Sunday, 19 September 2010

Wandering, hoping to catch sight of…

… seals and fungi. Destination: Tenstsmuir beach and forest on the east coast of Scotland, just north of St Andrews in Fife. Yesterday, after an enjoyable late lunch at the picnic area beside the car park we headed through the forest…

Dabbled sunshine highlighted sap running out a mature pine tree and before we were even out of the forest car park my camera was out! You’ll see the sap by clicking on the photo above to enlarge it.

Following the path along the edge of the forest we saw butterflies (peacock and small white) and a common darter dragonfly. We were also seeing fungi, plenty of fungi, although I felt a little sad to see so many with their caps on the ground. I’m guessing people and animals walking by probably knock them off.

Fungi is not my area and although I did buy a pocket book for ID last year I really had no idea if what I was looking at was special or not. My photos are of the fungi that caught my eye on this visit.

In an effort to shorten postings a little, but at the same time share as many images as I can, I had fun with Photoshop6 for a while today. I don’t use any plug ins for creating images so it is case of experimenting with the settings and hoping I can repeat them for another time! A notebook is always at hand :-)

The montages below will enlarge bigger (when clicked on) than the single photos so you can see the detail of the fungi. Sorry I have no ID’s here... suggestions are welcome :-)

In the first montage below, I was trying to show that even in the sunnier parts of the forest you can easily walk pass fungi as it thrives in the moss and under blades of grass. I tended to notice the fungi more when it had nibbles out of it as the white would catch my eye.

The caterpillar shown in the image above was out in an open area of grass along the edge of the forest and my daughter did well to spot it. I might take a guess that this could become a peacock butterfly.

In the second montage below the background image has my daughter and husband walking in the distance. I wanted to show that throughout the darker parks of the forest fungi did bring colour with many different shapes and clusters too. Once again the nibbled fungi caught my eye.

On our visit on Saturday we followed the weaving, sandy paths on the edge of the forest too. Initially I thought this scattering of fungi shown below were stones on the sand. Practically no stem was visible however a few nibbles were and that made me take a closer look. I was surprised to see them growing in this sandy area.

Walking towards Tentsmuir Point and the beach (to hopefully see hundreds of seals basking on the sandbars) was where we were heading now. As it was getting late we decided to head out of the forest and try a quicker, more diagonal route across the many sandy paths…

Ah… we could just see the sea in the distance now.

Oh… were did it go? Don’t you just love the mood that changing the ratio of sky to land can create? I love the image below.

Finally, we could see the sea and the sand bars. We were out fully on the sandy beach now with scattered shells underfoot. The wind was blowing up the sand now too so just one photo here.

The video camera would have given a closer view but it stayed in my bag. Instead we looked at the seals through my compact binoculars. We could see some white seal cubs as well as the adults. You’ll only see the seals as dots in the photo above. They are in the middle of the photo on the darker brown strip of sand.

It was time to head back to the car park now. We took the shortest route back towards the forest talking care over wetter sand. Although I didn’t get the video footage of the seals I hoped to get we did see them in the distance. Maybe had we been there earlier and the tide was further out we could have had a closer view but you are advised not to get too close anyway.

On our walk back through the winding forest paths I spotted the fungi below. This was my favourite one of the day. I’ve no idea what it is but I loved the way it was growing out of the base of the tree stump showing the cycle of the nature with new life coming from old.

So with September past the midway point and the days getting cooler I’m wondering if you’ve been out wandering this weekend too. What have you been hoping to catch sight of?

Funnily enough in a search for links I discovered another blogger was visiting Tentsmuir on Saturday too. You can read of Juliet’s (aka the Crafty Green Poet) visit here. I’ll need to pop over to leave a comment now :-)

Oh wait just 42 seconds more… just thought on doing a YouTube search for seals at Tentsmuir/Kinshaldy beach and found the video below taken back on 29th September 2007. Lovely footage here. I did enjoy seeing this much closer view. Enjoy…

Video as shown on this YouTube page.

