Halswell Domain

Halswell Domain
View from the Model Engineers' site in the Halswell Domain

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Cygnets born at Westlake

Cygnets have been born at Westlake. Arina Riley-Biddle has been watching and photographing them. 

She writes:
At the end of summer, when the lake level was low due to the drought, a breeding pair of of swans built a nest on the bank of the main lake in Westlake Reserve.

The nest was made out of stones, flax and feathers which they had gathered. Five eggs were laid and the female swan (called a 'pen') sat on the nest to keep the eggs safe and warm. Anyone who happened to get too close was hissed at by the male swan (called the 'cob'). 

When the heavy rain came, the water level rose quickly in the lake, right up to the base of the nest. But the pen stayed on the nest to keep the eggs dry.

After battling the rain for two days, the rain stopped. The nest was lucky to escape from flooding. After a few days just two of the eggs hatched into cygnets and can be seen with their parents on the lake.

Arina Riley-Biddle (aged 12)

Monday, May 20, 2013


The pumpkin plants yielded a ridiculous 27 pumpkins this year, far more than we could deal with at once! The great majority have been given away, with three now left for us. The walnuts ran late this year, and needed a good breeze at the end of April to bring them down for harvesting. The four trees produced many bags full of nuts, and our share are now drying on the patio. The poplars and walnut trees are losing their leaves at pace, though the willow leaves are still green.

The paddock has got two semi-permanent puddles thanks to the rain in the last few weeks, and both are unlikely to dry up entirely until late spring. Fortunately the soil is still soaking up the rain in other places, so I don't yet have to wade across the paddock. The horses are very keen for their tucker each evening, with the three in the big paddock galloping down to get their hay if they are not already waiting by the gate. Fending off three hungry horses is not easy when you are carrying their dinner! 

I have recently been hearing little owls out at the paddocks, which is lovely. As the name suggests, they are not big birds, and I rarely see them unless they are running around gathering moths from under streetlights as I bike past. It will soon be time to make bird pudding for the other birds to eat during winter. 

The grass is still growing, albeit slowly, and I am hopeful that the frosts will hold off for a while longer so that it can continue to grow. It is a hardy little plant when you think about it - grazed almost to ground level it still keeps growing in spite of what can be less than ideal conditions.