Saturday, 28 April 2007

Still busy

Sorry, no eggs to report yet - I think we are close though. Our Blue Tit female is still very busy with her nest which is definitely developing. As I type this now she is in fine tuning things. She is starting to bring odd feathers in now. It is becoming quite a work of art! The pictures below show progress over the last two days.

Blue tit in a hurry, video 0:22 with background music, try 480p quality.

Thursday morning, 9.22am, it looks like she has decided where the cup of the nest is to be. She continues to work at this area. Today she spends a lot of time taking material from the nesting egg which takes quite an effort - the video above shows her fall in. Never mind, she is being rewarded by the male who comes with food, every now and again, to the branches of the tree where the nesting egg is.

Friday morning, 9.25. I love this picture if it were an art piece it could perhaps be titled 'Turmoil'. The cup is still visible but this new top layer looks like she almost weaves it when she brings it in.

Friday afternoon, 2.57pm, the nest cup now looks like it is being lined with fluffy stuff again. This is not the first layer of the soft stuff to go in.

Friday evening, 8.20pm, and she is still fussing about at the nestcup. We also noticed that her breathing was unusually fast. She took a while to settle. It looked like she couldn't get comfortable again. Yes, we thought, could we see an egg in the morning?

This morning, 6.11am, no egg. I understand from other sites that they are usually laid one per day and a day can be skipped. They are laid early in the morning so, as I thought this could be the day, I got up early to see the action myself. I watched from 5.35am and the box was empty - she was up earlier than me! I was patient and watched a while longer just in case she was out getting food for energy. She didn't appear so I went back to bed. I need energy too - I've a busy day in the garden planned.

The last pic shows the nest as I publish this post. I wonder how it will look tomorrow.

Tuesday, 24 April 2007

Tucked in

Since last Wednesday our female blue tit has slept-over in our camera Nestbox – except for last night when she seems to have had a night out! We were a little worried when there were no signs of her working at her nest last night and she only briefly looked in and left.

Good news - tonight she is back and the nest is much thicker now. We checked in on her, with the aid of a torch, at 10.22pm when she was seen tucked in for the night, shown below.

Night night, video 0:30 with background music, try 480p quality.

Saturday evening I recorded her tucking her head completely in, shown above. It was around 8.40pm and the box was really quite dark so I have altered the contrast and brightness so she can be seen a little clearer. She puffs her feathers up prior to this stage and doesn’t move much after. The first few nights she went into the corners but it has varied although tonight she has been heard moving around – perhaps she can’t get comfortable. Maybe its time she started laying eggs!

April raindrops

April showers are normally the reality for Scotland but, like other parts of the world, we have had an unusually dry April. We have had light misty rain on and off since the weekend but nothing substantial. Early this morning I went out with my camera to capture the droplets on my plants before they dried up again.

Patterns and sizes of raindrops varied depending on the surface of the leaves as you can see below. I particularly liked the way the hairs on the meconopsis almost spiked the droplets. I found it amusing to see droplets on the ladybird too!

Pictures above from top: Christophii Allium bud, Clematis with flower bud, Dissectum Acer, Meconopsis and Allium, Bowles Golden Grass , Euphorbia, Nepata.

Sunday, 22 April 2007

Plant a tree

There shouldn’t really need to be a reason to plant a tree – but there can be many. It is well documented that trees help our environment but they are often planted to mark an occasion too - happy or sad. I made a search on Google and found a mix between the two - a scheme to restore a Caledonian Forest in the Highlands of Scotland by dedicating a tree and making a donation.

Last year I planted an Acer, that I had for many years with a lovely shape, but I had grown tired of, into a pot. I knew it would not survive the move as I severely cut back the roots so I could force it into my large pot. I wanted to use it as a frame work beside my bird table to allow the birds easier access to the table and to protect them a little from cats and the Sparrowhawk. The birds have used it well, as you can see with the Greenfinch and the female Blackbird shown above. I felt now it would be nice to have a living tree in this pot.

