Sunday, 23 November 2008

Updates galore

Let’s start with the plants. Well, as you can see below they have a small covering of snow. It had been forecasted to fall overnight but it was still a surprise to open blinds this morning and see it covering the garden. I love to see the look of this sort of amount – not too little and not too much!


A bird count had been planned for this morning but after watching them a little while I was more drawn to get outside and take some photos. I stood for a while watching the one feeder for the coal tits – they just have to be the birds of the garden for November. They are often seen hiding snflower hearts too in moss, borders and in the lawn. How funny they are too watch - I wonder if the similar looking American Chickadee does this too. We have three regularly visiting chasing each other and other birds away from the feeders.

Ah… I nearly forgot about this – the possible new bird sighting! I saw it only the once - the day my daughter went into hospital. Then for a number of days I was nowhere near the windows I watch the garden from. It may have come back but it was the cheeky Coal Tits that chased it away that day. I am not certain, I have no photos but by the way it moved around my small pine tree, the buff colouring of its underside and its size and shape – I do believe for a fleeting moment I saw a Goldcrest visiting my garden!


What was visiting this weekend then? Well, as they say, the usual suspects. I did do a bird count on Saturday from 10-11am but I knew this time was likely to show fewer numbers but a fuller variety of species. I must highlight two woodpigeons here, before I list numbers, which simply watched each other and moved around as if they were playing a game of chess! They never took food from any feeder in the whole hour.

Blackbirds, including one partial albino, took the top slot for my count with eight. The Chaffinches were next with six, and then there were three Coal tits and three House sparrows. Two Blue tits, Great tits, Dunnocks and Greenfinches were followed by one Robin, Goldfinch and one solitary Starling. Now, I do wonder if this Starling was a scout for a group. It did not return after a failed attempt and getting food from a caged feeder with fat balls inside. It wasn’t the only one that failed with that feeder either…

Next, to the wildlife in the garden… what has been going on in ‘Hedgehog Manor’ and are hedgehogs still visiting the garden at the moment? The video below shows visits to the ‘Evening Buffet’ available at Hedgehog Manor last week. The first clip shows it was a wet night and really what respectable hedgehog would dine Al Fresco when there is an alternative?

The second clip was taken the evening we made the two hour drive to A&E. I don’t remember much about it now except that I was testing my newer night camera shortly before at around 6.30pm. It looks like the hedgehog (I am guessing the resident one at that time) was at the buffet when someone went outside. Legs go by, outside lights were on and go off again - notice the hedgehog just hides its head and doesn’t go into a ball. It must feel safe in there.



Ah… but is it? Mm... the hedgehog was not the only wildlife visitor to be seen visiting that day! Earlier on, this Thursday the 13th, at around 9am the garden saw the return of a not so popular visitor to gardens. I was joined for breakfast by a grey squirrel - the most curious one I have ever seen in my garden. I opened the window as it went from the food under the small Acer tree to the house wall. As I opened the window and peeked out at it, it moved right up to the window and looked closely back at me! I quickly shut the window again.

Well, at first it appeared to do a recognisance of the garden ending with a very cheeky thump with its claws on the window where I sat watching what it was going to do next. It clearly meant it for me. What thumps it gave the glass and what a fright it gave me!


Next, it really used my garden like it was an adventure playground. There was nothing that it didn’t jump off or run along! It paused a moment to take food from the feeder under the Acer tree once again and the Blackbirds and Dunnocks weren’t really sure what to make of it but some moved warily towards food nearby.

Ah… but they weren’t the only ones watching what it was up to. The Blue Tit roosting in our Arch Nestbox quickly claimed its home. The squirrel came quite close too as the blue tit watched it from the entrance hole. Was anyone safe? A jump down on to my hanging basket, a run along the trellis and of to the main feeders it went. This time it meant business. The roof of the bird table was wet so it slid off down into the shrub below. Next to the hanging feeders. Ah... but the caged feeders stood up to the test!


Back to the ground feeder it went as you can see in the video below. As you will also see it did try to get food from a wire peanut feeder but then it took another walk by me at the window. Where was it going next? Fortunately I still had a night camera sitting outside. I switched it on to see the first of a number of visits to the buffet at Hedgehog Manor! A window table Sir?




