Saturday, 31 March 2007

CONTENTS - March 2007

The contents of this month's posts are categorised below. I hope this list will guide any searches that are directed here.

Alternatively you can type your query into the Blog search box located above my banner heading on the left and click on ‘search blog’ where you have the option to further search through all posts published.

Moss - collected by Blue Tit for Nestbox
Alliums, Fritillaries and Drumstick Primulas
Privet and Leylandii

New Zealand Flatworms

Song Thrush

Terrace Nestbox, outside - Blue Tit at entrance holes
Camera Nestbox, inside - first picture after box connected to PC
Camera Nestbox, inside - first visit of Blue Tit pair
Camera Nestbox, outside - Blue Tit prepares entrance hole
Camera Nestbox, outside - good location
Camera Nestbox, inside - Blue Tit checks quality of box
Camera Nestbox, inside - Blue Tit checks floor for size
Camera Nestbox - activity this month

Blackbirds chasing each other
Blue Tit searches Ivy for insects
Chaffinches feed on ground with House sparrow

Early birdwatch in garden - 7-8am
RSPB Survey - Top 10 Garden Birds

No birds at the feeders
Fat birds - Finch disease

SPRINGWATCH SURVEY: The Six signs of Spring with Bill Oddie
Toad and Field Mouse
Frog Spawn, Ladybird, Bumble Bee, Butterfly

The Secret Lives of Garden Birds

Friday, 30 March 2007

Camera Nestbox - March 2007

Our Camera Nestbox was only up two days when we recorded our first visitors. The following pictures have been taken from captured video and give a good update of activity so far. Even though we do appear to have a pair of Blue Tits interested in our box, they visit together at least twice a day, there is no guarantee they will actually use it.

On March 3rd, shown above, we saw our first moving pictures within our box. Our pair of interested Blue Tits made their first appearance together and we were delighted to be watching when they arrived. Our Nestbox had only been up two days! To view this video click here

On March 7th, shown above, I had noticed the changes of light levels inside or box were being caused by a Blue Tit outside it pecking at the entrance. This appears to be the first stage of the birds showing interest in a Nestbox. I quickly set up my video camera outside and left in running and captured some very interesting film. The video showed that the Blue Tit would peck for a while then jump up to the edge of the roof and rest a little then would drop back down again to peck at the entrance. To view this video click here

On March 11th, shown above, was when the inspections and testing of our Nestbox began. Tap, tap, tap on the floor and on the walls. The Blue Tit male began to visit more regularly and we began to wonder if it would do anything else but tap with its beak. It was to be another 13 days before we would see any change in this activity. To view this video click here

On March 24th, shown above, I had originally thought that the Blue Tit had slipped as the floor was too slippery. It got up, pecked a little more, then left. Some time later it visited again for its longest visit so far. Again, it was seen sliding on the floor but this time it did it a few times and I was convinced it looked deliberate! I looked into this and found that it was.

This Blue Tit was performing a shuffling action that will be used to push the nesting material into the corners and sides of the box to make it compact enough for a nest. When there is enough material it will form the cup of the nest where the eggs will be laid. I assumed the Blue Tit was wisely checking to see if there was enough space to do this. How clever. Without Cameras in Nestboxes we would never be able to see this.

After shuffling on the floor it then started pecking at the floor and walls again but this time it appeared a bit agitated. It left again and the next time we looked at the screen a few strands of moss had appeared in our box! Great we thought, it was finally going to start building. To view this video click here

On March 26th, shown above, after only two days the Blue Tit had appeared to change its mind about the moss it had brought in and collected up a few bits and left with it in its beak! Now, that is what we assumed had happened - but could this have been another Blue Tit stealing the moss and trying a bit of sabotage?

On March 31st, shown above, this the last day of March saw the first day of what looks like a nest being built in our Camera Nestbox. Before lunchtime there had been a lot of activity with nesting material being brought in then removed again. They were clearly a fussy pair. We were out for a few hours in the afternoon and came home to the picture above. Now that does look good quality fresh moss! I wonder now what picture we might have to show on the last day of April.

Tuesday, 27 March 2007

Top 10 UK Garden Birds 2007

For anyone who took take part counting birds in their garden over the weekend of 27-28 January 2007 and would like to know the results, the RSPB have just announced them. There is a brief snapshot of them in my table below.

To get the full result go to

House sparrow - average 4.4 per garden
Starling - average 3.67 per garden
Blue tit - average 2.82 per garden
Blackbird - average 2.26 per garden
Chaffinch - average 1.9 per garden
Collared dove - average 1.56 per garden
Woodpigeon - average 1.53 per garden
Great tit - average 1.37 per garden
Robin - average 1.26 per garden
Greenfinch - average 1.2 per garden
How many results were submitted?

