Folklore Thursday-Wren king of the birds

During the Big Garden Birdwatch, the wren was pretty much in the garden constantly reminding me of a folklore story. Once upon a time, the birds decided they would find out once and for all which of them was the king of the birds. They settled on a competition, the bird who could fly the highest would be named king of the birds. The birds all took flight, flying higher and higher. The small birds were the first to drop out and it wasn’t long until just the birds of prey were left. Finally, just the eagle was left. With no flight left in it, it started to descend. As it did a wren hidden in its feathers flew up higher declaring itself king of the birds.

The other birds were outraged with the wrens trickery and refused to accept the result. The wren laughed at them. It could beat them at any challenge. The eagle challenged it to swoop the lowest. The eagle dived and swept along the ground. The wren dived and saw a burrow it entered winning the contest. However, the birds of prey wouldn’t let it out annoyed at its deceit. It stayed hidden until one day while the owl was distracted it snuck out. From that day on the wren has stayed hidden low down in the bushes to avoid the angry birds of prey trying to take its title of king of the birds.

The wren used to be hunted on the feast day of St Stephen on the 26th December The wren would be killed and paraded around the village on a poll by strawboys. The wrenboys dress in suits of straw and masks and colourful clothes. Several folklore songs were sung as they paraded.

“The wren the wren the king of all birds

St Stephen’s Day was caught in the furze

Her clothes were all torn- her shoes were all worn

Up with the kettle and down with the pan

Give us a penny to bury the “wran”

If you haven’t a penny a halfpenny will do

If you haven’t a halfpenny/ God bless you!”

For a tiny little bird, it has played a large part in the folklore of the UK. For a tiny bird it has one of the loudest songs. Well worth spending time watching and enjoying.

Follow me on Twitter.

Big Garden Birdwatch 2020

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been talking about my preparations for the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch and yesterday we carried it out. The day was a bit overcast but not too windy and no sign of rain. Alice was helping out as it has been set as her school homework for this month. She helped prepare by making pine cone fat feeders.

We tied the string to the pine cones.

Then we mixed seed and lard.

Then we moulded it around the pine cones and placed in the fridge to set.

Then these have been placed hanging off the back gate. I don’t think the birds will be that bothered for them but I like to make something with Alice so she’s been involved. We made the Cheerio feeders last year so fancied something different this year.

We set ourselves up inside with notebooks and field guides and binoculars ready to record our sightings. Alice was very excited to write down her sightings using her My little pony multi-coloured pen. She wanted to choose colours to match the birds.

I had discussed in an earlier blog my hope that I might have the greenfinches or blackcaps in to add something different to my list but it wasn’t to be. That said, we did have a good number of birds coming in and in large numbers. The results are as follows:

  • Common gull 2
  • Wren 1
  • Starlings 6
  • House sparrows 17
  • Wood pigeon 3
  • Blackbird 4
  • Blue tit 2
  • Collared Dove 3
  • Crow 1
  • Robin 1
  • Dunnock

Of the regulars, the finches were noticeably absent and the great and long-tailed tits. But we still saw double figures of species and a good number of each. Next doors cat was patrolling the garden for much of the time so I don’t think that’s too bad a number. When I first put the feeders out I didn’t have anywhere near the number of birds visiting.

There is still time to do a count today and tomorrow if you haven’t already taken part. Even if you have you can still submit multiple counts. Having done one count with Alice I may try for one on my own so I can focus better in case I missed anything on this one. Alice had good fun though and she is naming more of the birds correctly which at the age of three I think is good going. Hope you all enjoy the rest of your weekends and if you are taking part in the count you get to see plenty.

Follow me on Twitter.

Six on Saturday: 18.1.19

We come to the end of another week and the garden has survived the worst of the storms. Only the one pot that is getting blown over so not too bad in the grand schemes. The predicted cold weather over the next week isn’t meant to be as severe in my area though it may be wet.

Burgon & Ball winnings

A few weeks ago I posted about winning the Burgon & Ball photo competition and now my winnings have arrived. For those of you who don’t know Burgon & Ball are a Sheffield based company established in 1730 working with steel. They have an established history of making quality tools and they received the RHS endorsement in 2012. So, it’s very nice to win a collection of their tools. I opted for an allotment set, despite no allotment, as it had more tools I don’t own in. I got two long-handled weeders. The weed slice is for quick work on surface weeds. The express hoe has an oscillating blade. This apparently makes it easier to pull across the soil as it angles itself to cut.

