Down to Earth ...with Dave

How time flies. A year has gone since I started doing this little article. Sometimes it is a bit of a struggle to find items that I think will be of interest, other times there is not enough room to include all of the things that are going on. With the approach of a busy springtime the latter may well be the case. We started off the year by taking part in the annual garden bird survey organised by the RSPB. This is the first time we have done this and it involves listing all the birds that visit your garden in a given hour on a specific day in January. Care must be taken not to list the same bird twice.

Our bird spotting was of the fairly common types, such as blackbirds, starlings, sparrows, great tits, bluetits, robins, magpies, wood pigeons and collared dove. Nothing very exciting there, until, at the last minute a large adult grey heron landed on the houseroof opposite, sat long enough for me to get a reasonable photo and then, with enormous flapping wings flew off towards the river Brett, no doubt in search of lunch. Whilst strictly speaking it was not in our garden, I thought it was near enough to be included. The nature of the survey does not include occasional visitors which, in our case, would include a sparrowhawk who sits on the bird feeder waiting for a sparrow or even a dove. I have also managed to get a very good photo of this very striking bird.

If you have a pond and herons are a nuisance stealing your prize fish, one of the best deterrents are several trip wires set around the pond up to a couple of feet off the ground. The heron likes to land a little way from the pond on a clear area and then walk to the pond edge. A trip wire should upset them. We get a lot of pleasure watching the birds having a bath in the various bird baths around the garden. It doesn't have to be anything fancy, a large plant saucer will do, just so long as it's topped up every day with clean water and kept free of ice when it is very cold. We have one favourite female blackbird who really gives herself a proper bath most days, it makes you feel quite cold the way she performs. Our season of garden visits has started with a coach trip to Anglesey Abbey, mainly to see the snowdrops. As we have found in the past the snowdrops on sale were very expensive, with some as dear as twenty pounds for a single plant in a pot. We managed to resist these but did buy a small bag of snowdrop bulbs sold 'in the green', that means bare bulbs with flowers on, and also a dwarf hellebore as a memento. If the weather stays as it is it will soon be all go on the allotment. Do not be in too much of a hurry to get started though, as the soil is still very cold.

That's all for this time, Dave

Hadleigh and District Gardening Club

Monday February 13th After a week of grey skies and freezing temperatures the sun shone from a cloudless sky for the club's first outing of the year. We travelled to Anglesey Abbey gardens near Cambridge to see the early spring bulbs. The gardens were very busy with families making the most of the good weather in half term week, but there was plenty of room for everyone, and plenty to see. As well as snowdrops with their wide variety of sizes and markings, each a little gem, there were also the winter stems of cornus in greens, reds and yellows, glowing in the sunshine. The winter aconites were just beginning to show and there was even a small clump of early daffodils in flower in a sheltered sunny spot. This is also the best time of year to appreciate the silver birches with their shining white bark, a must for the keen photographer and there were plenty there that day!

A visit to a garden in winter is something of a new venture for the club and all agreed with so much to see even in February it was a most enjoyable day.

Our next meeting – Monday March 13th

The March meeting is our AGM, and during the evening we continue with the theme of spring bulbs, as club member John Wild will be sharing his expertise on the subject of daffodils, and, for the spring season, the competition is 'a bowl of crocus'.

We are always happy to welcome new members to the club. We meet in Hadleigh town hall at 7.30pm. The cost is £3 for visitors and £1 for members including refreshments.

Andy Leeder, Chairman