Tuesday, 30 October 2007

CONTENTS – October 2007

My blog contains a mixture of posts on garden plants, visiting birds and wildlife. I have resisted the temptation to write separate blogs. However, I fully understand that new readers to my blog may browse and miss posts that may be of interest. If you are browsing I hope the lists below will help given a full flavour of what has gone on in my gardenwatch during this month. All posts include photos and some also include short videos.


  • Gunnera plant given winter protection - October 23, 2007

  • Frost on plants - October 18, 2007

  • Hellebore collection for winter colour - October 17, 2007

  • Plants in flower during the middle of the month - October 15, 2007

  • Pruning plants and filling a vase - October 12, 2007

  • Planting companions for ferns - October 7, 2007

  • Plants looking well this morning- October 1, 2007

  • BIRDS:
  • Blue Tit roosting in Nestbox, roosting pockets (video) - October 29, 2007

  • Blackbirds with white feathers (video) - October 19, 2007

  • Nestboxes cleaned out (video) - October 9, 2007

  • Feeding garden birds (video) - October 7, 2007

  • Morning Bird count in garden (video) - October 7, 2007

  • Albino Hedgehogs and other albino wildlife - October 19, 2007

  • Butterflies, Red Admiral and Small Tortoiseshell. Bumblebee - October 18, 2007

  • Blog Action Day, post on bees - October 15, 2007

  • Blog Action Day information - October 13, 2007

  • Monday, 29 October 2007

    It worked!

    Three weeks ago today we took down our Camera Nestbox, cleaned it and scattered some wood shavings on the floor. We were hoping that we might get birds roosting in our box over the cold nights ahead. Let’s hope our camera survives the cold temps in our area of Scotland as tonight our Nestbox actually has a Blue Tit roosting in it!

    The photo above was taken at 10.45pm tonight - briefly lit by torchlight!
    The temp gauge in the car read 6 deg C.

    You can read all about how we prepared our Nestbox for roosters here . This is our second year to have a Nestbox in the garden over winter and this is the first winter for our Camera Nestbox.

    Tap, tap, tap came through the PC speakers tonight at 4.40pm. It was my daughter, who had just switched on the PC, who heard it. Fortunately she remembered hearing this through the Camera Nestbox earlier this year and looked in on it to see a bird in the box! She quickly hit the record button and captured the clip you can see below. How lovely to see a bird in our Nestbox once more – I wonder if it is one of our nesting pair that used it earlier this year.

    Time for bed, video 0:44 with background music, try 480p quality.

    We both watched the screen to see the Blue Tit move around one of the corners in the Nestbox. It was getting darker and the light inside the box was fading – our box is only lit by natural daylight.

    The first set of photos, shown below, was how our nestbox looked to us with the Blue Tit moving a piece of wood shaving in its beak and finally getting comfortable in the corner where it tucked in its head ready to sleep over in our Nestbox. How great to see this activity again. If you are considering cleaning your nestbox this is the the advice that the RSPB give on doing it.

    In the second set of photos I altered the light contrasts so you could see it more clearly. The Blue Tit has been moving about since these photos were taken and appears to have also used the box as a toilet too - although I will need daylight to confirm this! That didn't happen with sleep overs in the Spring.

    I did say above
    that this was the second year we have had a Nestbox over winter. Last year we had a Terrace Nestbox - designed especially for House Sparrows as they are happy to nest in communities. However in Spring 2006 it was a Blue Tit that made nests and had young from it. Unfortunately that box suffered water damage and we replaced it this Spring with another of the same kind.

    It is very doubtful that the Terrace Nestbox had any Roosters last winter. However the replacement was occupied this year – but we weren’t happy at all with these residents - wasps! As this Nestbox is sited on the wall above our back door we had to destroy the nest which you can see in the photo below.

    Three weeks ago we also cleaned out this Nestbox but it took a few days dry out and now has wood shavings in it too. I wonder if we might get roosters in this Nestbox – no camera there though!

    Last November I also put up three roosting pockets on the ivy clad trellis of my pergola. I have no idea if they were used but I have to say I have been noticing small birds passing through this area recently and one day I did spot a tiny wren!

    I did set up my video camera, outside on my tripod, but didn’t catch any activity at the pockets. However I also spotted two wrens together on the branches of my small Acer at my back door so I wonder if they will spend the winter in my garden somewhere. I will keep an eye out for them.

    All Camera Nestbox photos shown above were taken in my garden on October 29th 2007.

    Tuesday, 23 October 2007

    Gunnera winter ready

    This morning saw the frost back but it wasn't too bad. We have yet to get a full hard frost but now when we do my Gunnera is ready for it. As promised, I have photos and details of what I have done to protect my Gunnera for winter. Although this has been successful for quite a few years now I never assume it will always be so - especially as now our weather is more unpredictable!

    Looking back to May 31st, shown in the first photo below, you can see how lush this area was looking and how fresh the leaves in my Gunnera were in the dappled sunshine.

    Last Wednesday evening, when I went out to protect my Gunnera plant as frost was predicted, this area looked quite different on a cold night with artificial light.

    It was a dry night and I would not have done this job had the ground and plants been wet. Many plants were passed their best and the whole area was in need of a good tidy up. I pruned hard and pulled out some plants completely as I was certain with all the seed capsules that many new plants will appear next year anyway.

