Wednesday, 28 February 2007

CONTENTS - February 2007

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

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

Plants:
FEATURED THIS MONTH INCLUDING PHOTOS:
Wisteria - flowers need feeding

LISTED THIS MONTH INCLUDING PHOTOS:
Bulbs, Crocus, Daffodil, Allium, Fritillaries, Euphorbia
Plants caught in snow: Heuchera, Bergenia, Crocus, Bamboo, Pine Tree


Birds:
NEW VISITORS TO GARDEN:
Siskin pair
Wren

GARDEN NESTBOXES INCLUDING INFO:
Camera nestbox
National Nest Box Week 2007
Nesting egg

GARDEN BIRD VIDEOS:
Blackbird with white feathers
Blackcap
Chaffinch male
Greenfinch and Siskin male
Robin calling
Robin on ice
Siskin female with Goldfinch and with Blue Tit
Starling
Wren

GARDEN BIRDWATCH:
Species Update - 15


Garden Problems:
Oily surface on pond

Tuesday, 27 February 2007

Nest boxes 2007

We hope to have an even more successful year with our nestboxes than last year. Our Nestboxes include a Terrace intended for House Sparrows (but Blue Tits like it) and an Open fronted box which we hope a Robin may use. We also have a Nestbox with a camera this year which has another pair of Blue Tits showing interest there! You can follow all posts through my main diary archive but I have also listed directly to posts published below.

CAMERA NESTBOX:

  • Blue Tit roosts in Nestbox - October 29, 2007

  • Nestbox cleaned for winter roosters - October 09, 2007

  • Chick losses - last two bearly breathing - May 31, 2007

  • Chick losses - three left but one chick weaker - May 30, 2007

  • Chick losses - only three left - May 29, 2007

  • Chick losses - five or six left - May 28, 2007

  • Eight hungry chicks - May 24, 2007

  • What happens to the spider? - May 23, 2007

  • The female does her housework - May 22, 2007

  • The first chicks hatch - May 21, 2007

  • When will the eggs hatch? - May 19, 2007

  • Male waits outside the Nestbox - May 10, 2007

  • Male feeds female in Nestbox - May 9, 2007

  • Nestbox has eighth egg - May 9, 2007

  • Incubation begins - May 8, 2007

  • Nestbox has seventh egg - May 7, 2007

  • Nestbox has sixth egg - May 6, 2007

  • Nestbox has fifth egg - May 5, 2007

  • Nestbox has fourth egg - May 4, 2007

  • Nestbox has third egg - May 3, 2007

  • Nestbox has second egg - May 2, 2007

  • Nestbox has first egg - May 1, 2007

  • Nestbox takes shape - good nest cup - Apr 26-28, 2007

  • Blue Tit female tucks in for the night - Apr 24, 2007

  • We have our first sleep-over - Apr 18, 2007

  • Male feeds female again - just in time - Apr 16, 2007

  • First pics of male Bluetit feeding female - Apr 13, 2007

  • Moss finally increases to thicker layer - Apr 11, 2007

  • Moss comes and goes all week - Apr 7, 2007

  • March Review of nestbox activity - Mar 29, 2007

  • Blue Tit checks out space for shuffle - Mar 24, 2007

  • Blue Tit prepares entrance hole - Mar 11, 2007

  • Blue Tit outside entrance and hanging above - Mar 7, 2007

  • First Nestbox visitors - Blue Tit pair - Mar 3, 2007

  • Camera working - first look inside box - Mar 2, 2007

  • Nestbox arrives - Feb 24, 2007


  • TERRACE NESTBOX :
  • Replacing damaged box - Jan 15, 2007

  • Nest box opened for cleaning - Nov 29, 2006


  • NESTING INFO :
  • Providing nesting material - Feb 19, 2007

  • National Nest Box week - Feb 13, 2007


  • Garden plants shortcut

    Plants and changes in plantings will evolve within my small garden. Creating a space that makes you feel good and smile when you walk through it does it for me! I'm also keen in propagating my plants and I have been collecting seed too. You can follow all posts through my main diary archive but I have also listed directly to posts published below.

