Notes from a riverside garden

Notes from a riverside garden

Happy New Year! Our first blog post of 2019 comes from SB with “Garden Clippings”, her seasonal observations from her garden on the banks of the River Stour. She tells us about the wildlife coming to her garden, including a very unusual visitor!

We planted a new witch hazel last spring and despite watering as much as possible throughout the drought its leaves withered and died late summer and we feared we had lost it to the dry conditions.  To our delight we now see flower buds have formed and the witch hazel is alive and well.  All those buckets of water were worthwhile after all!

The bird table is very busy with a good size flutter of sparrows also blue tits, long tailed tits, coal tits, great tits, robins, green finches, goldfinches, a female reed bunting, lesser spotted woodpecker, starlings, blackbirds and the occasional sparrow hawk swooping through.  On the island we have had a new sighting, a water rail (see photo).   We have the reed beds there and dense vegetation along the riverbanks which it prefers.  Our reference book informs us that it feeds on insects and their larvae, crustaceans, worms, fish and even other birds, together with roots, berries and seeds.  I have heard a strange call when walking around the island and perhaps the water rail has been responsible.  The reference book states its weird cries have been likened to those of a screaming pig!

Nocturnal visitors to the garden of late include badger, fox, muntjac, stoat, otters (a family of three have been seen) and the occasional rat and mouse.

Welcome signs of spring greet us as we walk around – crocus and daffodil are making an appearance and we have aconites and snowdrops in flower.  The willows are sporting fabulous catkins, furry ovals of silver along their upright stems, which look stunning against a blue winter sky when the light catches them.  The hazels have cascading clusters of catkins.  In the border the hellebores are about to enchant us with their pendulous flowers, so worth stopping for a moment, lifting a flower to admire the beauty within.  SB