    During my tidy up I set aside the Gunnera leaves (with stems cut off) and all the dried-up ferns.

    Next, I went to my small Acer at my back door and picked up all its dry leaves from the ground and gently pulled off any remaining ones on its branches - they were ready to fall and this also stopped them falling into my pond. I now had all I needed to protect my Gunnera.

    My intention was to protect the base of the flower. I loosely scattered all the ferns and leaves around the two flower spikes.

    Now to the fun part... I took the smallest of my gunnera leaves and turned it upside down and pushed it through the centre of a flower spike.

    I then repeated this using the medium leaves finishing with the largest leaf. You can see just the tip of the Gunnera flower spike now.

    Job done and this area has had a bit of a make-over too as you can see.

    Ah... but what about the wildlife that would have been living there pre tidy-up?

    Well, the upturned Gunnera leaves will probably play host to much wildlife as will the evergreen ferns that grow in this area. I also have a sickly bamboo here too and on another dry day I will pick up leaves (especially the odd fallen sulphur heart ivy ones) and use the bamboo stems like a cage and drop the leaves into its base to provide new winter wildlife homes.

    Now, as I walk past this border at first glance it looks neat and tidy but at the back and around its edges it still has many homes for wildlife. I also planted my Hellebores, as you can see in the foreground which will feed early insects in Spring.

    Meantime throughout winter, insects can still enjoy the small pine tree, an ivy-glad rotting tree branch and walkway trellis, a dwarf Rhododendron and some everygreen ferns. Everyone's happy.

    Okay so what is missing? Perhaps it isn't obvious in the previous photos but my Gunnera isn't growing in water! Gunneras are usually seen as happy at the waters edge of large ponds or boggy areas - but I don't have a large pond or the space to have one.

    However, after walking under a huge planting of Gunnera at Trebah Garden my daughters were very keen to have them in our garden to walk under.

    Now, of course, as my plant grew - so did my daughters so they are not likely to walk under mine! I am sentimental about plants though - so I will try and keep this one for some time yet.

    Turning back to earlier in the year (April 12th 2007) you can see below what this plant was like when I was removing the protective leaves from the previous year.

    New growth was forcing its way up towards the light. Now you can see the base of the plant much more clearly. You can also see the bottom layer of foliage has withered down too. I always worry frost will get the crown when I remove this to let the plant grow.

    It's only at this stage you can see there is a gravel path (also with stepping stones) leading down to my Gunnera from each side. It is planted in a small dip which is not perhaps that obvious in this image. I put three poles across to act as a small bridge for my daughters to sit on or balance along when they were younger.

    Perhaps I should add here that before I planted my Gunnera I put down a piece of plastic from a compost bag - black side up and pierced a number of holes in it. I then added a mix of garden soil and compost and watered it well. This now acted like a bog garden but only in the area below the Gunnera.

    In its first couple of years, if we had dry spells, I would throw a bucket of water over this plant and it would collect under the bridge. This Gunnera also grows out of full sun. During the afternoon the leaves do get some sunshine as you can see in my first photo but it seems happy there and has not outgrown its space which is usually a worry to gardeners.

    Growing plants I find very rewarding especially when I try growing them where I want to grow them rather than where they would like to grow. I know... it should be right plant, right place. My planting experiments don't always work but hey I have fun trying. I can always move them again... most of the time ;-)

    2008 Update:: I protected my Gunnera slightly differently this year.

    2009 Update: I protected my Gunnera a bit later than I should have. I used a mix of the two previous years methods to protect it. It perhaps didn't look too pretty but this was a very cold winter and this plant did survive when many other plants did not.

    Unless otherwise stated, all photos shown above were taken during the evening of October 17th 2007.

    Friday, 19 October 2007

    Albino Wildlife

    Last night BBC’s ‘One Show’ featured hedgehogs once again. I was busy at the time so asked my daughter to quickly record the programme. Today at lunchtime we watched this film and although we didn’t see the whole programme I was fascinated to see the very young hedgehog that the presenter was holding and even more so the albino one that wildlife presenter Steve Backshall was holding. I found myself researching this a bit more.

    Searching the Internet through Google, or any other search engine, can be a bit hit or miss. It always requires a bit of filtering as we all know. However, I did find a few very interesting links that I would like to share. I found photos of two young albino hedgehogs and an adult male albino hedgehog .

    However, the most interesting link I found was this one at the Daily Mail which shows photos of other albino animals. Although, I have to say that for some reason looking at these photos made me feel a little uncomfortable. I actually got the shivers looking at the white squirrel and peacock!

    At the same time as I was browsing these sites I happened to look out my window and saw a juvenile blackbird. That isn’t exactly unusual, for this time of year, but I have been trying for the last two weeks to get photos of them to show the changing of their feathers from brown to black.

    Today however, I managed to get a photo through my window, which you can see above, when I actually had my camera set up to catch the two Wrens I had seen visit earlier! When I uploaded my photos I found the wait was more than worth it. I had more than a photo of a Juvenile. I actually had one of, what looks like to me, a Juvenile Partial Albino Blackbird!

