Friday, 30 October 2009

Autumn Shapes at Wisley

During my hunt for the Thrushes and Finches I got sidetracked by the various forms and shapes of various plants around the Piet Ouldof borders. Piet is a dutch garden designer renowned for his very naturalistic 'prairie' planting schemes.
A lot of use is made of large drifts of grasses....
and perennials that produce excellent flowers followed by superb seed heads.
Behind the borders are shrubs such as this Cotinus with its luscious dark leaves....
and this Pterocarya fraxinifolia a native from Turkey, Iran and Caucasus, with its dangling dark bracts and leaves turning to pale lemon before adding themselves as a mulch around the tree.

On the edge of the Arboretum this glorious fruit (Malus) was hanging heavy with the early morning dew and just waiting to be picked.
In a forthcoming post I will share some of the other colourful fruits in this abundant larder. FAB

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Hunt for Thrushes & Finches.

This morning I thought it was about time I took an early stroll into the gardens (RHS Wisley) before starting work to see if there were any new migrant Thrush or Finch visitors to be found. I started with a brief excursion onto Battleston Hill where in the understory of the old Oaks and Pines there a masses of colourful Maples.
The large seed feeder was being visited by Great & Blue Tits (but I only managed to snap the former), plus a brief flypast by a Nuthatch.
Robin and Dunnock were flitting through the low undergrowth while I enjoyed the sight of this very cheerful yellow Mahonia lomarifolia.
As I headed uphill towards the Fruit Fields and the Arboretum (Stage 2) Great Spotted Woodpecker called from overhead while a Song Thrush, Woodpigeons and the first Redwing was located high in one of the trees. A small flock of Greenfinches and a single Pied Wagtail also flew over shortly followed by a noisy gang of exotic green Rose-ringed Parakeets.
The Arboretum holds a large collection of Malus and Sorbus and it was pleasing to see the vast array of berries that will be food for our resident species and the winter migrants. Below is one example of Malus x Zumi 'Professor Sprenger' absolutely dripping with fruits.
A few Blackbirds were foraging through the trees and I gained some distant views of more Redwings and the first autumn sighting of a handful of Fieldfare again perched high in the tree tops together with a Mistle Thrush and a small flock of Starlings. There is a long line of Alders marking the boundary between the Fruit Fields and the Arboretum and it was here that I spotted a group of around 20 Siskin buisily feeding. They are very flighty and as I attempted to get closer they promptly moved further away. Using the bins I scanned all the Chaffinches but couldn't find any interlopers (e.g. Brambling). Other residents seen included Jays, Crow and Collared Doves.
I will need to find some time next week to make a further foray to check out any new visitors, but what I really need is a much bigger lens to be able to capture these wary birds from a distance...some hope in the current financial climate!
On my return journey via the Herb Garden I came across this large Bee artistically created from willow wands, one of many natural sculptures throughout the gardens.
I did however take some pics of the various food sources in the Arboretum larder and I will put a post together when I have more time. FAB.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Surprise Visitor.

Today at work I had a surprise visitor, Helen one of the many RHS Volunteers, who I have come to call my friend through her very frequent attendance on the many walks I have led at RHS Wisley Gardens over the last 13 years together with my colleague David. Word has got out that both David and I will shortly be saying farewell to our current jobs and moving on to pastures new. Helen dropped in for a chat with us both and handed me an envelope which contained this card.
Inside were these words:
With love from Helen and Kay.

While I know both David and I will miss the enjoyment and friendship we have both gained while showing visitors the local avian wildlife I am hopeful that I will meet up with Helen and Kay in the not too distant future and enjoy a stroll together in the gardens we all love so much. FAB.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Colour for the lens.

Spent a few hours in the garden over the weekend, mainly sweeping up leaves and a bit of pruning whilst trying to decide where there might be space for the two Whichford pots when they get delivered in a few weeks time. At first I thought there wasn't much to look at but once the camera was in my hands it didn't take long for the lens to seek out the different colours that autumn brings. (Please click to enlarge).

Centre=Prunus; Top Left (Clockwise)=Euonymous alatus, Anemone, Brunnera, Spirea (probably Anthony Waterer), Ornamental Quince (Chaenomeles speciosa 'Yuki-Goten'), Spirea, Sisyrinchium striatum 'Aunt May' & Prunus.