I think these will work well in the front garden where I get a lot of surface weeds that can just be scraped off.

The razor hoe should be good for some of the cracks in the patio.

Then finally, a mug. While I don’t have an allotment still good to have a garden mug.

2. Beach finds

I’ve tied up a few of my beach finds. Alice helped thread, then directed me to place them for decoration around the trees.

3. Further bargain bulbs

Morrison’s bulbs were down to a pound and less. I opted for some pink hyacinths ‘Jan Bos’ and ‘candy prince’ tulips I thought Alice would like. I don’t massively like hyacinths, but they are supposedly good for bees. The tulips aren’t particularly good for wildlife but have to make some concessions to beauty. The naturalising mix should be of more benefit to wildlife. It contains Tulip Tarda, Chinodoxa and Muscari. I already have patches on Chinodoxa and Muscari, but I’m interested to see how the Tulip Tarda perform. These are closer to the original wild form. I’ve gone with quite a lot of bulbs that can naturalise so I don’t have to spend as much each year. I may regret going for so many that can spread, but be a few years till I have to worry about that. For now, I can enjoy the show.

These have all made it into the ground. As I haven’t marked any of my previous bulb plantings I’m going from memory of what is coming up where so I could have some strange combinations. I’ve tried marking bulbs but Alice likes moving labels and there are too many bulbs now.

4. Blackcap

I posted a few weeks saying I’d spotted a blackcap in my parents garden. I’ve now seen one in my garden. I’ve not wanted to disturb it so I haven’t got a great photo yet, but nice to have a newcomer to the garden. Not a rare bird, but apparently staying overwinter more frequently and moving further north. This was followed by several long-tailed tits, which are becoming another more common winter visitor up north.

5. Big garden birdwatch preparation

During winter and in preparation for the Big Garden Birdwatch I’ve increased the number of feeders dotted around the garden. I’ve also put a few closer to the house so we get to enjoy a few birds at close quarters. I’ve got a few of the jars of fat food from Wilco’s. These provide lots of energy during the winter months. I’ve put the nyjer feeders back up. I haven’t bothered with them in a while as the seed was rotting away, but as I’ve seen a number of finches recently I thought I’d give it another go. The stands are rusty ones I bought cheap when I first moved in. The outer layer has almost all cracked away. I don’t particularly like getting rid of things or creating waste so I’m considering giving them a lick of paint. Looking online though there are lots of choices beyond the original black, so it’s tempting to jazz them up. On the subject of feeders, it is worth moving them around every so often as this stops the build-up of leftover food underneath and helps stop the spread of disease.

6. Cineraria

Having found a new source of peat-free compost last week I wanted to try some seeds to see how it performed as seed compost. This is the main reason I need compost for so if the seeds can’t germinate it won’t be much use. Cineraria is a plant I’ve used around the borders as it contrasts well with darker plants like the dahlias. But after a while, it gets too big and woody and loses some of its charms. I’ve used the compost as is. I’ve not mixed anything additional in so I can see how it performs as it comes. I’ve used a large seed tray, this has been placed on a windowsill and should take about two weeks to germinate. The bag of the packs says germination guaranteed. So Wilcos can expect a letter asking for my pound refund if they don’t.

Well that’s your lot. I’ve not much planned for the garden this weekend. I’ve got a bit of pruning to do. I want to cut the height of the shrubs nearest the house so I’ve got a view down the garden for the Big Garden Birdwatch. We’re off out to visit one of my Amy’s friends. They have a stunning garden that we saw at open gardens last year (garden number 4). While it won’t have the abundance of summer I’m still looking forward to seeing it and how it holds up in winter. I hope you’ve all not been blown away and enjoy your weekends. Don’t forget to check the links on the Propagator’s blog to see other six on Saturday posts.

Follow me on Twitter.

 

12 Days of Wild: Day 12

And so 12 days wild comes to an end. I always enjoy taking part in these online communal nature pushes. While I live my life this way much of the year it is nice to reflect on what we do. But blogging each day is a drain on time so don’t mind going back to my usual interspaced blogs.