Sunday, 25 March 2007

The Shuffle

Nest building in our Camera Nestbox has yet to begin. I wonder now if it will actually be used. The pair of Blue Tits do visit each day and the male is spending enough time pecking at the entrance and testing out the inside to suggest they must be interested. What was he doing yesterday in the film below?

The nestbox shuffle, video 0:17 without background music, try 480p quality.

Too good a finish perhaps, on the inside of our Nestbox, the plywood floor is clearly slippery for the Blue Tit’s feet as it walks about. I suspect it the test above was actually it unable to get up - but perhaps not. Of course the floor wouldn’t be a problem when there is a nest - all he needs to do is get building!

This morning, just after I published this post, the Blue Tit visited the Nestbox performing the same test as above - another three times! It now almost looks like it is deliberate. This was a very long visit where he has pecking at the walls and floor too. He concentrated on the corners for a while and finished with a good go at the camera. If I were to guess his mood I’d say he was almost getting agitated. Is time running out for him – is it now decision time? I am biased of course - but I think he should go for it.

Update Mar 26. Nesting Shuffle appears to be what is going on in the video above. I spotted a picture on the homepage of another website The 2 Wrennies. I emailed them to ask what was going on. Martin told me that when there is nesting material in the box the Blue Tit will perform this shuffle to push it out to the corners to eventually form a cup in the centre. How clever - I hope we see this in action in our box. I assume the Blue Tit was testing our box to see if there was enough floor space.

Update Apr 8th. I must now add for the last week we have seen the shuffle in action with moss in our box being shuffled to the sides. To see my video showing this, taken on Aril 7th, click here and scroll down the post.

The video, shown above, was taken in my garden on March 24th 2007.

Saturday, 24 March 2007

The Chase

The weather is a little dull now but earlier this morning you could have easily been mistaken for thinking it was a summer’s morning. Just after 9am I set up my camera outside to see what activity I could capture around my small pond. Perhaps the Song Thrush would run around the plants or the little wren might appear. All seemed quite for a while.

Blackbirds on morning chase, video 0:29 with no background music, try 480p quality.

Blackbirds chasing each other, shown above, happen practically every morning and today was no exception. They dart as they run along the ground chasing usually in twos and sometimes there can be as many as four pairs chasing at the same time. They will even continue the chase in flight! I’ll be honest and say I find it quite amusing to watch as you never know which direction they will go.

This part of my garden I love to look out on first thing in the morning. It catches the early morning sun and I always enjoy opening the curtains to it. The film above does not show the sharp detail of the planting, processing for viewing on the web has limitations, but this area will develop greatly as the plants continue to grow. There are alliums, fritillaries and drumstick primulas to name just a few of the next plants to come into flower. I will take some photographs another sunny morning.

The film does however capture the feel of planting in this area with grasses and shrubs providing excellent cover for the birds and any other wildlife like our toad and the odd field mouse. By May when this bed is at its very best there it will be a tapestry of plants with almost no sign of the soil. I planted this area to create contrast in plants through form and colour – the bonus has been that I am not the only one that enjoys it! I did not plan to build a wildlife garden and I am always surprised when friends say that is what I have.

My garden will show that a garden does not necessarily need to be wild with weeds to attract wildlife as long as you have an interesting mix of plants then you should have insects – then the rest will come. Water definitely helps with attracting insects and the birds drink and bath in it too I would suggest having even a small amount of water for example in a large plant pot saucer, with some pebbles, would be a definite help in attracting wildlife.

The video, shown above, was taken in my garden on March 24th 2007.

Wednesday, 21 March 2007

Unexpected activity

Today was very cold. As I returned the feeders back to the feeding station, after washing and refilling, my eye was drawn to some activity at the Robin Nestbox. I quickly set up the video to capture further action.

The cheeky Blue Tit perched itself on the front opening of my Robin Nestbox. It had a very brief look about before being chased off. I’m really not certain what chased it and that is why I set up the video camera shortly after. It looked from the back quite like robin but could it have been a dunnock? I’ll have to keep an eye on this.

Flying overhead, as I was setting up my camera, was even more unexpected! This was first for me. On its approach I thought this bird was a seagull and initially didn’t take any notice. Something clearly caught my eye to take a second look as it approached the roof of my house. It was flying slower and more deliberate than a seagull. It wasn’t all white either and it was quite long too. A quick check with my book confirmed my suspicions – a Heron had just flown over my house. I know it is not unusual for Herons to be seen at garden ponds – but I have never seen one here. I must be honest – I gave a smile when I glanced at my own tiny pond as it was frozen over! The Heron would be unsuccessful in fishing at garden ponds today.