Guessing we’ll have to go back again now :-)

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Garden visits, back in August…

… tree leaves were showing no signs of changing colour. Now half way through September things are set to change especially with cooler gusty days. On Sunday a visit to Edinburgh Botanical Gardens gave us a little taster of Autumnal scenes to come. Taking photos, it also reminded me how I absolutely love the shapes of trees. I really must start drawing again.

The Hope Tree shown above is named after John Hope, Regius Keeper at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (1761 to 1786). It is displayed in the new visitor centre, The John Hope Gateway, located at the West Gate of the garden. For those that can't follow the link, the Gold, Silver or Bronze leaves can be inscribed with a personal message to celebrate a significant event or to commemorate the life of a loved one.

Looking out from the decked path, on the restaurant level of the centre back in August, you can see the new dedicated biodiversity garden with its weaving pathways. I wonder just how many plants were planted...

Clicking on photos will enlarge them.

Springing forward a month to last Sunday and standing on one of the paths you can see this garden taking shape beautifully...

The stepped water pools of the biodiversity garden has had my attention since construction began. Although it can also be viewed from the restaurant level it is the ground view from inside the centre that always catches my eye.

Don’t you just love the reflections of the red Lobelia as it was looking by the middle of September? Note the white water lilies ready to open too. With the sunny reflections through the glass inside the centre and people around it was difficult to show the stepped levels at their best.

Leaving the sunny window and heading into the darker world of the current exhibition at Edinburgh Botanical Gardens you’ll find a fascinating Fungi exhibition. Running until November 21st there’s plenty time to see it if you are able to visit. You can find details here. This is a free exhibition.

We are now at the perfect time to head outdoors to see Fungi in woodlands too. Every year I mean to head out with my camera in search of these weird and wonderful plants. Perhaps this year :-)

Okay, that’s almost enough chat and links for today. This was a garden visit so let’s head back to August, to the Royal Botanical Garden Edinburgh and outside for a brief garden tour of what caught my eye that day…

The above photo was taken in September. Note the difference
in softness of light over the same area in August below.

August tour over, without a doubt Botanical Gardens are a wonderful source of inspiration. From valuable information to just seeing flowers they really have it all. Being familiar with this garden (as it isn’t too long a journey for me) I generally pick an area to wander each time I visit. Although, I always include a visit to the Chinese Hillside Garden :-)

You're never alone with a camera at a Botanical Garden… perhaps I should get my daughter to count them on our next visit to Edinburgh ;-) We heard many languages as we wandered. Tourists and locals were enjoying the garden. I hadn’t planned my visit on Sunday, but I do know another blogger from Sheffield who did.

Liz at Gwirrel’s Garden has just posted photos of her trip to Edinburgh including some from the Botanical garden. You can join Liz on her tour here. I always find it fascinating to see the different views of a garden visit from another set of eyes. Although some of Liz’s garden shots are close-ups I can see they are from the same areas that caught my attention on our visit. Liz also visited the Chinese Garden :-)

If you are considering travelling to Edinburgh and plan a trip to the Botanical Gardens you might be interested in a guided tour. I’ll be honest and say I didn’t know they did them. I’ve just discovered Garden Walks ‘run’ very day from 1st April to 31st October at 11am and 2pm. There is a small charge. See details here.

Ah… you can put your feet up now… you must be tired ;-) If you fancy another tour… next up will be our September visit to Edinburgh Botanical Gardens. Although… I need to put up my feet up and get my photos sorted first ;-)

Friday, 10 September 2010

Visitors beware…

“This blog contains way too much chat, photos and video on garden plants, birds and wildlife. It also goes wandering on visits to gardens and nature reserves!

There are cameras and links everywhere… are you brave enough to browse? I hope so :-D”

Under the heading ‘A GARDENWATCH WARNING’ in my sidebar, at present, this is how I have loosely described my blog for new visitors strolling by. Although I was being humorous, regular visitors would very likely agree that a warning is necessary ;-)

However ‘A GARDENWATCH WARNING’ does have a serious twist too. I do hope my blog goes a little way to encourage others to look more closely at the wealth of habitat our gardens can provide for pollinating insects, birds, wildlife and our own well being. As temporary keepers of our gardens we can help keep species from reaching endangered lists and help bring ones back that are on it.

