Wednesday, 31 January 2007

Table for two

Yesterday, at lunchtime, my daughter spotted the comical sight of this Woodpigeon pair having a lunch of sunflower hearts at a rather cosy table for two! Once his dinning partner left the remaining Woodpigeon appeared to eat twice the speed - no editing here! Recently the Starlings and woodpigeons have rather taken over the feeding stations leaving little room for even the smallest of birds – as you can see below.

Woodpigeon pair eating together, video 0:21 with background music, try 480p quality.


Woodpigeon eating alone, video 0:14 with background music, try 480p quality.


Videos, shown above and throughout this Blog, now stand at a total of 22. I have now made changes to the original shortcuts used to view my videos within the post they were published. I hope these changes will make it easier for those who may like see my videos again and for those who missed the post.

‘Bird video shortcuts’, within the posts of January will not be visible after today. It will not be removed. The programming of this Blog is set to show the current month of the current year. After today to see ‘Bird video shortcuts’ and any other posts in January, or previous months, simply click on the arrow to the right of January and it will expand to show all posts published then.

BIRD VIDEOS, located at the top of the right hand column of this Blog, contains the links to Bird videos taken in my garden. This will now take you directly to the full list of videos that have appeared in this Blog. Please note that the date shown beside the link is when the video was taken and not necessarily when the post was published.

Twenty-five
is the number of posts that my Blog has been set to show. By this I mean the maximum number you can see if you scroll down through the posts. Again, any posts that are not shown can still be located through the menus in the Blog Archive – for example the ‘Site Intro’ in November, 2006. I believe twenty-five is enough to show as my videos and pictures will take a lot in bandwidth to load – apologies here to those who have had difficulties.

For further information on the Woodpigeon go to http://www.rspb.org.uk/birds/guide/w/woodpigeon/index.asp


The video clips, shown above, were taken in my garden on January 30th 2007.

Tuesday, 30 January 2007

A Plumber’s solution!

Ok, I know this is a second entry for today - but this gem has to be shared!


Nestbox, shown above, I saw today at my parent’s house. I was well impressed by the enhancement made by my Dad to his bird box! Can you spot it?

Since my increased interest in watching the birds both my parents have been enjoying them in their garden too. I have told them of the variety of my visiting birds using a variety of food and feeders. I printed a copy of this Blog for them to see it, as they have no PC. They enjoyed reading it and I think they took on board a couple of issues I had about Nestboxes too.

Hygiene in Nestboxes I highlighted in my Blog, explaining how important it was to clean out the box before nesting began. My Dad had said the birds hadn’t nested in his box for a few years now. I suggested he cleared it out removing the old nesting material and cleaned it with many rinses of boiling water. As a plumber he was used to pretty strong smells over the years - but this one was too much! He decided to replace his two story residence with two detached houses at either side of one gable end of his garage. They went up today. I am sure they will be fully occupied in a couple of months!

The gem – did you spot it? He added a copper roof to his new boxes to stop the wet getting in! We had issues with wet getting into our Nestbox last year which you can see in the post http://shirlsgardenwatch.blogspot.com/2007/01/new-nestbox-terrace.html . His two Nestboxes look very well and I am sure birds will be tempted in. He further added a small pattern on the copper at my Mum's suggestion - this small detail could make all the difference! I particularly like the feature, with his boxes, of a fully opening door at the front - this will make for a very easy clean at the end of the year. I hope his enhancement successfully protects the box and that the birds use it for many years to come.

The photograph, shown above, was taken in my parent’s garden on January 30th 2007.

Stormy January

Tomorrow sees the end of January and it will definitely be remembered for its rain and strong winds. Strong and hardy have been the birds – especially the smaller ones! They have held on tight at the feeders and on tree branches where they have been bobbed about by the force of wind, rain, sleet, hail and snow.

Our snow only last two days and January has not felt particularly like winter. I hoed beneath the feeders today and the soil moved freely. We have had some frost but as I type this it is dark outside and I can once again hear the sound of the wind blasting around outside. Why is it that it always sounds worse at night?


Robin on windy day, video 0:25 with background music, try 480p quality.

The Robin shown on the branch was doing very well hanging on for so long! It was a very gusty day - but it didn’t deter it or the other birds that came to the feeders – even when the rain came down almost horizontal.

Goldfinches have surprised me the most – they look so delicate and tropical. They really have been out at the feeders in all the elements. I have to say though that they looked particularly out of place feeding in the snow! Recently I have noticed that I am not seeing as many in my garden – I hope the packs of Starlings haven’t scared them off.

Goldfinches on windy feeder, video 0:25 with background music, try 480p quality.


Nervous is how the birds have appeared on the windy days. I assume noise is an issue then - particularly with the wind rustling through my bamboos. This background movement also causes problems with the quality of my video footage. Videos taken on windy days don’t upload to Google as successfully. I have to admit I have really enjoyed capturing the birds on film and look forward to improving the quality of my videos in the future.

