Random Ramblings

Random Ramblings: Personal observations on a wide variety of subjects. Photographs of creatures and things that are taken on seeing the unusual as well as everyday things.

Warm swarm

Creatures that swarm appear to know when the weather is about to change as they time their swarms on a warm day prior to rain setting in. In England, there are two main species of ants – the Black Lawn Ant and the Common Red Ant. Black Lawn Ants tend to be the ones that make their nests close to houses, gardens, people, etc. Fortunately, they are harmless and considered a nuisance more than anything else. Both of these species are sometimes called ‘dairy’ ants as they milk aphids.

We have two compost heaps in our garden. One is in a black compost bin and you can imagine my surprise as a surge of ants burst through one of the breathing holes of the bin … it appears that they have nested in the sweltering heat of the compost!

Black lawn ants swarming

Black lawn ants - winged   

Black Lawn Ants, swarming

Other ants that may be seen are Yellow Hill Ants found mostly on hilly and chalky areas; Wood Ants found mostly in very dry pine woods where it will spew a formic acid vapour to protect its nest; Pharaoh’s Ants, very small and occasionally found in centrally heated buildings.

Long legs big mouth

There are so many different sorts of birds in the world that sometimes it takes a few photographs to really appreciate how very varied they are in size, shape and plumage.


Unusual bird at Birdland - Boughton on the Water

  Long legged birds found at Birdland, Boughton-on-the-Water


~ Crane ~

Crane looking away

Rhea mouth open   Rhea feeding

~ Rhea ~ 

Rhea standing still


~ Golden cockerel ~ 

Golden cockerel

Golden cockeral - front view


~ Flamingos ~

Flamingo gathering

Group of Flamingos 

Flamingos preening

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Gathering windfalls of good health

This is the time of year when there are masses of wild plums all ripened and ready to eat. You will find them by the side of roads on the grass verges falling off at almost the rate of rain. Gathered up and washed these make excellent fruit salad additions, or just eaten plain in their raw state where they are very sweet and juicy. Slightly smaller than shop bought versions – these are both organic and free …

They especially make the most healthiest of compotes or can be stewed to have with custard or made into plum pie or pudding. This is what they look like …

Wild plums - red and yellow

Wild plums 

My wild plums, up above are being made into compote … although I do admit that I have eaten quite a few in their natural state … and I can confirm that they are sweeter than shop bought versions, extremely delicious and very moreish!

Note to self: must go and gather some more.

‘I’m a pretty boy!’

There is nothing quite like one of these birds to make a person think of far away places and characters out of fictional books such as Treasure Island.


Macaw stepping out

Perhaps we shouldn’t romanticize about pirates but the pirates of years gone by have many interesting facets that have almost been lost to us all. Many did purchase parrots, keep them as pets on board ship and then sell them when they stepped back onto dry land. Parrots fetched a very high price – they were both brightly coloured and intelligent and many could talk so well that they became the ‘must have’ pet of the day by the wealthy.


Macaw animated gif – made from the two pictures up above

This is another beautiful bird from Birdland - to be found in Bourton-on-the-Water


Here are a few more photographs of some of the more colourful species of birds in Birdland ………

Parrots and Macaws, etc

One of the most rarest macaws - Chile

Chile - Bright yellow macaw

Rare - bright yellow macaw from Chile

Chile - very rare macaw

Scarlet or red parot

Red Parot - on the move

   Red Parrot

Red Parrot - the brightest of all of the macaws and parrots

This beautiful ‘Joseph’ with his coat of many colours, certainly all of the prime colours is probably the most colourful of all the macaws and parrots – a very active bird! 

The yellow macaw in the first few pictures is extremely rare but can be found in the wild in Chile.

Cutting a dash

The Leaf-cutter bees are making great progress with their little colony in the Insect House. This is the third year that they have visited my garden and have made use of the bamboo canes by turning them into breeding apartments for their young.

Busy Leaf-cutter bees .... July

Leaf-cutter bees ... July 

Leaf-cutter bees with some chambers completed and sealed using a circular cut out shape from a leaf. They often use the leaves from rose bushes, fuchsias, cherry tree leaves and buddleia leaves. Each leaf is carefully tailored and meticulously cemented into the hole. An egg is laid in each compartment before it is sealed and there are several eggs in each piece of bamboo before the top seal is added to the end of the chamber.  


Leaf-cutter bee - scraping out a new chamber

Leaf-cutter bee greeting a fellow worker

Broom stale

As a young girl I can remember asking a lovely, elderly lady ‘How old is your broom?’ With a smile she replied ‘I have had this broom all of my married life.’

I remember wondering how was this possible – sweeping the kitchen, sweeping the steps and pathways – how could a broom last so long?

Of course, years ago people would rarely buy a new broom. Instead they would purchase a new head with sweet smelling bristles or a new stale to replace one that had snapped – and thus a broom would last forever.