    GARDEN TOURS:

  • Plants flowering in July 2007 - Jul 18, 2007

  • Plants flowering in June 2007 - Jun 19, 2007

  • Plants flowering in May 2007 - May 15, 2007

  • How lucky are we? - Apr 13, 2007

  • April morning snapshots - Apr 5, 2007

  • Morning Sunshine - Apr 2, 2007

  • Bulbs thriving against all odds - Feb 24, 2007

  • Snow capped and frosted - Feb 9, 2007

  • Looking around the garden - Jan 4, 2007


  • PLANTS INCLUDING PHOTOS:
  • Rhododendron Moonstone Yellow, flowers - Apr 17, 2007



  • PROPAGATION:
  • Ophiopogon planiscapus 'Nigrescens' - Jan 15, 2007


  • CLIMBERS:
  • Wisteria gets February feed - Feb 26, 2007

  • Wisteria gets last prune before flowering - Jan 15, 2007


  • PROBLEMS:
  • No earthworms - New Zealand Flatworm - Mar 12, 2007


  • FLOWERS OF THE YEAR:
  • 2006 - Dec 1, 2006



  • The photograph, shown above, was taken in my garden in July 2005.

    Monday, 26 February 2007

    Starlings sparkle

    The Starlings have continued to have a presence in my garden sometimes coming in small numbers as they did today. On closer inspection they are actually quite pretty birds with almost rainbow colours sparkling through their feathers – I really don’t like their eyes though. At the moment they are enjoying feeding at the sunflower seed mix at the tables and also on the ground.


    Hungry Starlings, video 0:29 with background music, try 480p quality.

    The small tray feeder, shown above, has become a favourite for the Starlings and with a fat cake hanging beneath it can get a tad overcrowded here – with poor patient goldfinches sitting on the perches above waiting for the starlings to leave! Sultanas scattered on the ground for the Blackbirds are also being enjoyed by the Starlings – what don’t they like? Peanuts perhaps – I haven’t seen them take them?

    For more info on the birds mentioned above go to:
    http://www.rspb.org.uk/birds/guide/s/starling/index.asp
    http://www.rspb.org.uk/birds/guide/b/blackbird/index.asp

    The video, shown above, was taken in my garden on February 26th 2007.

    Wisteria – just hungry?

    Last week I happened to notice a magazine with the heading “Why won’t my wisteria flower?” Well, if you are like me who has had an unforgiving wisteria for years, which just wouldn’t part with a single flower, you will be drawn to the buy the magazine just as a bee is drawn to the pollen on a flower. The magazine I picked up was Gardener’s World and the article was written by Alan Titchmarsh to read it click here.

    Weak wisteria flowers, shown above, I was finally rewarded with two years ago - after approx 8-9 years of patience! I have to say despite them being rather pathetic specimens I was absolutely thrilled to get them. I had given up all hope. My wisteria is the variety sinensis ‘Alba’ – a white fragrant one. The flowers last year were not much better in quality either – I didn’t even bother taking photos.

    The article in the magazine suggests considering the location (ok), pruning twice a year (done) but it also suggest something I haven’t done. It suggests a feed with a high potash-rich fertiliser, such as a specialist rose fertilizer. I plan to get some from my local garden centre tomorrow. I am late with this feed. Alan suggests in his article that February is the time to give it - but better late than not at all! It is definitely worth a try, extra watering too. If this year is hot and dry some extra pampering perhaps won’t go amiss.

    For more information on care of Wisterias, by the RHS, click here. To see how well my wisteria flowered at the end of May 2007 go to Wisteria from bud to flower .

    The photograph, shown above, was taken in my garden on June 4th 2005.

    Saturday, 24 February 2007

    Great excitement

    Great excitement this morning when the postman brought the parcel below. We decided it would be good to have a camera in a nest box this year especially as we have somewhere to show our pics. The weather is fine this morning so we will now go out into the garden to consider where we will site it then get it set up! I hope we get visitors in this one.

    For full details on our Camera Nestbox go to CamNest.

    Bulbs thriving against all odds

    Yesterday it was this little bunch of crocus that caught my eye instead of any visiting bird when I looked out my window. It was growing almost under my hedge - I don’t actually remember ever planting them! That really isn't surprising though as I don't exactly have a good track record with bulbs!


    Why I hear you ask? Bulbs are simple. Plant them the right depth, that is crucial, and they will give you years of pleasure developing into lovely clumps as above. Well yes, that is the theory! But if you are a gardener like I am who is always moving plants around - their chances of survival drop quite significantly. Every time I lift plants the bulbs they get disturbed often getting buried deeper - never to see the light of day again! I have even taken photos to remind me where they are - and my garden really is not that big.

    My front garden has a mulch of quartz gravel which works well as it gets absolutely baked in the summer and this helps retain the moisture for the plants to survive and also as it is light in colour it reflects the heat which keeps the soil cooler too. Yes, I know this is Scotland but honestly we do get our share of sunshine as well as the rain!

