Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Tell-tale signs

Watching the behaviour of visiting garden birds can be quite entertaining – most of the time! It can also tell a story of what is going on if you look more closely. So let’s start with the male chaffinch below who seems to have adopted the top of my small pine tree, which is directly opposite the entrance to my camera nestbox approx six feet away, as a song post.

What is he singing about? Is he just happy or is he looking to impress the ladies? Mm… there are certainly a good number of male and female chaffinches visiting my garden at the moment. This chap has really caught my attention as he sings his little heart out even when I am out in the garden too.

Most birds visiting my garden will be already paired and I do believe that the collared dove, that has been visiting alone, is now bringing its mate. They usually feed on the ground but sometimes go to the tables too. Mm… I wonder if we will see juvenile collared doves visit at some point. Yes, once you start spotting some pairs you will see there are quite a few.

Once paired, the male birds do appear to always be on lookout when they feed together as you can see with the siskins above. I am guessing the male understands his role of protecting the female even before she lays eggs. I am also guessing that they have some sort of internal clock (probably related to weather temperature) to tell them when to mate.

It was certainly a bit warmer last weekend and as I brushed my daughter’s hair looking out the window we spotted the very quick 'moment' between this pair, or another pair of siskins, on this Acer tree. Let’s just say my daughter was quite vocal about it! So we could see juvenile siskins in the garden again this year.

Nest building is well underway with the blue tits using my camera Nestbox - I plan to post an update with video footage in a couple of days. However, I have been watching for blackbirds collecting material too in the hope that they might use the Nestbox I put up especially for them. I’ve seen no signs at all with blackbirds but I have seen starlings collecting short stems of dried grass around the base of my ornamental grasses. Of course today when I was out with my camera they were only to be seen refuelling with sultanas!

The blackbirds were also enjoying the sultanas today too. But wait a minute. If you look closely they aren’t just eating them… they are collecting them! They are collecting sunflower hearts too. I watched them fly off with mouthfuls of them.

After watching this last year I now know this is a classic tell-tale sign that there are chicks somewhere, perhaps close-by, waiting to be fed. Well… there’s a surprise! Okay, not all is lost for my Nestbox as Blackbirds do have more than one brood per year so perhaps a pair will find it for next time.

Blackbird chicks are great to see in the garden – but then again the blackbirds are one of my favourite garden visitors. I love to see the feathers of the chicks go through the colour changes from fluffy brown to smooth black. However, they won’t be the first chicks in my garden this year. The first chicks I have noticed in my garden for 2008 belong to the dunnocks.

For a few days now I have been watching three juvenile dunnocks play follow my leader round my plants. The one in the photos above was out on its own today. I hope the others are okay. Again, what a pretty little bird this is. I have to say that although I am absolutely amazed to see the variety of colours of the finches that visit my garden I am becoming a big fan of the less colourful birds.

Finally, I should perhaps point out that the birds in my garden are at different stages of nest building than those in other parts of the UK. We are approximately two weeks behind much of England. However, you may still find it interesting to watch out for the tell-tale signs in your garden. It is fascinating to see.

To see more photos of the blackbirds taken today without sultanas in their mouths go to this posting on my birdphotos blog.

All photos above were taken in my garden on April 29th 2008.

Monday, 28 April 2008

Botanical walks

Walking around my own garden at the moment I am seeing lots of changes to the growth of my plants. However, I have to be honest and say if it wasn’t for this online diary I suspect I would miss much of this early new growth. Taking part with Bloom Day posts definitely has made me much more aware of the seasonal changes. Garden visits are another way the see garden plants through the seasons.

Dawyck Botanic Garden is 8 miles southwest of Peebles in the Scottish Borders. Two weekends ago I spent a very pleasant walk around this garden. Yes, gardens are for seeing plants but I do enjoy the wander along and off the paths and this garden was able to provide both.

After discovering lots of birds on my visit my visit to the Royal Botanical Gardens in Edinburgh I took my camera. Nuthatches were to be seen in a particular area and as I have never seen one the route we planned went to this area first. It looked like it could rain so after a quick coffee in the newly opened coffee shop we headed out.

Deep red rhododendron buds were the first to catch my eye followed by the yellow skunk cabbage along the edge of a small stream. What a striking sight the skunk cabbage was. Yellow would definitely be the colour I would now associate with this garden in April. Drifts and clumps of daffodils were to be seen all around this garden especially in the woodland area where we headed to spot nuthatches.

Pheasants were the birds of this visit and you can see how well they blend with a woodland setting. Sadly they were also seen on and at the side of the road. Even though they can fly for some reason they decide to walk across busy roads! It wasn’t just pheasants we saw at the side of the roads on our drive to this garden. Rows and rows of daffodils could be seen on the grass verges. I honestly don’t think I have ever seen so many daffodils planted in this way.

Stone pots and urns are seen in many gardens but I have to say that I find them just as beautiful empty all covered in moss. A small chapel which added further character to this garden. Of course a visit here in the summer would be quite different again although I do enjoy seeing the ‘bones’ of the garden at this time of year. I don’t suppose I would have spotted the ferns growing on the huge branches of this tree if it was in leaf.

