Friday, 30 May 2008

Scottish Gardening Show

This morning at 10am the gates open at the Royal Highland Centre, Ingliston, Edinburgh for Gardening Scotland 2008. This garden show runs for three days ending at 5pm on Sunday with the sell-off of plants at 4pm on Sunday – a fun time to be there!

This is the main gardening show for Scotland and this year will have 14 Show Gardens. Each year it grows a little bit more but all the favourites are still there too including the television programme team of the Beechgrove Garden which record live question and answer sessions for radio as well as covering other topics in the special marquee.

However, it is the plants and planting combinations that I go to see and the meconopsis above was bought during part of a sell-off on a display a few years ago. Sometimes you can reserve plants and are given a raffle ticket for collecting it – this is what I did with mine.

The RSPB and other organisations will be there too – it is a good day out. I love to see everyone laden with carrier bags or crate baskets of plants. There will be a wide range of visitors at the show from people like me looking for something a bit different and the new gardeners that are in search of inspiration and advice.

Have fun if you are going. I wish you a great time and hope that the weather is kind to you! I am hoping to fit in a visit this weekend myself but clothes shopping for a ball gown for my daughter’s Leaver’s Ball needs to be successful first! The boys have it easy hiring kilts! I cannot believe she is about to leave school – where does the time go?

The photo above was taken in my garden on May 30th 2008.

Please find the greenfly

Time is passing slowly as we watch the chicks in our camera Nestbox. It is tricky to see how many are in the nest. We had eight eggs. I am guessing they have all hatched as I cannot see any left. I am also guessing perhaps they have not all made it. I can see the mouths open from five chicks although three/four seem to be bigger. I can also see that the chicks are weak as they don’t jump up frantically when the female comes in with food as they should.

The female blue tit isn’t finding much food for her chicks. I can see that, like last year, she is bringing sunflower hearts in – they can choke the chicks! I have hidden tiny fat sprinkles in a feeder in a bush where she looks (as recommended by the RSPB) and live mini mealworms in a feeder on the ground behind a pot where she also looks.

She just has to find them very soon or a new supply of insects and bugs – the greenfly on my roses for example. Caterpillars of course would be best but they aren’t going in the box. I don’t know what she fed them in the photo above but it wasn’t an insect. She nearly choked one of them but realised in time and pulled the piece of ‘hard’ food out.

She is still sitting on her chicks to keep them warm but I if I were to make an estimate on the outcome at this stage I’d say unless she finds the greenfly on my roses or the mealworms I have put out the chicks will all be gone by Sunday night. I am not enjoying looking in on the Nestbox now but this is the reality of nature. I have had mail from many people telling me that intruders have taken chicks from nests too and this is also the harsh reality of nesting birds.

However, I am also hearing of many success stories from other Nestboxes too. I have enjoyed following Jamie's Nestbox and this week saw his brood finally fledge - eventually!! He has some great images there if you want to see how the story can turn out. Enjoy looking at his videos! They are great fun as well as a great insight.

Evening Update: Argh... the starlings found my tiny suet sprinkles in a feeder hidden in a bush! Ah... but maybe this time they have helped! I am delighted to add here that the female blue tit has now found the sprinkles too and has been bringing them into the chicks who seem to have more energy now! So does she. I can now confirm that at this moment there are six chicks with one being a little smaller.

Tonight, I have been watching the female bring bugs in too. So I would say things are improving again. It is still early days with fours chicks only five days old and the other two younger. I am also very grateful to a local RSPB volunteer for lending me a feeder that I have been able to put the mealworms in which the starlings really are not likely to get in. Although perhaps we need a great tit or coal tit to come along and show her how to get in this feeder.

Also, I have now taken another approach with starlings. I am feeding them fat balls (which they love) away from the feeders that the blue tit is going to. For the moment this seems to be working fairly well. Today has seen a breakthrough in food coming in to the chicks and if this keeps up tomorrow we could see a big difference in the size and strength of the chicks.

The photos above were taken in my camera Nestbox on May 30th 2008.

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Garden updates

I try not to mix up my posts on the plants, bird and wildlife in my garden too much but there is so much going on at the moment. Everyone is the same at this time of year I am quite sure. It is a busy time in the garden. My Nestbox videos of yesterday have now been processed and if you scroll below you see them but first to a very special plant in the garden…

Photos of wisteria in the stages before flowering are regularly searched for on the internet. This is such a wonderful plant to have flower in your garden. This will be my third year of flowers and I am thrilled. I hope the photo above helps if you are looking for flowers on yours.

You can see that the flower racemes are getting longer and the leaves are beginning to open behind them. We have had a warm spell recently and today it is raining, much needed for the garden plants now, so I would guess this will help them grow a bit further before they open their tiny flowers along the racemes.