    If you look at
    the photo closely you can see the white feathers growing in at the top of the head. How weird was that to be searching about albino wildlife at the same time when it is right outside my window!

    Hungry Blackbird, video 0:13 with background music, try 480p quality.

    Partial Albino Blackbirds, where some feathers grow white instead of black, I have noticed visiting my garden for over a year now. I have video footage of one visit taken in February this year which you can see above.

    However, I have found it very difficult to get photos but coincidentally earlier this week I set up my camera inside my back door to get a photo of the Juvenile Blackbirds – guess what I actually got? Yes, a photo of Partial Albino male Blackbird. This is always how it works in my garden when I set up my camera or video camera on my tripod – I get the unexpected! Through the glass the photo, shown below, isn’t as clear as it could be but it still shows how the white feathers are growing on the head of this bird.

    Why do white feathers grow on the heads of blackbirds and other birds? Well, this RSPB page shows complete albinism in a Blackbird – again I feel uncomfortable looking at the photo. However, I also found on another of my Birding Links 'British Garden Birds' a detailed description of why the white feathers grow. In this site it reads:
    Albinism is usually a genetic condition that causes the absence of pigment, but may also be caused through malnutrition, parasites or injuries. A common belief was that too much white bread was the cause of albinism, but this is not the case. Albinism of varying degrees is quite common in

    I would definitely agree that Blackbirds can have this in varying degrees as I have definitely seen at least three different Partial Albino Blackbirds visit my garden – the patterns of white feathers are different in them all. They don’t get white bread in my garden either. I would really like to get some good photos of them but for today I am absolutely delighted with the photo of the Juvenile through my window!

    The photos above were taken in my garden on October 16th & 19th 2007. The video above was taken in my garden on February 18th 2007.

    Thursday, 18 October 2007

    Wildlife sunbathers

    This post is especially for those who enjoy seeing wildlife photos from my garden. It is also quite a contrast from frost in the previous post. I am delighted that today I finally managed to get photos of the Red Admiral butterfly visiting the plants in my garden around 12.30pm when it was warm and sunny. These photos finally make a complete set of the butterflies that I have seen visit this year. We have had many Small Tortoiseshells, a number of Peacocks and a few Painted Ladies.

    The butterflies are definitely looking like sunbathers at the moment. I have seen them sitting in the sunshine on window sills, rocks, stone edging and gravel paths for long periods of time. They are also thoroughly enjoying the flowers of my Verbena Bonariensis, Nepata and Cirsium.

    The Red Admiral can be seen on the Vebena flowers in the first photos shown above followed by the Small Tortoiseshell on a rock.

    What can I say about the bees? It is only recently by taking photos of them and have come to appreciate quite how pretty they are. I have to be honest though and say that I am not sure what type of bees I have photos of. Although now, I am definitely interested in finding out so I will contact the Bumblebee Conservation Trust and ask them.

    Update 24th October - Thank-you Gillian, from the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, for identifying the bee in my photo above as a queen buff-tailed bumblebee. I would never have guessed that a queen is out and about at this time of year.

    The photos of the Red Admiral Butterfly were taken in my garden on October 18th 2007. All other photos were taken in my garden on October 17th 2007.

    Prediction accurate

    This morning we had frost as predicted. So how cold was it? Well when my OH left for work at 6.20 am it read -1 deg C on his car temperature gauge. He travelled South for twenty-five miles and after only 9 miles the temp read 2 deg C. At the end of his journey the temp had risen to 3 deg C. So it was a morning of frost on the cars where we live but not a widespread frost. Only parts of my back garden had a covering of frost as it is more sheltered especially with our hedge on two sides.

    Frost on foliage I find particularly beautiful and two plants in my garden that show that off extremely well are the Heucheras and the Bergenia shown in the small photos, above left. Unfortunately I didn't manage out with my camera until 10am and by then much of the frost was melting. However Physocarpus Diablo showed no signs of frost at all. Instead it caught my eye with its beautiful autumn foliage and all signs of its stunning chocolate brown leaves are gone now. I am guessing the Sulphur Heart ivy growing on the trellis side of my pergola behind it gives it some protection.

    Frost on flowers can also look fantastic although I did find myself looking at my Polygala Chamebuxus flowers (shown in the second set of photos, right top) this morning with a little pang of concern. Although I do know they should be fine. This plant normally flowers in Spring but it is covered with buds now. I wonder how many will open before we get very hard frosts and if they will survive then.

    Japanese Anemones have to appear again – apologies if you are getting bored with them but they are my favourites just now. I will be posting on propagating them soon but for the moment I wanted to share another couple of photos. I did notice a frillier set of petals on one bloom the last time I took photos but it only occurred to me this morning that this was a plant I bought last year about this time. It was reduced in cost as it was dried out in its pot and really looked quite dead. However I did spot the label ‘Anemone Whirlwind’ and I liked the look of its flower on the label. I went away thrilled with my purchase with only one thing on my mind – to make new plants from it. I’ll tell you how I did that in another post!

    With frost in mind last night I worked in my Gunnera border - courtesy of my outside light! It was a very satisfying job indeed. My Gunnera is now tucked up in bed for the winter and I will post on how I did that very soon. Although there is lots to do in the garden at this time of year I enjoy it almost as much as May - my favourite gardening month of the year!

