Mar 042017
Mandarin brings some colour to the pond

Eighteen months after the last new bird visitor to the grounds of Bracken House, a mandarin made an appearance on the large pond bringing some much-needed colour. The bird, a male, was the 44th different bird species noted since recording started in February 2010. The mandarin arrived during the afternoon and seemed to enjoy swimming around with the pair of mallards who visit the pond almost every day. The resident moorhens weren’t too impressed with the new arrival and kept their distance. Mandarins were introduced to the UK from China and have become established following escapes from captivity. The main [Read more]

Nov 032016
Grey wagtail becomes 43rd bird species to visit

On the 3rd November 2016, a grey wagtail was seen perched on a chair on the patio. The bird was preening itself for a few minutes before flying off over the large field. Grey wagtail (Photo credit: Wikipedia) The grey wagtail usually nests near fast-flowing water in hilly areas, but visits lowland waters in winter. The grey wagtail is resident over most of England and Wales, but is only a summer visitor in Scotland. In winter they can be seen around farmyards and lowland streams, even in city centres. Scarce in central and eastern England in summer and from upland areas [Read more]

Jan 052016
2015 - a stay at home year

Despite having over a dozen overseas places on my ‘must visit’ list, 2015 was a year in which I stayed on these shores, unless you count the Channel Islands as abroad. Although outside of the United Kingdom, I don’t regard our annual holiday in Herm as a trip overseas. Holidays Apart from a day trip to Llandudno in April, my first holiday was a repeat trip to the Outer Hebrides, this time on an organised rail and coach trip. The last time I was in the Hebrides, Sandra and I flew there and drove the length of the Isles from Barra to Stornaway. [Read more]

Mar 212015
An aurora, an eclipse and an equinox

This week has been an exciting week for astronomers and skywatchers in the East Midlands. Within the space of four days, we saw a display of the Aurora Borealis, normally reserved for higher latitudes, as far south as Derbyshire, and a partial solar eclipse with 90% coverage. March 20th was also the spring equinox, the day when the Sun crosses the equator and moves above the Northern Hemisphere. The action started earlier in the week when a geomagnetic storm on the surface of the Sun produced a massive solar flare which collided with the Earth’s atmosphere on the evening of March 17th. The [Read more]

Jan 122015
2014 - where did you go to?

They say time flies by as you get older, and for me, this was certainly true in 2014. No sooner had the buds burst out on the trees, than the leaves were falling and Winter was returning to this part of the United Kingdom. I suppose the main reason the year flew by was because I was kept busy most of the time. I don’t seem to get bored, although I do have many moments when I sit around and watch the World drift by. Not having to work does give me the luxury to enjoy these quiet moments, and [Read more]

Dec 262014
Black-Headed Gull becomes 41st bird species seen at Bracken House

Gulls are very often seen flying over Bracken House, but none have ever landed in the fields or gardens until today. Never has a bird come close enough to be identified, but a Black-Headed Gull was seen feeding in the fields for most of today. Not really a black-headed bird, more chocolate-brown – in fact, for much of the year, it has a white head, as was noted today. It is most definitely not a ‘seagull‘ and is found commonly almost anywhere inland. Black-headed gulls are sociable, quarrelsome, noisy birds, usually seen in small groups or flocks, often gathering into [Read more]

Nov 032014
Jay becomes the 40th bird species to visit Bracken House

On November 3rd 2014, a Jay was seen at Bracken House. This was the fortieth different bird species recorded here since 2010. The bird was seen sitting on the fire pit, only a few feet from the kitchen, before flying into the large field. The Jay stayed here for a few minutes pecking at the ground before flying off. The Jay is a very colourful, though secretive member of the crow family. Found throughout the country they live in woodland, though they sometimes visit gardens. They feed on acorns, nuts, seeds and insects, but also eats nestlings of other birds and small [Read more]

Oct 292014
Improving the front of the house

When we moved in to Bracken House six years ago, the gardens were unsightly and tatty, while the land surrounding the gardens was overgrown and full of weeds. After a year of ‘seeing what comes up’ we decided to get in a team of landscape gardeners who ripped up the old borders and lawns and transformed the gardens. The work on the gardens and adjacent meadows was completed in early summer 2010 and I then tried to maintain the gardens myself. After four years of struggling, I decided that I wanted to sit back and enjoy the garden, and not spending all [Read more]

Jul 112014
Stock Dove added to list of identified birds

The stock dove has become the 39th bird species positively identified at Bracken House since we began recording early in 2010. Easily mistaken for other types of pigeon, a pair of stock doves were noted feeding on the ground today (July 11th 2014). It is quite likely that the bird has been a regular visitor to Bracken House, but has been overlooked due to its similarity to other birds in the pigeon family. Stock doves are widely distributed in the UK, except for parts of northern Scotland and Ireland, with particularly high densities in the Midlands and South West. Over [Read more]

Apr 302014
The robin - a gardener's companion

Whenever I am working in the garden, I almost always have a robin as my companion. They are very tame birds and are always the first to visit when I fill the bird feeders each day. Recently, one of the main tasks I had to do was weeding and hoeing the flower borders. Within a few minutes of starting, a robin joined me, often only a couple of feet away. He occasionally had a look in the wheelbarrow to see if I had thrown in a grub or earthworm. At this time of year, the robin can often be seen with a mouthful of [Read more]

Apr 182014
Removing four years of grime

For the last couple of months, there have been very few new posts on the site. The main reason for this inactivity is that it’s the time of year when the garden and meadows need to be tidied up, weeded and generally transformed back into something to be proud to show visitors around. Apart from cutting the paddocks, tracks and paths, as well as preparing the vegetable patch for the new season, by far the biggest job has been the jet-washing of the patio. This is no normal sized patio, and the size of it is partly the reason it [Read more]

Feb 132014
Despite the storms, Spring is beginning to appear

The Winter of 2013/4 has been the wettest and windiest so far experienced at Bracken House, but despite the record-breaking weather, Spring is showing definite signs of returning. Despite the flooded fields and waterlogged flower borders, spring bulbs have already poked through the mud. Snowdrops are in flower under the hedges, with crocuses, tulips and daffodils likely to be in flower in a couple of weeks. In the meadows, wild primroses have been flowering for two or three weeks now, adding some welcomed colour to the grassy areas. The wildlife too is sensing the return of Spring. The wood pigeons, [Read more]

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