Close-up photos are great for details of plants and I regularly use montages to show this. However, yesterday I posted photos of my garden as well as my Nestbox update. There you will see the plants that are surrounding my wisteria too.

Photos of hedgehogs are also being searched for at the moment and our juvenile has been back searching for food once again. The photo above is from a video capture which I will post one day soon. There is an interesting story to go with this one!

If you have a hedgehog visiting your garden remember to leave water out for them as well as food. I have found they like peanuts and sultanas in my garden.

Juvenile birds are now regularly visiting my garden. I have seen a woodpigeon, greenfinch and siskin. I am also seeing rows of queuing house sparrows and starlings on branches of trees. They are very noisily waiting to be fed by their parents. However, the starling juveniles don’t really care who feeds them and have been seen sitting next to the juvenile house sparrows opening their beaks looking for them to feed them!! The house sparrows have just shuffled along the branches but the starlings are seriously persistent birds! I really must try and get some video of this.

The blue tit chicks in my camera Nestbox and the plight of the female to single handily feed them is definitely the hottest news in my garden at the moment – despite the noise that the starlings are making as I write this. As it is overcast and raining today the image from my camera Nestbox is showing in black and white so it is difficult to make out the tiny chicks. I can see that one egg is certainly still there. I will update this post with numbers at the end of the day.

I am delighted to finally show some Nestbox video from yesterday and the night before. I’ll start with two short ones first. You can see how the chicks wriggle for space in the nest with their flopsy little bodies trying with all their might to lift their heads.

Blue tit chicks wriggling at 2 days, video 0:13 with background music, try 480p quality.

The next video shows the female demolishing the egg shell of a hatched chick. She eats this as it gives her calcium – I don’t know how she knows this. I didn’t speed up this clip at all – she clearly had no time to waste!

Blue tit Mum eats egg shell, video 0:23 with background music, try 480p quality.

Can I help her? Well, as I have been writing this the postman has come with a very special delivery of live mini mealworms. I don’t relish opening the box! It was a Bank Holiday yesterday so my 'next day' delivery is later than I hoped.

My plan now is to try and leave a few scattered mealworms in corners and edges on the ground and some also near my ivy without the starlings catching sight of them! An impossible task perhaps but I have to try. Before I do that I am going out for more supplies of sunflower hearts which the starlings will eat greedily but perhaps it will stop them finding the mealworms. The blue tits and other birds are looking the sunflower hearts too. Ah… but maybe the rain today will make the insects move about and the blue tit will find them more easily. I hope so.

Finally, on the positive side the female is still finding food at the moment and I do believe the chicks are growing a little. When the last eggs hatch she will be out and about more. I wonder if we will see last night's blue tit, seen drinking at my pond, again today. Ah... what a journey our garden can take us if we look more closely.

All photos and video above were taken in my garden during May 2008.

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Nestbox troubles

I can now say with certainty that the promise of our Nestbox pair of blue tits, which had a shaky start, is back on shaky ground yet again. The male is definitely out of the picture now and we have a female blue tit not only incubating her eggs and looking after her young chicks but she has to find food for both the chicks and herself now too.

At the moment the chicks aren’t able to eat too much but soon their appetites will increase greatly and I doubt she will be able to keep up with demand. The survival of her chicks is solely her responsibility now. I am trying to find a way to help her but the invasion of starlings and their chicks to my garden is making it difficult to know where to put food and believe me I am trying various methods!

This evening we did catch a glimpse of a blue tit at my pond looking for food. We initially thought it was the female until I looked in the Nestbox expecting to see her with the chicks and she wasn’t there! Now, I had to take a closer look at this blue tit who was drinking from the running water now. It was hard to tell if it was the male but if it was it was looking a little worse for wear!

Shortly after this the female left the Nestbox. I never saw where she flew to but I am told she joined this bird for a short while. Without seeing this I have no idea if she was chasing it away or flying with it. I wonder if she is looking for another mate now to help her out. We will just have to wait and see what tomorrow brings.

I have a few videos I hoped to show tonight but disappointingly they are still in the processing stage for adding tonight. However I didn’t want Day 2 of our chicks to pass without an update. The photo above taken at 9pm tonight shows that we now have six chicks hatched and two eggs left. I fully expect that the last two will probably hatch before I next look in around 7.30am tomorrow morning.

Every time I look in the Nestbox now I find myself trying to count the chicks. When you see the videos I have you will understand that is easier said than done. I look for their little banana shaped mouths and black eyes. At the moment their eyes are fully closed so they have to listen for the chirps from the female to know when to open their mouths for food. It is absolutely fascinating to watch all this activity.

