Wednesday, 22 May 2013

A Landscape of Reeds...and the Bees Build Up for Summer


Great Crested Grebe

I'm fascinated by landscapes of big skies, golden reeds and pools of rippling water.  This is one of the places I like to come to on warm, summer days - when there's only a slight breeze - because it's so peaceful here, with only the occasional calls of the wild birds and the gentle movement of the different grasses.  Everything is so still - and even the ducks and geese glide over the water with their eyes half closed or their heads tucked back into their feathers. I've found a hidden place in the reeds where I can watch the birds from a bank, and I could easily spend hours here, because it just seems such a timeless place.  It's perfect way to spend a relaxing afternoon.

On a bleak winter day, though, everything changes. This blue and gold landscape becomes a dull copper and grey - and because there isn't any shelter from the wind, it can be bitterly cold.  But, in any season, it's still a great place to watch wildlife.

There have been a few warm days this month, so I've managed to spend some time here. I've seen a wonderful selection of birds and I love the way they're reflected in the pools of water...

Greylag Goose


There are plenty of ducks here including Pochard, Red-crested Pochard and Tufted Ducks...

Tufted Duck


























This Canada Goose must have been too close to the Swan's nest, because it suddenly had an angry Swan bearing down on it (a pretty terrifying sight for any goose, I imagine)...
 



I've seen the female Swan on the nest and I look forward to coming back and seeing the cygnets.  Meanwhile, the Greylag Geese have goslings...






 This Pochard was half asleep, enjoying the sun...









The reeds were full of warblers and Swifts and Swallows were flying above.  And a Marsh Harrier was hunting there, too (apologies for the quality of the photo, it was some distance away).







I'll be coming back here as soon as I can.

On the Smallholding

I'm still busy sowing veg seeds and our new cold frame is starting to look full of young plants, especially lettuces and cabbages.  Meanwhile, I'm really thrilled we have flowers on our young wisteria...




Wisteria is one of my favourite climbers and I'm glad it looks as though it's thriving in this spot.

Elsewhere Pip the goose is no longer nesting in my lupins, but has joined the other three geese on a single nest in the goose house.  I would have thought three geese squashed onto one nest wasn't the brightest idea, but they seem happy enough...







Bees

All three colonies are expanding well - and two of them are expanding so well they now need additional space, so I've put on an second box (called a super) full of frames on top of their main brood box.  If I don't give them the extra room, they'll soon feel overcrowded and will probably swarm. They may well want to swarm anyway - and if they do - then I'll be left with half of my bees(or less, if the remaining bees swarm again) and no real chance of honey this year.  To prevent this, I'll have to watch them carefully and - if necessary - create an artificial swarm i.e. I split the colonies myself.  The bees then believe they've swarmed and settle down quite happily.

Hive with super added.



I'll know the bees want to swarm if they start to raise a new queen (they'll need a queen each for the old and new colonies).  The bees create queen cells to raise a new queen in and - before the new queen has hatched - the old queen leaves with the swarm.  Meanwhile, the first new queen to hatch from her cell then goes through the colony and kills the other queens still in their cells so that only she's left.  I can't see any signs of queen cells yet, but bees are notorious for hiding them by clustering around them and covering them up.  It's not unknown for a beekeeper to think that all's well in the morning, only to return later in the day to find that half the bees have gone!

Male Orange Tip on Spanish Bluebell





This lovely Orange Tip settled by me as I was gardening at the weekend.  It seemed to love a small clump of Spanish bluebells I have growing by the pond.  I saw a female, too, but she didn't settle anywhere for very long.  I'm hoping to take a pic of one of the females before the Orange Tips disappear again for another year (the female is white, without the orange tips on her wings, but she does have same beautiful markings on the under-side of the wings as the male, seen above).  The Orange Tips will disappear in June.






40 comments:

  1. Hi Wendy fantastic set of photos

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    1. Thanks Julie. I was fortunate to see so many different birds there.

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  2. What a lovely place to do a bit of birdwatching. You have captured the ducks and geese beautifully - is it on your land? The colours on the water are magical. I can never seem to get a decent photo of butterflies, needless to say I haven't seen any in the garden at all this year so far, which is a bit worrying.

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    1. Thanks Elaine. The ducks and geese aren't on my land, I have to visit the reeds and it is a beautiful place on a sunny day; the water is full of ripples and reflections. I'm worried about the butterflies, too, I haven't seen many at all given the time of year.

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  3. Such a lovely post about the birds and the bees. The place you have found for your birdwatching sounds heavenly, I don't get out as much birdwatching as I used to do when I was younger, I have to make do with the ones we have in the garden.
    It's fascinating reading about your bees, I learn something new each time. We had a swarm last year in the garden and got a local bee keeper to come and collect them in a cardboard box, he was very pleased.

