Sunday, 20 April 2014

SWALLOWS RETURN TO SPARK SUMMER WARMTH?

Lovely sunny weather in the day has meant colder nights, not the ideal conditions for planting out new plants.

I’ve put some out in the greenhouse, broad beans and sunflowers, and they have so far responded well; continuing to grow well.

More potatoes have been planted so hopefully we’ll have a good supply of spuds from August onwards – perhaps even up until November.

The tomatoes, runner bean, onion, cornflower, cosmos and more sunflowers have been planted, so there should be more green shoots by the end of Easter.

The birds have been flocking to the garden, with the blackbirds picking up plenty of worms from the lawn and blue tits, great tits, dunnocks, robins and sparrows feasting on the peanuts and fat snacks.

But the big news this week has been the return of the swallows. I watched jealously as people report swallow sightings across the country through social media, but this week I heard the sweet sound of spring and summer in the air.

I looked up and saw five swallows showing off their aerobatic skills and they seemed to be having a brilliant time, chattering all the time.

The next job I have is to find out where they’ll be nesting, and also if I can see where other nests are. Stay tuned for updates as I check out the sites I know were occupied last year, particularly the robins by the railway bridge and blackbirds in a nearby small bush.

Saturday, 29 March 2014

SPRING WARMTH BRINGS BREEDING SEASON EXCITEMENT

As spring sunshine grips most of the UK, bringing with it warm weather the breeding season is well underway as birds, insects and mammals all focus on raising the next generation.

The tit nest box, which now has a pair of house sparrows, still doesn’t have a working camera so I can’t view the nest building activity.

The house sparrow nest box camera is fully operational, but no birds are utilising it – which as explained previously I think this is because the camera is too obtrusive inside the box.

Flowers, tree buds and the first vegetable plants sprouting are now being joined by butterflies and plenty of insects, including various bees, as spring has well and truly sprung.

This is a wonderful time of the year and the buzz among the birds in the garden is lovely to see, hear and feel. It feels like a huge race has begun to get the next generation born and raised; it’s great to see it in the garden and surrounding countryside.

I’m sure April will bring plenty of showers, but if the temperatures keep like they are this weekend the growth in the flora will significant.

Of course in turn this will help the mammals, birds and insects that will feast spring’s rich offerings.

The focus in the garden will be fixing the camera, cutting the grass and encouraging the growth of vegetables and flowers.

One thing is for sure, the next few months will bring new arrivals and a colourful garden as wildlife and humans alike enjoy the warmth and sunshine (hopefully).

On a final note I’m taking images of the front of the house and some of the garden that I will unveil in the coming weeks to show how spring helps the garden bloom and come alive.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

SPRING WARMTH SLOWLY GOING

Disappointing week as the blue tit nest box camera has stopped working and I think the problem will mean no pictures to see how the nesting goes this breeding season.

Unfortunately the problem could easily have been avoided had it not been for a very clumsy meter reader, who didn’t close the external reading door properly and left it to bang open against the outside wall and the power wire to the camera.

I’ve not fully checked it out but I can’t change the cable as it’ll mean accessing the nest box and therefore disturbing the birds.

Talking of which I did manage to get a glimpse of the birds occupying the nest box – it was a bit of a shock as there were two birds in there and neither was a blue tit or great tit.

In fact it is a pair of house sparrows that were starting to build a nest, which is unusual considering they normally nest in groups and they seemingly haven’t touched the other camera nest box – although I think this is down to the camera being too obtrusive.

I will be checking to see it the cable can be fixed, but I don’t hold out much hope. In the meantime here's the images I have of how it went over the last ten days, until the 'cut off' point.
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
Plenty of daffodils are now showing and along with the snowdrops, tulips and crocuses are making the garden fill with colour.

The vegetable and plant growing has started well, with broad bean, marigold and sunflowers all showing in the seeding pots.

I’ll be starting to transport them in to the greenhouse in early April and next weekend plant more outside vegetable – potatoes, carrots and parsnips.

On all counts I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed for warmer weather!

Sunday, 16 March 2014

NEST BUILDING ON HOLD

The mild weather has continued with hardly a spot of rain this week, but it has brought foggy nights and mornings, plus frosts.