Oh… I really hope I can count all eight chicks tomorrow morning. The weaker chicks struggle at this time. Fingers crossed yet again.

The photo above was taken in my camera Nestbox on May 27th 2008.

The trouble with a camera Nestbox…

…is that it is absolutely compulsive viewing! I will update on that later tonight. However today I have been out with my camera to record the progress in the garden too. It is looking quite lovely at the moment and although my focus is firmly on the Nestbox just now I don’t want to leave the plants out completely. This is a gardenwatch diary and I try to include everything in it which is quite tricky at times.

Before I go any further I really must apologise for not replying to my recent comments and emails. I am only now getting back to the PC. I would like to stress that I very much appreciate each and every one and I fully intend answering them all. Thank-you! I would also like to apologise for not visiting many of my favourite blogs at the moment too - I know I have missed loads.

So plant wise you will be able to see in today's photos that the alliums are starting to flower and the tulips are still going strong although today’s wind could hasten their demise! You might not see too clearly but the wisteria flower racemes are getting longer too. I will get some close-up shots of them soon.

I just love the lush new foliage on my plants at this time of year but as you can see colour is still there too. To me it makes for a very calming and contemplative place to be in whether you are walking through it, working in it or sitting enjoying an evening meal. The garden really is a great place to relax in. I love this time of year.

The next three photos show the view from my garden gate to the arbour followed by the view from it to the right and then the left. This is a nice place to sit and not only by ourselves! Often my neighbour’s cat is seen here soaking up the warm sunshine observing the birds at the feeders.

As I mentioned last week, we have also been very busy clearing a space for my rather splendid new potting shed which you can see below and then the view from inside it along the length of my 'L' shaped garden. I decided to have a light bright shed to replace the dreary dark brown one.

It has been quite hectic over the weekend with the shed arriving yesterday. We were very fortunate to have a gloriously warm few days to do this. It was quite a job taking down the old shed and then cutting it into car sized bits to take it to our local dump where it went in the wood recycling skip.

The view from my potting shed that I haven’t shown is of the bird feeders to the right. My plan is to make this shed a combined potting shed/bird hide. I know the birds will be able to see me quite clearly so I will have to keep quite still. I am looking forward to trying out my new video camera from this view point.

Finally, all the photos above have been from my back garden. My front garden has a completely different feel getting much more sunshine and very little shade. Recently the catmint has just exploded in growth and is now starting to come into flower. Soon the bees will be visiting its flowers. I wonder if my slow growing sweet peas will flower and cascade from my obelisks sometime this summer. I hope so and wonder who will visit these flowers.

So, if you are pottering around your garden at the moment, as I suspect you may be, enjoy your garden too!

All photos above were taken in my garden on May 27th 2008.

Monday, 26 May 2008

Chicks hatch for BBC Springwatch

Blue tit chicks have hatched in our Nestbox with a camera just in time for BBC Two’s Springwatch for 2008 which starts tonight at 8pm from its new home at Pensthorpe Nature Reserve near Fakenham in Norfolk.

This morning we have three chicks and five eggs in our Nestbox. Just as in Springwatch we have had our own dramas in our Nestbox. Last year we had eight chicks which all died after a week as caterpillars were not available due to a hot April. This was so sad to watch at the end. You can see my diary for 2007 here with video and photos.

This year the drama was more a case of would the blue tits choose my Nestbox with our without a camera. You can read the full story for 2008 here.

However, I have been singing the praises of the male this year saying he was much more attentive! I am a tad worried now though as this morning it very much appears that the female is having to leave the nest to go out and get food for the chicks herself. Where is he? I don’t know if she will manage to do this by herself. She is still incubating the other eggs too as well as keeping the new chicks warm. I wonder if the male has left my garden in search of food for himself. The female really needs him back to help or once again she will loose her chicks due to lack of food.

Starlings have been causing a great deal of trouble at my feeders – even the ones hidden in ivy for the blue tits. I slowed up in refilling my feeders to discourage them a little. I have lost many of the other smaller species like the finches as they were unable to get near the feeders. Now the starling juveniles are out and about too and squawking their sharp long beaks off! I do know that the starling is endangered here in the UK and my plan is not to exclude them in favour of the ‘cute’ little birds. I just don’t want to the starlings to exclude all the other birds at my feeders! Surely they can learn to share?

The photo above was taken in my camera nestbox on May 26th 2008.

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

First chick hatched

What are the chances of just passing by a wildlife reserve just ten hours after an Osprey chick hatches? I wouldn’t call myself a 'real' birder but certainly enjoyed the vibe as everyone gathered around the TV screens that were showing live footage from the nest.
After seeing people taking photos from the screen I tried too. Below you will see my best efforts. They capture the moment at least. Strips of bark are to the right of the Osprey if you are wondering! In the photos you can see the eggs and the chick. I have added purple arrows to show the location of the 'hours old' chick.

