Saturday, 27 June 2015

WHERE IS SPIKEY?

It’s been two weeks since we set ‘Spikey’ (Max), the male hedgehog, free in the garden and sightings of him have been rare. I say rare, but what I mean is we’ve not seen him at all.

When he was release he scuttled into the undergrowth of next door’s garden and has not been sighted since.

Neighbours have been recruited to the on ‘hedgehog watch’, but so far the search has been fruitless.

I have been leaving cat food and water out for him late at night, and while the food has gone in the morning, I have no way of knowing if it’s Spikey, one of the resident cats or another wild animal has eaten it.

I just hope he’s ok and enjoying his new surroundings. If he is seen in the near future and regularly, I’ll be looking to rehome a female and set up a new colony.

The house sparrows are doing very well and both nests have just had their second brood of the year fledge.

I’m still not getting great images through the video cameras, but I’m probably going to leave them alone this year so as many house sparrows can fledge to boost the local population.

They may be noisy chirpy little birds, but they are part of the wildlife fabric of this country and it’s lovely to hear them in the morning as part of the dawn chorus.

The flora is doing quite well too, with sunflowers, broad beans, poppies and runner beans all growing taller by the day. All but the sunflowers are flowering and providing the bees and other insects with differing types of pollen.

I’m still seeing the odd small plant being eaten by snails and slugs, but most are escaping their hungry mouths.

Next week we’re meant to be in for as heatwave, which will be good for sun worshippers and the wildlife that needs sun, but everyone must be mindful that to flourish all wildlife needs access to fresh water.

So fill up that garden drinking bath or place small low level containers out at dawn or dusk and help the wildlife flourish in your patch.

Saturday, 20 June 2015

SECOND BROODS FOR BOTH SPARROW FAMILIES

Both house sparrow families are taking this year’s brooding competition very seriously, as they look to fledge their second broods of the season.

The family in the blue tit nest box are a few days behind their opponents in the sparrow nest box, but they could catch up if the next set of eggs (yes I’m expecting more), are laid as soon as this brood fledges.

And when these two broods do fledge, they’ll find the garden has a new wild animal pottering around the plants and over the lawn.

Yes, the garden is now home to a ‘re-homed’ rescue hedgehog. Max, is a 2-year-old male, who has been ‘called’ Spikey by my daughters, although he’s not been seen since he was set free last week.

 
I’ve been feeding him small amounts of cat food at night, although whether he is eating it or the local cats are taking it, is something I’ve not been able to find out.

He is a big male and I hope he sticks around to provide another layer of the natural circle of life in the garden.

The escallonia and pyracantha are full of flowers and attracting hundreds of bees (honey and bumble) every day, while a red ladybird poppy plant has already produced eight brightly coloured flowers to light up another area of the garden.

There are numerous sunflowers now planted outside, along with broad beans and tomato plants.

And with the summer sun making its presence known, I’m hoping they will all grow big and strong, while Max (Spikey) takes care of those pesky slugs and snails.

Sunday, 7 June 2015

SUMMER SUN IS BRIGHTENING UP THE WILDLIFE

The house sparrows are becoming even shyer as the signal from the blue tit nest box camera is intermittent at best.

I fear they’ve either pecked at it or pushed nesting material and forced the emitting antennae to malfunction.

I can’t try to fix the problem, as the eggs are about to hatch or have hatched in the last 24 hours – I suspect the latter as activity has certainly increased to the nest box.

I bought some mealworms last week, which attracted plenty of birds to the feeders, particularly the house sparrow parents in the neighbourhood – I counted at least ten adults at one point so presume there are at least six nests in and around the garden.

Unfortunately all the mealworms have now gone, after a night-time thief raided the containers outside the back door and took what was remaining.

The thief also carried out a daytime raid, so my list of main suspects is down to two – magpies or grey squirrel.

The squirrel hasn’t been seen recently, while the magpies have a nest nearby and are almost daily visitors to the garden.

I’ll have to keep the next lot of mealworms locked away more securely!

No hedgehogs yet, but I’m pretty hopeful of being able to pick up one or two rescued ones next weekend.

Finally I’ve planted out a number of sunflowers, broad beans and runner beans, all with biodegradable slug and snail pellets.

The first night didn’t capture many of the plant destroyers, so I hope for the hedgehogs’ sake that the neighbours have plenty!

Sunday, 31 May 2015

THE FLEDGINGS CONTINUE

Last week both house sparrow nests fledged and this week it was the turn of the robins to ‘turf’ their youngsters out.

I can still see and hear the house sparrow families from the garden as the youngsters continually badger the parents for food.

I suspect both families are using the same set of trees, which are opposite the garden and have two of my feeders, but I’m not 100 per cent sure.