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    1. Thanks Pauline. I wish I could spend more time visiting the reeds, it's such a relaxing place. It's interesting that you had a swarm last year. I've opted not to collect swarms here but I know they'll be in demand this year. So many beekeepers have lost colonies over the winter and they'll be looking for more bees.

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  4. What a fantastic post Wendy. All the bird photos were superb and the marsh harrier was amazing. I love reading about your bees and have learnt a lot today. I hope you manage to get honey this year- I bet it tastes wonderful. Beautiful orange tip too. We seem to be rather down on butterfly numbers so far this year.

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    1. Thanks CT. I was delighted to see the Marsh Harrier; it is a magnificant bird. The last two years have been poor honey years for me so I'm really hoping for plenty this year. I've seen mainly Orange Tips and Peacocks so far this year but there are still plenty of species I would expect to see and haven't.

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  5. Fascinating post Wendy, especially the section about the bees, and wonderful photos from your 'hide'. You've described the scene so vividly I can imagine being there.

    I'm glad Pip has returned to the goose house. It must be safer for her there, even if nesting arrangements are cosy! I hope the damage to the lupins is not irreparable!

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    1. Thanks Jessica. I'm hoping my next escape back to the "reeds" will be very soon, although I'll need some warm, sunny weather first. I'm relieved Pip has finally left the lupins; next job is to strengthen the little fence so she doesn't choose to go back (fortunately the nesting season is nearly over).

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  6. I've really enjoyed the photos you have taken of the water birds in your special, tranquil place. Seeing some of them and the marsh harrier reminds me of when we lived in the fens near The Wash - I know what you mean about watery landscapes and wide skies. I love your photo of the Orange Tip butterfly:)

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    1. Thanks Rosie. I've always been fascinated by the Fens; I love being in "big" landscapes. Where I visit is so tranquil it's a real escape from the usual noise, traffic etc - it's a place to go to cure any stress. And I've come to love seeing the Orange Tips here, I'm really taking a note of what they like to settle on.

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  7. Wonderful photos Wendy. The Orange Tip was the highlight for me - beautiful.

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    1. Thanks Em. I was delighted the Orange Tip settled so close to me.

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  8. Your images are so wonderful it must have been a great way to spend afternoon watching the wildlife. We had an orange tip butterfly in our garden I didn't realise they weren't around most of the summer.
    Sarah x

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    1. Thanks Sarah. There is so much wildlife there and I'm really looking forward to seeing more young birds soon. I always think of Orange Tips as spring butterflies, but they must have emerged later this year so perhaps they'll be around into the summer.

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  9. What a treat this post was for me. I felt I was there with you in the reeds watching all those FANTASTIC water birds. That pic of the swan chasing the gooses made me smile, it reminds me of a goose that hangs out with a family of swans each year. They all travel up and down the canal and everyone feeds the swans and their youngsters. The goose hangs back a little but gets some food too....it seems a rather strange arrangement but they have been together for years.

    I loved that pic of your geese all sharing the nest....priceless.

    I'm really enjoying learning about bee keeping, seems to me that it's a very skilled business. xxxx

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    1. Thanks Snowbird. That is interesting about the goose; I wonder why it hangs out with the swans and if that's unusual. It must feel part of the swans' family. My geese are cramped but happy; the goose house is the favourite nesting spot for all of them. I don't think I'll ever come close to knowing everything about beekeeping - every year something new surprises me!

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  10. A wonderful set of photographs. The one of the Orange Tip is stunningly beautiful.

    So enjoyed the duck photos and felt as though I was sharing your wildlife afternoons :)

    Its really interesting to read about your beekeeping - I do hope you manage to prevent them swarming.

    So look forward to your next post :)

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    1. Thanks Caroline. I'm waiting for some warm and sunny weather to go back to the reeds and check on the wildlife. Also large bee colonies often swarm after a spell of rain - I think they feel cooped up and ready to go when the fine weather comes at last. I hope none of my colonies have that idea!

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  11. What a lovely post Wendy and your photos are beautiful. You have found a wonderful place to see the water birds and you managed to get so close too.The Greylag goslings are really sweet :-) Very well done on the Marsh Harrier, a super bird to catch on camera!

    Interesting about the bees. I know nothing about beekeeping other than what I've heard on the Archers on the radio :-) We did have a swarm in the garden some years ago and a local beekeeper removed them free of charge and even returned later with a jar of delicious honey, so kind!

    Your geese made me smile, they're obviously very sociable :-)

    Gorgeous photo of the Orange Tip!