In March we visited this reserve when I was looking to capture photos of the red squirrel. We were told then that strong winter winds had blown away a good section of this osprey nest and a member of staff had climbed up and rebuilt the lost section sitting in it to ensure it was stable – I wonder if they caught all this on camera! I suspect this wasn’t an easy climb either.

Below you can see the nest after its rebuild on March 22nd. The second photo shows just quite how high up this nest is. Both photos were taken from the higher of the two hides on the edge of the Loch. I used the zoom feature on my camera for both shots.

This is a Scottish Wildlife Trust Reserve . There are two webcams with the other on a Blue Tit nest box which has chicks being fed in it at the moment. They also have three videos from last year of the first Osprey egg being laid, the first chick hatching and the male bringing a trout (fish) to feed the chicks! See this page for links to the videos and diaries from previous years.

What I should perhaps point out is that if you visit this reserve you should be aware that the car park is small as is the visitor centre itself. However there is a viewing window for birds which will include sightings of red squirrels, pheasants and woodpeckers as well as garden birds.

Ah… but I have to say without a doubt, based on my two visits with different staff working, that this is a very friendly and welcoming place to visit. There is a small shop and although there isn’t a café but there is a machine to make coffee, tea and hot chocolate – which we did enjoy!

Bluebells are what led us indirectly to this reserve on Sunday. We had been considering joining a ranger led walk to bluebell woods nearby. However, when we got to that car park it was clear by the way people were dressed that this was perhaps more for the walkers than a gardener with teenage daughter and a new video camera to test!

Sadly my video camera, of a few years now, broke just after recording some hedgehog activity in my garden last week. So the only bluebells I caught on camera were those seen on the brief walk from the Reserve Visitor Centre to its car park on the way out. Ah… but I did get a chance to try out the excellent zoom on this camera. I only wish I had my tripod with me as the footage I captured is not good enough to share.

Finally, there is so much I could post on at the moment from juvenile birds visiting to no birds visiting courtesy of an invasion of starlings!! Ah yes… and the hedgehogs visits too – my new camera caught some interesting footage last night! I am also planning revamps of my garden including my gunnera border, turning my greenhouse round, taking down my very tired and rotten shed and replacing it with a long awaited wonderful ‘potting shed’ very soon. I will post when I can. I am so glad that the first chick hasn't hatched in my Camera Nestbox yet. I am expecting to wait another week yet for that. Ah… the garden, birds and wildlife are definitely not dull!

The first three photos of the Osprey on her nest, the bluebell photo and the video were all taken on May 18th 2008.

Monday, 19 May 2008

Chelsea goes green

I have been speculating the ‘in colour’ for Chelsea 2008 and after watching tonight’s television coverage on the BBC it appears that this year it is green. I didn't see that coming although it is not a huge surprise.

If you are a regular visitor you will know that green dominates my garden too. Although I wouldn’t say I was a trend setter having gardened with green for many years. I love green in the garden.

Okay, so tonight you really don’t want to hear about my garden! You will notice a new picture at the top of my side bar. This links directly to the website for The Chelsea Flower Show.

As I type this the judges will be on the final stages of deliberation over who gets medals and what type they should be. Three weeks is all the time the gardens and displays have had with the deadline for completion 7.30am this morning. I am certain there are a lot of exhausted and anxious people tonight!

Early tomorrow morning the medals are handed out and the BBC usually covers this too. There will be tears, smiles and I suspect some jumping for joy!

So do I have any favourites from the small snapshot I have seen tonight? Will I stick my neck out and say who I fancy for best in show? I’d like too but I haven’t seen enough of the gardens yet. Excuses, excuses – I know!

Did you know there are a staggering 600 exhibitors this year? Of that number there are 22 show gardens. Did you also know that gnomes are on the banned list at Chelsea? That did make my smile as they are on the banned list in my garden too!

Okay, you’ve twisted my arm… I am going to say The Laurent-Perrier Garden by designer Tom Stuart-Smith will get best in show.

I also liked The QVC Garden by designers Patrick Clarke & Sarah Price (Wynniatt-Husey Clarke) and the oak pathway suspended above the planting in The Lloyd's TSB Garden by designer Trevor Tooth. I have to say when we see more coverage tomorrow I may well find others I like as much. However on first impression The Laurent-Perrier Garden gets my vote.

Update Tuesday 20th May (Medals Day): I am delighted to announce that The Laurent-Perrier Garden by designer Tom Stuart-Smith was awarded both a gold medal and Best in Show in the category of show gardens. I am thrilled. I do believe, as said in the television coverage, that it was a very brave garden using so much green and I am so glad it was chosen. I hope to show links later so you can see it and the others in some more detail. The website is still being updated. Congratulations go to Tom and his team!