    One other advantage of this gravel is that my collection of alliums is increasing very well as they are managing to seed themselves – without being disturbed too much by me! If you look closely in the photo above you will see the young alliums on the left behind the dark euphorbia. I am looking forward to seeing them eventually flower - I expect it may take three years but when they do they will be a fantastic show.

    Last year I took out an insurance against bulb loss. After preparing an area for sowing lawn at the end of my garden I planted over three hundred bulbs – then I sowed my grass seed. I planted some crocus but it was mostly small species daffodils and another strong favourite of mine - fritillaries, snakes head and white ones. It was a lovely splash of colour at a dark end in the garden and I definitely will enjoy this for years to come. The crocuses are already flowering now as you can see above - but the best is yet to come!

    The photographs, shown above, were taken in my garden on February 23rd 2007.

    Thursday, 22 February 2007

    Blackbirds with white feathers

    For some time now I have spotted a male blackbird with white marks on its head visiting my garden. The first time I saw it I do recall describing it to my daughter as “the Blackbird that must have knocked over a tin of white paint!” You can see why. I had no idea at all about its markings so ran a search on the web.


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


    Partial albinism, shown above, on the head of this male blackbird appears to be what is going on - white feathers growing where there should be black. The RSPB website explains this condition: “Partial albinism is caused by the failure of pigmentation to reach certain feathers. While this is often hereditary, other factors such as unbalanced diet, old age and injury, or even disease and shock can cause albinism. In hereditary cases the white pattern is consistent from one moult to another, but albinism caused by environmental factors is often reversible.”

    I had no idea at all about this and since discovering this information I always take a closer look at my visiting blackbirds. Athough other birds can get it too it is just much more noticeable in the blackbird and other black feathered birds like the Crow and Jackdaw. Isn’t it funny how some things go unnoticed until your attention is drawn to them – and then they are everywhere! Therefore it is not surprising that I have since noticed a white feather in the tail of one other blackbird and different white markings on the head of another.

    Signs of old age - I have to admit that I did smile when I read a paragraph heading in the RSPB page: “Progressive albinism can occur as a bird gets older, in the same way as people go grey”.

    For more info on the condition described above and others similar follow the links below:
    http://www.rspb.org.uk/advice/watchingbirds/id/albinism/albinism.asp
    http://www.rspb.org.uk/advice/watchingbirds/id/albinism/melanism.asp
    http://www.rspb.org.uk/advice/watchingbirds/id/albinism/other_colour_variants.asp
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/animals/birds/faq/

    The video, shown above, was taken in my garden on February 18th 2007.

    Tuesday, 20 February 2007

    Web address change

    The address of my blog has now changed to blog.shirlsgardenwatch.co.uk - this change should be automatic and you will now see it in your browser address bar. For regular readers please be assured you will still get me on the old links as before - but you may want to switch over to the new address.


    Please note I have also added a new web entry page for shirls gardenwatch, shown above. This can be found at a different address http://www.shirlsgardenwatch.co.uk/ which will introduce new visitors to my blog. Perhaps having a UK address may now bring more visitors from the UK. I hope you like it – we are delighted it has worked out as we planned.

    Please also note you can now contact me by email using the link at the top of the right hand column.

    Finally I would like to say thank-you to my husband for his patience in helping to produce accurately my design requests and also with setting up all the boring admin stuff that goes on in the background. I couldn’t have done this without him.

    The image, shown above, was taken from the entry page of shirls gardenwatch on February 20th 2007.

    Monday, 19 February 2007

    Oil slick?

    I have a small (tiny) pond that I have recently noticed having, on the surface, what appears to be residues of oil. I have also noticed, in the last couple of days, a visiting blackbird with greyish markings on its back - it really looks like it has been swimming in oily water! Unusual white markings on the blackbirds may be a condition called partial albino - I’ll come back to that in a future post.

    The surface of my pond, shown above, as you can see does appear to be oily. I didn’t connect the condition of the water in my pond to the blackbird until this morning. I had a number of blackbirds visiting - and they were using my ground level bird bath queuing to get in! Then it occurred to me that although I have not seen a blackbird on the log bridge of my pond drinking or taking a bath - perhaps it has. I felt an instant sense of guilt that my pond could have damaged his feathers – although he did appear able to fly okay.

    On went the gloves and out came the rake and bucket! I immediately thought on the cause of the oily surface – it was most likely to have come from the leaves that have blown in to it, decomposing and giving off gasses! When I think about this now I have seen this before – the funny thing is the condition of the pond water changes so quickly.

    Soggy leaves I raked out first - getting as many as I could. Although the pond is small it is fairly deep and I almost filled two pond baskets as you will see above. I left the baskets sitting out near the pond so any insects could climb out and back into the pond. I didn’t see much in the way of wildlife at all – not even any sign of our resident toad. He was probably watching from one of the caves I built for him and the wren.

