Sunday, 31 August 2014

LOOKING BACK AT SPRING CHANGES

This week, with the weather turning towards settled, warm and dry conditions I’m going to look at the transformation the garden makes during spring.

In a series of images I’ll be looking at what happened in March and April this year. In later blog posts I’ll show the summer, autumn and winter changes, some of which will be quite spectacular.

Before that the swallows are starting to gather in big numbers on the local telephone wires and have spent the last couple of nights feasting on the variety of flying insects that are taking to the skies now the evenings are warming up a little.

Although some have already gone, I suspect many of the ones that are still here might stay for this week at least, as the food supply appears to be here in large numbers.

I’m still getting the usual garden visitors, although mainly the blue tits, great tits, house sparrows and tree sparrows. The robins, blackbirds, dunnocks and wrens appear to be still enjoying the wider expanse of the fields and hedgerows beyond the garden.

March





 
April


 

Monday, 25 August 2014

IS AUGUST THE 'NEW' START TO AUTUMN?

It certainly looks like summer is now over and autumn has started to talk us on the long journey to winter.

Although Bank Holiday weekends are notorious for poor weather, this particular one comes on the back of over a week of cold and wet conditions.

The number of small birds in the garden has increased rapidly, with many chicks from this year clearly visible. The peanuts and fat snacks are disappearing at a faster rate than during January!

Two major things I’ve noticed during this inclement weather are the swallows gathering in large numbers, before seemingly moving away and starting the journey to Africa.

The other is the lack of butterflies and other insects –although that’s not really a surprise because if I were them I’d be hiding somewhere warm and dry.

When the sun shines through it can quickly get warm and then some insects do appear, only for more rain to come along and them to quickly search for the nearest cover.

I think the weather has certainly stopped the seemingly unstoppable breeding power of the tree and house sparrows. Both parents appear to have settled on four broods this year.

This gives me the chance to take down the nest boxes, clean them, but most importantly confirm the problem that blighted the viewing of the house sparrows’ prolific breeding.

News from that next time, while I’m looking at doing a season series of images showcasing life in the garden. The first images will be from March and I will continue until the end of February next year to give an image of life in a small countryside garden.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

TIME FOR A SUMMER STORM?

Is the summer finally over? It would appear that the forecasted ‘summer storm’ is signalling the early start of autumn, although I live in hope that the remainder of August will bring sunshine and warmth.

The cooler (not cold) weather is certainly good for the gardens and crop growers, but now we’ll need to see some sunny weather to help the final crops reach their maximum potential.

While the numbers of insects, butterflies and bees has slowed somewhat, there are still plenty about when the sun comes out.

What is proving remarkable is the tree and house sparrow parents appear to be raising a fourth brood!

I heard today the first faint cries from newly hatched chicks, which I’m amazed at – although slightly frustrated because of the failure of both nest box cameras to deliver footage of these chicks.

The garden has started to fill up with families of small birds recently, as the parents appear to be completing their annual moult and showing their offspring which gardens are good to visit for food.

I only wish the garden was bigger so I could provide more nesting sites, but maybe one day that will be the case.

The next blog post will be in the aftermath of this storm that is meant to be arriving this weekend, the remnants of Hurricane Bertha.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

THERE'S A WREN IN MY KITCHEN...

This week has been hot again, although it looks like next week could bring normal summer conditions and a little better conditions for sleeping in for many. 

By regularly watering the plants and vegetables, they have grown very well in the hot climate, particularly the sunflowers and poppies.

Both of these had debilitating starts when a number of young plants were lost to slugs and snails, which were a by-product of a warm winter.

Luckily I managed to put a stop to most of the snails and slugs – leaving some to keep the balance of nature – and the plants have responded magnificently.

Here are two pictures of the sunflowers, one showing just how many seeds it will be producing later in the summer and autumn, which the small gardens will thoroughly enjoy.

 
 
The poppies have been great and I’ve grown an Icelandic Poppy for the first time, this is the orange one below.

 
 
The buddleia is attracting endless numbers of butterflies and look like doing so for a few weeks yet.

 
Finally for this week there was a shock visitor that entered the kitchen from the garden, a fledgling wren.

After a few minutes the little fella was outside, but looking very miserable and with low survival hopes from me.

 
Fortunately after about ten minutes the fledgling had perked up enough to be climbing around the rose bush, calling and looking very much better.
 