I have to say, I just had to watch as I was concerned if I tried to scare it away it might go into the back where a hedgehog was. I watched it move towards this area but fortunately I didn’t see it exploring there. It did however jump up on and off the bricks inside a number of times – it was a very, very curious squirrel. I wasn’t at home until later the next evening. My younger daughter saw it the next day. Then I saw it briefly the next. It hasn’t been seen since. I had this last year in December where we had visits by one squirrel for a few days and this has been the first sighting in my garden of a squirrel since then. Maybe others have seen this too?

So are hedgehogs still out and about at the moment? Well, that I am not sure of. A few nights ago I put food outside Hedgehog Manor (in addition to the buffet inside) for any passers by but it was only taken by birds the next morning. However the night before my blog was ‘Two’ I did put out my video camera (set on the 0lux setting) on a very low tripod and captured the video below. I am delighted with this capture but wonder if I will get any more sightings now.



So does Hedgehog Manor have a hedgehog in residence hibernating? Again, I haven’t been too sure – until tonight. The photo capture below shows there is condensation inside (the white marks). It is a cold night so this would suggest to me there is something inside generating heat. I went out to take a closer look and noticed some food had been taken. Perhaps another hedgehog came inside to the buffet but I am wondering now if our resident has woken up, eaten and then headed back to sleep. I hadn’t seen this condensation for quite a few nights now and did consider something had happened with the squirrel and it had left. I am now pleased to say it looks like all is well and yes we have a hedgehog in residence!


So what about the unexpected email? Well, I am absolutely chuffed to little bits that BBC Countryfile Magazine has chosen shirls gardenwatch for their ‘Blog of the month’ for their January issue. Urban Extension was chosen for their December issue too – congrats Jane. I had no idea that this magazine did this – what a great idea.

Almost done now, however I would like to add a wildlife sighting ‘first’ to this post. Not in my garden, but on the streets of Aberdeen between 2-3 am in the morning as we looked for somewhere to stay following our A&E dash to see our daughter. Driving up to a junction we took a second look as we spotted a fox just casually walking along the pavement like it owned it! It didn’t run away or hide. It clearly knew exactly where it was going and walked on by! I have never had such a clear view of a fox and what a fine looking animal this one was. What a beautiful colour too. This fox, in all honesty, looked like a well looked after dog. I wonder how many foxes live in cities - I bet they all don't look like this one.

Finally, I would thank everyone for their kind wishes towards my daughter’s recovery. She is making some progress now I am glad to say.

All photos and videos shown above were taken in my garden between November 12th-24th 2008.

18 comments:

Jane said...

Great videos and pictures Shirl. Thanks for mentioning my blog... and well done! my blog is Urban Extension (not Urban Garden). I think that Countryfile magazine has been going through our "links" as Paula's blog at Locks Park Farm was chosen in November. I wonder who will be next??? What is the "olux setting"? It gave great results. Jane

shirl said...

Thanks Jane :-D

Sorry, this is too late a time to be posting. I was going to come back and add your link tomorrow and I would have noticed my mistake then. Doh...

I wonder indeed - I just think it is great that people reading magazines are being introduced to the blogging world too :-)

Zero lux is a Greyscale night/low light setting on my very simple video camera. I only use this camera on dry and not too cold nights. I agree the results are great. My old camera had this setting and this was on my list for the replacement.

Really must get some sleep now :-D

Gail said...

Wonderful news about your daughter!

and good news about the hedgehog in the manor and the blog of the month!

gail

easygardener said...

You can see why squirrels are so successful - curious, fearless and clever! I'm sure you will see it again and it may bring a friend :-)

Lisa at Greenbow said...

What a fun post Shirl. I can't get enough of the hedgehogs. Your new night camera gives such great footage.

I hope that darned squirrel doesn't take up residence in your garden. They are so destructive and I wouldn't want it to tell all its friends and relatives about the wonderful smorgasbord you provide. One squirrel can be cute but a horde of them is awful.

Congrats on your blog award from the magazine. It just reinforces what I know is true. You have a great blog.

Frances said...

