Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Embracing the season

On the last Sunday of October, here in the UK, we turn our clocks back one hour and adhere to Greenwich Meantime (GMT). Darker mornings and darker evenings make daylight time in the garden all the more precious. Let me share my Autumnal garden with you….

Glorious rich colours transform our landscapes in October be they in towns, countryside or gardens. A windy, rainy or cold day see the leaves dramatically drop to the ground from trees and shrubs. For a short time they make a magic carpet on the ground in patterns of colour that only nature can mix.

Sound is also picking up at this time of year as birds congregate more to feeders in our gardens for extra sources of food. The video below gives an idea of a quieter moment in my garden during the 14th of the month. If you have speakers I might suggest you turn them right up.

On second thoughts… perhaps you might like to pour yourself a cuppa first. A bird to listen out for in this video is the Robin with its short abrupt series of quick tik-ik-ik-ik-ik. You’ll also see a temp plant nursery under my pergola of the plants lifted, divided and potted from the area being cleared for my new pond.

Leaves blowing about the ground get into ponds and bird baths at this time of year. On Sunday I gave my bird baths a clean and topped them up with fresh water but with the rain today I needn’t have bothered. Duck weed is covering my pond at the moment and I may just leave it a little longer to see if it keep leaves from landing in it.

Ground feeding birds like Dunnocks and Blackbirds search through the leaves no doubt in search of insects underneath. I’ve thrown some apples on the ground for the birds but for some reason the birds aren’t taking the food I’ve been putting on the ground. I don't know what's been going on there as this has been a popular spot for a long time.

On Sunday, I cleaned the sticky mass of sunflower hearts that had not been eaten in my small wire ground feeders then refilled them with sultanas. I also twisted some cones off my pine trees and spread some peanut butter into the open spaces now the seeds have been removed… coal tits and great tits I suspect! You can see these cones in smaller photos above.

House Sparrows have been enjoying the fat balls in my feeder causing quiet a bit of commotion as they queue to get in it. Unusually they have caused quite a debris of sunflower hearts on the ground below the feeders as they fight at them too.

Once again, for some reason, this food has been wasted on the ground. Don’t know what’s being going on with the Blackbirds at the moment but they are visiting ... perhaps a prowling cat? Last week I was delighted to see a Song Thrush appear.

Cotoneaster berries are starting to turn past their best and I am surprised the Blackbirds haven’t been gobbling them all up already. Once they do start taking them they will all be gone in a day!

Someone has been nibbling at my tiny Alpine/woodland strawberries and I have to say it doesn’t look like a bird. I wonder? A field mouse perhaps?

The log feeder above I picked up in the visitor shop at SWT Reserve Loch of the Lowes a few months ago. One member of staff/volunteer had made them with the idea of putting peanut butter in them. I put it up at the time but Starlings caused way to much noise with this and I never refilled it. It was in a hidden location too!

On Sunday I moved and refilled it with peanut butter hanging it beside other feeders to see if the chaffinches will take it as they do at the Wildlife Centre. Today I noticed that someone has taken food from it but I haven’t seen who. There is some left so I'd doubt Starlings have been near! Come to think of it we aren't seeing many chaffinches visit the garden at the moment.

Guess who has been making themselves heard flying over my house at the moment? Sorry blurry photos...

Migrating birds are on the move all around the UK at the moment. Up here we have Pink Footed Geese who’ve popped down from Iceland to spend the winter here. They feed in the fields during the day and we see/hear them overhead coming and going.

I’ve yet to get good video footage of them as no sooner do you hear them and they have past. Some incredible numbers too and quite a speed they travel at. My goal is to get them in the evening if I can with a red sunset. Well… I’m as well going for the full challenge!

Chris Packham mentioned on the BBC television shown Autumnwatch the other week that Blackbirds are on the move with some leaving the UK and some new ones arriving. He said you’ll be able to spot the new ones as they will be timid around the garden.

