Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Caught in the act…

That would be the Blackbird, on the Cotoneaster tree with a berry its mouth! I've spent ages trying to catch a berry in the mouth like this. Pity the light was poor but I'm still pleased with my capture.

Who eats the berries in your garden? Perhaps, like me, you have planted especially to feed the birds. What shrubs and trees would you recommend for attracting/feeding birds at this time of year?

Here in my small garden the only berries I have for the birds (at the moment) are on a fairly small tree. The RSPB chat about Birds and Berries here where they go on to say:

“The winter is a good time to consider planting fruit and berry bearing trees or bushes in the garden. As well as the many native berry-bearing species (including rowan, holly, whitebeam, spindle, dog rose, guelder rose, elder, hawthorn, honeysuckle and ivy), attractive shrubs like cotoneaster, pyracantha and berberis are especially good for a wide range of birds.

Berry and fruit bearing trees provide food for a range of insects and animals, too: hedgehogs, badgers, mice, squirrels and even foxes will all happily feed on them. All sorts of fruit are attractive to insects, and if you leave them where they fall in the late summer and autumn they will attract numerous butterflies to their syrupy goodness.

Fallen fruit can also provide birds with a cold-weather treat: pop some in the freezer, and save it for the winter bird table.”

Now, that’s interesting… I didn’t know hedgehogs would eat berries too. At the moment, we’ve a regular young hedgehog feeding up on crushed unsalted peanuts, dried mealworms and sunflower hearts. I am thrilled to be able to help it just now.

I’ve had my night cam out watching in the evening after seeing two hedgehogs visiting the ground bird feeders last week. That was a surprise sighting. I guess they are taking advantage of the late feeding opportunities to fuel their winter hibernation. Soon our temps will drop and we won’t see them again until Spring.

Pre blog I never considered the Ivy growing up and over my Pergola would flower and produce berries. Lol... call me a plants person... I know :-o

I planted the ivy Sulphur Heart (shown above) on a trellis along one length. I planted it purely as a wind break and sun shelter to be completely honest. I do prune it to encourage growth and keep it as a neat backdrop for the plants in the border in front of it. I was surprised when I started to see the odd looking ball shaped flowers it had.

As the Ivy ‘took hold’ on my pergola, pruning the higher growth became difficult and as a result more flowers were beginning to cover the top. Getting photos became tricky too but as I now know black berries may follow the flowers I am very keen to see them.

Back at the beginning of the month, another Ivy (shown above) was already ahead of the Sulphur Heart and fully in flower. This was a small, shiny dark leafed common ground covering one that I spotted growing (not planted by me) under my hedge. I pulled pieces up and started training it up the pillars of my Pergola. Gosh… it has grown some since and has had many flowers this year.

Taking a look out a bedroom window I could see the extent of flower coverage after spotting large numbers of insects visiting one sunny, blue sky day at the beginning of the month.

I caught some video footage from the ground level with my camera strongly tilted back on my tripod. I hoped we’d get another day like this where I would get up on a ladder with my video camera to get a closer look at the variety of insects that were feeding there. We didn’t… but the video below has caught enough of the feeding frenzy on the ivy flowers...

It’s wild, wet and windy here just now so maybe I’ll just lean out an upstairs window again to see if we have berries yet. If we do there will be lots and of great interest to the birds in the coming months. I’ll try to get up a ladder to get a closer look before we get snow and ice.

Now, I wonder if my garden birds will actually eat the ivy berries. Has anyone seen them do this? If so, which birds? I’m guessing it would be the Blackbirds and Thrushes :-)

This post was written and published by Shirley at shirls gardenwatch in November 2011.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Let me entertain you...

Let me… invite you to enjoy the video below and come up with captions (should I have a competition?) for the following selection of images of a Grey Squirrel eating apple whilst visiting my garden earlier this week.

Being honest, I didn’t know they ate apples but it seems like they are not so popular with people growing them. I do know Grey Squirrels can be a serious pest but… you can’t tell me they aren’t entertaining to watch too :-)

Living in Scotland , generally regarded as last stronghold (here in the UK) for native Red Squirrels which I adore to see BTW, I shouldn’t be enjoying seeing the Grey at all. However, I don’t see it often. They are such a brief visitor to my garden (usually only in November for a few days) I can’t bring myself to dislike them.

I've added had fun with some upbeat background music here... watch the volume on your speakers :-)

Doing the whole Yin & Yang thing I should promote a website that is protecting our wonderful, charismatic and threatened Red Squirrel. In all honesty, I do support our native Red whole heartedly and the link I am giving is to pages covering the whole UK.

