Thursday, 18 June 2009

Snails and Pails and Nature Tales

A post at last! Life with all of its complications has intervened and unfortunately this post has been a long time coming but here it is, better late than never.

The weather here has been distinctly variable with some lovely warm sunshine but we have also had quite a lot of heavy thundery rain. I have been doing battle with slugs and snails which have been voraciously eating my young plants. I have collected buckets-full by torchlight and HLH has deposited them away from the house, but by the amount of plants I am losing I think they must make their way back again! Perhaps if I looked out around three in the morning there would be an army of them marching back in the gate!!

The garden is still busy with juvenile birds getting used to finding their own food and discovering the delights of the changeable British weather! The photo above is a juvenile Blackbird.

'When on a summer's morn I wake,
And open my two eyes,
Out to the clear, born-singing rills
My bird-like spirit flies.

To hear the Blackbird, Cuckoo, Thrush,
Or any bird in song;
And common leaves that hum all day
Without a throat or tongue.

And when Time strikes the hour for sleep,
Back in my room alone,
My heart has many a sweet bird's song
And one that's all my own.'
(William Henry Davies)

I am very pleased to have juvenile House Sparrows in the garden again, I remember the time when I would spot a bird in the garden and say 'Oh it's only a Sparrow', but after years of hardly seeing one at all I have learnt never to take even the most common bird for granted and it really has been a pleasure to see a family of sparrows visiting in the last week or two.

Juvenile Female House Sparrow

This juvenile male was so wet he had developed a punk hairdo!

Here's dad glad to be able to concentrate on feeding himself for a change.

This juvenile Great Tit seemed to be wondering where all the water was coming from!

When the sun came out this juvenile Robin posed prettily.

While mum or dad had a bath

Please don't photograph me in the bath!

Sunbathing to dry those newly washed feathers!

This juvenile female Chaffinch was also enjoying the sunshine

and so was this male, possibly dad

Because of the thistle seeds it eats, in Christian symbolism, the Goldfinch is associated with the Passion and Christ's Crown of Thorns. The Goldfinch, appearing in pictures of the Madonna and the Christ Child, represents the foreknowledge Jesus and Mary had of the Crucifixion.

I always think juvenile Goldfinches look quite odd without the vivid red and black markings of their parents but they are of course unmistakeable with their lovely rich golden colours.

'Have you heard the Goldfinch
Singing in the thorn
O what charming music,
This bright summer morn'
(Benjamin Gough)

While on one of our usual walks with Louis, our dog, we saw another male Chaffinch.

We also saw this Honey Bee, busy in the sunshine collecting nectar from a Dog Rose. After a bad couple of years for bees it is nice to see plenty around this year, hopefully their predicted decline will not be as bad as first feared.

and this Bumble Bee was doing the same on

Russian Comfrey

We also saw


Woody Nightshade

'My name is Nightshade, also Bittersweet;
Ah, little folk, be wise!
Hide your hands behind you when we meet,
Turn you away your eyes.
My flowers you shall not pick, nor berries eat,
For in them poison lies.'
(Cicely Mary Barker)

Last year was the worst year for butterfly numbers for 25 years! But on our walk we saw this Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly basking in the sunshine.

This butterfly used to be commonly seen in UK gardens but has suffered a dramatic decline in recent years especially in South East England where its numbers are down by over 80 per cent since 1990. One theory for the dramatic decline in this particular butterfly is climate change, but another is the parasitoid fly Sturmia Bella which was first found in Britain in 1999, its arrival from Southern Europe could be a result of climate change or possibly the accidental introduction of caterpillars brought in from Europe. The eggs of the Sturmia Bella are increasingly found on the Stinging Nettles which are the host plant of the Small Tortoiseshell Caterpillars. It is thought that the caterpillars are eating the eggs which develop inside them as they reach the cocoon stage, killing the host. Research into the decline is being carried out by Oxford University.

I just love to see the bright splashes of red of


'Summer set lip to earth's bosom bare,
And left the flushed print in a poppy there:
Like a yawn of fire from the grass it came,
And the fanning wind puffed it to flapping flame.'
(Francis Thompson)

These young squirrels were photographed by my best friend's husband on their shed roof and he kindly allowed me to put them on this post, (thank you S).

'Furly, curly
What a tail!
Tall as a feather
Broad as a sail!'

I shall try to get another post out in a few days, and I hope you all have a wonderful sunny nature-filled weekend.


