Monday, 30 June 2008

The Big Green Leaf

I love foliage plants however this posting has been much trickier than I anticipated. I have more than green foliage plants but when I finally was able to get out with my cameras, between rain and winds, it was clear that there were enough greens to go round for this posting. Perhaps a follow-up posting is now on the cards!

Video presentations are great for postings like this and I always enjoy making them. Emma had hinted that one would be nice so that was enough for me! However, I understand that not everyone can view them so I thought I would make up some photo montages too. To see all the postings go to Emma’s original post and if you have posted just leave a comment there too so others can share in your foliages feasts.

Griselinia has ended my video and has to be the first photo here too. This is my favourite of all the green foliage plants in my garden and I have had this plant a long time. It came in a pot from my last garden, a severe winter a number of years ago nearly killed it off but after a cruel, very severe pruning back it came. I just love it.

Sorting my photos I found myself looking more and more at the different leaf shapes. How varied they really are and I have only a small sample. Starting at top right this first montage has Thalictrum, Sea Holly and Buxus, Euphorbia and Fern, Rosemary, Geum, Hosta and fern.

Hellebores start the next montage and although they have wonderful flowers I have always enjoyed their foliage just as much. The same goes for the Wisteria and Choiysa although they both do have such wonderfully scented white flowers.

Aegopodum with its variegated leaves is great in the very shady corners of my back garden and is seen with ferns and the Hosta ‘June' which grows a deeper colour there too. The Acers leaves in the final photo don’t really do it justice. Again this is in a shady corner but I didn’t manage to capture the warmth of the green it has.

Duck weed in my pond I am guessing is the smallest green leaf in my garden and starts the next montage. Last year I planted Teasel in the hope that I will catch photos and video footage of goldfinches feeding on its seed heads. This year it has grown large leaves although not quite as large as the Gunnera. Sulphur heart Ivy, Chinese Palm with Choiysa Ternata and a ground Ivy that I lifted from under my hedge complete this next set.

Bronze Fennel which starts of a darker green and the fine leaf of the Shasta Daisy look good with the background of the Sulphur Heart Ivy. The Hart’s-tongue Fern and round leaves of the Asarum look great in shade. All summer long I love to see the leaves of the Japanese Anemone as they increase in numbers as the clumps mature but in their case I am willing the flowers on for their late display.

The clematis leaves also look good but we are usually drawn to their flowers. Finally we come to the Acuba. I have to say I am growing a litle tired of it but as my plant is a good size and stops wind getting around round and under my pergola I guess it will be there for a while yet!

Bergenia is on my list for plants I wouldn’t be without. I just love its thick strong leaves. Then there is the very light and delicate leaves of my compact Astilbe ‘Sprite’ tucked amongst the green leaves of my primulas. I have pieces of Bamboo root in a pot and it is growing on happily as well as the main plant in my video.

Finally, in this group with more Bergenia growing behind it we have one of many clumps of the smaller Alchemilla conjuncta. I allow this to seed itself a little as it isn’t as rampant as the larger Lady’s Mantle. I love it growing alongside rocks and through the gravel.

The Cristata Fern almost completes the selection of green foliage in my garden at the moment. I have still missed a few plants out. There are still more ferns tucked under my Gunnera and in cracks between rocks all around my garden. I couldn’t get near some of them with my camera.

Why, oh why, then have I photographed this last leaf of my post? Well, the answer to that one involves two young ladies living in my garden – my daughter’s guinea pigs. They absolutely love dandelion leaves so now they have become the most hunted green leaf of my garden!

The video and photos shown above were taken in my garden on June 30th 2008.

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Love your greens?

I certainly do and I know I’m not the only one! So there was no hesitation whatsoever when Emma at A Nice Green Leaf said she was considering promoting the green leaves of our gardens. I just said let me know when! She just has – June 30th.

I am expecting a big turn out for this one. If you would like to join in on Monday just pop over to read Emma's invitation and leave a comment there when you have posted. Then just return later to enjoy browsing the posts. Mm… now the fun part. I wonder how I will share mine. It's good to share...

Sharing worked well in this feeder today although three was a crowd and the third juvenile blue tit just wasn’t allowed in!