There are at least two robin chicks that I have seen feeding in the garden with one parent, but I suspect others are using next door’s garden with the other parent.

One chick took on a rather large worm that had surfaced following the overnight rain, but it appeared the worm won, albeit through a technical ‘chick scared of worm’ decision.
 

The next few days are supposedly going to be more like autumn than early summer, so I’m hoping the robin chicks will stay around in the relative safety of the garden for at least part of the next week.

In recent days I’ve seen the parent house sparrows mating again, so some shiny new eggs might be delivered by the end of next week, as one again the two house sparrow families battle to bring up the most chicks.

I’m going to attempt to clear the camera view in the blue tit nest box today and hopefully get a glimpse at those new eggs when they arrive, and also the chicks!

No news on the hedgehogs yet, but next week I hope to have an update, along with news on the nest box camera and my first delivery of mealworms.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

WHO WON THE FIRST FLEDGING RACE?

Before I announce the winner of the race to be the first nest box to fledge, I found a new family this weekend.

Down the lane and less than 200 yards from the garden a new family of mallard ducklings appeared from the stream with their mother.

The family quickly turned around and pattered their webbed feet away from the lane and back to the undergrowth around the stream.

This is the first time I’ve seen a family of ducklings near the garden and with the pond nearby, I’m sure they’ll  be staying around  for a while and give me the chance to see them a few times this spring/summer.

So who won the race of the house sparrow families to fledge first in the garden?

It was the blue tit nest box house sparrows, the shy family that covered the camera. They fledged on the sunny and warm Saturday (yesterday) and I don’t think the other family will be far behind.
 
I've now probably got a few days to 'clear' the camera view before the next batch of eggs are laid.

The garden is looking very green, with a splattering of colour from a variety of plants, which are attracting plenty of insects including the odd bumblebee.

I’m going to leave some areas of the garden to continue growing wild, but others will be ‘managed’ to ensure plenty of colour brightens up the place this summer.
 
The swallows are still flying around catching some of the increasing number of flying insects, although I'm not sure when any of their eggs will be laid, particularly as the weather isn't too warm for the time of year.

Finally I’m still waiting to hear from the hedgehog rescue centre to see if I’m going to be selected to rehome a couple of prickly mammals.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

HAVE THE SPARROWS FLEDGED?

The weather is certainly warming up, although it isn't quite spring like enough for some of our feathered friends.

The cool winds have held temperatures back, although this has been offset by some lovely sunshine brightening up the garden.

During periods of rain the slug and snail population has been out and about, I can see there'll be another battle to keep my new vegetables and plants away from hungry critters!

The house sparrow families appear to be growing fast and I'm expecting at least one fledging in the next couple of days.

Unfortunately the blue tit nest box camera is still mainly covered up, allowing me only small glimpses into movement inside.

But the loud and almost constant chirping if the chicks combined with the parents mating again, suggest a fledging and new batch of eggs will not be far away.

Once the fledging has happened I'll try to clear the camera view, although this will be tricky and if I suspect it'll disturb the birds I'll leave well alone.

The only other addition to the garden is the temporary greenhouse, which is now housing young runner bean, broad bean, tomato and sunflower plants.

The swallows are still conducting aerobatic displays and I'm sure it won't be long before they're swooping through the garden after insects.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

THE FIRST CHICKS HAVE ARRIVED

I knew there was a reason for the house sparrows in the blue tit nest box putting nesting material over the camera – they had eggs.

I say had, because they have now hatched and I can clearly hear the chicks when I’m outside in the garden.

I’m guessing there’s at least five, having listened to the chirping for a period of time and recognising separate chirps.

Obviously I’ll not open the nest box until the chicks have fledged as I’m sure there’ll be another brood, but for now this is the view I'm getting.
 

In the triple sparrow nest box there are also chicks that I can hear. I suspect the sparrow parents are continuing on with the contest from 2014 when a pair of house sparrows and tree sparrows tried to produce the most chicks – last year was a draw.

Again the nest box camera has been evaded by the house sparrows, as they have nested in one (or maybe both) of the other nest boxes.

Does anyone else have so many house sparrows in such a small space using nest boxes?

The swallows are now in a large group and have been seen frequently ‘hanging out’ on some of the nearby telegraph wires.

The group has totalled 10-15 over the last few days, but I think only one pair is nesting in the horse stables behind the house.

The old pond area, which is now a wild rockery, is literally blooming. Indeed there have been many insects taking refuge and feeding in there.
 

Today I saw a beautiful small(ish) butterfly, which I think was this one.

 
It was joined by a large bumblebee, dancing in the air around the flowers and grasses.

The weather for the next few days is due to be delivering early summer temperatures, so I’m hoping to see more butterflies and bumblebees in the garden.