A Cotswold Year - Charting the seasons in the South Cotswolds

Saturday 31 December 2011


Blackbirds are looking magnificent at present and there are at least three male blackbirds in our small back garden despite the RSPB telling us that the males are solitary birds. Their sharp alarm call is heard as we appear and they quickly skulk off into the bushes. When we are indoors they can be seen sitting on strategic hedge twigs watching what goes on like this male.
They are a very common bird in most gardens, one reference we found gives the total as more than six million pairs in the British Isles.
Blackbirds appear in British folklore, writing and of course the nursery rhyme "Sing a song of sixpence". For those children who don't like to think of the 24 blackbirds being baked alive it seems that the answer is in the timing. The pastry crust was pre-baked in the Tudor kitchen and the birds added just before the "surprise pie" was brought to the table.

Friday 30 December 2011

Winter trees

The delicate tracery of winter beech trees against the white cloudy sky shows even dull winter days can be beautiful in the woods

Wednesday 28 December 2011

Blue Tit

Many dislike the untidy appearance of a hedge cut with a modern hedge flail but the various species of tits seem to love all the bare branch tips where they perch waiting their turns at the bird feeders.

Tuesday 27 December 2011

Winter in the woods

Winter walks on dull days still give interesting views. In Summer this old quarry which once provided building stone for local buildings is hidden behind a curtain of green leaves but now is clear to see with a lovely foreground of ferns

Monday 26 December 2011

Christmas Walks

Our traditional after Christmas Lunch walk was shorter than usual due to the dull and rainy conditions. It was still great to walk off a few of the extra calories in the fresh air in the very mild temperatures.

Sunday 25 December 2011

Merry Christmas

Wishing all our followers a Merry Christmas and best wishes for the New Year.
We hope you will continue to enjoy following the changing seasons with us.

Friday 23 December 2011

Clearing Skies

Quite a dismal rainy day today but at least the sky was clearing from the West around sunset.

Thursday 22 December 2011

Shortest Day

The Winter Solstice is here with today the shortest day of the year but with the mostly sunny weather and temperatures up to 15 degrees it did not feel very wintry. One couple was even picnicking on Coaley Peak

Wednesday 21 December 2011


We are now at the Winter Solstice and can look forward to days lengthening again although today's mild weather with sunny periods does not feel like midwinter.
We visited Slimbridge WWT today and were rewarded with views of a Bittern on the reserve.These birds are really well camouflaged and difficult to spot in the reedbeds so we were pleased to get a good view.

Sunday 18 December 2011

Sunny winter views

A lovely bright winter's day gave superb views from the Cotswolds . Now the leaves have mostly gone the countryside looks tidy and ready to start another year

Saturday 17 December 2011

Melting Snow

The overnight snow did not really settle but was enough to make a wintry scene on  Haresfield Hill today

Friday 16 December 2011

First Snow

We awoke to a sprinkling of snow this morning with the fields white for the first time this year.

Thursday 15 December 2011

Showers and Sunshine

Much rain and sleet over the past few days but we were able to dodge the showers and take a walk. Stormy clouds behind highlight the sunlit trees on Uley Bury.

Tuesday 13 December 2011

Pollarded Willows

Trees may be bare but the orange bark of these willows are a fine sight reflecting the winter sunshine.

Thursday 8 December 2011

Clitocybe geotropa

 Fungus abounds in the damp Autumn weather and this species favours grassy woodland rides where we found it in an avenue of mature Lime trees.
It is said to be edible but I am no expert so don't take my word for it!

Tuesday 6 December 2011

Burr Oak

The large growths on the trunks of burr oaks are highly prized by furniture makers and are sliced for veneers.
The burrs are caused by buds which do not develop into shoots but stay just below the bark or the tree.

