A winter welcome to…

… Spring bulbs and garden birds. It is great to see the bulbs starting making their way through the surface of the soil – or lawn in my case. It’s also great to see a bird species return to the garden once again. I wonder if you can tell which one by the eggs below. The image below is not from my garden but courtesy of Wikipedia. Perhaps you might get a clue if you look closely at the patterns of the speckles.

A few days ago I was thrilled to see the return of the Song Thrush. It’s been a while since we’ve seen it. Spotted on the ground in the area where I scatter sultanas, it was seen waiting for the blackbirds to scuttle off before it ran in to feed on the sultanas that were left.

Once it left I opened the window and threw some more sultanas out on the ground. I don’t know what it is about this bird but I do find its visits rather special. Yes, they are rated on the red list by the RSPB but that’s not just why I like to see them. Perhaps it’s because they are shy and almost polite in their visits. Or perhaps it is the upside down heart pattern on their bodies and the fact that each bird appears to have a slightly different pattern making it unique.

The Song Thrush has been seen on two mornings. Although it was a dull morning when the photo above was captured I am still delighted with it. It is a pretty bird isn’t it – fit to brighten any dull morning! I love the way it almost bounces along the ground – much more sedate than the blackbirds that jump along. Perhaps it is its shy behaviour that I like – again quite different from the speed and confident moves that the blackbirds make.

Thrushes often stand with their head tilted to one side when they are searching for food and picking it up as you can see with the sultnana in the photo above. They clearly have strong neck muscles by the force they use to break the shells of snails to get them out. Unfortunately for them after the effort of smashing the shell on a rock it doesn’t necessarily mean they always get the snail inside! Blackbirds are often not far away and will very quickly run in and take the snail before the Thrush gets near it. I guess that’s the way out in the wild – there’s always someone watching where you find food. It’s all about survival.

Plants are no different – they just want to grow even when out of soil like the bulbs that have been sitting in their bags in my shed. Oops… some still are! Okay… but I did get a few planted today before the winter cold and snowfall expected. In fact, it was quite a pleasant morning in the garden today. No sunshine but no cold winds as expected either which was a huge bonus!

Yes… today was the first of February and I was out planting daffodils! Okay… the back of this pack did say ‘plant between July and December’ so this perhaps will be a test case to see exactly how late they can be planted. I bought these bulbs a couple of weekends ago at an absolute steal.

Yep… three bags at 50p each they really owe me nothing but I’m still very positively looking for a great (albeit later) show of flowers! The garden centre clearly needed to get rid of this stock of bulbs as the buds were already breaking through. Healthy bulbs are firm, which these were, so I have no reason to assume that they won’t flower in their own time. The only problem was where to put them – being small my garden doesn’t have too many free spaces!

After a bit of thought
I decided to plant some in a pot and some in a couple of pond baskets filled with soil and dropped in a border (with a gravel mulch) next to my Arbour. I’m thinking about changing this border this year so this will safeguard the bulbs as the baskets can be lifted later. However the main planting I wanted to make a feature with.

An avenue through one side of my walkway seemed the way to go. The yellow dots in the photo above show where I planted them. This photo was taken when this gravel path was put down back in August 2000. You can see the breathable membrane put down to stop weeds coming through. Today, I had to rake back the gravel, make a trench (cutting back the membrane as required) add some fresh garden soil, plant the bulbs, cover them with some more soil then rake back the gravel again – job done!

There were a number of varieties available when I bought these bulbs but I choose only the one. Hands up… I’m not too fond of yellow in the garden. I don’t mind the small tete a tete daffodils but when it comes to full size blooms I don’t go for the traditional bright yellows. Ice follies were pale with a primrose yellow centre – they would suit me just fine. Ah… but after looking up this variety on the internet I am even more chuffed with it!

It appears that this is an excellent variety for naturalizing. Also, the whole flower gradually fades to white – now that’s my kind of flower. Oh yes… and its one of the most vigorous and longest flowering of all the large cupped Narcissus. Now there’s a result I’d say. Okay… so I’d like to give Ice follies a warm winter welcome to my garden!