Blue tit feeding around nestbox, video 0:33 no background music, try 480p quality.

Blue Tit caught, shown above, at our Robin Nestbox once again. The pergola has ivy growing on it and it looks like it was a search for insects that brought the Blue Tit to this box. You will see it at the bottom on the right at the beginning of the film. I hope further searches don’t scare off any birds considering using this Nestbox. I have to mention at this point that there have been very few sightings of the robins at the feeders in the last few weeks – I wonder if they have nests already.

Singing while it worked – the Blue Tit was busy again at the entrance of our Camera Nestbox next. It only briefly stopped work for a little song - probably to tell the other birds ‘this is my house now’. It had visited the Nestbox a number of times today and on one occasion it didn’t peck the walls and floor at all. It appeared to look at them for some time – I wonder if it now feels it is ready.

Not one but two – our Song Thrush was seen with company today. I did think I spotted it looking less shy yesterday and it did appear a little fatter - it was a different bird! So numbers are increasing once more. I also spotted the Song Thrush doing a little chasing itself today, although I am not sure which one. I do know what it chased though - the tiny Wren!

The video, shown above, was taken in my garden on March 21st 2007.

Fat birds - Finch disease

From time to time I spot particularly fat birds with fluffed-up plumage at the feeders. They are generally lethargic and don’t seem to bother when I walk up close to them. After about five days after noticing a bird like this I usually never see it again.

Siskin with Trichomoniasis disease video, 0:40 with background music, try 480p quality.

The Siskin male, shown above, I believe was suffering from the disease which is called Trichomoniasis and is most prevalent in finches. It is caused by a parasite and I suspect that at this time of year is most likely to be picked up at busy feeders and tables. I haven’t seen this siskin since this video was taken so I suspect it has died.

Hygiene is absolutely crucial in preventing the spread of this and other diseases at the feeders and tables. I have read differing opinions on what action should be taken when a bird is spotted in the garden. My approach is to:

Thoroughly clean the feeders with a scraper and then I use a brush with an antibacterial spray especially for bird feeders - giving a final rinse with boiling water.

Chase away the bird if it comes to the feeders – it will only pass the disease on to other birds. However I don’t particularly enjoy chasing it away but feel it must be done.

Slow-up feeding – this action is a bit more controversial. If I keep clean feeders and a diseased bird comes in and I stop feeding the birds, they could then go to unclean feeders and tables and pick up the disease there. I haven’t stopped feeding and have continued to scatter plenty of sunflower hearts on the ground – the chaffinches and greenfinches will feed there too. However I have been deliberately slow in refilling the feeders that the finches use - but today gave them all a good clean and refilled them. It has been very cold these last few days and I suspect some birds may have gone elsewhere as my clean feeders had no birds.

For more information on trichomoniasis and hygiene advice go to (scroll down page for photos) (photo)

The video, shown above, was taken in my garden on March 17th 2007.

Tuesday, 20 March 2007

No birds at the feeders

We are in the third week of March and many garden birds will begin nesting soon. These birds will no doubt have done their homework in finding good food sources which will feed themselves and their future hungry chicks. Caterpillars feeding on shrubs and trees will provide a good food source for the new chicks and the location of the nest may itself be close to both natural food sources and garden feeders. Is it too late to hang up new bird feeders?

I have a young reader who is desperate for the birds to visit his garden. A few weeks ago he bought a bag of the RSPB Sunflower seed mix and put it out on a tray on top of his picnic table. No birds were seen taking any interest at all - except for a passing crow! He was very disappointed. I suggested he put up seed feeders - hanging them opposite a neighbour’s large tree. My theory was that when the birds rested on the branches of this tree they would be able to see the feeders – then come down and use them! If just one or two birds came then more could follow. He did this and it has now been a week since the feeders were put up, with the sunflower seed mix and extra sunflower hearts. Disappointingly there are still no signs of visiting birds.

Gardens with children often have swings and other outdoor play equipment - perhaps pets with hutches too. There is often an area with bark under swings etc and often a piece of grass for play. Eating outside requires an area for the picnic or patio table – so we then have patio and decked areas. Trees and shrubs are then not a priority when space is at a premium – but pots can be used and moved around the garden when necessary.

This garden has all of these. However it also has boundary hedges (privet and leylandii) were the birds could find insects, shelter and safety from preying cats. It also has clematis growing up a trellis below the feeders and also in another area up and over part of the bird table – I would expect insects could be found there too.