Hi Shirl, so much here to digest! Congrats on the magazine sendup, so well deserved. Your blog shows how much love and work you apply to bring us all the phots, videos and newsy bits in your garden. I do love the hedgehogs too, but not the squirrel, the brute tapping at the window, what nerve! I will have to watch our little chickadees to see if they hide the seeds too, I never knew birds did such things.
Frances

nancybond said...

Very good news about your daughter. And isn't it lovely to have so many birds back again?! I always enjoy my visits here, especially your videos. :)

Liz said...

We also recently had our first squirrel visit, I'm unsure if it's been back since, but I haven't seen it or around two weeks now!

Also, we have foxes next door, they regularly come in the garden and leave egg shells for us - neighbours feed them on the next street.

From what I've seen they're rather healthy, and urban Foxes usually live a lot longer than their Rural cousins.

Heather said...

What lovely pictures of the snow on the plants! I also think I saw a gold crest bathing in my pond but it was so fast I couldn't be certain. My mum says she saw one later on so it probably was! :-) Wow what a great variety of birds! At the moment we are getting lots of long tailed tits in our garden up in the branches of our uncut willow. Because the birds were enjoying it so much we thought we would leave it uncut this year. I love hedgehogs and that footage is brill :-D That squirrel must have been very fat once it left your garden! Haha! Congratulations for becoming Blog of the month! I am very happy for you :-D I have seen a fox running down our street very early one morning but it ran past so fast I didn't get a good look at it, yet it still made my day! I'm glad your daughter is recovering :-)

Heather

st said...

Shirl,
I'm not surprised your blog is a 'blog of the month'. The same can be said of jane's Urban Extension.
Hope your daughters recovery, is swift.
The squirrel, may be partialy tame and being fed elsewhere.
OH! i just love the music in the first video.
keep up the good work. For many more years i hope.

shirl said...

Hi again Gail, easygardener, Lisa, Frances, Nancy, Liz, Heather and ST :-)

Gail – Thank-you, it is great to see. Yes, I am delighted to have a hedgehog in residence. The blog of the month was an even bigger surprise :-D

easygardener – Oh yes… I really had never seen a squirrel like this before! Yes, bringing friends was a concern last year but we never saw that one again. No more squirrel sightings at the moment either. Perhaps they only have three day breaks in my garden! I wish…. fingers crossed we don’t get invaded :-D

Lisa – Thank-you, it was fun to do. I was thinking of you and Gail when I was editing the hedgehog footage. Yes, I completely agree this one squirrel had brief moments of cuteness but I know what can hide behind them. Thank-you, you are very kind. I am still surprised myself that they have chosen me – I am chuffed though :-D

Frances – Yes, this one was a bit of a brain dump! I just haven’t had time on the PC recently. Thank-you, like you, I do have fun blogging. Yes, the squirrel – we will see what it does next – if it returns! Yes, do watch your chickadees. This is new behaviour of the coal tits here – many others have been seeing it too. It is very strange and it is likely that it will not remember where it puts the sunflower hearts either. I have watched them – they don’t even use the same hiding place! Silly things :-D

Nancy – Thank-you. It is, although now as I feed the birds all year round they can have large numbers in the spring too when their young visit the feeders. The difference now is that as the foliage of the garden dies down we can see them more easily. But yes at the moment the numbers are starting to increase again. I am delighted that you enjoy your visits and my videos :-D

Liz – Interesting, as that is what happened to us last year. I haven’t seen this squirrel for almost a week now either. Strange. Oh… fascinating to hear about your foxes. Yes, it really was a surprise to see how healthy our sighting was too. I guess there are more food sources available in towns and cities and also kind people who leave dishes of food out for them. Yes, I would expect the urban fox would live longer than the rural one. I still think it is amazing to see this wild animal on the streets looking so ‘at home’ don’t you :-D

Heather – Hello again, I am glad you enjoyed the pics! I wonder if that was the first time you had seen the goldcrest visit your garden too. Yes, I am thrilled with the variety of birds visiting my garden. It is only since writing this blog that so many have found their way here – to the variety of foods I put out too ;-) Oh… I envy you your long-tailed tit visits – we saw them for the first time earlier this year (just 2) and what lovely birds they are. How kind of you to leave an area especially for them. I have been enjoying the hedgehog visits too and am always thrilled to catch them on video. Yep… that is the answer Heather – the squirrel went back to its drey a bit larger than it left it and is stuck in there until it looses some weight! Thank-you, how kind of you. Great to hear you’ve seen a fox in your street too. I have seen one here once too but it was in the distance. Thank-you, so am I and she is desperate to get back to Uni sometime soon as she has been missing lots :-)