For further information on the Robin and Goldfinch go to the RSPB links below. I like the feature on this site that allows you to hear the song of most of the birds and see a short video of others too. You can hear both the Robin and Goldfinch and see video of a Robin too. Take a listen at the audio/video for the Robin and Goldfinch. I think the sound of a group of Goldfinches (a charm) is what I’d imagine Fairies could sound like!


The video clips, shown above, were taken in my garden on January 9th 2007.

Saturday, 27 January 2007

The RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 2007: Results for shirls gardenwatch

For anyone who would like to take part in this weekend’s RSPB bird count please go to http://www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch/index.asp . I chose to do my count today between 10-11am. You can see my results below. Results from the RSPB are expected at the end of March.

Update Mar 27:

The results for The RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 2007 are now out and can be seen at http://www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch/results/ . Top of the list was the House Sparrow followed by the Starling with the Blue Tit taking third place.


Starling
13
Chaffinch
12
House sparrow
6
Woodpigeon
4
Blackbird
3
Greenfinch
3
Blue tit
3
Robin
2
Goldfinch
2
Great tit
1
Coal tit
1
Dunnock
1



Disappointingly, the results shown above did not really reflect the numbers of visiting birds usually in my garden. It was a lovely sunny morning and they did appear to enjoy sitting on sun-kissed branches of an over looking tree. Today I would have expected a few more blackbirds, blue tits and house sparrows. The two goldfinches are usually in a group of eleven or more so I don't know where the rest went today! The table does however accurately reflect one species that has been increasing in numbers - the Chaffinch. I didn't realise how many we had until I counted them today - they are in pairs so it will be interesting to see any signs of them preparing to nest.

Numbers of Starlings appear to be significantly dropping in the UK but today, and over the last two weeks, that has not been the case in my garden. Their numbers in my garden are seriously increasing - many more have been seen than the number recorded today.

Grated cheese -as it was 'Birdwatch' day I decided to gave the birds a treat. This treat is usually a weekend thing anyway but today I did sprinkle a little more than usual around the ground. I originally put out the grated cheese to see where the wren hides - but the blackbirds have really been enjoying it! I sprinkle the cheese in three places.

Who got the cheese today - the Starlings. I couldn't believe it, some starlings bypassed the fat cakes which is their usual favourite, diving straight to the cheese on the ground. Some Starlings even dived in and out taking the cheese with them barely touching the ground! The poor Blackbirds were struggling to get to the cheese - but try they did.

I will go online later and submit my results – I believe this year may have the biggest response yet.

Friday, 26 January 2007

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 2007

The RSPB are asking for people to look out on their gardens this weekend and count birds. For anyone who would like to download details of this weekend’s bird count, in the UK, please go to their website.


Goldfinch on perch, video 0:18 with background music, try 480p quality.

Goldfinches definitely appear to be quite sociable birds but equally, they enjoy some quiet time to themselves. Looks like the goldfinch, shown above, has started its own count! Shown here in my garden in January 2007.

Sunflower hearts are definitely the favourite food for birds in my garden. We have quite a list of regular visitors to our garden: Blackbirds, Dunnocks, Robins, House Sparrows, Greenfinches, Chaffinches, Goldfinches, Blue Tits, Great Tits, Coal Tits, Starlings and Wood Pigeons. Our more ocassional sightings are of a tiny wren and the threatening sparrowhawk. We were also briefly fortunate to see a pair of Blackcaps - sadly they left after 2 weeks.

This is the first year we will have taken part in The Big Garden Birdwatch and I will post our results in a future Blog.

If you take part – enjoy counting!

Tuesday, 23 January 2007

Time to ponder

It was very cold today, the soil hard and the water frozen in the bird baths. Looking out into the garden there was a sense that, for the moment, it didn’t belong to me. My garden was held in the grip of winter. I watched the birds bounce on top of the soil – there was little in the way of digging for insects today. On days like this I suspect the birds rely on bird tables, feeders and plants for food. My thoughts drifted to what this year may bring to my garden.

A Garden Diary - I always intend to keep records of what I do in the garden. Intentions are always good though! I am one of those gardeners’s that is always changing planting schemes. Unplanned changes are the ones that I get the biggest buzz out of. I’ll go out, perhaps looking to do some weeding or pruning, and before you know it I am looking at an area from this angle and that. The boots go on, and out into the borders I go. This blog will be my diary this year - but I will still try and write a paper copy.

A Video Record - I have also walked around my garden with my video camera - when my neighbours are at work! Timing of videos are planned, picking a time perhaps in May then again in September. It has sometimes rained when filming and with the golf umbrella handle tucked into my coat pocket it has often been a fine balancing act. I narrate these as I would if I were talking to a friend, or fellow gardener, rather than direct notes to myself. They are very interesting to look back on. I do not check out the area or plan my route which means I discover things as I go. I have no doubt that someone has seen, or heard me make these video tapes – but hey am I bothered?

Now as winter claims my garden it is a good time to ponder – a time to look back and forward. Looking back at videos, photographs and notes brings the garden come to life again. Then I consider my actions. Should I really have done that? This year I must remember that!

Looking forward to Spring I am thinking about making a herb garden. I already have Rosemary, Sage, Parsley and Chives in an area which I have been clearing – but light is a problem here with limited hours of sunshine. I have not fully decided yet but often ideas come when I am walking round the garden and not actually looking for them!

