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Grey days and flowers

Today was one of those grey days. Last winter, my first in Denmark was full of days where the clouds never really parted. Days where it was hard to tell what time it was, as the light levels never really changed. Those grey days drained the colour out me. I spent a lot of time hunting colour, to escape the greyness. Today I will add a splash of colour to the greyness by posting some of my favourite flower photos from the last year. The autumn will grants us a final splash of colour before the winter arrives. After that I will be visiting the flower shop I fear!

Daisy – always make me smile

Delicate pinks in our garden, a gift from previous residents

Under the trees lives in a carpet of yellow

Taking the colour inside – so important

Delicate blues

Green and yellow, simple

And finally – the flower of the sun – instant happiness


A change in the garden

I have been a little reluctant to blog about our garden residents over the last few weeks. After the first nest box crisis all seemed to be progressing as it should inside the nest box. The chicks were growing big and strong and feathers were starting to push their way out. I happily sat without music in the house listening to the regular bursts of tweets as the parents came to feed them. I was even trying to arrange a date to ring the fluffy little critters.

Great tit chicks hatched and hungry

Then one morning, after a night in Carole’s place (with her birds!) we arrived home and all was a little too quiet in the garden. I parked my bike close to the box and all was silent. I knew something was wrong, any noise in the garden usually evokes a bubble of bird squeaks. Carefully I opened the box and my heart sank for the second (and final) time. All the chicks were lying motionless in the nest. It appears that something had made it’s way into the box, through the small entrance hole and partially ate the chicks. It’s not a pleasant thought, but nature has it’s own way of balancing things out. I was disappointed, but after the first crisis, I realised I had placed a lot of hope on the chicks, and maybe it wasn’t healthy. I am a sensitive soul, which can be a flaw at times.

Our windowsill nursery – mini tomato plants

All is not lost though. Life continues in the garden in other ways. With the small patch of ground we have, we are experimenting with growing a few types of food. We have sowed the seeds indoors in small containers and once they start to grow we plant them outdoors. At the moment we have potatoes (of course!) peas, radishes, tomatoes, carrots, lettuce and strawberries in the making. It’s not all plain sailing for the veggies either. Our pea plants have been mysteriously attached, and we suspect it’s this large feathered friend.

The suspected enemy of the pea – wood pigeon (ringdue)

When we moved in we decided to leave some of the garden to grow wild (the lazy and environmental friendly option!). We have a mini herb garden, which is ruled by some form of mint but a chive plant still holds a small amount of territory! The chives are in flower at the moment and I am fascinated by the colour and structure of the beautiful flower.

Chive flower in the garden – close up

To our surprise, two days after removing the old nest and dead chicks from the nest box, two blue tits (blåmejse) moved in. Nest building was swift and egg laying started immediately. I suspect there to be about 9 eggs today, but the female is sitting tights when I take my morning peak (and photo) so I can’t be sure. Lets hope this nest is more successful. The daily photos of the nest will be posted on this page.

Female blue tit on nest

Escaping Odense for a day…

Danish countryside – a patchwork of yellows.

At 5am the alarm gently woke me from my lovely sleep and I crept out of bed, trying not to wake the other half. It was me after all that had decided I was interested in birds, not really knowing that meant early starts and sleepless nights!

I jumped on the bike and left the confines of the city. I headed south west through Danish countryside and farmland to Tarup, a village about 10km from my home. Here on the site of old flooded quarry pits, I met Hans and we continued with his net rounds. Every year Hans sets up nets at this site to catch and ring birds. I recently attended a course on bird ringing and obtained a trainee license, which allows me to ring birds under the supervision of an experienced ringer.

The wonderfully calm garden warbler (havesanger)

One of the first birds we came across in the net was a garden warbler (havesanger). It’s described as a “featureless bird” with no strong or distinct markings, but despite this, it is very beautiful up close. Garden warblers are migrants and have just returned to Denmark in the last few weeks after spending the winter in south Africa. They are a pleasure to handle, very calm and collected and even a little reluctant to leave your hand!

A garden warbler (havesanger) is happy to stay on Hans arm after being ringed!

The nets were open for 6 hours and as the morning continued we caught a range of species in the nets. Our most exciting/noisy catches were two greater spotted woodpeckers (stor flagspætte). Two young boys (born last year, or 2k birds) were found in two separate nets, quite close together. We suspect they had been chasing each other, lost their minds slightly and landed in the nets! These birds are a little more tricky to handle, so I happily took a back seat and watched the master at work! Once out of the nets and ringed we got to have a closer look at this beautifully colored bird.

Greater spotted woodpecker (stor flagspætte)

They were smaller than I imagined, with very short legs. They have a complex marking pattern with black, white and red. The also have a very long tongue to probe with and collect food (insects like ants).

Greater spotted woodpecker (stor flagspætte)

As the day progressed we met some of the usual suspects in the nets including blue tit and great tit. The blue tit is most certainly the opposite of the garden warbler. It is constantly fighting, wriggling, struggling and trying to cause you trouble! For it’s size it certainly has a LOT of attitude.

Blue tit causing trouble!

Despite the feathered focus, I did manage to distract myself from the birds for a few minutes to appreciate a few of natures other wonders. I came across this large moth which resembled an old leaf. He was attached to a nettle. Any suggestions?

Mystery moth at Tarup -Poplar Hawk Moth – thanks Sharky!

After closing the nets shortly before lunch time I took some time to enjoy the peace and calm at the quarry. On the way home I stopped to delight my nose in the scent of lilac, which grows along the road sides in many residential areas. It reminds me of our first house, where it grew just outside by the road. I loved to pick some and bring it to school for the teacher – that says a little about my childhood!

Opium for my nose – Lilac