Finally, I'd like to wish everyone visiting this show a great time!

Incubation well underway

As I suspected the count of blue tit eggs in our Camera Nestbox stopped at eight. I know of other Nestboxes with a few more but I am hoping that having less mouths to feed will help the survival of all chicks. So now that incubation is underway how does the female pass the time?

Day-time naps are one way of passing the time during the incubation of the eight eggs in the nest. Interestingly the female began incubating before the last two eggs were laid.

Digging in the nest is another. I guess she is looking for any unwanted bugs but I suspect she is likely to turn the eggs at the same time. The nest cup is really getting quite deep now with firm walls.

Patiently waiting for food deliveries from the male is another - although she does tend to call out for food too. Her call is quite quiet so I don’t know how the male actually hears her. Of course sometimes he doesn’t…

So out she goes leaving the eggs for a short while. Sometimes she covers them up but not always. I have seen this pair feeding at the feeders together and flying from branch to branch in and out of my garden. I expect that they will be enjoying this freedom as whenever the chicks come they won’t have any free time at all! Sound familiar?

Before any naps and after any digging in the nest as she settles in the nest cup she looks like she is moving about to get more comfortable. However if you look more closely at her movements you will see she is repeating a rocking movement. What she is actually doing is turning the eggs with her feet. How clever – she is making sure all sides of the eggs keep warm!

Okay, I’m sure you would rather see all this activity for yourself. Below I have a video compilation of the highlights from the last few days with some still photo captures too. So what can we expect this week? Well, I’d say more of the same with the female perhaps leaving the nest less often.

Blue tit nestbox updates, video 1:40 with background music, try 480p quality.

What would I like to see this week? I would like to see the blue tits discover and eat the dried mealworms that I put out in a feeder last night. I was told by someone at the RSPB last year that they don’t recognise mealworms as a food. However I have seen other nestboxes where mealworms have been brought in to feed the chicks. Last year in desperation I put out live mealworms when the chicks were dying to help the parents in their endless search for food. They didn’t take them and the dunnocks and blackbirds went away with mouthfuls.

I am estimating it will be another ten days or so before the eggs begin to hatch so I am hoping that the resourceful blue tits will see other birds taking the mealworms and then try them too. So this week I am hoping to see the male bring mealworms to the female in our Nestbox. I believe this source of food could be vital in the survival of the chicks if there are no caterpillars at the end of the month.

Argh... I have just opened the curtains to see the new feeder I put the mealworms in getting a bashing by the starlings. It claimed to be suitable for small birds and the ledge and area to eat from is small. However, the starling has a long beak and is gripping on for dear life and although slipping off also is still managing to knock the feeder about enough to get some out and knock the rest to the ground where others are running frantically around waiting. It is 7.50am and the feeder is empty! The container that I bought is also empty as I put the lot in. As the starlings are absolutely relentless in their greedy quest for food I will now need to remove that feeder from where it hangs. I hate to think the noise they made early this morning too. My planting of climbing roses are plan A to help feed the young chicks and this was plan B. I guess I will have to work on plan C now!!! Perhaps I should consider adapting the fat cake guardian as at the moment they cannot get in there.

The photos and video shown above were taken from my camera Nestbox this past week.

Friday, 16 May 2008

Garden Bloom Day May 2008

My bloom day posts have finally come full circle and now this is where these postings will become interesting. May 2007 saw my first Bloom Day post and now I can compare the stages of flower in my garden month by month. I can confirm that, like Carol, my garden is further behind last year.

May is such a wonderful month and without a doubt my favourite month in the garden. The growth that the plants have put on in these last two weeks since we have had warmer weather has transformed the garden. Tonight it is raining so this will refresh the plants once more. My garden is mostly in partial shade and spring is a great time of year for plants that like shade.

My wisteria buds now have opened and the flower racemes are putting on strong growth. The flowers will grow approximately three times the length of the ones shown in the larger photo above before they will begin to open.

I am trying once again to grow sweet peas by sowing straight into the ground in my front garden. They are now starting to grow inside my obelisks so we will see how successful this will be. I have never really mastered growing this plant. If it comes up weedy looking with very few flowers I usually pull it out!

The borage seed I did not sow – well not this year any way. It was probably about three years ago when I did but they self seed quite freely so it comes back every year. I always let a few grow and pull the others out.

Some small stemmed tulips are coming into flower now too although I am not sure that I am going to like these ones. I found the bulbs about a month ago when tidying my shed. I now don't remember my thinking when I bought them! They had started to sprout so I decided I was as well putting them in the ground. I used baskets once again so I could move them if I didn’t like them there. Behind the bulbs you can see the fresh new growth of the hosta too.