Looking to the ground native primroses were scattered around. I do love the primrose and the ones in my garden are getting more flowers by the day. I was also taken by the delicate flowers of Erythronium growing through grass. What lovely speckled foliage it has too. I think I might like to add this to my garden for next spring.

My garden does have small rhododendrons but this garden had quite a range of full sized ones in quite a few stages of flower as you can see in my plantphotos blog. It is difficult to stop taking photos of the different clusters of flowers this plant has. So, I didn’t get the nuthatch photos I set out for but the rain stayed away and we had a very pleasant walk.

Update April 30th: I am guessing that perhaps links to my extra photo blogs aren't often followed so I have decided to update this posting with these photos here too as they really capture the character of the rhododendron flower on my visit and it would be a shame if you missed them. I am sure you will agree that they are quite beautiful flowers especially in a mature garden or a woodland setting.

My reason for using the extra blogs is simply as an overflow for photos so that I don't have too many on postings which may make my blog taken longer to load on your browser. That is one of the reasons I use montages too. Although I do feel the montages also capture an essence that scrolling down through photos cannot.

I would appreciate any feedback on this. I do understand that my videos can take time too load too but I hope they are worth the wait. It is tricky sometimes to find the balance and I don't want visitors to be turned off by long and difficult to load postings. I understand completely that browsing blogs or any websites takes time (often late at night) and it should be enjoyable and not frustrating. Happy browsing!

All photos above were taken by me at Dawyck Botanic Garden on April 20th 2008.

Thursday, 24 April 2008

Hungry young hedgehog

I haven’t had my night camera in use for a few nights. However I had guessed by the food distribution at my hedgehog feeding station that we have had less hedgehog visits recently. I am also guessing that the landscaping work that my neighbour is still having done perhaps has altered the route they have taken to my garden.

During the day the blackbirds have been seen dashing into the feeding station and running away with the sultanas or peanuts. However, late this evening I was out feeding the guinea pigs and as I walked back and forth I glanced across at the feeding station. Was there something in it? With my own shadow it was hard to tell.

I took a closer look and found a small hedgehog was inside – but the dish was empty. Oops… I ran inside quickly for some dried fruit and gently threw it inside. The hedgehog didn’t move. I lifted the box up and the hedgehog still didn’t move. I guess I startled it as it stayed so still. I went for my gloves and lifted it up. It moved a little and I could see its tiny snout nose. I was concerned that it would run away once I went inside and not take any of the food I put out. I decided to put it on the path outside the entrance to my hedgehog house. It quickly ran in. I quickly ran inside my house for more dried fruit and peanuts and scattered them along the path outside the entrance.

The night camera just had to be set up now to see what happened next! As I was checking I had an okay picture, with all outside lights on, I spotted the hedgehog come out of the house and start eating the food I put out. Poor little thing must have been hungry! I ran inside switching the outside lights off so it could eat in peace and watched the images from my camera. It ate for some time before eventually walking off out into the night once again. I am so pleased I spotted it tonight and was able to see it get some food.

Young hedgehog eeding outside hidden border hedgehog house,
video 0:51 with background music, try 480p quality.

Perhaps it will return here for food during the night – if not I am sure the blackbirds will find this food tomorrow morning! How nice to see this hardy little hedgehog still out and about visiting my garden.

Finally, tomorrow I would like to capture some more bird photos from my garden. I do believe I have three juvenile dunnocks running around. They are quite funny to watch following each other round and round the plants looking for food. How wonderful to see the first of the juvenile birds visiting my garden for this year. Now, all we need next is for the female blue tit to complete her nest in my camera nestbox.

The video above was taken in my garden on April 24th 2008.

Monday, 21 April 2008

Some warm sunshine

Today my garden saw the first Acer leaves for 2008 unfurl…

It also saw the first white glimpses from a few magnolia buds. I had to go in for my camera! Ah… the tulips are almost about to open too. I am so looking forward to seeing them flower especially as they begin my colour theme for 2008!

Isn’t it wonderful how a few hours of sunshine can transform the garden. Although if you look closely at the montage above you’ll see that the first of the drumstick primulas and daffodils are going over now – I guess the sunshine is responsible there too.

Today I managed a few hours in the garden. I ache a little now but I am sure I will sleep well tonight! We are to have a good day again tomorrow and then we can expect rain for a couple of days after that. My plan is to get some more planting done before the rain. I do love to change my planting schemes – that is by far my most favourite part of gardening. I’ll post on what I’ve been up to very soon.

Finally, on uploading the photos above I had a little look in the Nestbox while I was waiting. The light was going down and the Nestbox was almost completely dark but I could still make out a shape in the corner. Yep… the same corner as last night had our blue tit female tucked up in a fluffy ball sleeping. Excellent!! That’s two consecutive nights now. The Nestbox is still full of moss too. Oh yes… and I looked in earlier as I was preparing dinner and just missed the male visit with dinner for the female! Everything is moving on nicely now.