Oh… I have a few other bulbs I’d like to welcome too – the tulips and alliums still in bags in my shed! These I’m going to pot-up and put in my greenhouse – on the to-do-list for this week. I wonder what’s on your garden to-do-list for the coming week. Perhaps if you have a snow covered garden it will be planning for the year ahead and keeping the feeders topped up for the birds. The birds will definitely welcome food and fresh water at this time of year. I hope we see the Song Thrush visit again – I’d better get more sultanas in!

The Song Thrush photos above were taken in my garden on January 30th 2009.

23 thoughts on “A winter welcome to…

  1. Lovely song thrush pictures Shirl.
    It is also a relief to know that I am not the only person who is not particularly keen on the large yellow daffs. The ones you got sound quite nice – I have also been known to plant bulbs in February – I am sure they will be fine 😉

  2. Lovely to see you’ve had a song thrush visiting [:

    I too don’t like the big yellow daffodils, the ones I bought were called silver chimes, a pale multiheaded daff. Other than that I don’t have them. There was also a lovely white one, but I went with the former instead…

    The only orange/yellow/red I have in the garden is wild poppies and californian poppies. Otherwise I steer well clear of anything at that end of the spectrum.

    Jobs for this week… Well, work sadly gets in the way for me. But I do need to get the fence man in to give us a quote/idea what to do.

    I noticed the Bluebells are coming up today, shame they’re the hybrid spanish ones. They make wonderful vases though (to make sure they don’t hybridise with my natives) so I’m looking forward to that in the coming months!

  3. I’ll be looking forward to your cheerful spring bulbs.

    I’m ready to start my winter sowing, but it is still too early.

  4. Your daffodils will be a lovely splash of brightness along that walk. I have a few planted in a pot, but I’m not sure if they’ll withstand our icy winter or not. Guess we’ll know soon enough! The thrush is adorable.

  5. The Song Thrush photos are beautiful. It is fun seeing it eat the sultans.

    I like the big yellow dafs. I love the splash of color they give the garden in early spring.

    Yours will be gorgeous too no doubt.

  6. Hi there Karen, Liz, Robin, Nancy, Lisa and Debbie🙂

    Karen – Thank-you, me too! I’m hoping so – I certainly planted enough of them! Yes, planting them now may knock the flowering time back a little but that’s okay 😀

    Liz – It was, I was delighted! Ah… your variety sounds very interesting. I do like the paler varieties. Yes, for many years I too steered away from these colours but now with more variety in foliage colour I am starting to bring them in again – although I am still fussy about the tones of them and where I put them. Yellow, I still hold back on except with one plant growing in front of my silver heart leaf ivy – it doesn’t stick out so much with it. Ah… a fence man, I could do with one of them myself! Ah… don’t think my bluebells a have appeared yet – good idea to keep them apart. I bet you are looking forward to them – they are a wonderful sight 😀

    Robin – Me too… despite the snow (we are covered here today too) it is great to see what appears below it after it all melts. Ah yes… I remember the little seedling factory you will have very soon – always impressive! An exciting time for you when it starts. Hope your wrist gets better soon 😀

    Nancy – I hope so… I don’t usually do formal but as this is on a slight curve I thought I’d get away with it 🙂 Usually the daffs do okay in pots here – I expect you’ll get much lower temps with you. I see you have snow at the moment too – keep warm. Ah… the thrush is pretty isn’t it. Pity you can’t enlarge that photo don’t know why that happens sometimes 🙂

    Lisa – Although dull in colour the Song Thrush is such a pretty bird – glad you enjoyed the pics. I took so many with it moving about and was thrilled to get a few with the sultanas. Yes, I do enjoy seeing big yellow drifts of daffs in larger areas outside my garden. I am hoping mine will be pretty – fingers crossed 😀

    Debbie – Thank-you! Please do… I wonder if you have snow today as most of the UK has. I am certain many areas would be thrilled to send theirs your way 😉

  7. I’m not keen on large yellow daffs in the garden either – much better naturalised in large open spaces or grass verges.
    I had a song thrush in the garden yesterday for the first time (and today). I wasn’t sure how to tell it apart from a Mistle thrush but now you’ve mentioned the heart shaped blotches I had another look and it all became clear! Thanks for that.