There are lots of tiny delicate flowers in varying stages of growth in my garden at the moment. The alpine strawberry flowers are now going over and the fruits are beginning to grow. Geum, heuchera and astilbes are close to opening. London Pride flowers are opening and Brunnera Jack Frost and wild violas have been in flower for a few weeks now.

My magnolia is now in full swing of flower where the first buds of clematis are soon to open. Celmisa and cirsium are also showing sign of flower buds developing and it is always a delight to see the white flowers of the choisya. I love the scent of this plant. I am also guessing that the pea like flowers of the polygala have a scent too as the bees do seem to love it.

Ah… the alliums have buds near to opening now and I cannot wait to see the display they will give this year. The pink ‘bluebells’ hug the rock edges in my front garden – although I don’t really remember planting this colour. My single clump of chives look like it is about to flower now too. There really are so many plants I could ramble on about! However, now I'll just leave you with some of the bigger bursts of colour in my garden at the moment.

This posting was due on the 15th of the month and although my posting is a little late all photos were taken then. Garden Bloggers Bloom Day is organised by Carol at May Dreams Gardens where she invites others to join her in a posting and asks that we leave a comment on her posting so we can all browse the gardens. My posting is going to be the 109th!

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Lucky seven

Our Camera Nestbox now has seven blue tit eggs in it! I am wondering now if perhaps tomorrow morning could see the last egg being laid. Why? Well, the female has been sitting for spells in the nest a lot during the last couple of days and I suspect she has started to incubate her eggs. The photo below shows her earlier this evening and you can see how far into the nest cup she now sits.

Once egg laying starts it definitely does not mean that nest building is over. As the eggs are laid she continues to bring in feathers and other soft material to cover them up and then as she sits in the nest cup she pulls the material towards her and in doing so makes the cup much deeper and more defined.

I really do know how lucky we have been to see eggs laid in our Nestbox once again this year. Some nests are abandoned even after an egg or two has been laid! The pupils of Pennington County Infant School in Hampshire, England who took part with a Nestbox diary for The Birdbox Project 2008 have discovered this for themselves. I live in Scotland so how do I did I hear about their Nestbox?

Searching for images is a great way to discover new websites. I was searching for blue tit eggs to find out exactly how big (or small) they actually were as they sat in the nest I am watching now. I very quickly found the perfect image on a diary entry from Pennington County Infant School. They were able to measure the abandoned egg that was left in their Nestbox but I’m quite sure that they would much rather have watched it hatch!

After contacting the class they kindly gave me permission to use this photo. I would like to thank them once again as I have cropped and used it to make a montage that shows a size comparison between the blue tit egg and a medium hen’s egg. I also discovered that this egg is smaller than a five pence piece – now that puts it into perspective!

Now that I had this image, after a bit of juggling with photo sizes, I also used it to make another montage that shows the approximate size of the nest cup in my nest at the moment too. I found that very interesting and I hope the pupils at Pennington do too.

I also hope
that I can share more Nestbox footage with these pupils too and that next year they get to experience this for themselves in their own Nestbox. I think it is wonderful that some school children are getting this fantastic opportunity to see nature so closely.

Finally, I cannot leave this post without sharing one more size comparison with eggs. Recently I discovered a news item on the BBC News Website reading: Chicken lays super-sized egg where ‘Chicken owners David and Julie Hewitt have spoken of their surprise at finding an egg the size of a tennis ball on their farm in Cornwall.’ Wow, what a shock that must have been for the hen too!

Thanks once again to Pennington County Infant School for allowing the use of their blue tit egg measurement photo. The photo of the oversized egg was cropped from the video on the BBC News.

Monday, 12 May 2008

Spring brings...

…daisies, dandelion seeds and clover. It also heralds the start of the flower shows. Chelsea Flower Show is world renowned however it is not the first of the RHS Flower Shows here in the UK. Last weekend the very popular Malvern Spring Gardening Show was enjoyed by many. I saw this show via a BBC television programme for Gardeners' World and thought you might like to see it too.

This broadcast can be seen on BBC iplayer and is available for another 4 days. The file size is 600MB to download if you are interested in watching this programme. I thought this may be of particular interest to visitors outside the UK. This is also how I intend sharing the coverage of the Chelsea Flower Show. You will be able to see it as I see it this year – unless of course you plan on visiting it and if so have a great time! However, coming back to Malvern I do know a man who did visit this show!