Are shrubs absolutely crucial in attracting birds to a garden? There are no shrubs in this garden. Do birds look for natural food sources first before using the hanging feeders and tables? I have suggested patience and the birds will eventually come to the feeders – but am I wrong? At this time of year do the birds stick to known sources of food and don’t risk energy looking for new ones?

Can you help? If anyone has any suggestions on how my young reader could attract birds into his garden could you please add them to the comments section below – where he could read them. Alternatively you can mail me and I can pass the information on to him. It would be a great pity when he is so interested in birds that he could miss out on watching them in his own garden.


Sunday, 18 March 2007

Secret Lives

Today is Mother’s Day in the UK and I just had to publish a small post on a gift I received from my daughter this morning. I believe this would be a very welcome gift to anyone who enjoys watching birds in their garden. What a lot we can miss!

Dominic Couzens, with illustrations by Peter Partington, wrote 'The Secret Lives of Garden Birds' and it looks exactly like the sort of read that supports some of my own observations of visiting garden birds. From my glances through it already, it is written in a writing style that I like with a mix of information, chat and stories that capture moments that often go unnoticed in our gardens. It is also in a month by month format which will highlight what can be seen when.

Inexperienced, am I in bird knowledge, but that has its advantage when writing a diary like this. I publish what I believe I am seeing and support this with further research as necessary. I am very much looking forward to having some quiet time later to read through the months of the year so far. I would imagine there is much that I have missed - but then again I will know what to look out for next year – and next month!

If you are interested in more details of the book above:
Cost: £14.99
ISBN: 0-7136-6616-1
Publisher: Christopher Helm, an imprint of A&C Black Publishers Ltd

Saturday, 17 March 2007

Shy new visitor

It is almost a week since I first spotted our newest visitor to the garden. It has been quite difficult to catch on film despite it being large enough to see. It bounces and runs along the ground so quickly appearing out from the cover of plants only for short periods. The Blackbirds have given it a cursory chase off - but not in the same way as they do each other. This new visitor is shy, has long legs and reminds me of a ballet dancer in Swan Lake.

Song Thrush in garden, video 0:42with background music, try 480p quality.

The Song Thrush, shown above, is what I believe or latest visitor to be. It is definitely a lot smaller than the Blackbird and browner than the Mistle Thrush. Its spots, I would say, look more like upside down hearts where the Mistle Thrush has much rounder spots. It was only when I had it on film and I was able to look at still shots to see this properly.

Sultanas for the Song Thrush, a favourite food in my garden, scattered on the ground around the base of my plants. I put them out for the Blackbirds but the Starlings are also partial to more than a few! I also put sultanas on my small ground feeder, shown above, and the Song Thrush will now make a brief dash out to it - then back into the relative safety of the plants to eat it. You will see from the film above that when it has cover it stays a little longer. Maybe when it sees so many other birds feeding on the ground it will get braver or it just may occur to it that if it doesn’t come out from hiding the sultanas will be gone! I hope it doesn’t go and continues to be a regular visitor – it is such a pretty bird to watch.

The video, shown above, was taken in my garden on March 17th 2007.

Friday, 16 March 2007

Red Nose Tree

It was a wild and windy day today with light showers - just the kind of day that I have found brings the birds out in their numbers. You would probably expect warm sunny days would do that but yesterday the Chaffinches were perched on the tree that overlooks my garden for ages appearing to enjoy the sunshine –in no particular hurry to get to the feeders.

Chaffinches & House sparrows, video 0:23 with background music, try 480p quality.

Red Noses, for Comic Relief, are worn by many people today so I thought I would add one to my garden. It was unplanned so I had to improvise a little using a lovely fresh red tomato, as you can see above, pierced into a pruned branch of my Acer tree. It had the desired effect though as I thought of the many people that haven’t got a lovely fresh tomato! Comic Relief give 60% of the money raised to people in poverty in Africa and 40% to disadvantaged people and communities here in the UK.

On the ground, below my Red Nose Tree, were the birds having their own fight for survival not perturbed in the least by the addition of my Red Nose tribute. I have definitely noticed more frantic feeding by the birds when the weather is more extreme. In the film above you can see the birds that appear to enjoy feeding on the ground in days like this – Chaffinches, Greenfinches and House Sparrows. Weather forecasts are suggesting that there is snow expected with us through Sunday and Monday so I’ll expect the feeders will need refilling a few times then!

For more information on Comic Relief go to

The video, shown above, was taken in my garden on March 16th 2007 especially for Comic Relief.

