Sunday, 31 December 2006

Greenfinch, Chaffinch and Goldfinch video


Greenfinch group video, 0.16 with background music, try 480p quality.


The Greenfinches, above, seem very at home in our garden. This year however there has been a decrease in its numbers in the UK suspected to be the result of a disease. Details of this disease can be found here. I certainly have noticed throughout the year that numbers had increased in my garden but now the numbers do appear to be fewer. I did see a bird a few months ago that had increased in size and appeared to be lethargic (possible symptoms of this disease) but after successfully chasing it away it did not return.

I have continued to regularly clean my bird tables and feeders and hoe/sweep below the stations moving them around a little also. The birds at this time of year, with the cold of winter approaching, are now relying on the feeding stations they have already found - so I do not intend to stop feeding them now.


Chaffinch pair, video 0.20 with background music, try 480p quality.


The Chaffinches, shown above, are slowly increasing in numbers in my garden. They come in pairs usually and I think I have spotted three males recently. The females are a bit trickier to spot as they are quite similar to a greenfinch in appearance. The footage above really does not do the males colouring justice but I have found it difficult to catch them on film at all, far less as a pair, so I decided to include it. The light was going down and the table was quiet that how I managed to catch them. They usually search the ground below the feeders.


Goldfinches, video 0.20 with background music, try 480p quality.


The Goldfinches, shown above, have seriously increased in numbers since the beginning of the year. I had never seen a goldfinch until I put up a feeder with niger seeds in it – after reading about the goldfinches love for them in Gardeners’ World Magazine. I put the feeder up in Jan/Feb this year and overnight I had goldfinches. I couldn’t believe it - I had never seen these birds before. They looked so tropical. I maybe had about five visiting for a while then but I was maybe too slow to refill the feeders – no loyalty and they were off!!! I wondered perhaps if they had gone to a warmer place as we had it very cold with snow in March.

My daughter was doing a bird project for school over the summer so we decided to reintroduce the black thistle (niger) seeds to tempt back the goldfinches. After a few weeks it worked and one came – we were thrilled. I then replaced the thistle seeds with sunflower hearts as the greenfinches had also been enjoying them and much went to the ground and weeds followed.

The sunflower seeds were also a hit and numbers of goldfinches increased – by the end of my daughter’s project in the middle of November this year we reached a record nine goldfinches!
In response to this I added another feeder of sunflower hearts and more came. One day I counted a new record of 17 between my feeders and the birds in waiting on my neighbour’s tree! They were difficult to spot in the tree and I suspect the count was even higher than 17.

Goldfinches definitely like to feed in groups - although we still get the odd straggler that feeds with any other small birds or completely on its own. They are surprisingly feisty when other birds try to feed beside them! Sometimes when I refill the feeders I can hear the tinkling sound they make as a group high up in the tree above me – they sound quite fairy-like!

Follow the links for more information and pics of the Greenfinch, Chaffinch and Goldfinch.


The video clips of Greenfinches and Goldfinches, shown above, were taken in my garden in September 2006. The video clip of the Chaffinches was taken yesterday, 30th December 2006 - note no frosts or snow at the moment.

Thursday, 28 December 2006

Blue, Great and Coal Tit video

During necessary February 2013 updates to video uploads in this post, I now know that the fat balls I offered below in net feeders are not to be recommended. Net bags are a danger to birds as when predators come and the birds attempt to fly away quickly, it is possible that a bird's feet/legs can get tangled in the net resulting in the loss of a leg or life :-(


Blue tit feeding, video 0:18 with background music, try 480p quality.

The blue tit, shown above, seems the least shy of the tits that visit our garden. This year we have had the young from our nest box stick around in our garden, which has been good. I was concerned for the young blue tits when they were very young as they seemed to have little fear for predators - although they did come to the feeders in a group of four or five so it could be that they felt safety in their numbers. They also appear to be the most agile but I suspect this is because we see more of them!


Great tit feeding on sunflower hearts, video 0:21 with background music, try 480p quality.

