Friday, 23 December 2016

Red squirrel inside feeder during sleet shower

Christmas came early this year with the arrival of red squirrels to the garden. What a great privilege this has been to see. We’ve had another garden sighting of two red squirrels at the same time but this time them both got a start at seeing the other and ran off in different directions. Both were seen using the feeder.

After the successful brief trial of a clothes peg to prop open the feeder it has certainly been well used! It’s been a great distraction from the rushing around at this time of year – when I’ve been at home long enough to see it :-)

An update to my experience using a squirrel feeder, that I would like to pass on after seeing the squirrel inside it, is that if you only fill it one third full the nuts inside have more of a chance of staying dry longer. As there is then more space inside, you might see it being used as in indoor feeder during wet and wintry weather. Good luck with your homemade squirrel feeder John - good job there :-)

You can see in the video below that a visiting red squirrel, during a sleet shower, was quite comical to watch. The lighting was poor but you can still see it inside. By the smear marks on the perspex of the feeder it looks like it’s a common occurrence for red squirrels to dine indoors ;-)

Please note before playing (1 min) I couldn't resist adding a bit of music here.
Also, take a closer look at the beginning of the 2nd clip, you can see how a
squirrel baffle must work as it struggles to go upwards under feeder.

As I uploaded my video just now, one individual (or was it?) was running back and forth again feeding both inside and by stretching from the outside. More stashing of nuts in the wet garden borders were seen too. As much as I would love to sit here gardenwatching longer, there is much Christmas prep awaiting my attention! I'm not alone there, I know :-)

Before I run like the wind to get things done, I’d like to wish you all a very HAPPY CHRISTMAS and to thank-you for visiting and leaving comments for another year. I haven’t quite managed to post the updates I would have liked but I’ll catch up on them at some point over the winter months. Keep warm and safe. Best wishes to you all, Shirley x

This post was published by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in December 2016.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Wordless Wednesday: Ivy Diners, Sept 30

This post was published by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in December 2016.

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Clothes peg help for red squirrels

Fantastic news, red squirrels have continued to visit the garden and are showing just how photogenic they are. When they stay still long enough to photograph that is. Video captures are another matter entirely, more patience and the right timing is required there.

It's fair to say that red squirrels are keeping me alert at my gardenwatch window. However, I'm no longer looking to the mature trees outside the garden for visiting Waxwings to the area. Oh dear, via twitter chat, it appears that good numbers have been spotted on the street that backs on to my garden! Aw... I guess I can't really complain though given what we've been seeing :-)

Yesterday, after a successful experiment with a clothes peg as a prop to keep the squirrel feeder lid open enough for the nuts inside to be clearly seen, red squirrels managed to work out they could get them out. Yay! Great news for visiting birds too as that leaves the low bird table free for them again. Here's some storytelling images since last time...

DEC 2: What fabulous facial and body expressions the red squirrel has :-)

DEC 2: What endearing little characters, a privilege to be putting food out for :-)

DEC 2: I thought they would have worked out the feeder roof lifted up.

DEC 8: Clothes peg prop, first trial whilst weather stays dry. No result.

DEC 9: Between rain showers, day two with clothes peg prop. A result!

DEC 9: Muddy faced gardening red squirrel, about to hide nuts in the borders.
Magpies are watching you don’t you know, high up in a neighbour's tree :-0

DEC 9: Guerrilla gardening in its wildest form, poor hellebore roots :-0

DEC 9: Stage 2 of the clothes peg prop experiment, it’s removal is a success!

DEC 9: The longer view of the feeder area shows the red squirrel quite comfortable now with lots of options to access feeder. Blackbirds have been enjoying the apple feast as has newly arrived, winter visitor, a female Blackcap:-)

DEC 8: Favourite red squirrel photo capture from kitchen window.
Finger’s crossed they will still be visiting over Christmas and into the New Year.
Ha-ha, I'd better keep the camera out of the kitchen and focus on my cooking!