Yesterday we replaced the Acer with a Weeping Willow-leaved Pear (Pryus salicifolia ‘Pendula’) to mark our twenty-fifth year of marriage. I had thought I’d like to plant a Silver Birch but finally choose this tree which will eventually become more pendulus. Our new tree looks wonderful in the pot and is a lovely contrast to the conifer hedge behind. The birds have adapted to the change well – although I doubt the young branches will quite withstand a heavier bird like a woodpigeon. The chaffinches and greenfinches in particular seem to like sitting on its branches as you can see below.

Our hedge is another viewpoint the birds use before dropping down to the feeders - the chaffinch male, shown below, is considering his options. The blackbirds too like to use the top of the hedge. The Starlings like to use the hooks of the feeders or the top of the bird table as well as the branches – any spot will do for them!

Special Updates:

Camera Nestbox -our Blue Tit female is spending her fifth night sleeping-over in the Camera Nestbox. I wonder when she might lay eggs – she has started to bring in the softer material to her nest.

Wildlife News - a hedgehog was spotted by my daughter in the garden at around 9.15pm – we will look out for it again tomorrow. I did go out with the video camera but it had taken cover! This is our first sighting this year – we did spot one just before they would have gone into hibernation last year. I wonder if we have another regular visitor.

Saturday, 21 April 2007

Robin makes return

It is been a little while now since I have had regular visits from the Robin. It has been strange to see my garden without it. This week has seen its return with two spotted yesterday.

I stood behind my domed Acer with my camera after seeing the Song Thrush and down came the Robin to the tree branches at my bird table. It bounced around the branches back and forward to the table - a bit too quick for me to follow!

No time to move as the Robin bounced quickly down to the ground - practically at my feet! It came to the small tray feeder with sunflower hearts. I didn’t want to move so I gingerly took a photo through the branches of the Acer. It was so close. How nice to see it back again.

Just in time too. This morning I plan to make some changes in the area around the bird table - even though we have light rain. I have a new tree I would like to plant today. I have noticed the birds do take a little time to adapt when I move things around - I must mess up the usual flight paths for them. This time I have introduced the change by placing the tree in its pot near where it is to go first. I have already seen the chaffinches land on it and work there way through it. I know I won't be able to see the birds so well when it has leaves but I am fortunate in that they bounce around from feeder to feeder anyway and I get plenty of opportunities to see them.

Not so shy now!

In the news earlier this week there had been an appeal by the Bumblebee Conservation Trust which has teamed up with the BTO for Garden Beewatch 2007. The survey is looking to record sightings of bees in the UK and photographs can be sent in via email. It appears that the numbers of bees in the UK are on the decline.

Whilst weeding this morning I spotted a bumblebee on a flowering polygala – a favourite with the bees. I went in for my camera to record my sighting but on my return the bee had gone! However, as I walked back with my camera I spotted a Song Thrush running along the ground in front of me. I stood still and started snapping. They captured very well the brief stops it made. It is not so shy now!

After running around one side of where I stood the Song Thrush headed to the other and then around the back of my watering can which had overflowed earlier. I expected it to continue on and then under my domed Acer tree - to the small ground tray with sunflower hearts which it so enjoys. Instead, it stopped off at my watering can – I wondered what it was about to do.

It was simple enough -it took a drink from the spilled water and was not bothered by me at all as I stood and watched it taking photographs. It did then run under the Acer to the sunflower hearts.

To see more photos of its run around my garden look here .

Wisteria flower bud

Flower buds on my wisteria were looking good today. When I checked to see if there were any early signs of flowers coming from a bud I was delighted to spot one, shown below.

Rain is expected over the weekend so today I was out weeding. I enjoy weeding using a small hand fork. I always like to give the borders a weed prior to rain showers as I feel the rain gives the weeds the chance to multiply - especially after a warm dry spell as we have had recently. I also try water to the borders first so that they fully benefit from the rainfall all the way down to the roots. I hope the forecast is correct as the gardens are definitely needing some rain now.

