Monday, 30 March 2009

Top 10 UK Garden Birds 2009

For anyone, from the record breaking over half a million people from the UK, who took part with the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch in January 2009 the results are now out. I am guessing these lists may be of interest to others in Europe and other parts of the world too. Below I have listed this year's Top Ten with comparison figures for 2008 and 2007. You can also see my Top Ten visiting garden birds in 2009 and 2008.

Top 10 Garden Birds 2009

1. HOUSE SPARROW with an average of 3.70 per garden
2008 – (1) with 3.60 per garden
2007 – (1) with 4.40 per garden

2. STARLING with an average of 3.21 per garden
2008 – (2) with 3.44 per garden
2007 – (2) with 3.67 per garden

3. BLACKBIRD with an average of 2.84 per garden
2008 – (3) with 2.45 per garden
2007 – (4) with 2.26 per garden

with an average of 2.45 per garden
2008 – (4) with 2.29 per garden)
2007 – (3) with 2.82 per garden)

with an average of 2.01 per garden
2008 – (5) with 2.15 per garden)
2007 – (5) with 1.9 per garden

6. WOODPIGEON with an average of 1.85 per garden
2008 – (6) with 1.53 per garden
2007 – (7) with 1.53 per garden

7. COLLARED DOVE with an average of 1.44 per garden
2008 – (7) with 1.43 per garden
2007 – (6) with 1.56 per garden

with an average of 1.40 per garden
2008 – (9) with 1.25 per garden
2007 – (8) with 1.37 per garden

9. ROBIN with an average of 1.36 per garden
2008 – (8) with 1.26 per garden
2007 – (9) with 1.26 per garden

with an average of 1.34 per garden

(The first time in the survey's 30-year history, the Long-tailed tit has appeared in top ten)
2008 – (10) Goldfinch with 1.16 per garden
(The first year the Goldfinch had appeared in top ten)
2007 – (10) Greenfinch with 1.20 per garden

The House Sparrow takes the top spot once again so I have used the same photo as last year. The rest of the top ten is pretty much the same as last year with a little shuffle around plus the new entry at number ten. Looking back to the last two years number ten looks like it's the spot to watch!

I guess I’m not too surprised that the Long-tailed tits just made it into the top ten after seeing visits in my garden for the very first time this year and hearing of them in other gardens too. They were such wonderful visitors to see. However the RSPB say: “This highly sociable species increased by an astonishing 88% from last years count.”

Now that is interesting but here’s another thought. The RSPB say: We believe this pleasant increase is because this insect-eating bird has adapted to feeding on seeds and peanuts at birdtables and from hanging feeders. This result highlights perfectly the positive impact that our feeding and bird care can have on some birds.”

The RSPB also say: "Thanks to the cold snap in January, some birds came into our gardens from the wider countryside. The two species of winter thrushes, redwing and fieldfare, were found in three times as many gardens as previous years. During the Birdwatch, many people often notice groups of these beautiful thrushes flying overhead, but this year, with all that ice and snow about, they were hungry and small groups came in to our gardens, joining the blackbirds munching on apples and other food we put out."

Once again, I would agree with that as my garden had visits from the Mistle Thrush and a small group of Fieldfares. They did give me a challenge trying to identify them on dark mornings. Again new first time visitors there too! You can see the differences in my montage below. Left to right is the Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush and the Fieldfare.

So... what about the next ten? Again, many familiar faces to my small Scottish garden with the exception of the Feral pigeon. The others have all visited although the Magpie has just looked down from a neighbour’s tree. Oh… but I just had to smile when I saw who made it to number twenty one!

The Pheasant took the 21st spot and once again it has made it to my garden too. So strange to see... but I have seen it take a stroll up my lawn. Silly thing, missed all the food on the ground quite close to where it walked! Here's numbers 11-20...

11. GOLDFINCH with an average of 1.26 per garden
12. GREENFINCH with an average of 1.07 per garden
13. DUNN0CK with an average of 2.84 per garden
14. MAGPIE with an average of 0.86 per garden
15. COAL TIT with an average of 0.75 per garden
16. JACKDAW with an average of 0.55per garden
17. FERAL PIGEON with an average of 0.53 per garden
18. CARRION CROW with an average of 0.49 per garden
19. WREN with an average of 0.29 per garden
20. SONG THRUSH with an average of 0.17 per garden

Okay, so if you're still hungry for more stats I’ll give you a couple of more links. There are PDF files for the 74 different species seen during this year’s Big Garden Birdwatch but perhaps you’d like to see the list for your local patch. I remember last year many enjoyed browsing the later.