The photos above were taken in my garden on April 21st 2008.

Sunday, 20 April 2008

The late shift

Moss has continued to go in and come out of our Camera Nestbox all week. I really didn’t think I had any more to add from my last update. I was late looking in on the Nestbox tonight and really I was only expecting to see more or less moss than this morning. However I was in for a surprise.

We had a late shift working in our Nestbox! Our blue tit female was in and out and in and out. Moss did come and go as usual but there was a great deal of inspection going on. We have been out all day but in our absence she has been very busy indeed. I watched her try a shuffle or two but the material is now too bouncy for her – she really hasn’t got the knack of this shuffling!

Seven-thirty passed and she was still in and out. Eight o’clock passed and she was still visiting. Yes, tonight she was clearly pondering over something. A long strand of dry grass was getting in her way. She tugged and tugged at it. She couldn’t find an end. She turned her back on it and went in to a corner. Yep… she was considering roosting in the box tonight.

Nope… this grass just had to go! Once again she tried to get it out. It wrapped around her almost tying her up. She bounced on the surface of the nest. She jumped up to the entrance hole with it only to be pulled back in caught up in it. She stopped every so often. Poor little soul was tired now. I bet she now thought of abandoning roosting here tonight. One more try… and the grass was out.

It was 8.20pm and finally the quite obviously tired little blue tit finally settled into the corner of the Nestbox where this piece of grass had been stuck. She didn’t waste anymore time and quite quickly tucked herself in for the night. I am guessing birds don’t dream which is quite fortunate in this case.

So tomorrow… I wonder if we will see the nest cup finally formed and see her start bringing in the softer material. I have put some nesting material out in a small hanging basket for her as I did for the birds last year. It is also hanging on the same hook beside a small tree. I do hope there will be some left for her as, just like last year, a jackdaw is going away with huge clumps -heading straight to my neighbours chimney with it!!

Finally, I have now seen starlings and blackbirds collecting pieces of nesting material from the borders especially around my ornamental grasses. Yep… the 2008 nesting season has officially kicked off in my area of Perthshire!

The photos above were taken in my camera nestbox on April 20th 2008.

Friday, 18 April 2008

National Pet Month

It’s Friday night so I thought I’d do a fun post especially for pet lovers. Cats and Dogs regularly make appearances on garden blogs. I have never really been a pet person myself but do appreciate that so many people are. So, when I spotted an article in a gardening magazine showing photos of guinea pigs and the title National Pet Month above I was drawn to read it and knew I had to post on this.

Regular visitors will know that I have tried to keep this diary as a garden watch. First thing in the morning I open the curtains and look out to my plants and to the birds running around them. Lately I have been looking for signs of the blackbirds collecting material for nests. It’s funny to watch how much they can collect in their beaks. Over the last couple of days I noticed starlings start collecting and today I was delighted to finally see the first blackbird female collecting material too. Now, I will have to keep an eye out for them going towards the blackbird Nestbox in my pergola!

Although the birds running around catch my attention when I open the curtains at the moment I am firstly looking out for the latest spring-autumn visitors to my garden. The two young ladies in the video below are called Dora (grey) and Elisa and they are my Daughter’s guinea pigs. They have been kept indoors for the winter and last weekend they moved outside into their new two-story hutch.

Dora & Eliza, video 0:54with background music, try 480p quality.

Now I have two helpers with my garden watch! The guinea pigs also watch the birds as they feed on the ground under my Acer tree. As I walk around the garden I know I am now being watched too – the guinea pigs wait in the hope that I will bring them a handful of fresh grass or dandelion leaves. So I now also have two small, environmentally friendly, grass cutters whilst my lawnmower is being repaired! Oh yes... and a reason to grow dandelions.

Joking apart here in the UK the aims of National Pet Month, which runs from April 5th to May 5th, are to:

“Promote responsible pet ownership”
“Make people aware of the benefits of pets for people and people for pets”
“Increase public awareness of services available from professionals who work with animals”
“Raise awareness of the role, value and contribution to society of working companion animals”

To find out more and get details of events and fund raising in your area go to the website in the link above. There are also details of the National Pet Month photographic competition too.

Finally, I have to admit that I am becoming quite fond of our guinea pigs and like all pets/animals they have their own individual characters. Wherever you live I wish you a good weekend both in the garden and with your pets.

The video above was taken in my garden on April 18th 2008.

Thursday, 17 April 2008

Camera Nestbox 2008

This is our second year of having a Nestbox with a camera in it. Sadly, last year our blue tit chicks died after a week - with some only surviving a couple of days. Understandably we would love to watch a successful brood grow and fledge.

The blue tit pair that has chosen this Nestbox for this year began visiting in January. The photo above shows the blue tit male (left) and female in centre. The black and white photo shows our winter rooster. Notice the different markings they have. During March it looked like we had lost this pair to another Nestbox in the garden without a camera. They eventually returned and nest building began but as the first weeks of April have been quite cold perhaps the female has had no rush to build her nest!

