Wren’s surprise visit causes uproar

TILLY the terrier had to be banished from the kitchen. Amid some unstoppable, frantic, high-pitched barking, she drew my attention to what was obviously a wren that had made its way into the room.

I managed to grab Tilly so she could carry on her racket outside while The Happy Moonraker tried, firstly to photograph the poor wren, and secondly to take it outside to safety.

I succeeded on both counts, thank goodness, although I suspect the little wren must have had a bit of a headache after batting its head so many times on all the windows.

Tilly was, of course, mystified as to how something that looked like an enormous fly to her had suddenly disappeared. Never mind Tilly, birds must be allowed to go free, no matter how much you’d like to play with them.

The same was true of the young toad that suddenly appeared in her bed. I’m not sure how it got there. Tilly may have seen it on the floor and picked it up and put it in her bed but I’ll never know the truth.

The toad was easy to put outside: I just carried Tilly’s bed into the garden and tipped it until the toad walked off.

Tilly watches with eagle eyes from outside as the trapped wren tries to escape from the kitchen.

Tilly watches with eagle eyes from outside as the trapped wren tries to escape from the kitchen.

The toad that mysteriously appeared in Tilly’s bed.

The toad that mysteriously appeared in Tilly’s bed.

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A golden year for blackberries

IT may have been a poor summer for butterflies but it is certainly proving to be a brilliant autumn for blackberries.

They have been ripening over the past few weeks, depending on how much sun they have received. A north-facing hedgerow will produce blackberries later than one that faces south.

The Happy Moonraker quite enjoys cooking and thought you might like the following recipe that uses blackberries. Probably my favourite would be blackberry and apple cooked together but this cheesecake recipe is actually based on a classic Spanish dish. It is much simpler and has fewer calories than other kinds of cheesecake because it doesn’t require a biscuit base.

Blackberry cheesecake

Ingredients

200g cream cheese (organic if possible)

2 large free-range eggs

200ml organic double cream

150g unrefined caster sugar

100g blackberries

20g unrefined icing sugar

Method

Preheat the oven to 180ºC/gas 4. Lightly butter a 20cm (8in) cake tin. Whisk together cream cheese, eggs, cream and sugar in bowl for no more than 40 seconds. Turn mixture into prepared tin and spread the blackberries all over the top. Bake for 30 mins or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Remove from oven and leave to cool. Dust with icing sugar just before serving in slices.

Full of promise: an early summer picture of blackberries waiting to ripen.

Full of promise: an early summer picture of blackberries waiting to ripen.

One evening’s blackberry harvest, ready to be frozen or put into fruit salad, smoothies, baking or eaten as they are.

One evening’s blackberry harvest, ready to be frozen or put into fruit salad, smoothies, baking or eaten as they are.

Blackberry cheesecake.

Blackberry cheesecake.

Here’s Tilly the terrier occupying herself with a little serious digging while The Happy Moonraker picks blackberries.

Here’s Tilly the terrier occupying herself with a little serious digging while The Happy Moonraker picks blackberries.

 

 

 

Where are the butterflies?

WE may have enjoyed a succession of hot, sunny days but there have not been many butterflies about.

Tilly the Jack Russell and The Happy Moonraker have seen the occasional brimstone and tortoiseshell and that’s about it. No peacock butterflies, no orange tips, and no red admirals this year.

So it was a delight to see this large tortoiseshell land on a box full of artificial flies. Thank goodness it didn’t impale itself on a hook and it soon realised its mistake and fluttered off, for these brightly coloured confections contained no nectar for it to enjoy.

1 butterfly R wi fishing flies 8 13

Perhaps there are more moths about. This smart brown caterpillar, which will be an elephant hawk-moth next year, was near the back door and proved most interesting to Tilly. She picked it up and soon put it down again, so perhaps it didn’t taste too good.

2 Elephant hawk moth caterpillar 27 8 16

The lime hawk-moth was unexpectedly in the forecourt of a petrol station. Although photographed in broad daylight, it may have been drawn there by lights during the previous night.

3 Lime hawk-moth in the Midlands 12 6 10 R