Tuesday, 25 August 2015

IS THAT AUTUMN KNOCKING ON THE DOOR?

It looks like summer is about to end with a whimper, although nature doesn’t appear to be complaining too much. 

The house sparrows have had seven broods between them so far, with the most recent batch fledging in the last few days.

There must be a flock of 25-30 now hanging around the garden, most of which are youngsters learning feeding technics from adults.

The robins are appearing dishevelled, with the odd youngster scouring the garden for tiny morsels while the adults skulk in the bushes, barely recognisable with their red breasts looking very dull.

One or two young blackbirds are now see two or three times a day, picking up plenty of worms and the odd slug, which they thrash around the garden, wiping off the slim.

The odd great tit is now putting in an appearance, but blue tits are scarce. I expect both will be back soon in numbers after they finish their moult.

Finally the swallows have signalled their own end to the summer season by starting to gather on telegraph wires.

I counted nearly 30 this week, which is certainly up there with previous record years, and with many more flying around I’m hoping the local population will show an increase in parents next year.


I’ll be sad when they finally go for their warm winter ‘holiday’ as they are such an elegant bird with a beautiful voice.

But I know they’ll be back next year and perhaps I’ll be able to provide a nest site suitable. I’ll be working over the winter to build one and see how they react next April.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

ONE FINAL BLAST OF SUMMER?

Is summer going to offer us one more blast of heat before fading into autumn? I’m hoping the warmth continues into September just like 2014, although I’m not holding out much hope.

The swallows certainly don’t seem to be taking any chances and have been gathering in large numbers on nearby wiring, and I suspect the deluge we experienced at the end of this week might have been the final straw.

I think they’ve had two broods this year, which is another successful breeding season. I just hope most of them return in the years to come.

The local swift population seems to have already packed their bags and headed for warmer climes, while the local residents are probably hoping for a trip to southern Europe as they try and replenish feathers and health from their breeding season.

The garden has seen plenty of young robins and blackbirds recently, although the parents are looking rather dishevelled.

Harvesting is nearing an end in the surrounding fields, but the garden is only halfway through its harvest season, with only the broad beans having been picked.

The tomatoes might not be ready until September, but I’m hopeful of a small yield.

Sunflowers are in low numbers, but one or two are now flowering, although none will reach heights above ten feet. Still ate least they will provide an autumn feast for many local birds, particularly the blue and great tits.

Finally the battle between the house sparrows seems to have been won by the triple nest box , as they have their fourth brood of the year, while the blue tit nest box family seem to have stopped at three broods.

That’s said, if we have a warm September it might re-open the game.

Sunday, 5 July 2015

BYE BYE HEATWAVE

The heat wave has now come and gone, but it has left behind some warm weather albeit with plenty of rain, particularly forecast for the week ahead.

There’s still been no sight of Spikey and I’m concerned now as I don’t think he’s been eating much of the cat food or mealworms that I’ve been handing out.

Indeed there seems to be a family of magpies that have been raiding the garden for my mealworms and the cat food, although how much of the cat food is left by dawn is something I don’t know.

I’m going to check the house sparrow nest boxes out this week as I’m not sure if another clutch of eggs has been laid yet, or indeed if there will be another brood this year; I’d be surprised if there wasn’t.

All of the plants are now out of the greenhouse, apart from the three ‘resident’ tomato plants, and most are surviving well outside.

The runner beans have flowered and the first signs of beans are now coming through, while the broad beans have flowered and some will soon be ready for picking and eating.

They’ve all been visited by plenty of bees and this year has seen the biggest number of bees in the garden for nearly a decade.

Every day the bees have visited the garden in huge numbers, with many varieties of honey and bumble bees.

As more and more flowers come into bloom it seems the supply of pollen and nectar will continue for the foreseeable future.

Currently the sweetpea plants are flowering and soon it’ll be the tomatoes, before the sunflowers continue the supply.

Of course all this means there’s plenty of colour in the garden.

The swallows appear to be in very big numbers this year and I’m predicting the count will exceed 40 when they start to prepare for the journey to their winter home and gather on the telephone wires.

Until then I’m going to enjoy their aerobatic displays and beautiful voices as the glide and swoop in and around the garden.

Next week I’ll bring news of a song thrush that has taken to singing loudly and at length around the garden.

Saturday, 27 June 2015

WHERE IS SPIKEY?

It’s been two weeks since we set ‘Spikey’ (Max), the male hedgehog, free in the garden and sightings of him have been rare. I say rare, but what I mean is we’ve not seen him at all.

When he was release he scuttled into the undergrowth of next door’s garden and has not been sighted since.

Neighbours have been recruited to the on ‘hedgehog watch’, but so far the search has been fruitless.

I have been leaving cat food and water out for him late at night, and while the food has gone in the morning, I have no way of knowing if it’s Spikey, one of the resident cats or another wild animal has eaten it.

