MedlarFruit

The odd things you see above are medlar fruit, on the left showing its gnarly bottom – quite literally in fact as it's colloquially known by the endearing term of "dog's arse" or "open arse", medlar being the politer term imported from the French.

This fruit was popular in Victorian times but is little seen today. It is unusual not just in its looks, but because it requires 'bletting' before eating. This involves allowing frost or simply storage over time to somewhat rot the fruit, whereupon its insides turn gooey and edible. The fruit is hard and acidic before bletting.

As always Wikipedia has the full lowdown. Also Jane Grigson's Fruit Book is a wealth of historical and culinary information.

Thanks to Sheila for the picture and the introduction to this fruit that I had personally never heard of before.

BirdSeedGermination

A couple of days ago I posted on this blog to note my confusion over the birds staying away from the feeders, despite the encroaching winter. Well I may have figured out why: on closer inspection there is a healthy crop growing in one of my feeders, the seeds having germinated and sprouted. You can even see roots! At this time of year with all the wind and rain, feeders like this very quickly get damp and the food can go mouldy (or germinate) which is no good for the birds. So check yours, and give them a thorough cleaning and drying before re-stocking.

I'm wondering if a more waterproof solution may be required though, otherwise the contents will be soaked within minutes of going outside.

I wonder if I scatter the contents on the veg patch whether I can grow my own bird seed for 2010…

Feather

FeatherCloseUp

Here we have a feather, almost definitely of a wood pigeon or collared dove, including a close-up to show the detail of the individual 'barbs' and the fine hairs that ordinarily lock them together, though they've become unzipped in this instance. The bird's preening helps to reset their feathers into decent order. More information on feathers, their purpose and structure is available from birdwatching-bliss.com.

SparrowOnFeeder

Strangely, I've noticed that as the temperature has dropped and autumn, then the start of winter have encroached, there have been fewer birds on the feeders in our gardens. These offer a variety of seeds and fat balls, but right now I'm seeing very little patronage at all, just when I'd expect birds to start relying on feeders for their sustenance. I wonder why this is?

Maybe it's just an oddity with my garden (and not statistically significant), maybe they're put off by the lack of foliage on nearby trees so they can't creep up to the feeders to easily. Maybe there's actually a great natural source of food right now that I'm unaware of, even though it's cold.

Update: one possible reason becomes clear.

BluebellWood

It's just started to get cold out there and I suspect winter is moving in for the kill after a mild November for the most part (the honeysuckle has just re-flowered on the front of our house). The picture is a reminder that spring will be here before too long and everything will be lush and verdant once more.

A poll in the BBC's Gardeners' World Magazine has given a good insight into the shape of garden wildlife in 2009. 

This survey of magazine readers shows that there appears to be increases to the number of bees, moths and butterflies that we are seeing in our gardens. This may be due to the dry Spring that we had earlier in the year, or instead may be down to the fact that more of us are now creating wildlife areas in our back gardens.

It isn't all good news though. Amphibians and small mammals appear to have dropped in number since 2008. In particular sightings of frogs, toads and hedgehogs are down. Even still though, 27% of those surveyed said that they regularly see hedgehogs. Having only seen one in the last 5 years I was actually surprised at how high this figure was, but in 2008 this figure was up at a whopping 44%.

The survey's results certainly show just how much of an impact we have in wildlife in both the positive and negative things that we do. The increases in bees and butterflies may well be down to the number of us growing plants that attract them in our gardens. On the flip side it is thought that the human destruction of bats' habitats is the reason why their numbers are dwindling. 

If ever you needed facts to back up why we should try to ensure that our gardens not only look nice, but also provide for wildlife then surely this is it.

Full details of the survey and results can be found in the December 2009 edition of the Gardeners' World magazine.

TreeLove

The London Wildlife Trust has a mini-guide describing how to make a diverse 'habitat wall'. This seems like a massive no-holds-barred version of the insect hibernaculums that seem to have become popular recently – but with room for everything, possibly even small deer :-)

SpringSpringingInWinter

The very mild temperatures through most of November seem to have caused a lot of plants to keep on growing (my lawn still needs mowing) and even to put out new shoots as if spring had arrived. The picture shows new shoots on a Mahonia, and my Buddleia is a riot of fresh new leaves. But I wonder if this could be damaging to the plants – putting their energies into new growth when they should in fact be storing it up to survive the winter?

Marks & Spencer seem to agree that it's nearly spring as they're introducing their spring clothing lines in 4 weeks, so they told me in store yesterday. Winter hasn't even begun yet, so it's not just the plants that are skipping it.

GreenShoot

Exactly one month ago I planted some mystery bulbs (or where they tubers, or corms?) that I had found in the ground whilst digging in the borders. I had no idea what they were (we'd only just moved into the house) so I put them in a pot and waited to see what happened. Well the first evidence of life has sprouted, so it looks like I might find out what they are. At the moment there's just a single robust looking green shoot about 2cm tall. I put a lot of bulbs in the pot so hopefully more will follow, and with any luck they'll reveal themselves for what they really are. Stand by for updates in future weeks!