Saxifraga species and my favourite today



Olsynium douglasii 



Primula ‘Netta Dennis’



 Dionysia aretioides ‘Bevere’ and spectacular



Fritillaria raddeana



Draba yunnanensis



Cornus mas – a mass of blossom



We had a visitor at lunch



Location for lunch



Visitor 2

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Burnby Hall Gardens: Dovecote

Burnby Hall Gardens lies in the North Yorkshire town of Pocklington, the one time home of my mother-in-law. We went to see the National Collection of Hardy Water Lilies to be covered shortly. However the dovecote caught my eye, full of birds, mostly all-white. I’m informed by a friend that a certain ruthlessness is required for a colony of doves to be entirely white – technically the collective noun is “piteousness of doves”, though I prefer “colony”.

So I guess there is to be no dovecote in our garden as I am not pitiless.

I did spot one miscreant intruder, strutting its stuff, a muscular escapee from a loft and one I should have reported.

Geese and Ducks at Saville Gardens, February 7th

We saw two interesting birds at Saville Gardens at the weekend: the Egyptian goose and the Mandarin duck, both originally brought in as ornamental ducks for grand gardens. They have of course escaped and are described as feral. How Saville’s are named is another matter, it being one of the grand gardens. They are much too pretty to be feral. Related to the shelduck, the Egyptian goose has built up quite a population in the Norfolk coast and Broads. Mandarins are seem more widely in England and Wales but in my experience they are still not common.

Egyptian goose

Mandarin duck

Barnacle Geese and Hybrid, Cleethorpes Boating Lake, 28th January 2016

Cleethorpes seems to have the answer to the ubiquitous Canada Geese that plague parks all over Britain for they are simply not evident at the small Boating Lake by the sea front. However Greylag abound and in the distance we saw what we first thought to be Canada Geese, but after a few visits realised that it was actually a flock of Barnacle Geese spending the winter with us. I know of thousands that winter in my home county of Cumbria by the Solway Firth but did not realise they were to be found on the East Coast of the UK. I wondered about this and discovered an article in the Grimsby Telegraph, dated August 2012, and the following account from a reader: “Originally a pair of barnacles arrived and the following year they returned with three goslings – the following year there were 11 and so it has gone on over the years. The last time we counted them there were well over 40.” I estimate there are double that amount now and two others. One is a Greylag that was noted by the correspondent in 2012, and has always been with the flock since we paid attention, plus another hybrid, again identified in 2012, that may well be the result of a pairing with the North American “Ross’s Goose”. Given that Barnacle Geese spend over six months of the year as far north as Svalbard I suspect the solitary Greylag and hybrid have interesting lives.

Afternote: I received word from Steve at Birdguides explaining this population of geese appears to be a feral flock and therefore not truly of interest to the organisation. “Feral” suggests birds that have escaped from domestication and then bred freely. Now we don’t want another Canada Goose or Grey Squirrel population do we? Certainly not but I will make an exception in this case.