Saturday, 12 March 2011

Cheerful Colour and a Continental Cormorant

Several local walks recently showed definite signs that Winter is starting to lose his cruel and icy grip and that Spring's gentle hand is reaching out to make her tentative mark upon the landscape.

'WITH rushing winds and gloomy skies
The dark and stubborn Winter dies.
Far-off, unseen, Spring faintly cries,
Bidding her earliest child arise:
(Bayard Taylor)

The Snowdrops won't be here much longer.


'Snow-drop, earliest flower of Spring !
Array'd in spotless white;
O hither come, and with thee bring
What must all eyes delight.
(Catherine George Ward Mason)

There were lots of Blue Tits enjoying the sunshine and examining every twig and branch for insects. The more yellow the male's breast is the more he is attractive to the female as the yellowness indicates high levels of carotene pigmentation due to the amount of yellowy-green caterpillars he has eaten. This tells the female he will be good at feeding chicks!

In the West Country the Blue Tit is sometimes known as 'Little Billy Biter' as it is a staunch defender of its nest and will peck at an intruding finger!

Blue Tit

This Great Tit had its feathers fluffed up to keep itself warm on what was a sunny but cold day.

Great Tit

I was thrilled to see my first Violets of the year.


'The violet in her green-wood bower,

Where birchen boughs with hazels mingle,
May boast itself the fairest flower
In glen, or copse, or forest dingle.'
(Sir Walter Scott)

There is one particular place where I can usually be guaranteed to see our tiniest bird, the delightful little Goldcrest but photographing it is not guaranteed, they are such busy little birds, always moving from branch to branch and tree to tree in their quest for a meal of tasty insects. On this occasion I managed a couple of photos (the one at the top of this post and the following one) although neither are as well focused as I would have liked. This one shows how it earned its name.


It was also lovely to see the cheerful, golden flowers of the Gorse which looked beautiful in the sunshine against the blue sky. If you look carefully you will see at least three Ladybirds, another sure sign that the year is moving forward.


'And over-head in richer gold
The gorse's hardy flow'rs unfold.'
(Mary Russell Mitford)

I was fascinated by this Lichen.

Lichen (Bushy Fruticose)

Lichen is a primitive plant species, strands of algae linked with roots and branches of a fungus that together absorb minerals from the ground and conduct photosynthesis. They first appeared about 400 million years ago!

It can grow almost anywhere, from moist bark to recently cooled lava to frozen rocks. Its body, called a thallus, can be made of different types of fungi and blue-green algae, which will determine how much water it needs or to what it can attach.

Three major types of Lichen grow into different shapes on various surfaces. Crustose grows into unique flat plates that look like mushrooms. Foliose looks leafier, with small, green lobes, and grows in wetter climates beside moss. If you see lichen that resembles viney clumps hanging from branches, it is probably fruticose which is what I think the one above is although I am not sure of the exact identification.

As it is very sensitive to pollution, especially sulphur dioxide, environmentalists use it's presence as a gauge of the cleanliness of the air. Incidentally, Beatrix Potter was one of the first people to postulate that lichens are a symbiosis of fungi and bacteria!


It is always a pleasure to see Long-tailed Tits flitting from tree to tree. This one was doing an impression of a Treecreeper :)

Long-tailed Tit

'Like feathered dart, the long-tailed titmouse flies'
(Allan Ramsay)


On our latest visit to Draycote I spotted a Cormorant which looked slightly odd to me. I took several photos of it and did some research when I got home and found it was the Continental Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo sinensis This subspecies is uncommon in the UK and is usually found inland. While the white head is an indication that it is P. c. sinensis, the only reliable feature that can be used to separate them from the British subspecies, P. c. carbo, is the angle of the gular patch (the yellow patch at the base of the bill). I was pleased I had noticed it was different and found later that it had been mentioned on the Draycote website.

Continental Cormorant (above and below)

Finally, these Daffodil buds were a welcome sight. In the next few weeks, as these lovely flowers open properly, they will be brightening the gardens, parks and roadsides all across Britain, with their colourful and cheerful faces.


Have a lovely weekend and ... enjoy the beauty of Nature, wherever you are.


  1. I really envy you as it is really spring over your place. We still have 40cm of snoa and even if I went out today, it was kind of hard to walk in the snow.... Beautiful spring collection you got!!!

  2. Hi Jan,

    Lovely photos, excellent to have caught a Goldcrest wish we had them here but with a lack of evergreens in the area they're unlikely to ever visit.

    I have a Daffodil beginning to open up here now, lovely! And it's under the Cherry tree - one of the shadiest parts of the garden!