  8. Hi Shirl,
    The song thrush is a bird I don't believe we have here, although I haven't researched it so I could be wrong. It is pretty with it's speckles. Are those blue eggs that of the songthrush?
    You have described my predicament with bulbs, too! I still haven't planted mine and I am afraid I won't have many daffodils nor tulips this year, as the squirrels & voles seem to have destroyed what was already there. I didn't get around to putting anymore in and I'm regretting that right now. I looked around and couldn't find any a month ago…so I doubt I'll even have any to put in. At least you had some bags ready to go. The fact that you put them in late is what I would do…if I had any:( It will really be interesting to see if they survive, and when they actually start to bloom for you!

  9. Hi Shirl – I’ve just been planting my daffodils too 😉 I think the colder weather this year has worked in our favour. I was expecting to find a mouldy heap in the garage, but they’ve only just started to sprout – we’ll get them blossoming yet!

    Looking forward to seeing who your dinner party guests are later on in the week 🙂

  10. Hi Shirl,

    Lovely to see the Song Thrush, we had one visit regularly last year and then suddenly disappear around the same time the Sparrow Hawk was making regular visits. I do hope it didn’t fall victim.
    There was a Pied Wagtail in the garden today no doubt driven in by the bad weather. I don’t think they are often seen in gardens and I noticed it was treated in a very hostile manner by the Blackbirds.
    I hope your daffs do well, I love them, such a cheerful sight after the winter.

  11. Hi Shirl…the song thrush is one of my favourite birds…..I have a pair in the garden at the moment. We have had some snow and they come into the garden to feed……

    Tete a tete are lovely little daffs….at least when it is really windy they don’t get blown to pieces….

    I have alliums dotted all around the garden…..they are one of my must have plants, I never tire of them…….

  12. Hi Shirl, lovely bird and lovely eggs too. We have a similar wood thrush that was just seen for the first time today, under the feeder with a large group of juncos. First time for those also today. Did our snow cover their normal food foraging spots so they had to come into the open? Ice Follies is a grand one with that frilled trumpet, good score!

  13. Hi there Denise, Jan, VP, ShySongbird, Cheryl, Paul and Frances 🙂

    Denise – Gosh, I’m delighted to discover I’m not alone on the daffs regarding the large yellows. I agree planted in drifts in large open spaces they look great. Ah… thrilled I could help out with the song thrush. Another way to tell is by colour – the mistle thrush is more a grey brown than a warm brown. I also think the mistle is slightly larger but that’s no good at all if you only see one bird 😉

    Jan – Perhaps not but your wood thrush probably is the closest in likeness. It is pretty and yes the eggs do belong to a song thrush. Oh dear… sorry to hear that you are bulbless. Perhaps when you plant some next time you could put them in pond baskets as I have done and added chicken wire or similar over the top then submerge them as I do. Perhaps the squirrels and voles wouldn’t find them such easy pickings then. Just a thought 😀

    VP – Gosh, I’m delighted to discover I’m not alone on the late planting of daffs! Yes, perhaps the weather is on our side. LOL… yes I expected to find green dusty distortions in my bulb bags too but they were all fine. Yes, I’m hopeful too that they will flower eventually. Ah… the guest list! This is going to be very interesting – I’ve a few possibles already, but what are the chances by Friday night I change my mind – they won’t know if I’ve dropped them so no harm done 😉

    ShySongbird – Oh dear… hope the song thrush just moved on. Funnily enough I do believe I saw a pied wagtail in a blog today – yes, in Cheryl’s garden (the comment below yours). I agree it is likely the bad weather has brought it in searching for food and shelter. Oh… I noticed a lot of birds in my garden behaving quite hostile today. I guess they all want food to survive. Thank-you, I hope so too, they should make a great show where I’ve put them 😀

    Cheryl – Ah yes… I’ve seen your posts on the song thrushes – lucky you having a pair visiting. Yes, the snow seems to be bringing lots of birds in doesn’t it? We had the Long-tailed tits appearing again today too. Yes, I agree and the tete a tete also don’t have large clumps of leaves to die down after flowering too! Oh… I’m with you on the alliums – each year I add a few more. They are my favourite bulbs… I just love them too 😀

    Paul – Thank-you, it’s a pity the photos didn’t enlarge this time. Yes, they are not as common now sadly. They are a treat to see. I saw this one for two days but not since. They are shy too so it is possible it is still visiting but I just don’t see it. I have a lot of foliage plants where it could hide 😀

    Frances – Glad you liked them. Yes, I’ve heard of your wood thrushes in other blogs. Fantastic that you are seeing it too and the juncos! I do like your juncos and the cardinals. Yes, the food kept getting covered so they mostly went to hanging feeders and my bird table but some continued to forage on the ground. Yes, I am looking forward to seeing the flowers on Ice Follies and they were such a huge bargain too 😀

  14. How comforting to see that someone else is still planting bulbs! I have some crocuses and daffodils that still need to go in. They were out of sight and out of mind until I read your post, so thanks for the nudge!