Border Reiver has recently started a garden blog, Dancing Jack in the Green, but he probably known more for his wildlife blog Quicksilverbirds blog. I am looking forward to sharing in other garden visits he makes throughout the year. For all those interested in hedgehogs they visit his garden too. I have added his Garden Blog to my links on the sidebar so you can keep up with his garden and visits too. You can see his visit to Malvern here and can enlarge his photos as I did. My favourite was photo number 12 – just my sort of planting. Thanks, Border for sharing your visit with us all. I am certain I won’t be the only one interested in future postings on your new garden blog – good luck with it and happy gardening!

The photo above was taken on a riverside walk along the River Tay yesterday.

Sunday, 11 May 2008

Eggs three and four

Saturday morning saw the third egg in our Camera Nestbox and quite a clear view too when I first looked. However, looking in today it was a bit tricky to see if there was a fourth egg or not. Although she is laying one egg per day it is possible she could have a morning off. I eventually had a clearer view as you can see below. The black and white photo was taken at 6pm tonight. I have noticed that later in the evening the eggs are uncovered. So for the moment things are going as expected in our Nestbox.

What I have also noticed this year is that the male is much more attentive. I have seen him feeding the female on many occasions. Eventually I caught some footage in the Nestbox yesterday. You will notice in the video below that the female appears to know when the food is coming. Is she saying ‘Hurry-up’ or ‘Thank-you’?

The male made repeated visits in this occasion. Notice that on one delivery he stayed longer. The female clearly didn’t get all the food he had to offer and instead of eating the rest himself he waited for her to take it. His job was done. Off he went for more! This year the pair really appear to be 'a pair' so that makes me feel quite positive for them.

Nestbox Blue tit male feeds female, video 0:57 with background music, try 480p quality.

However, and this is a HUGE however I have not seen a single caterpillar being fed to the female. I had never thought about this until I received a comment on my last post that mentioned ‘beaks brimming with green caterpillars’ going into a Nestbox to feed chicks. I wasn’t considering caterpillars yet as we have no chicks but I’m sure the male would bring them to the female if there were any. Mm… I have to confess I have now gone from positive to worried.

You would think that the birds would adapt if they couldn’t find caterpillars to feed their young. They tried all sorts of bugs last year. Let’s hope that my Ivies can supply plenty of spiders and other insects and that my contribution of two roses planted near the Nestbox will have insects interested in them.

I also hope that I get a lot of blossom on my pieris shrubs this year as I have seen the blue tits at these flowers in past years I guess there must be insects there too. Last year wasn’t good for the pieris in my garden but it is looking good at the moment with lots of red foliage. I dearly hope this will all be enough. Having a camera in a Nestbox doesn’t mean its all happy viewing as you share the sadness with the pair too. Fingers crossed once again.

The photos and video above were taken in the camera nestbox in my garden on may 10th &1tth 2008.

Friday, 9 May 2008

Second egg laid in Nestbox

This morning I didn’t want to see two eggs when I looked in our Nestbox. Instead I was up early at 5am hoping to see the female sitting in the nest cup ready to lay her second egg! Last year they were laid around 5.30am so I thought I was up early enough. Ah... but she was awake early too!

I was just in time as after approx 3mins of looking in the Nestbox I recognised the behaviour from last year when I watched the second egg being laid then too. The female was typically breathing quite fast and then was seen pushing the tail end of her body down into the nest cup. She pushed lower and lower then lifted the tail up to reveal a second egg! What a clever girl.

Last year the female didn’t spread her wings as I saw this morning. Neither did she take quite as long ‘adjusting’ herself. Mm… I am wondering if the female this year has more than 8 eggs. This year’s Mum-to-be didn’t appear to breath quite as heavily prior to egg laying as the female last year either. She also didn’t have a nap afterwards. This does look more hopeful. I am guessing we don’t have a first time Mum. I am also still wondering if she is the same female from last year.

It is absolutely fascinating to be able to watch nature quite so closely. Without cameras like this we have no idea of what goes on. Oh… sorry didn’t I say? I have video footage to show you too.

Blue tit lays 2nd egg, video 0:47 with background music after egg laid, try 480p quality.

This year’s male blue tit is very attentive. I’ve yet to capture him feeding the female but I’ve seen him doing so in the garden and leaving the nest box. I also see him trying to come in at night to find her asleep. He is also on guard in my garden still chasing away other birds. He gave me grief at the beginning of the week sitting on a tree branch above me as I was clearing my shed – what a racket he made!

He now appears when I am in the garden but sometimes he is just heard singing his little heart out. He has also called and called for the female when she has been out of the Nestbox. Let’s hope between them they find enough food to feed their chicks this year. It was so sad to watch them look in vain last year and resort to bringing in sunflower hearts – which was not at all suitable and they nearly choked one tiny days old chick as we watched.