Below, you will see a list of direct links to the activity in and outside our Camera Nestbox. If you are reading this with a Nestbox (with or without a camera) I wish you successful broods for 2008. If you are reading this without a Nestbox I would guess you might just consider putting one up for 2009.

  • The end of this nesting story - June 11, 2008
  • The chicks open their eyes - June 8, 2008
  • Three chicks now - June 6, 2008
  • Chicks getting bigger and stronger - June 1, 2008
  • Chick losses - five or six left - May 30, 2008
  • Chicks in nest, female eating egg shell (4 videos) - May 27, 2008
  • Update, six chicks now - May 27, 2008
  • Three chicks hatch - May 26, 2008
  • Incubation well underway with eight eggs (video) - May 19, 2008
  • The first egg (video) - May 8, 2008
  • Update of nest progress (6 videos) - May 1, 2008
  • Female blue tit roosting in nestbox - April 20, 2008
  • The moss comes in and the moss goes out (video) - April 13, 2008
  • The first moss comes in - April 3, 2008
  • Who picks the Nestbox to use? (video) - April 1, 2008

  • Trouble in the nestbox? (video) - March 24, 2008
  • The rooster gets visitors (video) - March 11, 2008

  • Have last year’s pair returned? (video) - February 15, 2008

  • Blue tit pair outside nestbox (video) - January 7, 2008
  • First visit of 2008 blue tit pair in Nestbox (video) - January 6, 2008

  • The photos above were taken in my garden.

    Tuesday, 15 April 2008

    Garden Bloom Day April 2008

    Well here we are in April already and after a chilly start to this morning it is definitely shaping up to being quite a different April than last year. We have had plenty of rain, hail stones and some snow – very different from last year which was very warm and dry. Now, I do hope that the weather this April will be much better for nesting birds looking for insects and caterpillars to feed their young. In Scotland we really are used to April showers!

    This month I am just in time to join Carol at May Dreams Gardens with a post of what’s flowering on the 15th of the month. Carol mentioned on her post of Blooms in her garden which is in Indiana, USA that her plants are a week behind last year. I hadn’t taken part with a post last year but I did post on the 13th of April 2007 and I would say that the leaves on my Acer could be a week behind too. I see that my magnolia had flowered too. At the moment my Magnolia buds are not near opening. I have to say that the birds are behind with nesting this year too.

    This month I have a video to let you hear the sounds as well as see images from my small, very ordinary garden. I have neighbours very close by but with hedges and planting my garden is quite secluded and private. Of course you can’t shut out noise when houses are built close together. This morning was a lovely sunny one with just a light breeze. It was almost perfect to take video in the garden.

    I turned on the pump of my small pond for the first time this year (after fishing out the leaves that had fallen in) and started to film. The birdsong was wonderful and you could imagine being completely in the middle of the countryside. Ah… but then from a neighbour’s garden this tranquillity was shattered with the starting up of a styl cutter! I could easily have edited this sound out but I decided to leave it in as I was trying to capture the sounds from my garden today. I stopped filming as I guessed it would be on a while and I didn’t have time to wait.

    Later on during the afternoon I returned to a shower of (you’ve guessed it) hailstones once again. It was followed by rain which eventually opened the skies to some sunshine. During this break I went out with my camera once again.

    Starting at my sunnier front garden I walked round to my back more shady garden where I have lots of foliage plants. The closer to the back I filmed (I noticed when making my video) the louder the sound of birdsong could be heard. Another neighbour was working in his garden now but the birds were singing once again and I was back by the side of my pond where I started.

    Garden wander video, video 2:08 with background music, try 480p quality.

    I am glad I made this film as it will be great to look back on now for next month and next April too. Next month I expect that I will not be able to see bare earth in my borders. How quickly the garden evolves at this time of year. This is my favourite time of the year and like Carol, May is my favourite month.

    Finally, do remember if you would like to see more flowers blooming in gardens around the world at the moment check out the comments on Carol’s post. It is great that so many people get involved!

    The video above was taken in my garden on April 15th 2008.

    Sunday, 13 April 2008

    What goes on inside a Nestbox?

    Please accept my apologies for taking so long to post an update on the activity in my Nestboxes. As you read this post it will become clear why. So, what have the Blue tit pair that were interested in two of my nestboxes been up to? Well I am feeling confident enough now to say that they have chosen my Camera Nestbox. Oops now I’ve said it…

    The male occasionally still goes to the Arch box but he has now started visiting the Camera box and has even been in to inspect progress. I doubt he was impressed! The photo above was taken three days ago but let’s just say since this visit the female has made a few changes.

    She clearly didn’t like this décor or the next or the next. Suffice to say she is making seriously hard work of building a nest. This would have worried me but the female who used this Nestbox last year did exactly the same. It is painful to watch though. I have found myself talking to the screen on more than a few occasions!

    Her nesting shuffles appear to be in need of a bit of practise too! It was pointed out to me in a comment by Martin, who also has a Nestbox with a camera that “When she does her 'shuffles' it's funny how she is hopping around the box wobbling as she goes! Normally they get their chest flat down on the floor - unusual !” I have to say I agree as I have been watching her shuffles quite closely.