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    1. Thanks Jan. I am lucky that the birds aren't too troubled by me there and do come fairly close. I wish the Marsh Harrier had come a bit closer, too, although it was still a treat seeing it. That's interesting about the swarm in your garden; right now plenty of beekeepers would be grateful for a swarm if they've lost bees - I know someone who has recently lost 5 colonies and is on the look-out for swarms to replace them. He's hoping swarms might even find his empty hives. And I didn't know the Archers had bee story-lines, I will consider tuning in!

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  12. I'm interested to know what length of lens you have for your distance shots - they are very impressive, including the marsh harrier. I would like to be able to take such shots.

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    1. Thanks Ian. I have a canon powershot SX50 HS bridge camera, which has a 50X 24-1200mm lens. It's an easy camera to use and carry around which is important for me, because I take it out on walks all the time.

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  13. That lake looks a wonderful place to spend some time. Love the shot of the grebe.
    Interesting to see the three geese on one nest. They must be very tolerant of each other.

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    1. Thanks Keith. It is a wonderful place and it's a real thrill when a 'new' type of bird turns up there. My female geese are a mother and two daughters and they are tolerant of each other, although there's still definitely a pecking order, even on the nest.

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  14. As usual, fabulous photos and I think considering the circumstances, flight and zoom etc you've nailed that Marsh Harrier perfectly! That last butterfly shot is also beautiful! Suzy x

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    1. Thanks Suzy. I'm hoping for better Marsh Harrier shots over the summer - and I'm hoping to see a good selection of butterflies, too!

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  15. Thank you for the comment on my blog... it led me here!

    You were lucky with the Marsh Harrier photo, they are stunning birds to watch.

    And I hope your bees have a good year... we need some more sunny days!

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    1. Hello Celia - and thank you. There is actually a pair of Marsh Harriers here and they're nesting, so I'm hoping that I'll have plenty of sightings of the family over the coming months. And I hope it's a good summer for my bees, too; last year was dreadful for them.

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  16. What a lot of fabulous photos! Do you realise you have got Ian and me wondering whether we need yet another camera?! I love the three geese in a bed picture too. I have been musing about keeping bees but am rather daunted by my ignorance.

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    1. Ah...I hope you don't mind about the camera, then! I'm delighted with my camera change - hope (if you decide on a new camera) that you find the best one for you. On bees: I think most people approach beekeeping without any knowledge. I certainly didn't have any and I spent some time peering over experienced beekeepers shoulders when they looked at their own hives asking obvious questions. I'm still learning now and still asking advice. Thanks Elizabeth.

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  17. I'm so fascinated by your beekeeping, it's really interesting to hear what you need to do to keep them happy. No chance of having any here as my other half is petrified of them! I do hope you get honey this year.

    Aren't the Orange Tips lovely :-) They have been enjoying my bluebells here too.

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    1. Thanks Paula. We've just entered the 'swarming season' (later this year, because of the weather), so I do keep my eye on them more at the moment. It's a shame your other half is concerned about bees, I would hate to be without them, now. And I'm planning some special planting for Orange Tips for next year, I'd love to introduce some Lady's Smock and I hope it self-seeds.

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  18. Thank you for visiting my blog and leaving a comment. What fantastic photos, and I've learnt so much from this post too. The Marsh Harrier photo is wonderful, I don't think you need to hang your head in shame over that one. I think we have harriers near us, though I'm not very good with my identification of birds of prey so it may be something else. I haven't been able to obtain such a clear photo of it. Swans can be so aggressive, I think the Canada Goose got off lightly.

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    1. Hello Jo - and thank you. Having harriers close by sounds wonderful; I think most birds of prey are fascinating to watch. And I've noticed since the photo was taken that the geese are now nowhere near the swan. A lesson learnt, I think!

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  19. That camera is fantastic-and your photos of course! Sorry I'm so late in commenting on this wonderful post. I love the swan chasing the goose. How lovely to have a place like that to visit, it sounds wonderful, peaceful and just the kind of place to gather your thoughts and re-charge.

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    1. Thanks Suzie. The Swan didn't actually reach the goose; it just made a point! And it is a wonderful place to find some peace, the "real" world definitely seems somewhere else.

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  20. What magical photos of those birds, it sounds like a lovely place to spend some time. Beautiful wisteria, I've never had anywhere I could grow one, and besides, if I am honest, the chances of me pruning it correctly are remote so I will stick to admiring other peoples'! Love the goose pile though it does seem rather risky behaviour...

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    1. Thanks Janet. The birds really don't seem to be too bothered by my presence here, so I can try for better pics of them. Our wisteria is quite young, but I'm hoping it will continue to thrive and look fantastic over the south side of our new barn. The geese have given up the three-on-a-nest since the photo and only one seems broody now - so hope its the end of the nesting season at last.

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