Today, BBC News reported on their webpage on how the Great tit has adapted to our changing climate. I thought it might be of interest to some readers. Below I’ve included some excerpts from their page. You can read the full article here.

Researchers found that great tits are laying eggs earlier in the spring than they used to, keeping step with the earlier emergence of caterpillars. Writing in the journal Science, they point out that the same birds in the Netherlands have not managed to adjust.”

Three years ago, Marcel Visser from the Netherlands Institute of Ecology in Heteren collated a number of these cases. The North American wood warbler has not adapted its migration pattern to the earlier emergence of caterpillars in its breeding ground, and the Dutch honey buzzard is also failing to adapt to the earlier appearance of wasps, which it eats. The red admiral butterfly is arriving on the UK's shores earlier from its winter grounds in north Africa; but the staple food of its larvae, the common nettle, continues to flower at the same time each year."

"The great tits are laying eggs now about two weeks earlier in the year than they were 47 years ago. The timing is crucial, because for the two-week period after they hatch, the chicks have to gobble down huge quantities of winter moth caterpillars which only emerge for a short period."

"Great tits have eight or nine babies in a brood, and each of them will eat about 70 caterpillars a day. The chicks hatch and are fully grown within two weeks, so they need something that's really abundant - that's why they synchonise their breeding so hatching co-incides with the emergence of the caterpillars."

"Their movement to an earlier breeding time does not involve an evolutionary change, the scientists believe - it is simply that individual birds are able to change their behaviour, in the same way that they have presumably adapted to warmer or cooler phases before the era of human-induced global warming."

""The UK finding is to some extent surprising in that the birds are using the same old rules, but the rules still work," he told BBC News."

I wonder what rules the smaller blue tits in my garden are using this year. The female has laid her first egg 8 days later than last year. As this is only the second year that we have had a Nestbox with a camera and the third year of having a Nestbox in the garden I have no idea what ‘normal’ dates and times are.

However as a gardener I feel we can try to help nesting birds by providing a wide variety of trees, shrubs and other plants both wild and cultivated in our gardens. I have tried to help this year by buying two climbing roses especially with the blue tits in mind. I am a gardener that is looking for greenfly on rose buds this year!!

Finally, to all gardeners and visitors looking for postings on plants. garden birds and wildlife please do continue to visit as I don’t intend all postings to be on the Nestbox until nesting is over. There will definitely be times when there will be daily postings on the Nestbox. However, I will try to make them short and will include postings on other happenings in my garden too. I also need to spend more time in my ‘actual’ garden too. Ah… this is a great time of year to be lucky enough to have a garden. Enjoy yours this weekend!

The photo above was taken at 4pm this afternoon and the video footage between 5.05 am and 5.20am this morning.

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Let the count begin…

If you are a regular visitor you may have guessed by now that my estimate of an egg in our Camera Nestbox on Monday was well out. Our nesting blue tits have been ten days behind last year. However I really did feel that they would eventually catch up.

You will also be very aware of the hard work our nesting female has made of making her nest and it was hard to tell for sure that she would ever complete it. However, since Monday she has made excellent progress!

The photos in the montage above were taken left to right starting on May 2nd with the last taken on the 5th. The larger photo was taken on May 6th. All photos were taken between 7.30am and 9am. During the day the condition of the nest would change. The female is still roosting and you can now see that she has finally made the cup of her nest.

To line the nest cup she has brought in what looks like hair of some sort and short strands of wool. The odd small feather has come in too. It really is a work of art! Yesterday didn’t see too much difference to the nest but in the evening she was more unsettled as she roosted. So what about this morning….

I am absolutely EGGSTATIC to announce that we have the first egg for 2008!! Sorry, I kept you waiting for this news… a break in internet connection during posting hasn’t helped! Anyway back to the nest…

This morning I was very lucky to see the egg as clearly as you can see in the photo above. Just 45 mins later when I looked in the Nestbox it was covered again and then again until the last photo below shows it just over two hours later. I did look again in the nestbox around lunchtime and the egg was completely hidden!

Now, if I hadn’t looked in first thing this morning I really would not have seen there was an egg there at all. Early evening the egg became more visible for a while again prior to the female settling down and roosting over it.

So what has she been doing in the nest today? Same old same old… bring material in and out and shuffling in the nest. Although, I have to say she has longer periods away from the nest now. I expect she will be enjoying her freedom for the next week or so.

Blue tit hides egg with a shuffle, video 0:15 with background music, try 480p quality.

The video above shows her shuffling over her egg. Now the count has started and I wonder how many eggs she will lay. We had eight last year so I guess it will be around that number. I so hope they all hatch and the chicks survive this year – fingers crossed.

The photos and video shown above were taken from my Camera Nestbox.