Owlsland in Winter
November, December & January

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Guests often ask what Bezirgan's like in the winter - to which the answer is cold!!

As summer becomes a distant memory and the year reaches its end, winter's icy grip gains strength, and everything freezes. It's normally well below zero, and some years we can see -18C (yes, that's minus!)

For the past decade, we've seen very little rain, so each time rain has come we've prayed for it to keep falling. This year (2012) has seen the rains begin at the start of October, unusually early, and we've had a fair few days' rain in November & early December.

Bezirgan after a snowfall The old adage "as the days lengthen, the cold strengthens" holds true in Bezirgan. But though it gets fearfully cold, we don't get a lot of snow, since it tends to fall on the mountains which surround the village. This was the single snowfall of 2009, in February.
In the old days, the entire south end of the village would be under water to a depth of a metre or more for most of the winter. That hasn't been seen for many a year, whether due to global warming or simply cyclical variations in the seasons, but we are the proud possessors of a lake for a few days at a time when it does rain. The south end of the village under water
the storm canal last time it was full The village is cut in two by a canal which carries away excess water during wet seasons. Till February of 2010, here is last time it was full - in 2001.
Up till now (early January 2014), the weather has been just like the last three or four years at this time, when we were congratulating ourselves on mild winters - we have had daffodils open on New Year's Day, sweet peas a metre high in January and borage in flower all winter. Daffodils open on New Year's Day
almond blossom In 2011, the almonds came into bloom on January 16th, a full month earlier than usual. 2012 & 2013 saw almond blossom slightly later, at the end of January.
But we spoke too soon in 2010 - February brought bucketing rain for days at a time, flooding the whole village. Bezirgan under water
Bezirgan under water Be careful what you wish for, right enough - February 2010 was the wettest in a decade. But it did mean good crops and lovely flowers in the summer! And who knows what this winter will bring...
Sadly, we lost our beloved little beagle, Cleo, in September of 2011, and we still miss her terribly. Here she was the previous winter picking her way delicately through the rising waters. cleo beagle in a flooded field
a wet and happy dog Bonjuk, our neighbour's pup is just in his element when it's wet - he ploshes through the flooded fields, and doesn't miss a single puddle!
Most of the villagers move back to the coast for the winter, chased off by the cold. For those who stay through the winter, heating is essential - people buy logs from the Forestry Commission, to cut up and burn. logs ready for chopping

The Mountains in Winter - Birds and Wildlife and Wild Flowers

Winter is a hard time for all living things in the mountains.

Some choose to move away to milder climes - whether it's the villagers moving to the much warmer coastal villages, or the migrant birds like the bee-eaters which head for Africa.

But there are always those who stay, and for whom survival is all that matters during the cold.

little owl on traditional farmhouse This little owl can often be seen perched on the chimney of one of the old traditional farmhouses.
The robin redbreast is surely the world's favourite bird, and here he is in Turkey, too. Whenever anyone ploughs or digs, there he is at their side, hoping for worms. The Turks call him "kina", which is "henna", for his red breast. robin in winter
black redstart in winter Some birds are welcome winter visitors, like this black redstart, which is easily recognized by the vivid flash of red from his tail as he flies.
Like the robin, he will stay close to a gardener, knowing that a tasty grub may be his reward. Here, he's on one of the ancient pieces of carved stone which litter the village, legacy of the Lycians, the Greeks and the Romans. black redstart on an ancient piece of carved stone.
olives ready to pick Work on the land largely stops in the winter, but December is the season to picks olives. In the old days, farmers wouldn't have wasted the fine soil of Bezirgan on olives, which will grow happily on the barren hillsides of the coast. However, since many villagers have sold off their olive groves to builders in Kalkan, recently we're seeing olive trees being planted in Bezirgan.
Scrub Oak is one of the commonest shrubs in the mountains, cut and gathered by the villagers to feed their goats. This repeated cutting means it remains a shrub, never growing into the huge tree it otherwise would. scrub oak with acorns
clematis cirrhosa growing through scrub oak The beautiful white bells of wild clematis clematis cirrhosa growing up through the scrub oak.
Tommy is a true mountain dog, with a thick coat which doesn't let the cold through. And she loves the snow! sheepdog in the snow
dog in snow Sweep too doesn't seem to feel the cold - maybe because she is a bit (whisper it!) on the tubby side!