We had a few trips for boring practical purposes to do in the morning. But we popped over Tesco’s carpark to have a quick stroll through the community orchard and along the railway track. Alice told me we needed to look for fairy doors and she was right.

A robin serenaded us from the shadows.

On the way back we saw a few of the ducks along the drainage ditch.

Then in the afternoon, Alice wanted to go down to the beach again. She did really well walking and we made it a good way down the beach. I had taken the bucket along to collect more driftwood. Alice helped out finding pieces she felt were worthy of coming home. The sanderlings were running about back and forth around us. I’ve rarely had them coming so close to us, so that was a joy to see on the last day of 12 days. I didn’t have my camera on me, but I may try walking that way again over the next few weeks to see if I can get some photos of them. I did have my phone though so captured a pic of Alice decorating one of her castles.

It’s been a good break off and I’ve enjoyed blogging about Alice and my nature experiences. The daiy blogging will stop but the love of nature won’t.

Follow me on Twitter.

 

12 Days of Wild Christmas: Day 10

Today we said goodbye to Christmas. It’s all packed up and put up in the loft with the dahlia tubers. That took up more of the day than we expected, even though it always takes us longer than we expect each year. So it wasn’t until late afternoon I got outside. I’d decided I wanted to have a go at making a fairy house from an idea I’d seen on Pinterest. I needed to saw a log outside. So I picked a nice round one from the log store and got sawing. The birds have been unwilling to come in the garden much lately while I’m out. But once I’m busy the birds don’t mind me. Once I got sawing the blue tits were first in followed by the regular sparrows and blackbirds.

The magic must have been working on my fairy house preparation as I had a visitor I don’t remember seeing in my own garden for a good while. A greenfinch came in for the seed. Greenfinches were hit by disease a few years ago nationally. It’s heartening to know there are still some out there.

Alice didn’t help with much of this project. She did a couple of saw strokes cutting the wood. But the one part she was definite about was that the door should be red.

For a quick little project, I’m happy enough with the result. Alice wants me to make another, so may get better as I go on. I made mistakes with this one I know I can avoid next time. I’m not sure if I’ll varnish it or let it decay naturally. The glue can dry overnight and then we can look for a spot for it in the garden.

Follow me on Twitter.

12 Days of Wild Christmas: Day 7

Well, Alice decided to make up for the night before by sleeping much better so I have a bit more energy today. I started the day with some wild music listening to the lost words album: spell songs. This album came after the success of the book. It’s a nice peaceful album for the morning wake up.

Then I got out to top up the bird feeders and enjoyed a cuppa out in the cold morning frost.

The sparrows are always quick to get in first on the feeders. They are a bit skittish at the moment and don’t like me being out so struggling for quality photos.

The dove watched on, not wanting to come in while I was out.

The tits showed off their acrobatics hopping through the honeysuckle and lilac to get to the fat balls.

One fed and dressed Alice and I headed for the Mere. There was a good haze over the fields when we arrived.

The sun was low on the water, but a nice crisp winter temperature to be out with the sun shining.

We had brought seed to feed the birds Alice was a bit scared of the geese, which is understandable. Normally we feed the ducks from further round where the geese don’t go but it was a bit boggy. A good mix of gulls, ducks, moorhens, swans, and geese out today.

Constant snacks form a vital part of any outing to prevent a grumpy child.

Alice was keen to read all the bench memorials leading to us discovering about Wilfred Cutting’s world record-breaking roach catch.

The rowboats all out of the water for winter.

Alice checked out the distant birds.

The teasel still looking architectural along the water’s edge.

And a sighting one of my favorite birds working its way along the jetty. The wagtails characteristic hop is always good to watch.

I’ve enjoyed my stroll out. Good to get outside properly after a good few days with little movement. Tomorrow sees the yearly New Year dip. I won’t be taking part. Even with the wetsuit on it’s too cold for going in. Having seen people emerging from the water like the D-Day landings I’m willing to just watch and give my donation to the RNLI. The litter around Hornsea has been really bad today, so may take the litter picker and a bag to do a beech clean while we’re down there. Alice has been picking up all the rubbish today on our walk. While I am proud of her sense of civic duty it does make for slow progress walking.

Follow me on Twitter.