Thursday, 22 August 2013

Replacement birdbath bowl

Replacing the bowl part of my favourite birdbath was something I never considered after two extremely cold winters finally took their toll and it split completely in two! I never even knew there were replacement bowls available if I went searching online.

Since then, my bowl-less pedestal has lived on as a landing break for birds en route to a ground birdbath set at the top of the rocky slope down to my tiny pond. This location was also chosen as a photo hotspot knowing it could catch morning or soft evening light. It has worked a treat for both.

Juvenile House Sparrow back on July 21st, 2013.

Experimenting with natural backgrounds for photo and video captures of visiting garden birds is something I have had fun with. As my blogging years have rolled in, I have found myself setting up and planting areas I can expect to see birds visiting and patiently keep cameras (still and video) to hand.

Last winter’s bamboo landing strip (for periods of thick snowfall covering the garden) also made for a good photo/video hotspot. Birds landed en route to the running water at my tiny pond and to a snow shelter/ low feeding table . In complete contrast to the bare borders of winter this bamboo landing strip has continued to be a success in the jungle of summer foliage and flowers.

Juvenile European Robin back on July 22nd, 2013

Setting up a good sized ground birdbath that evening visiting hedgehogs could drink from, as well as birds during the day, also began as an experiment using a large terracotta plant saucer. Once this became a success I found myself wishing for a more neutral birdbath colour for photos and video. Yes, I have a fussy eye… I know ;-)

The first replacement ground birdbath (large blue/grey plant saucer) has given many fun photo and video opportunities for a number of years, but now its time has come to an end too. The sun had begun to fade the rim and was looking a tad tired. Yes, that fussy eye of mine again ;-)

Juvenile partial albino Blackbird back on October 20th, 2010.

Although I very much encourage birds and other wildlife to my garden I am still very much a plantswoman at heart and how my borders look remain an important part of the gardener that I am. I had tried to accept the large plastic plant saucer by making it part of the border as best I could. I was forever changing the planting around it but it was never going to be perfect.

Garden compromises are something all gardeners learn to accept. Given an ideal world, I would want to keep this ground birdbath location for the pleasure it has given over the years and for those to come. A stone birdbath that blended in with the colours of the sandstone rocks in this area was in my head. I believed my fussy eye would be happy that ;-)

Regular evening Hedgehog visitor back on May 9th, 2009.

A gift of cash, followed by a new online search of birdbath images (I never found any ground birdbaths that caught my eye for my border location) took me to a replacement birdbath bowl and I liked what I saw! There was no glazing, it looked a good colour, it was hand cast, hand finished out of reconstituted stone and it was a good 15” in diameter. I was thrilled with my find and ordered it straight away!

Regular blog visitors please bear with me here – I have a wonderful video capture of this new birdbath in use by a juvenile Blackbird and a group of juvenile House Sparrows below. My video has the bonus of a parent Blackbird coming to the birdbath with food for its young and the young House Sparrows trying to sneak in to the water when the Blackbird had its back turned. I found it all fun to watch and capture. The light colour of the birdbath made for clearer views of the birds in the water too - so a great result all round :-D

Let's take a look at the longer garden view of how the new birdbath fits in to the front side of this pond border. You can see the homemade feeder tree on the right - this is where the birds usually come from. You can also see why the location of the pedestal works as a break spot to the ground and where the bamboo landing strip fits in too.

Birdbath newly installed, the day it arrived, back on August 16th, 2013.

Close-up before and after photos, the small sea holly has been moved since.

Ta-da... and finally... the new replacement birdbath bowl in use...

Juvenile birds in birdbath, 2min 45sec with background music, try HD quality.

It’s too early for a full review of this product, plus I’m not using it on a pedestal which is what it is primarily being sold for. I do suspect the colour will darken a tad but that’s absolutely fine for mine on the ground - perfect really! What my fingers are crossed for is that it survives hard frosts and cold winter temperatures - I want to keep this one :-)

I should add here, I’ve not been given this product for a review. However, I have never been so impressed by the packaging of a product I have received from an online purchase – ever!! I wanted to say… good job and thank-you!

The opened box and close-up detail of the handcrafted birdbath.

My Amazon order stated that delivery could be expected in 6-10 days but being optimistic I doubted it would take that long. My birdbath was being sent direct from the supplier R & H GARDEN who state in their website “Some ornaments may take a little longer due to hand-finishing.” I guess that is why my order arrived on the 10th day - but it was absolutely worth waiting for :-)

Orders of this birdbath can be made directly from the supplier a “long-established family-run company based in the heart of Lincolnshire’s farmland”. As a thank-you, I’d like to add a link direct to their product here . At the time of writing this blog post, the product cost is the same as with Amazon but I cannot comment on any possible difference in delivery times.