  1. Your photos are gorgeous, and all that information makes for great reading! What make of camera do you use?


  2. just looked through your blog shysongbird, and was quite taken aback at how organised, neat, informative, colourful, i could go on and on, it really was a pleasure to view, do love the robins on your last post.


  3. What a great post to come back with. So many juvenile birds in your garden; it must seem like a nursery. :)
    Love those shots of the Robin; especially the expression of the last one in the bath. He does not look amused lol
    Great picture of the Small Tortoiseshell, with interesting information too.
    Let's hope this year they we have a decent summer, and they all make a good comeback.

  4. It is sad to read you are suffering from declines in butterflies and house sparrows. We have far fewer butterflies now days due to the use of so many pesticides.

    I enjoy seeing your bird photos. Many of our birds have the same name but they look much different. I wonder if the species are related.

    Here it has been cold and rainy too. Next week they predict hot temperatures and plenty of sun. That should bring out the butterflies. I hope to get some photos.

  5. I just love your posts Jan, the beautiful pictures and lovely verses and comments have really brightened an otherwise miserable day today, we seem to have a bout of depression running through our "wrinklies" at the moment (they like being called that I'm not being rude, I love them all) and this post has lifted mine a little so Thank You very much

  6. Lovely photos :)

    I have to agree that juvenile Goldfinch look odd, they're certainly the ugly ducklings of the garden birds and remind me of little vultures because their heads look bare thanks to the light feathers!!

  7. A post worth wiating for songbird,lots of varied subjects!

  8. What great photos of all the juvenile birds in your garden. We're lucky if we get an adult Chaffinch never mind a juvenile! I love the poems you add to the posts.

  9. Love all these photos Jan!! I have never seen juvenile Robins or Goldfinches. I wish I'd just see one Goldfinch..Ha! I see adult Robins around though. Not many babies this year. No baby Cardinals like last year. Something must have killed them. Maybe the darn Bluejays. I have too many of them here. I can finally catch up on posts, now that my internet connection is working again. (Knock on wood) Take care and thanks for your comments!!

  10. Wow, what a fantastic blog! You never fail to deliver! Stunning pics of the juveniles, and the bees and flowers. Absolutely beautiful x

  11. Thank you for all the birds! I enjoyed each photograph but the Robin bathing is just so fun!
    I also love seeing the butterflies and the bees. Hopefully the numbers will rebound.
    Have a delightful Summer Solstice!

  12. What a lovely post! I enjoyed all your photos of the birds and the excerpts of poetry. I'm glad to hear the number of bees seems to be increasing there; I have seen many more honeybees this year than in the past. But it's too bad about the Tortoiseshell Butterfly. I haven't seen too many butterflies here this year yet, but I'm hoping once my coneflowers bloom that they will come.

  13. Beautiful snaps. What a variety - flowers, birds, squirrels. I loved the snaps of sparrow's playing in water.

    I used to see these sparrows in plenty earlier. With rapid modernization it has become rarity.

  14. not much left to say shysongbird,another wonderful post of brilliant photos,and lovely words.A pleasure.

  15. The robins are my favourite, and to me there is no better Christmas card than one that features them.
    We are having a damp summer, but so far we have been fortunate not to have the slugs and snails that we have noticed in previous years. Hostas droop at the mention of them!
    Your poppies are lovely, I'm still waiting for ours to flower.
    It's nice to see you include the wildflowers as well.
    Have a great weekend..

  16. I'm just catching up with the blogs, Jan. As usual a wonderful read, full of interest and diversity and so well punctuated with pictures.

    But that robin really is a show-stealer wearing such an indignant expression on his face!

  17. Hi Jan.....have you thought about marking the snails shell with tippex.....that way you will know if they are the same snails returning. I saw this on a programme the other day and thought it was a good idea, interesting.

    Please send the rain this garden is as dry as a bone. There is no forecast of rain either.....

    I to am blessed with lots more sparrows this year. As you so rightly say with their decline it is good to see them breeding succesfully. My father has also said that he has seen more this year. Good news eh......

    I love, absolutely love that robin....his expression is priceless.....

  18. Ali, denzil, holdingmoments and Roses and Lilacs: Thank you.

    Ali, thank you so much for your kind comments. I have a Canon 450D and am still trying to get to grips with it!

    Denis, thank you very much for your lovely comments, you really are very kind.
    I was quite concerned earlier in the year as I didn't see a Robin for some time, so I have been really pleased to see them again recently, and accompanied by their youngsters.

