Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Leap year

Every morning for the past week i have a brief sojourn at the Botanical Gardens here in Durham. i am predominantly observing the 23 strong flock of Manx and Hebridean sheep for a behavioural project as part of my degree (mentioned in a previous post). after each visit the biting cold, wind and rain has caused me to hurry back to the warmth of the labs back on campus. sadly disregarding all the interesting things going on in the gardens on route. However today was a little different.

This difference came in the wondrous exuberance of the sun, who was out in full force. As i meandered back towards uni this unexpected change to my usual cold and miserable morning brought me to a standstill along one of the paths through the gardens to bask blissfully in the sunshine. as i stood there i heard some very distinct rasping, croaking noises coming from the small pond to my left. on peering into the murk it suddenly became clear that these were created by a host of frogs and toads all clambering over one another, the males clasping the females tightly where one imagines their waist would be if they could ever be described as having one.

It was a true orgy of procreation and a wildlife spectacle that has sadly been lost in many ponds throughout the UK. i watched for a short while and then crawling to the edge i managed to get a few photos on my phone and these i now share with you.


peeping toad (actually a frog)

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Bit of Hockney..

I recently got a postcard with a new David Hockney sketch, this is always nice but this particular one caught my eye as having a slightly unusual air to it. On reading the back it turns out this is one of a series he has recently created on the i-pad. Once you realise you can see the vivid colours do not mix, as oils or watercolour would, but are layered endlessly on top of one another. Its a fascinating new medium and i hope soon i can borrow my friends i-pad and try it out. There are various programs available, Hockney uses one called brushes. There is also a more classic Hockney below, made up of 6 panels in the traditional oil, this just provides some comparison with his i-pad work. These two works are particularly appropriate for now given their respective titles.

The Arrival of Spring in Woldgate, East Yorkshire (2011) David Hockney

A Closer Winter Tunnel, Feb-March (2006) David Hockney
            oil on canvas

Monday, 20 February 2012

Winter aconite hopefully a prelude to a sunny spring

Allotment meeting this Saturday, quiet one with just Mim and I, planting of some onion sets due to the mild weather. Will have to wait and see how they go. Begun as a lovely day, but soon became rather grey. However a successful planting and excellent to get out in a the fresh air. Also excellent to see the winter aconite (Eranthis) in flower, a relative of the buttercup this is bright and sunny and flowering right now, an excellent hailer to the spring and summer ahead.

Winter aconite in full bloom

Mim in the midst of the onion planting

Ladybird discovered hibernating in the onion patch (it was carefully rehoused)

Monday, 13 February 2012

Jack frosts done some damage..

Up at the allotment this saturday, mild weathers allowed things to flourish. However recent cold spell has resulted in some damage. The fennel was lookin good up until now, the liquid filled cells have frozen, expanding and damaging the structure; the result = very sad looking plant. The sage on he other hand is all good. Other than assessing the frost damage, we dug over a patch ground for planting of broad beans a little later. Suffice to say a good proportion of time was also taken tea drinking and ice bun eating.

the fennel looking a little worse for ware post frost

The much more happy sage

Wednesday, 8 February 2012


I went on a wander yesterday between lectures in search of some sheep, this sounds weird but i had to find some subjects for my 3rd yr project and sheep seemed a reliable animal for observation. i knew there was a herd of some old world breed at the botanical gardens so this seemed a good place to start. After a bit of investigation and asking the groundsmen i  soon came across the meadow they had as their home. They were a mix of Manx Loaghtan and Hebridian sheep, both sexes having horns, although also clear sexual dimorphism with an impressive 4 horns from the males. They were all very tame, being used to strangers walking through the field regularly, and there were used to being fed. After initial interest in me including a slightly aggressive ram, they soon got bored and ignored my presence. There were two rams, one (whom i was now well aquanited with), was much more dominant.

The less dominant of the two rams- still an impressive set of horns!

The hay feeder (notice it has been repaired with hazel stakes)

Friday, 3 February 2012

Fresh February morning at Flass Vale

Just as the sun was rising i prised myself out of bed to embrace the frosty february morning for an early walk in Flass Vale nature reserve. This is just next to the Kings lodge hotel near Mobray street. This is well managed and plays host to innumerable animals that were also just waking. i came across bickering grey squirrels, with unfathomable energy bursting through the tree tops and more sleepy blackbirds hopping nonchalantly off the path as i approached. Climbing one of the side paths that rose steeply right, came across a fantastic view of Durham, resplendent in the morning light. Hence the pictures below.

Frosty grass and oak.

February sunrise.