Autumn on the Distant Drumlin

As summer moves into autumn, I want to show you what September on the Distant Drumlin looks like.   It’s harvest time this week.

Ballylisbredan wheat harvest

Ballylisbredan combine harvester

We have a speckled wood butterfly – does that mean it’s still summer?

Butterfly speckled wood

On the other hand, I thought bramblings were winter visitors to Ireland, so maybe summer is over.

Brambling (female winter plumage)

I hope I’m right in identifying this bird as a female brambling in winter plumage.  If she’s actually a chaffinch, she’s equally welcome to perch in our hedge.  (And here’s a link to a great article about bramblings.)

Brambling (side view)

I’ll give the final word to our donkey, who looks perfectly happy to be out in the field – so let’s call it summer.

Donkey eating thistles

Buzzards, Pheasants and Swallows Do Make a Summer

Summer has brought some new birds to the drumlin.   Or at least, summer has brought them out into the open.

This common buzzard (Buteo buteo) was sitting on a neighbour’s farm gatepost on Wednesday, and wasn’t disturbed at all when I stopped the car to take a photo through the open window.

Buzzard on gatepost

Barn swallows (Hirundo rustica) don’t seem to stand still for long, so I was lucky to get this shot in Delamont Country Park today.

Delamont barn swallow

I’ve had more luck with the pheasants (Phasianus colchicus) in our fields this year, even spotting the chicks as they learn to fly.

hen pheasant

Hen pheasant and chick

Swans at Mount Stewart

I would like to claim that today’s photos come from my own home, but I was just really visiting Mount Stewart, the grand 19th century mansion where my husband and I held our wedding reception many years ago.

Mount Stewart gate

Mount Stewart is located on the western side of the Ards Peninsula, in County Down, Northern Ireland.  As well as the house, there are extensive gardens and a lake.  This couple posed for photographs beside the lake, just as my husband and I did.  I hope we looked happier.

Mount Stewart lake and ducks

Mount Stewart is owned by the National Trust, a charity which does great work in the United Kingdom, protecting land and historic buildings and opening them to the public.  After a three year restoration project, the house at Mount Stewart re-opened to the public on 20 April 2015.  You can read more about that project by clicking on this link, and I look forward to seeing the house later this year, but on this visit I was distracted by the swans.

cygnet under wing

These two more adventurous cygnets were just climbing out of the lake where they had been swimming with their father.

Cygnets climbing out of water

The formal gardens are as beautiful as ever.

Mount Stewart tulips

Mount Stewart harp topiary

The National Trust has recently bought the surrounding farmland, increasing the area managed by the Trust at Mount Stewart from 100 acres to 1000 acres.  I’m intrigued to see how they use the additional land, and how the walled garden and dairy develop over the next few years.

Mount Stewart dairy

If you want to see even more photos of Mount Stewart, click here .  I have another blog called Townlands of Ulster.  Luckily for me, Mount Stewart is a townland, so I had an excuse to keep snapping the cygnets and the gardens.


I saw a lovely photo of a European robin (Erithacus rubecula) this week, taken by a blogger from India who saw his first robin on a recent trip to the UK.  It made me smile to think that a bird so common in my part of the world was special to a visitor from another part of the world.  Just to prove that I don’t take the robin for granted, here are three recent images.

Robin number one: Eating an insect at Kiltonga Nature Reserve, Newtownards on 18 April.

Kiltonga robin feeding (1)

Robin number two: showing off an unruly feather in Belmont Park, Belfast on 7 April.

Robin in Belmont Park 3 (1)

Robin number three: perched in the garden at Mount Stewart near Greyabbey, County Down on 20 April.

Robin at Mount Stewart 1

I hope the robins know that we locals appreciate them as much as the visitors do.  And do you know why?  It’s because they stick around.  They don’t just show up for the summer; they are here all through the winter.

Robin in snow 2 Robin in snow 1

The robins are more loyal than me.  When it snows like that, I’m thinking fondly of Bangalore winters.

Click here to read the blogpost by Amit at Residual Thoughts which inspired this post.



Xpresso and the Grand National

My husband and I are not regular gamblers, but yesterday we took part in a sweepstake for the biggest horse-race in England, the Grand National.  We drew names from a hat when we had lunch at my favourite cafe in Northern Ireland –  Xpresso.

Xpresso Carrowreagh

I can recommend the coffee and the lunches at Xpresso, which is located in the Inspire Business Centre, Carrowreagh Road, Dundonald, but I’m not so sure about their horse-racing tips.  Here’s a photo of our picks for the big race.

Grand National runners

Like me, they’re happier eating their lunch than jumping over fences.

donkey 1

A Crush on a Thrush

When I did my Fictional Asked Questions last month, I nearly included a question from “Bored Birder” demanding to know if I was ever going to take birdwatching seriously.  To which the answer would of course be No.   I love watching birds, and taking photos, but I’m not keeping any lists or chasing any rarities.  In fact the one birdwatching activity that I found stressful was the Big Garden Birdwatch, when counting and identification really mattered.  I’m still worried that my jackdaws may have been rooks.

But tonight I could use some help from my readers who know birds.  A pair of thrushes visited my garden in Northern Ireland this evening.

thrush on front lawn (1)

These lovely birds deserve praise on the blog for being kind enough to pose in the golden light.  They also deserve proper identification.  I shouldn’t be advertising song thrushes if I’ve actually got mistle thrushes.

thrush on fence (2)They came and left together, so I assume they are both one species.  I know that Songs are smaller, and more common, than Mistles, but that doesn’t help.

thrush under fence (1)Someone out there must know.


By Popular Request: More Lambs

A year ago I posted some photos of cute lambs; there have been demands for more this year.  So click here to see Spring 2014 on the Distant Drumlin, or read on to see the lambs of 2015.

We start with a ewe and two lambs, in a field in County Down, Northern Ireland.

Ewe and 2 lambs

Then one lamb walked away and left home.

Ewe and lamb

The runaway lamb found its own food.

Lamb feeding from tub

Then it fell into bad company.

Three lambs

Lamb faces

And became part of a gang terrorizing the field.

Gambolling lambs

Who knew that lambs could look scary?

My Feeble Contribution to the Big Garden Birdwatch

So, do you want to know the results of my Big Garden Birdwatch?  (New readers click here or here for explanations of BGB).

In my one hour of birdwatching, I recorded 12 birds.  I identified one Robin, one Woodpigeon, one Blackbird, one Jackdaw, Two Blue Tits, Four Coal Tits and One Great Tit (at the feeder in this photo).

Birds great titSome humans don’t like taking part in a government census.  Maybe it’s the same with birds.  Around the farm during the course of the day,  I saw a hawk on a telegraph pole, ten woodpigeons in one tree, and seven magpies in a field; none of them came near the garden for the BGB.

And I can’t even blame the cat, because Bono was asleep in the kitchen.  Smart move, with the temperature sitting at 2ºC .  So there was no chance of a repeat of this scene from Monday.

Bono climbing tree 3

If anyone else took part in the Big Garden Birdwatch, I would love to know what you saw.  I hope you had a warmer day, with more co-operative birds.