Thinking again on the video records of my garden - I could now copy them over to DVD and watch them whilst ironing! At Christmas I received more memory for my PC so I could do this. I have a busy week – this would be a nice job for the weekend. I wonder how many changes I will look back on – smaller numbers in bird feeders will be one! I have just remembered another - quite a significant plant loss……

The photograph shown above was taken in my garden on May 19th 2006. Note the pine tree on the left – this replaced a bamboo similar to the one shown to its right.

Sadly I was unfortunate enough to have this variety of bamboo that decided to flower last year- it only flowers once every 100 years! I believe that the bamboo will die if it flowers - although it may be possible it could recover in 3 or 4 years but it will look pretty sickly. I decided to remove one and leave one. Sentiment here -this was my daughter’s jungle that we built together – in the rain.

Note the Gunnera, beginning to grow, in the centre of this area - it screened the sickly bamboo. The leaves of the Gunnera provided one other use, that of seed collector. The seeds from the sickly bamboo dropped down on the leaves of the Gunnera. I collected some but others were washed down below with the rain. I placed a tray of seed compost under the Gunnera positioned to catch the washed away seeds – I wonder if they will germinate.

Friday, 19 January 2007

Who took the cheese?

Today I put out cheese out and set up the video camera to see if I could catch a Wren on film. I had seen this tiny little bird bouncing down the rocks that surround my small pond. Yesterday it looked like it went in one of the little cave pockets I built for it and the toad that has also been spotted in this area.


Blackbird female eating cheese, video 0:21 with background music, try 480p quality.


Blackbirds, female shown above, and males, I did suspect may take the cheese as they have definitely been enjoying the scatterings I put out with the sultanas some days. I also suspected a field mouse may take it. I didn’t see it go. I was very fortunate in how I had positioned the camera and am very pleased with the result. Sadly the Blackbird will probably look there again – I hope it doesn’t scare off the wren. I will put the cheese away from this area next time, I don’t put it out every day.

The video clip above was taken in my garden on January 19th 2007.

Wednesday, 17 January 2007

Bird Wars

The status quo of birds feeding at my bird feeders today was still nowhere to be seen. I would say in fact it heightened to outright Bird Wars. The Goldfinches were the only species that didn’t fight with each other. It was quite cold today, we had snow overnight but it was all away by lunchtime. Hail followed with the odd snow showers in the afternoon which made the feeders even more busy than usual. Perhaps it is simply survival that is driving the strong behaviour change - the basic need for food to survive the cold.


Woodpigeons in the way, video 0:26 with background music, try 480p quality.

The Bird Table, shown above, was taken over for long periods today by Woodpigeons and Starlings. I am considering only putting out sunflower hearts on the table tomorrow as it is a high energy food. Maybe then the birds will get enough food on a first visit to leave, letting others in. Today I was concerned for the smaller birds as they couldn’t get near the table, or feeders, at times. Unfortunately when they did get their turn they wasted energy in chasing each other away from the food.

Fat cakes are also very high energy. Clearly that is why they are so popular with most birds – although I have never noticed the finches ever feeding on them. Tonight I will go out and hang a fat cake away from the table in an effort to keep the Starlings fed and give the other birds a chance. I’ll fill up the feeders too as they have definitely gone down significantly today – this will give the early birds a chance to get food too.

If I were to be honest about my observations of bird activity today I would say I was concerned about how my neighbours may view it. If I were honest about how I felt about it, I would probably say 'I wish the Starlings and Pigeons would feed elsewhere'. In actual fact as the day went on and I saw the panic in the feeding of the birds I actually felt quite sad. They know they must feed and store food to survive. We, in fact, are no different when we rush to the shops when we feel stocks there may go down through bad weather or some other reason. I myself when I went to the supermarket today was not surprised in the least to see the car park so full for a Wednesday just after lunch, after all, we have snow forecast for tomorrow!

For more information on the Woodpigeon and Starling go to http://www.rspb.org.uk/birds/guide/w/woodpigeon/index.asp and http://www.rspb.org.uk/birds/guide/s/starling/index.asp

Tuesday, 16 January 2007

Invasion of the Starlings

Today the strong winds had died down so I expected the calm would be reflected at the feeders after the frantic dashes for food the birds have had recently. Quiet it was not. I can certainly see why Alfred Hitchcock was inspired to use birds for a horror film!


Hungry Starling, video 0:14 with background music, try 480p quality.

The Starling, shown above, definitely enjoys the fat cake most of all as you can see - but if table manners were to be judged on birds this one is very near the bottom. This starling came to the feeders alone, we occasionally see this especially early morning, but usually they come to my garden in packs of five or more. Today it was the more……….. and more! In groups the starlings feed franticly, tearing into the foods and continually colliding into each other in their efforts to get at the food. Today they just kept on coming – the smaller birds usually stand their ground to a certain degree but they were nowhere to seen for a while.