FAO: all blog visitors, oops…have I really chatted so long on birdbaths? It may seem over-the-top but I cannot stress enough what adding a dish of water (an old baking tray would even do) can add to a garden. I am guessing that many of you will know this already but pre blog and gardenwatching I never appreciated this at all.

Wishing everyone a great weekend – please do share any birdbath stories you have before you go. Have you a homemade one that works for you? What birds are been visiting your birdbath just now? I’ll take a guess at you’ve had juvenile birds too – which ones?

FAO: Rob, Lyn and Jack Barratt at R & H GARDEN - although the courier’s label was clear and present, I appreciated the black marker, hand written name and address on the outside of my parcel as well as the small sender sticker address to the side. I liked the personal touch. The generous, neatly positioned fragile tape going all the way round in both directions gave me reassurance that before I even opened my parcel I expected it well protected. I wasn’t disappointed. Inside the box I was impressed, not by the amount of bubble wrap in the box, but by the practical way it was used. I have never opened such a neat box! After removing the folded top layer of bubble wrap I came to my bubble wrapped birdbath where the tape was once again so very neatly holding it together - like someone really cared about their product. To the person who wrapped my parcel - you genuinely made me smile opening it :-)

This post was published by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in August 2013.

Monday, 19 August 2013

Wonderful, the Willow Warbler returns!

The brief flash of yellow through dense green foliage outside my gardenwatching window signalled only one bird on Saturday morning! Now... I doubt it was the same bird I have seen pass through this same border, at around the same time of year, in the past two years (I suspect heading South on migration) but I am sure on ID this time :-)

The Chiffchaff is very similar in appearance to the Willow warbler and very often it is pretty difficult to tell them apart. As they both quickly bounce their way through shrubs and dense planting (probably looking for insects to feed on) glimpses of these birds in a garden are exactly that – glimpses!

Not expecting to see anything out of the ordinary on Saturday morning (peanut feeders heavily laden with House Sparrows and Starlings) as I sat doing a bird count over breakfast, I took my video camera off the tripod. What a shame that was, I’d have loved to capture a piece of video footage of a Willow warbler visiting my garden as a record. However, I did have my still camera on the tripod… and I could reach it in time ;-)

The big question now is… how do you tell the difference between a Willow warbler and a Chiffchaff? During my blogging years, I have found leg colour is always a good place to start. If you scroll back up to the photos above and look at the legs in the first three images you will see that they are pale in colour (almost pink tinged) making this bird a Willow warbler. The legs of the Chiffchaff are dark in colour (blackish) so you now have clue number one.

Clue number two (if you have a series of photos to look more closely) is the shape of the head. The last photo above shows that the Willow warbler has a fairly flat head where the Chiffchaff has a much rounder head. Okay, that’s not such an easy clue I grant you.

Searching for images on the difference between the Willow warbler and the Chiffchaff, I came across a blog by the SWT reserve up in Montrose Basin that helped me. If you click on the link at the end of the info text it will take you to the blog with a side by side photo showing the two birds for comparison which I found interesting.

"Both species are from the Phylloscopus genera, meaning they are closely related, being reflected in their appearance. They are both small birds with slender bill and legs, short narrow tails and grey-green upper feathers. Identification is also made harder by the fact that they are always on the move, darting around the foliage, meaning even the most experienced of birdwatchers may have several willow-chaffs sightings in their notebooks. But don’t fear, there are ways to tell them apart.

The easiest way to tell the two apart is by their leg colour. Chiffchaffs have dark brown legs whilst Willow Warblers have very light brown, almost pinkish legs. There can, however, be exceptions to the rule, with some Willow Warblers having darker legs than usual, although this is uncommon. In general Willow Warblers are slightly lighter than Chiffchaffs, with their under parts being more yellow than those of the duller Chiffchaff, although this can be very hard to distinguish when they aren’t side by side."
Scottish Wildlife Trust, Montrose Basin Blog. May 19, 2013.

For the more experienced bird watcher, I suspect it will be the songs and calls between birds that is considered the best for ID – probably before a sighting is even made. A song or call wouldn’t have helped with my garden visitor (even if I were to know it) as I was indoors. However, after reading about the ‘chiff-chaff’ sound I decided it might be interesting to look it up. You can hear the song of both the Chiffchaff and the Willow warbler below.

"If you get to know the songs of the two birds, however, then it’s usually the easiest way to tell them apart, with the two songs being noticeably different. The Chiffchaff’s song is one of the easiest to identify out of all the warbler’s with it simply repeating the sound –chiff-chaff, chiff-chaff’. The Willow Warbler in contrast has a much more melodic song, starting softly, followed by a liquid series of descending notes and usually ending in a flourish."
Scottish Wildlife Trust, Montrose Basin Blog. May 19, 2013.