Monday 5 December 2011


A beautiful cold but sunny day saw us wrapped up and out for a walk around the Westonbirt Arboretum. We enjoyed a wonderful spectacle of groups of thrushes calling as they flew around from tree to tree where they were feeding on berries. This Fieldfare was amongst them, beautifully marked but it didn't stay still for very long. Fieldfare and Redwing move in from the continent to take advantage of our milder climate. As the Scandinavian food sources becomes scarce they move into the UK to advantage of our hedgerow berries and any other fruit left over in the countryside, including windfall apples.

Sunday 4 December 2011

Red Admiral

It's December but because of the mild weather many insects are still active. We saw this Red Admiral butterfly resting on bramble in a hedge yesterday. Presumably it had been feeding on nectar from ivy which was abundant in the area.

Thursday 1 December 2011


These two male Pintail look so smart at this time of year as they come into full plumage. They have two long tail feathers which look like a pin hence their name - you can see it especially on the right hand bird. The pin makes up about one quarter of the bird's total length.
Pintail are large dabbling ducks, they also up-end to feed, showing off their cream patch & the pin. The female is brown & beautifully marked but not as distinctive as the male.
Pintail breed in northern Europe and many winter in the UK. The Severn estuary is popular & we often see them at WWT Slimbridge where this photo was taken.

Tuesday 29 November 2011


There is still plenty of natural food for the birds around at the moment but as winter progresses bird feeders will become more and more important to support their diets.
Goldfinches such as this one favour niger seed and are a welcome and colourful visitor to gardens.

Monday 28 November 2011

Grass still growing

November has been so mild and there is still grazing for cattle as can be seen from this cow and suckling calf silhouetted against the sky near Uley.

Sunday 27 November 2011


Large numbers of Lapwings overwinter in our area. They make a spectacular sight taking to the air together when startled by a raptor such as this Sparrowhawk which we saw fly into a tree and then scan the fields looking for a meal.

Wednesday 23 November 2011

Sunlight through the trees

Lovely wintery scenes here on Coaley Peak when the sun low in the sky shines through the bare branches of trees.

Friday 18 November 2011

Wintering Wildfowl on the Severn

Yesterday we enjoyed the sunshine down on the banks of the Severn at New Passage between the two Severn Bridges. We watched spectacular large groups of Dunlin circling in flight showing first silver, then white, as they twisted & turned. We also saw large groups of Teal, Wigeon, Curlew, Lapwings, Redshank, Black headed gulls and one Common Gull. It just shows how important the Severn is to birdlife, to native, wintering & migrating species.

Thursday 17 November 2011

Winter Sunsets

The sun is low in the sky as the days shorten and this picture of Downham Hill was taken just after 3:30 p.m.

Signs of the forthcoming Spring are already in evidence though as Hazel catkins are starting to form and bulbs are beginning to poke through the earth in the garden.

Tuesday 15 November 2011

Shaggy Ink Cap

Damp foggy weather today but good for mushrooms and other fungi.
This shaggy ink cap is also known as lawyer's wig and is edible but only good before the gills start to liquefy as they have on this specimen.

Update damp day now given way to lovely sunshine!

Sunday 13 November 2011

Autumn Oaks

Many trees have now lost their leaves but not the oak which hangs on to it's foliage and looked magnificent in today's autumn sunshine.

Saturday 12 November 2011

Swallow and Barn Owl nests

We  were fascinated to find this tower when walking near Horton which was erected as a millennium project to provide nesting space for swallows and barn owls.These species normally favour old and abandoned buildings which are becoming increasingly difficult to find.
 Good to see an apparent folly designed with wildlife in mind.

Thursday 10 November 2011

Autumn rolls into Winter.

There are still plenty of autumn colours particularly on the Beech and Oak trees but more and more trees have lost their leaves as we move into winter. The bare branches allow us to appreciate the shape and structure of the trees even more.

Wednesday 9 November 2011

Bird Bath

With cold weather ahead birds have to maintain their feathers in good condition to protect them from cold and damp so they can be observed bathing frequently in ponds or even wet grass and leaves.

Tuesday 8 November 2011

Old Man's Beard

The delightful fluffy seed heads of the wild clematis known as old man's beard or traveller's joy are a common feature of our winter hedgerows.