Jackdaw visits are infrequent but today our occasional visitor came by at the same time as the starlings. It has a likeness for the peanuts at my small hanging house sited away from the main feeders. Yes, I did say small house and yes I did say Jackdaw. How I hear you ask? Well, it’s all in the technique. The Jackdaw flies at the house and knocks it into the tree it hangs on – in doing this it tips the house enough to snatch a peanut and off it goes.

Yesterday I refilled my feeders, scraping away the soggy seeds that had stuck on the table and gave it a good clean. I am very aware I must regularly clean my feeders especially when I have lots of birds visiting them. I deliberately didn’t put too much food on the table so it was emptied that day – I did need to top it up though.

Today I again only added a small amount of food on the table - a cereal mix with some sunflower hearts. The blackbirds were the first to scoff at the table despite the supply of sultanas on the ground feeder tray and the odd small tasters of cheddar scattered on the ground! A female blackbird was particularly dominant - pre-starlings. Even the pigeons stopped by – and at one point I felt the need to open my window and scare the birds off as I was concerned neighbours may have washing out!

I pondered over my invasion of feathered friends - one conclusion I came to was cause and effect. Cause would be smaller amounts of food available at the table. Effect would be desperate birds as the food supply is running out. I am serious here – I have wondered about this before. My solution – top up the food on the table. I did this and feeding did then settle down a bit. The other, as obvious, conclusion I came to was that the birds have found it difficult feeding in the strong winds - perhaps they were just filling up with extra fuel for bad weather.

The weather theory will be tested perhaps tomorrow – it has just started snowing!

For more information on the Starling and the Jackdaw go to
http://www.rspb.org.uk/birds/guide/s/starling/index.asp
http://www.rspb.org.uk/birds/guide/j/jackdaw/index.asp

The video clip shown above was taken in my garden on January 10th 2007.

Monday, 15 January 2007

Back to the borders – frost forecasted!

This morning I finally managed to get back out into my garden. Although still very windy it was quite pleasant, no rain and the sun even broke through for a brief while. There have been a few jobs I have wanted to do, and it is not unheard of for me to garden in the rain, but the winds have made it very unpleasant to be out. I was very pleased with what I achieved today. I particularly enjoyed the pruning!

Wisteria, shown above, received the first cuts from my secateurs today. Pruning, I find, quite a satisfying job. Although I am known on occasions to get a tad too zealous! Today’s job on the wisteria is the last before it flowers. I have only been successful with flowers in the last two years. Ironically after trying many methods of pruning, my plant of 8/9 years, flowered after I was brutal with it! I decided if it couldn’t yield flowers than it could yield a better shape – I pruned it hard back to main stems, cutting away branches that spoilt it. I never considered taking it out as I love the dripping form of the leaves hanging over my pergola. I was also ever hopeful every year in the spring when I inspected the new growth believing this year … it could flower.

I now prune my wisteria three times. First cut is in the summer taking out the extremely long whippy new growth – it makes it look better too. Second cut is in late autumn pruning back to four pairs of buds. Today I cut back to two pairs of buds - I usually do this in January- early February depending on the temperatures. If I am lucky again this year with flowers I must better take care of them – they looked very weak and dried out last year. That should have told me the problem – too dry! I have since read in a magazine or heard on TV that when in flower a wisteria should be well watered. I’ll try that this year. I should have beautiful, white scented flowers so here’s hoping….


I am also hoping that this year I will significantly increase my stock of the black grass - Ophiopogon planiscapus 'Nigrescens'. Today I pulled off its berries, shown in photo above, and pushed them into the soil– spacing them around the parent plants. I do enjoy this expectation of new plants – successful or not. This plant can also be propagated by division from a larger clump but I am not always succesful with this method but it is definitely worth a try. I have to say though I did feel a tad uncomfortable planting the berries today – they looked too much like the eggs of the New Zealand Flatworm!! I usually put these eggs in a jar of salted water – as worms they digest earthworms and each egg can produce up to seven worms. We must destroy them to stop them spreading.

I managed to tidy and weed two other borders today, pruning again as necessary. I weed by hand with a small fork and I always like the look of the soil after being forked over – the border looks tended and cared for. I still have more areas to do. I also had some extremely late bulb planting to do – I forgot about my tulip bulbs! The tulips are ‘Uncle Tom’ and are said to be unique in colour which is a glowing deep maroon red. They have already started to shoot new growth so I planted them two in a pot and if they come up okay I will then plant them out in the borders.

For advice on Wisteria pruning and flower failure see the links http://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/profiles0600/wisteria.asp and http://www.gardenadvice.co.uk/advisor/plants/wisteria/index.html

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

The photograph of my pruned Wisteria was taken on January 15th 2007.

New Terrace Nestbox

Last March we put up a Terrace Nestbox which was successfully used by one or more Blue Tits. Details of the success of this Nestbox can be seen on the link http://shirlsgardenwatch.blogspot.com/2006/11/preparations-for-winter-birds.html . Unfortunately the box unit itself has not been a success. Rain damaged the exterior and it looked unsightly as seen below. We felt the need to replace this unit with another the same seeing as the Blue Tits have started to show interest again – none have been spotted going in yet so hopefully we will have made the replacement in time.