Finally, my searching for information on the Willow warbler led me to one more interesting fact on this bird and one that might explain why it is seen in the same area of my garden every time it is spotted. Okay, perhaps this is a bit of a leap in coincidence but it appears that the Willow warbler is known to be faithful to particular sites both in summer and winter. Ah… so it must be returning to my garden… what fun to think that it likes it here… even if it is just passing through ;-)

Does anyone else see this behavior? Is anyone else seeing Willow warblers visiting gardens just now? If you aren’t a blogger reading this and are unable to leave a comment, please do email me using the address in my sidebar and I’ll add your comment :-)

Extra... Extra... just found a very detailed video on identifying the Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff this morning (after post was originally published). For those that want even more details...

This is not my video, it was produced by Pete Mella. Suggest you select best quality option.

If you are short on time, here's another video with clear narration explaining the differences between the Willow warbler and Chiffchaff by the BTO. This video has moving footage of the two birds...

This is not my video, it was produced by the BTO . Suggest you select best quality option.

This post was published by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in August 2013.

Monday, 12 August 2013

A reminder for tonight’s Perseid meteor shower in UK

Fingers crossed we get a clear sky tonight. This annual Perseid meteor shower is something we’d really like to see again! It’s been a few years since we saw it for the first and only time. It was fascinating seeing the meteors flashing through the night sky – quite a spectacle! I strongly recommend this as a must see :-D

There are many stunning images of the Perseids online but the one, I like, below is the closest to the sight we witnessed from our garden (without the warm glow). I might attempt photos if we get a clear sky tonight but I am no way remotely proficient enough in night photography so don’t expect a blog with my images ;-)

The image shown above of a Perseid meteor shower (August 2009),
taken in Austin Texas, is not my work. It was available at Wikipedia.
This image was originally posted to Flickr by jaredten

Wonderfully there is no special equipment required to see the meteors as this is a sky event that you can see with the naked eye. I’ll leave it to the experts at The Royal Astronomical Society to tell you all about it and what you might expect to see…

The evening of 12 August and morning of 13 August see the annual maximum of the Perseids meteor shower. This year prospects for watching this natural firework display are particularly good.

Meteors (popularly known as 'shooting stars') are the result of small particles entering the Earth's atmosphere at high speed. These heat the air around them, causing the characteristic streak of light seen from the ground. For the Perseids the material comes from the tail of Comet Swift-Tuttle, which last passed near the Earth in 1992. This shower of meteors appears to originate from a 'radiant' in the constellation of Perseus, hence the name.

The shower is active each year from around 17 July to 24 August, although for most of that period only a few meteors an hour will be visible. From the UK the best time to see the Perseids shower is likely to be from late evening on 12 August to the morning of 13 August, when as many as 60 meteors an hour may be seen. This year prospects for the shower are relatively good, as the Moon is a waxing crescent and from most of the UK will have set by 2230 BST, meaning that its light will not interfere significantly with the view.

Unlike many celestial events, meteor showers are straightforward to watch and for most people, the best equipment to use is simply your own eyes. Advice from longstanding meteor observers is to wrap up well and set up a reclining chair to allow you to look up at the sky in comfort. If possible it also helps to be in a dark site away from artificial light and have an unobstructed view of the sky.

Although the number of visible meteors is hard to predict accurately, you can expect to see one at least every few minutes. They mostly appear as fleeting streaks of light lasting less than a second, but the brightest ones leave behind trails of vaporised gases and glowing air molecules that may take a few seconds to fade.
Perseid meteors to light up summer skies

Wishing you clear skies and a fun night viewing :-)

This post was published by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in August 2013.

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Final weekend for UK Butterfly Count

Tomorrow (Sunday 11th August) is the last day for counting butterflies for this year’s survey by Butterfly Conservation here in the UK. This weekend, if you are out in your garden, in a park or out on a walk anywhere, all they ask is you note down how many individual butterflies you can see at any one time during a period of 15 minutes.

Big Butterfly Count 2013, 20th July – 11th August

Last Saturday, a sunny pleasant day, I took my lunch outdoors with camera and phone. There were white butterflies about so I knew I would have some stats to select using the free smartphone app which is new for this year. It was fun to add sightings this way and you could expand each butterfly for more info which was useful too.

I’d say the free Big Butterfly Count App available for IOS and Android phones is perfect for those fairly new to butterfly ID’s like myself. I’d also say it is a brilliant way to get young people involved. Congrats to the Big Butterfly Count on using technology – I’m certain this will be a success! The deadline for submitting results is the end of August.

