Saturday, 22 December 2007

Magical winter moments

This morning is the third morning in a row that I have awoken to a seriously hard frost covering my entire garden. So my gardening once again has stopped for the moment. It is 8am as I begin this post and here in my garden in Scotland the day is just beginning – it is not yet dawn.

Photos above: Bamboo (main pic), euphorbia and black grass.


I can see white frost clothing my bamboo against the dark background of my hedge. I can just make out the blackbirds as they sit or run along the top of my hedge, my trellis and arch before they jump down and run along the ground. I am guessing that the sunflower hearts will be frozen so I will just go and throw some fresh ones out on the ground through my window.

I can also just make out the distinctive shape of the robin as it bobs back and forth at the small feeder tray in my Acer. One blackbird has been watching me and has found the fresh sunflower hearts so before long the others will follow and some fighting amongst them is likely. If I have time this is my most favourite part of the day watching the early birds visit my garden as light comes up.


On Thursday I went out into my garden with my camera to get photos of the frosted plants but it was the frosted spider’s webs that caught my attention! How beautiful they all looked dripping all over my garden. All along my hedge webs could be seen, hanging from the edges of my shed, pergola, arches and many plants too. I walked around with my camera and mostly just admired them – I took a few photos.

As Friday morning
had an even harder frost my garden was seriously gripped by winter now. I went out with my video camera to film the plants and frozen spider’s webs. I set up my tripod for this and as I stood behind it adjusting height etc my attention was drawn to activity at my apple obelisk.

The apples I put out on this obelisk have continued to be extremely popular with birds feeding from it for most of the day! As I look out now I can see a male blackbird pecking away – I expect the apples will be frozen too. However it was a smaller bird I saw at the apples as I looked across from behind my tripod – it wasn’t a blue tit either. It was a darker bird. I then realised what I was looking at – the return of the Blackcap to my garden and I had my camera! I quickly switched it on and hit record.


Blackcap video, 1:01 with background music, try 480p quality.


A female Blackcap was eating apple from my obelisk. I had been hoping we might see them return in January as they came last year at this time. Some blackcaps, I understand, have started visiting Scottish gardens the last few years – not a usual place for them to be during winter. I have never seen them in the summer. I was really thrilled to see it again. It was the fatcake that they enjoyed the last time but as the Starlings did too I believe this bird probably didn’t get enough peace in my garden and left after a week! I wonder if it will stay longer this time.

I cannot believe how quickly the blackcap finds its way around my garden. I have just seen her drink from the waters edge of my small pond (I’ll go out and break the ice soon). As I look out now she is eating sunflower hearts from my small feeder hidden in my Acer tree. For a bird that has great navigation skills I wonder why it has found its way to my garden rather than those in Spain or Africa where it should be!

So far, I have only seen the female blackcap and I am not certain but there could be two. Unless you see the chestnut brown cap on the head they can at a quick glance look like the female chaffinch. The male has, not surprisingly, a black cap on its head and really is quite noticeable in the garden. It can also be quite a bossy boots chasing off the other birds – except of course for the starlings! I wonder if we will see it visit today.


Blackbird video, 0:25 with background music, try 480p quality.


The female blackbirds however, are still the most dominant at my apple obelisk but yesterday it shared time about with the female blackcap. I have noticed two apples get eaten at the same time. Perhaps if the ground gets softer I will put out another obelisk and place two apples on each and see what happens then.

Looking out my window again I have just seen a young male blackbird chase off the female blackbird – I can see this feeding experiment is going to be the favourite winter feeding station of my garden. On a cold winter’s day what better to enjoy our winter gardens is there than to look out the window and watch the birds visit. Enjoy your garden this weekend – whatever the weather.

Finally, I would like to wish all my visitors both regular and new a Merry Christmas and Health and Happiness in 2008. I am looking forward to another year in my garden and I wonder what new visitors 2008 will bring! I have thoroughly enjoyed sharing moments from my garden and would like to thank-you all for joining me.


The photos above were taken in my garden on 19th and 20th December 2007. The videos above were taken in my garden on 20th December 2007.

21 comments:

Lisa at Greenbow said...