And for all the fans, especially Kelly (aka 'Peanut') the avian colour was provided by our resident 'Robin Redbreast' (Erithacus rubecula).
Until the next time, have a good week everyone. FAB

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Whichford Pottery Visit (Part 2)

Following on from my previous post I thought I would share some other images from around the pottery. First up are some of the pots in the sales area awaiting a new home. Here is Andy, one of the senior throwers, pulling 56lb of clay into the required shape. The technique once learnt is apparently never forgotten and I never fail to be inspired when watching his skillful hands at work. I must admit to trying my hand at throwing a very small longtom many years ago but Andy says I must return when I have more time and really get my hands dirty. Can't wait for the opportunity.
Here Anita is passing her critical eye over the glazed-ware display.
The pottery is well known for producing many other objects other than flowerpots and this is just a sample of the various animals that are made by using moulds.
Jim Keeling is known for his innovative work and here are some examples of some of the statutes that grace the pottery grounds.
Last but not least, some examples of the plantings around the pottery that help to inform and inspire visitors on how pots can be used in and around the garden. I will definitely need some inspiration when deciding what to plant in the two pots that they presented to me last week.
Thanks again Whichford Pottery....and in those immortal words..."I will be back". FAB

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Walking off the 'blues' 23/10.

It has been an up and down week. The high point was the visit to Whichford Pottery (see previous post); the low point was an uncomfortable and incomplete visit to the Dentist on Friday morning meaning that I have to return next Tuesday in the hope that the treatment will be satisfactorily completed without any more pain!
To walk of the 'blues' Anita and I took a late afternoon stroll around Epsom Common. Initially there appeared to be little activity but on reaching the Great Pond there were at least 8 Black-headed Gulls circling the water and occasionally diving in the hope of catching a meal. The sun had disappeared and with a darkening sky I still felt the need to capture something so here is the best but not sharpest image of one of the gulls.Other distant sightings were Grey Heron, Coot and Moorhen working the fringes of the pond. As we headed out onto the rough pasture area we noted that the electric fences have been removed and obviously the grazing cattle have moved on. Anita spotted movement and a Kestrel that had alighted briefly in a nearby tree flew away from us. We heard the characteristic 'kschaach' call of distant Jays and the 'kick'..'kick' sounds of Great Spotted Woodpeckers from within the woodland. We traversed the open area picking up Goldfinches flitting high overhead by their 'tickelitt' calls; then watched several Great Spotted Woodpeckers alight high above us before moving on and then picked up a small party of 8 Long-tailed Tits accompanied by a few Blue Tits frantically feeding as they moved from bush to bush keeping well ahead of us. Heading back towards the Great Pond we disturbed two Roe Deer who promptly bounded away far too quickly for any photos and disappeared amongst the Salix surrounding the pond. Anita subsequently relocated them in the bins walking through the water. Throughout our walk the most obvious sounds emanated from various Robins who kindly waited for their pictures to be taken.
Throughout our stroll I was slightly worried by the lack of berries that would provide food for our winter Thrushes apart from small areas of rose hips and the occasional tree with a larder full of Crab Apples.As we returned around the pond a fisherman who was trying to reel in his catch requested some help as his line had got entangled with the lines from his other two rods. He had been attempting to land this 15lb Carp for around 20 minutes and said his arms were getting tired! He eventually netted his catch and asked me to take a picture using his camera-phone before releasing his quarry back into the pond. I then took my own shot; asked him for his e-mail address and a few hours hours later I sent him this image which Eddie is happy for me to post.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Whichford Pottery Visit (Part 1)

On Wednesday Anita and I made the 100+ mile visit to Whichford Pottery in Warwickshire to meet all the pottery staff we have come to know and call our friends during the 13 years I have been working at the Wisley Plant Centre. Under the ownership of Jim Keeling the pottery which he founded in 1976 together with his wife Dominique has grown from strength to strength. During every visit I have made over the years, whether on business or for personal reasons, the friendly atmosphere and hospitality is second to none.
Within moments of our arrival we are greeted by Jane & Paula and the offer of refreshments is gladly accepted. We joined many of the staff at their 'tea break' where Anita's homemade shortbread definitely got the thumbs up. As usual I start my tour of the production areas in the 'mould room' for a chat with Linda but this is soon interrupted by a request from Jim for me to join everyone upstairs in the 'throwing loft'. Surrounded by all the staff Paula (Production Manager) thanks me (I'm affectionately known as 'UNCLE' Frank) for my support and involvement in championing their products and then they unveiled two large handmade pots which have recently been thrown and specially decorated just for me.
Here is a close up of the decoration...a flying Pigeon or a Skylark according to Jim!
Well....stunned....I was nearly speechless but managed to thank them for their generosity. It will take around three weeks for the pots to dry and then fired before they are ready for delivery. All I have to do now is to find the right location in our small garden and decide what to plant in them.
A few of our many pottery friends. (Click to enlarge)

THANK YOU Whichford Pottery. FAB

Monday, 19 October 2009

Garden visitors etc.

