And the last of the Rabbits!

Not for all time, merely the last due litter at the moment! Ivory has had about half a dozen or so, perfectly competently, in a properly-built nest. Considering she and Ebony are litter-sisters, you’d think they’d be equally good (or bad) mothers, but no….

I shouldn’t do Ebony down, she does seem to have the hang of it now and her remaining kits look healthy and wriggly.

Jezebel managed to lose a couple in the night, allowed them to fall out of the nest and die of exposure, but Trudy’s keeping hers well down in the nest and they’re growing nicely.

Yesterday was the annual vet-trip for Feisty Ferret, she’s come into season and needed her hormone jab to bring her out again. Ferrets are photoperiodic induced ovulators – meaning they come into season due to increasing light levels, and don’t come out again until after they’ve mated. A jill ferret left in season too long can develop leukemia and all sorts of unpleasant infections and I don’t want to breed baby ferrets, so every spring¬†Feisty gets hauled to the vet and stabbed with the appropriate dose of hormones. She’ll start moulting in the next week or so and get into her nice, short summer coat again.

Finally, some rabbits….

After the disappointment of Trudy’s empty nest last month, I finally have baby rabbits! In fact, almost too many….

Trudy and Jezebel produced litters on Thursday, six and (at least) eight respectively. This morning Ebony had randomly scattered offspring all over her floor and was hiding in her litter tray, terminally confused (first-time parents are often clueless). I revived three she’d left to chill on the floor and added them to the one she’s managed to drop in the nest, but one didn’t come back despite being gently warmed in a water bath, toasted lightly under the grill and even offered CPR by whippet (I take it new rabbit kit must smell like new puppy, since they unexpectedly licked the dead one rather than grabbing and swallowing, which was what I’d expected. It went to the ferrets instead – ferrets are very clear on what a rabbit is. It’s food.)

I’m left wondering if Ebony will remember, or realise, that she’s supposed to feed the offspring from time to time. At the moment I’m not pinning much hope on her pulling herself together, but I do have the option of gently dropping a kit or two into the other two nestboxes – they’re only a few days older so there shouldn’t be too much size/age difference and both Trudy and Jezebel are experienced mothers and should be able to feed an extra mouth or two, provided they don’t notice the cuckoos in their nests.

Ivory, my other first-timer, is very close to her due date – at least going by her figure, which could best be described as “stout”. I hope she does better than her sister but, judging by the attempts at nesting she’s made so far, I may be thinking wishfully!

Rabbits usually get the hang of things second time round, if they make a total fluster-cluck of the first experiment. Whatever happens, the ferrets will eat the dead so nothing’s a total waste of time….

In the garden I’m delighted that we have a hedgehog making nightly rounds! Considering how many slugs we’re already noticing around the place (that mild winter!) every set of slug-gnashing teeth are more than welcome to visit.

The tadpoles have hatched in our little pond and we have a small adult frog hanging about, so that’s another set of insect-eating guests we’re happy to have.

No sign of our toad, though. Maybe we did put too much compost on top of the critter….. I hope not. Toads can be remarkably stealthy beasts so I’m not giving up on her yet!

Where Did All The Snow Get To?

Here we are, in April, officially now in Spring rather than Winter, and thinking back over the past season, I find myself wondering…. where was the snow? What happened to winter?

There are years without snow in the UK, as well as years with loads of snow (by UK standards – I can certainly remember snowdrifts over 5 foot in Cheshire as a child and we’ve been snowed in from time to time in Scotland, as well as having years when snowtyres are overkill and the salt doesn’t come out of the shed at all.) That’s just normal seasonal variation – “weather” rather than “climate”.

This has been one of the less snowy years. We have had a couple of days when we’ve watched snow blow past the windows, though nothing has stuck on the roads round here and certainly a drift hasn’t even been a possibility. It’s a mixed blessing – less snow, less frost, less powercuts and storms, less inconvenience…. but also less die-off of garden pests. We had slug problems last year because they weren’t frozen down to a smaller population in the 2013/14 winter, and this year undoubtedly we’ll have slug problems again, since they won’t have been frozen this year either.

But it always makes me wonder. If the snow wasn’t here, where was it?

Apparently it hasn’t been in the Arctic, where NSIDC has just reported the lowest ever sea-ice record for winter – and not only the lowest extent but the earliest-ever winter maximum as the ice stopped growing and started melting again earlier than usual.

It hasn’t been in Alaska, either. This year’s Iditarod sled-dog race had to be moved to a more northerly route to find enough snow and ice for the sleds – and at the “official” start in Anchorage, 350 truck-fuls of snow were spread around the city to make it suitably white and scenic! I associate many things with Alaska; until now, a need to stockpile snow for winter sporting events has not been one of them.

It hasn’t been in the Rockies in California, either. California’s water utility checked the depth of the snowpack at 6,800 feet of altitude in the Sierra Nevada recently and found….. no snow at all. This is the first time in 75 years that they’ve had no snow at this altitude on the 1st April, it appears, and doesn’t bode well for California’s continuing drought conditions. Nor does the newly-confirmed El Nino event hold out much hope for restoring California’s water balance – despite taking nearly a year to go from the first indications to officially declared status, this looks like being a very weak, late El Nino that won’t have much effect on US weather patterns, but may nudge global temperatures upwards a little more.

Eurasia also had below-average snowfall in February, though not below average for the year.

So where did the snow go? Apparently it all landed on the USA, mostly in the north-east but some even in such places as Virginia and Texas – not areas I immediately think of when it comes to snow storms!

Apart from the unusually heavy¬† snow and low temperatures in the north-eastern USA, this winter has also thrown up an unusually chilly patch of ocean off the north-eastern US coast. This is potentially not good news for Europe, as it seems to indicate a slow-down in the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Currant (better known as the North Atlantic Drift and the Gulf Stream) which may chill northern Europe. On the other hand, it might help damp out the likelihood of heat waves, which the changing Arctic climate may be encouraging in Europe via fluctations in the Jet Stream….

That probably boils down to, if you’re in the UK, expect variable weather. It’s just a shame about all those non-frozen slugs and insects. They’re probably already anticipating a good nosh on the veg we’re starting to sow….