    Finally, apologies to those who prefer to read about the birds and wildlife in my garden. At the moment there is a lot I would like to do with the plants in the next two weeks. Then they will just get on with it with little help from me!

    The photos above were taken in my garden on October 18th 2007.

    Wednesday, 17 October 2007

    Beautiful winter flowers

    Garden Bloom Day has just passed and browsing through other garden blogs I noticed many comments regarding the likely absence of flowers for future winter posts. Coincidentally last Friday evening I picked up a collection set of young plants that will be in flower from November through until March. I had originally intended to title this post as ‘A blast from the past’ as it has been some time since I have had this plant growing in my garden!

    Helleborus Orientalis can be seen in the photo montage above showing the mix that this set promises although I am not holding my breath that I will get one of each. However, this selection will be a good start for their return into my garden. The plants are young so I expect flower numbers will be small but as the bees will pollinate these plants it is likely that if they reseed I will get different flower types in the future. I think they will look best in my Gunnera border with the ferns and wild flowers, which is sheltered and in semi shade, but I might plant a couple around my pond so I can see them from my window.

    I will definitely return to posting on this plant group in the future - they have beautiful foliage too. There are many different varieties of Helleborus or Hellebores are they are more commonly known. I particularly like the green flowers. I came across this set when I wasn’t looking for them and I am so glad I did. Their flowers always remind me of the Japanese Anemones although they are what I would call ‘shy’ or ‘modest’ flowers as they don’t usually face upwards. You have to lift them up to see them. I can remember many years ago visiting a collection in a woodland setting in Scotland where the owners of this garden laid a series of mirrors on the ground so you could see the flowers without touching them. Although this was quite strange to see it was an absolutely fascinating visit!

    Finally, I must add that a widespread frost is expected in Scotland overnight so I wonder if I will have any plant casualties. I will expect to see the bird feeders particularly busy tomorrow morning and tonight I had better remember to put out plenty of food for the hedgehog who still visits - although we don't always see it.

    Monday, 15 October 2007

    Blog Action Day

    Bloggers Unite - Blog Action Day

    Okay, I’ve registered my blog to say that I have taken part with a post today. I am also recycling the photo above. The organisers say:

    “Our aim is to get people thinking, discussing, questioning and talking about the environment, from every angle, niche, viewpoint and personality.”

    I am simply going to say that directly through writing this gardenwatch blog I myself have become much more aware of the birds and wildlife that visit my garden and how easily their survival can hang in the balance.

    For Blog Action Day I would like to raise the profile of Bees who play an invaluable job of pollinating our wildflowers and crops. Sadly their numbers are in decline at the moment. As a gardener I have already planted a number of plants that are attractive to bees and I will continue to do this. I have a variety of plants in my small garden and as more and more wildlife discover my garden I feel I am making a difference.

    Update 24th October - Thank-you Gillian, at the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, for identifying the bee in my photo above as a male white-tailed bumblebee (Bombus lucorum).

    The photo above was taken in my garden on September 20th 2007.

    Garden Bloom Day October 2007

    Another month has passed quickly by and it is time once again to post on what is currently in flower in my garden. I am not alone in my posting today and to see what is in flower in other gardens visit May Dreams Gardens and browse the comments on Carol’s Garden Bloom Day post for October. My garden is looking seasonally autumnal as the photos below show.

    Photos above from top: Acers showing beautiful leaf colours, Acer seed capsules, Japanese Anemones, Sea Holly and Polygala.

    The Japanese Anemones have continued to display their beautiful white flowers and are looking stunning with the changes in foliage colour with the plants that surround them. The Sea Holly is now starting to show signs of fading and the small tubular creamy white and lemon flowers of the Polygala were a surprise to see at this time of year.

    Photos above from top: Gunnera flower spike, Golden Hop, Stonecrop Sedum, Ophiopogon planiscpus ‘Nigrescens’ berries and growing through Saxifraga variagata (London Pride).

    My Gunnera has had a couple of flower spikes for a few months now but soon I will have to consider cutting down its large leaves and pushing them through the spike to protect for it to survive another year. The golden hop is laden with hops at the moment but it’s foliage is starting to show signs of it too coming to the end of the season. In the next two weeks I will have that pruned back to the ground.

    London Pride is looking particularly colourful at the moment and I love to see my grasses grow through it - in particular the Ophiopogon which has berries developing in other clumps in my garden. Another surprise, whilst taking my photos, was the single stem of red growth on my Peiris – this growth usually comes during Spring.

    Photos above from top: Sedum Rose Carpet in hanging basket, Clematis ‘Silver Moon’, Brunnera 'Jack Frost', Nepata ‘Walkers Low’, Borage blue and white.

    Sedum ‘Rose Carpet’ has been looking great in my hanging basket although I had hoped to see butterflies and bees covering it. At the moment my garden has a range of very interesting colours from the wide variety of greens and autumnal colours. However, it is still holding on to some delicate summer colours with the other plants in the photo selection above.

    Photos above from top: Cotoneaster Hybridus Pendulus, Calendula, Alpine Aster, Verbena Bonariensis and Cerise Pink Impatiens.