The great tit, shown above, is a new clip taken on January 2nd 2007 this is a much clearer piece of video than the original - one thing to notice is the great tit is much larger than the blue tit. It also shows the striking black of the great tit. The great tit is quite difficult to catch on film but I have noticed it is beginning to feel more comfortable feeding near or in my garden. I have also noticed an increase in numbers. There are still more blue tits though.



Coal tit followed by Blue tit, video 0:11 with background music, try 480p quality.

The coal tit on this last clip, shown above, has been the hardest to capture on film. This bird is very shy, much smaller and does not hang around at all! The clip of the coal tit is very brief but again a blue tit came into shot so I have left it in to show the size and colour differences. The coal tit is more black, grey and white with a buff couloured breast. It is quite mouse like in charcacter. The longest view I have ever had of it was on my pine tree as it pulled apart a cone to get at the seeds - of course the video camera was nowhere near!! It worked very methodically with this cone tossing the parts it did not want into the air. I particularly enjoy catching a glimpse of this bird - it likes the sun flower hearts though so I'd better keep them coming!

To see more information and pics of the Blue, Great and Coal Tit follow the links below:
http://www.rspb.org.uk/birds/guide/b/bluetit/index.asp
http://www.rspb.org.uk/birds/guide/g/greattit/index.asp
http://www.rspb.org.uk/birds/guide/c/coaltit/index.asp

The video clips of the Blue Tits and Coal Tit, shown above, were taken in my garden on Boxing Day, Dec 26th 2006. The video clip of the Great Tit has been updated on Jnauary 2nd 2007.

Wednesday, 27 December 2006

Robin video

I have been trying to find a way to show footage of the activity in my garden, and a robin was particularly active on this day. It was seen on perches, tree branches and visited the table, a seed feeder, and my small sunflower tray. It was searching on the ground too - but it has yet to find my store of mealworms put out especially for him!

Update April 2011: the video below is a replacement for the original video shown in this post. It was taken in my garden on December 17th 2009.



Christmas treats for the birds

It is very mild here at the moment, very uncharacteristic for Scotland at Christmas! We have even missed some of the hard frosts here. As such the birds can be seen digging in the soil for food below my feeding stations – the blackbirds are the most noticeable in this. My daughters, aware of my increasing interest in the visiting birds, gave me Christmas parcels with a bird theme this year.

The picture above was taken today - in the middle of the afternoon. It shows a dull but relatively mild day. I took this picture to show the tree on the left – planted on Christmas day. It is a Cotoneaster Hybridus Pendulus– and was a Christmas parcel from my husband.

We thought it would give a bit more height and year round interest to this area - red berries in the winter and white blossom in spring. The birds very quickly have discovered it and use the post to look about and the branches as a stop over to the feeders or the ground. I’m sure they will be tempted by the berries when the snow and really cold snaps hit!

My youngest daughter gave me a new, small, feeding house and meal worms (frozen) which I filled it with – I have hung this tucked away on my arch beside my young pine tree where any falling food will rest and the birds can eat from there too. She also gave me a pack of fat balls and a small basket-woven roosting pocket (like the other two I already have). I hung the roosting pocket near the others and the fat balls from tree branches. My eldest daughter gave me a tiny niger (thistle) feeder, with a really tiny hole for the seeds to get out – I suspect this hole may increase as they feed from it! I hung this from a branch on my pine tree and I will watch with interest to see the goldfinches get any seed out.

A variety of birds have been visiting my garden over the last few days:

