Thursday, 28 October 2010

While the birds are away…

…the mice will play. Since taking down my bird feeders last week after the finch disease Trichomonosis was spotted in my garden, bird numbers of visiting birds are dropping rapidly. I expected that.

However, being a mostly nocturnal animal I did not expect to see how comfortable the little wood mouse below has been out in the open now.

As you can see it still hides in the rock spaces around my small rocky pond. When I put in this pond, I deliberately built hidden pockets for toads and frogs with the rocks. I also hoped a wren would build a nest in this area as it is spotted there too. Alas no. I’ve another plan for that idea now.

Although a little blurred in the next photo (as the mouse was moving) I loved the way it pulled itself up from the rock pocket. If this mouse was moving fast it would have been very blurred. So you can see that it was in no hurry.

The wood mouse appeared to be finding little bits of food left on the ground. I had scattered some roasted chopped hazelnuts on the ground around the rocks pre trichomonosis after finding them in a store cupboard during a tidy-up. I guess it was finding them.

Looking up a wildlife book on my shelf I see that feeding signs to look for with a wood mouse can be fir cones with scales gnawed off (neatly) and hazelnuts with teeth marks around the outside of a hole. Well then, my tiny offerings must have been wood mouse heaven!

Regular readers will have seen recent video of a wood mouse carrying away mealworms and storing them under our hedgehog house. I also had footage of the daddy-long-legs taking the mealworms in that posting too. Now that was spooky to see.

On many other occasions, I have also seen wood mice run away with sunflower hearts at night and during the day. During the day they have once again been taken in to the tunnels around my rock pool pond. At night too.

What was interesting about the behaviour of the wood mouse the other day was that, without the birds running round this area, it ate al fresco. It was quite relaxed about it too. Watching it, especially with no birds about, I considered that a cat might fancy an al fresco meal too! If it did, thankfully I never saw it.

Referring back my Pocket Wildlife book this morning I see that a wood mouse (being a forager of woodland floors) is an opportunist. I would definitely agree with that. When in season, its diet includes seeds, nuts, fruits and fungi.

Now, I wondered who might be eating from my small garden clump of fungi. Interestingly, a wood mouse will also feed on insects and invertebrates. I didn’t know that either. You might guess now what I am planning next.

Yes, you guessed right! I’m going to move my outside cam to view the fungi clump at night. I may see nothing but I’m seeing nothing outside the hedgehog house anyway… I might get some spooky viewing!

The photos of the wood mouse today had been planned as a Wordless posting on a Wednesday. Other bloggers take part with this. Alas, some chatting elsewhere kept me from doing this. I’ll come back to that another time. I’m all chatted out for the moment... well, almost!

Spookily, at the moment, when I look out my window gardenwatching I feel it is the garden visitors that are watching me! The Blackbirds almost stare back straight at me. Thank goodness they don't have the deep beady eyes of the wood mouse.

Only the Dunnocks seem to be out there feeding as usual. I’ll get my post on them tied up soon. Having lots of distractions at the moment.... good ones though. I’ll tell you about a particular one in a few weeks - chatting has been involved ;-)

Wishing you a great wildlife watching and gardening weekend if you can. Enjoy Halloween too.

We have a Halloween Birthday in our household. This year, it's one of those big ones for our eldest daughter… she is about to leave her teens!! Now, that’s spooky for her. Mm... until now, I never considered that’s even more spooky for us!!

Enjoy time with your family this weekend. We will :-D

The photos of the wood mouse shown above were taken in my garden on October 26th 2010.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Time to wrap up

Gosh… is it that time already? Don’t worry I won’t bore regular visitors with another blog post on how I have just protected my Gunnera plant for the winter. Suffice to say it was done yesterday after predictions of frost and low temps overnight. We switched of the water supply to our outside tap then too.

This morning, the frost came as predicated. I went out with my camera early this morning as the sunshine warmed frost on my Arbour seat. Don’t you just love the shadows and light of this time of year?

Frost was also seen on Japanese Anemone flowers and a Hellebore (beside my tiny rock pool pond) that has been in flower for some time – out of season I should say. Another out of season, is a flower bud on my Clematis, Miss Bateman.

Leaves of Heuchera and Acer had an ice coating over them as they hugged the ground. I love the patterns and textures of them too. The seed heads of Klein Fontaine, an ornamental grass, was free from frost catching the early sunshine.

Meanwhile, behind my garden gate the sunshine doesn’t appear until afternoon. I went there to check on my newly protected Gunnera plant and smiled to see a suggestion of frost on the newly upturned leaves.

Not all in my garden had a good covering of frost this time. Between my gate and the Gunnera I spotted some 'free from frost' Fungi on a rotting piece of tree/log.

This was just a brief camera outing. Also seen in my back garden this morning were wonderful deep red leaves on my small Acers, red berries on my Cotoneaster tree, fluffy Clematis seed heads, Red Campion still in flower and Gentian flower buds trying to open but struggling with the cold.

Early evening in my front garden saw Sedums, Nepata, Penstemons, Lavender and the perennial wallflower Bowles’ Mauve flowering in the late sunshine. I must get a brief camera outing there soon before everything changes.

Cameras will be clicking in gardens all around the world just now recording the current changes, the best bits from the year, the disappointing bits, the ‘must move this’ in the Spring reminders as well as the ‘remember I planted this’ there!

For many of my gardening blog friends and visitors who can’t grow a Gunnera this last close-up photo of the flower spike is for you. I know it is the giant umbrella-like leaves that are the main attraction of this plant but the flowers really are quite extraordinary looking.

For those new to growing Gunnera you can see how I have protected this plant in 2007, 2008, and 2009.

This year I have used hay again between the upturned leaves. I’ll probably add more material from the garden on top of these leaves as I tidy things up. The end-of-the-year garden tidy must be well underway in many gardens. How’s yours going?

All photos above were taken on October 25th 2010.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Seeing the good in the bad

I hope you’ll enjoy the twist here (with a little help from James Brown). I’m looking at a positive way to spread bad news today... Trichomonosis. I'd like to suggest you listen to the video but scroll down and read my little ditty below at the same time.

Video from YouTube see here.

shirls gardenwatch

Oh -no-oh no-oh-no! I feel bad, I know it's for the best, now
I feel bad, I know it’s only temporary, now
So bad, so bad, it’s upsetting me :-(

Whoa! I should feel good, as I am really helping them
I should feel good, as I am really helping them
So good, so good, more birds will live :-)

(Bird feeders are taken down and bird baths emptied)

When I see you looking for food
I know that I can't do anything
and when I see you looking for water
My decision will cause you less harm :-)

and I should feel good, as I am really helping them
I should feel good, as I am really helping them
So good, so good, more birds will live :-)

(Bird feeders emptied, washed and stored away)

When I saw a greenfinch all fluffed up in my garden yesterday
I knew what I had to do right, then
and when I saw a greenfinch all fluffed up in my garden yesterday
I knew it only had a few more days to live

and I should feel good, as I am stopping other birds die now
I should feel good, as this spreading disease should stop now
So good, so good, more birds will live :-)

Whoa! I will feel good, I know that I will, now
I will feel good, I know that I will, now
So good, so good, this disease will be gone from my garden again
So good, so good, after a few weeks my feeders will be up again
So good, so good, I told you about it too :-)

Yesterday morning, we had a bit of frost. Temps are dropping here. After seeing the Female chaffinch trying to drink through a thin layer of ice. I went out and refilled all birdbaths.

Next, I reinstated a feeding station under my small Acer tree that birds have had no interest over the summer. During winter this is a very popular spot.

All sorted, I sat down with my breakfast at the window and began a birdcount to see who was visiting my garden at the moment. It’s been a while since I’ve done this.

Half an hour into my count (after seeing a variety of birds) I spotted the Greenfinch with Trichomonosis shown above. My count stopped and the ditty above tells you what happened next.

The photos below were taken at the beginning of my count before this Greenfinch was spotted. Photo opportunities of birds in my garden will be much reduced now. I will miss seeing their visits for a while but this is the kindest and only thing to do here.

I only wish it wasn't at a time when the temps are dropping and the birds need extra food for energy to survive the colder nights. Clicking on all photos in this post will enlarge them.

Female Chaffinch with frozen birdbath water.

View from window. Food ready and waiting. The bird count begins.

A Dunnock was first to feed. It was enjoying the fat ball.

The same Dunnock was also spotted drinking.

Blackbirds were the first to spot the sultanas.

Blackbirds were also first to bathe in the newly filled birdbath.
The Chaffinch in the background had to wait for his drink of water.

A young partial albino Blackbird also enjoyed a fresh drink of water.

A young finch waited patiently in the pine tree above
before jumping down to get a drink. Is this a Greenfinch or Chaffinch?

I don’t ‘feel good’ showing images of this sick bird but nothing can save it now. However, by showing a photo of a bird with Trichomonosis it will help other people identify this disease in birds that visit their gardens. Awareness will save more birds from dying from it. That is good.

Yesterday, I really didn’t ‘feel good’. I felt very sad indeed. This morning I woke thinking that I should feel good that I have spotted this disease and have done something about it. I do feel good about that. I instantly though of the James Brown song and the rest just followed. Although this is sad to see I wanted this to be an upbeat message. I hope I've achieved that.

That said, this post really has to end with a strong message. So before we get to that, I just want to wish you a good weekend. Our gardens do support a wealth of birds and wildlife even if we don’t put food or water out. Enjoy yours :-D

The diseased Greenfinch is more likely to want to drink than eat
as it can’t swallow easily. It's throat is becoming blocked with this disease.
It will die from starvation in a few days.

With birdbaths emptied, the thirsty Greenfinch spots the
emptied birdbath water poured over hosta leaves and tries to drink it.
A male Chaffinch spots what its doing and copies. Is this bird affected too?

A male Chaffinch, like Blackbirds and other birds
lands on the upturned birdbath and looks up to the tree confused.
The same happened in the spots where the feeders were.

TRICHOMONOSIS!! We have to stop it spreading.

This disease affects Greenfinches, Chaffinches, Goldfinches, Siskins and House sparrows. I have seen it myself. I hope my visiting birds find clean feeders when they finally all leave my garden. If not, they may bring it back to my garden again :-(

Bird feeders and birdbaths need to be regularly cleaned as it spreads through feeding and drinking. If you think you have a tame finch in your garden as it doesn’t move away when you walk close then it could be diseased. Take a photo and show someone if you are unsure. The latest info and advice from the RSPB can be seen here.

All photos shown above were taken in my garden on October 20th 2010.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Fuchsia alert amidst Autumn scenes

Are you a Fuchsia fan? Do you like to share plants and cuttings? As Autumn winds and cooler temps hit my part of the UK, Autumn scenes bring vibrant colour to the landscape. As I look out my window tree branches are becoming barer by the hour.

In our gardens Fuchsias are also well known for their vibrant colours but perhaps not as well known is the fuchsia gall mite, Aculops fuchsiae. As a gardener, an email from the RHS this morning entitled ‘Beware of Friends Bearing Gifts’ caught my attention. If you are a Fuchsia fan, the image below needs to catch your attention.

Photo above provided by RHS.

Not being a Fuchsia fan I had no photos for this post. I contacted the RHS and was kindly sent the photo above showing what fuchsia gall mite looks like next to a healthy plant. The first thing to notice is that it is the shoot tips that is affected. Eventually all new growth stops developing.

Autumnal scenes from a walk at the Hermitage yesterday were to be my planned posting for today. It is quite a magical spot. Below, you will see what caught my eye dispersed through info from the email I received from the RHS this morning.

"Because of the risk of spreading fuchsia gall mite, Aculops fuchsiae, the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) is warning gardeners to be careful about sharing fuchsia plants and cuttings.

The mite was first detected in the UK by the RHS only three years ago when one of its members in Hampshire sent a sample of severely distorted growth on a fuchsia to the RHS members’ advisory service for diagnosis.

Since then other samples of mite-infested fuchsias have been sent in every year and the mite is known to be widely distributed in Southern England from Kent to Devon."

"“This is a devastating pest because it destroys the plant’s shoot tips and flowers. None of the pesticides available to gardeners will control it,” says Andrew Halstead, RHS Principal Entomologist.

“Although the detection of fuchsia gall mite has to be notified to the Plant Health and Seeds Inspectorate at FERA (Food and Environment Research Agency) they are not taking any action on plants in private gardens. We anticipate that infestations across the country will increase significantly in the next few years.”

"There is little that gardeners can do about this pest except destroy infested plants to prevent the mites spreading to other fuchsias.

Late summer and autumn are good times to look for infested plants as gall mite damage should be obvious by then if the pest is present.

In spring, vigorous new growth may mask the presence of the mites, particularly as they are likely to be present in lower numbers at that time of year."

"The mite is microscopic and so is easily spread by the wind. It is also likely that bees visiting flowers on infested plants will pick up and transfer mites in a similar manner to pollen grains.

So if one plant has become infested it is likely that other fuchsias in the garden may be as well.

Symptoms of infestation develop gradually. Usually a reddening of the leaves is first noticed, especially at the shoot tips. As the mite numbers increase leaves, flowers and the shoot tips become deformed and swollen. Finally all new growth stops developing."

"Normally the RHS only provides its free diagnostic service to its members. However, because of the charity’s concern about the spread of this relatively new pest and the damage it does it has opened the service to non members who believe they might have an infested fuchsia plant.

Gardeners, therefore, who suspect they may have fuchsia gall mite can send or bring samples of affected shoots in sealed polythene bags to:

Gardening Advice,
RHS Garden,
GU23 6QB.

Digital images of damaged plants can also be sent to"

Black Linn waterfall, view from Ossian’s Hall.

"The charity advises that fuchsia leaves that are misshapen with many small holes, but are green and of normal thickness, have been damaged by capsid bugs.

Fuchsia gall mite causes thickening and severe distortion of the foliage, which may be reddish pink or yellowish brown."

"“Fuchsias are popular garden plants because of their long flowering period in mid – late summer,” says Andrew. “As this pest becomes more widespread I anticipate that their popularity will go into sharp decline. Apart from losing the showy colours they add to our gardens we may also lose the spectacular hedgerows of fuchsias in Cornwall and Devon."

"The RHS recommends that any plants showing symptoms of infestation should be dug up and burnt or buried, as there are currently no other effective control measures available for use in gardens.

Neighbours should be encouraged to do the same.

The charity also suggests leaving a gap of a year before trying to grow replacement fuchsias. Fuchsias in garden centres and any cuttings or plants offered by friends should be checked carefully and rejected if there are any signs of distorted growth."

Chatting to Eoin at the RHS this morning, we also discussed the Horse chestnut leaf-mining moth. If you have been watching Autumnwatch you may have heard them discussing the condition of the leaves on our conker trees .

Sightings of Horse chestnut trees (conker trees) with affected leaves can be submited through the Autumnwatch website. You might be interested in the short video about it below. You can read what the RHS are saying about them here.

Finally, amidst all the warning info I hope you’ve enjoyed some Autumnal scenes. There is a serious chill in the air here tonight. Not here, but on higher ground in Scotland I’ve even heard snow forecasted for later on in the week.

Out on our walk through the cathedral-like atmosphere of the Hermitage yesterday it was ‘snowing’ leaves and pine needles at times. It really was quite magical. Hard as I tried I couldn’t capture that with my camera.

So, it's good-bye to green leaves and hello again to wonderful rich green mosses. It's also time to look out gloves and hats. Happy Autumn :-)

Friday, 15 October 2010

In search of water

I don’t need to. I turn on my tap and have safe, clean drinking water. My tiny plot has enough rainfall for my plants, visiting birds and wildlife too. We do see some dry spells here but at the worst... I get yellowish looking grass.

Over the winter months I don’t have the luxury of an outside tap with running water. We switch the water supply off for fear of burst pipes. We have the luxury of that choice.

The image above shows a Song Thrush drinking the careless spill from my watering can. I can’t remember what I was dong this day back in April 2007. I’d take a guess my arms were a little tired after a session gardening and I had brought the hose over to refill it instead of carrying it from the tap.

30 seconds at most would have been the walk carrying my watering can (with handle) from my outside tap. Quite a contrast to women in Africa walking over 40 billion hours each year carrying cisterns weighing up to 40 pounds to gather water for their community, which is usually still not even safe to drink.

The Song Thrush in the image above has seen its numbers in decline since 1950. Increased land drainage and tillage in farmland is thought to be reducing the number of earthworms and other crucial invertebrate food for it.

If this bird didn’t find water to drink in my garden it wouldn’t need to fly too far to find another source via a garden birdbath or pond in my small town. Water birds may have a bigger source in rivers, lochs, lakes and seas but when polluted… you’ve seen the pictures.

You’ve also seen the harrowing pictures of children without clean water and food too. Being a parent, my heart goes out to them and their parents with nearly 38,000 children every week under the age of 5 dying from unsafe drinking water and unhygienic living conditions.

In my garden at the moment (as I write this) I am hearing the calls from juvenile birds to their parents. They are hungry. The bird feeders are empty. Bird feeders (when not regularly cleaned) can spread disease. One particular disease called trichomoniasis can quickly spread. It kills the affected bird.

After posting this I am going outside to my garden tap. It’s only a few steps away. I’ll pour clean water into a clean bucket and clean my bird feeders. I have that luxury. The birds in my garden will then have the luxury of food in clean dishes.

Clean water in birdbaths also prevents disease from spreading within birds. I have the luxury of going to my water butt and turning on the tap to get rainwater that has been collected there. My visiting garden birds will then have the luxury of clean water too.

It has gone eerily silent in my garden just now. I can’t hear the juvenile birds calling. I can see a Blackbird bathing briefly in water in a birdbath before running away.

My thoughts today are with those that can't run away from water because the don't have any.

Today, nearly one billion people lack basic access to safe drinking water.

Today, I’m supporting Blog Action Day for 2010. This is an annual event held every October 15 that unites the world’s bloggers in posting about the same issue on the same day with the aim of sparking a global discussion and driving collective action. This year's topic is water. If you are a blogger and would like to take part you can register your blog here.

If you would to support the UN’s efforts to bring clean, safe water to millions globally you can sign a petition here . If you would like to help build water wells in developing countries through fundraising for water take a look here.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Easy to miss

Nope… my back garden window view of Autumn leaves on my small domed Acer is the first thing I see when I open the curtains just now. It’s changing day by day. Easy to miss though is the photo opportunities when birds perch on this main crown branch. I’d need to be watching all day long for that :-)

Clicking on photos will enlarge them.

Very easy to miss are the out of the way borders/corners when I’m out with my camera. The window view below from just above the Acer isn’t clear at the moment. But you can see stems of Bamboo on the right.

I’ve been seriously thinning this plant and it has transformed the area. I am now finding myself looking past the wonderful Autumn glow from my Acer and admiring this background border. It’s not so easy to miss now.

Sightings of butterflies in my garden I have missed seeing this year. I find them easy to miss. Usually butterflies are seen in warm sunshine and the best spot for me is in my front garden. Unfortunately, the gardens surrounding my front garden don’t have many flowers so being realistic this does reduce the chances of groups of butterflies stopping by.

Wonderfully, this was not the case yesterday and I was thrilled to see not one but three Red Admirals feeding on my perennial wallflower, Bowles’ Mauve just outside my front door. Not so easy to miss this time. I hope we see more sunny days and they visit again.

Hedgehog Hamish, I hope we will see again too. Hedgehogs can be easy to miss as they visit our gardens mostly after its gets dark. Even with a night cam it is easy to miss their visits unless you have a set up that detects movement. I tend to watch live and don’t have that.

Below is a screen capture from the last video recorded visit of Hamish back on September 20th. What I did miss here was him stopping before he went down the steps and on to the feeding station which you will see in the video further below.

Easy to miss there for me - but not necessarily so for Hamish! I wonder if he heard something or more likely smelt something of great interest to him. I’m thinking the later now.

The photo above shows what I had missed seeing completely when I was looking through my night cam. A mouse was using the small space/doorway I had deliberately left below the hedgehog house when I built the patio and steps.

Although in all honesty I had hoped a wren would discover this leafy cellar, I guess I knew all along it might be a mouse. I love the size difference between the hedgehog and the mouse in the photos. The mouse image was taken a few days after Hamish was last seen.

Even though Hamish and the other male hedgehog haven’t been seen visiting recently I have continued to put out food. To my surprise, with or without a night cam it would be very easy to miss what happened on this night. I never, considered mealworms to be a food that a mouse would be interested in but the video below will show just how keen it was.

There is background music with this video.

It was comical to watch the speed of its pick-ups and to see it adjusting the mealworms so they were central to its mouth. On occasions it managed to pick up more than one at a time too. At the end of the video you can see it stopping and appearing to notice the camera. It stayed still for a moment or two before going back to collect even more mealworms.

However, this was not the first opportunist of the night and most likely not the last either. The final video below shows something that I had trouble believing at the time and the story behind the title of this post.

Before we watch that, let's look at the last recorded footage of Hamish enjoying the mealworms I put out on the patio and the ones in the feeding station too. He always enjoyed a drink there too. I swtiched between cameras for this one.

There is background music with this video.

Now, the action in this last video is very easy to miss. You will need to look very, very closely. I have no photos as there is no way a still image could possibly show what was going on. I guess even with the video footage I might have trouble convincing you.

At first I thought it was the wind causing movement on the ground. Unfortunately I don’t have the best footage I could have had as I was transfixed by what I was seeing and didn’t hit the record button as early as I could have.

LOL… it looked like mealworms were walking away by themselves! Of course they couldn’t be. Couldn they? LOL... looking very closely I spotted long legs and a tiny round, white body.

Another ran along the patio area outside the hedgehog house distracting me a little from what happened next. I have often watched daddy-long-legs spiders in my feeding station but never seen them do this before.

The first daddy-long-legs spider carried the mealworm along the ground and then, with a little bit of a struggle, carried it up the trunk/stem of my Acuba plant which shelters the Hedgehog house. I saw this happen more than once. I really was transfixed. Has anyone else ever seen the like?

There is no background music with this video.

The camera view outside my hedgehog house is restricted by the stems of my plant but it has given quite a different perspective to the activity in our shrubs at night. I have seen many a spider, large and small run up and down the stems of this plant. Moths will fly by. Slugs will slide up or down the stems as will forkytails which really do give me the shivers.

The camera view inside my feeding station has seen many slugs and snails. They are very easy to spot. They go up the walls, in the dishes of water and food. I get the shivers again. Slugs always seem interested in the sunflower hearts. They are not the only ones.

The mealworms in the hedgehog feeding station are more popular that than the sunflower hearts to Blackbirds. So, if the hedgehogs don’t come to claim them in the evenings by morning they do.

This morning I spotted a female/juvenile. You can see there is colour during the day with this cam when there is enough light. The image would be a great deal better if I hadn’t planted a green roof above ;-)

The Perspex front lets in a lot of morning light which helps. I really hope passing cats find the Blackbirds in here easy to miss. The Blackbirds do seem very alert when inside and their visits don’t last long at all.

Just a couple more ‘misses’ and we’re done for today. Not so easy to miss is the Woodpigeon juvenile that hangs around my garden for long spells during the day. I spotted it this morning again. I get nervous watching it. I really hope the Sparrowhawk misses it. Don’t know if it would be too big to catch but it is a very easy target when in my garden.

Finally, it’s very easy to miss empty birds feeders when I have them scattered around the garden. The speed at which they go down is dependant on temps/weather outside. Rainy, windy days bring in lots of birds here.

It has been dry the last few days but the food has gone down quicker than I expected. I’ll get outside in a little while, take them down, give them a clean, refill them and get them back out again. I have a feeling my garden will be hard to miss this afternoon!

What’s easy to miss in your garden?

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Top 10 UK Garden Birds 2010

There has been no shortage of birds visiting my garden recently. Juvenile Goldfinches are still the birds of the moment. Perhaps I should sit down and do a bird count for an hour at the weekend. Lol… the odds are that it will be strangely quiet then ;-)

Back at the end of January I was not alone in counting visiting birds for an hour. The stats from my garden joined 280,000 others. Although surveys such as this might spot problems they are also the first step to help aid a species recovery. Our hour counting does help our birds.

Searching back my blog recently I’ve discovered I missed posting the Results for the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch for 2010. Perhaps this is old news now, but just in case you missed them below you'll find this years’ results with the stats for previous years too.

Top 10 Garden Birds 2010

1. HOUSE SPARROW with an average of 3.77 per garden
2009 – (1) with 3.70 per garden
2008 – (1) with 3.60 per garden
2007 – (1) with 4.40 per garden

2. BLACKBIRD with an average of 3.28 per garden
2009 – (3) with 2.84 per garden
2008 – (3) with 2.45 per garden
2007 – (4) with 2.26 per garden

3. STARLING with an average of 3.13 per garden
2009 – (2) with 3.21 per garden
2008 – (2) with 3.44 per garden
2007 – (2) with 3.67 per garden

4. BLUE TIT with an average of 2.58 per garden
2009 – (4) with 2.45 per garden
2008 – (4) with 2.29 per garden
2007 – (3) with 2.82 per garden

5. CHAFFINCH with an average of 2.19 per garden
2009 – (5) with 2.01 per garden
2008 – (5) with 2.15 per garden
2007 – (5) with 1.9 per garden

6. WOODPIGEON with an average of 1.91 per garden
2009 – (6) with 1.85 per garden
2008 – (6) with 1.53 per garden
2007 – (7) with 1.53 per garden

7. ROBIN with an average of 1.49 per garden
2009 – (9) with 1.36 per garden
2008 – (8) with 1.26 per garden
2007 – (9) with 1.26 per garden

8. GREAT TIT with an average of 1.39 per garden
2009 – (8) with 1.40 per garden
2008 – (9) with 1.25 per garden
2007 – (8) with 1.37 per garden

9. COLLARED DOVE with an average of 1.33 per garden
2009 – (7) with 1.44 per garden
2008 – (7) with 1.43 per garden
2007 – (6) with 1.56 per garden

10. GOLDFINCH with an average of 1.29 per garden
2009 – (10) Long-tailed tit with 1.34 per garden
2008 – (10) Goldfinch with 1.16 per garden
2007 – (10) Greenfinch with 1.20 per garden

So briefly summarising the Top 10 Garden Birds here in the UK, you can see that the House Sparrow is holding on to its No.1 spot which it has held for the last 4 years. After a drop between 2007 and 2008 numbers are slowly rising again.

Starlings have been knocked off 2nd place which they have held for the last three years. You can see their numbers are slowly dropping taking them to the No.3 spot.

In contrast Blackbird numbers have been increasing. The Blackbird takes the No.2 spot. I’m not surprised at that one. In my garden we see lots more Blackbirds over the winter.

No change in places 4-6. The Blue Tit has held on to the No.4 spot slowly increasing in numbers after the drop from 2007 to 2008. I always wondered if the snapshots of failed nest boxes I had heard about via my blog would filter down into the stats.

The Chaffinch and Woodpigeon take No.5 and No.6 spot respectively. In both cases there is an increase in numbers over the last four years.

Things go a bit up and down for spots No.7-10. The Robin takes on the charge here moving up to its highest place in the last four years slowly increasing in numbers in our gardens. It takes the No.7 spot.

No.8 goes to the Great Tit which in previous years has been in competition with the Robin for spots 8 and 9. Although keeping its No.8 spot from last year the stats for Great tits numbers in our gardens show they aren’t increasing. They have been up and down in the last few years.

No.9 spot sees another decrease in numbers. Back in 2007 the Collared Dove took the No.6 spot, then for two years it held on to No.7. I wonder if it will remain in the Top Ten birds in our gardens after the 2011 count.

For the last four years the No.10 spot in the RSPB Birdwatch has been strongly contested. Last year for the first time the Long-tailed tit took the spot. Sadly, it hasn’t held on to it slipping just out to No.12 for 2010.

Two finches have been in competition with each other for the No.10 spot in three of the last four years. The Goldfinch has taken the spot twice and takes it for 2010. That doesn’t surprise me as I have said above. I’ve heard of other bloggers having many in their gardens too.

The Greenfinch having taken the No.10 spot in 2007 has dropped back to No.13. However, more importantly, the numbers of Greenfinches per garden recorded back in 2007 was 1.20 compared to the 0.88 for 2010.

No.13 is perhaps unlucky then for the Greenfinch. It will be interesting to see how the RSPB plans to help bring numbers back up. I suspect the commonly named ‘fat finch’ disease trichomonosis has a lot to do with this drop in numbers and therefore more awareness would help.

Trichomonosis is not a new disease, reports of it began back in the summer of 2005. What is known is that this disease is spread to other birds through feeding and drinking. Good hygiene with our bird feeders and baths is a must to keep it at bay. The latest advice from the RSPB is:

“If trichomonosis is suspected, it is recommended to temporarily stop putting out food, and leave bird baths dry until sick or dead birds are no longer found in the garden.

This is to discourage birds from congregating together, which may increase the potential for the disease to spread between individuals.

Wild birds can suffer from a variety of diseases from time to time. Good hygiene practice, specifically the regular cleaning of all feeders, bird baths and feeding surfaces, is an essential part of looking after garden birds and will help to lower the risk to birds of diseases in general.

No effective treatment can be administered to birds in the wild, because it is impossible to ensure that the infected individuals receive an adequate dose and that healthy birds do not pick up the medicine. Also, a positive confirmation of the disease is needed prior to starting any treatment, and this can usually only be obtained by a post mortem.”

Oh dear… my brief summary wasn’t so brief after all! I have to say I found the comparisons over the years interesting and I hope you did too.

One more stat that caught my eye was the No.11 spot which was taken by the Dunnock with a reported 1.14 per garden. I love this litle bird and I’ve been on/off working on a post on it for over a month now. I have some video footage of a juvenile being fed which I'm delighted about. It’s coming soon after some garden catch ups.

For now, I really hope you are enjoying watching the bird activity in your garden as much as I am. The RSPB page for the 2011 Big Garden Birdwatch is already up. The date has been set for the weekend of the 29/30th of January.

If you are new to the RSPB Birdwatch perhaps you could have fun (especially with children) by browsing their site and perhaps printing off an ID sheet so you know before hand what you are looking for. You might like to plan well ahead too and take part in organised events. You’ll get info on the page link above.

One final reminder before I wish you a good weekend... BBC2, 8:30-9:30, Autumnwatch begins a new 8 week series tonight with the very popular Unsprung straight after. Enjoy…

For my gardening friends and visitors I’d like to wish you a great weekend in the garden. I expect you’ll be struggling to keep up with jobs you want to do at the weekends when our weather is more unpredictable now. Have you any must do jobs planned? I really must take some penstemon cuttings… should have been last month… oops. I also need to do some weeding too before any more seeds set.

Mm…. weeds… I’ll come back to this subject ;-)

Monday, 4 October 2010

Autumn watching again

Ah… bright blue skies and early morning sunshine at this time of year is very welcome. Standing below my Acer this morning, I could see the cooler winds have taken their toll on the golden leaves. They are beginning to drop now.

Clicking on images will enlarge them.

This Acer (palmatum 'Sango-kaku') shown above is the favourite tree of my garden. I love its fine leaves and coral red bark and branches that look great during the winter.

This Acer is a favourite with the birds too as I hang feeders from it. Not always the same one though. At the moment, I have a small seed feeder (with sunflower hearts) for birds that can cling on.

Initially this feeder was very popularwith Blue, Great and Coal tits. It still is. However at the moment the Goldfinches seem to have taken over ownership. This all started when parents brought in their young.

Now the Goldfinch Juveniles see this feeder as theirs! Chaffinches try to get space and Greenfinches and House Sparrows can succeed but 9 times out of ten that I look out my window it is Goldfinches that are clinging and swinging!

I’m always surprised at the apparent hardiness of these tiny tropical looking birds. Through heavy rain, winds, sleet or snow they will stay at the feeders when all other birds have gone for cover.

Over the last few days the wind has thrown this feeder swinging around and the young goldfinches just cling on and continue feeding. They have been fun to watch.

Also swinging around in the wind have been Japanese Anemone blooms. They stayed still for just a moment this morning. They haven't been so fun to watch.

Petals are dropping now but there are still a number of buds still waiting to open. Just as the Meconopsis is my fav in Spring the Japanese Anemone is my Autumn fav.

Ornamental grasses with their beautiful seed heads are a wonderful sight swinging with the breeze at this time of year too.

My fav at the moment is Miscanthus sinensis 'Kleine Fontaine' planted to the side of the Anemones above my small rock pool pond. I really enjoy looking out my window to this area just now.

This year I have a few more Anemones with more blooms than in previous years. By gosh, that has brought in many more hoverflies and other insects! They are fun to watch from my window too bringing such life and interest to the area. You can see this in the short video below which has a little background music.

Until now, I never saw the Anemone flower as such an insect magnet and I have considered that these insects briefly brought in a new garden visitor back in the middle of August.

I saw a Willow Warbler (which I suspect may have been a Juvenile) come through this area twice. I caught one visit on video one time but the clip is so very short. Fun to think that my fav flowers became a feeding station for insects and insect eating birds.

Soon the garden will change without any intervention from me. As temperatures drop as will the leaves from the trees. Leaves on evergreen plants will change colour a little like the Bergenia below. The fresh Spring and Summer greens are on their way out.

Perennial plants will soon start to wither and die (like Brunnera Jack Frost below) and as they do they will provide homes for insects and in turn food for birds. This morning it was spider’s webs over this plant that caught my eye.

It isn’t all bad news for foliage in the borders as Autumn begins to claim our gardens. Some plants like the Heuchera below become little jewels in the sunshine and frost covered they look quite magical.

So the season of Autumn watching begins. As a gardener, I have much to do including the completition of my new wildlife pond. I have cuttings to take, plants to lift, divide and replant and... yep the list is long :-)

However as a gardenwatcher, I am relishing in this changing season with new bird and wildlife interest too. I am thoroughly enjoying seeing juvenile birds arriving this late in the year. I’ve had my video camera running and footage will follow in time. I have a plan for that ;-)

For anyone wondering about our visiting hedgehogs I have to report that Hamish has been AWOL for the last couple of weeks. The other male hasn’t been seen either. I’ve continued to put out mealworms and they do disappear… I’ll share what has been happening with them soon ;-)

Now, I wonder if anyone has picked up on my blog title choice? Yep… BBC Two’s Autumnwatch is back again for another year. I’ll guess I’ll not be the only one looking forward to seeing what stories and wildlife they will share with us from around the UK.

I’m delighted to see that they are keeping the format of the programme to one night a week over a period of eight weeks. I am also delighted to see they have changed the night from a Friday to a Thursday. That suits me nicely keeping Friday free for gardening and gardening programmes ;-)

However, also like others, I was sorry to read that after six years Simon King is leaving the presenter team. He is embarking on something new with a new web-based project, the Wildlife Whisperer, which will be going live this autumn. Sounds interesting.

Coming back to BBC Autumnwatch, there is still a strong team there with Gordon Buchanan making a return and a few new faces including Charlie Hamilton-James from Halcyon River Diaries. I enjoyed that series and see they are coming back with a one off Christmas special. Like Gordon, Charlie has incredible patience in filming wildlife.

So when is Autumnwatch 2010 on our screens? Oh, you don’t have to wait too long! Kate, Chris and everyone will be back this Thursday, 7th October, from 8.30pm to 9.30pm. It’s immediately followed with Martin and Autumnwatch Unsprung every Thursday from 9.30pm to 10pm. Enjoy…

For those unable to watch this fantastic journey through Autumn I hope you enjoy it in your part of the world :-D

All photos shown above were taken in my garden on October 4th 2010.