New Nestbox Terrace, shown above, went up late yesterday afternoon in the cold winds but at least we managed to miss the rain and got it up before it got dark. We needed to get it up this weekend. The new box has been given further treatments to help it withstand the weather – so we will see how this one goes! At the moment it looks all shiny and new – but it will weather soon enough and blend in with the wall. We used a coloured stain, three coats, then topped this off with two coats of satin yacht varnish.

We left the entrance hole with no extra treatment as the birds, last year, pecked around the holes from the inside before they started building their nests. When we took the old box down we were able to see the full extent of the water damage – even the entrance holes were affected. I really doubt that the birds would have nested in it - unless they saw it as a DIY challenge!

Building your own Nestbox would be even more rewarding – should the birds choose to use it. The RSPB and BBC Nature websites have details on how to make one, for details follow the links http://www.rspb.org.uk/advice/helpingbirds/nestboxes/nestboxes/making.asp and http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/animals/birds/thingstodo/nestbox.shtml .

Children too could be encouraged to build a Nestbox. My daughter was given a kit from a friend as a Christmas gift and plans to build it this week, see picture below. This kit, age 8 years+, comes with pre-cut wood parts, paint, paintbrush, sandpaper, nails and glue. It was bought from ‘Boots’ the Chemist - for details see link http://www.boots.com/shop/product_details.jsp?productid=1050839&classificationid=1020583 . We originally bought the yacht varnish, used in our Nestbox Terrace, to protect this unit as the wood is untreated.

Robin Nestbox, shown below, this was originally put up last November by my daughter when she was doing her school Bird Project. We have made a change with this Nestbox too. Since we put up this box I have spotted the Sparrowhawk perched on distant trees and on the top of our other hedge, my garden is ‘L’ shaped, where it would be able to watch the entrance of the box. For the safety of the prospective occupants of the Robin Nestbox we moved it round the face of the post on my pergola. An added advantage of this is I can now see the entrance from windows – so could possibly get video clips and photographs.

The photograph of the original next box was taken on January 14th 2007. The photographs of the New Nestbox and the relocated Robin Nestbox were taken today, January 15th 2007.

Sunday, 14 January 2007

Blackcaps - tempting fate

Last week I read an article in the 'Craigie' column of the Courier newspaper referring to visits of Blackcaps to other gardens in Scotland. Others too, like me, were unsure what it was. I was only certain when I saw the female – there lies my worry.

I emailed the column in the Courier telling them of this Blog. I thought any readers who had been interested in this story might like to see the video of the male and female I had captured. In my email I had reported that I thought perhaps I had seen more than one female – I am concerned that I tempted fate in saying this. I haven’t seen any females at all since then!

On Thursday I had been working in the garden and did spot grey feathers on my bird table but initially didn’t make any assumptions on a snatched bird. It has been very gusty and when the birds have scattered from the table and feeders with the really strong gusts, feathers can get left behind. However I am now wondering if the Sparrowhawk has had a successful snatch. I have, in the last few days, spotted the stealth of this bird in flight especially in the wind where it has flown very close up and down my hedge.

I believe the Sparrowhawk is an early hunter – although I have seen more sittings at the end of the day. But if it is out early, well, it could catch a Blackcap as they are one of the early birds in my garden. The male has always been seen earlier than the female - always seen first too if they came to the fat cake, one after the other.

I still have hope that I will spot the female/s again – perhaps they have found another food source. My resident male Blackcap however is very settled in my garden. He can be seen feeding in the harshest windy and wet days – pretty hardy soul considering he should be in Spain or Africa! He is also holds his place at the table too and is one of the last birds, if he moves away at all, to go when they all get spooked! He even makes a stand against the Robin.

The male Blackcap was always seen more than the female. I noticed her more in the middle of the day – thinking back now it was perhaps after lunch that I spotted the grey feathers on the table.

You can see my video film the male Blackcap on the post http://shirlsgardenwatch.blogspot.com/2007/01/new-year-brings-new-arrival.html and the female Blackcap on the post http://shirlsgardenwatch.blogspot.com/2007/01/i-dont-believe-it_08.html .

Thursday, 11 January 2007

Tidy-up reveals tiny visitor

Today has been another wild, windy day with heavy rain showers. Disappointingly, I was unable to finish a tidy-up of the borders which I began yesterday. I did however tidy the border I look directly on to from this window and this morning it revealed a tiny visitor dashing across it - stopping at plants for cover. At first we thought it was a field mouse but a closer look identified it as a tiny wren. I got the video camera set up but the light wasn’t good and although I caught it on film it isn’t clear enough to show. I will be ready with the camera tomorrow.

In all honesty I have a slight pang of remorse for destroying this safe area of cover for the wren – now that I have seen it again. But the cats also used this area for cover, hiding there to pounce on unsuspecting birds.

Border, shown above, shows the method I used this summer to deter cats from sitting under my Acer to watch the birds – I hammered in the ground canes of various sizes around the border edges. This allowed the birds to pass through and made it more difficult for the cats to jump out – I’m sure they managed though. I also took a more drastic action, in pruning the lovely domed canopy of my palmatum dissectum Acer tree – now that hurt me!

