Saturday, 22 November 2014

Back to gardenwatch basics – The Bird Table

Where, oh where, have all the garden birds gone? In reality they probably haven’t gone anywhere. It’s more than likely they have been hiding in the undergrowth and among shrubs and trees in or nearby your garden. This is the fun upside to plants dying down and leaves falling from trees at this time of year – we get better views of visiting birds. I do look forward to spotting them scurrying and darting around again :-)

Lurking alongside the Christmas displays at Garden Centres just now, you will be spotting bird table displays as a possible gift to ourselves or for others (great idea btw). The reality is that birds do appreciate tables and feeders stocked with food being available all year round, especially during their busiest time of year (the breeding season) when you might not spot visits until they bring in their noisy, newly fledged young.

Due to their height, as with tall plants, bird tables can make a bit of a statement in the garden. It can be appreciated that not all gardens have the space and not all gardeners have the desire for a bird table in the design they have created. Pre gardenwatching I might have been in the later camp but not now. Winter visitors of passing Blackcaps have been my bird table highlight so far but the usual suspects entertain all year round!

Following the garden advice of right plant, right place the right location needs to be found for a bird table too. If you have put out a new bird table and are disappointed by lack of visitors, the RSPB give the following advice:

“A quiet location with a good view from the house is normally the best place for a bird table. This allows you to enjoy observing the garden birds while they feed with little disturbance.

Choose a site sheltered from extremes of weather, but where the birds have a good all-round view, so they can see that they are safe from predators while they feed.

The table should be safely away from cat ambush sites. A small bush or a tree about two metres from the table gives the birds somewhere safe to perch while they look to see if it is safe to feed, to ‘queue up’ for a place on the table, and to dash to if disturbed. It may take a few days before you see any birds on a new bird table.

Once the birds discover the food and convince themselves it is safe, they should visit regularly.”
Sitting a bird table by the RSPB

I’ve had a pretty special, garden feature of a bird table in my garden for almost a year now. I offered to review it as I thought it would look great during the dull winter months – but would I keep it in the same location over the summer?

Agreeing with the last point in the RSPB advice above, I was nervous about the idea of moving my bird table when the birds seemed happy to use it where it was. However, during the summer months more walking access was required to the right of the bird table going to my greenhouse and potting shed.

Both the birds and I have been happy! My bird table has blended beautifully into my summer garden at the same location as in winter with only just a couple of simple tweaks. The angle of the table was turned round (RH image below) to bring the base further into the basket border. Another brick was placed in the border to protect the base foot.

Changing the shape and colour of the pots decorating the base of my bird table was next. The border planting addition of the shrub Euonymus gave me my garden design fix too, adding light in a shady area and complimenting the colour of the bird table at the same time.

As it grows, the Euonymus will scramble over the table base and up the planting basket becoming a pretty feature for my eye and a safety feature of ground cover for birds like the Dunnocks that scurry along the ground. I do enjoy the fun challenge of tiny garden make-overs don't you?

Being a plantswoman at heart, I have to admit to being a tad worried about the possible competition my colourful table could give the colours of my spring and summer flowering plants. Many are quite special to me like the blue Meconopsis poppy.

Silly me… there was no competition… the bird table stepped back gracefully when the Meconopsis opened its delicate, stunning blue blooms in the early morning sunshine :-)

Meanwhile, stepping forward with confidence and winning the competition on the bird table, a lot of the time, have been Wood Pigeons. They appear to have increased in numbers with visiting the wildlife pond this year. Up on the peanut feeders Jackdaws are regular visitors now resulting in less peanuts going past their best which is a good thing!

House sparrows and other small birds still manage to feed at the bird table, peanut feeders, and fat cakes that are attracting the bigger birds so no real worries there. Captured on film at the wildlife pond have been small groups of Magpies - more new regulars for 2014. It has been a busy garden this year :-)

The final video screen grab above shows a young 'innocent' looking Magpie discovering the bird table buffet. They are smart birds right enough – more on their antics another time! However, it isn't all good news with the Jackdaws and Magpies. One or the other has been up to mischief :-(

Recommending the addition of a bird table to a garden is easy – definitely! Seeing birds choose to land and feed there is such a privilege to see. Recommending the brightly coloured, stylish Buttermere bird table as a purchase or gift is easy too – yes, I have loved mine! (Please note that the links to this bird table in my review blog are broken at present. I am unsure if this product is still available or the website is being redesigned).