Bringing garden bird watching right up to date, in the last week I have been noticing pairs of birds visiting the feeders. I’ve seen Blue tits, Great tits, Chaffinches, Greenfinches, Siskins and Collared Doves all coming two by two! I’ve also seen a slow increase in goldfinches (now at five) and now a regular Song Thrush. Now… I’d love to see the Song Thrush bring a friend!

I wonder if you’ve seen lots of interesting bird activity in your garden over the weekend? I hope so. I spotted some moss loose at the edge of my ‘mossy’ lawn so I guess there are some birds looking for nesting material at the moment. Now, I wonder what tales will come from the Nestboxes this year. It really is fascinating to watch. Enjoy watching the birds in your garden.

The photo of Long-tailed tit shown above was taken in my garden during February 2009.

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Look out, look out...

…the hogs are about! Mm… so where’s the connection between hogs and snowdrops? I wonder if you can guess. Yep… this week I made return visit to the Cambo Snowdrops but this time to do a 'spot of shopping'. Oh… but I just had to take my camera again and this time I didn’t go into the woods! Ah… but this posting isn’t just about the stunning snowdrops.

The snowdrop photos above and below were all taken around the main house at Cambo and outside the walled garden. On this visit my camera focused on the specialist snowdrops. If you take time to study the centre ring of petals, the patterns on them and the shapes of the outer petals you will see just how much they vary by quite subtle differences. Now, what about the hogs?

The hungry little chap above is one of thirteen piglets. Helen and Emma are the proud Mums and it appears that next year they may have some competition with Gorgeous Gertie a Gloucester Old Spot. Okay… don’t worry I’ve not turned farmer here! I’m still a gardener and like all gardeners do appreciate any help with pest control in the garden. Have you any clue yet what the connection is between the hogs and the snowdrops?

Let’s take a break from the snowdrops and return to the hogs in my own garden. Hedgehogs are well known as the gardener’s friend. They are out feeding at night on the slugs and snails that are also out feeding at night on the leaves of our plants! Two nights ago I was absolutely thrilled to have seen my first sighting of the year... dining at Hedgehog Manor. Let’s hope we see many more!

My outdoor camera isn’t running all the time so I didn’t spot if this hedgehog came from the sleeping quarters in Hedgehog Manor where we have had a hedgehog hibernating. I had a feeling we were getting dinning guests now as the water, I put out recently, had completely gone. I added crushed peanuts and sultanas to the feeding side of the dish and hoped the new tunnel might be okay for the hogs to use but possibly deter nosey cats and passing squirrels. The hedgehog in the video does look quite small so I am delighted to be able to help get his weight up. More snowdrops?

Now to the burning question of this posting – what is the connection between the snowdrops and the pigs at Cambo? Well… this is another hog that is the gardener’s friend. At least the gardener with a woodland of ivy to clear!

I had really admired the snowdrops growing through the ivy in my previous posting but I never really considered the consequences at all. Of course, too much ground hugging ivy would completely choke out the snowdrops. Can you guess the connection now?

The pigs at Cambo help the volunteers and gardeners to clear the ground of ivy so the snowdrops can continue to flourish. No, oh no… they don’t go out with gardening gloves ;-D The pigs at Cambo feed on the ivy! Now how about that? I should say they don’t roam around all the time. I’m not sure exactly when they do this so I’ve emailed the Estate to ask... and will update this posting when they get back to me. Is that not fascinating? I thought so. I'd love to see this in action. I have a feeling I'll be going back to this garden a few times a year. Oh... let's have some more snowdrops...

Question number two – what did I go shopping at Cambo for? Well, despite all the stunning snowdrops shown above it was the Snowflakes Leucojum vernum (cousin of the Snowdrop) that I went back for. This is a great time to plant Snowdrops/Snowflakes, when they are in the green, and that is why I returned this week. Only when looking for my links did I realise that Cambo run a very successful mail order and online business too.

On this visit, the room set aside for coffee shop and gifts (previously) was transformed with tables and boxes as the snowdrops were being prepared to be sent out. I was tempted to ask to take photos but I didn’t. However, you can see the packing going on in this page of their website. Everyone was so busy and I could just picture the joy on the faces of the recipients of the parcels being prepared. I bought my Snowflakes from the outside sales area.

I planted my Snowflakes in front of a favourite ornamental grass (Carex Fisher’s Form) and behind a ground bird bath so I could see the flowers reflecting in the water. The flower seen above was a plant that was in a pot. The rest were bought 'in the green' with a little moss wrapped around the bulbs. I am so looking forward to seeing what I have here next year!