I could chat on at length (as per warning) about this and on the pros and cons of writing a garden blog and the discoveries you could make about your own outdoor space/garden as I have found for myself. Instead I’m just going to share a little (LOL) of what’s been going on in my small Scottish Garden over the last few weeks…

We now have a regular hedgehog visiting our garden again. He is making full use of the facilities on offer too. Above he is seen munching noisily through some dried mealworms I have been putting out for him. This scattering was placed as part of a trail leading up to the hedgehog house my daughter made last year.

Once it gets dark in the evening, we have enjoyed watching the routes Hedgehog ‘Hamish’ has taken - my daughters decided we should name him. I’ve been moving the IR night cam around and discovered that although hedgehogs can climb, the gentle slope of the log roll path was proving a bit tricky for Hamish as you can see above on the left.

The white glow on the right of the photo above is this IR camera picking up the IR of another camera in our converted 'rabbit hutch to hedgehog feeding station'. No light glow is visible to the eye. It’s fun to watch Hamish wander back and forth.

After seeing Hamish struggle with the log roll steps the next day I built an arrangement of stepping stones leading up to the veranda of the hedgehog house where he would be rewarded with... mealworms!

I also added a larger stone at the top which acts almost like a patio… spoilt or what? I also cut back a few stems of my Acuba to help him wander the area and so I could see him with my night camera too.

I sat patiently waiting one night to get photos of Hamish feeding on the house veranda but sitting in the dark it was difficult to catch him in focus. You can see how close the mealworms are to the entrance of the house and yes… he was tempted to wander inside!

Hamish is now regularly using our Hedgehog House for evening naps. I have timed the visits which range from 1-1½ hours from around 10:30pm. He may well take naps there on and off all night but as I don’t use any image capture software I don’t know. All images you see in my blog are ones that I have watched live myself.

Yesterday morning I gently removed the roof to see if he was perhaps in there but I was pretty confident this wasn’t likely. Originally we had a camera in this house and found the hogs only ever made night naps last year when we saw it being used for a brief time. You can see a video of this at the end of this post.

I should say I wouldn’t recommend opening a Hedgehog House if you suspect a hedgehog may be in it. To be honest based on watching visits last year it may be hidden under the hay or leaves inside anyway. That’s one of the reasons I decided to remove the camera from inside ours.

I’m enjoying using the night cam on a tripod or gorrillapod to watch Hamish explore the area around the house. As well as seeing him leave we have also seen him step in...

Eat on the veranda...

Explore the area...

It's great fun trying to predict the routes a hedgehog may take through your garden. Once you know where they go and then put out food and water on a route this will very likely bring them back again. On a serious note for a moment this fun I am having is also helping endangered hedgehogs... win, win :-)

At this time of year it is good that hedgehogs know where to find food for the colder days ahead prior to hibernation especially the young ones. I'm wondering if any other hedgehogs visit my garden... it would be interesting to see Hamish have company for supper inside our feeding station one night!

In daylight hours the photo above shows how our hedgehog feeding station looks. The green roof I planted earlier on in the year has been a great success allowing me to consider keeping it in such a central location of my garden. That’s good news too for Hamish and other passing diners if they come to rely on it.

Note the stone step outside the 13cm x 13cm entrance in the Perspex. I used this as a way to get the Hamish to go inside by putting a trail of mealworms around and on it. That is no longer necessary as he knows there is food inside. Some nights I scatter sultanas and peanuts so others might stop and explore.

Perhaps I should have censored the revealing view in the photo above – apologies if this offends anyone. Hedgehogs seen scratching are most likely to have ticks and it was during this scratching session that we could identify the sex of our regular diner at Hedgehog Manor.

However the next photo above shows Hamish slightly crouched down. He remained very still. We were both taken by surprise this time!

