Friday, 10 April 2020

Magpies and Ants

My second picking of tulips from my mini cutting garden, nearly all yellow this time, the next lot to open will  be all shades of pinks and purples.

While I was collecting the nettles tops last week I found a magpie feather. I know it came from a  magpie because of the green blue shimmer. Last year a pair nested in the top of one of the Poplars on the field.


A few weeks back I heard a huge racket and saw a pair of magpies arguing with a pair of rooks over that old nest. I've not noticed any birds near it recently so maybe they all gave up.

(For readers from overseas this is a magpie!)


Magpies are large striking looking birds, unmistakable in their black(with shimmery blue/green tinge) and white and now SO common. It was rare to see them when I was a child and so unlucky to see just one. Now wherever you drive in the countryside there they are.

"For anglers in spring it is always unlucky to see single magpies; but two may always be regarded as a favourable omen. And the reason is, that in cold and stormy weather one magpie alone leaves the nest in search of food,while the other one remains sitting with the eggs or young ones; but when two go out together it is mild and warm and favourable for fishing."

"Magpies flying three or four together and uttering harsh cries predict windy weather" .

What I also keep hearing and then seeing down the meadow, but only as they fly away, is a pair of Green Woodpeckers, they are very shy birds,could they be nesting somewhere close? None of the trees down the meadow are old enough to have holes in them for woodpecker nests.

Still seeing the goldfinches and long-tailed tits on the feeders, like the header picture, and a couple of starlings have found the suet block - don't see many here .

On Monday I noticed a few of the early potatoes were just showing through so needed a little soil pulling over them and as I did this all along the edge of bed were ants..... as usual. I've puffed them all with Nippon ant killer but only have a little left. Last year I got some Dof ant powder cheap from a boot-sale which turned out to be useless. With no garden centres open I've ordered online some of the decent stuff. Ants do more damage here, especially to the potatoes, than anything else- and they are bound to appear in the kitchen in June, coming  out of the old chimney bricks so I expect this will be my 4th June hoovering up flying ants.

I was supposed to be doing posts about Saints and their days from my book, but they've not been very interesting to write about!
However, today's Saint is Fulbert of Chartres. Fulbert was born in the mid C10 and was a clever child sent to study at Rheims and later taken to Rome where he became chancellor of the cathedral of Chartres where scholars came from all over Europe to study. He died in 1029 and the steeple of the cathedral is the only part that remains from his time when he rebuilt the cathedral after a fire.
And the next two? April 11th Saint Guthlac and April 12th Saint Zeno of Verona.  Not very well known.

Back Tomorrow
Sue


40 comments:

  1. The tulips are delightful and so very cheering.
    xx

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  2. It is also the memorial day for Saint Hedda of Peterborough, the Benedictine Abbott there, who was martyred by Danish raiders in 869 along with the other monks.

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    1. Poor man gets no mention in the Saints book!

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  3. I don't know if it is North/South thing or species but my tulips are nowhere near opening yet! Lovely photos. I used to always salute a solitary magpie following the old saying one for sorrow etc however, I stopped last year and my luck still hasn't improved/declined after seeing one!

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    1. They've increased in numbers so much that I seem to see them everywhere

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  4. Magpies eat the eggs and chicks of other birds. I can tell when they are around without even going outside because the blackbirds get very upset. They are not a bird to wish to have around your garden.

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    1. I think they are nesting elsewhere this year, thank goodness.
      Gamekeepers are probably not allowed to trap them now.

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    2. They can still be trapped under licence and you can't be prosecuted if you can prove the bird was being a pest, basically, but it would take a clever/brave man to be able to prove this.

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  5. No ants here - guess we have it far too wet! We had a Magpie on the patio yesterday, hoovering up stray crumbs, and they nest nearby. Most I've ever seen at once was 26, when I was about 13, in a field at West End in Southampton, and more recently I counted 22 in the fields of the farm with the Jersey cattle near the A40. I've always thought one was very bad luck (being a superstitious type!)

    You are lucky to have the Green Woodpeckers, who will be delighted with any ant colonies - I used to watch them on the anthills in the Deer Park when I volunteered at Newton House (Dinefwr).

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    1. I keep seeing the woodpeckers flying off from the meadow I don't know if they come into the closer confines of the garden They are welcome to as many ants as they want!

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  6. We went to Chartres in 2006, the Cathedral is beautiful, especially the stained glass. Then we went into a tiny bistro where there were two other diners. They were stopping briefly on their return to NZ after visiting family in the UK. It turned out that their family were friends from our church who lived in the tiny village next to ours. What a crazy coincidence!

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    1. What are the chances! and what a small world we live in sometimes.

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  7. I still shudder when I hear ants mentioned, reminding me of an episode I had many years ago.

    No pictures here of the tulips, but a lovely one of the magpie. We've had red tulips out for a few days now and a miniature variety, also red, but an unusual deeper shade. We also have white tulips with deep pink markings on the outside. I always feel sorry for the tulips as the standard ones soon become 'blousey' and look a mess, the same with crocus, who don't have time to look their best before the winds and weather 'rough' them up a bit.

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    1. The lovely thing about having a cutting garden is that I know I can bring in as many as I want!

