Welcome! Grab a cup of tea, and enjoy browsing some of the photos and stories. As the 'teawife,' it is my duty to watch and listen and be a supportive friend, and a loving mum and wife. I should post more often, but sticking my nose into everyone's business keeps me busy! Kathy the teawife

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Buggy Nibbles Attract Birdies

I've recently moved a number of our feeders into a plum tree in our back garden instead of only using a feeding station at the end of the garden. The metal rod feeding station with hanging feeders was being inundated with piggy starlings, and they were keeping away the little song birds. We discovered that the tree provides a lot more cover for the smaller song birds, especially the Blue and Great Tits, and they feel much more comfortable to dilly-dally around and feed through the day.

The birds are quite happy to have me sit near them while they dart in and out of the tree and feeders. It's quite relaxing to watch them, and I thought you would enjoy a glimpse of their activity.

This video is of Blue Tits flitting in and out of the caged feeder containing Buggy Nibbles, which are little suet pellets with insects and meal worm bits - yum! They love them, and they also like the fact that the bigger birds (such as the starlings and pigeons) can't bother them at this feeder.

Hope you enjoy the video!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Cherkley Court & Gardens

This past weekend, we finally made it over to nearby Cherkley Court & Gardens, which was the home of William Maxwell Aitken, (1879-1964), the first Lord Beaverbrook, and a former Member of Parliament and newspaper mogul.

I'm not sure when the house was originally built, but the website notes that it was damaged by fire in 1893.

In around 1910, the story goes, that Aitken was driving in the countryside with his wife and their friends, Mr. & Mrs. Rudyard Kipling, and they stumbled across the lane to home and a for sale sign. After Aitken took one look at the house, he declared that he would buy it. He rebuilt and restored Cherkley Court in the French chateau style.

Here are some of the photos we snapped while walking in the gardens.

There is a lovely cafe on the premises, and they have outdoor seating when the rain is off and the sun is shining. The day we were there, the skies varied from clear to gray, and back again. We started a walk with a very cool breeze, and half way into our walk, we ended up in a 15-minute rain shower.

We took refuge in one of the gazebos in the garden, along with two elderly English ladies out for a garden stroll.

They were interested in my American accent, and assumed I had come from thousands of miles to see Cherkley Gardens. I think they were a little disappointed to learn that I live just up the road! They weren't the least bit interested in Niall's very definitive Ulster accent. Ah, but he's used to being snubbed!

While at Cherkley, would took time to enjoy a cream tea, complete with fresh scones, clotted cream, Tregothnan kea plum jam, and Tregothnan tea. If interested in the Tregothnan products, please click here. We would have loved to sit on the patio, but the weather kept us from doing so. Maybe next time!

Click to read more about Cherkley Gardens and Lord Beaverbrook.

We decided to join up and become Friends of Cherkley, which will entitle us to return to the gardens anytime during the summer season. We find it fascinating to see how the vegetation changes through the year. Cherkley is open until 30 September.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Box Hill Village Fair 2009

As the weather has turned more manageable again, I decided to drag the family to the nearby Box Hill Village Fair. This annual event featured some interesting activities, including Birds of Prey Demonstration and the always-anticipated Dog Show.

I suppose there were about 50 vendors of all varieties at the fair, too. It all made for an enjoyable day out as a family, and we all were a little bit sunburned when we came home.

We got there just in time to see a demonstration of the birds of prey, featuring Honey, a European Eagle Owl, which some say is the largest of all the owls. Even though it looks huge next to the other birds of prey, this particular owl, Honey, weighs between 3 and 5 pounds only! Goes to show you how powerful and strong, yet light, bird bones are.

I thought you would enjoy some photos of Honey and her handler. Yes, one of the photos shows Honey with a chick hanging from her mouth. This is the real world after all!

This weekend, we also managed to catch another elusive bird in our camera lens, although this one is much more placid! The Ringed-Neck Parakeet is such a beautiful green parrot with a lovely elegant tail.

I've learned to recognize the call as they fly overhead; we have at least five living in our neighborhood. However, they rarely come into to feed on our feeding station. Amazingly, we had two of them come to munch and investigate in our back garden on Saturday afternoon.

