Sunday, June 12, 2016

Poppies in the cornfield

Summer at home. So, so beautiful...

More Nature Day photos!

Thanks to Jane for these photos from the day - if you took any you'd like to share, please send them over! 

Tas and Dan on the hunt for macroinvertebrates

A very, very excited Thomas :)

Virge, Vivi, Me and Rohan

Rose and Liszu

The Bird Hide - BioBlitz HQ!

Species lists: insects, lichens, herbs, grasses, fungi, birds, trees, mammals

Here's what we found! I'm going to do up proper lists and then go through each species one by one and do a blog post on them - their ecology, folklore and cultural history, edibility, medicinal properties, etc. Should keep me busy for a while...

River Field Nature Day 2016

On June 4th, over 100 of our nearest and dearest joined us in the River Field for a nature day. The idea was to identify as many species of plant, animal and fungi as possible over the course of the afternoon, record them, figure out what's interesting and/or unique, and submit everything to the National Biodiversity Data Centre so we can contribute to the national effort to improve our knowledge of Ireland's biodiversity. The whole thing was inspired by the 'BioBlitz' initiative, which brings communities and scientists together to do something similar, except over a 24 hour period.

Naturally enough, we went to town and turned it into a bit of a party with straw bale seating, bunting, new signs, a freshly-mown willow maze, a brand new compost toilet, lanterns, bonfire, etc.

Straw bale seating and handmade bunting

The entrance to the Willow Maze...

...leading to this at the centre

Our new compost loo

The Roundhouse

Here are some photos from the day itself. Species lists to follow!
Duncan, Valerie, Paul Dowding, Mum Yvonne and Shane identifying grasses

Paul Dowdling identifying butterfly larvae

Pay and Mary Durkin's group identifying birds by their song

More birdsong identification

...and some more!

The entomologists arrive! Jane and Eileen come armed with butterfly nets and pots

Virge and Vivi inspecting the insects

Compiling the lists

Getting up close and personal with the insects

Eileen, puzzled! 

Two wonderful wildlife detectives, Isabel and Caoimhe

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Summer by the river

Early summer is magic by the river. The hawthorn trees are heavy with more blossom than I've ever seen, the bright yellow mayflies are emerging from the water in swarms and the birds are feasting on them, the purple vetch and ladies smock flowers are in full bloom and tasting delicious, the owls are nesting, the willow is going to seed and there's white fluff floating through the air, the water's low and clear... and it's WARM. I'm so going swimming tomorrow.

Hawthorn blossom and low, clear water

Willow going to seed - white fluff in the air, everywhere!

DIY compost toilet

We're having a party in the River Field this weekend. The need for 'facilities' is a practical challenge: no running water, no sewerage, and too many people to make weeing behind bushes a comfortable option. So we got creative...

We have a small living willow dome that we planted a few years ago and have been weaving ever since.

It's in a quiet corner of the River Field, so we decided to turn it into an outdoor compost loo for the weekend. This involved digging a hole, attaching a toilet seat to an old broken chair, and stringing up some sheets to preserve our guests' modesty.

We'll be providing a bin for toilet roll and a bucket of sawdust for people to put in the hole. Let's see how it works!

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Early summer foraging - nettles, wild garlic, hawthorn and bramble

It's a great time of year for greens - for salads, soups and teas - so I've been out picking.

This is a really simple soup - wild garlic stalks (just the soft bits, chopped up) and nettle leaves, plus a little bit of pre-roasted butternut squash to thicken it and some veg stock. Simple, quick and tasty!

A tray of bramble (blackberry) and hawthorn leaf, drying for tea. I ended up mixing it with some wild water mint I picked and dried last year and it tastes delicious - fresh and light. Hawthorn is supposed to be great for regulating cholesterol and blood pressure. Bramble is good for sore throats, apparently. 

Sunday, May 1, 2016

The owls make an appearance on May Day

We were enjoying our May Day Sunday lunch when a small white dot appeared at the entrance to the owl house, which is visible from our dining table. Shoving aside the roast potatoes, we quickly set up the photography equipment. Tech spec: coffee table, telescope, camera on a tripod and two paperback books that are just the right thickness.

Our equipment. Note the entrance hole to the owl box in the camera viewing pane

We haven't seen the owls since Christmas Eve so it was great to know that they're still there. It's egg laying season and we have our fingers crossed for another clutch of babies. Maybe this one was poking its head out in the day time because things are just too cramped below deck in the nesting area? Or maybe it's just a bit stinky inside? We saw lots of flies coming out... and barn owls are known for their squalid living arrangements.

The long view: see the little white dot?

We took it in turns to man the camera and, after 1 hr and 30 minutes of neck cramps and zoom fiddling, this little white face was the result.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Wild winter

I love this photo that my friend Valerie took of the trees by the river. It looks so wild and spooky!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Storm Frank

The River Field is even more aptly named today! We've never seen the water this high.

Last night, Storm Frank battered the country with high winds and lots of rain. This fell on top of an already sodden Nore valley here in Co. Kilkenny. I took a video to show just how bad it is at Han's Cross, near Lismaine Bridge - have a look, you can see (and hear!) the water gushing over and under the road as it flows from one field to the next.

Just for comparison...
On Boxing Day
Today - it's half way up mum's wellies

In the picture below, you can see just how strong the current is as it flows under the road.

The picture below is a bit closer to home - the water line is approx 20 metres from our gate. The road used to flood regularly until it was raised by 1.5 metres in the mid '90s. This is the first time the new raised road has been under water, though. There's a good chance we might be flooded in this evening: the stretch of road in the photo is impassable, as is the alternative route down by the Finger Post. The last resort is past the graveyard and up the hill by Walshe's on the back roads to Freshford. We went that way at about 12pm, and the water was streaming down the road from the hills and collecting in the dip. We just about got through it at the time... I'm going out in an hour. Will I get through it??

This field - directly opposite our house - has never flooded before. You can just about make out the owl box in the middle. I wonder what they make of it all...

It is quite beautiful, though! I'm hoping the winds will die down over the next few days and I can get some nice Turner-esque photographs of the clouds reflected in the flood waters. Judging by the latest Met Eireann forecast though, there's not much hope of it.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Christmas floods and bird-spotting: buzzards, barn owls, cormorants, lapwing, herons and LOTS of water

It has been an exceptionally wet and windy December and the floods are up. Fields as far as the eye can see have been transformed into lakes.

This is great news for the cormorants as they swim through the water hunting for trout that have strayed over the flooded riverbanks (a gang of them have taken up positions atop a dying ash tree opposite our kitchen window where they dry their wings in the promise of sunshine and spy on unsuspecting lunch items below).

Flocks of lapwing are also enjoying the winter feast and we've spotted a heron or two as well as the usual swans. On Christmas Eve-Eve I was lucky enough to catch a rare and spectacular close-up view of one of our local buzzards and on Christmas Eve itself our two beautiful barn owls appeared out of their nest box and flew up the road, right past our house. What a wonderful treat.

There was rather a lot of birdsong in the River Field this afternoon - robins and blackbirds, I suspect, among others - and the fantastic sound of gushing floodwater as it raced through the hedgerows and under the roads from one field to the next. I would love to find a way to record it. Must hit up Chris Watson for some tips...

Confused buds

Raindrops on roses... or is it willow?