My plan yesterday was to open up this area as much as I could – now putting my trust in technology to protect the birds. I have now had my ‘CATwatch’ unit placed for a few days now and I can say I have not seen any cats – but I am not at the window all day. I have removed all canes and pots – as the unit cannot detect through solid objects. In choosing the spot for my unit I walked around the area at night to see where the red sensor light picked up my movement. You can see the unit in the very top right hand corner of the photograph above. I expect I will need to check the sensors again throughout the year as the plant growth and density will change.

For more information on the Wren and ‘CATwatch’ mentioned above follow the links below:
http://www.rspb.org.uk/birds/guide/w/wren/index.asp
http://www.rspb.org.uk/advice/helpingbirds/unwantedvisitors/cats/catdeterrent.asp

The photograph shown above was taken in my garden on January 10th 2007.

Tuesday, 9 January 2007

Garden Bird videos

Attracting birds to my garden by providing a variety of foods has allowed me to see birds I have never seen before. I began using my video camera to capture a Robin on film and my collection of videos has grown since then!

You can see all my garden bird videos in posts through my main diary archive and by selecting labels. However the species list below may be more helpful if you are searching for a particular video. Please note that some posts will contain more than one video so you may need to scroll down the post.

October 2011 Update: I see that I have missed updating a number of links to videos in my blog. I am in the process of doing this now starting with the most recent ones. Perhaps you might want to see the Sparrowhawk one - this male did look handsome.


BLACKBIRD:

  • Blackbird collecting food for chicks - May 11, 2011






  • Blackbird female collects nesting material - March 2011






  • Blackbird female collecting nesting material - March 2010






  • Blackbird female eating apples from obelisk - Dec 22, 2007






  • Blackbird female eating apples from obelisk - Nov 16, 2007






  • Blackbird female with material to make nest in Ivy - Apr 8, 2007






  • Blackbirds chasing each other around plants - Mar 24, 2007






  • Blackbird with white feathers - Feb 18, 2007






  • Blackbird female eating cheese - Jan 19, 2007






  • Blackbird female bathing - Nov 2006






  • Blackbird male bathing - Nov 2006







  • BLACKCAP:

  • Blackcap female eating apples from obelisk - Dec 22, 2007






  • Blackcap male feeding on ground - Feb 7, 2007






  • Blackcap female eating fat cake - Jan 7, 2007






  • Blackcap male eating fat cake - Jan 1, 2007







  • BLUE TIT:

  • Blue Tit taking sunflower heart - Dec 30, 2007






  • Blue Tit looking for insects on ivy - Mar 21, 2007






  • Blue Tits at fat balls - Dec 26, 2006







  • BRAMBLING:

  • Brambling learning to use peanut feeder - January 22, 2013







  • CHAFFINCH:

  • Chaffinch group on ground with House Sparrow - Mar 16, 2007






  • Chaffinch male resting on branch - Feb 2, 2007






  • Chaffinch pair at table - Dec 30, 2006







  • COAL TIT:

  • Coal Tit visiting pond with Blackbird - Nov 28, 2007






  • Coal Tit drinking from pond - Nov 28, 2007






  • Coal Tit eating seed on pine tree - Feb 6, 2007







  • GOLDFINCH:

  • Goldfinch group feeding and fighting at feeder - Dec 30, 2007






  • Goldfinch with Siskins at sunflower heart feeder - Dec 30, 2007






  • Goldfinch on perch - Jan 24, 2007






  • Goldfinches ignoring the wind - Jan 9, 2007






  • Goldfinches at sunflower heart feeder - Sept 2006







  • GREAT TIT:

  • Great Tit taking sunflower heart - Dec 30, 2007






  • Great Tit eating sunflower heart - Jan 2, 2007







  • GREENFINCH:

  • Greenfinch feeding with young - July 31, 2007






  • Greenfinch with Siskin male - Feb 15, 2007






  • Greenfinch group eating sunflower hearts - Dec 2006







  • REED BUNTING:
  • Male Reed Bunting first sighting - January 2011







  • ROBIN:

  • Robin giving warning call - Feb 7, 2007






  • Robin on ice trying to get a drink - Feb 6, 2007







  • Robin braving the wind - Jan 9, 2007






  • Robin on perch - Dec 24, 2006







  • SISKIN:

  • Siskins feeding in snow (female) & rain (males) - March 2011






  • Siskin group circle around/above garden - March 2011






  • Siskin group at sunflower heart feeder - Dec 30, 2007






  • Siskin male suspected with disease Trichomoniasis - Mar 21, 2007






  • Siskin female with Blue Tit - Feb 12, 2007






  • Siskin female with Goldfinch - Feb 12, 2007






  • Siskin female eating sunflower hearts - Feb 12, 2007






  • Siskin pair perched - Feb 11, 2007







  • SONG THRUSH:

  • Song Thrush feeding around plants - Mar 17, 2007







  • SPARROWHAWK:

  • Male Sparrowhawk waits at feeders on rainy day (fav capture of this bird) - March 2011






  • Male Sparrowhawk on snowy ground with catch (not seen eating bird) - February 2010