    The blackbirds were definitely watching me with interest! I was most surprised, as usually when I am out in the garden it is the robin that will follow me in case I do any digging and disturb the worms. The blackbirds appeared to follow me dropping down quite near as I emptied the pond with my bucket. I refilled it with rain water from my water butts leaving some of the mucky water at the bottom so any living organisms could continue their good work. After refilling the pond I switched on the pump to add oxygen – the weather was mild but I won’t risk leaving it on overnight. It will take a couple of weeks, at least, for the pond to settle and regain any natural balance but I could add some new oxygenating plants to help the process – not all are hardy though, I’ll see what I can find.

    The photographs, shown above, was taken in my garden on February 19th 2007.

    Nest egg

    At the end of last week, in a garden centre, I happened to spot nesting material for birds. It is sold in small bags and is a soft material that could be used by some birds in the final ‘soft layer’ of a nest. On noticing this I remembered that I bought one last year when we put up our first nest box. I had completely forgotten about it – probably due to the fact that it didn’t appear to get used.

    The Nest egg, shown above, as you can see is an open cage basket with a handle, or hook, to hang it up. It is then filled with soft materials for the birds to pull out of it. It is suggested you hang it near your nest box.

    Last year, I bought a bag of material but it was lighter in colour – although I don’t imagine that would matter too much to the birds. I also added some very light twigs – the die-back branches of my Acer. I hung my nest egg basket near my nest box, on a hanging basket hook below, but perhaps it was too near and perhaps too late.

    This year, I thought I would fill my egg once more. I hung it up yesterday on a hook fixed to the support stake of my new cotoneaster tree. My theory is that first they must know it is there in order to use it! The birds use this tree as a perch en route to the feeders so I am certain they will take a little interest in what is hanging there. I have also added to the nesting material with more natural materials – moss that the birds have pecked off roof tiles and, sorry this is disgusting, human hair the hair brushes of my teenage daughters. I have read somewhere about the later, honestly, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to try it – but hey this might make all the difference!

    The photograph, shown above, was taken in my garden on February 18th 2007.

    Sunday, 18 February 2007

    Caught

    Today is Sunday and it has been a bright morning. I awoke early and had breakfast at my window overlooking the area of my garden where the bird feeders are. It was very peaceful and although it was only 7:45am the light was bright even then. Guess who joined me for breakfast?


    Wren at pond, video 0:17 with background music, try 480p quality.


    The Wren, shown above, finally visited again in light that I could properly see it. It also visited long enough to catch it on film! However, sadly I had a slight technical hitch with my video camera.

    Unfortunately I was completely engrossed in watching the tiny wren come, leave and then return again to feed along the edges of my tiny pond - following it reasonably well with my camera. As I was watching as it weaved through and under plants looking for food - I too should have been looking but not for food! I was feeling absolutely chuffed with myself that I had some delightful video footage finally captured of the wren. I really should have looked at the camera screen - it read pause when I thought it was recording!

    For more info on the wren click here

    The video, shown above, was taken in my garden on February 18th 2007.

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

    Thursday, 15 February 2007

    Spot the difference

    Today strong winds were thrashing about my ‘Mothers Day’ bamboo beside a feeding station - colliding with the feeders and knocking them about. This opened up an opportunity to temporarily place it nearer my window - allowing me to get closer footage of the birds. I set up my video camera and left it running positioned at one feeder. What a treat – I caught a Greenfinch and a Siskin male together for a moment!


    Greenfinch larger than siskin, video 0:17 with background music, try 480p quality.


    The Greenfinch, shown above on the left, was at the feeder first and was thoroughly enjoying the sunflower hearts – a favourite for most of the birds in my garden.

    The Siskin male, making a brief appearance above on the right, is happier now joining in with the other birds. However I have noticed it does appear to follow the lead of the females to the feeders. The feeders with the sunflower hearts can be very busy and once a bird gets a place on a perch it is not for moving!

    Spot the difference I felt the film above was a perfect opportunity to see, up close, the difference between the Greenfinch and the Siskin. It had just started raining and although the light levels were poor I felt it still worth showing. The books do say they are very similar and I can see why – especially when they are further away amongst other birds. Maybe I have actually had the Siskin visiting my garden before this week!

    The first difference, I immediately noticed, was how much smaller the Siskin is. The Greenfinch looks like it has been on steroids! Next the distinctive black cap of the Siskin’s head caught my eye followed by the dark streaks on its back and belly. Finally, the difference that made me flick through my books to identify it, the bright lime-green to yellowish breast of the Siskin – which is much more noticeable when the early morning sunlight catches it. Describing the differences is just not the same as showing them - and all I do is set the stage and wait to see who appears. What a delight!