  • Blackbirds, chasing each other still – but really enjoying the sultanas I have thrown out for them. I scatter them out into the borders some days and they generally see me doing this and are quick to find them.
  • Robins, dunnocks and house sparrows have been visiting but I have noticed the robins more with fewer numbers of house sparrows – I suspect the house sparrows haven’t liked the change in my seed mix! I changed the mix to a no mess one that will reduce the weeds below the feeding stations. I haven’t fed the birds bread in a while so maybe that has had an effect too.
  • Goldfinches are out numbering the blue tits at the moment. Sunflower hearts are going down well with both at the moment – they are obviously smart knowing there is a higher level of energy in them! The Blue tits were also very quick to find the new fat balls hanging from tree branches – with one really smart one finding the meal worms!
  • Chaffinches are visiting a lot more now and I am noticing a few pairs. They were the first birds I noticed using my new tree as a resting spot – within 10 mins of it being planted. They seem to like the peanuts and the sunflower hearts and are often on the ground below the sunflower heart feeders although seem a bit shyer at the feeders themselves.
  • Starlings are invading the feeders in groups. They do like the fat balls and with their long sharp beaks bring up the balls quite quickly and they fall to the ground. I have noticed they are also a tad partial to the sunflower hearts too and take over the feeding station that has them.
  • The Sparrowhawk had not been spotted in a while although I do not expect it has forgotten where my garden is! Perhaps the absence of large numbers of house sparrows is a factor. I said ‘had not been spotted’ – it has just flown by and perched itself on a neighbours tree and is looking about. No birds were at my feeders so off it went to find its supper elsewhere!!

The pictures above show the first time we were able to identify our visiting bird of prey- the sparrowhawk. They were taken after it stunned itself on my window.

It took a moment to stand up – long enough for me to grab a camera and take a few pics as you will see below. It seemed to hurt its leg and could initially only fly as far as the top of my bird table – shame!!! Needless to say after perching there for a while the birds didn’t come to the feeders for almost two hours.

Tuesday, 5 December 2006

Visiting birds – who is doing what?

On bright sunny mornings I have been catching some good footage, with my video camera, of bird activity in my garden. This footage really shows the character of the birds and their mannerisms. I hope to show some clips soon but for now - what are the birds in my garden up to at the moment?

BLACKBIRDS

  • Females and Males are regularly using my ground bird bath
  • Dried fruit on the ground feeder is going down well – although sultanas and raisins seem to be the favourites.
  • In the early morning I have noticed groups of up to four blackbirds walking quickly in dashes on the ground appearing to follow each other – I expect it is a territory thing but there is often a female in the group!
  • Food on the ground under the feeders is also attracting the blackbirds – although they do seem just as happy to go to the tables.
  • To see a blackbird go to http://www.rspb.org.uk/birds/guide/b/blackbird/gallery.asp

ROBINS & DUNNOCKS

  • Robins and dunnocks are spending a lot of time under the feeders in search of food and mostly go unnoticed. Both are appearing at the tables but the jerky movements of the robin make me notice it before I have seen its little red breast.
  • I have noticed how much the robin’s head bobs up and down as it feeds, tilting to one side it as if to show it is forever on the alert for predators.
  • When I see a bird suddenly drop to the ground, I am still always surprised it is a robin. It just does not look as if it was built for speed drops!
  • Robins are territorial and I definitely notice it chase off the dunnocks or another robin – when the feeders are quiet!
  • To see a robin go to http://www.rspb.org.uk/birds/guide/r/robin/gallery.asp
  • To see a dunnock go to http://www.rspb.org.uk/birds/guide/d/dunnock/gallery.asp

Friday, 1 December 2006

Favourite flowers of 2006

This year we enjoyed a great display of spring bulbs. This was indeed a treat as I am a gardener who is always changing planting schemes, resulting in bulbs being lost! I was about to sow this area with grass when I suddenly had the brainwave of planting bulbs in the area first - so they would grow up through the grass.

I planted a number of species narcisi, crocus and fritillaries and was thrilled to watch their progress. After the bulbs flowered, I deadheaded but left all stalks and leaves. I cut my grass around the display until the end of June, when I cut straight across it. I expect these bulbs will naturalize as they will remain undisturbed, we should then enjoy displays for a many years to come.



Above, in flower during the month of May, is Scotland's native primrose which I grew from seed two years ago. You can see that it is happy to self seed freely. The leaves almost die away completely but up it comes lush and ready for flower again. I wait until the seedlings are strong enough then lift and transplant them to other areas. I do love our native plants, perhaps because they remind me of my woodland walks as a child, when wild flowers were in abundance. I so enjoy the month of May and early June.