This feeder is the one that was kindly loaned to me by Lyn a volunteer at the RSPB to help our single Mum feed the blue tit chicks in our camera Nestbox. Sadly she was too late in taking the live mini mealworms I put in the dish. I decided to leave it up for a while longer in the hope that juveniles from another nest may find it. I was delighted to see they have! I put peanuts in it for a change thinking they might take them away.

After I saw one young bird using it yesterday I decided to put the peanuts through my food processor to chop them up a bit just as I did for the juvenile hedgehogs last year. Why? Well, it was dropping the whole nut on the ground where the young bird wasn’t safe from predators like cats. So I made a simple mix of some sunflower hearts and lots of broken peanuts – boy has this been popular!

So now let's see how popular the green leaves really are in our gardens!

The photos above were taken in my garden on June 26th 2008.

Monday, 23 June 2008

Table for one

Last week I visited the Scottish Wildlife Reserve at Loch of the Lowes to see if I could capture the red squirrel on video. This reserve has a good sized viewing window looking out to feeders on trees and on the ground. I have seen squirrels there before however I was to get quite a surprise, like others looking out, to see who else visited that day.

Although my film was taken through the window and isn’t as clear as it would have been from outside this is the closest I could film these feeders. The moment is still captured and I also saw a bird that I had never seen before – the Jay. I had no idea at all that the jay was as big as this!

You can see a size comparison in the photos below in screen captures from my video. You can also see how they both compared to the size of a great tit too. How lucky was I to have my camera set for this feeder at the time!!

After feeding where the squirrel had been the Jay dropped to the ground, picked up a nut and jumped up again to a branch to eat for a moment before taking it away. A short moment later and it was on the ground drinking from a dish of water before flying off again.

The Jay is really quite a striking looking bird and the photo below taken from Wikipedia shows it much clearer than any of my images. I probably won’t see one of these birds again to get a photo myself. The red squirrel photo is also another wonderful image from Wikipedia.

Jay photo: author and details see here.

Red squirrel photo: author and details see here.

Finally, I heard something interesting on the recent BBC Springwatch programme about the red squirrel making a small come back on the grey squirrels. Apparently a predator of the red squirrel is also helping it out. The pine marten (which has also been seen at this reserve) is finding the larger and heavier grey squirrel an easier prey to catch! It’s fascinating how nature turns around isn’t it?

The photo montage and video shown above were taken at Loch of the Lowes on June 18th 2008.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Garden Bloom Day June 2008

On Sunday, the 15th of the month, I took some video from my garden for my Bloom Day post. I am perhaps a little late in adding my post to Carol’s comment list of 104 tonight but I plan to anyway. Carol won’t mind – it’s the taking part that counts.

My Friday posting has already shown some flowers of the moment but it might be assumed that from these photos my garden was a blaze of colour. Not so, as you will see from my videos below. The flowers are really sitting in a sea of greens. I love the way my garden is looking at the moment. Soon more flowers will burst into colour but I like this time just before when green is still the dominant colour.

Garden wander video, video 1:08 with background music, try 480p quality.

Garden wander video, video 1:16 with background music, try 480p quality.

I have a new video camera that I just haven’t had time to experiment with properly. The quality of capture is much better than my old camera but after my initial video upload to Google video tonight I was unhappy with the viewing quality. That is why I have tried out for a change.

I am trying to find a way to show clearer video with the camera moving. This is tricky over the internet. Although the videos above are still not of the original quality they are much improved and I am fairly happy with them. You will perhaps notice that there is a toggle button to full screen but for a better image I would suggest you view it the size given above. I enjoy experimenting with moving film as much as with my still camera.

Finally, I have to add that I do have a few other flowers that have not made it in this posting as they were still in pots at the time of filming on Sunday morning. It was a very busy weekend and I do have a very special story to tell concerning one of the plants I bought and a garden visit I made on Saturday. I will keep you waiting a little longer for that!

The videos shown above were taken in my garden on June 15th 2008.

Friday, 13 June 2008

Evening Bloom Day preview

For the last few weeks I have been privileged to be able to see the reality of the processes of a nesting bird. I have seen this in detail through the camera in my Nestbox. In this time the plants in my garden have also gone through quite a few processes.