    For more info on the birds shown above follow the links below:
    http://www.rspb.org.uk/wildlife/birdguide/name/g/greenfinch/index.asp
    http://www.rspb.org.uk/wildlife/birdguide/name/s/siskin/index.asp

    The video, shown above, was taken in my garden on February 15th 2007.

    Tuesday, 13 February 2007

    National Nest Box Week - UK

    Tomorrow sees the start of National Nest Box Week which runs until the 21st of February. For full details click here where you will also find details on how to make your own. I, with help, have already put up two new boxes this year and was unaware there was a promotional week to encourage it. I think this is a great idea and it is just in time for prospective tenants like the Blue Tits who are noting interest in ours!

    Cameras in nest boxes give us a chance to watch the activity of nest building and a unique opportunity to see the chicks hatch and grow. We don’t have cameras but we are considering it – maybe next year. We had Blue Tits nest last year and I can assume chicks too. I never saw them go but five young were seen at our feeders in the summer - and food was seen going in our box! It would have been nice to see them actually use our box but we had no idea if any birds would choose to use it.

    Searching the web looking at the different types of nest box cameras available we came across an interesting site that took still photos with movement in the nest box. When we first came across this site, last year, it was called ‘Peggy’s Webcam Bird Box’ and it was a diary format with photos. This site is now at http://www.camnest.co.uk/index.shtml . I have looked at the 2007 Blue Tit box tonight and it shows they have been busy alright– but not nest building! I would suggest maybe that you would like to see, for the moment, the chicks of last year on http://www.camnest.co.uk/diary_2006/bluetit/index.shtml .

    If you are interested in the post that covers the nest boxes in my garden go to http://shirlsgardenwatch.blogspot.com/2007/01/new-nestbox-terrace.html

    Siskins still with us

    The Siskins have settled in well to the feeding protocol already established at the feeders in my garden. The female has been seen more - especially enjoying the sunflower hearts with the Goldfinches.

    Today I saw two females with the Goldfinches but so far I have only spotted one male. I read that they associate in flocks so maybe we will see more of them or perhaps they will join in with the increasing flock of chaffinches!

    Siskin feeding video, 0:27 with background music, try 480p quality.

    Siskin female, shown above, is quite happy dining alone and clearly doesn’t want the housesparrow to join her! What a feisty little thing she is for her size.


    Siskin with Goldfinch video, 0:28 with background music, try 480p quality.

    The Goldfinch,shown above with the Siskin female, seem to be acceptable dining companions. This female Siskin was quite happy to be joined by a Goldfinch at her feeding table. They fed for some time together and she was clearly fussy with whom she dined as you will have seen above! Notice the size of the Siskin, at 12cm in length, it is a little smaller than the Goldfinch which is 13cm. I didn’t realise it was so small until I saw it above.


    Siskin with Blue Tit video, 0:15 with background music, try 480p quality.


    The Blue Tit shown above with the Siskin female, seem not to offend most birds maybe that’s because they never hang around when the feeders are already taken! This Siskin female had many visits to this particular feeder today and was briefly joined by a Blue Tit popping in for a sunflower heart – to go! Again look at the size difference between them. At first glance the Blue Tit appears larger but it is just the shape difference – it is actually shorter in length at 11cm.

    Follow the links for more info and images on the Siskin, Goldfinch and Blue Tit.


    The videos, shown above, were taken in my garden on February 12th 2007.

    Sunday, 11 February 2007

    Garden focus

    I have been publishing this Blog since November and my intentions are to record the progress of my garden throughout the year. For the moment much attention has been given to the visiting birds but plants have been my major focus for almost 25 years. It is only in the last two years I have actually been regularly feeding the birds! I cannot, to any degree, profess to be an expert when it comes to birds. I will say though that I am enthusiastic in all that goes on in my garden – it is a living growing space.

    My interest in birds however has seriously grown in the last six months. I am enjoying identifying them, putting out different foods and feeders and generally observing what happens. I wouldn’t say I am a real bird watcher. I’d say I was a gardener first and foremost. I would say, however, that I am no longer the sole owner of my garden space – I am definitely sharing it with the birds and I cannot now imagine it without them!