To read more and see more photos of my Wisteria when it came into flower at the end of May 2007 go to Wisteria from bud to flower .

Update April 12th 2008. If you would like to see photos of the stages of a wisteria bud through to flower go to Looking for wisteria flowers my post on April 12th 2008.

Wednesday, 18 April 2007

Sleep-over first

Great excitement tonight as our female Blue Tit was seen fluffing up her nest this evening just before it got dark. Then she fluffed up herself like a little ball tucking her head in. We just saw her in time, about 8.40pm just before our box went dark – she is having her first sleep-over!

Activity at the Nestbox had changed today - she worked on the nest in the afternoon too. She then had a break for a couple of hours and was back in again early evening and there were definitely signs of finer adjustments. Is it warm enough for her? There has been more moss in the nestbox before tonight so we did not expect the nest to be ready for her now.

Nestbox Update: 10.22pm shown below. We have been hearing slight tapping noises through the speakers since it has been dark. It was therefore with great care, and the torch at a distance, that we had just a tiny peep to see if our sleepover was still on. YES!! She has moved around a bit and is in a different corner - but she is still there. I wonder what will happen next.

I should point out that I have adjusted the contrast and brightness in the pictures above so we could see more clearly inside our Nestbox. What a great opportunity this is to see what goes on during nesting - I had absolutely no idea of what went on at all.

Rhododendron flowers

I had been out for most of the day today and went out into the garden at 4.30pm to find the first of my collection of small hybrid rhododendrons had come in to flower. What a surprise - especially when the picture below shows how it looked yesterday.

Rhododendron Moonstone Yellow, shown above, has bell-shaped creamy-yellow flowers in April-May. It is semi-dwarf and dome forming with attractive rounded leaves. It is classed as hardy and grows to 3ft (90cm). I found the label for this plant during my recent sort of plant labels. This one had the name of the Nursery on the back but I already knew it as all my rhododendrons have come from Glendoick Garden Centre . It is a specialist Nursery growing and breeding rhododendrons which is also known worldwide for plant hunting expeditions.

The dwarf purple flowering rhododendron, shown above, I have no label for so I cannot name. However I do know its origin though as I took it by layer propagation from a plant I had in my previous garden approx 17 years ago. I pinned down a stem with a wire peg and left it a few months then cut it from the parent plant. It is the first to flower and I am sure the original plant also came from Glendoick. Sorry, I couldn’t choose which pictures to post as this is a favourite - the bees love it too.

Tuesday, 17 April 2007

Colour samples

Yesterday was another busy day at the Nestbox. Our nest-building female Blue Tit was working particularly hard in the morning. She clearly fancied a change of colour and brought a sample in as you can see below!

Female Blue tit brings ball of red to nest,
video 0:10 with background music, try 480p quality.

Perhaps not red then as she takes the bright ball of fluff very quickly out again as you can see in the photos and video above. HOwever, that red ball of fluff was brought back in again as you can see below.

Too much moss then - is that the problem? So now it was the turn of the moss to go again – maybe too much of a contrast to the red for her? The problem is when you start making changes you start to reconsider.

Everything must go! This seemed to be her next course of action and the very full and fluffy nest was almost emptied in a very short time. I had the video camera outside recording this in action and will add a video or two here tomorrow to show her from outside the box.

Female Blue tit tries to remove a huge clump of moss,
video 0:44 with background music, try 480p quality.

A bit late perhaps came in the male with some food to reward her hard work as you can see below – he is on the right. You can see the video of this moment also. Although I do wonder if he noticed any progress at all after his last visit! Maybe if he had come earlier she wouldn’t have been quite so ruthless.

Male Blue tit with food delivery to nestbox,
video 0:31 with background music, try 480p quality.

I did wonder if the drop in temperatures expected had any bearing on her decision to knock the nest build back again – how clever if it has. However, today the nest is back on schedule again but it looks like she has a different supplier as new material has been brought in. Now the nest isn’t as pretty as it has been and this newer material looks rougher. I could say that she knows what she is doing – but does she?