Finally, yesterday the garden saw yet another major gardenwatch highlight! This one, I’ve seen many times from the observation window at SWT Loch of the Lowes but never in my wildest dreams thought I would EVER see in my garden. We had a red squirrel chase! Round and round the garden they went! Quite intense it got too. How amazing is that, to have red squirrels fighting over a feeding station in my garden! Here's me oblivious, experimenting with a clothes peg prop too ;-)

So it’s clear now, that more than one red squirrel has worked out how to get in the feeder! I naively thought the same squirrel was feeding and stashing nuts for almost 1½ hours yesterday. Further to this revelation, based on photo and video captures, neither have a bare patch of fur on their backs. So that’s confirmation that at least 3 red squirrels have been visiting this small garden, in a small town, with houses all round it. I wonder if other neighbours have noticed them. I hope so :-)

This post was published by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in December 2016.

Friday, 2 December 2016

October butterflies

Sorry, Red squirrel, even if you do make it into the squirrel feeder later you need to take a step back (or run and a jump in your case) and give other garden wildlife a chance to shine today. Yes, you gave me your most funny face yet, yesterday. I know. I got photos too. You watched me take them. Perhaps if you had drunk out of the small pond waterfall trickle when I was inside at my window, where the camera was, instead of creeping up behind me when I was a few feet away making it easier for you to access your feeder... just saying ;-)

Back at the beginning of October it was the Painted lady I was following with my camera. Yes, there were more than the usual numbers of Peacock and Red admiral butterflies then too, but there was just something about the Painted lady that drew me more. Although the weather then saw winds, there were plenty warm sunny days and the butterflies fed well on Verbena bonariensis! Yes, these plants really earned their garden border space this year :-)

OCT 2: Peacock butterfly with tatty, worn wings feeding on verbena bonariensis.
One of many October blue skies and sunny days for butterfly sightings :-)

OCT 2: Red admiral butterfly in partial shade of border plants.
Plant supports helped keep stems of verbena bonariensis up after winds.

OCT 2: Red Admiral and Peacock butterflies navigated the blowing stems.
Tricky to ID when early morning sunlight lights through their wings.

Photographing butterflies is tricky at the best of times, but with considerable plant growth in the borders in October there was much in the way to even see them, without winds. It was fortunate for me that at this time there was seldom just one butterfly, so their movement through the plants caught my attention.

Where worryingly other bloggers reported poor numbers of butterflies this year, we were certainly very lucky here. I’m not saying we had huge numbers, but it was best collection for a few years. They were a joy to see and the draw to stand outdoors with a camera was difficult to shake.

Migrating butterflies like the Painted lady butterflies are long gone. Now, in the first few days of December, our temps are cooling with each day and decorations for Christmas are coming out. I'd like to share what decorated my sunny front garden back in the first few days of October and my last garden butterfly records of the Painted Lady for 2016. She was the last to leave this year :-)

OCT 4: Painted lady feeding on shorter Verbena bonariensis 'Lollipop'.
The orange of the background Californian poppies highlight her orange shades.

OCT 4: Painted lady feeding on lavender, very well camouflaged.
Only when it moved did I notice it there, I’ve never seen this before :-)

OCT 4: Painted lady resting on the white rose, Silver Anniversary.
I’d never associate this delicate butterfly with a rose or cotoneaster berries.

OCT 4: Painted lady feeding on lavender, again and again it fed here.
This is what drew me outdoors to stand with my camera :-)

OCT 4: New - butterflies feeding on lavender not something previously seen.
This high, path strip was a serious buzz of bees back in October :-)

OCT 4: Close views like this were only possible due to raising the border edge.
This was a deliberate height of planting for feeding bees and photography :-)

OCT 4: The lavender swayed back and forth, I loved the blurred purple.
It was hard to see where the Painted lady was at times, fun though :-)

OCT 4: Painted lady demonstrating it’s the small flowers of the lavender
that make this plant such a great food source for pollinating insects :-)

Mmm… tasty food sources… I guess this weekend I’ll need to give some serious thought to menus for over the Christmas period. It’s too early for decorations in this household but ok, you’ve twisted my arm… I’ll end with a splash of seasonal, garden red…

DEC 1: Red squirrel record shot from yesterday. I kid you not, as I uploaded this image the red squirrel has returned and is currently outside my window feeding again! It has also jumped on the roof of the squirrel feeder… getting warmer :-)

This post was published by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in December 2016.