    My passion for plants will become apparent as the year goes on. My garden is quite small and my greenhouse is tiny but this in no way deters me in experimenting with plants and schemes. Last autumn I took cuttings of clematis and I cannot wait to see if they have taken! I enjoy growing particular plants, I don’t always know if they will survive in my garden but when they do, and seed themselves, I get such a buzz that I have the conditions that they can thrive. I plant the plant, take the cutting and sow the seed and the plants grow. I am now becoming to feel the same about the birds -I put up the feeders and put out the foods and the birds come. How simple is that?

    Species Update – total 15!

    I am absolutely amazed at the number of bird species that are now regularly visiting my garden. Today saw the second new species of the year so far - the Siskin. It is following in the footsteps of the Blackcap which arrived on 1st January.

    Why is it always when you are not looking for something it appears right under your nose? I wonder how often we have unseen visitors in our gardens - not just birds but toads, hedgehogs and others too. Most of the time we will miss seeing them as we are simply not looking!

    Blackcap update I now have to report that today, as I was watching my new arrivals the Siskins, I noticed there were two Blackcap males - one at the table and the other in the fat cake cage. This again is a first, until now I had only seen one. My daughter also spotted two Coal Tits on one of our small pine trees the other day – with their speed they are very difficult to spot and again we have only ever seen one of them.

    Numbers increasing too so it is not only the species that are increasing! I really must try to count the Chaffinches that visit now they have definitely exceeded 12 - at a guess I’d say we have doubled that! I have been thinking that I will do another bird count perhaps on the last weekend of February for comparison to our count for the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 2007, taken on January 27th.

    My garden now has regularly visits from:
    Blackbirds, Robins, Dunnocks, Wrens,
    House Sparrows,
    Blue Tits, Great Tits, Coal Tits,
    Greenfinches, Goldfinches, Chaffinches,
    Starlings, Woodpigeons

    My garden has had recent visits from:
    Blackcap males
    Siskin male and female

    If you would like to see videos of the birds that visit my garden - click on the link below MY VIDEOS at the top of the left column where you will see further links direct to all videos published in previous posts.

    Siskin Surprise

    Just after noon today I happened to glance out of the window to see a bird with strong yellow colouring. I was surprised to see what I thought could be a Siskin. I couldn’t believe it!

    After quickly setting up my video camera, I looked up my bird reference book. I was able to identify both a male and a female and was thrilled to catch on video what appears, to me, to be a pair.

    Siskin pair first garden sighting video, 0:20 with background music, try 480p quality.


    In the video you can see that the female Siskin is perched higher on the left. You will notice as the male turns round how much more colourful he is and also the black cap on his head.

    It appears they only started visiting gardens in the last 50 years. They are reported to have a liking for peanuts from feeders. Today they went straight to my table which did have peanuts on it! If they become regulars they may well find the hanging feeders of peanuts placed around my garden. I have already noticed their very acrobatic flying!

    The next dry day I’ll get the camera outside and catch them closer up. At first glance they are similar to the Greenfinch but their yellow markings are quite distinctive and size-wise they are a little smaller. I am absolutely amazed that my garden has attracted yet another new species – one too that I have never seen before!

    Follow the link for more information on the Siskin.


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

    Friday, 9 February 2007

    Snow-capped and frosted

    Overnight our garden covering of snow remained the same. It was still cold so as expected the snow frosted over. My footsteps gave a soft crunch as I walked around the garden with my camera this morning. I thought I’d like to capture the mood this morning – especially for those who have soaring temps!


    Plant names, from top to bottom are – Heuchera , Bergenia, Crocus, Bamboo and Pine tree. The morning sun was melting the frost on the tips of the plants as you can see above .

    Plants from around the world make their way into our gardens. The sources for our indulgence in new plants, and latest varieties, range from friends to our local Nursery or Garden Centre, the exhibitors at Garden Shows and the Internet. Not all plants clearly can grow in all countries but I thought I’d take a look in my Garden Encyclopedia to see, out of interest, where the plants above growing in my Scottish Garden originated!

    Heuchera – is from the rocky sites in North America, chiefly the Rocky Mountains, with a few from Mexico. I had no idea on that one – I’ll see it in a different light now.

    Bergenia – is from meadows, rocky moorland, and moist woodland in Central and E. Asia. Again I had now idea that came from so far away. Although that one doesn’t surprise me as I do have a likeness for plants from China and Japan.

    Crocus – is found in a wide range of habitats, including woodland, scrub and meadows, from coastal to subalpine areas in C. and S. Europe, N. Africa, the Middle East, C Asia, and W. China. Quite a little traveller is the crocus!

    Bamboo – is found in forest and woodland in tropical and subtropical Africa, Asia, and Central and South America. Now, I knew this one was from Asia but I would never have associated it with Africa. This one was a Mother’s Day present a few years ago.