Sunday, 15 April 2007

Memory Lane

Yesterday was another lovely day. Late afternoon I went out and sat at the table under my pergola with a coffee and my biscuit tin. I hadn’t opened this tin in quite some time and what a wonderful selection I found inside. Plant labels in all different sizes and condition – some were printed, some handwritten and some even had name of the Nursery on the back.

Older labels were in this tin and I also came across a plant list for my garden that must ten years old. That was very interesting to look at now - it was compiled when we took part in opening our garden with many other small private gardens to raise money for the Children’s Hospice, CHAS. I also looked through the many other bags of labels I had too. What a trip down Memory Lane that was.

In the future I will need to refer to these labels for full names when I post on my plants. I had already began the job of reorganising and bought small photograph albums to store them – a job for the winter I thought a few years ago. Perhaps now it is time to complete it – they will be a valuable resource. The albums work well and can hold seed packets too – I will just have to decide how I file them. In the past I used lists that referred to the area where the plant is but as I move things around a lot that isn’t always reliable. Filing by plant group then alphabetical should perhaps be the way to go. I may finally use the PC, I like lists, but nothing beats seeing and holding the labels!

Nest Update:
There were no signs yesterday of the Blackbirds working on their nest in the Ivy growing over my Pergola - they haven’t been seen working there for a few days now. However, I have still seen them collect material around my pond – then they have flown up and over my hedge. It wasn’t in the best place perhaps anyway.

Friday, 13 April 2007

Hungry work

Friday the 13th saw our Blue Tit pair back together in our Camera Nestbox once more. It again was very fortunate I was able to see this as it happened. I was just finishing my last post when I heard bird calls through my speakers. I had a brief look on screen and a Blue Tit popped inside. As I looked I thought there was something wrong with its beak as it seemed unusually long!

Don’t laugh - I didn’t notice that the male Blue Tit had food in its mouth! I wasn’t looking for the signs. This is the first time I have had a Camera in a Nestbox and the second year that I have had a Nestbox in my garden. He had come into an empty box – and left again. Soon after the female was back busy once again with the nest – then suddenly she stops to look at the entrance hole as you will see in the video below. What happens next?

The nestbox shuffle, video 0:16 without background music, try 480p quality.

Please can I have some more Sir? Our nesting building female was clearly finding it hungry work. When the male visited, with a little less in his beak than his last visit, she perhaps was unimpressed with his offerings. He didn’t appear exactly forthcoming with the takeaway! So it looks like she just had to help herself!

The video, shown above, was taken in the Camera Nestbox in my garden on April 13th 2007.

How lucky are we?

This morning I walked out into my garden to complete some pruning I began yesterday. I didn’t get as far as the shed before returning inside for my camera. I noticed my Acers were about to open their leaves and if I didn’t photograph them then the magic would be gone. I love to see the trees open their leaves heralding the start of the year outdoors. How lucky are we, if we have sight, hearing and the ability to get outdoors to enjoy all it has to offer.

The photographs below record my brief early morning walk round my garden – I hope they make you smile just as I did.

The top picture above shows my small lime green dissectum leaf Acer – I have looked for its full name but for the moment I cannot find it. In the next couple of days I suspect all the leaves will be out and the lovely branch framework of this tree will be hidden again until the autumn. The leaves of this tree are one of my favourite greens of the garden - it so lights up this dark corner in the afternoon.

As I walked round the border, to see another Acer, I passed the first flower beginning to open on my small Magnolia Stellata, shown above. It is so white and delicate and I have to say I like it more before it fully opens. But hey that’s just me - I’m not so keen on full on blousy flowers.

The Acer palmatum Sango Kaku,is such a show stopper with its coral bark. It lights up with the sunshine on it and now the new leaves are well underway in opening – this Acer is the first out in my garden. It would be a difficult one to decide if I had to choose one Acer to grow. I don't believe I could choose between Sango Kaku and my lime green dissectum.