It’s been a wild windy night here but I’m thrilled to share that I’ve seen some hedgehogs on my night cams tonight. That is great news! No video caught tonight but I did see two hogs visit last night and captured some video of them then :-)

Now… the big question now is… would anyone want to be entertained by some live images of hedgehogs visiting my garden?

Oh yes… and to all my US blogging friends… hope you’ve enjoyed a great Thanksgiving :-D

This post was written by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in November 2011.

Monday, 21 November 2011

A Treecreeper to celebrate 5 yrs blogging!

My blog (shirls gardenwatch) has officially been online for 5yrs as of the weekend just passed. Wow… I honestly can’t believe it myself! It all began with a video of the European Robin from my garden for a homesick friend in Australia. I had absolutely no thoughts on how long I would keep it going – until Spring the next year?

During the last five years, this gardener and plants person has continued to garden and move plants as much as I always have. Many garden borders have changed, changed and changed again. In this time, my garden has evolved (slowly at first) into a wildlife garden. This wasn’t something I had planned. I can’t imagine my garden any other way now.

As a plants person, planting combinations with colour and texture still matter. Propagation by division has developed many areas with ground cover which cuts down on maintenance.

More importantly for me now though is how the ground cover affords safety for birds, hedgehogs and other creatures making their way around my garden. Don’t laugh now, but now I do consider hedgehogs when spacing evergreen plants so they always have a few ways through :-)

So where do you begin in a post to mark five years of blogging?

I could recount many sightings and re-post a variety of photo montages and videos - keeping you far too long and probably boring you silly if you've heard the stories before.

How do you find best bits over five years anyway?

I had thought a video would be good but alas… that old thing called time ran out. Cake anyone?

So, what are the chances of being at a window to see a bird that I never imagined I’d ever get the opportunity to see in my garden (no mature trees) appearing just a few days before my 5th Blogaversary? I’d say perfect timing for a celebration… a new blogging year lies ahead with new discoveries within a small garden. Now, before we chat Treecreeper...

My thanks go to everyone that has answered my queries and requests for advice with my blog and my garden visitors. Although huge now, the blogging world is still a very welcoming place. To my fellow bloggers, I’d like to say a huge thank-you for your friendship, links and comments over the last five years. I know how very difficult it can be to keep up with both new and old blogs. I very much appreciate your loyalty.

I dearly hope my enthusiasm for enjoying the mini wildlife reserves that our gardens can become has been a little infectious to blog visitors via searches, blog rolls, feeds or comments. After five years it would be great to think there are a few more nestboxes in gardens, bird feeders up, hedgehogs getting fed and plants being planted that feed bees, butterflies and other insects. That would be just brilliant :-)

However, I am not alone in my blogging enthusiasm. It has been wonderful to exchange chat with garden, bird & wildlife bloggers and enthusiasts over the last five years. I was a bit wary of the blog/email chatting at first but now I can’t imagine my blog without it.

Next, I’d like to apologise once again for my absence with postings, comments and blog visiting recently. I keep saying I'm back to posting and something comes along and takes up my time and attention.

What are the chances of two family members having a Laparoscopy within 9 weeks of each other? It was my youngest daughter this time and her appendix was finally removed. My husband is continuing to improve. Thanks again for all your good wishes for his health. It has been a scary and exhausting time that’s for sure.

So with everyone on the mend, let’s get back to the business of celebrating five years of blogging with our newest garden visitor but first I have to admit to…

Pre blog my bird identification was pretty much in the category of “oh… there’s a robin, blackbird, blue tit and what’s that little brown bird – a housesparrow?” I used a basic camera for holidays, days out and special occasions. I didn’t have bird feeders in my garden. Phew... that's my conscience cleared :-)

This morning, in complete contrast, a DSLR camera (with zoom lens) was sitting on a tripod beside my window… and a wildlife camera was outside showing live images on the corner of my monitor desktop. Both cameras were pointing in the direction of a tree.

The tree in question (shown above) is my red barked palmatum 'Sango-kaku'. Why such interest? My blog post title says all.

Last week a Treecreeper Certhia familiaris was spotted jerkily creeping round and up the slim trunk and branches of it. I couldn’t believe it. Although my camera was at hand I was too fascinated by what I was seeing that I never picked it up.

Yep… five years on I was able to spot and instantly ID a small brown creeping bird with a white underside. Wow… I knew this was a special visitor! I would dearly love if it became a regular (not getting carried away though as that’s probably not likely) as this is a wonderful little bird to watch. I feel quite privileged that it came to feed in my garden.