That’s good advice as that’s exactly how I spot new birds arriving in my garden. The Blackbird in the photo above was timid and sat forever partially hidden in the undergrowth. Perhaps it was a newbie. This photo was taken through the window.

It was after seeing this blackbird that I put out some sultanas… a fav for the Blackbirds here. I had my camera on my tripod taking photos for this posting as the light was going. I had been standing still and didn’t notice who had spied the sultanas right beside the leg of my tripod…

What a surprise this was! I haven’t seen any hedgehogs in my garden for a number of weeks now but wouldn’t expect them to be in hibernation just yet as it isn’t too cold here. I wonder what they are up to. Perhaps they are sleeping more and feeding in shorter spells just now staying local to their winter homes. My new des res with camera is still available for any late house hunters!

Surprise quickly over with a few photos especially since it was the first to show interest in my peanut butter coated cones… it was very interested! I was now more interested in its weight as it didn’t look too big and was most likely a juvenile.

A quick quiet walk to my shed for gloves to pick it up with the intention of weighing it wasn’t quite quick enough. It was gone on my return. I walked around and around this border and this area for quite a while but it was nowhere to be seen. This visit was about 5:45pm.

Plan B then… a dish of peanut butter! Later on Sunday night I put my camera out and watched this area live fully expecting to see this little hog return to the sultanas and peanut butter cones. Gloves were closer to hand to pick it up.

Sadly, I haven’t seen it since. I do hope it returns as I have a feeling this one perhaps should spend the winter in a wildlife centre as it is too small to survive hibernation out in the wild.

I should mention one very important point here. Just as you shouldn’t put salted peanuts out for hedgehogs if you were to consider putting peanut butter out for the birds (or hedgehogs) the same rule applies. Choose a natural product from a wildlife centre or health food shop with no added salt.

Coming back to the flowers just holding on and we have a few brave Cosmos that are struggling against a few rain showers. Red campion is still flowering away in odd corners in my back and front gardens. Seed pods are open and I suspect many are already on the ground.

The blue gentian flowers have been pretty in pots under my pergola but I do have a master plan for them. They were bought as Sale plants in a garden centre where they were staring to go past their best. Propagation was on my mind and a river of blue around an edge of my new pond.

After pushing the pot bound plants out of their pots I pulled the plants gently apart and re-potted the smaller pieces in individual pots. From £5 of material in two pots I got 24 new plants that will bulk up for planting next year. It’s been a while since I’ve had gentian in my garden and I cannot wait to see its wonderful blue flowers reflecting in the water.

Green is also a fantastic colour in the garden in all its many shades and textures. With all the chat about letting grasses and perennials do there thing for structure and interest in the garden over the Autumn and Winter months (which I love to see) it is easy to forget the structure that evergreens give in our gardens. I love the foliage in my garden especially over the Autumn and Winter months.

Another tip from Chris Packham on the Autumnwatch show… look out for bees, wasps and other insects feeding on ivy flowers just now. In previous years I have seen birds at them but never noticed insects. I took a closer look...

A quick Congrats to the BBC… I have to say I am liking the new format of weekly shows rather than the daily ones in previous years. I also think Chris and Martin have fitted in well now. Being weekly the show is embracing a longer period of this changing season through a wide range of wildlife. It is much more interesting and I do hope a wider audience watches the show now.

Over now to my intended show for Garden Bloggers Bloom Day back on the 15th of this month. I was organised a little ahead capturing the video footage of birdsong video above and the video below on the 14th. Evenings came and went and I didn’t get time to look at this until tonight.

The video below begins with the dancing flowers in my sunnier front garden and then the music changes as we go into my shadier back garden. Look out for my footprints in the space I’m clearing for my new pond.

You’ll also get the tiniest piece of footage at the end of a small group of geese flying overhead as I was filming the garden. Unfortunately I discovered tonight I have recorded over a better piece of video.

