Sunday, 13 May 2012

A Cold Barbie.....

Today was bright, with some cloud earlier, but a chill wind and temps never getting much above six degrees. Despite this, our neighbours decided it was time for a BBQ: utter madness, I'd say, but probably driven by the kid's demands:

Sara, the eldest girl, even found the strength (?!) to try playing a bit of outdoor guitar:

Roger visited this afternoon to say he was returning to Germany on Wednesday. He is not going to spend Summer here and has found some work with a friend refurbishing MacDonalds in Germany.  It seems to be a good contract so he needs the money and feels it is time he returned to his homeland for a while. He expects to return to Sweden next year but not until Spring.

The daylight hours are lengthening noticeably now. This is a shot I took a few nights ago at just after 22:00:

The setting sun and basically pretty clear daylight. It will continue to get brighter from here on in for the next 5 weeks or so, till the solstice. Already it is lightish at 02:45, as I noted last night when I lurched off to the loo for a pee!

Mr Fox is still making his evening rounds, usually calling at about 20:00 or so each night. Tonight he came past and I spotted him from the study window. By the time I got out with his pre-prepared tucker he was out of sight. I clucked and caught movement from the corner of my eye and he turned and came straight towards me. I showed him the placky tub thing I'm now using and which is similar to the things I used last winter, and he immediately walked straight towards me without hesitation or fear. I put it down, said hello to him and walked onto the porch while he boldly carried on and scoffed most of the food, a mixture of dog food, rice and a Swedish oddity, 'matvete' - literally 'wheatfood',  pretty disgusting in truth but not if you're a fox, it seems!

I was really very pleased at how confident and trusting he was this evening. Makes it feel like it's worth the effort. And, in reality, it's a privilege to be able to get so close to such a beautiful, wild creature. At least they are not hunted here:

Thursday, 10 May 2012

More Of This Needed.....

A splendid day here. In full sun at 17:00 we had 24 degrees; it certainly felt deliciously warm outdoors - probably around 18 degrees or so where I sat with a book, a cuppa and a few bikkies.

I took Jack for a longish walk this afternoon, round the lakes and then off for a coffee-break - Fika, in Swedish - at Roger the German's place:

The view from Roger's terrace, front of house:

He is located just before a smallish lake, very pretty and now greening-up nicely.  En-route, Jack and I passed about another five or six lakes. I had hoped to see the Störlom/Black-Throated Divers and had assumed they'd have returned by now. But there was no sign of them, yet, though I did see one yesterday in a lake a few miles off. Instead, today, I saw a pair of Whooper Swans seemingly laying claim to the Black Throated's usual preferred swimming-hole:

Together with a pair of Golden Eye Ducks, of which there were plenty on most lakes:

                                   And another, again with Golden Eyes (three pairs, no less):

                               And yet another, looking a bit moody as cloud drifts over:

Jack decided it was time to have a paddle at this last one. He wandered to the edge and simply dropped off into fairly deep water. After a few minutes of no doubt freezing paddling/swimming he struggled to get a grip and back out of the water. I couldn't help much as it is boggy, water-logged ground at this point and I was less than keen on joining him!

We passed the local village fishing hut and camping area. This is maintained by the locals, who provide free firewood etc. The hut itself has tables,  benches and a wood-burning stove inside. It is never locked and used to be freely available to anyone who wanted to use it. Now, however, after it was a bused a few years ago by some migrant berry-pickers, it is asked that it be booked locally. It shouldn't be used as a sleeping place but the area outside may be used for caravans, motor-homes or tents etc. There is even a loo not far off.  The forest floor is covered by a thick carpet  of Blueberries, Lingon Berries and a peculiar Swedish delicacy, Hjotron. Itinarent pickers arrive each Summer to pick these for commercial interests in the South of the country. When first we came here, this was mostly Ukrainian pickers, then latterly Poles and now often Thais or other far-eastern visitors. Occasionally Sami are also involved and they seem to have an astounding resilience to mosquito bites and hard, back-breaking labour!  Despite problems in the past, the hut/stuga  is still available to fishermen free of charge:

This sign is in the parking/camping area outside and has information about the geology, wildlife etc of the nature reserve area:  The flower decal is of a local pansy which grows prolifically throughout the forest and is in fact a woodcarving done by one of our neighbours, Per Togget:

This morning there were three Curlews, a handfull of Cranes and a gaggle of Canada Geese in the fields in front of the house:

This one was obviously the Guard Goose:

Even when the others had wandered off across the road to another field, he stayed put, keeping a wary eye out for danger or threats. Endearing, I thought.