Sorry, this is a bit of a lengthy post and there is just so much more I could add. For the moment I’ll stop now after saying a big thanks to Rob at Our French Garden for leaving a comment in my last posting telling me about a visit Noel Kingsbury made to Cambo at the beginning of the month,

You will find Noel’s blog posting here but in you’ll also be able to read about his visit in the September of Issue of Gardens Illustrated. I am guessing their will be some sensational pics taken of his Snowdrop visit and tour with Catherine Erskine the lady behind the garden at the moment. Noel has also mentioned a new prairie planting for the garden this year. Oh yes… I will be back!

Oh go on then, you’ve twisted my arm – one more snowdrop photo. Oh… I should say that the pigs won’t be roaming around the photos taken for this posting. These snowdrops are in borders. It is the masse snowdrop plantings in the woods that the pigs are helping out. Just one final note for helping out these very important garden helpers the hedgehogs. Perhaps you might want to leave a dish of water out for any that may pass through your garden during the night. You could also leave out a dish of food perhaps too. I have found they love sultanas and peanuts.

Just two very final things… As we have just stepped into a Spring I’d like to wish you all a Happy Spring! It is a great time to be outdoors. I’d also like to wish all the Mums in the UK a very Happy Mother’s Day for tomorrow too. Have a great weekend… oops that’s three things!

The piglet and the close up snowdrop photos were taken at Cambo on the 17th March 2009. The video of the hedgehog was taken in my garden just before midnight on March 19th. My garden Snowflake photos were taken this morning.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Blooming Special

Oh... I do believe its time for a video with an upbeat tempo tonight! Yep… its Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day today and I have some ‘proper’ flowers in my garden! No easy listening tonight… let’s hear it for these long awaited flowers!

Oh yes… and I should mention the Blue tit pair who accompanied me as I filmed. I have slowed the action right down so you could see one squeeze out through the bars of the feeder – I don’t know why it didn’t go out the way it came in!

Seeing as I missed last month’s GBBD I have a special treat here with a snowdrop photo fest from a recent visit to see the Cambo Snowdrops (near St Andrews) on February 28th. Yep… I am bending the rules a little here but I’m sure Carol won’t mind. I have been talking the talk about this visit so let’s head on out there and walk the walk!

The Cambo Snowdrops...

Ahem… yes walking from the car park it was the pigs that caught our attention first! Potatoes were available to feed them too. Gosh I didn’t know they could dig such deep holes with their snouts! We headed away from the main house along a path that headed towards the driveway we came in.

Snowdrops draped the banks...

Snowdrops carpeted the driveway in their thousands ...

Snowdrop clusters nestled together with ferns and ivy along the path edge...

Snowdrops made their way to tiny ivy clad island mounds in the stream running through the wood…

We crossed a small wooden bridge. This pathway was quiet, a little wet and muddy underfoot and we only met one person in this area. My… just look at these magnificent tree roots – snowdrops were growing beneath them too. I loved the wildness here.

Snowdrops were growing up and down the banks on the other side of the stream...

Snowdrops pushed their way through fallen branches…

Snowdrops enjoyed the company of ferns…

Snowdrops enjoyed the company of aconites…. Oops I do have an ammendment to make here. Thanks Layanne, my most favourite snowdrop of this visit (shown below and in other photos) was in fact the Spring snowflake Leucojum vernum. I plan to come back to this plant in a future posting.

Snowdrops weaved their way alongside ivy around logs of fallen trees on the ground…

Snowdrops looked great on their own…

Snowdrops looked great under planting Hellebores…

Snowdrops (Spring snowflakes) just asked you to take a closer look – even when they are shy…

Snowdrops looked great in drifts with white butterbur….

Snowdrops really were worth bending down to see…

Snowdrops hung over banks along the edge of the stream and were brave enough to mix with tougher plants…

Snowdrops tumbled towards the stream as we climbed the hill…

Snowdrops caught the evening sun beautifully…

Snowdrops were seen everywhere from the path summit…

Snowdrops were seen all the way to the Sea…

Snowdrops weren’t seen along the narrow strip of pebble beach. Fishing baskets were spotted and children played in the rocks. Stones were being skimmed across the surface of the water. Further along this narrow strip at the edge of a golf course Eider ducks were spotted feeding in a tiny cove – that was a surprise!