ST – Oh… thank-you! Yes, I agree Jane’s is definitely deserving of it. I don’t know any other blogger that has interest in so many aspects of wildlife. Thank-you, so do I – she is desperate to return to Uni. Ah… I never thought of a squirrel being fed nearby! Lol – I do have great fun with the music in my videos and the hedgehog is just so country music don’t you think? Thank-you, I hope to keep going for a while yet :-D

Border Reiver said...

Hi Shirl, just catching up on your blog after a while, first off best wishes to your daughter. Worrying times but soon on the mend I hope.

Keep an eye out for Goldcrests, as many migrate into the UK from the near continent so there'll be more about now, as with other paserines, and Bramblings are now around too. Lovely birds, quite easy to find once one can recognise the high pitched call as they flit from branch to branch feeding. And as there are a large number of Waxwings about too at the moment up your way, worth checking any berried trees.

Squirrels also will be foraging further at this time of year into new areas trying to build up food reserves for the winter, though as ST says could be a semi-tame one. I know they're a pest, especially towards the Reds, but still nice to see in the garden on a winters day.....

Keep an eye out for winter bats flying too, there may be an article about that in Februarys BBC Wildlife Magazine, Januarys will be on the Otter, not my work but a friends.

...... as for the snow, keep that up there until Christmas :-)

shirl said...

Hi there Border:-)

I hope you are well. Yes, it was a worry and still is as if she gets a relapse then she can say goodbye to her 1st year at Uni.

Yes, I couldn’t believe my eyes with the goldcrest! I hope it returns. Yes, I have been closely looking at every male chaffinch just in case a brambling visits. I have never seen one here but I heard they are a possibility. I had an email about waxwings in Dundee but I doubt I have enough berries for them and the blackbirds are starting on them now so they could be gone soon. I have also heard there have been sightings of nuthatches in Fife so I’m keeping an eye out for them too. Need more eyes ;-)

Yes, the squirrel being semi-tame – I never thought of that at all (brain not fully in gear at the moment). That would explain we it came so close to me at the window and why it thumped for my attention. Yes, collecting food of course but this one just ate – probably because most of the peanuts I put out are crushed for any young hedgehogs. Carry-outs would be tricky ;-) I agree, it was fun to see visit though.

Winter bats? Yes, I will keep an eye out now. I expected they would all be in hibernation. I am guessing the pippistrelle ones are. I will take a look at the article – thanks for that :-D

Otters, I have never seen in the will but I will keep an eye out when I am along river banks.

Sorry, snow all but gone in my area now. Yes, I agree it can stay away until Christmas now :-D

Best wishes :-D

jodi said...

Ah, here's where our climates diverge yet again, Shirl. Should I send a few inches or feet of snow your way? We are waiting for things to get milder here and the melt to begin, but it will make a mess with all this snow. So it was lovely to escape to your garden and enjoy the tranquility for a little while.

shirl said...

Hi again Jodi :-)

It does, it does. Not for the moment Jodi – thanks for the offer. If you have any spare at Christmas though…

Yep… the melt does make a bit of a mess – I don’t like that part either. It’s good to escape for a little while isn’t it and great what we can see around the world through the blogging network too :-D

The Intercontinental Gardener said...

What a lovely post, Shirl! I showed the hedgehog to my girls, and they absolutely adored it, now they want me to install a cam too... :-) well, here in Seattle we might get raccoons on the film, thought.

shirl said...

Hi there Intercontinental Gardener:-)

Great, I love it when people share my videos with their children – especially the hedgehog ones! My older teenage daughters enjoy seeing them too.

Ah… the cam yes it does open new views on the garden although in the cases of failed nestboxes not all is fun to watch. It is real though just as raccoon visits may be to your garden. It is still fun to see what goes on in the evening when we are indoors and you never know what might pass by!!

Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving :-D

Patsi said...

I must come back to visit you often.
Very Entertaining !!!
I get a kick out of the music you pick for the videos...just love it!