The Spring bulbs have all died down and alliums are now running through my garden in many different stages of flower. The herbs are growing well now too and didn’t this simple chive flower look fantastic in the evening sun last night. It is by photographing the plants in my garden that I really appreciate the details of the flowers. The chives look great joining in the parade of alliums!

On Sunday I will join Carol at May Dreams Gardens for a posting of what is in flower in my garden then. So these photos are just a taster from last night. I do like to take photos in the evening or early morning light. I love the colours captured then especially white flowers like the celmisia.

Ah… but my wisteria flowers really catch the evening sun on its top branches climbing over my pergola. Some flowers get a little shading from the leaves but look equally beautiful. The deep vibrancy of the orange flower of the geum looked fantastic too last night – I only wish this flower would last longer!

My front garden gets the most sunlight. In the evening sun you can really see why stipa gigantea gets the name of the golden oat grass. Its flowers did sparkle like gold last night. The lighting last night really shows the value of textural plants in the garden too. We had the silky golden grass flower, the shimmering spikes of the sea holly and the soft blanket of the stachys. I love the interest these type of plants have in the garden – you just want to touch them gently as you walk by.

Depending on the weather I might use my video camera on Sunday for my Bloom Day posting. Below the montage mix from last night shows some of the firework flowers of the allium coming and going, aquilegia, clematis Picardi, cirsium, clematis Miss Bateman and the blue meconopsis.

Later last night I spotted a large fat orange moth at the aquilegia above. It was almost dark. We have had a lot of bat activity just before dusk these last few nights and I can now see why. As I walked around I spotted quite a few moths visiting my flowers. I must get my video camera out to see what I can capture. The bats appeared bigger than last year but I am guessing they are adult pipistrelle. Bat visits are not new to my garden but I have never noticed so many flying together. My garden must have a good food source for them at the moment.

So the warmer evenings are the nights to see some more interesting wildlife visiting the garden. However we have another visitor to my garden at this time of night that I get itchy just thinking about. The infamous Scottish midges have just little swarms around my garden, often near my hedge, but they bite just the same! However if you were going hill walking in Scotland I would recommend you take a midge net with you. Simon King when presenting for BBC’s Springwatch last night was wearing one in the Cairngorms. They are definitely not the most glamorous of head gear but I would consider it – although not while gardening!

Enjoy your garden this weekend. I wonder what you will see there?

All photos above were taking in my garden on the evening of June 12th 2008.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

The End

Sadly the picture from my camera Nestbox this morning shows the final two blue tit chicks leaning on each other not moving at all. Yesterday the third one died and I was most surprised to see that the female did not remove it from the nest until much later in the day. The other two chicks were climbing on top of it. I did take a photo but for my own records only. There is no need to post it or one from today.

What about the live mealworms? Well I am delighted to say that two days ago she finally discovered them and fed them to the chicks. Perhaps if I had the feeder with mealworms set up much earlier it could have helped the survival of the chicks. Who knows? I did try putting them in lots of places. She certainly ignored them for some time in the feeder dish taking the fat sprinkles instead. Still, they were available to her but in reality she could have had no help from me at all. It just goes to show how hard it can be for birds to feed their chicks.

The greenfly is thriving on my new rose but now that the blue tit doesn’t need to chase off competition from other blue, great and coal tits maybe these birds will enjoy the greenfly!

Interestingly enough there is another single blue tit with three chicks in a Nestbox featured in BBC Two’s Springwatch programme. They don’t know if it is male or female but much of the behaviour in this nest is very similar to the recent story from our Nestbox. For example the constant cleaning in the bottom of the nest and the way the chicks are being fed too - although I believe more food is going in. They suspect lice and mites in this Nestbox too. I will follow this story with interest to hear what they have to say about it and to see if these chicks are still surviving on Thursday when the programme ends its three week coverage.

I should say that the weather has certainly been on the side of our blue tit. If it had been raining all the time in the last two weeks she would have found it much harder to find food. We’ve only had the odd half day of rain.

Later today we are finally expecting rain and the garden could certainly do with it! I have not had time to post on my garden too much recently nor on the other birds that have been visiting too. Ah… the garden is looking very interesting now and my wisteria is in flower! It has a wonderful scent. I do have lots of updates on the garden and some work to do in it too! It really is a busy time of the year in the garden but soon it will be time to sit back and enjoy it with only the odd bit of very enjoyable pottering. I then will also look forward to browsing all the garden, bird and wildlife blogs that I have been unable to find time to visit recently.

