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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

Spring seed sowing!

It’s funny the way things happen. Usually I’m busy when my other half is not, or vice versa. But today we found ourselves at home with some free time. This usually means we get started on a project. Today we turned our attention to the garden for a few hours.

Mending a bird bath

Our reuse-recycle theme is still going strong. After reading a little more about how to have a fuglevenlig (bird friendly) garden, I decided we needed a bird bath. We had a look in our local recycling area and found a large broken plate. Bingo – a bit of repair work and we will have a bird bath (fingers crossed!).

Increasing garden space with hanging baskets

I have to say, I’m not the creative one in the relationship, or the handy person either! Last week Rasmus came up with the idea of making a hanging garden to increase the growing space in our garden. We replanted some parsley in the top and planted rocket and some edible flowers in the lower tiers. The baskets are carefully suspended from the top of a wall that divides our garden from our neighbours. Quiet an ingenious design, I think! If you look carefully on the brick wall you may be able to see the hemp string that makes up a spider web design. This is in preparation for some peas which we have planted along the bottom of the wall. Climbing plants are ideal in our small garden as they maximise ground space and grow up!

Hanging bike tyre baskets - maybe they will work!

Hanging baskets have been done before, but hanging bike tyres, maybe not! We decided we would give it a go and planted some water cress (karse) as an experiment!

Tomatoes growing indoors

This is a project we started last week. We sowed some tomato, strawberry and sunflower seeds indoors in preparation for being planted outdoors. The tomatoes and sunflowers sprung up in no time at all, but nothing has happened with the strawberries as of yet. Today we planted the young sunflowers outside. Hopefully the shock of going from warm apartment to cooler garden won’t do them any harm. I’m hoping for some tall happy flowers this year!

What is your local wildlife?

Many people travel far and wide to get closer to nature. It has taken big changes (including replacing my car with a bike, and moving to another country) for me to realise the value of “local” wildlife. To me local means on your door step, outside your kitchen window or on your walk to the local shop. The nature at our finger tips we rarely appreciate, but it is as fascinating as that in our favorite remote parts! Not only can we go out to experience this wildlife, but we can also make our gardens and homes more appealing to the life that surrounds us!

Freeze hill at sunrise

When I was feeling energetic in Taunton in Somerset last year I enjoyed early morning wanders to two areas managed as local nature reserves called Freeze Hill  and Silk Mills. Five minutes away, across the train tracks and into the wilderness that lay tucked behind strings of houses as the town expanded. In the blue morning light I was usually alone (no people that is!) among the nibbling rabbits and beautiful birds that included kingfisher, woodpecker, reed bunting, wrens and robins to name but a few!

After some renovations in the garden on Taunton we managed to bring some wildlife back into a previously desolate spot. A raised bed was fixed up and we got planting. Within weeks there were green shoots appearing and soon we had an invasion of winged insects, butterflies, moths and birds (and cats, much to our distaste)!

A large slug makes his home in our raised bed!
Wildlife comes to visit the garden

It was amazing to see how quickly nature adapts, finds an opportunity and takes hold. A simple thing such as sprinkling some flower seeds in a sunny part of the garden can be so rewarding, bringing nature to your doorstep.

A beautiful pink flower attracts insects and butterflies to our raised bed

With a lot of time on my hands, and limited travel options I have been exploring my local area here in Denmark. As the seasons change the wildlife enjoyment opportunities move with them, and there is always something new and exciting to witness, very nearby! I’ve created a small map of my locality (thanks Google, click to enlarge!) and plotted some of the more memorable experiences I’ve had here (within about 500m of my bed!) over the last 3 months.

My local wildlife

Although quite rare in Ireland, hares are very common here, and can be easily watched nibbling grass next to where we live, before bounding off to find shelter. Birds are everywhere, believe it or not! Along the main road you can see blackbird, song thrush and field fare feeding on cherries at the moment.

Blue tit hanging from fat ball at our window – photo Rasmus

From my bed I get to watch great tits and blue tits arguing over our fat ball, hung outside the window. In the small wooded area to the south jays are commonly heard (rarely seen!) and I have even spotted a sparrow hawk out hunting!

A small snail makes his home among the coloured leaves.

One of our many fungi forays began among these same trees where we have gathered food (mushrooms, acorns and beech nuts) and stumbled across small unsuspecting mice under pieces of tin. The local trees, both along the roads and within the wooded areas offer many photo opportunities. In the autumn, I spent hours shuffling through the leaf litter trying to catch the beautiful colours on camera.

Nothing beats fresh food straight from nature!

There is a small undeveloped area to the south east of our home (a real treasure!) where there are large piles of sand. It is a great spot to look for animal tracks, many of which are deer around here!

A beautiful little hedgehog in my hands (with gloves!)

Nightfall has provided different opportunities to get close to nature. Earlier in the year, we spent a few nights prowling in the dark looking and listening for hedgehogs. We weren’t disappointed! Just north of home we were lucky enough to stumble upon a snuffling hedgehog foraging for food. Another night we made our own moth trap, but alas it was too cold and we caught nothing (maybe next summer!).

Californian poppy leans across the wall of the raised bed, while looking up to the sun!

Nature is all around us, regardless of where we live. All you need to do is stop and get curious. Open your eyes and ears, bend down, turn things over and you will be amazed at what you find.