    The first piece of moss came in our Camera Nestbox ten days ago and the photo above shows how our Nestbox looked at 4.30pm today. I looked in again later before it went dark in our box and it looked much the same. Each time I see an image like this I think the nest is moving on and she will add the next layer of material. So far this has not been the case – hopefully this will happen sometime soon.

    I am heartened to see the male is showing interest this year. Last year’s male wasn’t at all interested at this stage. I am guessing sometime soon we will see the male visiting bearing gifts of food to reward her hard work.

    To let you see what has been going on I have made a compilation of video captures. This video is a little longer than usual at just over three minutes. It shows just how much moss gets taken in and out of the box from both inside and outside the Nestbox. It also shows the male hanging around for support. I have a number of video captures but the ones I have used below were taken in the last three days.

    All outside video footage was taken today. At the end there are some still captures showing examples of how the Nestbox has been filled and emptied so many times in the last ten days. The final two still captures are of the only night the female has roosted in the Nestbox which is a week ago now.

    What goes on inside a nestbox, video 3:15 with background music, try 480p quality.

    Finally, I should say that I do expect this nest will eventually take shape and then it will be quite a different waiting game! For the moment I am also enjoying seeing the much more efficient nest builder that Jamie has in his Nestbox. However, I do have faith that the blue tit female in my nestbox will come good yet so please do return to see how she is doing.

    All photos and videos above were taken in my garden during 10th-13th April 2008.

    Saturday, 12 April 2008

    Looking for wistera flowers

    All eyes in the garden, at the moment, are on my camera Nestbox to see if the blue tit will complete her nest. She is making seriously hard work of it and I will report on her progress soon.

    Looking to the plants in the garden, at the moment, many gardeners will be keeping an eye on the buds of their wisterias. I was out yesterday having a look at mine. The waiting game for these flowers is as exciting as the eggs hatching in the nestbox :-)

    The photo above shows how my wisteria is looking at the moment. But in other parts of the UK this growth will be ahead or behind this. I gave the stems of my wisteria a second pruning back to two sets of buds at the end of February but I do remember Alan Titchmarsh, in an article in Gardeners' World Magazine, saying that you can still do this as late as April here in the UK. However in December you can see that the frosty stems on my wisteria shown below had been pruned back to approx four sets of buds. I give my wisteria two prunings.

    Sorry, here’s me keeping an online diary and I didn’t write down when I did this! Oops. I would take a guess that I did this early November. Although again going back to Alan Titchmarsh’s advice he suggested just one pruning in April would do. However, I do think there is a wide range of advice for successful flowering of the wisteria and I am sure it keeps changing too. It should be noted that during the summer months the long whippy growth still needs to be pruned out which I am sure all advice would give.

    We just have to take a look back now to June 7th 2007 to see the rewarding flowers this plant gives. I have had my wisteria perhaps as long as 10 years now and last year it flowered its socks off. I was thrilled! You can see I was not the only one that enjoyed these flowers. What did I do? Well, I will be honest and say I was brutal with my pruning earlier in the year as I felt if it couldn’t reward me with flowers it could reward my with a nice shape on my pergola.

    Oh… and again per Alan’s advice I also kept my plant watered well prior to and during flowering. I also gave it a high potash feed – but I have to confess I didn’t do it regularly. We have had plenty of rain recently so I don't plan to water it just now unless we get a dry spell. I will however start feeding it now as I am sure that will help the quality of the flowers. Too years ago I had a few very weedy looking flowers so I am guessing the watering and feeding really did make a difference to last years flowers.

    So, this is all very well and good saying what I have done now when you could be looking at your plant, like I did a few years ago, wondering if the growth you are seeing is going to unfurl into a leaf (so disappointing when this happens) or into a bud that will give flowers. The photos above were taken from my wisteria last year before it flowered. I hope it will help anyone searching for photos of what a wisteria bud looks like and the stages leading up to a flower.

    Finally, this year I will make sure my wisteria doesn't get too dry and I will try to remember to feed it regularly. I don't tend to spoil my plants but I cannot deny feeding them does help the growth and qualitity of flowers. So if you are reading this with a wisteria in your garden I wish you a wealth of wisteria flowers this year. This is an exciting plant to have in the garden and I hope you enjoy yours. However, even after following the same method as last year I will still wait with the same anticipation as I did last year waiting for the first flowers to open.

    All photos shown above were taken in my garden.

    Thursday, 10 April 2008

    Hedgehogs first for camera

    There is definitely a lot to watch out for in the garden at the moment between the plants, birds and wildlife. What a great time of year this is!

    Our blue tit female is still busy with her nest and I will post her progress in a couple of days as at the moment it is very much a work in progress! If and when this nest is complete, based on last year, there will initially be weekly updates then they will become more frequent all the way through to daily – fingers crossed. However, last night I was thrilled to be watching the hedgehogs visit again which you can see above in the first video footage from my new night/day camera.