Back in the wood and we were on the other side of the stream heading back to the main house now. Snowdrops were mulched with leaves…

Some snowdrops just took my breath away (oops Spring Snowflakes again) …

Sunlit snowdrops (Sunlit Spring snowflakes) on tall stems looked like tiny lanterns blowing in the gentle breeze…

Looking back at the last Snowdrops (last Spring snowflakes) on the edge of the wood…

Looking to the right and looking to the left…

Our visit was almost over. A border along the house wall was stuffed with flowering goodies that you can see in the montage below. It was whetting the appetite for the plant sales around the corner. I wonder if you can guess what I bought. I was seriously restrained and only took away one plant and it was so very hard to choose. Mm... looking at my photos again I may just have to make a return visit for... some Spring Snowflakes!!

Today, we had lunch out at a favourite garden centre. The car park was almost full and as we went inside we found queues at the tills with trolleys and baskets full of plants too! Yep… this gardening season has officially kicked off!

I hope you’ve had a great weekend in your garden. Remember if you’d like to see lots of plants in flower in gardens across the world pop over to May Dreams Gardens and browse the Linkey listings. Thanks go to once again to Carol for hosting this.

The video above was taken in my garden on March 15th 2009. All other photos were taken on February 28th 2009.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Back soon

Just a quick note for all regular and new readers alike - I will be back to posting very soon. I certainly haven’t got bloggers block! There’s just a lot going on at the moment. I’m sure all bloggers have this from time to time and my family does have to come first so I’m sure you will all understand. I hope you are all enjoying your gardens, birds and wildlife at the moment.

I had begun to sort out my photos from my visit to see the Cambo snowdrops and it looks like they will take two postings! So yep… definitely no shortage of postings to come and I have a few in mind for this month already.

Before the end of the month I plan to take part with this month’s Design Workshop at Gardening Gone Wild as the topic is Wildlife in the Garden. I am looking forward to joining in with that and perhaps you might like to too. If you do just pop over and leave a comment on this posting and from there you will be able to browse other blog posts too. I do think this will be a very popular one! Perhaps I’ll see you there.

Blooms are assured from my garden for this month’s Bloom day on the 15th and once again you can see the blooms from a wide variety of gardens and perhaps even take part. Pop over to May Dreams Garden and Carol’s posting on the 15th to join in the fun. It’s great to see the differences in gardens across the world or even the country you live in.

I feel apologies are necessary to many garden bloggers who I haven’t visited/left comments to in a while. There are so many great blogs out there and I feel have made many friends. Blogs as well as having a wealth of info also have a strong social community which I have found it great to be part of.

Stepping into the blogging world after being a follower of blogs and regular commenter can be both a scary and exciting prospect. I didn’t start out like that but I do know someone who did. ShySongbird has been following and leaving comments on my blog for a little while now. It is great to see regulars in comments as well as new ones. I was thrilled when she mailed me to say she had started a blog of her own ShySongbird’s Twitterings. I wish her all the very best with it.

If you have ever considered this step why don’t you pop over to see how ShySongbird is getting on? I’m sure she won’t mind telling you if you were to ask her any questions. She is loving it! She could tell you how she has found the whole experience too. In her profile she says: I have been interested in nature since a little girl and have always enjoyed watching the birds in my garden and elsewhere. This blog is a record of my observations of birds and nature in general.

The photo above was taken at Cambo on February 28th 2009.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Inspector Spring

What clues does he look for? The mood board begins. Warmer days… tick. Sunny days… tick. Bulbs coming into flower… tick. Birds singing their little hearts out to attract mates… tick. The search for clues continues...

Weeds reappearing under plants, through gravel and in borders… tick. Sunshine replaced by rainfall then followed by sunshine has brought them back to life again.

Mud on leaves suggesting the gardener has been out working in the borders… tick. It seems gardeners can’t always wait for dry sunny days. On closers inspection some tiny blue flowers on the crown of this damp foliage were spotted this very dull, dark day. Brunnera Jack Frost is producing flowers… tick.

The usual suspects spotted… tick. Hellebores hidden under leaves – the gardener should cut the leaves back so the flowers can soak up any sunshine as well as the rain. Primroses showing first buds… evidence suggests this garden is much further behind many parts of England with primroses fully in flower there already. Snowdrops… tick. Drumstick primulas forming flowers deep inside the leaf clump… tick. Mm... even in the darker corners of the garden Spring is creeping quietly in.

No place to hide… out in the open the bulbs growing through grass try very hard on rainy days to display their heavy wet flowers. However on sunny days they smile all day! Evidence suggests that some sheltered spots are a good idea where the flowers may last longer. Crocus in flower… tick. Hyacinth showing flower bud… tick. Ornamental grasses showing new growth… tick. Drumstick alliums showing grass like foliage… tick.