The Queen of my jungle is most definitely the Meconopsis below! They rise above the new growth of my Bowles Golden sedge grass so regally. This plant is another Scottish favourite often found in shady spots in woodland gardens. They are, to me, quite exquisit. My varieties do not set seed, but the upside to that is that I perhaps get stronger plants with good quality flowers.


Candelabra primulas, shown above, grow well beside meconopsis. They are also often seen planted along the edges of streams. They thrive in damp and shady conditions but still enjoy some sunshine. They can be propagated by root cuttings and the time is about right now, in December. I plan to try this this soon before the soil gets too cold and hard. I plan to lift one plant, wash away the soil then trim some roots and lay them into a tray of compost. I will then put one tray in my unheated greenhouse and leave another tray outside to see if I can successfully root some. I do enjoy experimenting with cuttings - often having no space to plant all my new plants! I usually give extras away to friends and family - it's the challenge I enjoy.


My front garden has little shade and gets baked in the summer sun. I have a mulch of quartz gravel here to keep my plants from drying out, and as this gravel is light in colour, it reflects the heat back a little. So this area is a little bit trickier to move my plants around - but I always get round it! As plants grow and shapes change - I always find something needs a tweak or a revamp. Now that's the fun part - I so enjoy rearraging planting schemes. Some areas are changed after only a few months. I will just go out one day with the intention of a bit of light prunning - and what a difference a couple of hours can make! The shape and form of plants, for me, often come above the flower and its colour. The two pics, above, of the globe of Alliums are a strong favourite of mine - they have both form and colour.

In September long after the purple colour leaves my alliums, leaving only a dry skeleton ball, a new shade of purple and a quite different form replaces it! Next through my copper tinted grasses rise the, now popular, Verbena Bonariensis. These plants are home grown from bought seed - although now in December they too are dry skeltons. I plan to cut and store some stems to collect seeds from them, maybe it is too late. I have already lifted a few of these plants and will overwinter them in my greenhouse to safeguard against any winter losses. I will try and take cuttings from them in the spring once side shoots get bigger. This is a tall plant that can reach 1.5m, becoming more branched as it grows with tiny clusters of tiny purple flowers which 'bob' about in the wind. It is often called the see-through plant. Garden designers love this plant, as do the butterflies and bees.

Japanese Anemone, shown below, ends the list for this year. They are such a refreshing flower during September and into October. I am delighted that my propagation methods worked and that I have increased my stock. I have not increased my flower numbers yet, but this will come. The young plants are firstly producing more leaf but some did give a flower. Japanese Anemones do colonise with time but as I didn’t necessarily want large groups where the original plant is, I decided to intervene. So, as I noticed young plants beginning to form at the base of the parent plant I carefully moved the soil back and dug out these new plants. I initially potted them up and kept them in my unheated greenhouse. They were planted out in late spring. I will definitely use this method this year, very soon before the soil gets too hard. I also picked up a dried out, half-dead Anemone Whirlwind last year which was reduced in price at my local garden centre – I managed to successfully produce new plants of that by root cuttings. I have to mention here that I have moved anemones in the past, and tried to divide them, but lost them every time!

Wednesday, 29 November 2006

Winter prep - birds

Today I put up a couple of roosting pockets to keep some birds warm over the cold and windy days ahead. I have never tried this before so I am looking forward to seeing if they get used. I have sited them on my pergola, nestled amongst a sulphur heart ivy. The leaves of this ivy are a good size so I do not expect them to tangle their way into the pockets.


In early March
this year we put up a nesting box for sparrows – it was a terrace of three, with each being self contained. Within a day, honestly it was quite a surprise, blue tits started showing interest. I have to point out here that although I have always enjoyed watching the birds in my garden this was a step up from filling a couple of small bird tables!

The blue tits continued to show interest although they were a bit prone to chasing prospective neighbours away. Nest building began. In the beginning it was clear there were at least two different blue tits busy building. I did hang up a basket, nesting egg, with nesting material nearby but don’t believe much was used. The result was that we had one hardy little blue tit building in all three! By the time May came it was quite clear that we had some chicks in the centre box, as food was spotted going in. I believe the chicks fled the nest during the first week in June but disappointingly we missed them go. I would take a guess at the five very young blue tits spotted at the feeders around this time came from our nesting box.