    Cotoneaster berries add to the splashes of intense colour still seen dotted in small bursts in my garden. These colours are slowly slipping away with each flower finishing but I don’t mind this transition at all. I have a predominately foliage garden so now it is time for me to appreciate these backbone plants of my garden. I enjoy seeing the structure of my garden in the autumn and winter months.

    Photos above from top: Cirsium rivulare "Atropurpureum" and Penstemon ‘Etna’.

    I am delighted to be able to show the first flowers of the second flush on my Cirsium which I cut back completely to the ground after it finished flowering during the summer. Last year I had one single flower spike flowering in December so this year I am hoping for many more second time around!

    Finally, I am finishing with a photo of the moment as I publish this post. It shows my favourite part of the garden today. There are only a few flowering stems left on my penstemon and in a few days all the beautiful leaves of the Acer will lie crumpled underneath. I hope you are enjoying your garden at the moment as much as I am thoroughly enjoying mine!

    The photos above were taken in my garden on September14th 2007, with the exception of the last two full sized photos which were taken on September 15th 2007.

    Saturday, 13 October 2007

    Blog Action Day October 15th

    “On October 15th, bloggers around the web will unite to put a single important issue on everyone’s mind - the environment. Every blogger will post about the environment in their own way and relating to their own topic.”

    To find out more go to Blog Action Day

    I first found out about this by reading this post on a garden blog I regularly visit. Thanks Kim! I have been thinking about it since then and I have now decided what I will post on. My post theme will be simple but valuable.

    Friday, 12 October 2007

    Blowing in the wind

    I have a compost bin but I have to confess to not being too successful in making good compost. However I can also generate a lot more material than my compost bin can take especially at this time of year. Fortunately our local council in my area of Scotland operate a green waste collection service and provide us with a wheelie bin to put our green waste in. Collections are every four weeks at this time of year and I did notice many households with bins out yesterday. Mine was full and I was looking forward to getting it emptied to use it once more.

    Pruning back my Jasmine that grows through the trellis and up over my corner walkway was the first job I intended doing after my bin was emptied. It was getting difficult walking through this structure with its branches spilling out. So yesterday afternoon armed once again with my secateurs out I went in to my garden. As I have said many times before – I just love pruning! As this plant was flowering on the new growth I was quite ruthless with my pruning. I cut many stems back to within two or three pairs of leaves - others I took out entirely as this jasmine shares this space with clematis and golden hop.

    Yesterday was another lovely day. It is definitely getting cooler now but we had blue skies and it was very pleasant to be outside working in the garden. As I walked back and forth to my bin with my pruned branches I noticed the wind pick up just a little. I then began to get distracted by plants gently blowing in the wind. After I completed my pruning I went in for a vase and stared collecting stems of the plants that were gently blowing in the wind.

    The vase filled up much more than I expected as looking around my garden now many plants are coming to the end of their season. We had light morning frosts about two weeks ago but none since then. I placed the vase on the seat of my arbour (which we treated last weekend) as it was a lovely autumn colour. I began my vase collection with the last scented white flowers of my Jasmine.

    Other climbing plants like my Sulphur Heart Ivy, Wisteria (whippy stems) and the small unnamed dark green leafed ivy were next to get a tidy up with the secateurs and I added the ivies to my vase.

    Flowering plants always last that bit longer if the flowering stems that have finished are cut back to allow the plant to put all its energy to new flowers. I had a number of stems like this with my Penstemon so my secateurs went searching. I found that previous winds had blown a few stems with flowers to the ground so I added them to my vase. A white Campanula, unusual for this time of year, had one stem with flowers – it too had fallen to the ground so that was also added to my vase. The beautiful orange Calendulas were starting to droop a little so I took two good flowers for my vase to give the last buds a chance to open. The Japanese Anemones and Verbena Bonariensis have still plenty of flowers but I expect the Anemone will last the longest – my vase wouldn’t be complete without them as they always blow in the wind. I also found one remaining Shasta Daisy flower so it and a few of the flowers that were passed I also added to my vase.

    The sea holly in my front garden has looked the best I have seen it in years. I intended pulling the lot out last year as it just wasn’t flowering – I guessed as it was an old plant it was just passed its best. However one small piece was left growing at the edge of one of my grasses so I decided just to leave it and it has been quite a show stopper this year. It is also extremely prickly as I found when I pruned and picked up a stem lying on the ground! The Sea Holly is in an open situation so it too blows in the slightest of winds. My cut stem was very carefully added to my vase!

    Pruning for a second flush I posted on back in August and after being pruned then my Nepata Walker’s Low is looking great in flower once more. My Cirsium too is flowering once again too but as it has much more growth to put on yet and as it wasn’t actually blowing in the wind I left it alone. However the Nepata was added to my vase.

    Ornamental grasses are always great for movement in the garden so as you would guess a selection was added to the vase. My bamboos were also gently moving yesterday and what did catch my eye was the Golden Hop that I am allowing to grow up my dead bamboo which had many bunches of hops blowing on its branches.

    Tree branches were also gently moving yesterday but the movement of the Acers were really catching my eye with their autumn coloured leaves. My Pendulus Cotoneaster tree also caught my attention yesterday with its branches still laden with berries. I was able to add a pruned stem of these to my vase.

