Tuesday, 7 February 2017

COLD WINTER WEATHER ON THE WAY?

After a relatively non-stormy autumn and warm winter, so far, the forecast is set for a spell of colder weather, which will invariably have an impact on our wildlife.

In recent weeks the garden has been a regular feeding place for long tailed tits, a sure sign that nature’s bounty of food is bordering on empty.

This is a signal for help with extra food, particularly fat-based snacks, for birds and wildlife in general, and with easterly winds making for some very cold wind-chill temperatures, now is the time to make sure those feeders are regularly topped up.

While the garden fills with small bird flocks, overhead many groups of birds fly to daytime feeding grounds from overnight roosts.

The marshes near the garden provide many birds with food and safe roosting sites, particularly waders. This in turn means predators including the peregrine falcon, short-eared owl and marsh harrier are about, albeit it much smaller numbers.

It’s great to see flocks of redwing and fieldfare, along with passings from curlew, lapwing and various ducks and gulls. They all make use of the fields around the garden for feeding, while feeding and roosting around the marshes.

The cold weather will affect them all, but with saltwater in abundance around the marshes, it will need a prolonged spell of cold weather to mean the waders and shore birds will suffer from a food shortage.

Meanwhile it’s up to people to help the smaller garden birds with helpings of peanuts and fat snacks, to help them until spring brings warmth and insects.

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

THE BIG GARDEN BIRDWATCH

Once again the garden was under surveillance for an hour over the weekend as three pairs of eyes scanned for bird life.

With two feeders placed on a recently trimmed tree, an upstairs window gave the perfect vantage point to spot incoming birds.

As two children under the age of seven were involved, it proved slightly more ‘interesting’ than just one adult, but it was great to see the young eyes getting excited about seeing a bird and then being able to tell what it was.

One person was in charge of the scoring chart, and the other two had binoculars to confirm the visitors and number.

In line with what is known about bird visitors to the garden from the last nine years of watching, the results weren’t too unsurprising.

House sparrows came out top of the pile, closely followed by great tits and blackbirds.

Blue tits were next on the list, followed by magpies, long tailed tits, dunnocks, woodpigeons, goldfinches and tree sparrows.

One thing that wasn’t included in the birdwatch survey was a tawny owl, and no sooner had I mentioned about not hearing or seeing any for a while, than one was heard calling late one evening last week.

It was hunting over one particular nearby field, but hasn’t been heard of since during the evening and was gone after a short time.

The nest box cameras haven’t seen much action, but one of them (the older one) is seemingly unable to record at night now. The next thing on the list will be a new camera, but I think the birds are not using the nest boxes for roosting because of the relatively warm winter, so far.

Time will tell, but I hope that both cameras will be able to see some action this year, particularly as I’ve changed the opening slot to the newest camera box.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

SNOW SAYS NO TO THE GARDEN

As usual when plenty of the country experiences snowfall, the garden and surrounding countryside sees just rain, with the odd bit of sleet.

If it snows in the garden then there’s going to be pretty significant falls of the white stuff in many parts of the country.

The winter storm, which did deliver some strong winds and plenty of rain recently, hasn’t been enough to drive to many new visitors to the garden feeders.

A tempting glimpse of a flock of long tailed tits did briefly pass over, although only one ventured in the garden to feed on a fat snack.

The feeders close to the house are not being used very much at the moment, and I blame the neighbour’s cats for using the nearby bushes as a hiding place to stalk them.

He pyracantha bush is being trained to grow around the feeders to offer more protection and an old feeding tray has been strategically placed to guard the feeders, but it hasn’t given the birds too much confidence to return.

It’s such a shame that people who come and live in the countryside should ruin it for those who are getting away from daily hustle and bustle, to embrace wildlife, only to have it snuffed out by too many cats driving wildlife away.

There used to be barn owls, tawny owls, little owls, kestrels, foxes and badgers seen regularly in the area just outside the garden, but now there haven’t been any owl sightings or sounds for a couple of years, the kestrels are seen in the very far distance once a month or so, while foxes and badgers are an annual occurrence.

The seven or eight cats (I can’t keep count) are far too much for this area and the population of mice, voles and rats, that the predators I’ve mentioned feed on, are seemingly running out.

If only people would think about what having so many pets is doing to the natural wildlife, maybe it would help restore once thriving wildlife areas.

Until then wildlife will simply move on, depriving those of us who moved to certain areas to embrace the natural world.

Friday, 6 January 2017

IS WINTER CONFUSED IT’S AUTUMN

Autumn didn’t really bring the any stormy conditions, or any real autumnal chills, and so far this winter it seems that we’re only experiencing autumnal weather.

Is the wildlife around the garden thinking it’s ‘still’ autumn, or do they simply carry on with life according to the daylight hours?

It must be said that real winter conditions are mostly confined to January and February, although March and even April have generally seen more snow than December.