En route to see the progress of the leaves on another Acer I gave a big smile when I saw some wood anemones in flower, shown above. They are growing tucked underneath my small rhododendrons. I planted them there as they so remind me of the woodland walks I had as a child. I did notice there too that my rhodendendrons look like they are in need of some feeding as the leaves are showing yellow.

The next Acer, shown above, in comparison to the others was a bit of a disappointment. Yes, the leaves were beginning to come out but they held no magic for me at all. However, when this tree is fully in leaf it is another matter entirely. The deep red and delicate drooping leaves of the Acer palmatum dissectum garnet I find is so calming especially by water. I haven’t planted one beside my pond as there is limited space in this area and it can get quite dark later on in the day. That is why I have the lime green one there instead. I have two of the garnet Acers but the other, in a different area, was showing no opening leaves.

As I passed under my pergola, with ivies and clematis growing up and over it, I glanced up to see if there were any signs of the female blackbird making her nest. No sign – so I took a quick photo of the nest and passed quickly through.

I was back at the pond once again and there is so much happening in this area as you can see above. There are more drumstick Primulas in flower and they are now joined by the Snakes-head Fritillaries Meleagris bobbing about in the wind like little lanterns. There are signs that my small bronze leafed Astilbe, sprite, is coming up now too as are the first signs of my candelabra primulas and the meconopsis, the Bowles golden grass and the…..

I so love this area. By May it is lush with foliage and the Meconopsis will be just about to flower. I can’t wait.

Before leaving the garden I sat on a chair at my back door to watch a moment - to see if any birds would come to the feeders. A few did, but as I sat very still Blackbirds and Starlings came very close to my feet. I took a quick photo of the Starling as it took a moment to check my presence out.

One last glance before heading in and I spotted my clematis Miss Bateman, shown below, with flower buds – I’ll come back to this another day!

For the moment any garden update could not be left without a mention of our Camera Nestbox. The Blue tit has been busy this morning, once again, taking moss out and bringing moss in. I think it would be fair to say it is interested in our box!

Finally, for those who had early interest in a Nestbox there still could be hope – our Nestbox Terrace had gone quiet too. However, as I was writing this I spotted a Blue Tit once again at the entrances. I have no idea if it is too late for it or for putting up new Nestboxes. My daughter has finally made up her Nestbox and has stained it to match our other green Nestboxes - with all her work we will put it up and see!

Wednesday, 11 April 2007

The moss thickens

Below is a capture from our Camera Nestbox taken tonight at 6.30pm. As you can see the layer of moss is at last beginning to get quite thick.

I wonder now if all the filling and emptying of our box is finally over and the nest will get completed. Tonight when the Blue Tit performed the shuffle, or wriggle as it can also be called, there was very little of the floor visible. It was towards the end of the day that our Blue Tit was especially busy bringing in large mouthfuls of moss. We will just have to see what tomorrow brings.

Our Nestbox is lit by natural daylight only so any pictures or filming captured at the end, or start, of the day are seen in greyscale.

Tuesday, 10 April 2007

Odd Builders

In direct response to comments about a Wren building a nest in an unusual place, posted on my post Caught, I went on a bird forum this evening to ask if anyone else had any experience of unusual nests. I am quite sure there are many. Now that I think about it I can recall seeing one last year in a local DIY store! It was outside tucked away behind metal fence posts on display staging. There were three or four eggs in the nest, all of different colours and sizes, I wonder if it had been abandoned.

The Forum came back with a reply suggesting that it was the Robin that was known as the ‘odd builders’. The Wren in question is building its nest outside in the casing of an outdoor socket – the power has been switched off! This reply also said that the male builds 5-8 nests and the female chooses – I did smile at that one! So I wonder now if the socket nest is the one.

Feeding Mealworms was another suggestion for foods that the Wrens may like, given as a comment on my post Caught, but this reply also suggests that mealworms perhaps should be hidden as the Blackbirds and Starlings are also partial to them!

