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.

Monday, 4 May 2015

APRIL SHOWERS

I’ve not seen much of the swallows this last week, I presume they’ve been getting used to their summer home again – checking out the state of their old nest(s) and trying to find food in between the heavy rain.

The last few days have seen plenty of precipitation falling from the sky and dampening the spirits of the wildlife trying to bring the next generation into this world.

I still can’t see properly in the house sparrows’ nest in the blue tit nest box, while all birds are shunning the other nest box with the camera.

The first grass cut of the year brought numerous birds back inspecting the garden for food, with the blackbirds and robins spending plenty of time pulling tasty morsels out of the ground.

After noticing a number of bees around the garden I kept a small patch free from the blades of the lawnmower, as they contained clusters of small yellow marigolds that the bees we’re spending time taking nectar from.

I’m still waiting for news on helping to rehome hedgehogs, but hope to hear in the near future.

One thing I’ve done once again is plant seeds, this year with plenty of help from my eldest daughter, who is nearly five.

She gets very excited every morning when we look in the propagators to see how many new seedlings have grown.

So far we’ve got tomatoes, sunflowers and broad beans ‘showing’ themselves. This time next week I hope they will be joined by runner beans and chillies.

Then the temporary greenhouse will go up and father and daughter will hopefully grow a summer’s supply of veg and flowers.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

THEY’RE BACK!

I didn’t have to wait much longer my ‘my’ swallows to return this year, following my post last week.

The very next morning, Monday 20th April, I heard a familiar sound as I walked outside in the warm spring air.

They were two days later than last year, well two days later then I was able to see or hear them.

I know a lot has been made of ‘global warming’ and spring coming earlier, but given my observations there isn’t evidence to support this.

I’m sure swallows and other summer migrants thought they had arrived in early summer last week, but the last couple of days and the next week will bring a bit of reality about the actual time of year.

One bird I rarely here from the garden is the cuckoo. I’ve heard one or two calling over the last few years, but always from a distance and never for more than a couple of days.

Back to our native birds and I’ve seen a number of goldfinch pairs down the lane as I’m driving to and from work, while a pair of magpies has built a large nest in one of the tall trees behind the house.

I’ve been watching out in case the magpies are usurped by a bigger bird, but haven’t witnessed what I did many years ago in London when a pair of carrion crows patiently watched a magpie duo build a nest, and then staged a violent takeover.

There does always seem to be a certain level of violence in the throng of house sparrows, with minor conflicts a daily occurrence.

Perhaps this is why there appear to be no eggs yet, or maybe they’re waiting for a longer spell of spring sunshine.

Finally, I’ve been put on a rehoming list for hedgehogs and have been told I could be able to provide a new home for a few in the next few weeks.

Hedgehogs are a great natural defence for the garden and after last year’s slug-fest I’m hoping a hedgehog or two will help bring some natural order back.

Plus they’re a species that are dramatically losing number and I want to play a part in helping to stabilise and then increase numbers.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

WHERE ARE YOU SWALLOWS?

Well I’ve seen my first swallows of the year, but only while out on my bike and about five miles from the garden.

It’s always a delight to see these birds and while the birds that nest around my garden aren’t back, I’m happy enough to know that once again our countryside will be filled with sounds of my favourite bird.

Given the weather is certainly spring-like I’m remaining hopeful that I’ll be seeing and hearing swallows around the garden very soon.

I’m pretty sure that nesting and potentially brooding of eggs is happening to a few of the frequent visitors to the garden, including the robins and blackbirds – I’ve only seen a single robin for a week or so and no sign of any female blackbirds.

One surprise visitor was a long-tailed tit. I always thought they nested on a large marsh area about 2 miles from the garden, but with a few areas of thick cover nearby, there’s a chance a nesting pair could take up residence nearby.

No update on the house sparrows, with the blue tit nest box pair seemingly intent on keeping activity in the nest very private. I’m reluctant to try and move the items that are covering the camera as I’m not sure if eggs have been laid or not.

In the house sparrow triple nest box, once again the birds appear to be nesting in the two segments that don’t house a camera. Typical!

One lovely surprise has been the appearance of a peacock butterfly, which has been making the most of the sun warming up the soil and rockery.
 

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

WHERE ARE YOU SWALLOWS?

During the last week reports of swallows in the UK have come in thick and fast, yet I’ve not seen any around the garden and surrounding fields.

They’ve been back every year since we’ve lived here (8 in total), so I remain hopeful, yet impatient.

The weather hasn’t been the best for returning summer residents in the UK, with snow just a few days ago in some areas.

Now the weather is becoming summer like, almost bypassing spring.

The blossom on the trees has now all be blown away by the heavy winds of the last week and is now slowly being replaced by green shoots of leaves and buds.

For the time being I’m enjoying listening and finding birds singing in the trees, although that probably won’t last too long if the temperatures and sunshine continue.

The two bird boxes with cameras are not showing much, with the house sparrow box showing no signs of any nest building, while the house sparrows in the blue tit nest box seem to be getting a little shy and have almost covered the camera with nesting material.

 
I might try and move it, so the camera can show something, but only if the birds are away from the area and there’s no eggs on the nest.
 
I've also found a new nest, well it's a nest site that I've noticed being used before, but not for a couple of years.
 
A pair of blue tits is building a nest in the crevice, left by crumbling bricks, of an outbuilding behind the house.
 
No sign of the robins, blackbirds or great tits nests, but I'm still looking.