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.

Saturday, 4 April 2015

EASTER BRINGS SIGNS OF SPRING

Settled weather over Easter has helped to raise temperatures and increase the chances of birds completing their nest building, including the house sparrows in the ‘blue tit’ nest box.

The slightly warmer conditions seem like a starting gun for people to look for the arrival of my favourite summer visitor, the swallow.

Last year I noted the arrival of the swallows, which have nested for many years behind the house, on the 18th April. So I’m hoping the weather warms up over the next few days and accelerates their arrival.

The flora is now showing signs of spring, with blossom being replaced by green leaves and buds. Soon the trees and bushes will have a dense coat in which birds and bugs will feed and shelter.

This is when understanding bird song becomes important, so I’m trying to learn the sounds of the birds in the garden while I can still see them on the fairly bare branches.

During the recent wet weather I’ve seen plenty of snails and slugs around the garden, so I’m going to have to be careful when planting out the flowers and vegetable I’ll be growing from seed.

This year I’ll be limiting the amount of things I’ll be growing in the garden, so I can concentrate on harvesting the best crops. I think it’ll be broad beans, carrots and tomatoes.

So this week I’ll be looking skywards and listening for the unmistakable sounds of swallows. 

Sunday, 29 March 2015

AUTUMN OR SPRING?

I get the feeling we’ve bypassed spring and summer, and gone straight to autumn. The weather is great for the growing flora, we even hit 15c today, but without much sunshine, growth will be slow.

The blue tit nest box is still being occupied overnight by the female house sparrow and is being slowly added to during the day, with a mixture of dried grasses and feathers.
 

In the sparrow nest box I’ve not managed to see any birds, but they must be going in because the material spread in the box is changing place each day.

 
I’m still not convinced it will see any full nesting action, but I hope that at least some birds are now able to understand that the camera isn’t a threat and they can build a nest and raise the next generation without fear.

I get the distinct feeling that the wildlife is in limbo, waiting for the warmer weather before starting to raise a family.

I have noticed a number of magpie nests nearby, which are obvious in the bare branches of trees and open to attack and piracy from crows.

So it looks like we’ll have to wait until April before the breeding season starts in earnest, but the wildlife in the garden certainly appears ready for it. 

Sunday, 22 March 2015

IS WINTER STILL DICTATING OUR WEATHER?

This weekend has certainly brought some lovely sunshine and provided some great conditions for wildlife to prepare for spring and summer breeding seasons.

But the temperatures are still not providing much ‘spring warmth’ and the birds are not rushing to complete their nest and bring the next generation into the world.

The house sparrows in the blue tit nest box are still adding to the nest every day, but it’s not about to be completed any time soon.

I still have no idea who has added nesting material to the triple house sparrow nest box that has a camera in it.

The focus of the camera has been ‘changed’ because of the amount of dried grasses and small twigs that have been placed inside the box.

I still cannot make out if a bird is roosting in there at night, but the female house sparrow is definitely in the blue tit nest box every night.

Given the activity and frequency of the visits from a variety of birds, I suspect all are currently in the midst of building nest, bit waiting for nature to bring warmer weather before completing the nests and laying eggs.

There has been plenty of flying insects this weekend and that is something the summer bird visitors to the UK will be very interested in.

It also makes me think of my favourite bird, the swallow, and how I’m now counting does the days until the family that regularly nest within a few yards if the garden, is back again.

That’s when I and the rest of wildlife will know that spring has finally arrived.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

SPRING STIFLED BY TAIL END OF WINTER

Winter is stalling spring’s ‘grand entrance’ as the initial sunshine and warm temperatures that greeted the start of the month have faded away.

It hasn’t stopped the house sparrows continuing the build process on their nest, but it’s still a slow process and it’s probably only halfway there.

 
The other nest box camera (in the sparrow nest box) has also shown signs of nesting activity, although the screen is now quite blurred from a couple of bits of what looks like nesting material.

 
I suspect only the blackbirds have fully built nests, and I’m quite confident they are on eggs as only the male has been showing himself recently.

The robin duo have been seen together in the garden so they are obviously not on eggs, but I don’t think it’ll be long.

Flowering in the borders and rockery is still increasing with daffodils now almost in full bloom.

The blossom on the fruit tree is very visible and when heavy rain or strong winds pass through, it looks like there’s been a dusting of snow.

I was even dive-bombed by a bee this weekend, so surely the warming weather of spring is around the corner.

I know the wildlife is hoping so.