Little note: a stale is a long wooden handle or stick that is attached to a tool.

I too have a very old broom!

The sculptures of Birdland

Dotted around Birdland, at Bourton-on-the-Water are a series of sculptures made from horseshoes, old engineering components and other pieces of scrap metal. These have been made in the forms of giant insects and birds.

Owl sculpture - by Alan Jack


Dragon Fly - by Alan Jack

Sculptures at Birdland made by Alan Jack


Peacock sculpture

Peacock sculpture

Call of the Cotswolds

As a young child, the one village that I would love to visit was Bourton-on-the-Water. All of the Cotswold villages are very pretty and picturesque with warm stone cottages and neat, tidy gardens festooned with bright dollops of vegetation, hanging baskets, window boxes and tubs. In fact, if it wasn’t for the modern cars you could quite happily believe that you had stepped back in time to a wonderful slow period where time itself had all but stopped still.

Bourton bubbles with all kinds of nooks and crannies filled with things to do and see. Today we decided to visit Birdland. Several years ago this was moved from its original site to a larger plot further up the River Windrush. It is now a truly must visit place as it rambles around with wonderful surprises around each bend and twist of pathway.

Group of King PenguinsClose up group of King PenguinsKing Penguins dozingKing Penguin asleep

King Penguins

Humbold Penguins  swimmingSolitary Humbold Penguin

Humboldt Penguins

Little note: Alan from Birding in the Falklands, blog would like to add a message at this point - he has asked whether some of you might like to consider adopting a penguin. If you would like to find out more information then please visit Alan's blog or this link and see whether you might be able to help: Adopt a penguin - Thank you.

Pussy, Oh Pussy

Towards the tail end of last week our cat came in from the garden with a very pale nose. She then proceeded to flop here and flop there not wanting to be stroked, not wanting to play, not wanting to sit on the windowsill and watch the world go by. For the very first time in her life she didn’t want any dinner, not even a bite of supper … at least she was drinking. Then came the diarrhoea. At first I thought she had been sick. Then as the smell rose to hit the back of my nostrils I knew that the was not sick.

Pussy, Oh Pussy

Over the next day-and-a-half rather than get a little bit better she, if anything became more lethargic so by Saturday morning we phoned the Vet in the hope of getting her into the Saturday surgery. Fortunately, we were able to take her in. She was thoroughly examined and had her temperature taken and the Vet gave her an injection of an antibiotic and a steroid to help to reduce her swollen belly.

We were advised to try her on a light diet of fish or chicken from early evening onwards and see how she was by Monday. All I can say is that it’s amazing how wonderful antibiotics and steroids are – how quickly they reverse a really bad situation and thank you to the people who discovered them. Where would we now be without them?

Pussy, Oh Pussy - Oh Pussy, my love

Devil’s diet

I know of two young ladies who share a house together, both have similar office jobs. They have identical diets, walk at least half-an-hour each day and regularly visit the gym. One weighs around seven-and-a-half stone (105 lbs) the other weighs ten-and-a half stone (147 lbs).

Nutritionists, doctors, dieticians and anyone else in the dieting industry never appear to take into account that every human being is different. The old saying that ‘one man’s meat is another man’s poison’ applies more to the struggle of either obtaining or maintaining a reasonable weight than perhaps to any other reference.

There appear to be two types of people – one is designed for conditions of plenty and the other for times when food is not so abundant. So it is dependent upon which type of person you are as to whether you will struggle to put weight on or struggle to get weight off. The difficulty can be exacerbated in effect by following a commercial dieting plan as they do not seem to allow for differences in make-up.

There are several things that are worth taking into consideration – fruit is especially volatile and fattening. Yes, it contains all kinds of vitamins, minerals and roughage … but it also contains vast amounts of sugar and is often difficult to digest unless first lightly cooked. Dried fruit is also best eaten after cooking as it has a propensity to sit in the large intestine and produce gas. Vegetables should be split into two categories – roots and greens. Always remember that although most dieticians tell you that you can eat as many greens as you like … there is a price to pay for doing so – greens help the body store liquid so they tend to cause bloating – greens are sometimes difficult to digest. Ruminants such as cows have two stomachs to help them digest greens and elephants that also eat greens do most of their digesting once the greens have left the stomach – this is a very slow process as the greens thread their way around the gut and look at the size of an elephant.

So when trying to change your weight it is best to do it the old fashioned way and that is simply by cutting portions. Take out those foods that you know are definitely fattening such as cakes, biscuits, buns, burgers, etc and the rest try eating half the quantity that you usually eat. By restricting portion size you are less inclined to become deficient in vital vitamins, minerals and amino acids. If you need to gain weight then usually this is best done by adding in extra meal times – start by introducing a simple supper around 9.00 pm then if this is not sufficient add a mid-morning snack that contains both protein and carbohydrate. To gain wait extra quickly then add small snacks of nuts and seeds – these are very nutritious and help to increase weight and distribute it evenly.