    Your thrush pictures are beautiful. First birdsong in our garden this morning – a very tentative, trying it out for size mini dawn chorus of a single blackbird. And on such a grey, dreich day. Exquisite!

  15. Hi Shirl, Good to see a posting on Song Thrush’s, until recently they were a bit sparce on the ground here, but this last year has seen a bit of a resurgance. Keep a look out, they’ll begin egg laying this month.

    Have you ever been to Farndale in Yorkshire to see the daffodils… if not it’s well well worth the visit.


  16. Funny I’ve just comented on the song thrush on Joe’s blog – they’re such beautiful birds and we’re lucky enough to have a few in the garden – one of which comes and feeds off the bird table… I think she’s sussed out that there’s better food there than on the ground… do hope your’s keeps coming to your garden… do you have any snow as yet? Miranda

  17. Ice Follies is one of my favourite daffs, Shirl, although I’m one of those who never met a daff or narcissus that she didn’t love. And the song thrush is wonderful…I’ve never seen one as far as I know. But my snow buntings are giving us huge pleasure.

  18. Hi there Linda, Andrew, Miranda and Jodi 🙂

    Linda – Yes, I am surprised at so many have been it the same boat. Yep… out of sight indeed. Now… I must get the tulips potted up next. They won’t get it the ground at the moment. Thank-you, I guess I was lucky to see the song thrush visit. I haven’t noticed it since. Lovely… a great start to your day 😀

    Andrew – Yes, luck came in there. These were taken on one of two days I saw it. I’ve not noticed it since. Gosh… I can’t imagine any bird egg laying up here. But then again, as with the blue tits (via our nestbox) and our plants , we are generally two weeks later that many parts of England. I wonder if this will change in years to come as England is getting more snow than it used to. No, haven’t been to Farndale – wild daffs that does sound quite a sight. Thanks for that 😀

    Miranda – Yes, I noticed he mentions them too. Our recent song thrush was just spotted on the ground but in the past I too have seen bird table visits. I noticed your bird table is open. It is even stranger to see it visit one with a roof as we have. That one would sit on the roof too – much less shy! Yes, I hope the recent one comes back again. Yes, we did have snow then rain washed almost all of it away. It is very frosty out this morning and more snow is expected over the next few days. It’s not too bad here. We have had a lot, lot worst in the past. Keep warm 😀

    Jodi – Excellent! Frances said the same, so I guess I was very lucky with my pick as there were a few varieties to choose from in the bargain bays that day. I am always drawn to the paler ones for my garden. Yes, the song thrush is a very welcome guest here in the UK as its visits can be quite scarce. Perhaps you have the wood thrush in Canada. I’ve seen it in American blogs. Oh… ah… I love your recent pics of the snow buntings and will always associate you with them. I can understand completely how you delight in them at this time of year. Enjoy them 😀

  19. I am glad that I am not the only one who is still planting bulbs 🙂 I have only just finished doing mine.
    I am not a fan of bright yellow either, and much prefer the paler daffodils. I have planted ‘Thalia’ this year in pots. Will have to look out for ‘Ice Follies’ in the future.

  20. The English snowfall was the talk of the town over on our side of the Atlantic! We’ve had a cold winter as well with two snowfalls in 2009 already! Usually, we don’t get any! I’ll take it though. It’s lovely.

  21. My money’s on the Ice Follies–tough customers who are good naturalizers for me. I love dafffodils but, like you, shy away from yellow. I am glad to see Rinjveld’s Early Sensation, as the first daff, but the others that I plant bi-colors or pinks.

    Lovely to see the Song Thrush, and to see someone use the word “sultana”, so exotic to American eyes!

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