    Dark brown, dry crumpled leaves from my Rowan Tree are now scattered on the ground around my arbour, on plants, gravel paths and on the lawn at that area of my garden. They too were blowing gently around in the wind yesterday but I don’t particularly enjoy seeing them. In borders and at my back door I also have Acer leaves in orange, yellow and red colours on the ground - I don’t mind seeing them for a little while at least. I will be picking them up and if I get them when they are still dry I will relocated them in my Gunnera border so any wildlife can use them from there. I could also try putting wet and dry ones in bags to make leaf mould by adding drainage hole and some water to the bag, tying it up and hiding it away behind my shed until spring.

    Finally, I must add here that now is a time to consider covering small ponds with netting to catch the falling autumn leaves that are blowing about. All we need at the moment is a very cold night and strong winds and the leaves will be everywhere – including in the ponds. Decomposing leaves at the bottom of ponds can give off gases which in turn can make the surface of a pond look oily. You can see a photo of this here . So I plan to go fishin’ once again in my pond over the weekend to remove a few more pieces of duck weed and any leaves that may already be sitting in the bottom of my pond. I will then consider what I will use to prevent the leaves getting in my pond but at the same time allowing the birds and wildlife access!

    The photo above was taken in my garden on October 11th 2007.

    Tuesday, 9 October 2007

    Ready for roosters

    Yesterday we finally found the time to take down our Camera Nestbox and give it all a good clean in preparation for any birds that may want to roost in it over the cold autumn and winter nights ahead. It is important that any Nestbox is cleaned after it has been used as it can harbour fleas and other parasites. Autumn is a good time to do this.

    You may find unhatched eggs in a nest and it is actually illegal to remove these from the end of January to the beginning of August. As we had a camera in our Nestbox we knew what to expect when we opened it. We had eight eggs hatch in May but sadly no chicks survived despite the efforts of the parents to find food. Our Nestbox was by no means the only unsuccessful pair of Blue Tits this year as I found out through forums, comments and email. We were very privileged indeed to see any activity at all in our Camera Nestbox especially when it was only up two days when we had our first visitors.

    If you were considering putting up a Nestbox with or without a camera I think the 2 minute video clip below would perhaps tempt you. It has not been edited in any way except to add the text. If you turn up your speakers you will hear the female inside the box calling to the male. The light flickering is the male at the entrance hole. When he finally comes in he inspects the box more thoroughly - the female looked exhausted! He also checks out the camera too which was a bit worrying to watch at the time! You can see the whole story from our Camera Nestbox here .

    To clean our Nestbox we carefully followed the instructions from the supplier of our Nestbox and only used boiling water to clean it after we scrapped out the remnants of the nest. The nest can be seen in the photos below. It took the female Blue Tit quite a time to build and we were beginning to think at one point that she was going to give up completely!

    The main photo above shows the nest as we found it when we opened the front panels yesterday. You can see how the female Blue Tit layered it all. So many pieces of material came in the box and was taken out again. Maybe this was due to inexperience - perhaps this was her first nest!

    The top photo on the right shows the last photo taken from the camera inside the box on Sept 30th. Our camera shows colour when there is good light and black and white on duller days.

    The bottom photo on the right shows a photo from the camera in our box at 5pm yesterday after cleaning with it mounted back on the wall. The instruction sheet for cleaning also mentioned that the RSPB recommend adding a handful of clean hay or wood shavings for any roosting birds. We added wood shavings - but it was stressed that the wood shavings should not be treated with any preservative or insecticide.

    I have to say this is the second year we have opened a Nestbox to see a nest but despite that still found it fascinating to see in particular when we watched the work that went into building it. Last year it was our Terrace Nestbox that we opened to find a nest for the first time. We opened that one yesterday too but we are still waiting for it to dry out before we put it up again – its design is quite different. I will post on the terrace at the weekend.

    Having our Camera Nestbox open meant that we took the opportunity to give the camera lens and the inside roof a wipe clean too. You can see how the camera fits in our box in the photo above.

    You can see where the connectors are in the photos above too. However, we added a ‘box cover’ for the connectors outside the box as we felt they would need protected from our Scottish weather! We have a wire running down our house wall (tucked behind a drainpipe) then it goes through our house wall and we have it connected to our PC. This Nestbox can also show images on a TV and you could just put the cable through a window to see all the action inside.

    Infra red would allow us to see inside our box when it is dark although at present we do not have this. We have considered whether we would change this or not for next year – we are undecided on this. At the moment we see inside our box only by daylight through the holes in the roof. A clear piece of Perspex covers the holes. We have been very happy with the way our box has worked. If you were considering buying the same Camera Nestbox I should point out that the manufacturer of our box has changed the design for 2008.

    Finally, I wanted to show our Camera Nestbox from the outside. The video above is one of my favourite clips taken from my video camera which I set up on a tripod in my garden.

    I have absolutely no idea if our Camera Nestbox will get birds roosting in it in the months ahead as this is all completely new to us. However, we have made our Camera Nestbox ready for roosters and we will enjoy looking in on it to see if it gets used again. I also really hope that in sharing our Nestbox story that possibly more nestboxes might get put up in gardens, schools and places of work - that I would be thrilled about!