Without a doubt my fav flowering plant in my front garden this year by far has been a newbie for this year and has been flowering for many, many months. The perennial wallflower Bowles Mauve has been brilliant to look at just outside my front door and the bees and butterflies have loved it too.

At a guess the Red Admiral butterfly seen feeding on this wallflower in the video below taken last week may be one of the last butterflies to visit my garden this year. I’ll keep an eye out the next sunny afternoon and have my camera close at hand just in case.

Embracing this changing season in the garden as plants lose their leaves will allow us once again be able to get better views of visiting garden birds. Perhaps we can only weekend gardenwatch in daylight hours but I still wonder what birds will appear in our gardens this winter.

Oh... I also plan to keep on gardening through the cooler wet days as well as the crisper ones! I'm taking my time with my new pond area working on it when I can. Wishing you good weather to enjoy the wildlife and plants in your garden at this time of year.

All photos above were taken in my garden on October 24th 2009. All videos shown above were taken in my garden during October 14th-24th 2009.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Blog Action Day... the good guys

Do you fancy joining in with the conversation today?

“Blog Action Day is an annual event every October 15th that unites the world's bloggers in posting about the same issue on the same day with the aim of sparking discussion around an issue of global importance.

So far 7,377 from 138 countries have registered for this year's event. To participate, all you need to do is write a single post on your blog about the issue of climate change on October 15th.”

The blogging platform is definitely now a massive one for spreading the word on a particular topic. Many blogs today will be from the journalism, business and ecological fields. However today is for all blogs to unite and a garden/wildife blog can definitely stand just as tall as the business ones! Just a quiet word to the BAD team... please include some in your featured lists :-D

Visitors to my blog will expect to read chat about plants, birds and wildlife so today is no exception. Today I’d like to chat about the trees and shrubs that you find on moving into an established garden.

Perhaps you’ve never had a garden and don’t know how to look after plants and are daunted by the size of a plant. Perhaps you’ve seen a garden design make-over article in a magazine or televsion programme where they appear to clear out many plants. Perhaps your plants are in the way for something else. I’d like to suggest you don’t reach for the tools to remove them too quickly.

There is a wealth of garden blogs out there where bloggers would only be too happy to help answer questions on the plants you may have inheritated. Libraries are also a great source of reference. Plant care is a tricky one with low maintainance gardens being on on many people’s lists now especially when they just move into a new house.

My message today is quite a simple one and one where you may make a few friends on the way too! If you have trees/shrubs that you feel have got too big for an area of your garden I’d like to suggest (if possible) you might move them to a better location or perhaps even swap them with another plant in your garden.

You could also consider swapping or giving them away to a friend or neighbour. I’ve done this on many, many ocassions. Yes, they could go into a compost heap but the birds and wildlife (including insects) in your garden would miss them as a source of shelter and food.

The pine tree above has just recently been moved in my garden along with a few large shrubs to different locations in my garden as I am clearing a space for a new wildife pond. I have been lifting, dividing and potting up my plants to replant them in this area next Spring. Many plants can be moved at this time of year or in Spring. I’d suggest you refer to books, bloggers or the internet to find out when is the best time to move your plants.

A word of warning here…. Pine trees are quite shallow rooted but the weight of this tree trunk made it very difficult to move and it nearly had me beaten! I ‘man-handled’ it on to a ground sheet and with a huge effort dragged it across the gravel path and lawn. Standing it up was a tad on the dangerous side for one person… I’d definitely recommend you get someone to help if you move shrubs and trees as their weight can be easily underestimated!

Okay, so back to a message for climate change… trees are one of the good guys! The Forestry Commission here in the UK say:

“Forests can help us address climate change by reducing the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. They do this by absorbing carbon dioxide (CO2), using the carbon (C) to produce sugars for tree growth and releasing the oxygen (O2) back into the air. As trees grow, they store carbon in their leaves, twigs and trunk, and in the soil around them.”