    Keith, thank you very much. It has been lovely to see all the juveniles, they are eating me out of house and home :)
    The Robin did look offended to be photographed in the bath, I can't say I blame him!
    I hope the butterflies have a better year although I haven't seen many in the garden at all so far but maybe when the Buddleia is in flower I will see more.

    Marnie, thank you, it is such a shame to see so many familiar species in decline whether it is birds butterflies flowers etc. I think we humans have an awful lot to answer for.
    I too have noticed we share a lot of the same bird names, Goldfinch, Robin etc but as you say they are really quite different, it is interesting.
    We also have been promised good weather next week, I hope they are right. It will be the start of Wimbledon tennis fortnight, that can be either very wet or hot and sunny, we shall see! :)

  19. Jayne,Liz,Warren and Pete: Thank you.

    Jayne, thank you so much, you are always so very kind.
    I'm so sorry your 'wrinklies' :) are feeling out of sorts, I can well imagine that must have a knock on effect on you, it is not nice at all to feel down, I know. If I have helped even a little with that, if only briefly, then I feel very honoured and thank you for saying so. I do hope you all feel brighter soon.

    Liz, thank you very much. Poor little Goldfinches, they do look funny, like they've gone out without their clothes on somehow, you are right it is the bare looking head that does it ;)

    Warren, thank you very much. Hopefully I will get the next post out sooner.

    Pete, thank you.

  20. Pam, Ginnymo, Karen and Q: Thank you.

    Pam, thank you very much. We do have a good amount of juveniles at the moment and my goodness they are eating a lot. I found the secret of attracting a good variety of birds was to give plenty of different types of food especially Sunflower hearts and to try to have some trees, bushes or large shrubs to give them cover.

    Ginnymo, thank you very much for your comments, it's a shame you haven't seen many babies this time but I'm glad you have so much other wildlife to watch and photograph where you are.
    I'm pleased your internet connection is working again, it is so frustrating when that happens!

    Karen, thank you so much for your really lovely comments, they are very much appreciated.

    Sherry, thank you so much. It is always fun to watch the birds bathing but that little Robin did make me smile, I think he definitely objected to the camera.
    I hope you have a wonderful weekend and Summer Solstice also, how quickly the year is moving on!

  21. Must be lovely to see all the juvenile birds.Wow! very interesting post and nice images.

  22. Hi Shysongbird,

    Loved reading about your various garden visitors. Glad that you too are seeing a few sparrows at the moment, and even better to see juveniles.

    I loved the wild flower shots whilst you were out and about too. Looking forward to seeing more soon.

  23. Another interesting read Jan. Love the bathing Robin and all the young birds.

  24. Rose, Rajesh, swatson and Sheila: Thank you.

    Rose, welcome and thank you so much for visiting and for your very kind comments.
    I do hope the bees etc. have a better time this year, we have had two very wet Summers in succession here which hasn't been good for bees, butterflies or even birds, our Blue Tits have also struggled, with the caterpillars they need when they are nestlings, being washed from the trees by the torrential rain.
    Please visit again, you will be most welcome.

    Rajesh, thank you very much. Yes it is lovely to see more Sparrows again and I agree with you modernisation does not help at all, we humans have much to answer for!

    swatson, thank you so much Sheila for your (always) kind and generous comments. It really is appreciated :)

    Sheila, thank you, I absolutely agree about Robins and Christmas cards. I have a tradition of putting all the cards featuring Robins, together on my mantelpiece, I look forward each year to seeing how many Robin cards I will get.
    The snails really are a pain here (there seem to be more of those than slugs) I have a Hosta in a pot right by my back door which I thought I would be able to keep safe and already it is nearly destroyed, and only yesterday I picked 9 huge snails from one of my hanging baskets!! It is so frustrating.
    I hope you have a wonderful snail free weekend :)

  25. Tricia, Cheryl, NatureStop and Joe: Thank you.

    Tricia, thank you very much. The Robin made me laugh too. It spent quite a while in there.

    Cheryl, thank you. I have never thought of doing that, it is an interesting idea although it still wouldn't solve my problem ;) I suppose if they were the same ones we could take them further but then they would turn up eventually anyway, ah well! I know the real answer is pellets but I just would rather not, I tried some 'wildlife friendly' ones but they were no good at all.
    It is good news that a number of people are seeing more Sparrows lately, I hope it continues.
    I'm sorry to hear how dry your garden is, we were promised lovely weather this weekend but it is quite dull today, maybe next week just in time for Wimbledon!
    Have a lovely weekend, whether in the garden or out.

    NatureStop, thank you very much for your kind comments. Yes it is lovely to have so many juveniles in the garden they are such fun to watch.