At the moment, passers-by cannot see all that’s going on down in gravel next to the drive way and in pots by the front door. An odd crocus, like Pickwick, in flower… tick. Crocus pushing their thin leaves through the gravel… tick. Allium Purple Sensation through the gravel at the front door… tick. Allium Christophiii growing up and out of the pot… tick. Allium globemaster in the back rockery… tick. Inspector Spring is coming to the conclusion that ‘Yes’ Spring has reached this garden.

Walking back through the garden gate Inspector Spring has buds on his mind. Yep, furry white magnolia buds spotted… tick. Rose branches budding… tick. It is clear that this gardener needs to look after Madame Alfred Carriere better! Help should be requested. Weeping pear buds on branches… tick. Wisteria buds… tick. Mm… Inspector Spring looks more closely at the Wisteria in the larger photo below.

He has concluded that there are fresh cuts! Ah… this gardener was a little late perhaps in the pruning of this Wisteria usually done by the end of February. Yes, it has been pruned as per usual cut to two sets of buds… tick. Mm… perhaps all isn’t lost for any un-pruned wisterias hanging about gardens.

He is reliably informed that a certain Mr T suggests you can still prune a wisteria as late as April. Better late than not at all perhaps. Inspector Spring also noticed evidence missed by Inspector Winter… the gardener should be informed that pruners are required to cut back dead/dying growth to new fresh buds.

Clematis buds spotted… tick. Mm… perhaps this gardener should identify all varieties and follow the correct pruning techniques for their respective groups. Perhaps a colour coded label system would work for future prunings. Polygala flower buds… tick. Pieris blossom buds… tick. Mm… perhaps the later is not a guide as it appears that this Peiris has looked like this for two months already.

Inspector Spring now considers the birds visiting this garden. Ah… some evidence has already been prepared for him...

Blue tit pairs checking out Nestboxes… tick. Two Nestboxes, two roosters. However, further evidence is required to establish if the daytime pair visiting the camera Nestbox is the same as the pair visiting the Arch Nestbox.

Evidence (many feathers on the floor) also suggests that there have been more than a couple of altercations with prospective tenants in the Camera Nestbox. Perhaps Inspector Spring should put up a Notification of Acceptable Rules of Conduct in the Nestboxes. Or perhaps he could consider issuing ASBO’s (Anti-Social Behaviour Orders) at this time of year! Garden birds fighting over territories and nesting locations… tick.

Inspector Spring needed to arrange a meeting with Inspector Winter this morning. He lodged a complaint after, in Scotland, snow had appeared once again in gardens. Ice on the roads made for a tricky drive too. In reality it could be into April before Inspector Spring stops meeting up with Inspector Winter. Now… back to the clues…

Inspector Spring is informed that flocks of finches have increased in this garden. Greenfinches... tick. Goldfinches back… tick. Siskins back… tick. He sees them all but what an odd sight this was above… a goldfinch impersonating a woodpecker! He is reliably informed that neither the woodpecker or the goldfinch have ever been seen feeding from a peanut feeder before.

Fortunately this garden had only the tiniest of dustings of snow. When the sun came out you’d never have known the snow had briefly visited. Inspector Spring felt his visit was complete now and looking at his mood board he could wholeheartedly conclude that he had enough clues to support Spring moving its way into this garden. He wanted to just sit, watch and listen to it for a little while...

If you listen very carefully you will hear the gentle sound of the goldfinch before one arrives at the feeder. You will hear others in the background. Eventually a bossy greenfinch comes along and the goldfinch looses its perch.

Greenfinches are becoming a little bossy at the feeders as you can see. There are four available feeding ports and the blue tit explores two.

Is this a pair of greenfinches at this feeder? It certainly looks like they don’t want any company anyway!

Inspector Winter has not quite left the garden although I do think he is making friends with Inspector Spring now! Okay... so I guess as I am the gardener tending this garden, as such, I better start getting out there more and doing some hands-on rather than 'online' gardening! Oh my, though... this online gardening is such great fun too.

Oh... did I mention I visited another wonderful snowdrop garden last weekend? I think Inspector Spring would approve. Look out for my next posting :-)

All photos above except the goldfinch were taken in shirls garden on March 2nd 2009. The goldfinch photo was taken today March 4th 2009. The Nestbox footage was taken on February 23rd & 25th 2009. The other videos were taken today.