    Pine tree – is found in forests of the N. hemisphere from the Artic Circle to Central America, North Africa and S. E. Asia. Now, I had no idea that this tree was so versatile! This one is a dwarf species, I cannot remember its name but it gave cones when it was a young tree. I love the structure of the Pine tree.

    The photos, shown above, was taken in my garden on February 9th 2007.

    Wednesday, 7 February 2007

    Robin warning

    Two posts today – this one is quite special too. Today I originally took my video camera outside to film the frost on my plants – to see if the frost sparkles would show. I only have sunshine in my back garden for a short time in the morning so I try to take advantage of it when I can. I happened to glance over to the bird table to see a robin appearing to sunbathe on its roof.


    Vocal Robin, video 0:33 no background music, try 480p quality.

    Robin, shown above, initially didn’t seem to take any notice of me setting up my tripod. So, as he didn’t look like he was about to fly off I took the opportunity to catch him on film. I zoomed in as you can see and then, as you will hear, it started making a strange noise – not the song that I would have associated it with at all. I referred to my book and it suggests it could be an alarm call. I have seen no signs of nesting etc so I am a bit confused as to what he was making his point about. However it is a lovely piece of film – real sound for a change too. Shortly after this I left the camera running - that is when I caught the Blackcap in the previous post.

    What a delightful couple of day’s video capture to share in this Blog. I wonder what tomorrow will bring – it has just started snowing!


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

    Blackcap returns

    This morning, again, was on the chilly side with frost overnight. Today, for a change, I decided to set up my camera outside positioned to catch the groups of Chaffinches and Starlings feeding on the ground under my small Acer tree. How fortunate was that – I filmed a return visit of the Blackcap...

    Blackcap male feeding on the ground , video 0:31 with no background music, try 480p quality.

    Blackcap, shown above, when it visited in January really enjoyed the fat cake – but the Starlings did too arriving in packs, fighting to get at it! I don’t know if this made the Blackcap go searching elsewhere but we haven’t seen it for a month. There is no way for me to tell if this is the original male that visited regularly or not. If I were to guess I think it could be a different one as it chose to feed on the ground where the sunflower hearts were. The original male would take the sunflower hearts from the feeders – peanuts too! A Starling is shown briefly in the video above - notice the size difference.

    Thrilled was I to see the Blackcap return – I immediately went shopping for some fat cakes! There are none hanging at the moment as they caused so much activity, noise and fighting within the Starlings themselves. The smaller birds were getting put off going near the bird table and even the hanging feeders would have hanging Starlings!


    Fat cake guardian, shown above – now this is something different! It is a new design, developed for the RSPB. It claims to protect fat cakes and balls from larger birds, like crows, so they don't get eaten too quickly. The cage size is approx. 30 cm diameter. I picked one up at the shop this morning when I bought some fat cakes – now you didn’t think I was going to let the Starlings rule the roost again! I hung the cage on a hook over a bamboo with a fat cake in the centre chamber. Already a number of Starlings have tried, and tried, and tried to get at it – but I am not feeling smug yet. The Starlings are very resourceful and clearly enjoy a challenge!

    I very much hope that the Blackcap will discover the new location of the fat cake and become a regular visitor once more – I have missed seeing it amongst the growing community of birds in my garden. Scotland is not the usual winter home for the Blackcap – climate change is suspected to be responsible as sightings have being recorded here over the last few years. It is still not a common bird though – I wonder how many more species will find their way to Scotland in future years.

    The video and photo, shown above, were taken in my garden on February 7th 2007. To see previous posts on the Blackcap go to http://shirlsgardenwatch.blogspot.com/2007/01/new-year-brings-new-arrival.html and http://shirlsgardenwatch.blogspot.com/2007/01/i-dont-believe-it_08.html.

    Tuesday, 6 February 2007

    Robin on ice

    This morning was on the chilly side – frost overnight left the ground very hard and any water frozen. I had breakfast at my window, watching the birds as daylight came in – what a peaceful way to start the day. I spied seven blackbirds, three robins and two dunnocks dashing along the ground this morning. It was two hours later that I captured the video below.

    Robin on iced pond, video 0:25 with background music, try 480p quality.

    Robin, shown above, did not wait until the ice melted, or I broke it, to get a drink. He was thirsty and resourceful! He carefully walked out on the ice to get to water under an over-hanging stone. I was absolutely delighted with this piece of film as really it started out as a test for my new tripod. I had been trying to familiarise myself with its movements when the robin below popped into the frame – I followed it not knowing what it was about to do!


    Coal Tit feeding on pine tree, video 0:25with background music, try 480p quality.