Tuesday, 13 March 2007

Springwatch Survey 2007

Join the biggest ever survey into the arrival of spring in the UK. Watch out for six key species and let the BBC Springwatch website know when you first see them. By collecting information about the first signs of spring Scientists will have a better understanding of how spring is changing and what needs to be done to help wildlife thrive in the UK.

Springwatch with Bill Oddie returns to BBC TWO on Monday May 28th
with live wildlife reports from around the country, reuniting presenters Bill Oddie, Kate Humble and Simon King. I strongly believe the enthusiasm of presenters on programmes like this help tremendously in raising awareness of wildlife and what we can do to preserve it.

To record your sightings for the Springwatch Survey 2007 go to and remember it can be just one or all six. Every record will help. I will take part this year and see how many I can spot in my garden – although I will record others in my region if I see them too.

First frog spawn – there is a remote possibility that I could see this in my garden as I have a small pond. I also have a toad that hides in the small caves around my pond, but I have never seen frogs in my garden nor spawn in my pond any other year. So I don’t believe I will be able to help with this one.

First seven-spot ladybird – I do get ladybirds and I have seen some this year already. Next time I see one I will count its spots. I could help with this one.

First red-tailed bumblebee – now I know what this one looks like as I noticed it in my garden last year. So I do know what to look out for here, and again there is a chance that I can help with this one.

First peacock butterfly – I do get butterflies visit my garden but I don’t believe I will see this one as I have never noticed it before. This one is a maybe - if I keep a photo out to remind me what it looks like!

First hawthorn flowering – this I won’t see in my garden as there isn’t one! This one is definite no.

First swifts – as I am en route to a nature reserve there is again a chance I could help with this one. However I will need a photo again to help identify them. We can get large flocks of birds, geese in particular, go over my garden but I am not always sure what they are!

Happy spotting if you take part!

Springwatch is run by the BBC in association with the Woodland Trust and the UK Phenology Network. In 2006, more than 100,000 records came in and it hopes to top that in 2007.

Monday, 12 March 2007

New Zealand Flatworms

New Zealand Flatworms feed on our earthworms reducing the condition of the soil. They were indeed a worry to me when I first discovered them in my garden over 10 years ago. Gardening magazines at the time showed pictures of devastated gardens with plants dying or dead as a result of the absense of earthworms where flatworms were reported.

The Flatworm doesn't destroy the plant only the earthworm which enriches the condition of the soil so the plant grows well. All is not lost if you have just discovered the flatworm in your garden - perhaps under the base of a pot as I did. Gardens can survive with, and after, flatworms as I myself can confirm. However if you have flatworms you must take extra care to prevent them spreading further. To see a New Zealand Flatworm and its egg click here .

BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine, at the time of my discovery of flatworms, had just issued an article on the New Zealand Flatworm with some lovely (not) colour photographs. How fortunate that was for me. It had a brief description of how it could change its shape making itself so thin that even if you tied a knot in a bag there was still a chance it could escape – this was very accurate as I have witnessed! The article also showed a map of the UK with locations where they had, at that time, been reported. It also asked for new sightings to be reported so data could be compiled and as they were only starting to appear in my area I felt a sense of obligation to report mine.

The Scottish Crop Research Institute, in Invergowrie, was where I reported my sighting. I phoned the contact given, Dr Brian Boag, who was conducting research on them at the time. I can clearly remember asking if I was the first to report from my town and feeling the horror that - I was! He told me how to trap and destroy them and also to look out for eggs (like small oval blackcurrants) and destroy them too. I kept a jar, with screw top lid, at my back door with very salty water in it – behind a plant pot so I didn’t need to look at it!

Carrier bags filled with soil, were the traps I laid, on bare pieces of soil where possible. These weren’t the most attractive addition to my garden as you can imagine! It did work though. I found the carrier bags needed to be of good quality to last out in the rain etc. I do remember going into my nearest Laura Ashley store asking if I could buy some of their dark green carrier bags (a bit more camouflaged in the garden when turned inside out) but I couldn’t persuade them at all!

Coiled-up flatworms could be found under the carrier bags during my daily morning check – I could collect up to five. It did seem if I was lucky in one area I could put two bags there and be twice as lucky! The flatworm did seem to return to the same area once it was found there. I did also notice that the soil was warm as well as damp which must have been ideal conditions for the flatworm when I was so successful with my traps. I can recall gingering lifting them up with my garden trowel and trying to shake them off into my jar. It’s really a good job you can’t see my face squirming at the thought of it. Within two days of being in the jar they turned milky-ish as their own poisonous enzyme, that destroyed the earthworm, destroyed it. I am now absolutely cringing at the thought of them decomposing now. It’s coming back to me now - the awful smell inside the jar when I opened it.