You can see some light outside. I had been feeding our guinea pigs in their hutch. When I finished I walked across and using a torch checked to see if Hamish was inside before I went to get the mealworms out of my shed. I’m guessing… you’re guessing… what happened next ;-)

After dropping down the Perspex front and finding Hamish inside I stayed still a moment. When he didn’t roll into a ball I stretched out for the container of mealworms and without any quick movements gently poured the mealworms into the dishes behind and in front of Hamish. I didn’t refresh the water this time.

After putting the Perspex front up again I went inside to see what happened next. Hamish didn’t move for almost ten minutes… then he moved forward and started munching the mealworms as he had done any other night. Phew... he has continued to visit. Let's see some him in action...

For those that can't view the video above it shows visits Hamish has made both to Hedgehog Manor and back and forth to the Hedgehog house. By flicking a switch inside I am able to switch between cameras and follow what’s going on via my PC monitor which is great fun.

I should also add, that purely for extra entertainment value on an otherwise silent piece of film I add a soundtrack at the editing stage... Hedgehogs are just so Country and Western don't you think ;-)

The camera in Hedgehog Manor will also show colour images too when there is enough light during the day. Birds have been seen visiting then too. It was after encouraging birds to my garden that I considered starting this blog. Unbelievably, I have now seen and identified (a good few with help) some 27 species visiting my small town garden!

If I had just one wish for my blog it would be to successfully show that a garden doesn’t have to be completely wild to attract birds and wildlife. I am a gardener, I love plants and enjoy experimenting with planting schemes. Plants frequently move around my garden… I am well known for not leaving well alone ;-)

For the hearty souls who are still reading this let's take a quick daytime, armchair garden tour of the area that Hamish seen. Firstly, I’d like to show the location of Hedgehog Manor. It is situated almost in the middle of my ‘L’ shaped garden. It is below my Ivy covered Pergola under my Wisteria.

Hedgehog Manor is nestled between a wooden seat/table and the aromatic, evergreen and glossy leaved Choisya Ternata. Let’s now follow the path and walk down to the corner to behind the seat.

Behind me now is the house wall and another straight path to the garden gate. In this crouched view you can see just about make out the Hedgehog House in the border.

I love the curves here and had planned extending this box hedge to give some winter interest and more definition. However this would spoil this camera view at night so the jury is still out on this ;-)

Standing up, you can see that this border sweeps round to a scree type landscape on the left. Looking closely on the right you will see the grey roof of the hedgehog house. I had some young Griselina plants I grew from cuttings so the plan is that I will keep pruning them to screen and protect the house.

After winter losses of Rosemary and Sage here this gave the opportunity for a replant! I was already considering this anyway due to the view changing for my pond build in the background. After raiding another area in my garden I am delighted to see heucheras back here again ;-)

Taking a brief detour walking towards the corner wall of my new pond you can see pockets for wildlife to hide and some sedums planted in crevices. Once again I am thinking on winter interest. Although progress is still very slow I am happy with how this is taking shape.

Back in October last year I spotted the planting of gentians shown above at Edinburgh Botanical Gardens. Ah… another ‘lost, first love’ plant. A month later I picked up some at an end of season sale, divided them, potted them up and had a vision of this blue reflecting in my new pond. They are planted now. I have many ideas for this pond but whether they will all be realised is another matter ;-)

In the next view (standing behind from behind the pond wall) you can see the Choisya on the left which nestles around Hedgehog Manor and the temporary seat on the right where I sat trying to get photos of Hamish on the veranda of the Hedgehog House. You can get a good idea of scale now. This isn’t a big area to hold so much interest.

A new addition to this area is this wonderful Japanese Anemone. It seems quite jewel-like in this border of predominately foliage plants at the moment and an absolute magnet for the hover flies. It makes me smile to see them both :-)

Through blogging I find myself strolling around my garden a little longer especially when I have a camera in my hand. You just never know what you might find. Just look what I spotted when pruning the whippy summer growth from my Wisteria… a flower bud!

In actual fact I saw two. Looking at them again yesterday I’m not convinced they will open to flower but fascinating non-the-less. I’ve also got a hellebore flowering at the moment too. Pre blog… I suspect I wouldn’t have been garden watching close enough to notice these out of season flowers!