Shirl, what a delightful tour of your frosty garden. I just love the black grass with the frosty edges. It looks so pretty. Oh and the spider webs are just gorgeous.

I just read in my field guide of 'Birds of Britain and Europe' that the Blackcap is a secretive bird in the garden too. You are very lucky to have one in your garden. Your experiment is a major success!!

Barbara said...

We had our second day now with real frost (-8°C) and my garden looks quite similar to yours....but I haven't got frosty spider webs. The pictures are beautiful! I've started again to feed the birds with apples too, one of your last posts encouraged me. But up to now, they prefer the hanging feeders...
I wish you a merry Christmas and all the very best for the coming year. As always I'm looking forward to reading your interesting posts.
Barbara

Layanee said...

Shirl: Those spider webs are weird and wonderful. Great photos! Have a wonderful holiday!

urbanextension said...

Your female blackcap is beautiful. You are lucky! and such a great video. She looks so....delicate (is the only word I can think of). I haven't noticed any on the apples I put out, maybe it's because they are higher up. I will have to get an obelisk! Happy Christmas, and I'm looking forward to reading your online diary in 2008. Jane x

Blackswamp_Girl said...

I don't know what's cooler--seeing those lovely frosty spiderwebs or that you repurpose that obelisk as a bird feeder in the winter! How fun! :)

Mr. McGregor's Daughter said...

Those frosty spider webs are magical! Believe it or not, it was almost 50F here today, all my snow melted & the ground completely thawed. It was above freezing all night. I think it is warmer here in Northern Illinois than it is by you. Happy Holidays!

shirl said...

Hi again, Lisa, Barbara, Layanee, Jane, Kim and Mr McGregor’s Daughter and Merry Christmas to you all :-)

Lisa – Thank-you! I liked the black grass too and as for the spiders webs I was absoloutely spoilt for choice with the number in the garden that day! Yes, I had no idea last January what the blackcap was and a bird club confirmed it. I am absolutley thrilled to see it back but no sign of the male yet – he was first to arrive last year with the female arriving a week later. Yes, I cannot believe how popular the apples have been :-D

Barbara – We had to have had near -8 here too. Yes it is nice to think that all our gardens can look exactly the same with frost. The webs were amazing and I expected others would have had them too. Yes, I saw you had your feeders up I am sure you are enjoying watching the birds once again. Perhaps when more birds come some will enjoy the apples. Thank-you, I look forward to your posts and wonderful photos too :-D

Layanee – They were weren’t they! I wish I could have shared my whole garden – there had to be hundreds. Thank-you! Wishing you a great holiday too :-D

Jane – she is isn’t she but the male is really quite stunning but he is yet to make an appearance! Last year when they visited on New Year’s Day it was the fat cake that they enjoyed. It looks a little warmer outside today (still cold though) so I think I will put out another obelisk and put two apples on each rather than four on one. That way hopefully the blackcap will keep coming back too. Thank-you - I am also looking forward to visiting your 2008 online diary in particular to see what you capture on your new wildlife camera! More badgers and fox cubs would be good :-D

Kim – Like you Kim I do enjoy my garden and I try to reuse most things where I can. The obelisk was a feeding experiment – I had no idea how entertaining and popular it would be :-D

Mr McGregor’s Daughter – Yes they really were and they were all over my garden! Gosh that sounds like a big weather change in your garden. My garden isn’t frost covered this morning either but the birds are still searching at the feeders so I suspect it is still cold – some are empty so I should go out soon and top them up. Thank-you, wishing you Happy Holidays too :-D

Mike @ Fenphotography said...

Hi Shirl,
Great photos of the spiders webs, not something I'd payed much attention to until now they are stunning. Great blackcap video we have only had a male in our garden but never managed to photo it.
I missed your robin photos too, spot on.
Merry Crimbo back at ya, best wishes, Mike.

st said...

I also like the web shots.
merry christmas

shirl said...

