Bearded Tits

Bearded tits have always been a difficult bird for me to photograph – they’re just so quick and I rarely get to see them. There is an aviary at Pensthorpe in Norfolk that houses some bearded tits, which are bred for conservation programmes, and because the reeds are a limited territory within the aviary it’s actually possible to get some photos.

So here are some I took recently.

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Fairhaven Woodland & Water Garden – June 2018

On a hot day in June we took a drive out to Fairhaven Woodland & Water Garden, a faerie-like dreamland of quiet streams and secret rhododendron paths.

The garden took 15 years to create when the late Lord and his team of gardeners began to restore the house and land after the war. The spectacle is quiet strange; almost current-less waterways cross the garden, and rooms of hydrangeas and camellia merge. There were plenty of ducks and their young, dragonflies and damselflies, and schools of thousands of sticklebacks.

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I’d love to know what kind of funghi are these?

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The foxgloves were out in force.

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An Egyptian goose spotted.

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I don’t feel so bad about the green skud on the surface of my pond – the water here is covered in it, you feel like it’s grass.

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The fields of wheat.

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We were really impressed to find that in the tearoom not only was there vegan cake in the form of a delicious chocolate and marmalade slice, but also there was a sandwich option. It doesn’t take much to add an easy hummus sarnie to your menu but it makes such a difference!

Easy Vegan Blueberry Muffins

Recently I made these easy vegan blueberry muffins for a neighbourhood gathering and they got some compliments so I thought they were worth sharing.

I never have much luck with baking – something always goes wrong – so I enjoy my successes when they occur. This time something did also go wrong – I was following a recipe online on my iPad and the app crashed before I could find out how much oil to use! So I had to guess as I couldn’t trail through all the Google results (it wasn’t in my history – the crash removed it, I don’t know why.) It worked out just fine regardless.

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Ingredients
200 plain flour

75g sugar

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

180ml soy milk

About 50ml oil

200g frozen blueberries

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National Insect Week

It’s not the most glamorous of ‘national week of…’ events but it is globally important to the conservation of insect species, which are rapidly declining. The celebration was started to “encourage people of all ages to learn about insects”, which is a particularly prescient exercise given the recent evidence from France and Germany that shows a 75% decline in insect species across the countryside within the last 25 years.

The National Insect Week website lists all the different types of insects and has a wealth of learning resources. Insects include:

  • beetles
  • butterflies and moths
  • bees and wasps
  • ants
  • crickets and grasshoppers
  • dragonflies and damselflies
  • earwigs
  • lacewings
  • mayflies
  • stoneflies
  • silverfish and firebrats
  • true bugs
  • true flies

A casual flick through the website and I have learnt that while there are over 50 or 60 species of butterflies in the UK, there are a staggering 2000 species of moth! I have also discovered what a firebrat is.

You may not be especially interested in insects – you may even avoid them at all costs – but they are an essential component of any ecosystem because so many animals depend on them for a food source. They are also pollinators so they help plants and flowers to reproduce, which contributes to a healthy and diverse ecosystem. Some insects even break down decaying organisms, returning those nutrients to the environment.

The RSPB suggests excellent ways to encourage insect species in our gardens:

  • build a bug home
  • plant for butterflies
  • install a bee hotel
  • pile up dead wood
  • support campaigns by Buglife

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Vegan cheese & chive scones

I made these vegan cheese and chive scones this weekend for a street party and they went down surprisingly well.

I had to use a variety of vegan cheeses as I ran out but I think the mixture of cheddar and parmesan worked well as it gave it a stronger flavour. In future I would like to try a dairy free alternative to red leicester as it gives a redder colour.

I used chives I cut from my garden – I’ve been growing a lot of herbs this year and the chive plants needed a hair cut.

Ingredients

  • 510g plain flour
  • 2 tsps baking powder
  • Generous pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp mustard powder (I used Colmans)
  • 65g dairy free butter
  • 300ml soy milk
  • 380g vegan cheese

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Bluebells at Blickling in May

Every May comes the annual trip to the woods at the Blickling estate in Norfolk to see the bluebells, and it never disappoints. Vast carpets of delicate purple flowers lay across the woodland floor and hundreds of people turn up each year to see this spectacle.

Here are a few photos of my trip this year.

 

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