    Sunday, 7 October 2007

    Friends for Ferns

    Recently I have been looking in on the BBC Gardening Message Board. Occasionally I make a comment when I have something to add. One night I had quite a surprise when I answered one query on hedgehogs. The author replied saying said it was seeing my videos that made her interested in attracting them to her garden. I was well chuffed! However it is a request for ‘complimentary planting’ for ferns that has sparked this post.

    Heucheras, Hostas and Japanese Anemones would definitely be in my list to plant with ferns as a few other comments also suggest. I would also consider mixing different varieties of ferns including evergreen ones. There is quite a range of different leaf formations in ferns from the Cristata’s to the Heart’s Tongue!

    I could not say which fern has been my favourite over the years but what I will say is that the two most memorable plantings of ferns I have seen so far has to be a huge clump of shuttlecock ferns at Cambridge Botanical Gardens and the Fernery at Tatton Park.

    The photos below show some of the planting schemes I am using with ferns in my garden at the moment. I have grown ferns in this garden for sixteen years now and they are definitely another plant group that I could not see my garden without.

    The photo above shows a few varieties of ferns in my garden in May. They are growing in a shady area behind a fence and below a small pine tree with Hostas, Aegpodium, Red Campion, Aquilegia, Dwarf Rhododendron, Gunnera and Thalectrum. Later in the Year the plants on the right of the photo are further in shade when the Gunnera gets taller.

    In the photo above ferns are growing at the base of a Pieris with Heucheras, Ornamental Grass and silver leafed Euphorbia.

    In the photo above the ferns are once again growing with Euphorbia at the edge of my small pond alongside my small domed Acer. Behind it grows Japanese Anemones, Bowles Golden Sedge Grass and Meconopsis.

    In the photo above ferns are growing in a rockery setting with the smaller leaf of alpine Lady’s Mantle and a selection of ‘Yak’ hybrid Rhododendrons. They are growing out of the mossy rocks and through the small densely packed leaves of Polygala.

    In the photo above ferns are growing through a clump of Bergenia and you can see these ones are starting to get past their best now. You can also see the black grass Ophiopogon in the background too. There is also a pot, which doesn’t contain a fern, I do have other ferns both small varieties and larger ones in pots which look fantastic placed against upright structures like my arbour.

    In the photo above ferns are growing once again alongside Euphorbia and Heuchera. They are also under planted with a small Astilbe and Candelabra and Drumstick Primulas.

    Finally I am finishing this post with the view from behind a fern. Looking at this one from the other side you would see that it backs the trellis of my pergola. Behind it grows my wisteria and in front grows the shrub Choisya ‘Aztec Pearl’. This is a large fern and as it grows up above the choysia it also cover the base of Physocarpus Diablo. The ornamental grass ‘Molina’ adds a delicacy to this area.

    I hope this post helps raise the profile of this graceful plant – which looks particularly special in the spring as its fronds unfurl. I will add some photos of this later but for the moment it is late and I cannot find them - perhaps it is now time I did a spot of filing with my many photo folders! I will also post photos of the varieties of ferns I have growing in my garden at a later date although now is perhaps not the time to do this as some are past their best now - perhaps this will be a post for next year.

    All photos shown above, expect the first one, were taken in my garden on October 6th 2007.

    Feed the Birds Day – Oct 27

    Browsing the RSPB website the other day I came across a 'Feed the Birds Day'. I had never heard of it and thought I would share this information with anyone in the UK that may be interested. You can read more about this on this page of the RSPB website where you can follow the links. The RSPB have also arranged 55 events supporting this day. You can browse this list to see if there is an event near you. Equally, if you are reading this from another country I don’t see any reason why you couldn’t join in any way if you wish.

    Sunflower hearts are the most popular food for the visiting birds to my garden. I put them in feeders, on the bird table and scatter some on the ground. You can see in the photo below they were particularly popular back in May with both the Blackbirds and Starlings who went away with mouthfuls to feed their young!

    Mealworms were also very popular at the end of May when I put out some live ones for the Blue Tits to feed their young in our Camera Nestbox. The Dunnock found them and made numerous trips until the lot were gone! I don’t usually put out mealworms live or frozen but I did this to help the blue tit chicks in our Nestbox as the parents couldn’t find enough insects (particularly caterpillars) to feed them and had resorted to giving the week-old chicks sunflower hearts. Sadly all eight chicks died and the Blue Tit male in the larger photo was too late with his find – he took it into the Nestbox but then came out again with it as the last two chicks were barely moving.

    Sultanas scattered on the ground are another favourite for the Blackbirds and Starlings but I am now guessing after our recent hedgehog visits that it too has been enjoying them before now. I started putting sultanas out after a Song Thrush started visiting not knowing it would be so popular!

    Peanuts I occasionally put into the feeders but last year I used a small feeding house hanging on a hook and a Jackdaw perfected a technique to fly at it and scoop up a mouthful at a time. It was a funny sight and I never caught it on camera!

    Fatcakes are another strong favourite in the winter months and I believe that is what attracted the Blackcaps to visit my garden in January. You can see it in use in the video below. Sadly, for the Blackcaps, the Starlings went mad for them and came in large numbers. The Blackcaps finally left. I did try using a Fatcake Guardian but the Starling eventually mastered getting in that too!