I took the brave step of telling my neighbours – not a popular move at the time! The reality was that although I had identified Flatworms I hadn’t necessarily been the one who had brought them to my garden. Knowledge is power, so I thought, the more people that were aware of the problem the higher the chance of stopping them spread. I also took the step of rinsing the roots clean on any plants that I gave away to friends and family. I did my best to stop Flatworms spreading but like a needle in a haystack I had absolutely no chance of trapping them all.

Earthworms are scarce, in my garden, and if I ever find one when digging I feel delighted to see them again – hey I know that sounds sad but it is true. Pre-flatworms I would be uninterested in the seemingly insignificant earthworm - but gosh does do it not do an important job with our soil! My soil only gets aerated when I dig or hoe it and if I don’t a type of moss will grow on the surface of my soil. So, a little work is required to keep the New Zealand Flatworm at bay and the soil in order - but looking round the garden at my plants it is undoubtedly worth it.

For further information on the New Zealand Flatworm go to:

Sunday, 11 March 2007

Snagging Inspector

Snagging is a term used, in the building trade, in connection with the inspection that takes place by the new home buyer with the builder. It is a time to check the property for faults etc prior to occupancy. Gosh is this Blue Tit good!

Blue tit checks quality of nestbox, video 0:23 without background music, try 480p quality.

Turn up the volume, on your speakers, and you will be able to hear the very definite pecking this Blue Tit is doing on the walls and floor of our new Camera Nestbox. My theory is that it is checking them out thoroughly - to see if they are of the quality that a Blue Tit expects of a garden Nestbox! I am hoping our box will pass the inspection for it and its partner. They visited together again today - just before the inspection above took place.

Making an entrance to its liking is also what the Blue Tit was doing towards the end of the video, shown above, by pecking at it too. There is definitely much more to the preparations for nest building than I expected. I wonder if this pair is checking out other Nestboxes at the same time as ours. Our first sighting of this pair was on the 3rd of March. I wonder how long it takes from the initial inspection until the first piece of nesting material is brought in. We will find out soon enough – perhaps changes in temperatures guide the birds and I suspect we are yet to feel winter’s bite.

The video, shown above, was taken in my garden on March 11th 2007.

Saturday, 10 March 2007

Working well

We are delighted with our new Camera Nestbox – a Blue Tit has been busy pecking at the entrance hole and we wait with anticipation of a nest being built inside it soon. The lighting by natural daylight is working well – most of the day I see inside in colour and only when it is very dark, with rain, does the picture on my PC screen show it in greyer tones. It is also possible to see inside this Nestbox via a Television. I wonder how much longer it will be before nest building begins.

My Camera Nest box, shown above at 8.22am, is sited on my house wall facing North/East and only gets full sun first thing in the morning. I did wonder if this location would give enough light through the holes in the roof but they are clearly doing their job very well. It also gets light through the entrance hole itself and I now think the flickering, I see in my PC screen, is in fact the Blue Tit at the entrance and not on the roof as I first suspected. I have been able to see this in action!

Nestbox location ideally I would like to have sited ours on a mature tree but this is not always possible in a smaller garden. Our Nestbox, shown above, is a cable one with connectors coming out of the bottom see here. We have chosen to add a box to encase our connectors to give them the extra protection they are likely to need against the elements they may face in our part of Scotland – rain, sleet, snow and cold temperatures. It is a tidy well constructed Nestbox as you can see. Our cable comes out through a small hole, on the RHS of the bottom of the box and heads horizontally out to the corner of the house wall. The cable then goes round until it meets our down pipe following it down to the point in the wall where we entered the house.

Just in time if you are considering putting up a Nestbox, here in the UK, then you really should consider it very soon as I suspect the birds are out searching for suitable nesting locations right now. It was this time last year that we put our first box up and we were amazed at how quickly the birds found it.

The photograph, shown above, was taken in my garden on March 8th 2007.

Wednesday, 7 March 2007

Bluebird Returns…

I could not resist using the title above – when you view the video below you will know exactly why….

Blue tit hangs around nestbox entrance, video 0:21 with background music, try 480p quality.

Wingspan of Blue Tit, shown above, gosh I have never seen a bird, far less a Blue Tit, look quite like the film character of Batman - looking like a winged Bat! How surreal is that?