    Joe, thank you, it is fun to see all the juveniles although they are getting through a huge amount of food, very costly!!
    My Mother instilled in me my love of Nature, she knew the names of just about every wild thing she saw, I am ashamed that I have forgotten a lot of the names of the wild flowers she taught me, but I do love them so much.

  26. John, thank you very much. There is so much to see and enjoy at this time of year.

  27. lol, I remember years ago before I got chickens I had a similar problem with slugs. Each morning I would pick them off the plants, put them in a bucket and take them to the woods. The next morning they would all be back. It was a constant battle. I really enjoyed looking at all your photos.

  28. Hi Jan.
    It feels like you are banging your head against a brick waal when it comes to Slugs and Snails, doesn't it? Great set of photo's, especially the Small Tortoise shell. Have a good weekend.

  29. Hi Jan, simply loved going through your photos! Wish I could take bird pictures like that!! It's interesting to see what you can photograph in your walks. Great to see the bees and the blooms. The Tortoise Shell butterfly has such pretty makings and I found the info on its decline interesting.

    Thank you for leaving a comment on my blog. I'm still glowing in the warmth of your words... After my recent Hibiscus post, I realised the plant was grown indoors. I'd never realised or thought about that aspect before. But love to know how the same plants have different kinds of requirements.

    Have a great Sunday! And happy times in your beautiful garden.

  30. oldcrow61, Ken and Kanak: Thank you.

    OC, thank you very much. I have pretty well admitted defeat with the snails now especially after picking 9 huge ones from a hanging basket!
    I remember as a child my grandmother used to keep chickens which I thought was great fun and of course the daily eggs were lovely, I wasn't so keen when she fattened them up for Christmas though!

    Ken, thank you and you are spot on that is exactly what it feels like!
    They really are a pain!
    I hope you are enjoying your weekend too.

    Kanak, thank you for your very kind comments and for visiting again. I am hoping when my Buddleia comes into flower I may see more butterflies but at the moment there don't seem to be many visiting the garden at all.
    I have been fascinated to see the blooms growing in your garden which we only see as house plants here.
    I hope you enjoy your Sunday too and I know you will continue to enjoy your lovely garden.

  31. Hi Jan,

    Thought you might be interested in this:

    That American dwarf wisteria for a very good price too! I paid £40 from B&Q, if only I'd seen this!!!

  32. wonderful, delightful post. i love all your photographs mixed with the perfect poetry.
    all the baby birds are great to have around and to get to take their the robin in the amazingly beautiful birdbath.
    hope you had a great weekend.

  33. What a beautiful group of pictures. I have to agree with you that I have learned to appreciate the Junco that we see constantly and not take him for granted. In fact he's been the cutest little guy with his Mrs. lately we've been very entertained.

  34. Liz, marmee and RainGardener: Thank you.

    Liz, thanks for that, it was kind of you to think of it and looks like a good bargain!

    marmee, thank you so much. It really is such fun watching all the youngsters getting to know the big wide world! Thank you for the compliment on the bird bath, we have had it for years and the birds love it, some days it has to be filled more than once, especially after a crowd of Starlings have used it!
    Have a lovely week and hugs to Bea.

    RainGardener, thank you very much. Yes, when I read of so many birds in decline it really makes me appreciate every one I see, even the commonest. As you infer watching them with their families is always entertaining!

  35. ...always so much to interesting....
    but the little Robin bathing, oh....those photos stole the show for me. Cute, cute...loved them!!

  36. Hi again Jan:-)

    Great posting with wonderful photos and info. I completely understand how life and its complications can delay postings. At this time of year there is lots to do in the garden too.

    Last year, at this time, I neglected my garden a tad but chatted lots about it in my blog. This year my blog must wait in line as I see to my garden. A tricky balance :-D

    Have a brilliant weekend! Oh… and enjoy the tennis if you’re following it :-D

  37. Thanks for visiting my blog and leaving a comment. Slugs and snails can be very annoying but I have learnt to let them have their way, I have just stopped planting things that will attract them. I love Hosters but they are a waste of time in my garden. I just try to move on and not worry about about things that are lost. There are plenty more plants that are better suited to my garden that won't attract the pests.

  38. Chris,

    Thank you very much. Yes I'm sure you have the right idea and ideally I would be the same and only grow plants which aren't too troubled by snails but my sister-in-law goes to so much trouble and is so generous with the plants she grows from seed for me that I really feel an obligation to try hard to protect them from the snails but of course when we have a prolonged period of rain they do such a lot of damage!


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