Since adding our first garden bird feeders (just 2 months before my blog began when my daughter was doing a school bird project) I have enjoyed watching the variety of birds that have visited my garden. I began taking photos or video of any new visitors so I could research what they were and what foods they liked to eat. I then started experimenting with feeders and foods. More birds came…

The Treecreeper that I spotted in my garden (certain on ID) last Monday morning has taken my garden bird species total to a staggering 31! I honestly can’t believe this. The majority of birds that are now regular visitors to my garden (like the finches) I had never seen (in or outside my garden) before I sat with my daughter trying to help her ID birds at a window for her project. Wow!

I have seen Treecreepers a few times at SWT Reserve Loch of the Lowes. It has been towards the end of the day we have spotted them. The image below was taken there yesterday after a brief visit. Being truthful, I went hoping to get a photo. I did...

Have you any guesses as to why I have joined this image with a coal tit (on the right, taken in my garden a few years ago)? Well the clue is in the word join :-)

Last Monday when I spotted the Treecreeper in my garden I was very much aware that there was a lot of activity at the feeders by Coal tits, Blue tits and Great tits. There was quite a crowd of them. When I was at Loch of the Lowes yesterday I spotted lots there too. I started to wonder if there was a connection. I picked up my books when I got home. Ah…

For those that don’t know, in winter, Treecreepers will often join in with mixed tit flocks. They like to take advantage of other eyes looking out for food. It helps keep them safe from danger too. It is also suggested that you are twice as likely to see a Treecreeper during winter months.

Oh wait a minute… what was I reading? Goldcrests and small warblers do the same… Ooooo!

What else was I reading? Ah… peanut cakes rubbed into tree trunks or similar surfaces might attract Treecreepers. Now… I had a tub of natural (unsalted ) crunchy peanut butter in my shed… bought for the birds :-)

This morning, as soon as it was bright enough to see in my shed I found my tub of peanut butter. I also found a handmade tree branch feeder I bought on a visit to Loch of the Lowes two years ago. Starlings showed too much interest with this feeder as it had wine corks nailed to it as perches. It was taken down.

The close-up insert in the garden image (seen earlier above) shows the tree branch feeder (with cork perches removed) jammed in and tied to a branch junction on the Acer tree where the Treecreeper was spotted. Some peanut butter was spread into the holes. Not too much, don’t want to attract too much attention at this stage. We don’t want Starlings descending and scaring away the Treecreeper!

The big question now is… did I see a Treecreeper feed from this feeder today? Nope… but that would have just been too easy! Oh… I also spread some peanut butter on a few pine cones I pulled off a small tree in my garden. I jammed them into tree branch junctions too. A Blue tit has spotted one of them :-)

So, there you have it… a new challenge in gardenwatching to start a 6th year of blogging. What fun I find these feeder challenges. Of course, if a Treecreeper does return… the challenge of getting photos and video will then begin :-)

Enjoy the challenges in your garden be they growing plants or encouraging birds and wildlife. Looking through our windows, our gardens can be pure theatre to watch with a cast of many - especially at this time of year. Thanks for garden watching with me :-D

This post was written by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in November 2011.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Wild Flowers via some housekeeping

There’s nothing quite like a good de-clutter is there? The time has come for my (never really updated) plant photos blog to go. However, I do want to keep one post after getting help from other bloggers with it. This post was originally published back in July 2007 and linked to from this blog.

The images below were all taken on a family holiday in North Wales and the Isle of Anglesey. On this holiday I decided to have wild flowers as the topic for my camera. I have to admit I found it fun scanning the verges as we sped by in the car - I wasn't driving of course :-)

I was thrilled with my collection of images at the time even though (different camera) many are a bit out of focus – I could barely stand with the strong winds when many were taken! However, I am not a wild flower expert so I invited suggestions from the wild flower enthusiasts to help identify these plants by comments or email. I found that great fun too.

Identification thanks went to Bloggers Celia at Purple Podded Peas and Sara at Farming Friends . There's a few left without ID's so if anyone has any suggestions please do add them in a comment, thanks :-)

C1 - Spear Thistle, C2 - Creeping Thistle,

C3 - Marsh Thistle perhaps?

D1 & D2 - Self Heal - seed head & flower head (Thanks, Celia)

D3 - Red Deadnettle (Thanks, Celia)

E1 - Lesser Trefoil or Black medick ? tricky with only flower (Thanks, Celia)

E2 - Common Centaury & E3 - Ribwort Plantain (Thanks, Celia)

F1 to F3 - Clovers in various stages of growth

G1 & G3 - Any suggestions?