Most of our garden visitors make full use of the cover still being provided by the hawthorn before venturing onto one of the various feeders which were initially placed to provide the birds with some sense of security but not I fear in sight of the camera. Blue Tits and a single Coal Tit are making very quick forays to the fat feeders whilst keeping wary eyes open for a pair of Magpies that have been around for the past few days. Greenfinches and House Sparrows are also greedily emptying the feeders and the Robin still regularly appears for a tit-bit.
With dark mornings and earlier darkening evenings there has been little opportunity to capture this activity in the garden over the last week or so but here are a few recent images.

House Sparrow

There is still some colour in the garden ... the Euonymous elatus leaves are now showing their autumn tints....
and this Fuscia in the shaded border is still in full flower.
Elsewhere the signs of autumn colours are very obvious.
The weather forecast suggests we are in for more wet weather and high winds so our visitors will need to find a place to shelter and there may be less opportunities to watch their daily lives.
Stay dry and warm everyone. FAB.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Weekend walk - Epsom & Ashtead Common.

Needing some fresh air on Saturday I headed over to Epsom and Ashstead Common late mid morning with the camera to see if there was anything of interest to photograph. There was very little activity or sound around the car park apart from a brief appearance of this Robin. Not the sharpest image, but I'm glad I didn't delete it as very few species wanted their portraits taken!
A Nuthatch was calling away in the woodland so the intrepid "EB" stepped off the beaten track and attempted to get closer to the continuing strident calls. While attempting to step quietly through the undergrowth I caught sight of a Goldcrest flitting through a holly tree but too well hidden for any shots. Next where a number of Great Tits briefly appearing on the path ahead of me but again not stopping long enough and a Wren perched on a nearby branch but as soon as I made ready it disappeared. Oh well, I thought, be patient and then I spotted a Treecreeper quickly moving up a nearby oak but probably too far away for a decent shot, but I took a couple of shots for luck. Here is the best I could manage. (Click to enlarge).
Well you can probably guess that I failed to find the Nuthatch but did see fleeting views of both Jackdaws and Crows through the tops of the oak leaved canopy. I eventually made my way to the Great Pond but failed to find anything on the water. Attempts to stalk a Grey Heron proved fruitless as it flew to the far side and the two Black-headed Gulls were more than happy to keep their distance. I then spotted a few dragonflies but despite a 20 minute vigil at the waters edge they failed to take a rest or hover anywhere close to me so I snapped these rushes just to show a 'before & after'.
After leaving the pond I followed various paths while trying to dodge other users (joggers, dog walkers, cyclists etc) and after an hour came to one of the very ancient pollarded Oaks called the "Wishing Tree". The 'face' was not very welcoming so I didn't make a wish! On reflection, perhaps I should have wished for some avian activity but it just wasn't my day!
Shortly after leaving the 'Wishing Tree' I could hear the calls of several Jays but again as I got closer to their hidden location they moved on. There are lots of dead trees throughout the commons which corvids often use to rest and monitor their surroundings but today it was just bare fingers reaching up into the darkening skies.
The north-western boundary path overlooks the arable landscape towards Rushett Farm which I have yet to explore. Despite some recent rainfall the stream bed is still bone dry.
Finally, in the paddock close to the car park a pair of horses were enjoying each others company.
Well I enjoyed the walk and the fresh air.......until the next time. FAB.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Misty am & BHG's.

The first fine morning for a few days and this was the scene that greeted me at Epsom Great Pond when I stopped for a very brief stroll on my way to work today.....the sun was well up and burning off the early morning mist.
The only obvious activity was a number of Black-headed Gulls circling the water so with only 15 minutes to spare (yes, I was late leaving home!) I attempted some 'in flight' shots using the camera's 'sport mode'. My main concern was that for the first few shots the sun was directly ahead. Please 'click' any image to enlarge.

I then moved around the pond, stepping carefully through the very wet undergrowth to a location where the sun would be off to my right in the hope of getting better detail.

Overall I'm fairly satisfied with this very brief excercise but next time I need to make sure I'm not in a hurry to get to work! FAB.


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