Views of smaller birds feeding can be seen in a previous wordless Wednesday post as can my original review of the buttermere bird table.

Update since posting: Enhanced views from the bird table can be enjoyed if a small camera is added in the roof - see MIDMARSH JOTTINGS video footage posted yesterday :-)

Copyright: Original post published on by blog author Shirley, November 22nd 2014.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

A blog post in time saves nine

Dwindling regular blog posts after eight years of blogging isn’t really that surprising. So is it time to gracefully bow out? I hope not. Gosh… eight years… who would have thought? I certainly didn’t that’s for sure, nor did it occur to me that the special place in my heart gardens have always held could increase tenfold when I watched my own and others in closer detail.

Year nine needs more PC time to save shirls gardenwatch, plain and simple. On the other side, 2014 has been a great year for claiming back the garden. Yep… after all the photo and video edits, the stories and internet searching for further info and links it had become all chat and no real garden action at times. Hands up now… I’m guessing I’m not the only blogger here?

Nor I suspect, will I be the only blogger that has folder upon folder of photos and videos clips taken for blog posts that missed their seasonal slots. Gosh… I have some going back years! I’ve also got word docs with part written blog posts and draft blog posts with just images uploaded that need to be written. Does this all sound familiar too?

On this blog anniversary I’d like to include a HUGE hats off and give respect to all the garden bloggers that do manage to regularly post 2-3 posts a week and then get round all the blogs they follow and leave comments too. I feel honoured to have been part of this garden blogging community albeit lightly over the last year or two :-)

On behalf of this absentee blogger, bloggers with writers block and newbies to blogging please do leave comments sharing tips and suggestions on your approach to blogging. Do you have a system that you find works for you? What are your thoughts on images and stories that have missed their slot – would you go back to them?

My sincere and genuine thanks go to everyone that has followed shirls gardenwatch for another year. I really do appreciate your visits and comments. The image above shows perfectly how my blog posts get waylaid… selecting and cropping images at the same time as watching a live garden nestcam! Yep… you can guess what wins the attention there ;-)

Copyright: Original post published on by blog author Shirley, November 19th 2014.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

A very bothered hedgehog

No, I don’t want the house to fall down but I’m huffing and puffing so you get the message that I’m not happy and want you to leave! Clearly you’ve heard that Hedgehog Manor has a reputation for good food located in a hidden garden setting. What about the one table policy in mid July?

Can you not tell by my little dance and the very vocal sounds I am making that I’m more than a bit bothered here? This is my regular slot and you just keep eating my supper and ignoring me. Wait a minute… don’t you advance towards me forcing me into a corner!

You should know that the owners of Hedgehog Manor have a microphone with their camera surveillance system and are hearing as well as seeing all of this. Now, we don’t want this establishment closed due to altercations with diners do we?

Ok, so I’ll take the first step and move out of my corner and stop huffing and puffing so you can leave the premises knowing you are welcome to return when I have vacated my table. Come on now, please leave. I’m being quiet now and have been reasonably patient.

I don’t much care for your intimidation tactics and stop moving the table about if you don’t mind or we will both be asked to leave. I’m quietly waiting again. I see, so you aren’t interested in drinking the water available in another corner but just in moving me in the direction of the exit.

I’ll wait outside for you to leave then? I’m still not happy with you so you’ll hear my huffing and puffing as you dine inside. You would have a quieter more relaxed dining experience if you were to come back later - does that not sound more appealing?

This video above has been uploaded for the sound capture of the hedgehog huffing. Apologies for poor image quality (previous small file setting was selected). It is still great to be able to see this behaviour – HD setting might improve it.

Hedgehog Manor’s camera surveillance didn’t capture you leaving shortly after but the owners (who live nearby) put on outside lighting and took a video camera to a house window to record your behaviour. You really didn’t need to follow me over to the alfresco buffet below the bird feeders.

Video screen capture.

The owners can’t hear me huffing and puffing from inside but they can see my body shaking and can see I’m still a very bothered hedgehog. I give in for now… I’m leaving the garden… I’ll be back ;-)

Hedgehog thanks go to the owners of Hedgehog Manor for providing a second table shortly after this incident. Experiments in table layout have resulted in two of us being able to eat at the same sitting without the need for noisy huffing and puffing. This is a good result especially now in October as we need to feed up to a healthy weight of 600g for our hibernation.

This post was published by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in October 2014.