  • Female Sparrowhawk looks & listens during snowfall (includes photos) - February 2010







  • STARLING:

  • Starling parent feeding young - May 19, 2007




  • Starlings fighting at table with Woodpigeons - Jan 17, 2007






  • Starling eating fat cake - Jan 10, 2007







  • WAXWINGS:

  • Waxwing sightings from garden larger group - November 2010






  • Waxwing sightings from garden (includes photos) - November 2010







  • WOODPIGEON:

  • Woodpigeon pair at lunch - Jan 30, 2007






  • Woodpigeon left lunching alone - Jan 30, 2007







  • WREN:

  • Wren feeding round small pond - January 2011






  • Wren finding food around pond edges - Jan 18, 2008






  • Wren drinking and looking for food at pond - Nov 28, 2007






  • Wren looking for food at pond - Feb 18, 2007







  • YELLOWHAMMER:

  • Yellowhammer foraging under window -February 5, 2013


  • Monday, 8 January 2007

    I don’t believe it!

    Another new arrival to the bird community of my garden – only this time the bird looked instantly familiar! It appeared on Saturday morning and has been a regular visitor since. This new bird looked exactly like the last one except it had a chestnut brown cap instead of black – so not a Marsh or Willow Tit as I originally thought. I went back to the books and web to confirm the identity of this bird – a Blackcap.


    Blackcap female feeding on fat cake, video 0:26 with background music, try 480p quality.


    Blackcap female, shown above, could this possibly be a mate for our visiting blackcap male? They have not been spotted together but they do enjoy the same fat cake as you can see above. I've noticed that the female seems to spend more time keeping her beak clean than the male! To compare her with the male go to the link http://shirlsgardenwatch.blogspot.com/2007/01/new-year-brings-new-arrival.html. Both birds are quite happy to feed with other species in my garden but the books suggest they are not very sociable so maybe that is why they don’t seem to come to the table together.

    Apparently a few Blackcaps spend the winter in mature, bushy western European gardens, but many more migrant birds appear in the spring, arriving from their wintering grounds in Spain, Portugal and Africa. A Scottish winter or Africa, yes, I can see why the Blackcap chose Scotland! No, but seriously it is usually very cold here at this time – signs of global warming perhaps. I do expect we will get it very cold yet – and snow is likely to come. So at this moment I feel a tad protective of our Blackcap pair. What if they decide to nest here?

    According to the books, again, the Blackcap generally chooses to build its nest near the ground – there lies an instant risk in my garden. Cats pass through my garden and I have seen one leaping up and catching a bird, they are often spotted close to the feeding stations. I now feel the need to take further precautions against the threat of cats. Yesterday I invested in a motion sensor detection unit that triggers a 10 second ultrasonic burst which will repeat until the cat leaves the protected area. I placed it today and have absolutely no idea if it will work - but the RSPB have tested it and it is the only unit they have recommended. You can see details of this unit on at http://shopping.rspb.org.uk/mall/productpage.cfm/rspb/R0123 .

    Cats are not the only threat of course with Sparrowhawks occasionally being spotted diving down into my garden – I hope to catch, an unsuccessful one, on film one day. The Sparrowhawk is incredibly fast and agile. I can recall last year the Scottish News reporting of a rare bird spotted on a rooftop in Aberdeen – the north east of Scotland. Sadly this rare bird was not caught by any television cameras – instead it was caught by a Sparrowhawk!

    For further information on the birds mentioned above follow the links below:
    http://www.rspb.org.uk/birds/guide/b/blackcap/index.asp
    http://www.rspb.org.uk/birds/guide/s/sparrowhawk/index.asp

    The video clip shown above was taken in my garden on January 6th 2007.

    Saturday, 6 January 2007

    Early Birds

    This morning as I watched from my window the light came up outside. I became interested to see which birds were the early ones now. During October 2006 my daughter, as part of a school project, was counting and observing the birds before she went to school. I watched and counted with her - it was very interesting as activity at this time is quite different than later on in the day. It was peaceful and we both enjoyed it – a calming start to the day!


    Blackbird male bathing, video 0:27 with background music, try 480p quality.


    Blackbird female bathing, video 0:27 with background music, try 480p quality.


    Blackbirds, shown above male top, female below, are still part of the ‘early bird’ crew. Although they are not seen bathing too early - the film above was caught over lunchtime on a chilly day!

    Early bird ‘Count’ – I have since thought about this and feel this would be an interesting one to do now. My daughter has her records from her count in October 2006 and this would make an accurate comparison. I will pick a week in January and breakfast once again in the dark at my window, with pen and paper!

    To see more information on the birds mentioned above follow the links below:
    http://www.rspb.org.uk/birds/guide/b/blackbird/index.asp

    The video clips shown above were taken in my garden in November 2006.

    Thursday, 4 January 2007

    Looking around the garden

    This afternoon I took a walk around my garden to look up closely at the growth and condition of my plants. We have had very strong winds over the last few days and a lot of rain also. The weather however is a lot milder than I remember early January to be and we have not had much in the way of frost overnight. I have to be honest and say I am looking forward to seeing a hard frost. My garden with its varied foliage and strong structure, to me, takes on a magical charm with frost and snow. For the past few years February seemed to bring the heavy snows here - but last year it was later coming in the middle of March.