    Hungry Hedgehog, video 0:47 with background music, try 480p quality.

    There is definitely more than one hedgehog visiting my garden now - but could there be two or three? Now, this is where this camera will come into its own. I can use it see a larger area and perhaps we may see more than one hedgehog visit at a time. That could be interesting to see how they behave together.

    What a thrill this is to see hedgehogs especially when last year at this time I didn’t even know they were visiting! It just goes to show what visitors can come to our gardens during the night too. Last nights first visits were early at around nine o’clock but I expect that was because it was a cold night and they were hungry. We had hail stones again yesterday.

    On a more serious note, my first thoughts are to feed the smaller hedgehogs and I was delighted to see a smaller one take food last night. At the moment I am putting out little trails of crushed peanuts and sultanas to lead them to the dishes where there is water too which I took from my water butt.

    I initially thought I would use this camera for the blackbird Nestbox which I may do yet. But as this was an inexpensive camera, deliberately chosen as an experiment, the quality of picture colour isn’t as good as I would have liked. I chose to have audio instead of a better quality picture but it isn’t that good either.

    However, on the positive side we were still able to watch activity in the garden at night which really is a fantastic opportunity. I wonder what other wildlife we will see? Perhaps a fox? I have seen one walking up our street in the past but it has always turned around and walked out again. I wonder if it explores the back gardens. I will continue to experiment with this camera and instead of fixing it to an area I have chosen to have it fixed to an old tripod we had in our attic. This will now be my roving camera which will be much more fun – BBC Wildlife Teams watch out!! I will also be able to set it up facing my hedgehog house to see if anything goes in or out it. Who knows, it may be chosen as a suitable place for a nesting female hedgehog – now that would be something!

    The video footage from this camera is taken using infrared LED’s. I took ages positioning the tripod as any closer the lights give up too much white light and you were unable to see the detail of the hedgehog. I intend using this camera more to find the wildlife in the garden at night then on dry nights I will put out my video camera and get much better footage. However, I thought I would share this first footage that we caught on camera. You can now see what we can see in the garden at night.

    The video above was taken in my garden on April 9th 2008.

    Tuesday, 8 April 2008

    Moving on...

    The daffodils in my garden are still giving a good show of colour but soon they will fade away. Other fancier varieties and the paper whites are now coming into flower and the fritillaries won’t be far behind. We had sleet and snow over the weekend so I didn’t get as much gardening done as I would have liked.

    As I retreated into the house for shelter the birds appeared at speed to the feeders from their hidden positions of shelter. I have noticed that in cold and wet days the feeders are much busier. Between showers the sun came out again allowing brief photo opportunities.

    This female chaffinch caught my eye. I haven’t noticed the female birds collecting material for building nests from my garden, so far, but I’m sure they must be doing it. They will need all the energy they can get from food now as they will be building nests and producing eggs soon.

    If you are wondering about the female blue tit that has been trying to decide which nestbox to use the photo above probably gives you a clue. Last night she had her first sleep-over in our Camera Nestbox so it now looks like this is the one she will use. I am trying not to be too happy about this in case she changes her mind! I will post some more photos and video over the weekend to let you see her progress.

    As the nest in our Nestbox moves on, slowly, the plants are picking up speed. I spotted a couple of bergenia flowers and the buds are increasing in size on the trees. I also noticed aquilegia foliage looking very fresh and pale yellow primrose flowers tucked in dark corners are beginning to emerge too. I love primroses.

    I also love alliums and you can see the growth that allium globemaster has put on in the pots I have started them off in. I must decide soon where I will plant them!

    The smaller photo in the middle above shows the tiny blue clusters of flowers on Brunnera ‘Jack Frost’. Now this plant is new to me having bought it last summer with beautiful large leaves. I am guessing it has a lot of growing to do yet. It was a lovely surprise to see tiptoeing between the tulips!

    Walking around my garden with the camera at the weekend I was surprised to what looked like tiny apples tucked in my acuba shrub. I have never noticed them on previous years. They aren’t apples of course but berries however, there are only a few and they do look strange. I had been noticing the red bracts coming on the pieris bushes which I also love to see and then the blossom that will follow. But I have to end this selection of flowers with the drumstick primulas which are giving the deepest colour in the garden at the moment.

    Sadly it looks like a few birds have now moved on from my garden. Recently I haven’t noticed visits from the blackcap, long-tailed tit or our most unusual visitor the leucistic siskin. They all added different characters to the mix of birds that visit. I will keep an eye out to see if I see them from my window.

    Finally, the photo above was taken through a window, by one of my daughters, whilst I was driving. The schools are off at the moment and I have been out and about with them - hence fewer posts and comments this last week or so.

    We were heading home from a part of Perthshire that I grew up in. I was searching for red squirrels in an area where I saw them as a child. We did find them but I was just not close or quick enough to get any photos – except one that shows a tail disappearing. Ah well… at least we saw them and I will try to get photos again.

    Oh yes... the hedgehogs! I do believe there are two visiting now and one is smaller. I am very much hoping the smaller one is the juvenile that I was worried about last autumn. I will try and get photos and video soon but they are tricky to see.