It’s meant the wildlife in the garden have relied a bit more on the snacks I’ve provided and the nest building process has stalled.
I’ve still not seen the birds that have brought nesting materials to the original (blue tit and great tit) nest box, but each day has seen the material being slightly added to and moved around.
I’m wondering if the sudden burst of cold overnight weather has made the birds think that the caterpillars their youngsters will rely on to survive, might not be around for a few more weeks.
Therefore building a nest and laying eggs will be best put on hold for a short time – saving energy and making sure caterpillars are going to be around when they need them most.
The sparrow nest box has not seen any action, although the house sparrows are in the garden every day. I suspect they will use the other two nest boxes in the triple nest box because the camera might be too intrusive – only time will tell.
The first seedlings have appeared from the spring planting – basil and parsley – which is an encouraging start and I’m hoping they will replace the plants from last year which are on their last legs.
Given the week ahead looks fairly settled again I may even have to water part of the garden! Who would have thought about that a few weeks ago.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

SPRING HAS ARRIVED IN FORCE

Spring is now well underway with temperatures suddenly reaching 16c in the garden, and accompanied by bright, sunny skies.

The dry and warm(ish) weather has resulted in a deluge of bird song during sunrise and sunset. The rock garden and pond area are now flourishing, as this picture shows.

 
I’m pleased that the robins can be heard almost above all the other bird song, or even most other local noise in the morning or evening.

The one in the garden has now found a mate and it’s nice to know they’ll be using my garden should they be successful in having a nest of chicks in the coming months. Unfortunately I don’t think they’ll be using my robin nest box, as the honeysuckle hasn’t quite grown enough to conceal it well.

One resident that has been back in the garden is the great spotted woodpecker, although he is very shy and disappears at the slightest noise.

While the birds continue to flock to the garden and make the most of the handouts, I’ve not seen one in either nest box that has a camera.

Given the closeness of the camera in the sparrow nest box I think it could put the birds off, but a piece of straw that is in the tit nest box had been moved around for the last few days, suggesting that visitors have been in, just not seen by me.

Neither nest box is occupied overnight so it has been a waiting game to see if March can bring the start of nest building, but today it did! I’m not sure which tits are building the nest, but my hunch is blue tits.

 
One lovely sign of spring is the sight and sound of a bumblebee. I found one on the winter rose plant, which has grown year on year since being planted in 2010.

The picture isn’t the best for identification purposes, but it’s from an upside down position and show the bee feeding on early nectar.

 
If anyone has an idea on the type, please let me know.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

GOODBYE WINTER, HELLO SPRING

The mild winter has now officially finished as March 1st heralded the start of spring, but the last week of winter showed clear signs of spring already having arrived.

More and more spring bulbs are showing and flowering, which are brightening up the garden, while the blossom on the fruit tree is almost covering each branch and twig.

Unfortunately the two nest box cameras have not had any activity, with the birds seemingly happy to roost elsewhere with the mild winter evenings.

Typically spring has started with a mixture of sunshine and showers, although some would say it’s a refreshing change from the winter storms.

Once the temperatures starts creeping up and the sun shines for even longer during the increasing daylight hours, I’m sure the flora and fauna will be frantically active and I may even see some activity in the nest boxes.

Until then I’ll keep providing food for the birds, they’ll keep gobbling it up and I’ll enjoy the spring bulbs emerging.

I’ll also be planning for the planting season and hope the ground I’ve prepared over winter will deliver bumper crops.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

PLANNING AHEAD FOR SPRING

The stormy weather appears to have abated for now, which is good news for everywhere, particularly those areas with the dreadful floods we’ve been seeing.

It’s also seen a change in some of the flora in the garden, with the first snowdrop appearing and blossom on the fruit tree.

Along with the snowdrop a host of other spring bulbs are showing, with tulips, daffodils and crocuses all sure to be flowering by the start of March.
 
I do have a little worry about them due to the severe snow and cold weather we experienced last March, but I guess that’s the gamble nature plays every year and there’s nothing I can do to stop it.

I’ve already planned my spring planting session and I’m hoping the hard work over the winter in preparing the ground will pay off.

This week I’ll be buying the required seeds ready for the germinator and, for some, simply putting them straight in the ground.

With a new baby due in June it’s vital all the planning is done now so the plants are well on their way to bearing fruit by June.

Finally the garden is now equipped with two nestbox cameras, as I’ve hooked up one of the compartments in the sparrow nestbox (see above).
Below is the view from each camera, first tit cam then sparrow cam.
 
 
There’s not been any action yet, but I’m hoping to see some visitors in the next few weeks.