Thursday, 7 December 2017

READY FOR WINTER?

In a couple of weeks’ time I’ll look back at the year in images, charting the garden and house through the seasons.

This is something that’s featured on this blog for a couple of years now and it’s interesting to see the differences between each year.

By the time the reflection post comes on, it may well include an image or two with snow in; highly doubtful given the low height above sea level the garden is.

There’s not been much activity around the garden, aside from the usual visitors of blue tits, robins, house sparrows and dunnocks.

Not many blackbirds have been seen and other birds are still to regularly visit the garden during this early period of winter.

However, one bird that has flirted with the garden is the redwing.

In flocks of less than 20, they’ve visited the areas around the garden on a couple of occasions, but stay mainly up the lane in bigger bushes and trees that offer more shelter and more berries!

One exciting development was earlier this week, with the brief sighting of a barn owl next to the garden.

It appeared against the light of next door’s outside light and is the first one I’ve seen in about seven or eight years.

This news takes into context the seemingly reduction on cats in neighbouring houses and, though while still too numerous, the sighting of the owl is hopefully a good sign about natural prey for the barn and tawny owls, which had not been seen or heard around the garden for a number of years.


Let’s hope the local little owl population comes back too!

Saturday, 25 November 2017

THE ANNUAL NEST BOX CLEAN OUT

It’s the time of year when the seven nest boxes in the garden are cleaned in preparation for any winter roosting, and ahead of the breeding season next year.

This exercise also gives an opportunity to see exactly what has been constructed, in which nest boxes (only two have cameras) and what evidence can be found to suggest which birds occupied them.

As per usual the original nest box was occupied by blue tits (because they were seen fledging), and no leftover eggs or chicks were found, meaning all eggs successfully hatched and all chicks fledged.



In the other three single nest boxes, there hadn’t been any nesting carried out. Two are open fronted and are located in now dense honeysuckle and ivy.

The other has a camera and this has seemingly put any birds off nesting in there this year – however it’s the first year it was up so fingers crossed for 2018.

In the triple next box, all sections had nests. One was definitely used by house sparrows, however the other two had similar nests, but one more clue was a bit puzzling.

Two of the nests each had one egg, which appear to be blue tit eggs, as you can see below.



This leads to three potential theories.

1 – The house sparrows only occupied one box and blue tits nested in the other two – presumably after the house sparrows
2 – Blue tits nested on one box, laid an egg were put off by the house sparrows so moved next door, laid an egg, but moved out because of the house sparrows
3 – The blue tits nested after the house sparrows left, and either successfully fledged (with one egg being dud in each box) or parent(s) were killed by local cats/birds of prey


However, we’ll never know and can only hope that we’ll get to see some of this year’s fledglings back in the garden next year.

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

WINTER IS ON ITS WAY, AS AUTUMNAL FROSTS ARRIVE

The garden has already seen a couple of frosts this year, but the influx of birds has yet to appear.

The garden feeders are being utilised, mainly by a few blue tits, the odd robin and great tits. Other birds are appearing infrequently.

One exciting development recently has been the appearance of a male sparrowhawk.

It was spotted on top of an outbuilding next to the house, and it appeared to be gathering itself after a failed hunt.

It look inexperienced so likely one that was born this year, but there’s hope in the house that it’ll keep making appearances in the future.

Of course that might mean negative news for the smaller garden birds, however it does mean there is a depth to the food chain in the area, with the top predator not being cats!

The next job in the garden is to clean out the nest boxes and make them ready for winter roosting. Checking the cameras are still operating will also be part of the process.

The flora in the garden has gained a new lease of live, with a large lily flowering, along with the rose bush.

The rose bush flowered in every month last year, and has done the same this year, proving it can withstand the rigours of all seasons.

It also means there’s a food source for any insects still hanging around before winter, and for those that appear early in spring on warmer days.


Once again the signs of lack of food in the surrounding countryside is likely to be signalled by the arrival of long tailed tits at the garden feeders, although there’s sadly little hope for any waxwings, redwings or other winter visitors given the history of not appearing.

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

WILL THE FIRST FROST OF THE AUTUMN SIGNAL BIRDS BACK IN THE GARDEN?

After the first storms of the colder seasons, one an ex-hurricane, the garden has played host to the first frost.

It wasn’t exactly too cold, but perhaps it’ll be an early signal for the birds to start coming back to the garden in search of food – particularly if they know there’s a constant and varied supply.

The number of flying insects has definitely diminished, and spiders seem to be getting ready for the winter by hiding away.

There’ll be a clean up of the nest boxes soon, to prepare winter roosting places for some birds, although it remains to be seen if any will use the camera boxes.

With leaves falling everywhere, the earthworms have a bounty and the work on producing nourishing soils for next year’s vegetables and flowers will soon begin.

This winter we’re promised storms and bitterly cold weather, but aren’t we promised this every year?


Until the car temperature gauge shows it and the snow piles up on the ground, many, including the wildlife will simply prepare for winter as normal.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

CALM BEFORE THE AUTUMN STORMS

It’s been a quiet couple of weeks in the garden, with the list of garden bird visitors still on the low side.

With most, if not all, of the summer visitors now departed and the winter visitors still to properly land on our shores, there’s little activity going on.

On the insect and invertebrate front it’s quietening down too, with spider numbers and webs decreasing, flies in short supply and only three crane flies seen.

One major difference has been the beautiful colours the climbing plant (still not sure of the variety) has shown through its leaves over the last couple of weeks.

In mid to late September it had a full canopy of green leaves, but within two weeks they had turned to a glowing red colour and now most have simply fallen off.



The ivy is continually growing, but also being kept in check. It’ll provide a good cover for roosting birds in winter and food source almost all year round.

By the end of the month the nest boxes will be inspected, clean and put back up, with the hope that the cameras work and they will be used for winter roosting.

Who knows if they’ll be used again next year, but it won’t be long before we find out.


Until then it’s time to enjoy this warmer weather, ahead of the old Hurricane Ophelia that’s due early next week.