    There's so much to do, I'm well behind thanks to loads of essays I've had to do in the past few weeks.
    I've a few plants I need to move and divide...

    Hope you have a nice weekend!

  3. Hi Songbird,
    What a 'spring filled' post :-) I see you are coming to grips with Goldcrest Photography :-) they are tricky little fellows! There is a lot of that lichen in the woods on my patch, just as you have pictured, weird plant!

  4. You have caught the brilliant Goldcrest, I can't get it. Beautiful blog.

  5. Hi Jan. Lovely to see all the signs that Spring is just around the corner. Gold star for the Goldcrest pics .. still on my most wanted list!
    The P. c. sinensis was a nice find. Here is a link you may find interesting

    Cheers FAB.

  6. Well done Jan,
    A superb mix of good photos, excellent verse and informative narrative.
    I felt warm and almost summery reading it.

  7. Wow! Looks like Spring has already come at your place! Wonderful pictures Jan!! Can't believe the flowers you have already. I can't wait for things to start popping up here. But way too much snow on the ground yet. Take good care!! Hugs!!

  8. A rich variety of the signs of spring you've captured here Jan.
    Well done with the Goldcrest, (little imps to capture lol), and good spot with the Cormorant.

  9. ShySongbird ,
    Really like your Goldcrest shots , a species that can drive the person behind the camera demented ,as I'm sure you know .
    Have seen reports of your Continental Cormorant before , but never seen one , well done on yours .
    With your enjoyable post , I think we can venture into the realms of
    'Spr...' , don't you ?

  10. Chris

    Thank you Chris :) It is certainly becoming more Springlike at last. I hope your weather improves soon and also that you are still improving!


    Thank you Liz, The Goldfinches are so difficult to capture! My friend who doesn't live far from us has seen them in his garden a number of times lately, I just wish they would find mine :)
    The daffs are coming on well here also now and very welcome they are too!
    Enjoy the rest of your weekend and don't work too hard, I'm sure you will soon catch up.

    Warren Baker

    Thanks Warren :) I'm trying with the Goldfinches, unfortunately so are they, trying that is ;)
    I was really fascinated by that lichen and it was interesting to find out about it, weird indeed!

    Bob Bushell

    Thank you very much Bob :) They are definitely not easy but I'm sure you will capture one soon.


    Thank you Frank :) I shall treasure my Gold star :)
    I was really chuffed that I spotted there was something 'different' about the Cormorant. Thank you for the link too :)

    Derek Faulkner

    Thank you very much Derek, 'Summery' sounds good to me :)

  11. It certainly looks like spring to me in your neighborhood, Jan! While I do have a few tiny snowdrops and crocuses finally coming into bloom, it's still pretty chilly here.

    The cormorant is certainly an unusual bird; how lucky you were to see it! But I do love the little Blue Tits. How interesting that a well-fed fellow is more attractive to the females:)

  12. Lovely pics again ShySongbird, I'm glad the Goldcrest stayed still for you today, I'm having the same trouble with Long Tailed Tits, would be pleased if I could get something close to your pics :-)

  13. Well done capturing the Goldcrest and the rarer Cormorant.

    All my miniature daffs / narcissus are now in flower and the snowdrops have faded. Spring must be round the corner even if everything was covered by frost here this morning.

  14. Ginnymo

    Thank you Ginny :) It may not be quite here but it is certainly on its way and it is lovely to see all the flowers popping up. I hope your snow goes soon and Spring visits you before too long.
    Look after yourself Ginny...Big Hugs :)


    Thank you Keith :) Spring certainly seems to be on the way and the Daffodils are out here now!
    I was quite pleased with myself that I realised the Cormorant was 'different' without already knowing it was there.


    Thank you Greenie :) Yes, the Goldcrest is so difficult to capture, you just think you have it nicely posed and it's off again! I was really pleased that I noticed the Cormorant was 'different'.
    Yes! I think we can definitely start to 'venture into the realms of Spr... :)

    Sarah Knight

    Thank you Sarah :)

  15. Rose

    Thank you Rose :) It is definitely getting more Springlike here and some of the Daffodils are in full flower now!
    I was fascinated by the Blue Tit information and have noticed that some definitely do have richer colouring so presumably will have the girls queuing for their attention :)

    Alan Pavey

    Thank you Alan :) I find them both difficult to photograph but then I suppose that is true of most birds, they are just not interested in posing for us ;)

    Midmarsh John

    Thank you John :) We have daffs in full flower too now, everything seems to be speeding up at last. We had temperatures of -2C on Sunday night!