I would welcome comments on any stories about nesting Wrens or any unusual nests, or email if you would prefer. Thanks once again to those who kindly replied tonight.

Please note that some of my links to birds on the RSPB website are not connected. I discovered today that the RSPB have just revamped their Website and the addresses for these links have been changed. I will fix them all in the next couple of days. In the meantime you can still use the RSPB link from the links section on the right column and select the bird from there.

Goings on

This is probably the first year I have really watched what goes on in my garden. There is so much activity out there and since writing this Diary I am finding that I have only been slightly aware of it all. I never considered before what the visitors were actually doing as they scurried about on the ground or darted into my hedge. I filled up feeders and experimented with different foods to see what would happen - just as I would experiment with plants.

What happens? If you build it they will come, a title used in a previous post taken from the film Field of Dreams, is actually so very true. Providing different foods attracted different birds which in turn brought others. I didn’t particularly set out to build a garden for wildlife but just by planting small trees and shrubs I began the process of creating areas that would attract it. This could even be created on a balcony with pots.

Blackbird female building nest in ivy, video 0:23 with background music, try 480p quality.

A surprise, shown above, came yesterday morning when I saw a female Blackbird taking nesting material into my Sulphur Heart ivy growing over my pergola. I didn’t think it was thick enough for a nest. I set up the video camera to see if I could see where it took it and saw it took great mouthfuls through into it from the top. So much goes on that we can miss. I no longer just glance out of the window to see how my plants are doing I now look out to see what is going on in my garden.

Expect the unexpected. This is another phrase I could use often to describe activity in my garden. Last weekend we couldn’t believe our eyes when we saw a Jackdaw landing on the small hook that our nest egg hangs from. It had a job keeping its balance as it pulled and pulled at the nesting material in the egg. We were watching from the window but it was too late to catch it on film. It finally went away successfully with a very large piece of material and we were both amused and surprised when we saw exactly where the material went. It flew over our hedge and straight to our neighbour’s chimney – then we saw it stuff this large piece of material into the chimney! I have since seen it again near our nest egg and I have also seen it at the chimney with what looked like a role of A4 white paper.

The video, shown above, was taken in my garden on April 8th 2007.

Sunday, 8 April 2007

Hard work

Nesting seems to be such hard work. Our Blue Tit pair definitely are definitely making it look it look that way anyway as they build a nest in our Camera Nestbox. The moss goes in. The moss gets shuffled about. The moss comes out. This process has been repeating all week. I would say it is fascinating to watch, we are lucky they have started at all, but we are finding it frustrating to see the nest look so lovely and neat for it to then to get wrecked.

One difference in the nest building process came when it was dark at 9.30pm on Thurs evening. We heard noises then singing/calling from our box for a while then noises that could have been our Blue Tit leaving again. When it went quiet we, from a distance, lit the entrance hole with a torch to see if we had our first night-time visitor but our box was empty. A flavour of a weeks hard work by the Blue Tits in our Camera Nestbox can be seen in the pictures below.

Last Saturday evening looked promising as you can see above but on Sunday morning the moss started to come out again. Just look how much it removed in one trip!

On Monday the top picture shows serious promise and by the end of the day the floor was covered with moss. On Tuesday at 8am the middle picture was captured then only one our later our nestbox was to be emptied again. Wednesday and Thursday saw some material go in and more out. At one point there was less material in the box than the top picture for Saturday.

On Friday at 10.30am the top picture shows promising progress once again and by 4.30pm we were hopeful. Material was still being removed but it seemed to roughly stay at this stage.

The nestbox shuffle, video 0:24 without background music, try 480p quality.

On Saturday just before 10am I captured the film above which shows the Blue Tit nesting shuffle in action which it has been doing all week. It finished the visit off as usual with removing some material again

The final picture below shows our Camera Nestbox as it was today at 12 noon. I wonder now if we will see any difference in another week - perhaps the female will have a sleep-over!

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

If you have enjoyed looking at this video you may like to see more – click on the link at the top of the right column where you will see further links direct to all videos published in previous posts.