A good end to the week.

Monday, 21 July 2014

SUMMER THUNDERSTORMS BRING RELIEF TO THE HEATWAVE

This week must be all about the summer weather, in particular the thunderstorms that swept the country and delivered much needed rain to many places, along with flashes of excitement.

In the garden the thunderstorms arrived in the early hours and while the thunder and lightning had left by 9am, the rain continued all morning and led to flooding down the lane that leads to the house.

But it was all over fairly quickly and the sun soon returned to dry up most of the water and provide the flora and fauna with some energy with which to continue growing.

I managed to take some images of the lightning, although not exactly very successfully. It only lasted for a couple of hours and trying to predict where the next flash would be turned out harder than I imagined.

The three flashes I did manage to capture show the garden and beyond lit up like it was daylight, but I can assure you it was pitch black at the time.

 
 
 
In other news the third tree and house sparrow broods are close to fledging and a number of blue tit chicks have been frequenting the garden, although I’m not sure if they fledged nearby or are simply visitors from the area who have happened on the garden.

The sunflowers are growing rapidly and at least four are as tall as me, with one over 10ft tall. More about them and the buddleia flowering which is attracting numerous butterflies next week, which means the diary of images about the garden growing will start in August.
 
 

Sunday, 13 July 2014

A BUMPER BREEDING SEASON?

Plenty of butterflies and moths have been in and around the garden recently, which makes me think it’s been a good year for them.

The most ‘popular’ attendees to the garden are the orange tip butterfly and the cinnabar moth, both of whom have been seen daily in the garden.

I’m beginning to think this has been a significant boom year for our small garden birds. I’ve now seen two lots of blue tit fledglings, the latest this week and the robins are looking distinctly scruffy, which makes me think they’re on to their third brood.

The blackbirds have had at least two, the swallows second brood also fledged this week and there appears to be large numbers of magpies and goldfinches.

But the big news on the nesting front is that both the house sparrows and tree sparrows are busy raising a third brood in the garden nest boxes.

The parents seem to be having a competition with each other as to who can raise the most chicks, as invariably when I can hear chicks in one nest the other follows with a day or so.

I’m not sure how many have fledged from each nest since April, but it must be double figures.

I very much doubt there’ll be a fourth fledging, but with the hedgerows around the garden swaying under the weight of sparrows, I wouldn’t be surprised.

What it must mean is it’ll also be a bumper year for the birds of prey. I know there’s a few sparrowhawk around here and certainly kestrels. The crows, magpies and jays may also pick of a few weaker young too, plus the resident little and tawny owls might pinch a couple from night roosts.

In the next couple of weeks I’ll be showcasing the transformation of the garden, showing images taken at weekly intervals from March this year.

The transformation is stunning, well I think so.

Monday, 30 June 2014

SUMMER BRINGS SUNSHINE, GROWING PLANTS AND DISAPPEARING BIRDS

The warm weather was interrupted by a few heavy showers and plenty of rain this weekend. While it’s great to be able to sit in the garden and enjoy being amongst the wildlife, the wet weather is most definitely welcome, both for the flora and fauna.

I did feel sorry for the birds who visited the garden looking like they had been swimming, and also the bees who got a pounding from the raindrops as they tried to gather nectar from the flowers.

I’m hoping to continue harvesting the vegetable crops this week, following the broad beans that made a tasty and welcome addition to the homemade paella I cooked this week.

The potatoes should be ready soon, while the runner beans and tomatoes should start showing by the end of July.

Of course the broad beans will still be harvested for the next few weeks and I’m delighted that they’ve done so well considering I’ve not grown them before in the garden.

The sunflowers are really starting to grow, with one now over six feet tall. I think they’ll be half a dozen that will exceed six feet and I’m sure the birds will welcome the seeds in early autumn.

The birds are now making themselves scarce; only the robins, blackbirds and goldfinches regularly visible now.

I have seen a few chiffchaffs, and heard plenty, but I’m not sure if they’re feeding youngsters or not. I suspect they are, but where is beyond me so far.

With the height of summer fast approaching I know the bird visits will decrease and I’ll have to concentrate on what’s growing in the garden, although the insects will take over to some degree, particularly the numbers of butterflies and moths, more of which next week.

Of course this will last until late summer when the young small birds that have survived the dangerous first couple of months return to a place their parents have used to feed, shelter and breed.