Tuesday, 2 February 2016

WINTER TEMPTATIONS NOT ATTRACTING USUAL WINTER VISITORS

This weekend the garden had three pairs of human eyes looking out for birds, although they weren’t the only eyes looking at the garden. There was also by a pair of cat eyes – an unwelcome sight for everyone else.

Once the cat was chased off the counting began; the first tick in the box came for the… grey squirrel, which was quite ironic as we’d not seen one for a couple of months!

But the usual suspects started turning up soon after and within an hour we’d seen most of the birds we see during a weekend.

House sparrow – 8
Tree sparrow – 5
Blue tit – 4
Goldfinch – 4
Dunnock – 4
Blackbird – 3
Robin – 2
Great tit – 2
Magpie – 2
Wren – 1

Unfortunately no long tailed tits, great spotted woodpeckers or starlings, but I know they’re around.

The new nest box has been up for a week and it now has one of the cameras inside it. I hope it will not put off the birds like it has done in in one of the boxes in the triple sparrow nest box.

There is hope for it because it does have a pitched roof, which can house the camera and not interfere with nest building or even put any birds of nesting there.

The only location for the nest box is underneath the triple sparrow nest box, and hopefully the ivy growing up the wall will act as a cover to the entrance. It could even keep the noise down from the noisy sparrow neighbours!

With winter only showing glimpses of its might, sometimes just for a night of low (ish) temperatures before reaching 10c or more the next day, it’s no wonder not many fieldfares, redwings and other wintering birds haven’t been seen.

Instead tulips, crocuses, daffodils and snowdrops are all either growing or flowering. It’s great adding colour to the garden in January, but I fear winter has one big icy blast up its sleeve.

And given the odd report of swallows wintering in the UK and ducklings being born in December and January, I hope no garden birds decide to start the breeding season early and get caught out by winter finally getting its act together.


Wednesday, 13 January 2016

WILL THE WINTER VISITORS NOW FLOCK IN TO THE GARDEN?

Now that winter has started to show it can bring cold weather, there is an increased hope that a few traditional birds will visit the garden feeders and berries still present on the pyracantha bush

While the garden hasn’t seen any frost or snow, the general temperature has been noticeably dropping in the last couple of days and it won’t be long before a carpet of whiteness will layer the land.

It will hopefully bring more birds, and perhaps mammals, to the food on offer and with it potential closer encounters with the local predators – kestrel, sparrowhawk and even the peregrine falcons that live nearby.

Due to unforeseen circumstances the new nest box was unable to be erected, but it will be in the next couple of weeks.

And because of the increased roof space it’ll be able to better accommodate the second camera that has been putting off nesting birds in the triple sparrow nest box.

It is definitely putting off nesting birds because the other two boxes have been used in the two summers it’s been erected.

I knew one was used in the summer last year, but while cleaning them in the last couple of days I found the two without a camera had been used (see below).


Sadly the bird box that has been used by house sparrows, blue tits, great tits and tree sparrows, had five dead sparrows in it (see below).

The positive news was that it was the sixth brood from last summer so between 20 and 30 new house sparrows were brought in to the local population from that nest box.

In the eight years since it was put up there have been an estimated 150+ birds fledging from that nest box, something which is not bad for a small(ish) rural garden.

Sunday, 3 January 2016

BIRDS ARE NOW USING THE GARDEN FEEDERS

There has been a rise in the number of small birds visiting the garden and this must be down to a combination of cooler weather and the decreasing amount of natural food resources left in the countryside.

Of course it’s still very wet, but colder overnight temperatures mean the need to conserve energy by locating a good food source and staying close to it.

Unfortunately the weather isn’t cold enough to see some of the more infrequent visitors to the garden – so no long tailed tits, redwing, fieldfare etc.

Instead it’s the more year round visitors in house sparrows, tree sparrows, blue tits, great tits, blackbirds, robins and dunnocks.

It’s great to see these birds in the garden and I hope some will once again utilise the nest boxes in the garden or even the natural resources.

I’d just finished writing this post when a family of long tailed tits flew into the garden, spending about 20 minutes feeding and chattering. A lovely winter (or any other time) sight in the garden.

One of the jobs during winter is to clean out the nest boxes to make them a lot more hygienic for the birds – and provide them with something they can build something in rather than have a ready built nest from last year which is likely to contact bugs and even parasites.

It also gives a chance to look at how well the nests have been made and see just how many have been occupied.

In 2014 it was the tree and house sparrows that dominated the boxes, but this year I’m hoping to see at least one pair of blue tits or great tits nesting in the garden nest boxes.

The biggest clue will be when the winter overnight roosting takes place, which will need the weather to get a bit colder.

Until then the feeders will need to be topped up and wait for winter to bring its worst. I hope that’s soon so the midges and little flies that are plaguing the garden will be put out of action.

Monday, 28 December 2015

IS WINTER GOING TO TURN UP?