Finally, I hope the rain will refresh but not stay with the gardens here in Scotland over the next couple of weeks. Yolanda at Bliss in the Netherlands is coming over to Scotland on a garden tour. I would like to wish you a great trip Yolanda and look forward to seeing your photos and reading about your garden visits on your return. Your posting on the the Edinburgh Botanical Garden, which will be looking very different from my last visit there in February, is going to be a very interesting one!

Sunday, 8 June 2008

What can we see?

Well, I would have said it was against all odds that the three remaining blue tit chicks in our camera Nestbox were still alive. They are only being fed by one parent (the female) and her food deliveries are nowhere nearly often enough. I timed her over an hour during the last couple of days.

Incredibly she only brought food in nine times in the hour and sometimes only gave this to just one of the chicks - the other two were left even longer for food. In all honesty I now look in this Nestbox not really knowing what I will see.

This morning I was delighted to see that it looks like the chicks eyes are opening – this has been very interesting to watch. They are turning their heads around a lot. I expect the brighter light in the Nestbox at this time of the day will be catching them.

Something else looks like it is catching them too. I am pretty confident now that there are parasites in this nest. I know the female tidies up a lot – digging way down into the bottom of the nest. You can hear her tapping on the wood of the Nestbox floor.

However, the chicks are often seen jumping in a jerky fashion when they are on their own too. I have also been watching the biggest of the three chicks pecking under its wings as I have seen the female do. I am completely new to this stage in the Nestbox but I would guess many nests have parasites and chicks do survive.

Okay, I have one more concern for these hungry chicks – the ‘always hungry’ starlings! The tone of the chirping of the chicks is changing and getting louder and this morning they definitely responded to changes in light levels thinking the female was coming in the Nestbox – it was a starling on the roof. If the starling shows interest when the female is there then she will protect them. But if they are hungry and get the strength to get out of the nest cup… yep, you can guess what will happen next.

Finally, I am not going to predict the outcome of these chicks as now I am in completely unknown territory. They still look far too thin to me and I am guessing that they will need a lot more feeding as they get bigger. The female is still not using the live mini mealworms and doesn’t appear to have found the greenfly either. She searches the front of my Leylandii hedge yet within a metre of the Nestbox there is a pergola covered in ivy with spiders etc – the great tits search there. So what will happen next – we will just have to wait and see!

The photos above were taken from my camera nestbox on June 8th 2008.

Friday, 6 June 2008

And then there were three

I am fairly confident now that the the story of our blue tit chicks with single parent is almost over. I would love to be wrong.

The female blue tit has now found a source of some sort of wriggly food for her chicks (not my mini liver mealworms) but I fear it is too late. I think perhaps she knows this too and is giving it to the strongest chick. She is still away too long between feeds.

Usually after a feed the waste product instantly comes out the other end. She waits and watches to remove it but during most feeds now there is nothing to remove. Not a good sign. The chicks then just slide into the nest quietly when she leaves. No chirping now.

I will look in the Nestbox later today but I expect if the chicks don’t survive they could be just left there.

The photos above were taken from my camera nestbox at 7.50am on June 6th 2008.

Thursday, 5 June 2008

Chirping for food

Yesterday morning there were five chicks in our blue tit Nestbox. I was really quite positive for them. They appeared strong and alert. However when I looked in the Nestbox during the evening we could only see four and they looked much less alert.

This morning we now have four chicks 11 days old. I am sure they are smaller than they should be at this stage. The female has to search for food herself and some days can leave the nest for as long as ten minutes and come back with only enough for one chick. I have no doubt if the male was around to help find food the chicks would be much bigger.

Blue tit Mum feeds chicks, video 0:56 with background music, try 480p quality.

Although we have had some rain on the whole we have had warm sunny days recently which have to help the female in her search for food. The video footage shown above shows a feeding moment two days ago. You can see that the ones with bigger mouths do get more food. You can also select the button to see the video full screen. The chicks have now started to make quiet chirping sounds and make this when the female is feeding, away or even sitting on top of them!