    The photos above were all taken in my garden over the weekend April 5th-6th 2008 except from the last photo which was taken on April 3rd 2008 on the old A9 joining the new A9 heading South after Blair Atholl.

    Friday, 4 April 2008

    Too much mouse and not enough trowel

    It probably hasn’t gone unnoticed that I haven’t been chatting about my plants recently. Yes, I have definitely been doing a garden watch but I now need to get out into the garden and get some seasonal jobs done! It has definitely been a case of too much mouse and not enough trowel in my own garden recently. Whatever the weather I intend getting out into the garden over this weekend!

    However, tonight I would like to highlight a banner link I have in my sidebar for the Mouse & Trowel Awards. I have mentioned other awards in the past where Bloggers have personally passed on awards in a particular area. These personal awards are very much appreciated especially as you know who they came from.

    The Mouse & Trowel Awards, also known as ‘The Mousies', are quite different being more like a version of the 'Oscars' for garden blogs. I have never taken part in this before but as I now know quite a few excellent garden blogs I fully intend to vote myself this year.

    How does the voting work? Well, like the 'Oscars', there are two stages of voting. The first stage of voting is open now. By clicking on the banner link it will take you to the 2008 Nomination Form. The deadline for nominations is midnight EST April 13th 2008. You can nominate up to three blogs per category and up to three websites per category. It is split into the following categories:



    On April 15th 2008, the top three nominees from each category are announced. Stage two of the voting then begins with a closing date of midnight EST on May 13th 2008. The winners are finally announced on May 15th 2008.

    These awards are organised by Colleen at In the Garden Online. As I have known very little about them I mailed Colleen to ask how they all started. She told me:

    “As to how the awards started, I was just annoyed that the Bloggie awards hadn't recognized any garden blogs, yet blogs like "My Boyfriend is a Twat" won accolades. It just didn't seem fair, especially knowing how much work can go into garden blogging---it's not just the blogging, but the gardening as well. So, since there wasn't anything out there to recognize great garden blogs, I decided to start an awards program. I was kind of worried it would be either ignored or made fun of, but everyone has been really enthusiastic about the Mousies, and I'm happy to see so many people having fun with it.”

    Well Colleen, I fully agree with you on this and that is why I have chosen to help promote these awards to others like myself that perhaps have been unaware that they exist. I am looking forward to choosing the garden blogs that I would like to see recognised. I would also like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the work that you will be putting in with this during the next couple of months – well done you!!

    Thursday, 3 April 2008

    What have we here?

    This evening at 5.30pm I looked in on my camera Nestbox to see if we might have anyone roosting but I didn’t really expect to see anything. Boy, was I in for a surprise! On the floor of my camera Nestbox there is a scattering of moss like material although I will need sunlight tomorrow to see this better.

    Next I need to see if this blue tit female is building two nests which is quite possible. Tomorrow I will keep an eye (or video camera) on the Arch box to see if material is going in there too. Now this is getting interesting! I cannot wait to see what will happen tomorrow.

    Finally, on Tuesday I posted three posts and perhaps some visitors missed the first one which had a video of the blue tit performing the nesting shuffle.

    The photo above was taken in my camera Nestbox on April 3rd 2008.

    Tuesday, 1 April 2008

    Spot the birdie 2

    So many visitors in one small garden – I just cannot believe it! I wonder if anyone can help me now with the ID for the latest new bird visiting. The photo below was taken late afternoon in my garden. This bird does look slightly familiar.

    Okay, perhaps I should help out… This bird is not of the feathered kind. It’s more of the ‘stuffed’ kind, even more of the stuffed toy kind – a goldfinch to be precise. So what’s this about now, surely it is too late for an April Fools?

    This bird has been a test subject! Yep… it stood very still as we tried to direct the position of an outside camera. It's okay it didn’t have a speaking part!

    This April Fools Day, I received a present of an outside weatherproof camera. It still needs some fine adjustment – I need to see it during all light levels yet. To start with we are going to leave it set up to view my Blackbird Nestbox. It has plenty of cable so we should be able to move it around the garden should we see no nesting action there too.

    So, if you are listening Mr and Mrs Blue Tit, there are others who can take the starring roles on my small silver screen just waiting in the Pergola and beyond!!

    So why set this up on April Fools Day? Ah... that's easy! Today has been my Birthday :-D

    The photo above was taken in my garden on April 1st 2008.

    The Director’s Cut

    It’s April the first and am I having a joke here? Nope… what you are about to see is entirely true and you have my assurance that no animals were harmed during the making of this film!

    Camera on a stick, video 0:42 with background music, try 480p quality.

    Okay what is this about? Well…. a few months back we had a certain visitor to our garden. A very popular visitor this was too! It was seen in the ‘wee’ small hours of the night... It came to my garden in search of food and after devouring its natural food sources. It came in search of…..

    Hungry Hedgehog, video 1:02 with background music, try 480p quality.