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Wordless Wednesday: Garden video gold

This post was published by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in November 2016.

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Red squirrel number doubles!

It’s fair to say that when a bird, butterfly, damselfly or in this case the red squirrel visits the garden, unless there is more than one at any given time or a distinctive difference in its appearance (like partial albino or missing feathers) you have no idea if it is the same individual returning.

Having never seen a Red squirrel, ever, in my garden until the beginning of the month I never remotely considered there could be more than one visiting. Until late last night that is! Expecting more than one would be just pure greed wouldn’t it?

Keen to publish as many of blog posts as I can before the end of the year, browsing photo folders, I discovered a few red squirrel photos (taken only as quick, hand-held record shots by the look of the focussing in them). Blurry photos are easy captures with red squirrels when they move so fast.

Very fortunate it was then, that I hovered ever so slightly over my PC mouse before clicking delete. Something caught my eye in these blurry and rather heavily orange toned, red squirrel captures. The date revealed they were taken the next day after we were witness to a red squirrel running around the garden stashing peanuts - expecting it to return would be no surprise.

Just four shaky photos confirmed two red squirrels have visited the garden this month. Actually, within two days. Wow, November 19th saw shirls gardenwatch reach ten yrs old and what a reward this is! That is just fantastic news. Now, I will photograph every red squirrel I am fortunate enough to see and compare markings and colouring :-)

It’s time for introductions now…

Nov 16th: The red squirrel that stashed peanuts in every border of the garden.
For winter (snow) I stashed part of our pruned rowan tree trunk in a border
as a perch for birds. I could never have imagined a red squirrel would use it :-)

Nov 17th: Red squirrel No.2 with colouring more orange. I failed to edit tones to match so clearly they don’t. A closer look half way along its back reveals the biggest difference and confirmation they are at least two indiviuals visiting.

Nov 17th: Red squirrel No.2 side view showing bare area of body fur on back.
I am guessing a left over from moulting. Perhaps it’s my imagination, but this individual looks less confident about its head suggesting it could be young.

Nov 16th: The stashing peanut red squirrel again for comparison.
After much searching this photo shows best available like for like view.
There are both dark and blonde tones in the tail of this individual too.

So there we have it, November 2016 gets the award for the best blog month out of ten years’ gardenwatching! It’s still got one more day to go yet too and this lunchtime, from my gardenwatch window, a large group of Redwings and Fieldfares were spotted in the distant tree again. The likelihood of being at home at the right time tomorrow , should they descend to my garden apple offering, is very low. But never say never :-)

Ah yes, I shouldn’t forget to add that I did see on twitter last night that Waxwings were seen a few streets away yesterday lunchtime! They were most likely passing by en route south, but fantastic to think they have been in the area too. I’m not being greedy with them either, they are quite special winter visiting birds too. I’ll be happy to just see them in the distant tree where the Redwings perch :-)

This post was published by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in November 2016.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Song thrush on alert

Earlier in November it was a Song Thrush that was catching my eye through my gardenwatch windows. Quick, bouncy steps and fast runs it took through garden borders before disappearing under the hedge, in a way quite similar to the red squirrel currently visiting the garden. However, this Song Thrush was much more cautious. Photo captures revealed it perhaps had reason to be too!

Gosh… would you just believe it? Something moving out my window, this sunny Sunday morning, has just distracted my eye causing me to look up and see a Song thrush, out in the open, feeding on an apple I spiked on a bamboo cane! This sort of wildlife timing, when I’ve been writing a blog, has spookily happened many times over my blogging years.

The video camera was on the tripod this time. I collected a very brief clip before my very slow movement towards the camera scared the Song thrush away. Ah, well. Was it the same bird as earlier in the month?