Hi again, Mike and st :-)

Mike – Thank-you! I had never considered it myself until I went out to see my garden absolutely clothed in frosted cobwebs that day! Thank-you - I also tried to photograph the female blackcap but without success as she was moving too quickly. The male has to be the most photogenic between the two. I caught him on video on January 1st this year but I’ve yet to see him visit my garden just now. Thank-you - the robin photos capture that day very well. Wishing you all the best for 2008 :-D

St – Thank-you! I love how going out with the camera to catch one subject (in this case the plants) and discovering another getting unexpected captures. Wishing you and your family all the best for 2008 :-D

Robin's Nesting Place said...

I love the frosted spider webs. When we had our frozen fog I only had a single strand on my front porch and it was pretty. I wish I'd had a full web that day.

I enjoyed your videos.

I wish you and yours a very merry Christmas!

Yolanda Elizabet said...

Great pics of your winter wonderland! And see, it pays not to wipe away the cobwebs. ;-)

Merry Christmas to you and yours Shirl!

shirl said...

HI again, Robin and Yolanda :-)

Robin - the webs really were an amazing sight that day when there were so many! Thanks - I love to share videos and they are great fun making. I hope you are enjoying your Christmas too :-D

Yolanda - Thanks! Yes, definitely in this case! I hope you too are enjoying Christmas :-D

Jayne said...

Love those spider webs! Hope you and yours had a very wonderful Christmas Shirl. :c)

urbanextension said...

Wanted to leave a "happy Christmas" message on your Best Wishes post, but just couldn't seem to get into the entry... just kept giving me an error. But Happy Christmas & Happy New Year anyway!... Jane

farmingfriends said...

What beautiful frosty images you have captured. Hope that you have had a lovely Christmas. I look forward to reading your posts in 2008. Best wishes
Sara from farmingfriends

jodi said...

Finally my internet connection is cooperating so I'm late to the party, but bring my best wishes for a happy Hogmanay!
What you call a blackcap is also new to me--we have blackcapped chickadees here but not this blackcap. You've inspired me to put apples on the tops of several obelisks I have, too! Brilliant idea!

shirl said...

Hi again, Jayne. Jane, Sara and Jodi :-)

Jayne – I loved them too and I have never seen a display like it since! Thank-you we did have a good Christmas and I hope you did too. Wishing you all the best for 2008 :-D

Jane – Sorry you have had probs leaving a comment – strange one that though. I posted a ‘Best wishes’ post but very soon after changed my mind and deleted it adding a best wishes message at the end of this post. I no longer have any record at all of that post so I am very surprised you can see it. My husband suggests that you might have captured it on your PC’s temp internet files and it will be held until your PC clears any cached pages. Anyway thanks for your best wishes I hope you had a great Christmas and all the best for 2008 :-D

Sara – Thank-you! Yes, we had a good Christmas and I hope you did too. Thank-you, I am looking forward to another blogging year and would like to wish you all the best for 2008 :-D

Jodi – Glad you got sorted – it can be a real pain. Yes, your chickadees are like our coal tits but the blackcap is quite a different looking bird – we still haven’t seen the male yet but maybe he is waiting until New Year’s Day before he makes his appearance as he did this year! Good luck with the apples on obelisks – I cannot believe how successful they have been and they also add a spot of colour too. I hope you had a good Christmas. Thank-you for your wishes and a very Happy Hogmonay to you too :-D

chuck b. said...

Now I want to buy an obelisk, and some apples! What a GREAT idea!

I'm kind of surprised I've never seen that before now that I think about it.

shirl said...

Hi again, Chuck b :-)

Thanks! I had been tidying the garden and put away my obelisks into my shed for the season. I bought apples and as the others were soft I thought perhaps I could try giving them to the birds and then I remembered my obelisks! Problem solved and more space free in the shed too. I was thrilled to see it work :-D

However as the blackbirds and blackcap were queuing up to use it I added a second obelisk a few metres away. Too much of a good thing perhaps! Now they aren’t as popular. Yep, less is definitely the way to go at the feeders – make the birds think the food is going to run out to keep them interested :-D

easygardener said...

Yes I meant your obelisk not pergola!
Now I'll have to look up pergola to see what it is (lol).
Your two birds are a pair of gluttons. I'm fighting a losing battle with my apples. Any that I attach keep disappearing!! I'm forced to chop them into pieces.
Love the spider's webs by the way.