We have recently opened our nest box, as you will see above, in order to clean it out and prevent parasites from killing young next year. Should we be so lucky again? We only had a look with the intention of cleaning it out another day. Since then a young blue tit appears to be showing interest in the centre box!

Now, it’s not time to nest yet – so is our interested blue tit looking for shelter? Hence the roosting pockets. I have however chosen to site the pockets away from this nest box and the feeders, the question will be can he find them. It isn't that cold here yet so I am confused as to what is going on. Suffice to say this weekend we get it cleaned out.

The robin is regarded as ‘the gardener’s friend’ as it follows you as you turn the soil – he is of course looking for worms and other tasty bites. He has followed me and perched above me on a pillar of my pergola singing his little heart out! Singing for his supper perhaps? There aren’t many earthworms to be had for him in my garden though, after I discovered New Zealand flatworms approx 10 years ago.

It would be lovely to have a robin nesting in our garden, I have never seen its young. Two weeks ago we put up a half-open nest box which is suited to robins and spotted flycatchers. We had to cut back a small leafed scrambling ivy to put the box on one of our pergola pillars. I plan to allow the ivy to regrow around the box for the safety of its prospective occupants. I wonder who will show interest………..

For more details on the New Zealand Flatworm see the links http://www.organicgardening.org.uk/factsheets/pc21.php and http://flatworm.csl.gov.uk/ .

Site Intro

Scotland is a beautiful place to live in with some breathtaking scenery that could match any other in the world. Yes, it can be cold and wet with sunshine not always guaranteed but its people have a warmth that more than makes up for that. No, I don’t work for the tourist board! I never tire of the scenery we have and embrace each season with great expectation. I personally would actually find it dull if I woke every morning to a promise of another hot sunny day. I genuinely enjoy our variable weather – but not all do!

In search of the sun, and the different lifestyle that goes with it, many Scots choose to emigrate. Australia is a strong favourite – this is where my friend has lived for many years. Not surprisingly for all the sunshine she has now, she still misses Scotland!

Britain’s national favourite, in the bird kingdom, the Robin is one thing she misses. Yes, not particularly Scottish I hear you say. I had sent her a very small movie file showing a blue tit and greenfinch munching into sunflower hearts at my feeders. I was experimenting with video footage. She returned mail telling me of her love of robins and how it would make her year, far less her day if I could send her footage of them. I’m working on that, but they do seem to sense the second I set the video camera to record!

‘Enjoy the sheer beauty of a Scottish winter …………….. you lucky people enjoy, every minute of it’ is how she ended her last mail. It made me think about how I could share it with her now. Hence the Blog idea, introduced to me by my husband.

Sunday, 19 November 2006

Garden Intro

My garden has, on two sides, a 10ft leylandii hedge as a boundary which affords us great privacy. It is a beast of a thing to keep in check but acts as a great backdrop for my plants and is home and shelter to wildlife.


Small birds use this hedge for shelter - although the sparrowhawk has been spotted going through it in chase of them. A ginger cat has also been spotted 3/4 of the way up inside this hedge attempting acrobatics trying to catch them. I cannot imagine what the birds thought when, like me, they spotted a ginger head emerging out of the hedge closely followed by a wary paw stretching out!

I have sited my bird tables, as you can see above, within and surrounded by plants to offer the visiting birds some protection from stalking cats and sparrowhawks. I love to watch them spring out on the bamboo canes. I also planted up a dying acer tree, which had a lovely shape, in a pot. This acer gives us a great opportunity to see the birds as they arrive. The birds use the acer to drop down to the feed at the tables and also to drop again through the shrubs below and down to the ground. Recently I added plants for berries and winter colour at ground level in this area and look forward to seeing the birds eat from these.

The Cherry tree above, belonging to my neighbour, is on the other side of my hedge and affords the birds a great view of my garden and it's many feeders. This pic above was taken, Oct 20, to show the Robin in the centre who was singing his little heart out. See close-up below.