That I can’t tell, but there will be clues to look out for if it returns to feed on this or any of the other apples currently spiked on branches to attract the groups of Fieldfares and Redwings currently flying over the garden towards the berries on my neighbour's Rowan tree.

I’m loving the increased bird activity around the garden just now. I’m also enjoying looking out, over my garden hedge, towards a few very tall, mature trees that are very popular look-out and sunning spots for passing groups of birds. Large groups are gathering on them just now and it was on one of these trees I spotted Waxwings a few years back.

The apple feeding song thrush has just returned and it doesn’t look like it is the same one either! That’s fantastic news as this species that is on the ‘red’ endangered list here in the UK. Perhaps, when the rowan berries run out, the fieldfares and redwings will follow it here :-)

For now though, I’d like to share the visit of a nervous Song thrush that visited the garden back on November 12th. At the time, I was delighted that my recent shrub move, to give birds some shelter from predators, was used for that purpose so soon after it was planted :-)

A small skimmia, with a few branches trimmed back makes a great shelter.

Tufts in back feathers made this song thrush easily recognisable.

Once out in the open, it was spotted ducking it’s head low, I couldn’t see why.

Resting its head on the stone, it made me think of ospreys lying flat down
when predators fly over their nest. I've seen that a few times.

Then it looked up to the house roof, woodpigeons often wander along there.

Alert over then, a muddy beak suggests it found food around the pond.
Tiny bits of duck weed on its feet suggest it was in the water.

Nope, something up on the roof is still making it nervous.

It’s doubtful that it’s a Sparrowhawk as it would have made a move by now.

Perhaps, it’s time to take cover again. Shrubs really can be great for wildlife.
I found that positioning them in areas where birds pass by works well.

The pale brown back of the song thrush is a great camouflage over the rocks.

The value of taking lots of photos reveals the likely reason for the nervousness of this song thrush. Feathers missing on its back suggests a Sparrowhawk catch.

The power of editing a photo, it looks feather perfect from this view.

The storytelling a set of wildlife photos captures allows is just great. Most of the time we can only take a guess at what they reveal, but it absolutely makes us want to understand and learn more. We don’t need to be wildlife experts to appreciate small details of the world just outside our windows. It’s just sitting there waiting for us to notice it :-) Did you notice anything new in your garden or out and about over the weekend?

This post was published by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in November 2016.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Squirrel feeder nearly found

Tomorrow may be the day when a new garden visitor finds a feeder put up especially for it! Containing a good mix of nuts, the red squirrel will need to learn how to use the hinged roof to get at the food. This is going to be fun to watch, take photos of and capture video footage. It’s also a bit of gardenwatching I never expected to be doing, as my sidebar has stated…

“My small garden is in Perthshire, Scotland. I don’t have salmon in my pond, red deer in my borders, ospreys nesting in my acers or red squirrels at my peanut feeders! Nor do I have the world’s highest hedge, paths exciting enough for the serious cyclist and enough of a lawn for golf!....”
WHERE IN THE WORLD AM I? Sidebar, shirls gardenwatch

Apologies to regular blog visitors, more red squirrel photos :-)

This red squirrel doesn’t stay still long, I love when it looks straight at me :-)

Getting photos as it jumps from the bird table is a challenge (peanut in mouth).

A lucky capture as it launched in my direction with another peanut to cache.
This is my favourite of today’s 'one hour by the window with a camera' :-)

The red squirrel has found the nuts placed on the birdbath stand!
Just behind it, higher on a post, is the squirrel feeder... getting warm ;-)

Tomorrow, might also be the day for a new venture in gardenwatching! I’m waiting on a delivery :-)

Enjoy your Sunday garden and wildlife watching in your part of the world. Please share what you are seeing as November draws to a close. It’s definitely an interesting time of the year in wildlife terms and our gardens really can be a great place to see it that's for sure :-)

This post was published by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in November 2016.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Wordless Wednesday: Breakfast companion :-)

This post was published by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in November 2016.