Ooops… remember that recommended rule on using technology… that well known one… save what you are working on! Ahem… I've just discovered I didn’t :-0. Okay, I didn’t see a large number of butterflies and I can remember what I saw (plus I took photos shown below). I should add here that I could have sent my results via my phone immediately after I had finished my count as the App had requested my location to use it. Ah well… please do learn from my mistake if you are out and about with your phone this weekend:-)

The 2013 Big Butterfly Count Results, from the shirls gardenwatch garden are...

2x Small Whites (Pieris rapae ) were spotted – carder bees were seen joining them :-)

1x Green-veined White (Pieris napi) in photo on right.
It’s easy to see how it can be mistaken for the Small White (on left) in the distance.
Not to scale here, but the Green-veined is slightly smaller.

2x Small Tortoiseshells (Aglais urticae) – such a pretty one to see in garden.

Wandering away (with cup of tea) from my back door camera spot, I spotted 1x Large White (Pieris brassicae) on another recently planted Erysimum Bowles' Mauve (no photo). After many years of enjoying this plant at a sunny front door spot I thought I’d try a few locations in my back garden that get a reasonable amount of sun. It appears to be a success and I am enjoying seeing more butterflies from my gardenwatching window now :-D

Finally, 2x garden blog posts in 2 days, after a lean period of posting, won’t be expected from anyone still following this blog must be a bit of a shock! Yes, you can pick yourself up from the floor now ;-)

Sorry I’m late with this mention on Butterfly Count. My final tally was just 6x Butterflies but I know every count no matter how small really does help with butterfly conservation so please do send them in :-)

If you missed yesterday’s blog post, it was on my newest garden visitor, a Prehistoric garden visitor . Mmm… I wonder how long butterflies have been around? Does anyone know?

This post was published by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in August 2013.

Friday, 9 August 2013

Prehistoric garden visitor?

I really should be getting bored by now – but really, honestly I’m not. This prehistoric Perthshire garden blog (7yrs old this Nov) which promotes gardenwatching still has me taking video and photographs with the same enthusiasm and delight at seeing something new from my garden window or out and about as it ever did - perhaps even more!

So I have a prehistoric garden visitor now? Haha… not quite… but my newest garden visitor (albeit a brief sighting/video capture whist on the phone) seriously reminds me of a male Velociraptor. Yep… now… that is a big leap I grant you but leaping is something they both have common here as are those big beady eyes! They are both smart too… that’s another clue to my newest visitor… a big clue.

Let me introduce the smart new youngster, one I have never seen feeding in my garden before… another gardenwatching 1st…

Juvenile Magpie in garden, 33sec video with background music, try HD quality.

Being smart, like most newly fledged birds, I’m guessing the juvenile Magpie shown above that was spotted feeding on peanuts in a hanging bird feeder earlier this week probably followed a parent to my garden. However, I very seldom see a Magpie in my garden so perhaps it was watching other birds eat from this feeder.

On previous gardenwatching, I have noticed the other Corvids like the Jackdaw have a liking for peanuts. Although I have never seen Jackdaws feed from a caged feeder like this one did with its large beak! The Jackdaws have been seen demonstrating the crash, grab and go method at seed feeders with peanuts!

Photographs have been a huge part of my garden blog. Their main role is as a record shot of a visitor and they have been valuable in helping me find ID’s for all garden visitors – not just birds. Quality can vary, but I have fun trying to getter better images with different backgrounds throughout the seasons. I have never seen my blog as a Garden Photography Blog but thank-you Notcutts.

Video grabs are another way to get still images for blogs and I have often found this has thrown up details/moments I missed during filming. It can be a lot of fun picking which video frame to grab (a lot of trial and error too).

Raptors in a particular scene in one of the Jurassic Park films came instantly to mind when I took stills from the video above – but which film was it in? Now… that ended up being a bigger challenge than I thought! Take a good look at the stills below - can you guess which film scene I was thinking of...

Perhaps you’ve never watched the The Jurassic Park Trilogy? The film scene I was thinking of comes from Jurassic Park 3 when a female character finds a raptor looking back at her through a glass vat. You can view this scene 0.34 seconds in on the video below.

The group comes across the abandoned InGen compound. They explore the compound and find large vats of liquid with the preserved remains of young dinosaurs inside. Amanda is attacked by a male Velociraptor, who had been waiting in ambush behind a vat, appearing to be inside. As they flee, the rest of the raptor pack joins in the pursuit.
MOVIECLIPS plot info

Jurassic Park 3 (4/10) Movie CLIP - Raptor Ambush (2001) HD by MOVIECLIPS

Hehe… you might want to run if find yourself in the garden this weekend and you hear the sound of a Magpie…

Haha… what fun writing a blog post can be! Wishing you a fun weekend and lots of interesting gardenwatching. There have been many juvenile birds visiting here, lots of bees and some butterflies too – what are your newest and most popular garden visitors just now?

This post was published by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in August 2013.