I just hope he’s ok and enjoying his new surroundings. If he is seen in the near future and regularly, I’ll be looking to rehome a female and set up a new colony.

The house sparrows are doing very well and both nests have just had their second brood of the year fledge.

I’m still not getting great images through the video cameras, but I’m probably going to leave them alone this year so as many house sparrows can fledge to boost the local population.

They may be noisy chirpy little birds, but they are part of the wildlife fabric of this country and it’s lovely to hear them in the morning as part of the dawn chorus.

The flora is doing quite well too, with sunflowers, broad beans, poppies and runner beans all growing taller by the day. All but the sunflowers are flowering and providing the bees and other insects with differing types of pollen.

I’m still seeing the odd small plant being eaten by snails and slugs, but most are escaping their hungry mouths.

Next week we’re meant to be in for as heatwave, which will be good for sun worshippers and the wildlife that needs sun, but everyone must be mindful that to flourish all wildlife needs access to fresh water.

So fill up that garden drinking bath or place small low level containers out at dawn or dusk and help the wildlife flourish in your patch.

Saturday, 20 June 2015

SECOND BROODS FOR BOTH SPARROW FAMILIES

Both house sparrow families are taking this year’s brooding competition very seriously, as they look to fledge their second broods of the season.

The family in the blue tit nest box are a few days behind their opponents in the sparrow nest box, but they could catch up if the next set of eggs (yes I’m expecting more), are laid as soon as this brood fledges.

And when these two broods do fledge, they’ll find the garden has a new wild animal pottering around the plants and over the lawn.

Yes, the garden is now home to a ‘re-homed’ rescue hedgehog. Max, is a 2-year-old male, who has been ‘called’ Spikey by my daughters, although he’s not been seen since he was set free last week.

 
I’ve been feeding him small amounts of cat food at night, although whether he is eating it or the local cats are taking it, is something I’ve not been able to find out.

He is a big male and I hope he sticks around to provide another layer of the natural circle of life in the garden.

The escallonia and pyracantha are full of flowers and attracting hundreds of bees (honey and bumble) every day, while a red ladybird poppy plant has already produced eight brightly coloured flowers to light up another area of the garden.

There are numerous sunflowers now planted outside, along with broad beans and tomato plants.

And with the summer sun making its presence known, I’m hoping they will all grow big and strong, while Max (Spikey) takes care of those pesky slugs and snails.

Sunday, 7 June 2015

SUMMER SUN IS BRIGHTENING UP THE WILDLIFE

The house sparrows are becoming even shyer as the signal from the blue tit nest box camera is intermittent at best.

I fear they’ve either pecked at it or pushed nesting material and forced the emitting antennae to malfunction.

I can’t try to fix the problem, as the eggs are about to hatch or have hatched in the last 24 hours – I suspect the latter as activity has certainly increased to the nest box.

I bought some mealworms last week, which attracted plenty of birds to the feeders, particularly the house sparrow parents in the neighbourhood – I counted at least ten adults at one point so presume there are at least six nests in and around the garden.

Unfortunately all the mealworms have now gone, after a night-time thief raided the containers outside the back door and took what was remaining.

The thief also carried out a daytime raid, so my list of main suspects is down to two – magpies or grey squirrel.

The squirrel hasn’t been seen recently, while the magpies have a nest nearby and are almost daily visitors to the garden.

I’ll have to keep the next lot of mealworms locked away more securely!

No hedgehogs yet, but I’m pretty hopeful of being able to pick up one or two rescued ones next weekend.

Finally I’ve planted out a number of sunflowers, broad beans and runner beans, all with biodegradable slug and snail pellets.

The first night didn’t capture many of the plant destroyers, so I hope for the hedgehogs’ sake that the neighbours have plenty!

Sunday, 31 May 2015

THE FLEDGINGS CONTINUE

Last week both house sparrow nests fledged and this week it was the turn of the robins to ‘turf’ their youngsters out.

I can still see and hear the house sparrow families from the garden as the youngsters continually badger the parents for food.

I suspect both families are using the same set of trees, which are opposite the garden and have two of my feeders, but I’m not 100 per cent sure.

There are at least two robin chicks that I have seen feeding in the garden with one parent, but I suspect others are using next door’s garden with the other parent.

One chick took on a rather large worm that had surfaced following the overnight rain, but it appeared the worm won, albeit through a technical ‘chick scared of worm’ decision.
 

The next few days are supposedly going to be more like autumn than early summer, so I’m hoping the robin chicks will stay around in the relative safety of the garden for at least part of the next week.

In recent days I’ve seen the parent house sparrows mating again, so some shiny new eggs might be delivered by the end of next week, as one again the two house sparrow families battle to bring up the most chicks.

I’m going to attempt to clear the camera view in the blue tit nest box today and hopefully get a glimpse at those new eggs when they arrive, and also the chicks!

No news on the hedgehogs yet, but next week I hope to have an update, along with news on the nest box camera and my first delivery of mealworms.