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  8. Magpie ... we always thought of it as the poor man's Blue Peter when we were growing up.

    Ants are a bugger to get rid off, the first few years we were here they invaded the polytunnel with a vengeance and I had a day each year of it being full of flying ants, when they get their wings and fly off in search of new territories.

    Jealous of your lovely tulips, I have one red one, yes just the ONE. It's lovely but very lonely.

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    1. I don't remember watching Magpie yet somehow I had a Magpie metal badge, they all had different numbers on but I have no idea how I came to own it. It was around for years along with other badges all fixed on an old belt - I'd completely forgotten about it until today.

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  9. Ants are so problematic in container plants too - they will kill the plant if left to nest in the pot. When we lived by the port at Tauranga we had all different kinds of ants, presumably arrived on various ships. Some were like busy tiny dots, there were black ones and brown ones, and once we came across a colony of large fierce ants that would attack anyone who came near. I am not fond of ants :)

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    1. Yes they frequently get into the tomato and cucumber pots in the greenhouse and difficult to get rid of there

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  10. Ants! I already have them in the kitchen. I use Nippon gel indoors but as soon as I think I've got rid of them, they come back.
    I sometimes unearth a heaving mass of those brown ones just when I want to plant something. Nippon powder for that. My mother used to pour boiling water over them. It worked! I dread the flying ant invasion which will probably come in July.

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    1. I can remember doing the boiling water thing when they were in concrete paths etc but on the veg bed I think it wouldn't work

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  11. We have greenfinches and great tits currently interested in our bird box. I thought it a little late, but they keep coming back to have a look. No takers yet though. Ants are very industrious creatures and I was fascinated years ago when a cousin's son had made an ant farm in a glass topped box, but I can't stand them coming in my kitchen!

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    1. I can't get up to clean out the bird boxes fixed around here so I don't think there is anything nesting in them this year

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  12. I have ants each year in the bungalow wall just outside my front door. Each year I shake powder over them and them seem to disappear but back they come next year. I don't see any inside the house thank goodness. Do you ever hear the cuckoo ? I can't remember the last time I heard one and they used to be so common when I was a child in Lincolnshire. Have a good Easter - odd without our families around.

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    1. It's been years since I heard a cuckoo - sadly

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  13. Made your weetabix loaf with just 1/4 cup of sugar, sweet enough for us. Very nice it is as well.

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    1. I can take no credit for that loaf - I copied it from another blog!

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  14. The first time I ever remembering seeing a Magpie was a few years back when a friend and I were in London. We'd spent the day in Greenwich and were leaving via the large park rose and we saw these large, unusually coloured birds - and then I remembered someone describing them - we checked and yes, they were Magpies!
    Red Winged blackbirds are again nesting outside of my kitchen window, geese are back and also very noisy if you get anywhere near their nests and a woodpecker wakes me up almost every morning! He wasn't here last year so no idea why the return. Still haven't seen a cardinal or any blue jays - they are my favourites.

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    1. I love the bright colour of your cardinal birds - it would be exciting if they ever flew the atlantic and arrived here

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  15. I've had ants throughout the mild winter in the kitchen. We removed ll the kicker boards and used powder, finally we seem to have got rid.

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    1. All winter isn't good. No sign of my indoor ones yet

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  16. I love the tulips! We have to watch out for ants getting in the kitchen about this time each year. We are usually able to head them off before they get started good though, thank goodness. They seem to be a part of Spring.

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  17. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  18. Hi Sue, this is off topic but an update on my removed comment from your frugality posts. You and readers suggested saving money by cold water laundry washing, which is normally fine. However to control covid 19 virus spread HOT water washing is essential. "The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises “using the warmest appropriate water setting” – the NHS in the UK suggests between 40 and 60 degrees Celsius (104 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit) – along with a good quality detergent." I can't just now find exact references but it is also important wash clothes *often* esp if one has been in public, even if the clothes appear clean.
    Other thoughts are--use your dishwasher, it sterilizes the plates and utensils; shower when you get home and wash your hair if possible.

    Pls do not advise your family and readers to pinch pennies at the risk of infection just now. I worry bec yo have young grandkids.
    I am in NY and maybe telling thing everyone knows, in which case I apologize and pls again remove this note. [I d email but none was listed.]

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  19. ❀.•❤•.✿.•❤•.❀ Happy Easter! ❀.•❤•.✿.•❤•.❀

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  20. We had a magpie taking a bath in the birdbath today, first time I have seen him in there. We've also had a spotted woodpecker on the fat ball feeder this week too.

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  21. Goodmorning. Each year we have a big ant-problem. Indoor (conservertory annex diningroom annex open kitchen= ant heaven) and outdoor. Being eco-friendly I tried all other options. Fail. Tried to order your Nippon liquid but it would cost me GBP 20 to send it to Holland. No way. I do not want to bother my english family now with it so I will endure another year. There are worse things happening atm then ant-invasions.
    I live midst the bulbfields in the Netherlands, near the famous Keukenhof. Yesterday it was so busy with people walking and cycling they closed the roads for savety reasons. Our "intellectual" lockdown does not allways enter peoples intellect :-) Stay safe!

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  22. I always read “ My life in the country” blog. It seems to have disappeared. I hope Anne and Edwin are ok. Any news

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