After my early morning watch, I set up my camera outside positioned at our new Camera Nestbox. I was hoping to catch the birds on the roof to see how they have approached it. I was delighted with the film I captured – the Blue Tit has clearly learned how to use the front edge of the roof of this Nestbox to its advantage. It now has a place to have a brief pit stop before getting back to the important business of getting, this Nestbox, prepared for nesting. It reminds me of a gym workout – it clearly has a lot of strength to hold its own weight!

The video, shown above, was taken in my garden on March 7th 2007.

Early Bird Watch 7-8 am

I thought it was time to do a roll call of the early visitors to my garden. I haven’t put out any food this morning as the feeders have enough. The table still has some of the sunflower seed mix left. I want to scrape and clean it later, if it stays dry, so I need the birds to eat the seeds they often leave till last or something more appealing comes along! I always find it interesting when I change a seed or mix as it can bring and lose visitors. I haven’t noticed the Blackcap males in a while – I bought the Fat Cake Guardian especially to keep them too!

The first appearance, as always, is the Blackbird. Even if I top up the feeders just before the light comes up I hear them screeching as they bounce along the top of my hedge and back and forward to my neighbours’ trees. Scavenging the ground for the food the males are often spotted fighting which is quite common at the moment. There were five this morning, a fight with a couple and one brave soul having a bath at 7am – it gave me the shivers watching it. If I was to pick one food that would keep the Blackbirds visiting it would definitely be the sultanas scattered on the ground.

Surprisingly the Siskin was the next I spotted. They really are tiny in comparison to the other birds – especially the blackbirds this morning. There were three males enjoying the sunflower mix in the feeders. I spotted one on the ground yesterday near my pond – I should probably consider, cleaning, refilling and returning my small water tray to this feeder as the wind often blows it away.

Robin , reliable as ever. There is seldom a morning that a Robin does not pop in but sometimes there can be three and then they too, like the Blackbird, chase the competition away. I only spotted one today feeding on the ground under the pine tree with the female Chaffinches. I noticed a cone on the ground – I suspect the Coal Tit is responsible for that!

Chaffinch ladies fed together. The males were later to arrive this morning, the females dropped to the ground and up to the table as a group – I spotted five. They often catch my eye in the garden – they seem to be rather clumsy in their approach to the feeders often abandoning their attempt. They seem much better, and more comfortable, landing on my shrubs and small trees.

Blue Tits were next to bounce down from the trees. They quickly appear from nowhere bright and bubbly whatever the time of the day. They are a joy to watch – three popped in during my watch. My thoughts turned to the Nestboxes but expected it would be a bit early for any activity there. I was right about our Camera Nestbox but the Terrace had a Blue Tit pecking at the entrance hole from the inside – I just spotted the movement of his head and beak.

Wrongly accused! I have to apologise to the Coal Tit for suggesting it was likely to be responsible for the fallen cone. There is another suspect in the frame for this one – the Siskin male. I have just spotted it at another cone on the tree as I write this! The seeds in the cones are the attraction but perhaps as the birds peck for the seeds they loosen the hold the cone has to the branch. Case withdrawn.

Two silent Starlings . Starlings usually come in groups, often large and noisy, but first thing in the morning we often get a solitary one quietly feeding amongst the other birds. Today there were two, they didn’t fight nor did they stay long.

Solitary Goldfinch . At first three Goldfinches were spotted at the seed feeder but later after they left one returned. Well, perhaps it wasn’t one of the first group but I suspect it is likely to have been. There is often a solitary Goldfinch at the feeders when there is a lull in feeding where the birds all disappear only to return in ten minutes or so.

House Sparrows and Chaffinch males join in. There comes a point in the morning when the level activity at the feeders speeds up with larger numbers arriving - which is usually when the House Sparrows join in. There were two males earlier feeding with the Chaffinch females but this was now a group of about 7-9. There were also about seven Chaffinch males and a few more females. Often in the morning the Chaffinches come to feed in pairs – but not today.

Great Tit times it well! I was pleased to see the Great Tit make an appearance in my watch – it arrived towards the very end. I think it is such a striking looking bird - it is one of my favorites.

It would end no other way. Two Woodpigeons waddled in at the end – well they would wouldn’t they! They do have an almost comical presence amongst the other birds – especially when they stuff themselves into the bird table.

The watch is over but the activity continues – I must add one more note before I publish this. I have just spotted a Starling on the ground gathering up material for nesting – it had quite a mouthful before it flew off! I stood up to see where it went but couldn’t see from my window. Last year we did have young, brown spotted, Starlings at the feeders – perhaps I will be able catch them on film this year.