    Crushed peanuts and sultanas were found to be the favourite food. After trying many reputable ‘branded’ foods the snout of this animal did not even disturb the surface of the food in the rather splendid dishes I supplied.

    This was a very noisy and messy feeder. It often left a few… presents too! How kind of it. It like to party and what a good time to return to my garden…


    Okay on a more serious note, the dropping I discovered on Monday morning (not the one shown above which was found last year) was of a hedgehog. It was spotted in the area where I left food out for them last year. This would suggest to me that this could be a returning visitor and that some hedgehogs could be out of hibernation – for a visit or too. Let’s hope it was the juvenile I worried about last year. However I am not sure if this is good or not. Perhaps it is still too cold for them. I will make sure I continue to put food out as they will really need it if they are exploring now.

    Before installing our outside camera we taped it securely to a plank of wood as it has a night setting too. We had the chance to have a peek inside the hedgehog box I built last year to see if it had been used at all. I had no way of knowing. I had always considered dismantling this set-up but after my very careful exploration, being directed by my willing helper through the intercom facility on a cordless phone, I have decided to leave it. I could be a nice home yet.

    There was a pile of leaves inside my box hedgehog house so it is hard to tell if it has been used at all. Although I do remember some leaves being there when I added the extension/porch at the front. Therefore I would suspect there hasn’t been a hedgehog hibernating there. I was a little late perhaps in making it anyway. However, I did still try to help the hedgehogs.

    Okay, so what do you do if see one of the delightful presents shown above on your borders, lawn or paving? Well, there are many sites that have very useful information so I will give you links to a few. I would suggest that you do look out for the droppings as that will tell you if they pass through your garden. This is a time of year when we are out in the garden and before the foliage covers the ground again it is a good time to look. I had seen this dropping once before and had originally thought a slightly smaller specimen belonged to a slightly larger bird!

    British Hedgehog Preservation Society
    Epping Forest Hedgehog Rescue

    Finally, is a visiting hedgehog a good thing for the garden? Oh yes.. it is a great natural control of slugs and snails!

    The first video above was taken on Tuesday April 1st 2008. The second video was taken September 11th 2007.

    Who makes the decisions?

    I am guessing that there are a few people interested in what is going on with the blue tit pair visiting the nestboxes in my garden. However, what I would really like to know is who finally makes the decision on which Nestbox to use – the male or the female? Yep… most would probably say the female – after all she is the one who will make the nest. However with the activity I watched over the weekend the male is definitely trying to have his say!

    Okay, If you are a new visitor I should explain what is going on. I have two nestboxes that a pair of blue tits are interested in. One has a camera and the other does not – the Arch Nestbox. Yep… you’ve guessed correctly! This pair are tending to visit the Arch Nestbox more often. However, I am delighted to say that the female is now checking out the camera box too - much to the annoyance of the male...

    The photo above shows our male blue tit enjoying supper on Sunday satisfied for at least a little while that he has had his say! Before looking at the video below I should highlight what I believe is going on. I am basing my observations on the activity I saw in this Nestbox last year prior to a nest being built.

    Tap, tap, tap comes through the speakers at my PC telling me there is someone in. I joked last year that it was ‘the snagging inspector’ when the female appeared to be checking out the construction of the Nestbox.

    First she checks out the walls. However when she starts tapping on the floor too you know she is taking the box seriously! Next, if you are lucky, she will perform the nesting shuffle. Okay, I was watching and wishing her to do this on Sunday and I wasn’t disappointed! She did a few nesting shuffles over a number of visits. The floor in the camera box is much smoother than that in the Arch Nestbox so I wonder if she will be happier with it.

    However I did notice that she was almost agitated as she checked out the box. Then I heard the male call her. She looked out after him but then came back in the box again. She tapped and tapped – one corner seemed to get more attention than the others. She checked out the entrance too. She shuffled some more and eventually she had a tap at the camera too before finally leaving.

    A little while later I heard the tap, tap through the speakers again. There was nobody inside the box but the lighting levels etc told me that there was a bird tapping outside the entrance. I looked out my window to see there was a blue tit at the Arch box too. Ah… that would solve the problem if we had two pairs!

    Nope… the male was at the Arch box again. He clearly heard the female at the Camera box and buzzed over quickly to it. Next thing, the female returns to the Arch boxes and begins to tap at its entrance. The male follows her and hangs around on the Arch for a moment and then off he goes to the feeders. The female tapped at the entrance a little while (perhaps to show willing) before flying off to a neighbours tree. Now what is going on now? Have a look for yourself. I would suggest you turn your speakers up full to hear what is going on. Listen out for the male calling her and the plane that flies over the garden - she seems to hear that too.

    Blue tit female giving nestbox a serious inspection,
    video 2:31 without background music, try 480p quality.

    Needless to say I am absolutely thrilled to be able to share this pre nesting activity from my camera box. I wonder though which way this very unpredictable nesting will go though. My money is still on the Arch box but…

    Finally this is a day of three posts, so do pop back later as I’ve had more surprise visitors…

    The photo and video above were taken in my garden on Sunday 30th March 2008.