G2 - Himalayan Balsam
(Thanks, Celia)

H1 - Herb Robert - a type of wild hardy geranium (Thanks, Celia)

H2 - Common Mallow (Thanks, Celia) H3 - Bell heather

I1 to I3 - Bird’s Foot Trefoil (Thanks, Celia)

J1 - Scarlet Pimpernel? ( Thanks, Celia

J2 - Fox-and-cubs (Philosella aurantiaca) orange hawkweed

J3 - Any suggestions?

K1 - K3 Hawkweed - various forms (Thanks, Sara).
When I photographed these flowers,
I had no idea how varied the petal structures were.

L1 - Hawkweed again (Sara suggests). At the time, I thought
it was a dandelion but on looking again at the original photo
I agreed it could be Hawkweed (Thanks, Sara)

L2 - Perforate St John's Wort. I thought so (Thanks, Sara)

L3 - Ranunculus but leaves would help to identify whether it is
the creeping buttercup or the lesser spearwort (Thanks, Sara).
I looked again at the original photo and looking at the foliage
I agreed it could be a spearwort - but perhaps the greater one?

M1 - Cabbage family but need leaves to identify (Thanks, Sara).
This was a very windy shot and all foliage was blurred.

M2 - Lady's Bedstraw (Thanks, Celia)

M3 - Tormentil, I thought - Sara agreed (Thanks, Sara)

N2 - Soldier beetle & N3 - Ladybird. I also came across
many insects including bees and the occasional mushroom!

O1 - Red Valerian (Thanks, Celia)

O2 - White Cinquefoil (Thanks, Sara)

O3 – Any suggestions?

P1 - Hogweed? (leaves would confirm) (Thanks, Celia)
P2 - Yarrow (Thanks, Celia)

P3 - Bindweed( - large perhaps?
(Bindweed spotted growing twining through plants up a wall)

Q1 – Bramble flowers?

Q2 – Bramble fruits?

Q3 – Dead nettle? If so which one?

R1 - Maidenhair spleenwort (Asplenium trichomanes)
R2 - Barley grass perhaps
small low grass
(photo taken at the top of the great Orme in Llandudno).

R3 - Rusty-back fern (Ceterach officinarum) spotted growing in walls.

This has been fun revisiting this posting although I suspect many regular visitors to this blog may have missed it first time round. I hope you enjoy this little look back at some summer flowering wild flowers especially now that our gardens are winding down for the year. Oh yes… and if you can help me with any ID’s that would be great :-)

Now… wait a minute… I think I have some pkts of wild flower seeds somewhere. Perhaps more house keeping is required there too.

Have you fav wild flowers growing in your garden? Red Campion (introduced by me) is perhaps a little too well settled in my garden and I’m hoping Lady’s smock (the Cuckoo flower) will do the same :-D

This post was written by Shirley at shirls gardenwatch
in connection with this original posting
Wild Flowers July 2007

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Garden Fireworks & Wildlife

Catherine wheels (Japanese Anemone flowers), Sparklers (Catmint, Red Campion & Erysimum)…

Fountains (Verbena Bonariensis)…

Fireworks fizzled out on the ground (Hosta & Fern)…

Wood stacked for bonfires…

Don’t worry… I’m not making a bonfire in the shady (back of the fence) border shown above. I’m not planning a big tidy up here either… except for a little weeding and the winter protection for my Gunnera.

However, looking for shelter, wildlife will wander for into a stacked pile of wood pallets set out for a bonfire just the same as they would this wild(ish) corner of my garden. I’d say the advice of not building a bonfire until the day it will be lit is a good one. Hopefully the mostly nocturnal hedgehogs, mice, frogs and toads will not shelter in them and stay safe.

Coming back to November’s garden fireworks we have the crackles (aka weeds & dried broken flower stems)…

Next we have the smaller gentle rockets (short stemmed seed heads)…

Cover your ears now for the Grand Finale (tree seen from window glowing with evening sun last night)…

Phew… no firework accidents! Do take care if you are handling fireworks in your garden tonight. Sometimes fireworks appear in places you don’t expect (new mealworm feeder hidden in small Acer tree)…

You might come across a hidden/missing firework and not know if it is safe or not (Blue tit discovered this new feeder after just ten minutes)…

I’m guessing many cameras will be out in force tonight trying to capture the colourful displays. I suspect tonight/tomorrows blogs will have lots of great images.

I never considered the camera opportunities this morning’s newly located (hidden) feeder would afford me… it’s going to an excellent photo spot :-)

Finally, I can’t let this post go without a birthday mention… my eldest daughter was 21 this week (Halloween) and tonight she is back in the Granite City to celebrate with her friends. She’s beginning with the organised fireworks display at the beach

Wishing wildlife and everyone watching firework displays a great and safe night tonight… looking forward to seeing the photos and hearing all about it :-)

This post was written by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in November 2011