Saturday, 3 March 2007

If you build it they will come

For some time now I have wanted to title a post as above. I have placed feeders, tried different foods, planted new plants and the birds have come with the number of species increasing within my small Scottish garden. I am a gardener who is now choosing to share my garden with its visitors and I am really amazed at who comes.......

The nestbox shuffle, video 1:153 without background music, try 480p quality.

Our Camera Nestbox, shown above, is an example of how quickly the birds have taken up a new opportunities in my garden. This box was only put up a few days ago and already we have spotted Blue Tits showing interest. How fortunate were we to be watching the box this morning when not one but two birds popped in. This piece of film is almost two minutes long but I felt in this instance I could not edit it.

Exhausted, looked the first Blue Tit, after it appeared on the floor of the box – then it appeared to need a quiet moment. I am not sure what it was doing next. I first thought it was catching its breath and then on further looking I considered it was trying to catch food from the air - which I could not see.

Changing light levels, also shown above, gave us the first clue some activity was about to happen. We also heard some noise via the microphone. We are guessing that the birds were curious on the edges of the roof - perhaps trying to see/get in the holes that give light to the box. We spotted this before the first Blue Tit came - then it too seemed to notice the change in light levels and noise when it was in the box. I wonder if it had been calling to the other bird I could not tell.

Are you looking at me - the second Blue Tit was definitely curious about the camera before it left. At that point our delight turned to fear – were these going to be the first and last pictures from our Nestbox? This bird definitely had a different presence in the box than the first. It looked much more used to this environment – checking it out. I would also take a guess that this bird was pecking at the entrance hole before it left – perhaps to stop other birds claiming it?

A pair – I wonder if today’s visitors were a pair. Yes, the first bird left rather quickly when the second appeared - but they didn’t appear too threatened by each other. I also wonder if other Blue Tits will call in on this new, detached, residence. Maybe a Great or Coal Tit will have a look yet too. Who knows - that is what I so enjoy about my garden and watching the birds!

The video, shown above, was taken in my garden on March 3rd 2007.

Terrace enquiries

I am delighted to report that this morning is the second consecutive day that I have seen Blue Tits showing interest at our Terrace Nestbox entrances. It is looking like we could be lucky with this location again. It was a small bird I spotted this morning shortly before I topped up the bird feeders – which returned to its business (pecking at the hole) when I came inside. I wonder if more than Blue Tit could use this box this year.

Which house should I chose, video 0:20 with background music, try 480p quality.

Yesterday lunchtime, shown above, is when I saw the first Blue Tit showing interest in our new, replacement, Nestbox terrace. This box is designed for House Sparrows who are happy to nest in communities – each box being self contained. The Blue Tit shown above is larger than the one that enquired this morning and it was seen chasing off competition yesterday – perhaps unsuccessfully!

Behavioural patterns, shown above, jumping from one entrance to the other was exactly how the Blue Tit behaved last year. I believe the same bird worked on all three nests. I can recall many years ago seeing a documentary on television showing the ability of birds to learn how to get food that was not easy to get at - tests were set up. From memory I believe this programme also reported that birds couldn’t count – they understood one and more than one but if two people went out into a shed and one left they would believe the shed was empty. The Blue Tit may simply not be able to remember which entrance hole he has been through - or perhaps it is wishful thinking on his part and he expects to mate with three females!

The Centre box looks like it could be the favourite of the terrace again. Perhaps the unsuccessful bird might consider a newer detached residence with natural lighting and recording facilities - but I’ll be honest I was hoping for a Great Tit to use this one.

The video, shown above, was taken in my garden on March 2nd 2007.

Friday, 2 March 2007

Camera Nestbox – first pic

Finally we have our camera Nestbox up and running! The weather and time available in daylight hours has caused the delay. We are delighted to have it ready for the birds to use - as much as seeing what happens inside if they do. I am taking a guess that some interest was shown this morning. As I watched with my daughter we saw the light levels within the box flicker – first thoughts went to our leads are they properly connected? Then it occurred to us that perhaps a bird was on the roof!

The first picture, shown above, is a still capture from our Nestbox taken at 8am this morning. It is shown with colour as the light levels were fairly good then. The box gets the early morning sun and is lit by natural light only - through holes in the roof which are covered by clear Perspex. I wonder if the prospective occupant had thought it could gain entry from the roof! We will monitor light levels over the next couple of days and move the box round the corner of our wall should it be necessary.

Future posts, if we should be so lucky, will be a mix of still and video capture. We are very much looking forward to seeing what happens next.

The photograph, shown above, was taken from the camera Nestbox in my garden on March 2nd 2007.