It was a treat to end up with such a lovely, bright, sunny day. This morning at around 08:00 there was a fair bit of damp mist lingering, especially in the forest:

At another nearby lakeside, we came across this guy. He's a fisherman who lives about 25 Kms off. Every year, as soon as the snow is going, he tows this caravan and sets up for the summer at another area provided and serviced by locals for the use of visitors. He causes much head-scratching and some irritation by this annual behaviour. He generally monopolises the area and prevents others from using it for months at a time, until he tows it away again in Autumn. Last year he had a bit of a scare when a Bear and Cub called and rattled his caravan, pawing at the wheels and clawing the door. Some locals thought/hoped that might see him off for a while, but no....he's already back in place:

The view he enjoys, over yet another lake:

And part of this same lake, our own swimming hole, just out of shot, secluded and private in a small gently sloping bay just to far-right of this piccy:

J ahs again returned to Wales today. She left yesterday as it's a long way off to the airport and stopped overnight in a hotel nearby. Our daughter, JVP, is unexpectedly in hospital in West Wales, so she has gone to see what can be done etc and help out on her discharge, which should be either this evening or tomorrow morning.

En-route to the rail station in Sundsvall we saw a Woodcock not far from the house when it ran across in front of the car, followed by a Stoat, a Long-Eared Owl hunting roadside, a Black Grouse and a Hazel Grouse. Today, for the first time so far this year, there is a pair of Pied Flycatchers in the garden. They've been checking out the nest-boxes and usually settle down in the garden for the season. Woody is still around and seems to have found a novel way of making a racket/din:

At the top of the pole there is a metal plate. He drums wildly on it at times, presumably enjoying the unusual, metallic sound.  Later, he was back to his usual place on the feeder:

Foxy is still coming round every evening. I'm now convinced it's the same one I was feeding many wintry months ago. He is coming closer and closer to me, presumably expecting tucker. He knows when he's onto a good thing, I guess:

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

It's Spring Again.....

Back to Spring weather again today. At 08:00 this morn we had plus four degrees and now, at about 15:00, we have 15 degrees and lots of sun. It was a glorious morning, blue sky, sun and no wind. We've had a touch of light rain but otherwise a splendid day, so far.

Morning view from garden:

And even the neighbours have been seduced by it and dragged out the summer garden gear:

Yesterday evening, we had a visit from a fox. It sniffed all round the garden, grubbing up tasty morsels, and gradually made its way round to the front of the house:

Eventually, it hopped up onto the porch and had a good root around, as I watched from the hallway:

I took a bit of Jack's tucker out and  clucked aloud. It came from the midst of the blackcurrant bushes and waltzed straight over to me, keeping about two meters between us as it watched me scoop nosh onto the grass for it. I went into the house and it immediately set-to, scoffing the lot in no time.  I like to think it's the one I was feeding in the cold depths of the previous winter when I was here. Then, there was a young fox I fed on a daily basis. Given this one showed virtually no fear of me or my presence, I can't help but wonder.....

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Ne'er Cast a Clout.....

Just when we thought Spring was with us, we have more unexpected snow: yesterday it snowed for most of the day, overnight and much of this morning. It's now going very fast again but we had a good three or four inches of white stuff settling over everything. They're now predicting rain for this evening, so with any luck it will be clear again by tomorrow. We had about minus one or two overnight last night and zero at 07:00 this morning:

It begins, yesterday afternoon:

This morning, it has settled:

And that sky looks as if it may hold a few more surprises:

'Tis a pity, because J is driving down to Sundsvall - a 200 mile plus return journey - to collect Roger, our German neighbour at the rail station, where he returns today from his internet-lovelorn Tashkent jaunt. The roads might be a bit hairy in parts, though generally the main routes will be fine. Although she didn't want to, she has taken Roger's car - a big US 4x4 thing with winter tyres - just to be on the safe side.  It also means she is able to put Roger's dog Alex's cage in the back and take him too. Which is best for Alex and for me. Our cats are less than enamoured by Alex.

Rocky took one look at the snow-cover this morning at about 07:00, when he'd managed to wake us both with his howling to get out, and returned to the warmth of the house. Charlie, on the other hand, was off and out alongside Jack, though he has since returned. Just a few minutes after Rocky decided to brave the melting snow and head off out. No doubt, he watched from a safe distance, as Rocky launched himself into the wintry wilderness, before scurrying back home!

Håkan has been busily cleaning up a cattle feeder thingy he recently bought. This means he is preparing to release the cows following their seven months of captivity. The cows are kept indoors, in a state-of-the-art, largely automated barn-cum-milking parlour from around November to May every year. And, even now, they cannot simply be put out to graze because the grass has yet to regrow. In addition, Håkan must give certain fields a good chance to regenerate as they must provide a major part of next winter's feed/hay/silage for the beasts. All in all, it's a fairly delicate balancing act, I imagine. Late snow is not really what he needs or wants right now!:

His daughter, Sara, a student, has put a small island type thing out on one of the lakes, to act as a nest-box for Duck. It is already occupied by a grateful pair of Golden Eye, who no doubt value its safety:

Nest-box in situ:

Of course, it is probably a mere bagatelle in the grand scheme of things but it was built and floated at minimal cost without the aid of a UK parliamentary expense account.

I've mentioned before that the locals here are pretty handy with saws and wood. Here's an example of Håkan's handiwork. A shed that he built a couple of years ago using traditional methods and materials;