Nature’s own gastric band

We are all born with a natural gastric band. The problem is with modern lifestyles is, we have to teach our bodies to switch it on. We can do this very easily: firstly, make a fist (any hand will do) then look at it from every direction – the size of your fist measures exactly the same as your stomach; secondly, your stomach sends a message to your brain which takes much longer than a nerve message to register pain – it takes a full twenty minutes for a brain to register that it has had enough to eat! At one time meals were eaten slowly – anything from twenty-five minutes to an hour-and-a-half – people ate much, much less than they do today but they still felt full up. In order for your own natural gastric band to operate you need to take longer to eat your meals – a minimum of twenty-minutes has been found to be ideal.

Here is a little saying that is very old but tells us which nuts are useful for what particular thing:

Nutty knowledge

‘Almonds for athletics

Brazil nuts for brawn

Coconut for cleansing

Hazelnuts for happiness and health

Walnuts for wisdom’

Author: A Bullivant

Nasturtiums have arrived

It appears to have taken a much longer period for the first flower to appear on the Nasturtiums than is usual. I have, however, been rewarded with a rather beautiful, bright and perfect bloom for my long and patient wait.

Nasturtium - the first bloom


Pain Ache Daisy – Feverfew

This aromatic, lacy leaf daisy is a useful border plant. It is also a herb and is extremely easy to grow provided it has the occasional splash of water and a few rays of sunshine. If you have never been able to get a daisy to flourish in your garden or window box then grow this one. The flowers are a little smaller than most garden daisies and the leaves are usually lime green in colour. The young plants make a good addition to hanging baskets and tubs as fillers. I have several of these lovely daisies – the one below shares the border with the strawberry plants.

The Pain Ache Daisy or Feverfew is well known for its healing abilities and in some circles is called the ‘migraine mate.’

Feverfew - the daisy family - aromatic perennial herb



The main documented uses for the Feverfew Daisy are for the relief of headaches and migraines. It is also sometimes used as an aid to reduce swelling and the aches and pains from arthritis. Feverfew Daisies are known for their mild sedative powers. Some herb books refer to their use in the aid of asthma and tinnitus. The plant has the property to be able to lower the body’s temperature – cooling and soothing.

Hundreds of years ago the plant was used in childbirth as it was said to help the body remove the afterbirth or placenta. It was also taken to ease menstruation or encourage it to begin.

It’s use is even noted by Nicholas Culpeper who as early as 1653 noted it was especially good for a woman. Since then it has been found as a useful general herb for many ailments.

Warning: The Pain Ache or Feverfew Daisy must never be used/consumed by people taking warfarin or other blood thinning medicines.

The fresh leaves may produce mouth ulcers in some people.

This herb should not be used during pregnancy.

In the prevention of migraine two to three leaves eaten between a small piece of bread are claimed to have good results. If migraine is a long term problem then it may be best to take a tincture – four to five drops in a glass of water around three times a day.

There are now ‘feverfew’ capsules and tablets available in most vitamin and herbalist shops.

The plants are readily available from Garden Centres or may be cultivated from seed. They are often found in hedgerows – but if the intension is to use them as a herb then make sure that they are accurately identified and are growing on uncontaminated land.

The Devil’s Tear Drops …

A few years ago, whilst on holiday in Ireland I saw a most beautiful plant. It looked rather like a very large fuchsia. It was extremely old, tall and bushy and was dripping with thousands of blooms. When I returned back from my holiday I tried to find the plant for my own garden. Eventually, I spotted it at the back of a table of perennials – reaching over, you can imaging my surprise when I saw what it was called … ‘The Devil’s Tear Drops!’

I planted my small plant by the garden pond. It is now three years old and this year it has not been at its best as for most of the late spring the leaves have been limp … I’ve had a quick splash of colour as the flowers have opened. I am hoping that whatever caused the problem has passed as despite it’s very unromantic name – it is a most beautiful plant and I still think it looks similar to a fuchsia!

The Devil's Tear Drops


Devil's tear drops

The Devil’s Tear Drops

Toad Hall

Toad looking forwards

Toad picture 1

Toad showing chest

The weekend offered a rare guest, a toad. At one time our garden could have been considered a breeding ground for toads as they were to be found in every border. In the last few years, toads have diminished and so it was lovely to have spotted this handsome fellow. I’m not sure where he had been hiding but he was covered with cobweb and appears to have acquired a polystyrene ball as a souvenir.

Cat’s cradle

We launched into an early Summer trim in the garden today – just pruning off wild branches that were over-hanging and shading the borders. Trying to be as reasonably neat as possible we dragged all of the clippings into the centre of the lawn. Eventually it came time to scoop up the pile … but who should have made a small comfortable bed in its centre … the cat, of course. She had made herself a lovely cat’s cradle!


Secret cat's cradle

DSH cat in a cat's cradle 

Cat’s cradle