  16. WELCOME spring!!! Wonderful photos of your impressions of the event! That little goldcrest is so cute!!!! and the Little tit on the cone...thats one super shot!!
    WOW to getting a new species the coromorant it cetainly does have a different look with the white on the head!

  17. You have caught the brilliant Goldcrest, great shots. beautiful blog. love it :)

  18. lovely bird photos, specially the goldcrest and the long tailed tit. Interesting cormorant, i was talking to someone the other day who had seen a strange looking cormorant and without seeing a photo i would assume that it must be one of the continental ones. Nice to see your photo!

  19. great post jan, well done on the goldcrest, what a wonderful time of the year spring is.

  20. Nice blog with nice pictures!

    Kah Wai

  21. Sondra

    Thank you Sondra :) Although we have some Daffodils in full flower now we had a temperature of -2C (about 28.4 Fahrenheit) on Sunday night and the last two days we have had gloomy misty conditions so Spring is still a little reluctant!

    Short Poems

    Welcome and thank you for visiting and commenting Marinela :) I am glad you enjoyed your visit and hope to see you here again.

    Crafty Green Poet

    Thank you Juliet :) The Cormorant seen by the person you were talking with could well have been a Continental one. With the one I saw my curiosity was more to do with the plumage looking slightly different but that is apparently not the definitive way of identifying them, it is more to do with the angle of the gular patch which for an amateur like me is difficult to distinguish. I was just lucky really to find out afterwards that others had seen the same bird in the same place as I did!

  22. denzil

    Thank you Denis :) I was pleased to get a shot of the Goldcrest, still hoping for a sharper image though ;)
    I agree, Spring is my favourite season. When I was a child I favoured Autumn but now it is definitely Spring for me!

    Kah-Wai Lin

    Welcome! Thank you for visiting, commenting and following. I do hope you visit again :)

  23. So nice to visit and see that Spring is in the air for you. I fell in love with the sweet little Goldcrest. What an interesting little guy...I have been reading up on him since I spotted him on your blog. It's always fun to learn something new.

  24. Morning Glories in Round Rock

    Dear Jenny, thank you for commenting, it is lovely to see you here again :)
    Yes, the Goldcrest is a lovely little creature (even though it always looks a little grumpy to me) and is Europe's smallest bird! How they survived the snow we had I don't know but there seem to be quite a few about.

  25. Oh my, I envy you those blooms. Still a bit of snow around over here but at least the pussy willows are poking through...a good sign that spring isn't far away. Great shots you have here.

  26. I love to see the signs of Spring in your part of the world. After a long, cold winter, what a treat it must be to see the violets and the snowdrops. And the birds! You always include so many of them in your posts. The Goldcrest is indeed beautiful. I also loved the gorse and the lichen photos.

    What a sight that clump of daffodils will be when they finally bloom!

    Hope you have a blessed Sunday!

  27. oldcrow61

    Thank you OC :) It really has been quite Springlike here for the last few days. I hope Spring soon hurries up for you!

  28. kanak7

    Thank you Kanak :) How right you are! It is really wonderful to see Spring emerging again especially after a hard Winter such as we had this time.
    Lots of the Daffodils are in full flower now in gardens, parkland, woodland, country lanes and roadside verges...such a lovely, welcome sight :)

  29. I so love all the wonderful photographs of your birds. You have such a number that I probably will never see - but that I admire! :-) Love the snowdrops - that's quite a little colony. :-) Happy Spring!

  30. Hi Jan, oh such sweet birds....I love the goldcrest and the LTT.
    Both visit the garden but I am never able to get a photograph.
    The goldcrest loves the pine near the greenhouse....I see them there frequently. Your images are wonderful.

    Lichen is fascinating. The trees and hedgerows here are covered in it. I have heard that gardeners often try to remove it. To me, that seems crazy.
    My garden is as it is.....I let nature tell her story.

    BTW tku for the interesting facts on the Blue tits. You learn something everyday......

  31. Hello my lovely,

    I was thinking of you today while sat watching the birds in my garden. I hope all is ok with you...
    a beautiful post as always!

    Lou xxx

  32. Shady Gardener

    Thank you Shady :) I too enjoy seeing birds from other parts of the world, I have learnt such a lot from the ones I see on my friend's blogs, yours included of course.
    Happy Spring to you too :)


    How lovely to see Goldcrests in your garden, not that I am surprised in your lovely sanctuary of course.
    I found the lichen and what causes it really interesting.
    I expect like me you remember when the Blue Tits used to peck through the foil tops on milk bottles left on the doorstep, I suspect they haven't tasted milk for years now!


    Hello Lou and thank you :) How nice that you thought of me. I will be over to catch up with you very soon. Lots of love and XXXX to you and Poppy :)


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