Another thing I would have missed out on (if I weren’t blogging about my garden) is the antics of garden birds. By looking that little bit closer it is clear to see they all have quite different and entertaining characters. I am enjoying watching so many at the moment but as this is way too long (you were warned) I’ll come back to them in future shorter postings.

Sitting on the seat between Hedgehog Manor and the Hedgehog House I can look out to the feeders hanging on my Acer tree just a short distance away. The antics of the Blue and Great Tits here have been great fun to watch there. Coal tits have been visiting with them too.

However, I have to note that I’ve never seen so many Blue tits visiting as I have done recently. I tried to count them but with their quick turn of speed couldn’t be accurate at all. There had to be ten anyway… which is a lot for my garden.

One rainy morning, I opened my window and straddled the tripod out it to take the following video to give you a little snapshot of frantic bird activity from the Blue, Great and Coal tits.

Watch out for the Great tit doing a spin on a branch near the beginning. The Coal tit ends this series of clips. I’m sure any American visitors will enjoy seeing it as it looks like the chickadee. I edited this video with a more upbeat background track… not a Country and Western mood here ;-)

I am speculating that the small groups of Blue tits that stay together are from the same family and quite possibly some are from the successful brood from our Camera Nestbox Diary for this year as one day they were popping in and out the nestbox! Great fun to watch once again :-)

This was to be the end of this posting! However, in the usual fashion of update blog posts just when I think I've covered everything in an order something comes up to stir things up…

Yep, as I was writing this last night I was viewing the cameras on and off. Being after midnight, it got too late to finish this post and I had one last look inside the feeding station, Hedgehog Manor, to see a 'still' hedgehog with its back to the camera. I had to watch a little longer of course ;-)

Mm… this wasn’t the usual behaviour of regular diner, Hamish! Nope, not at all… standing in a dish of mealworms to eat peanuts is something Hamish just wouldn’t do. He ignores them. Nor is climbing over the dish to under the camera and eating from there.

LOL… I’ll spare you the image of a scratching moment that revealed another male hedgehog! Without going into too much detail (for fear you may be eating as you read this) I am pretty certain this is a new diner to Hedgehog Manor. Now, this could get interesting in future nights. I am thinking I’ll run a little feeding experiment with only one food in each dish to so harmony in the dining room can be maintained ;-)

Harmony in the Hedgehog House could be another matter. Walking past it this morning I stopped in my tracks… for the first time hay was outside! Quite a bit too… now I wonder what has gone on here… an altercation perhaps with Hamish and this new male or is this new one just a messy house guest. Interesting night garden watching to come I suspect :-)

For any new blog visitor, that has found there way all the way to the end of this post, I should say that not every post I write is quite as lengthy. Yes, I do chat on but I haven’t posted in a few weeks and this has been a bit of an update as well as an introduction to my blog. I hope you return and would welcome your comments :-)

For regular blog visitors, thanks for bearing with me once again. I’m sorry to keep you so long but wanted to give you a bigger picture of the hedgehog area of my garden and hoped you would find it interesting. I know this interests me in other blogs. I have one blog in mind… HogBlog where colour photos of hedgehogs are taken through a catflap.

Although I have been a bit absent on the blog scene for the last few weeks (not even visiting my own) I browsed my phone one day and spotted one blog title ‘Prickly Visitor’ in my side bar. I have to share that with you now.

Rich at Wildlife Photographic Journals has some fantastic colour photos of a hedgehog during a day visit to his garden. He named this visitor Horace. LOL… there is now a debate between my daughters and I over a name for our second male visitor. I will be honest and say that I’m not overly comfortable with the naming thing but it is better than numbering them. Any suggestions… it doesn’t need to begin with ‘H’ .

I’d like to wish you all a wonderful weekend, I’ll try not to make it so long for the next time. I wonder what you have been watching in your garden these past few weeks. I know my visitors from the US don’t see hedgehogs in the wild and I wonder what night creatures visit gardens there.

Wherever you are in the world, it would be great if you left a comment telling us what you’ve been watching in your garden during the day or night. I genuinely hope you get as much enjoyment out of your garden plants, birds and wildlife that I do :-D