    Bread and Cheese I have also thrown on the ground and put on the bird table. The grated cheese is loved again by the blackbirds but, surprise surprise the Starlings went mad for that too. I actually put the cheese out to attract the wren! It has been very interesting experimenting with foods for the birds.

    As Gardeners we can help feed the birds too by planting a wide variety of plants that will attract a wide variety of insects so the birds can feed their young as well as themselves. The most obvious are plants with berries but just by having a variety of shrubs and trees will help tremendously. Equally adding some water into the garden is a great idea as insects can be found on the edges and the birds can also drink from it too.

    Other foods I have tried have been Niger seeds (thistle seeds) and various mixed seed mixes. I stopped using these as they all resulted in some food being left and countless weeds beneath the feeders – I am a gardener and it passed my threshold of mess. The ‘No Mess’ mixes did work but the small seeds were left and in trying to keep the feeders regularly clean (to stop the spread of any diseases) meant I had to clean it up. So finely I had enough of this and stopped using it!

    Finally, there are many ways we can all help feed the birds that visit our gardens but for me I have thoroughly enjoyed experimenting to see what I can attract into my small Scottish Garden.

    Early Bird Watch Oct 2007

    This morning’s bird count wasn’t planned. I was up early, the house was quiet and so was the garden as I opened the curtain to another beautiful October morning. I love to watch my garden awaken in the morning. I looked up my blog and saw in was the 7th March when I did my last Early Bird Watch. During the summer my attention was drawn to all the juvenile birds that were visiting and now in hindsight I wish I had done a count then. This morning’s Early Bird Watch was done between 7.30-8.30am.

    The Robin was the first bird I spotted this morning not singing from the trees but bouncing along the ground - it soon found the sunflower hearts I scattered under my small domed Acer tree yesterday. This morning I saw one Robin.

    A Juvenile Blackbird closely followed the robin beside the pond. I have to say I didn’t expect to see one of these this morning – its back feathers had turned black but the front was still brown not unlike the photo below which was taken of another juvenile in May this year. Recently I have noticed the blackbirds return to running around the plants chasing each other. I had also noticed a few different partial albinos (blackbirds with white feathers – often on the head) and one did visit this morning. The photo below was taken earlier in the year – I would like to get some better photos to show the different patterns of white feathers on these birds. This morning I saw five Blackbirds.

    Singing from a tree branch my attention was next drawn to a female Chaffinch. I had never noticed her singing before although it is sometimes difficult to see who is singing from trees when there are leaves on the trees. However my neighbour’s cherry tree was given a severe pruning last weekend so now as there are only stumps left we can easily see the birds. However, this Chaffinch today was singing near my feeders on the branch of my cotoneaster tree – whose berries are looking particularly well at the moment. Soon the birds will eat the berries but as I planted it for them to eat I don’t mind about that at all. This morning I saw five Chaffinches.

    The Dunnock is particularly hard to see on the ground as it darts about under the plants. I love to watch it. It also can be seen visiting the bird table too as it did this morning. This morning I saw two Dunnocks.

    The House Sparrows are always very entertaining to watch in the garden. They really are great fun. Recently they appear to have claimed the caged feeder as their own – scaring off any other birds that come along as well as fighting with each other! Although without a doubt my favourite sightings of the House Sparrows has to be them popping in and out of my hedge. They appear in a scattered formation overlooking the feeders which are just a metre away. As I use my zoom lens to catch them I have difficulty in getting them in focus – it is also very difficult to predict which gap they will pop through when the start doing this! I have seen at least 15 do this at the same time. This morning I saw seven House Sparrows during my count but more came later.

    Blue Tits and Great Tits are also difficult to catch with my camera as they are so quick to the feeders. Often they just take a sunflower heart away and eat it from the safety of a tree branch above. However the are very easy to spot in flight with their short swooping flight pattern. This morning I saw one Blue Tit and one Great Tit.

    Greenfinches on the other hand are much easier to catch on film – but also by the cats too! They also fight amongst each other but the video below taken in September 2006 shows that they can eat nicely too! This morning I saw four Greenfinches.

    Flying over the garden I spotted a group of eleven seagulls, two crows and three Woodpigeons. I had wondered if I would see a Sparrowhawk but no sign this morning. However it is the Woodpigeon in flight that always surprises me. It is really fast and smooth - quite a contrast to the way it waddles slowly and clumsily around the garden. Today it made an appearance at the feeders stopping the smaller birds getting near for a while and then on the ground at the scattered sunflower hearts. Although one Woodpigeon was not keen at all to share its find this morning and continually chased off its prospective dining partner – quite unlike the pair in the video below taken in January!

    Finally, I have to add here that although it appears I have a wide variety of birds in my garden these are by no means the only birds that are visiting at the moment. For those who are not familiar with my visiting birds I also have Coal Tits, Goldfinches, Siskins, Starlings, Song Thrushes and an occasional Sparrowhawk visiting. I probably still have a wren but as the ground is covered with plants I am unable to see it easily. Today was really quite tricky to see and count the birds on the ground with all my plants in full growth but what a lovely exercise this is - I would definitely recommend it!

    None of the photos or videos shown above were taken in my garden today.