    Coal Tit was another surprise video capture today. I have found it very difficult to get the coal tit on film as it comes into the feeders very quickly, takes a seed and off it flies to the safety of the trees or hedge to eat it. I had just set the camera up and switched on the PC, when I glanced out the window to find it moving about the pine tree in search of food. It finally settled on a branch and you can see what beautiful markings it has – especially on its head. I will also copy this footage to a previous post that shows it with the Great and Blue tit and if you go to this post you will be able to compare them all .



    The videos, shown above, were taken in my garden on February 6th 2007.

    Monday, 5 February 2007

    Lunchtime sighting

    I returned to my elderly neighbour’s garden today to continue dividing plants that have become too large for her to handle. Today this one nearly beat me - a large pampas grass within her small border! After I had my lunch I was preparing to return and stopped to look out of my window at the birds feeding. A bird with quick flighty movements, jumping up and down the stems of my bamboo, caught my attention.

    Unfortunately the video camera wasn’t set up so I never caught it on film. I will make a point of looking again tomorrow. This, for me, has been the fun part of observing the birds - spotting the unexpected amongst the predictable behaviour. For example the blue tits buzz about quickly from feeder to feeder – they are not usually seen feeding on the ground.

    Speedily bouncing along the ground is exactly where I usually see today’s surprise lunchtime guest! Only it is first thing in the morning, just before daylight, that I would expect to see it. I have been trying for sometime to see it again and catch it on video. I know I won’t get a photo as it is too quick! If I get it on video I can grab a frame and get a still shot. Maybe I should explore the photo shot setting in my video camera – just thought of that, never found that successful in the past. From memory the picture was a bit blocky - but I could try it again.

    So who was mixing it with the rest? Today saw the Wren out and about during sunlight hours – maybe this is usual but I have never seen it then. It is tiny, fast and very difficult to spot. It was because its behaviour was so very different from the other birds, it got noticed today! It was almost comical to see it navigate through the bamboo canes, the ground below then a quick flight up to the bird table and drop to the ground again. There were chaffinches on the ground and other birds at the table – for its size it did not appear intimidated at all. No creeping around hiding behind the plants today either– it looked like it was on one great big adventure!

    I hope to catch some film or photo shots of the wren soon and will post them here when I do.

    Friday, 2 February 2007

    Fair and bright

    Today was a lovely day, we had sunshine and it was pleasantly warm. It really didn’t feel like February – more like September. As I filled my watering can to water my elderly neighbour’s garden, where I had been busy yesterday lifting and dividing her plants, she told me of a piece of weather folklore. As it refers to today, the 2nd day of February, I thought I would post it. She gave it to me in Scots tongue but I have searched the Internet for a version that would make sense to most.


    Chaffinch male, video 0.12 with background music, suggest 480p quality.


    Chaffinch male, shown above was enjoying the mid-morning sunshine today. He briefly perched on my small domed Acer tree, in front of my window, before he dropped to the ground feeder below to indulge in some tasty sunflower hearts.

    Winter is yet to come – I have felt this myself, so I was very interested when my neighbour told me the folklore saying below. I am the great-granddaughter of a shepherd so maybe I have something in my genes – who knows! Very interesting though are these folklore sayings - I must look into them further and perhaps post them where appropriate. I could post the Scots tongue too but few would be able to understand it – I am likely to have trouble myself!

    February weather folklore -
    "If Candlemas Day be fair and bright,
    Winter will have another flight,
    If Candlemas Day be cloud and rain,
    Then winter will not come again."
    (Candlemas Day - 2nd February)


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

    Thursday, 1 February 2007

    Worrying thoughts!

    A trip into town today gave me cause for concern. I had just parked my car and was walking along the pavement en route to the shops when I caught sight of something. It wasn’t strange or that unusual to see – but my thoughts were! I had just passed an open, brick paved driveway that was strewn with berries dropped from a large cotoneaster tree that overlooked it. My thoughts were what a waste - as the birds could have eaten these berries. That’s okay. But then I took that to a whole new level, thinking they could be swept up and collected to feed the birds. I decided to take a photo on my phone to record this moment.


    I blame the Robin. If it wasn’t for him and my friend in Australia missing him I would not be writing this now. I began this Blog to share our birds, plants and weather with my friend and anyone else that doesn't know what we have here – a little piece of Scotland.

    I have had until now, what I would regard as, a pretty normal interest in birds that has definitely grown considerably in the last two months since I have been taking videos and observing their behaviour. Today’s thoughts – should I be worried the birds are taking over?

    The photograph, shown above, was taken on my mobile phone on February 1st 2007.