Snow is a great indicator of what’s been in the garden at night, when we’re mainly sleeping, so we’re currently relying on daylight for visitor spotting.

A walk down one of the lanes near the house with my eldest daughter did reveal a couple of interesting local visitors to the area.

A flock of goldfinch seemed to keep one step ahead of the walk, while a small flock of curlew flew a few feet over our heads after being disturbed in the field within a hundred yards of the garden.

It’s great to now these specialist birds are finding winter sanctuary just yards from the general area round house and garden where the tits, sparrows, robins and blackbirds all spend much of their time year round.

More winter walks beckon and it’s hoped that waxwings are spotted after a friend saw a small flock nearby.

In other news the nest boxes have been cleared out and only one of the five had a nest in – old faithful being occupied for the ninth consecutive year.

One egg was left in the nest, and although I’m sure a pair of house sparrows nested in there at first, the egg looks very much like a blue tit. Have a look for yourself though and let me know if you think any differently to me.


It leads to the conclusion that a pair of blue tits used the nest after the house sparrows and failed to lay more than one egg to left the nest, were disturbed during egg laying or brooding, or fledged chicks but left a dud egg.

Personally I think it was one of the first too.

The nest was made of moss and the top layer contained many horse hairs, presumably from the two horses kept in one of the fields near the house.

So, will 2017 see more nesting? I hope so and I’ll be changing the entrance hole of one of the new nest boxes (with a new camera in) to a slightly wider fitting, to hopefully give more birds a chance to use it.

Both cameras are seemingly working, at the moment, so now we’ll be looking for any roosting birds.


Friday, 23 December 2016

WINTER STORMS ARE ON THE WAY

Winter is yet to really inflict any sever cold weather on the garden or surrounding countryside, aside from the odd frost.

We’re yet to see any severe autumn or winter storms, but it looks like this will change over Christmas with up to three due in.

The garden looks like it’ll escape the most severe winds, but will be hit by some significant gusts which, combined with heavy rain will likely deliver challenging times for the local wildlife.

The birds feeders are having mixed fortunes with the ones in the trees seemingly well used, indeed the birds seem to know when full ones are being place because they literally gather around the trees waiting for the delivery.

Unfortunately the local cats have made a hideout near to the two feeders in the garden.

After a few adjustments to the bushes and a few blockages put in the way, more activity is expected as these feeders in the near future.

Checking the nest boxes will have to wait for another week, although a quick check of the cameras has caused optimism in they can be fixed ready for the next breeding season.

Not many birds have been seen recently in the garden, only blue tits, great tits, robins, blackbirds, house sparrows and dunnocks. Not in great numbers or frequency, but regularly.

It also looks like a pair of magpies have moved into a tree next to the garden, which is the first time they have nested near the garden.

It might cause a bit of uneasiness within the local small birds population, but they are very good at spotting and disturbing cats.


Friday, 9 December 2016

DRY AND COLD START WINTER – IN CONTRAST TO 2015

Winter is with us and has provided a fairly cold introduction, albeit much dryer than last year.

The cold weather has been interrupted by milder conditions, but the colder easterly winds should have enabled our winter visitors to arrive here without too much trouble.

Any warmer weather might tempt insects to come out, which will in turn feed birds and allow them to save the fattier foods for when they’re really need them in colder conditions.

There’s not been too much action in the garden, although a robin is making its presence felt with a few songs and ‘look-outs’ from several popular perches around the garden.

A male blackbird has been making the most of a decaying apple, which is ignored when it was thrown outside more than a week ago.

The nest box cameras will be looked at this weekend, cleaned out and cameras checked for the picture. Hope remains that next spring they both will provide some decent images of eggs hatching and chicks growing.

The birds will be getting a little shock in the coming weeks as the trees will be trimmed back, although the canopy next year might bring better cover for them to manoeuvre through.

Plant life is very much on hold, although a couple of rose flowers have recently bloomed and some snowdrops are emerging.

Time will tell if they will now delay, but with mild conditions here at the moment it’s likely that some growing will occur.


Monday, 21 November 2016

THE LONG ROAD THROUGH WINTER BEGINS

Autumn has managed to get through most of the season with mild weather, but the road to cold winter weather is well underway.

Snow has been seen in some parts of the country and in the last few days further reports of snow are being made.

But now overnight frosts are now becoming the norm and the wildlife is taking more refuge in and around the garden.

The bird feeders are being visited by more and more birds, and I’m sure a number of small mammals are nicking a few peanuts at night.

It’s hard to see which birds are coming along, with the dark mornings and evenings, so the weekend is the only time they can be counted and seen.

Will the garden be visited by fieldfares, redwings or waxwings? A hope remains, but given the scarcity in recent winters, it’s not too high.

There is probably more hope of seeing snow, which would prove more popular in the house (with the children) than the wildlife outside.

However it’ll be much easier to see which animals are visiting the garden!