Sunday, 7 March 2010

Bird watching

The weather has been fine all week; some frosty mornings, but no rain.  The paths in Stanmer woods are once again walkable without the dog coming home covered in mud and yesterday afternoon I spent a few delightful minutes there watching a flock of long-tailed tits as they hunted grubs or whatever it is they eat.  These elusive little birds travel in family groups - I assume they re family groups - usually a dozen or so strong and are best seen when the trees are leafless as they tend to stay in the higher branches.  There used to be a family of them in Withdean Park that I would see occasionally but have not done so for some time.  We get plenty of blue tits in the garden - another delightful bird - but I only recall ever seeing a long-tailed tit in the garden on one occasion.  My friend Tony has them visit him quite frequently, which makes me rather envious.

Mention of Tony reminds me that his late wife planted daffodil bulbs on the triangular, grass-covered traffic island outside their house.  She chose the earliest flowering variety she could find and I noticed this week that they are already in bloom.  Last Monday (St David's Day) I wondered if the daffs were blooming in Cornwall and on Tuesday it was reported in the paper that daffodil farmers in the Vale of Glamorgan (which is in Wales) had no blooms for their patron saint's day, the daff being the national flower of Wales.  The report also said that the Cornish daffs were not yet ready and that everything was a month behind.  That seems a little strange as only in January we were being told that everything was three weeks ahead!

A day or two back, Skip posted a picture of grape hyacinths blooming in his (Californian) garden.  We have one or two trying to bloom here in Brighton, but the crocuses are doing very well.  Many years ago I planted a couple of hundred or so bulbs.  They were the naturalising sort and in various colours - white, cream, yellow, pale mauve and purple.  They have almost taken over the garden, despite rigorous thinning, but are now nearly all pale mauve.

I have until now forgotten to report back on the malt bread.  It was surprisingly successful, albeit not of the same stickiness that there is in the shop-bought variety.  At the request (request?) of She Who Must Be etc I made another this week.  I think I squeezed in a few extra sultanas - this loaf seems fruitier - and I made sure to put in two full tablespoons of malt extract.  This is of such a high viscosity that it is difficult, no - it's impossible, to ensure that all the extract leaves the spoon so this time I used two overflowing tablespoonfuls.  The result is a marked improvement and I suspect it will not be long before another is made.

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