Fat sprinkles are continuing to supplement the spiders as a food for the chicks and I have only once seen a caterpillar go in during the morning the first chicks hatched. I couldn’t see if they were interested in it or not. I introduced another feeder that took a few days for the female to explore but it has enabled me to put out live mealworms and sprinkles with the bonus that the starlings are unable to get to them. Of course they still try! I only wish the female would try the mealworms.

I am very grateful to have the feeder shown opposite. This was very kindly loaned to me by an RSPB Volunteer to use for as long as I needed it. I had been telling her about my plight to find a way to put out the mini live mealworms.

Thank-you so much Lyn! I really believe that this feeder went up at a crucial time for the chicks. I still couldn’t say if they will all survive but I know feel happier that there is at least an extra food source available for them.

Lyn also wrote down the names of two websites where I might get feeders that are especially good for smaller birds. In the first one Haith’s I spotted Lyn’s feeder so I now intend ordering one for myself and will be able to return it to her. It will be an excellent feeder when juvenile birds from other nests come to my garden.

Interestingly enough this company just contacted me this week saying that they have regular features written by Bill Oddie (bird/wildlife enthusiast and presenter) and Jenny Steel (wildlife gardener) suggesting that may be of interest to my readers. Interestingly once again Jenny was one of the first sites I approached to exchange links with. Perhaps my readers outside the UK will have heard of Bill. At the moment he is on our television screens as a presenter for BBC Two’s Springwatch. I have been enjoying watching the progress of other nesting birds in this programme.

There has been some very strange bird behaviour too including a swallow male deliberately dropping the newly hatched chicks out of their nest! It has been suggested that these chicks are not his. He then tried to mate with the female and proceeded to build a new nest! Nature certainly throws up the unexpected when we can watch it more closely.

So what about our blue tit chicks? Well, I am worried that the female isn’t bringing food in more regularly. I have noticed that if she comes in with food in quick succession the chicks are much stronger and alert. When she leaves them for ten minutes (too long I’d say at this point) they get tired calling for food and slide down into the nest. Then when she finally comes in with food they don’t show as much interest in it. She also has spells sitting on them too and if there was a male looking for food at that time things would be much better.

Another point I should make is that the female does spend a lot of time diving into the bottom of the nest. She will be cleaning the nest of any unwelcome insect pests like lice. When any chicks die she removes them from the nest to keep the nest clean. Maybe there is a problem with pests in this nest and I expect the weaker chicks will be more vulnerable.

On saying all this I also expect if the female found a good food source close-by that the chicks would thrive. Although I have put the live mini mealworms (in the feeder above) the female still appears to only be taking the fat sprinkles from it.

So, for the moment as we look into the Nestbox we find ourselves comparing the situation to last year where the chicks got weaker and weaker. However, on the positive side we can see that the chicks are larger at this stage. We would love to see them open their eyes this time. All they really need is more food and then the picture will really be quite different.

Finally, the last photo above was just taken now as I go to post this. The chicks are finding some strength to push up beside Mum. This photo does look very cosy but the female didn’t stay there for long. Out she went again in search of food - or perhaps a moment of R&R!

The video above was taken from my camera nestbox on June 3rd 2008. The photos above was taken in my garden on June 5th 2008.

Sunday, 1 June 2008

Spiders and suet sprinkles

I am delighted to be able to post that the blue tit chicks in our camera Nestbox are getting bigger and stronger! There are still six chicks with one being smaller and as the others get bigger and stronger it is getting pushed further to the bottom of the nest as they climb over each other for space. Unless the smaller chick gets a few good feeds it may not survive. However, on Friday I was very doubtful if any would survive!

Five blue tit chicks are now a week old and you can really see the size difference from the day they hatched in the photos above. I am not sure how old the smaller one is but it really just needs a few good feeds to catch up in size and strength. I have say that we still see them as very small and had no idea they had grown so much!

I am guessing that the warm few days we have had has made it easier for the female to find food. We have seen many spiders going in and she is also bringing in the small fat sprinkles too. I still haven’t seen a mini mealworm coming in but hopefully she will discover them soon so that on any rainy days when she can’t find spiders she will have them. So between spiders and suet sprinkles our chicks are doing fine for the moment – long may this continue!

The photos above were taken from my camera Nestbox on Jun 1st and May 26th 2008.