The Garden in Winter - Herbs & Flowers & Wildlife

Food is the priority for all the birds in the garden at this time of year. We try to grow as many different plants as possible to provide fruits or seeds to feed them through the winter.

Windfall apples and quinces are a great favourite with the blackbirds - we've counted as many as seventeen individuals at one time! blackbird eating windfall apples in winter
blackcap and sparrow on pomegranate Pomegranates left on the tree are much appreciated too - here, a sparrow and a blackcap eat their fill.
Grapes last well into the winter if left on the vine, and this season produced a good crop. Robins, spectacled warblers, finches and (of course!) sparrows all enjoy these. grapes on the vine last through the winter
display of rosehips on fairy roses Having flowered continuously from May till December, the fairy roses then proved their worth by giving a spectacular display of rosehips.
And alongside the abundant crop of rosehips, this lovely plant produced flowers for seven consecutive months! rosehips and flowers together on fairy rose
flock Our favourites! A whole flock of sparrows takes shelter in the rose arch, where they're sheltered from winds, hawks and cats alike.
Probably the reason they're so successful is that they can and will eat anything they can find. And they've learned that the dogs don't always finish all of the food in their dishes! sparrows finishing off the dogs' dinner
juvenile In winter, everything living must find food - unfortunately for the small birds, that includes the birds of prey. We often see different hawks soaring on the aircurrents above the valley but the one we see most in the garden is the sparrowhawk. Recently, this juvenile female, still with her brown feathers and barred chest and her eyes of yellow not yet turned to orange, has taken to visiting.
Not only does she swoop onto small birds should she spot any in the open, she will follow them on foot, searching where they take cover, and waiting in the hope that they emerge. sparrows finishing off the dogs' dinner
painted lady butterfly on valerian Just to prove how unseasonably mild the winter has been so far, we snapped this Painted Lady butterfly on valerian in December, well after you'd expect to be seeing either valerian in flower or butterflies.
The same day, and a Dark Clouded Yellow butterfly appeared on the last of the Sweet William. Dark Clouded Yellow butterfly on Sweet William
Geraniums inside the conservatory With winter's frost and cold just round the corner, we brought the geraniums into the big heated conservatory for the next few months, which is a bit of a mammoth task! Once they're safe inside, they give a terrific show of flowers for many months.
We grow French Marigolds amongst the vegetable patches to keep insect pests at bay, a job which they do superbly well. And as a bonus, they give a lovely show of colour from Spring right through till the first frosts. These ones are a bronze variety, grown from seed collected last year. French marigolds give a late display of colour in the vegetable patch
Hummingbird Moth A sure sign of autumn is the buzzing sound of the Hummingbird Moth, so-called because, like its namesake, it moves its wings at high speed in order to hover by the flowers from which it collects nectar.
We did have some lovely misty days in early winter. Misty day in a mountain garden
Pyracantha and tamarix in the mist A misty morning, with the lovely autumn shade of tamarix, and the bright red of pyracantha berries, beloved of blackbirds and thrushes.
The gean, or wild cherry, is magnificent in autumn, with its almost ethereal foliage of glorious orange and yellow. Wild cherry or gean in autumn
Max snoozes in the flowers The verbena in the walls has been gorgeous this year, having flowered non-stop for ten months. Max seems to be impressed anyway, choosing it for an afternoon snooze.
Alan Titchmarsh doesn't have these problems...!
Bran, however, used to find the soft grass and the light shade under the Weeping Willow perfect for a chocolate lab. We were devastated to lose him in November, when he died at the age of seventeen. But he had a good life here in the mountains, and we'll always remember him with love. Chocolate labrador under weeping willow
Two dogs making the most of the winter sun As 2012 nears its end, Holmes is all grown up! He's still best friends with Max, as they share a bed and enjoy the warm winter sunshine.
And of course, the cats will find somewhere comfy no matter what the weather - Gremlin takes advantage of an empty seedbox and and the sun shining through the window of the greenhouse. Cat in a seedbox on a sunny day in winter

And that's a taste of winter in the Turkish mountains -
it may be chilly now, but we guarantee you a warm welcome if you come and visit in Spring!

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