Unfortunately, the starlings are so annoying that they wouldn't give the poor parrots any peace, and they flew off after 10 minutes or so. During that time, I was able to snap some photos at a distance; hence, the graininess of the image. Still well worth the effort!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Bird Feeder Update

While we have been inundated over the last month with starlings and their fledglings, we also are fortunate to still have an array of Tits coming to the feeder. They particularly like to come in the lull between the starlings, who have a tendency to monopolize the feeders.

We've had a cute family of Blue Tits, with the parent teaching the three offspring to eat on the suet-filled coconut shells. Here is a photo of a Blue Tit taken today.

The coconut shells have been a real hit with all the birds. It's all they seem to want to eat these days! But their preferences change with the seasons, just as the types of birds that we have at our feeder.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Video of Robin Feeding

Here is a little video of the robin feeding the fledglings.

It wasn't until Sunday that we notice the little heads bobbing up and down. The father and mother have been incredibly busy feeding their offspring, and it's nice to see three healthy little birdies chirping for food.

In the video below, you can see the heads of the little robins bobbing up and down!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Nesting Robins & A Thank You!

I want to say a very big 'thank you' to both Dave and Catherine, who volunteered to come to our home during the Easter week to feed our wild birds while we were on our holidays in Dorset.

Before we left on our week-long trip, the birds seemed to be frantically feeding; apparently many were nesting and sitting on their eggs or feeding their fledglings. We worried about leaving the birds without food in the feeding station for a whole week.

Thankfully, my long-time friend Catherine was able to pop over while we were gone, and I was lucky to meet Dave through the Wildlife Aid Forum. Dave volunteers through the week at Wildlife Aid, and he lives not too far from our home. He also has a bird feeding station at his home and enjoys watching all the different varieties of birds that congregate.

This is why their contribution was so important. Check out these hungry robins who are living in a nesting box under the eaves of our Wendy house in the back garden.

I hung this nesting box in the autumn, and I had no idea if we'd have any customers. However, with the protection of the eaves of the little house and the food just a hop away, this is equivalent to a four-star hotel in the bird world!

Let me take a moment to plug Wildlife Aid, which is located in Leatherhead, Surrey, and is a wildlife rescue group made famous by the documentary program Wildlife SOS, which is shown on Animal Planet. Wildlife Aid can always use donations to help fund their very important causes and efforts. If you've been interested in seeing the premises, they will hold their annual Open Day on Sunday, 21 June. You can read more information on their site: http://www.wildlifeaid.org.uk/index.php

Again, thanks to Dave and Catherine for taking care of our birds while we were away!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Gone a bit potty!

The weather in SE England for the last week has been amazing! The sun has been shining and we haven't had rain or cloudy skies for more than a week. When the weather is like this, I find it difficult to concentrate on anything else but being in the garden, digging in the soil, and potting up new plants.

Niall and I popped over to one of the local garden centers the past weekend, and I picked up a collection of brightly colored flowers, including anemones, ranunculus, pansies, tulips, and daffodils. I've attached some photos of some potted plants, which are sitting on our deck in the back garden.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Robin Glory

I guess you're starting to think we're real bird fanatics, with all the bird videos we've posted! I guess we do really enjoy the English countryside wildlife. We certainly do our part to help our feathered friends and occasional furry mammal in the lean months, as well as in the glorious summer.

During the snows, the robins were particularly keen on getting their seed. We were able to get very close to them. During the warmer months, they are not very interested in the feeder, unless there are mealworms on offer. However, during the winter, they seem to be a more frequent visitor to our feeders.

Elusive Birds

It's rare to see the elusive Long-Tailed Tits at our bird feeders.

The first time I ever saw these birds was in 2002 at our previous home in Surrey -- Keepers Cottage, near Chipstead in Surrey.

At the time, I was working away on my computer in the lounge, which had a lovely window to the back garden. I just happened to turn around and see that it had begun to snow, a rarity in April. Then this flock of about six to eight Long-Tailed Tits landed on the newly budding rose bushes. The hungry beasts frantically began to munch on the rose buds for about 2 minutes, and they flew away as quickly as they came.

The weather needs to be inclement, icy or snowy before I see these stunning birds. They seem to only come in groups, never singularly.

Since moving to Hillside, I've managed to spot the Long-Tailed Tit about five times, mostly during snowy and icy conditions. Trying to get a photo or video of them is near to impossible, as they come and go so quickly.

I was quite shocked I managed to get a video of these birds at in our front garden during yesterday's snow.

If you'd like to see some really lovely photos of Long-Tailed Tits, have a look at these photos by Andy Bright: