Sunday, 30 January 2011

The Starlings have it

They had back in 2007 too. Chaffinches had it in 2008 and Blackbirds took it in 2009 & 2010. 1st place in my garden during my one hour bird count for the 2011 RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch is what the Starlings have.

Although Starlings aren’t always welcome in the garden due to their greedy, noisy manner they are endangered here in the UK so I’m delighted to be able to submit numbers for them. Sultanas and mealworms brought them swooping down to feed during my count. I knew it would attract them if any flew over.

Clicking on image will enlarge it

Being honest, it took the Starlings a bit longer than usual to spot the food I had put out with them in mind. In the past it has never ceased to amaze me that within minutes of putting out sultanas Starlings appear. Sultana Satellite tracking perhaps?

Thanks to Mrs Sparrowhawk respecting my request to stay away during my count a respectable 11 species of garden birds were spotted. Numbers weren’t particularly high (but as many others find too) this seems to be the normal for this count. Comments in my last post have raised speculation that the birds are working the system here ;-)

The RSPB are expecting a wide range of bird species this year as the colder weather has been bringing new visitors to our gardens. However, with our snow gone and temps chilly but not freezing for the moment we are back to the usual suspects in my garden.

No sightings of Fieldfare, Tree Sparrow, Long-tailed tits or Blackcaps have been spotted since last winter. Bramblings had joined the Chaffinches (this year for the first time) when it was cold and snow covered the ground but they no longer visit. We even had a Reed Bunting pass through.

Having had a hectic weekend, spending an hour by the window was bliss! My only available slot was Sunday from 2:15-3:15pm. There was a slight breeze, the skies cleared to blue and when the sun came out I knew the birds would more than likely enjoy the sun’s rays from my neighbour’s cherry tree rather than rushing around my garden for food.

Appearing on the branches of my pine tree next to a peanut feeder, I was delighted to see a Wren. It has never been in my count before. I went for my camera but a Blue tit arrived at the feeder and the Wren flew off again. You can see the rest of my stats in the image above. House Sparrow numbers are a lot lower than usual and it’s weird to be seeing a single Goldfinch regularly visiting.

Later today, I’ll submit my count results here and when the 2011 RSPB Birdwatch results come out in March I’ll add a link here. If you have taken part (especially for the first time) I do hope you enjoyed it.

Finally, if you are a visitor from the USA you might like to know about a bird count there in February. I’m guessing most visitors here know and take part with this but just in case you don’t, the next Great Backyard Bird Count is during February 18-22, 2011.

Throughout the time I’ve been writing this post I’ve been distracted by mice around my small rock pool pond. Three have now been spotted running in and out the caves there taking food from the bird buffet.

The photo I’m really looking for is one with a Blackbird and a mouse feeding at the same time. I’ve seen this a few times, it does look funny but not as funny as a mouse trying to move a fat ball towards itself. Just where did it think it could roll it to?

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Counting… no Sparrowhawks please!

Let’s make a deal Mrs Sparrowhawk, this weekend I’ll be supporting the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch and I’d like to reserve an hour free of your visits to count the birds that feed in my garden. Yes, I hear you…

You like to feed here on occasions too. I also know you like to practice your flight craft and hang around listening to the sounds of the garden. What if I tell you that it would be in your interest to support the Birdwatch this weekend too?

You see, the stats that we window bird watchers collect this weekend are regarded valuable by the RSPB as it helps them understand more about why birds are in decline and what they can do to help them. Can you see the fuller picture Mrs Sparrowhawk?

Yes, you are a smart bird, if garden birds are in decline then so are your meals and those of your young when you come to feed them. To the deal then, Mrs Sparrowhawk…

If you need to visit my garden could you come by early in the morning or late in the afternoon? If you just miss out the main part of the day that would do my count nicely. It would be greatly appreciated by everyone concerned.

You see, Mrs Sparrowhawk, in previous years you’ve appeared just 10 minutes into my count and the results I submitted to the RSPB were very low and not at all a true reflection on the bird numbers and species regularly visiting my garden. That has disappointed me.

Yes, you heard right Mrs Sparrowhawk, the RSPB do say that although this can be the case with some birdcounts overall the stats even out and every birdcount submitted does make a difference.

What’s that Mrs Sparrowhawk? Ah yes… thinking about this with your parent hat on, some people may be new to the RSPB Birdcount this year and might need some stories and advice to get them going?

This year I’ve enjoyed the opportunity of chatting to a whole different audience at the Dobbies Blog. I was invited to write a guest post over there for the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch. You can read my story here and posts by other bloggers too.

Sharon at Shazza’s Backyard Blog gave bird feeder tips. Warren Baker at Pittswood Birds posted on a dummy run for his count which is something every year I consider doing but haven't yet. Craig Nash at Peregrines Bird Blog chats about bringing birds in to his feeders and taking photographs. I'd like to invite everyone to pop over to read their postings (mine too) where you'll get links to their blogs also.

Enjoy your garden this weekend and if you are taking part in the Birdwatch I wish you lots of visitors to count and hopefully some of the more unusual winter visitors that have been arriving in our gardens too :-D

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

January garden wanders

Cold temps, snow and hard frost are on a brief vacation for the moment. I’m whispering as I tell you... I’m a tad nervous about announcing this for fear they will return. Oh… I know they will, we haven’t seen the last of Winter yet but it has been wonderful to have our gardens back again here in the UK. Yay… my daughter and have been wandering on a brief garden visit too!

Last week I wandered around my own garden – just before the hard frosts came. There were the faithful evergreens, cold/frost damaged evergreens, odd climbers, perennials and bulbs showing new signs of life. However a gold star has to go to the newbie for this winter showing it’s as hardy as its label suggests – I’ll be honest, I doubted this.

~ Sulphur heart Ivy covering pergola looking healthy ~

~ Griselinia not looking so healthy after cold temps and snow ~

~ Clematis ‘Miss Bateman’ showing new life in winter dry stems ~

~ Brunnera ‘Jack Frost’ showing new life in winter wet stems ~

~ Snowflake bulbs showing first nose breaking through the soil ~

~ Drumstick alliums a tad on the early side ~

~ Pitcher plant living up to its label of hardy to -20 deg C ~

Visiting gardens in winter can be just as magical as in Spring, Summer and Autumn don’t you think? Yes, they look pretty with frost and a gentle snow covering but I can’t be alone in saying that the duller colours, dry & damp foliage and stems with a sprinkling of new buds and odd flowers has a such an atmosphere about it.

If you enjoy this too, then I’m guessing you’ll enjoy the short video below captured this afternoon on a garden visit to the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. If you are new to my blog and this garden then you might enjoy my wanders back in February 2008, Febuary 2009 and March 2010 also.

Please note there is background music with this video

Holding a video camera steady without a tripod I do find a bit tricky. My new one is smaller and lighter so that doesn’t help my cause either. However, as this video is intended to give the raw feel of the garden I’m hoping I can get away with the odd bit of camera shake ;-)

Yes… I hear you ask… why didn’t I take my tripod? Well, I need to look into that one a bit further as a permit is required and I don’t know if I would qualify. On a previous visit back in June 2008 I used my monopod which worked okay but still not as good as my tripod. On the RBGE website they say:

“You can take photographs and videos in the Garden for personal use. All filming and photography for commercial use or the use of tripods is by permit only. Details of any requests for filming or photography should be discussed with the Press & Marketing Office. I’ll get in touch with them before my next visit.

Finally, if you are living in the UK then you might enjoy helping the RSPB with a survey this weekend. All you need to do is count the number of birds that visit your garden over a period of one hour sometime over this weekend then submit your stats to them. Yep… it’s time for the annual RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch once again :-)

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Bird Profiles: The Wren

Where do all the Wrens go? I only ever notice one at a time in my garden… that’s when I do spot them. Early morning or just before dark (I’ve found) is a good time to keep a lookout for this tiny, secretive little bird that has a pretty big mouth for its size… all the better to belt out that powerful voice with my dear!

Wren visiting the small rock pool pond in my garden during January 2009

If Little Red Riding Hood was out in the forest looking for this bird in Spring she is more likely to hear the Wren before she sees it. She needs to have one eye on the forest floor to catch a glimpse of this little bird... of course you'll know who her other eye is on the lookout for ;-)

Meanwhile back in our gardens... secretly, just like Jack climbing his Beanstalk, the Wren makes its way up and down through shrubs and bushes in a land where we are the Giants!

Oh… and that Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe… you know that one who had so many children she didn’t know what to do? Well, she doesn’t have the packed house that the Wrens do come Winter!

The BTO say the record number of Wrens seen roosting together in one box is a staggering 63! At just under half the weight of the (also small) European Robin, the tiny Wren chills much more rapidly than larger birds. Together they keep warm but in freezing weather many don’t survive.

This is not my video of Wrens arriving to roost together.
It is fascinating to see this behaviour.
Note this video is over 7 mins long. You might want to scroll through it a little.

The Snow Queen isn’t kind to the Wren then? Oh no she isn’t… as when she covers the ground in her icy white carpet she also hides much of the food that the Wren eats like small insects and spiders. Like all other birds in winter, the Wren needs to eat lots to get enough energy to survive cold nights.

Ah… but Jack and his Ivy covered Beanstalk come to the Wren’s rescue in winter. Yes, deep in skyward bound Ivy growing in our gardens… treasure sits in wait for the Wren. Oh dear… Incy Wincey Spider doesn’t think this story has a happy ending!

Regular visitors to my blog will know by now that I like a good bit of storytelling! Tonight’s tales begin a series of introductions to the birds that visit my garden. I’m also hoping it will help those taking part with the RSPB Big Garden BIRDWATCH at the end of the month with ID’s.

Considering both veterans and newbies of the BIRDWATCH I thought I’d take a fun approach to what is essentially a serious matter of the conservation of our garden birds. I was especially thinking of the young families who may be taking part with the count… you’ve probably guessed that ;-)

Another secretive garden bird, The Dunnock, was to be my first introduction but late yesterday afternoon I spotted a Wren feeding around my (now snow free) small rock pool pond. It fed there for some time. I was able to get my video camera running as it ran and jumped back and forth.

Most unusually for this secretive little bird, it spent some considerable time out in the open. It can be seen characteristically bobbing up and down. It turns around and you can see it from the back too. It was hard editing back footage of this visit.

The key things my video of the wren will show is that (despite the first clip) this bird is hard to see. One minute you see it and the next it is behind or under something. It also moves about at a speed almost like it has no attention span at all. When the light is low it just blends into the background.

Shape wise the Wren is quite a round bird, with no neck, tiny wings and a short tail that sticks up into the air. It also has a pale stripe over the eye and light brown legs.

Being mainly an insect eater, the Wren has a long thin bill which is slightly curved and tapered... perfect for the job of pulling out hidden insects from the smallest of spaces.

Feeding wise the Wren is seen looking under things for insects. Notice how it follows the edge of the water. Let's take a look...

This video was filmed through my window, background music has been added.

A few years ago, I saw the Wren in flight during the middle of the day. It was fascinating to watch as it went through the canes of my bamboo with its distinctive whirring flight not unlike a big bumble bee. It certainly caught my eye that day.

At the moment, I have an array of books around me open on pages with info on the Wren. I have enjoyed reading more about this tiny bird that I see only occasionally. I could add more stats etc but I myself am more interested in observing the character of birds that visit my garden. That’s what I hope I have succeeded in sharing with you tonight.

Enjoy the rest of your week :-D

Monday, 10 January 2011

Gone again... white returns

The fresh green fern of my last post is well hidden again under a blanket of white. However, with this latest blanket of snow (lasting 3 days and with it cold temps) a very unexpected bird visitor arrived in my garden last Friday. I was very lucky to spot it but it does make me wonder who else has popped by when I haven't been garden watching.

~~~ Fern, not so fresh and green now ~~~

~~~ Sedum, flower heads looking pretty decorated with snow ~~~

~~~ Sedum pot on Saturday, now hidden under
a huge mound of snow after a second night of snow
and from clearance around cars and driveway. ~~~

With my whole garden well covered in snow again, on Saturday morning I was out early clearing snow in my back garden so the areas of bird food already on the ground could be found by the birds again. I then sat by my window with breakfast and a notebook with the intention of doing a bird count. Mm… that didn’t exactly happen.

Counting the birds in my garden on Saturday was a bit of a challenge… I really did try. Instead, I picked up my new video camera (Christmas gift) which I am still trying to get the hang of. I thought I’d try and capture a flavour of one area of my garden with its frantic feeder activity.

Please note, there is background music with this video.

Sunday morning revealed yet another downfall of snow and all the clearance of the day before was nowhere to be seen. I’ll be honest… I‘m getting a tad fed up of snow now.

Once again, before breakfast, I went out to my back garden to clear areas for the birds to find food and to top up the hanging feeders that were so popular on Saturday. Sunday however, saw little gardenwatching.

Snow clearance of my front garden became a priority yesterday in order for cars to be moved this morning. We also cleared a small area of our street (as other neighbours had done too). Still having high, iced mounds of snow from previous clearances (since the end of November) getting rid of snow is a challenge. We are grateful that our neighbour is happy for us to throw snow on his lawn.

Talking of Challenges, back in December I mentioned fellow Blogger Andrew at Tales of a Wessex Reiver was running a (just for fun) Christmas Birding Competition. Poor Andrew has been quite unwell over the hols and didn’t manage to do any birding at all. Great to hear you’re feeling human again Andrew, here’s hoping you make a full recovery :-)

Andrew is still planning to collate any results he gets (deadline Midnight this Friday) and plans to post them on Saturday 15th. He’s asking for results to be left on this post with some basic details of the area of the count. For my own records I’ll also add mine here.

Christmas Day saw 12 species of bird from my garden. In order of appearance they were: Chaffinch, Blackbird (including partial albino), Woodpigeon, Great tit, Brambling, REDWING (that was the first sighting ever. It was perched on my neighbour’s cherry tree. No photos or video), Blue tit, House Sparrow, Herring gull (flying over), Starling, Buzzard (flying over) and Jackdaw (distant tree).

Bringing the total number of wild bird species seen from my garden (between 00.00 on 25th December and 24.00 on 1st January) to 18 came: Robin, Goldfinch, Dunnock, Coal tit, Siskin and a Sparrowhawk.

I was delighted to see so many species in my small garden and the Redwing had me sitting at my window for ages after as I wished for it to return (having my cameras at the ready this time). I keep looking, but as yet have not seen it again.

Finally, I have kept the best ‘till last, special as it was, the Redwing wasn’t the very unexpected bird visitor I mentioned at the beginning of this post. I went to the Birdforum for confirmation of my ID for this one.

I am thrilled to say I had my video camera running this time! Although, I am still a bit shaky with quick action (not familiar with the settings on this new camera) and the footage is a tad shaky and only lasts a few seconds… I have it on record that a Reed Bunting visited my garden!!

Please note, there is background music with this video

I’m guessing the Reed Bunting followed the large groups of Chaffinches visiting my garden at the moment. The Bramblings are still visiting with them too. I have to say, I’m absolutely staggered at the number of bird species that can visit a small garden.

This male Reed Bunting has brought the total number of bird species in my garden (which I have seen) to 29. In all honesty… pre blog I would never have thought that possible. It just goes to show (especially in winter) what can be seen if you put food out for birds.

Win, win... the birds get extra food sources to help them survive the cold and from the warmth indoors we have Bird TV to enjoy. Enjoy the Channels in your garden just now :-)

For those interested, I am now using the SONY HANDYCAM HDR-C115E video camera and editing my videos with Pinnacle Studio 12. I still have lots to explore with both :-)

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Welcome back... green!

For me, Ferns are the best greens of all. After six weeks (feels like twice that) of a snow and ice covered garden our temps have been slowly rising and with odd rain showers in the last few days… we have the start of garden again!

The evergreen Ferns behind my garden gate were looking wonderfully fresh as I went out for a wander yesterday. They really did stop me in my tracks. This was not a winter scene.

~~~ Clicking on images will enlarge them ~~~

However there are still plenty signs of winter in my garden. After a prolonged cold spell, with frozen deep snow, damage to the growing tips of shrubs is quite common.

~~~ Griselinia ~~~

My favourite evergreen shrub for green foliage, Griselinia, has been hit as per usual. I’ll do nothing with this for now as this damage will die back further down the stems yet. I’ll prune it back nearer Spring when the worst of the cold has passed. This established plant usually comes back again albeit a slightly different shape.

I’m hoping (fingers crossed) the young Griselinia plants I grew from cuttings and planted as a hedge corner in my front garden will be okay. They are still under a deep pile of snow and seeing the stems sticking out now suggest they have been well weighted well down.

Completely flattened and pressed hard to the ground the annual herb Borage was also seen in my front garden. Its distinctive hairy stems made a wonderful pattern on the ground. You could just make out the flower heads there too.

~~~ Borage (flattened) ~~~

This Borage pressing instantly reminded me of images I spotted on a blog at Randy & Meg’s Garden the other day. You’ll see what I mean here although I should put out a warning for anyone who is uncomfortable looking at snakes.

Randy has posted images of the American Five-lined Skink which is common in the eastern US. I did shiver a little myself as I scrolled through the images. My head saw snake and my eyes completely missed the detail of legs!

The skink is actually a lizard and as this one was so very well camouflaged with the colour of the soil I never noticed the legs. However, the excellent image of a newborn struggling to exit the egg does show the legs and the lizard head very well. I am more comfortable with that image and what beautiful creatures they look.

Randy’s photos are excellent throughout his blog and I would definitely recommend a browse around Randy & Meg’s Garden Paradise where you’ll find many interesting posts which include birds, butterflies, bugs and plants. On reading his New Year’s post, I was struggling to get my head around the idea of hoping to see butterflies on January the first!

Meanwhile, coming back to my ‘part’ frozen garden yesterday you can see more flattened stems and leaves, This time it is the perennial plants that are encased in ice in my back garden. I love this image as it is finally revealing the green of my lawn!

~~~ Perennial plant material encased in ice ~~~

As snow fell again and again in the last 6 weeks, food put out for the birds was covered many times. I love the image below too as it shows the melon seeds that were put out on deep hard snow on Christmas morning have been revealed again as they reached ground level.

If you look closely at the image below you can also see that ice has encased the neat leaves of the perennial Geum (a compact version) which normally would have died back to appear again in Spring.

~~~ Geum leaves encased in ice and melon seeds ~~~

Further walkabouts revealed a few wild strawberries that were lost to the cold seen in the montage below.

In the area behind my garden gate (beside the fern in the first photo) the snow was also receding to reveal my Gunnera with flower spike flattened and leaves looking like wet Rhino skin.

This area also revealed a gardener’s big mistake. My Mum used to say I had green fingers and I could get away with things she couldn’t. I hope this is the case here.

The brown mound in the bottom left of the montage is a favourite plant that I lifted from another area in the garden and placed here under the foliage cover of Hellebores and Ferns one busy gardening day…

Yep… this gardener completely neglected Jack Frost (Brunnera) and the Snow Queen then covered him up! I love this plant too (hanging my head in shame now). If the snow continues to recede in this area I’ll test the hardness of the soil and try to plant it. I don’t know if it will survive or not – this will be a test for green fingers!

Next to Jack Frost are some Hellebores and I was looking more closely there. Can’t be sure at this stage but perhaps that’s a flower bud pushing up. New flower buds are particularly welcome in winter aren’t they?

Being completely honest, I’m a bit lax in planting for winter flowers. I should really do something about that. Mm… maybe my garden is trying to tell me something…

~~~ Penstemon 'Etna' ~~~

What’s this that has been revealed in my front garden today? With the weight of a lot of snow Penstemon stems have been pushed over a pot that had a sedum in it. Wow… it actually has some of its coral bells still on it! Amazing :-)

Equally amazing (for a second year) my perennial Wallflower Bowles's Mauve is still trying to hold on to a few flowers in January.

This plant has been under snow for almost six weeks now and is beside the flattened borage shown above and an equally flatten few lavenders! It may not be the prettiest plant in my garden at the moment but it has to get the award for best winter effort :-)

~~~ Perennial Wallflower 'Bowles' Mauve' ~~~

Enjoy your garden this weekend… you do know what I’m going to ask you now don’t you? Three questions today…

1/ Which plant gets the award for best winter effort in your garden?

2/ Have you been a neglectful gardener this winter? If so what are you hanging your head in shame with?

3/ Ah… and the big one… green fingers… do you think they exist?

All photos shown above were taken in my garden on January 5th 2011.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Introducing: Goldfinch Garden

Wildlife in Cornwall is the title of Goldfinch Garden’s Channel at YouTube. Paul is the man behind the camera and the fantastic quality and range of bird and wildlife videos you'll find there. It’s no surprise to me at all that he has 601 subscribers as of today.

Paul says on his page “I would like to share with the world some of the beautiful birds and wildlife that visit my garden and the surrounding area of West Cornwall. I hope you enjoy my videos.” I’d take a good guess that many visitors that find their way to my blog would really enjoy his videos too.

I’ll pull out the cuppa warning here as if you follow the link above and start browsing time will run away with you :-)

My advice would be, don’t rush it or even better subscribe to his channel and you will always be able to make a return visit and be notified of any new videos he adds.

If you enjoy watching birds in your garden then you’ll enjoy seeing such a wide range of species at Goldfinch Garden’s Channel.

If you are new to watching birds in your garden the following video, Goldfinch Garden (2009 Review), is a great one for ID’s. Paul has thoughtfully listed the birds too (see below) which will help greatly if you are taking part in the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch at the end of January.

There is background music with this video. You may need to adjust your speakers.

Shown in the video above, in order of appearance: Blue Tit, Goldfinch, Bullfinch, Greenfinch and Juvenile Greenfinch, Bullfinch and Linnet, Great Tits, Female Blackbird, Blue Tits, Collared Dove, Goldfinches, Dunnock, Bullfinches (Female and Male), Robin, Long Tail Tits, Greenfinch and Great Tit, Goldfinches, Linnet, Juvenile Bullfinch, Blue Tit, Wrens, Robin, Blackbird, Willow Warbler, Long Tail Tit, BlueTit, Greenfinch, Bullfinches (Male and Juvenile Female), Goldfinch, Robin, Collared Doves, Bullfinch Female, Chaffinch, Blackcap, Goldfinches, Blackcaps and Chaffinch, Robin, Bullfinches Male and 2 Females, Goldfinch, Bullfinches (Male and Female) and Goldfinches.

For my regular visitors outside the UK the video above gives you a much bigger insight into bird species here in the UK than I have given on my blog and being grouped together like this is great. I’ve thought about putting together a similar video... one day :-)

This introduction posting today is in response to an email I received this morning:

“Just read your blog about your garden visitors and all the snow you’ve had. I came across it as I am trying to identify an unusual visitor to our garden yesterday. At first we thought it was a robin as it had a very red breast, but then it looked much too big for that and the wrong shape, more like a magpie shape with a long tail pointing down, and as it came closer a very red breast, unfortunately when I reached for the camera it flew off so my only hope is that it comes again today.”

I can completely relate to not having a camera at the ready and being curious to know what species has found its way to my garden. I do enjoy both receiving emails like this and the challenge of a garden bird ID so I'm keen to help.

Thinking hat on and considering the description above, my suggestion is going to be a male Bullfinch. If anyone else knows what this bird could be or has any suggestions please do leave a comment here. Thanks, I'm going to reply to this query with a link to this post.

I don’t have any photos or video of the Bullfinch from my own garden. However, I find that video can often be better than a lovely crisp clear photo for an ID so I went video searching… then a post was born ;-)

The male Bullfinch is shown in the video above but as we often see birds at a distance it can be their behaviour and movement that helps ID them too. I think Paul’s video below will confirm or rule out the male Bullfinch as the mystery visitor. Paul was very lucky with four visiting this day. I really enjoyed this video too.

Seeing the female of a species also helps with an ID. That’s what definitely clinched it for us when a Blackcap male visited my garden a few years ago. When we saw her brown cap we had our ID. Perhaps a female mystery bird is visiting this garden too.

Below, Paul’s close-up video of a male and female Bullfinch together may be the final clincher either way. The male is on the right. I’ll be thrilled if I’ve got this one right and the mystery is solved especially as I’d love to see a Bullfinch in my garden. I’ll post an update here.

I hope you’ve enjoyed both this mystery hunt and Paul’s videos here and do pop over to his YouTube Channel to see some more. Paul left a message/subscribed to my YouTube Channel in the early days so I am especially delighted to get this opportunity to pass on his link :-)

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Best wishes to all for 2011

As one year of gardenwatching ends and a new one begins I’d like to thank everyone who visited shirls gardenwatch during 2010. Spending time on this blog just wouldn't be the same without you. I’d also like to wish you and all those dear to you good health and happiness for 2011.

Fieldfare, new winter visitor January 2010.

A full gardenwatch review of 2010 was a last minute plan. It was fun for me selecting photos and laying out montages. However, the clock ticked closer towards the ‘Bells’ and the last tidy-ups for the year and time with my family beckoned. I’ve reformed my plan :-)

Instead of putting on our virtual dancing shoes and jigging through the past year (tiring everyone out) let’s take things a tad slower with a review at the beginning of each month. This will make an interesting comparison too.

January 2010 in my garden was a more bird focused month due to cold winter weather. Yep… the snow from December was still with us. Looking out my window this morning, the picture/story for January 2011 is going to begin pretty much the same.

Review of images posted in January 2010. Click to enlarge.

Snowman ‘Smiler’ eventually lost his grin as this prolonged snow spell was slow to shift. We were all starting to get tired of a pretty snow covered garden. The good side to this cold winter weather was that new birds were seen in the garden like the Fieldfare and Tree Sparrow (see montage).

Thoughts turned back to the previous July and a garden visit to Culross Palace. That cheered everyone up. Back in my garden, later than usual, a pruning of my wisteria back to two sets of buds was needed.

I finally got round to ‘Introducing' Dave Culley and his Sparrowhawks after email exchanges from the previous year. He has enthusiastically studied and filmed Sparrowhawks in the wild for a few years now and has some fantastic video captures including nesting and chicks.

Back in my garden again, a second nestbox with a camera (B&W IR images) went up. An extra camera with IR went in our original colour camera Nestbox amid hopes of moss covered floors, nestbox shuffles and possible nestbox families to watch come Spring. We enjoyed seeing a Blue tit roosting in our original (green) nestbox.

The month of January ended with the annual RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch and a video wander around the garden. Watching the video again has been great reminder of how plants continue to grow even under snow.

So that ‘in short’ was last January. For January 2011 I’m predicting a more bird focused month once again. I’m looking out for returning winter visitors like the Fieldfare, Tree Sparrow and a perhaps Blackcap passing through. Of course… any new visitors will be more than welcome :-)

With the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch in mind over the last weekend of the month I had planned some bird profiles to help out with ID’s for those new to this event. I’ve had one almost complete on the Dunnock siting in draft for a few months. I really should start with it. That is the plan anyway :-)

The thing about a gardenwatch blog is that I do try to keep things current when I can. On occasions, some posts that have been almost ready to publish can get put back and never see the light of a monitor screen.

On the positive side, I’ve lots of photos and stories of visits still to tell. I’m predicting February will be a more plant garden/plant focused month. Lol… that is the plan anyway :-)