That’s enough science for here. I’ll let other blogs go into this in much more detail. The Forestry Commission continue…

“The forests and woodlands in Britain have a role to play too. They can be managed as a sustainable source of wood – an alternative and less polluting energy source to fossil fuels, and a low-energy construction material.

There are six key actions that should be taken now to protect what we have, and to make sure we can adapt to the new threats and opportunities that climate change will bring while still maintaining and expanding a sustainable forest and woodland resource.

• Protect what we already have
• Reduce deforestation
• Restore the world’s forest cover
• Use wood for energy
• Replace other materials with wood
• Plan to adapt to our changing climate

If we get this right, the world’s forests will contribute significantly to climate change mitigation. They will also benefit national economies and the well-being of current and future generations.”

On a personal note… I do love trees and they were the first subject I began drawing as a teenager. I adore their shape and form and do admire the ancient ones particularly... often pondering over their history.

In our changing climate trees in our parks and gardens provide us with shade from the sun and break the strength of gusting winds. This autumnal time of the year would be completely without soul without the spectacle of colour from the leaves turning on deciduous trees.

Planting new trees to replace old and damaged ones in our gardens is an excellent way gardeners can help. Perhaps giving one as a new home gift would be great too. Just a thought though… read the label first to see if it would suit the size of the garden. I can’t imagine a world without trees and without trees where would our world be in the fight against climate change.

I’ll end this posting with a key message from the Forestry Commission:

“There are two ways to reduce the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. We can reduce the amount we produce or we can develop ways to capture and store it. Trees have the unique ability to do both.”

Yep... trees are one of the good guys! From the giant global companies to the modest gardener we should all take care of them.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Tick tock, tick tock

Time waits for no man/woman and nor do the plants! The season is marching swiftly on and I have been a tad amiss in recording the flowers of my garden recently. Late this afternoon I thought I’d rectify this with some of the plants that caught my eye….

Coneflower, nasturtium, Ivy flower bud.

It seems forever since I’ve wandered around the garden with camera in hand searching out flowers. I missed Bloom Day last month and had seriously considered posting an update at the end of the month but that came and went too!

Perennial wallflower, lavender & achillea, ornamental grass.

Sedum Rose carpet catching the late evening sun at my front door where a basket at my shady back door is further behind in seasonal growth.

Cosmos, Japanese anemones.

Tiny heuchera flowers and compact astilbe plumes, sedum flower head and pink heuchera leaves.

Catching glimpses of birds at this time of year can be tricky where there are lots of shrubs. However, a new bird feeder with peanuts hanging on a higher tree branch appears to be bringing in more blue, great and coal tits. They are much easier to spot darting around from feeder to feeder too.

It also seems forever since I’ve last done a Sunday morning bird count… and it has been! Trouble is I can’t see all the birds from my window just now. It’s been ages since I’ve stood outside trying to get bird photos too… I must rectify that soon before it gets much colder.

Cotoneaster berries soon will disappear after blackbirds have finished the rowan tree ones, clematis (must find label), pieris blossom buds.

Tick tock, tick tock and the clock is running towards hibernation for our hedgehog friends too. As it’s getting noticeably cooler in the evenings I opened up our hedgehog house earlier this evening and added a little more hay after checking through the camera that no hog was inside.

Catching glimpses of hogs inside this house hasn’t been happening either. I don’t watch every night but as the mealworms from outside the house have not been eaten for a number of days. I’d guess our original hog hasn’t been visiting. That is a pity.

Tonight I did notice that the mealworms have finally gone so either another hog has finally found them or birds have. I’m hoping the new layer of hay might attract another hog to stay a while if it wanders in. I added some new dried mealworms along the inside corridor and really hoped that I’d be able to share some action as I wrote this posting but alas no joy tonight.

Tick tock, tick tock and the school year is marching on here in Scotland too with the first term completed already. The schools are off in our area (but not all areas of Scotland) for two weeks now. This is a big school year for my daughter as she will sit her Highers next May… so some study will be on the agenda over the hols!