    The Dianthus, shown above, is remarkably holding on to a solitary flower in my front garden, where it is exposed to all rain and cold winds - and this is January 4th. It is quite a contrast, growing in a tight mound to the ground with its grey-blue fleshy slim leaves, to the tall dry dusty-looking grass, Miscanthus sinensis ‘Zebrinus’ shown in the photograph below it. I sometimes cut this grass down in the autumn - as when the strong wind hits its stems they break and fly untidily around my neighbours’ gardens. Only this miscanthus now remains at the front, as I lifted another earlier in the year. I have felt able to leave this one uncut as it has some protection from the fence behind. I am enjoying its grand decaying flower heads and structure immensely. It really, again to me perhaps only, looks quite magical and I seriously look forward to seeing it with frost, spider’s webs and snow on it!

    Crocus bulbs, shown above, are fully through the grass as you will see if you look a little closer, near the centre of the photograph. I do believe this growth is on the early side for Scotland. I will monitor when they and the daffodils planted with them come into flower.

    Pyracantha 'Golden Charmer', shown above, does give the garden some strong colour with its orange berries at this time of year. I planted this in the autumn for its colour and the berries for the birds - it should also have further interest in the spring with its blossom. I hope it will fill this space in time and offer the birds a little more protection from preying cats.

    Sadly I have to report that today I found a cat hiding (sitting on my young Uncinia rubra grasses!) under my pine tree, near the feeders. I also suspect it was there earlier as I found lots of grey feathers under the feeder. I have now placed a decorative ceramic sphere where the flattened grass was and plant supports next to it in an attempt to make this area less vulnerable for the birds.

    Ophiopogon planiscapus 'Nigrescens', shown above, ends today’s plants of note. It by no means though is an insignificant plant in my garden! This plant as you can see has black grassy foliage that suggests it is a grass. In actual fact this ‘black grass’ is indeed an evergreen perennial. It bears small pink-violet flowers in summer followed by clusters of black-purple berries as you will see above. Note the single berry on the ground above the bunch of berries – after I took this photograph I used a nearby stone to push this berry into the ground. I hope this will germinate and increase the ground cover this plant is giving in this area.

    I collected seeds from many plants in my garden this year. I have already picked some of the berries of the Ophiopogon and planted them in a seed tray, putting them in my unheated greenhouse. I am not sure they will germinate - I have a feeling they will do better outside getting the chills of winter. I plan to go out into the garden again tomorrow, pick the berries that are left on the plants and just push them into the ground nearby the parent plant. This plant gives great cover and is quite striking growing in solid clumps - it is one of my favourites for all year ground cover.

    All photographs shown above were taken in my garden on January 4th 2007.

    Monday, 1 January 2007

    New Year brings new arrival!

    What a surprise this morning – a new arrival to the bird community of our garden! 2007 came gusting in with some rather stormy weather last night. We had such strong winds that we took down the hanging bird feeders to prevent them flying into the windows!

    This morning as I re-filled
    and re-hung the feeders I could hear the birds chattering in anticipation of getting to the fresh foods. No sooner was I indoors when I spotted our new arrival and rushed to set up the camera to catch it on film.



    Blackcap male feeding on fat cake, video 0:30 with background music, try 480p quality.


    Blackcap male, shown above, is what we now believe our new arrival to be. Identification became a bit tricky – we searched through books and pics on the web.

    The blue tits initially seemed wary of this new stranger. The blackcap however appeared to be not in the least bothered about the other birds and got on with his search for food. After some time at the table it quickly found the fat cake hanging from the tree and appeared to enjoy it greatly - as you can see from the clip above. Soon after, it discovered a hanging peanut feeder and had some of that too! I am quite amazed at what brings new birds to my garden and can only assume they follow other species of birds that enjoy the same diet as them. Perhaps though in this case it was attracted to the new seed mix that I added to the table two days ago – especially for robins!!

    Our new visitor stayed around most of the day and I have absolutely no doubt we will see him again tomorrow. He was not shy in the least - but we also spotted the Sparrowhawk taking a couple of fly-bys today so it had better take care!

    Update January 6th, originally I thought this bird was more likely to be a marsh tit or willow tit - although it didn’t have the black bib I thought its shape was more accurate. I thought it could perhaps be a juvenile. I had never seen this bird before but it definitely had the swift flighty movements of the other tits and arrived when they were at the feeders and table. However this morning I spotted another almost the same - except that this one had a chestnut brown cap. I looked at the books and web pics again. Today’s sighting was definitely a blackcap female – so confirmation now that the video clip above is of a blackcap male.

    To see more info and pics of the Blackcap, Marsh and Willow tits follow the links below:
    http://www.rspb.org.uk/birds/guide/b/blackcap/index.asp
    http://www.rspb.org.uk/birds/guide/m/marshtit/index.asp
    http://www.rspb.org.uk/birds/guide/w/willowtit/index.asp

    The video clip of the Blackcap male, shown above, was taken in my garden on January 1st 2007.