Thursday 3 November 2011

Puff Ball

The Giant Puff Balls mentioned last month have now turned brown and distributed their spores. The fruiting bodies are now rotting away but don't forget that the main part of the fungus remains alive underground.

Tuesday 1 November 2011

Mystery Fungus

We are not sure what these delicate funnel shaped fungi growing in the meadows near our home are. Our reference books do not have anything that looks exactly like them but they may be ivory funnel caps.
Let us know if you have any other ideas!

Sunday 30 October 2011


The Dunnock used to be know as the Hedge Sparrow. A delightful little bird they hop around the base of our bird feeders, in and out of the plants looking for food. One of their favourite things is just sitting on the hedge. You might think they are just a little brown bird but as you can see they are beautifully marked.
Do hope that you got involved with the RSPB's feed the birds weekend, we did, although they all flitted in and out so fast that we decided this was one of the best of our photos. We also had a "buzz" from the Sparrowhawk this afternoon although we don't think it was successful.

Friday 28 October 2011

Beech Autumn Colour

Stunning autumn colours today of Beech leaves against a clear blue sky.

Autumn Mists

Fog forms in the vale on these otherwise clear cool autumn mornings. The rays of the rising sun are reflected in the windows of houses across the Severn in the Forest of Dean but the low ground is shrouded in mist where the moist air meets the cold ground.

Wednesday 26 October 2011

Bewick Swans start to arrive

It is a sure sign that Winter is nearly upon us when Bewick Swans start to arrive from their breeding grounds in Siberia. Many return every year to Slimbridge WWT where they are fed regularly. We saw three there today and many more should now follow.

Tuesday 25 October 2011

Wild Cherry Autumn Colour

Many trees have already lost their leaves in the autumn winds but this cherry in the hedgerow near our home is looking particularly colourful at the moment.

Wednesday 19 October 2011

Common Buzzards

For the last few mornings two buzzards have been seen walking around this field. We believe they are hunting for worms and insects. Buzzards normally feed on small mammals and carrion but worms are also an important source of food. In the past we have seen six or more of these birds hanging around on fence posts and watched them fly down and take worms. Common buzzards have a wide variety of colours in their plumage, these two are quite dark whilst others are quite pale. We like to watch groups of these birds soaring around on the thermals created by the edge of the Cotswold hills, together with the gliders from our local airfield, an impressive sight.

Tuesday 18 October 2011


Acorns litter the ground under the hedgerow oaks providing food for squirrels and birds.
Some will be buried and may germinate and may even survive to become a huge oak.
Acorns were once used as pig food and in Spain pigs fed on acorns are still prized as producing the best ham.

Friday 14 October 2011


There seems to be a good crop of conkers this year despite worries about the effect of leaf miners on the health of the trees.
Children will be able to enjoy the traditional game.

Tuesday 11 October 2011


Despite the unseasonable autumn blooming of many flowers this year there are few plants coming into bloom so the nectar of the ivy is a useful food source for bees and butterflies at this time.

Sunday 9 October 2011

Seasons Confused

The recent very hot weather has brought many flowers back into bloom as shown by these fresh dandelions in the pasture near our house.

Friday 7 October 2011

Giant Puffball

Autumn to us symbolises fungi as conditions dampen. This morning when looking out from the window we noticed some large white things in the fields across the valley so we took a look. As you can see this puffball is already quite large apparently they can grow to about 1ft. (30cm) in diameter. They then turn brown and produce a massive amount of spores. Giant puffballs can be eaten if picked early whilst the flesh is still white. They are best sliced and fried in butter and have a mushroom flavour.

Friday 30 September 2011

Severn Bore

High spring tides at this time of year result in the Severn Bore being larger. This tidal phenomenon is caused by incoming tides being increased in force by the narrowing of the estuary and then held back by sandbanks so that a wave sweeps right up the river.
It is a amazing to look out over a calm slow flowing river which suddenly becomes a torrent in the opposite direction sweeping upstream.