A few days out are also on the cards too and this morning we had a very pleasant early Sunday morning drive up to SNH Wildlife Reserve Loch of the Lowes, The car park was quiet as we arrived not long after it opened and we had one of the hides to ourselves where we enjoyed this wonderfully tranquil setting with a coffee/hot choc to keep us warm!

Mm… tick tock, tick tock…. it’s getting a tad late now to be sitting here. Let's just say I've put the clock back a little! I suspect I'm not the only blogger to do this either. Night night and wishing you a very happy Monday :-D

All photos above were taken on October 4th 2009.

Friday, 2 October 2009

Garden nestbox list

This posting will be coming soon :-)>

Video editing

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Video uploads

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Butterflies, Bees

This posting will be coming soon :-)

Bats, Squirrels, Frogs

This posting will be coming soon :-)

Flowering plants

This posting will be coming soon :-)

Why blog?

This posting will be coming soon :-)

The wish list

This posting will be coming soon :-)

The drop-ins

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The usual suspects

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Thursday, 1 October 2009

Thanks Stuart, thanks Blotanists!

“It's all over folks! The 2009 Blotanical Awards have finally come to an incredible end.”

This is has been the 2nd Blotanical Awards and I’d like to congratulate all the winners and nominees! What fun this has been following the competition and meeting new bloggers… there’s been a wonderful buzz around our growing garden blog community.

Stuart, the founder of Blotanical, has done a magnificent job this year and always looks to make improvements with both the awards and the site. On the results page he thanks the Blotanists for making this year such a success. However, it is you Stuart and the team at Blotanical that has made this a success and we thank you!

The success of Blotanical, without a doubt, is due to Stuart’s continual requests for feedback from the Blotanists over the way it works. He then responds to this. He is working on changes now… soon to hit our screens! He is also thinking about next year’s awards:

“As for the 2010 Blotanical Awards, we shall endeavour to make these bigger and more exciting than ever. If you have feedback or suggestions then you can email me at stuart[at]blotanical[dot]com.” All the best Stuart… we all really appreciate the work you do!

This year, I was thrilled to see the category for ‘Best Gardening For Wildlife Blog’. I do believe Stuart responded to feedback on this one… thanks again Stuart! Thanks again to all who nominated shirls gardenwatch in this category taking it into the final five. I was well chuffed!

Feedback, and in this case votes, from other Bloggers means a great deal. I am absolutely chuffed to bits that other bloggers saw shirls gardenwatch worthy enough to win this category. This really does mean a lot and I thank you all :-D

New bloggers have already popped by via the awards so I'd like to take this opportunity to welcome you and any new visitors who've strolled by via links and searches too. Perhaps this is an ideal time to introduce my newest garden project for wildlife. I wonder if you have guessed by the photos?

This is something I had hoped to do earlier on in the year but time just didn’t permit it. From a little online research this time of year seems a better time anyway. I already have a small pond with wonderful mossy rocks sited in a shady position. It is tiny with many rocks around and in the water. I see it more as a rock pool really. So let’s just say for my new project I am stepping into some deeper water with…

…a wildlife pond. This is something I have considered for over a year but not been brave enough to start. As you can see above… it begins! I have absolutely no doubt it will be a challenge and as yet I don’t have a master plan. At the moment I am clearing the site and relocating the larger plants. I cannot imagine what this area could be like next year at this time…

Back to today, reality and another big job… our Leylandii hedge awaits further trimming. We have made a start but the weather doesn’t always coincide with free time to do garden jobs. I moved plants the other day in the rain (mega muddy it was too) but a wet hedge and an electrical trimmer just don’t work!

It’s a lovely sunny morning here. Wishing you good weather to get on with any garden jobs you have planned this weekend... oh and do take time out to sit and enjoy it if you can :-D

All photos above were taken on Ocotber 1st 2009.