Unseasonal, mild and temperate are just some of the words that could be used to describe the weather so far this winter.

Whatever word or words are used it won't make any difference to how the wildlife, flora and fauna, is sensing the conditions.

With daffodils and tulips showing themselves and some tress starting to blossom, it’s surely not going to be long until birds start building nests, which for nearly all will inevitably be a disaster.

Cold weather is surely going to come sooner or later and that means the wildlife will be in for a big shock.

Currently it means that the likelihood of seeing traditional winter visitors (fieldfare and redwing along with the local long tailed tit families) is virtually nil while this mild weather persists.

It also means the traditional pattern of the natural world will be out of sync.

The garden lawn will have to be cut again in January, which means it could be cut in every month of the year if the same is required in February.

The big question as we head in to another year is will the cold weather arrive before nature is in full on spring mode?

Monday, 21 December 2015

HAS SPRING ALREADY SPRUNG? SOME FLORA THINKS SO

Winter continues to be mild, with near record temperatures for December days and nights being recorded across the UK.

The warmth is seemingly keeping many birds away from the garden and the free handouts, because natural food – including insects – is still in plentiful supply.

And the unseasonably mild weather isn’t just affecting the birds, the flora is also confused and seems to think it’s spring already.

The garden is already seeing spring bulbs emerge, while some trees nearby are already starting to blossom. The wild strawberry plant is even producing strawberries and the rose bush has fresh flowers emerging.


Can it continue? The likely answer is no because January and February are the traditional cold months of the year and for the good of nature it’s also good to have a few weeks of really cold weather.

There had been hope of the odd sighting of a fieldfare or redwing in the garden, but even the blue and great tits are not seen as often as usual.

The forecast is for the conditions to be fairly similar over at least the next week, so perhaps it’ll be 2016 before cold (and snow) starts to come to the garden.

Next on the agenda is cleaning out the nest boxes, so when the cold weather does arrive there will be a clean(ish) place for the local small birds to roost in.

In previous years the camera has witnessed roosting blue tits, great tits and house sparrows as early as December, but not this year!

Have a great Christmas and hopefully the next blog will have images of roosting winter birds.

Sunday, 6 December 2015

A MILD WINTER?


It’s not exactly been a cold start to winter, although typically the coldest weather is normally reserved for January and February.

This is likely to be having an effect on the birds coming in to the garden, because they have not been in the numbers I would normally expect.

The big peanut feeder in the garden hasn’t needed topping up for a week and thoughts are turning to another reason why birds aren’t in the garden much – the local cats!

Between three houses there are seven cats, but one house feeds stray cats which increases the number to double figures.

The daily sight of at least two cats with small animals in their mouths is very unnerving and it’s not a good sign for the local wildlife population.

Cats eating rodents means that food for owls, foxes and kestrels will be in short supply, so they’ll move on, removing the area of apex predators. This will then increase the non-rodent populations of animals that will not be kept in check by the cats.

It’s really sad that people seem to have little or no respect for the area they live in; if you move to a rural location, make sure you respect it and don’t introduce a domesticated predator en-masse to a small area; it ruins it for wildlife and the people who have moved there because of it.

Cats aren’t welcome in the garden, although stopping them is almost impossible. The fact they think other gardens are free to use as their toilet is quite frankly disgusting and shows their owners have a complete disregard for humans, in particular children who might play in gardens and not understand the dangers of cat poo.

Anyway rant over.

While it’s still mild then many insects are active, including the spiders in the ivy and flies that keep coming into the house. A cold winter helps control such creatures, and many more besides, so here’s hoping that after Christmas the cold weather arrives.

Added to that is the increased risk of snow, which means snowmen, snowball fights and sledging! Bring on the snow.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

WINTER IS ON ITS WAY

After a very mild autumn, the first signs of winter have led to frosts, cold winds and even snow in places.

There’s not been any snow, or very little sign of frost, in the garden, but the small birds have been flocking to the feeders.

The flock of house sparrows seems to be increasing in numbers, while the blue tits and great tits are spending more time in and around the peanut feeder.

I’ve also noticed a robin spending plenty of time on selected perches around the garden, sometimes singing, but mainly watching out for other robins and opportunities for grabbing some food from the feeders.

The temporary greenhouse was blown over in the recent and while moving it to the garage for winter storage, I found a huge number of slugs and snails seemingly trying to hide out the cold.

I safely moved them to the green waste bin so they can spend the winter somewhere else and not spend next spring and summer munching on the garden plants and vegetables.

Each day brings more leaves from the trees and it’s now much easier to spot the birds on the branches, but the down side is there’s not much daylight to be able to do this.

I’m hoping that as we go in to December and the weather gets colder, we start to see the likes of fieldfares, redwings and the now more common jays in the garden

This should increase the chances of the local sparrowhawks entering the airspace above the garden and the battle for survival in the coldest and darkest time of the year.