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Red Squirrel returns to cache food

Now... I can properly claim to having had our native red squirrel visit my garden! This is fantastic news and I’m hoping it indicates that the smaller charismatic red squirrel is recovering against the larger greys, whose arrival to the UK has led to it becoming seriously endangered. This could be evidence towards a positive future for this well loved wildlife species here in the UK.

Growing up in a more northerly part of Perthshire, where the red squirrel was regularly seen at the time, this animal truly symbolises the wildlife of my childhood growing up in Scotland. At the time it was just part of the landscape and I guess I took its presence for granted. Magnificent highland cows grazed in the fields over a busy main road opposite my house and red squirrels ran up trees and across the ground around them on my woodland walks.

Red Squirrel with peanut in mouth about to run away and plant/cache it :-)

Gathering photos yesterday, I had planned to select the best ones (so many were blurred with the the speed and change of direction the squirrel made) and post them in the evening with just a few captions (almost a Wordless Wednesday post) but my blogging time ends up quite late in the evening and photo sorting took longer... and then I began to write :-0

So here I am at the PC finishing breakfast and this post celebrating the return of the red squirrel and outside my window it is running back and forth taking nuts from the table. Just how magical is that!

Oh dear, a magpie is on the house roof looking down at it... I wonder if it is a threat. Gardenwatching the red squirrel is beginning in earnest now! Phew... it was the grated cheese I scattered on the ground beside the feeders last night that the Magpie was interested in.

Found by the red squirrel yesterday – the hidden bird feeder built through branches of low Acer tree. This feeder makes great gardenwatch viewing :-)

A blackbird appears to be making calls from a perch nearby as the red squirrel feeds on nuts. It is probably objecting to this new diner but it is standing its ground. New garden arrivals are always closely watched by the regular visitors. Observing the hierarchy of garden visitors is always interesting for the indoors gardenwatcher to see too.

Oh dear again, a white cat with black and grey markings has just wondered under my window - it looked huge and so slow after watching the tiny, speedy red squirrel. I'm slightly regretting opening the window and hissing at the cat to scare it away now. Hissing cats away from the ground feeders outside my window is something I do - it usually works too.

Ah... the red squirrel is back... I think I need to replace my cold cup of tea with a strong cup of coffee! Ah... that's better, a pot of coffee, a yogurt and back to yesterday's photos and what I wrote last night...

Time for a tasty peanut break - caching winter stores of food is hungry work.

Wow, really wow, ten years ago I could never have imagined that I would be contributing to statistics monitoring the numbers of red squirrels. Last night I added my sighting to the website Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels where a map can be viewed on their distribution. I didn't see many reported in my area so adding my sighting has real value here.

Should you ever see the red squirrel in your area of the UK, there will be conservation groups who will welcome logging your sightings so please report them. All the data we supply for species that are endangered does really make a difference in terms of its survival.

You’ve got to keep alert in those busy garden borders!

By planting a garden with trees, shrubs, ground cover, flowers, water and putting up feeders with a variety of foods, our gardens can support a wide range of wildlife. Pre blog, I had absolutely no idea how much of a little nature reserve our gardens can actually be. What a difference ten years has made to my garden style and appreciation - unbelievable :-))))

So, was yesterday's visitor the same red squirrel that was very briefly spotted 2 weeks ago? That, I can’t tell. However, I do suspect yesterday's visitor plans to return. How might I know this? Well, yesterday's visitor has been planting peanuts throughout my borders! It wasn’t a short visit either. Yep, a red squirrel is caching food for winter in my garden… my garden!!!

Round and round we go, the garden can be quite an adventure
for a red squirrel new to the area. Getting clear photos was very tricky.

Yesterday just goes to show, as I’ve said many times throughout the last ten years, that if you watch that bit closer you never know what you might see visiting your garden. Had my daughter not been sitting at my gardenwatching window doing an online Uni test, I would have had no idea what was going on in my garden whilst I was catching up on non-garden related jobs elsewhere. A huge thank-you goes to her for this special sighting, it being recorded and a blog post! xxx ooo to her :-)

Running back and forth in front of my gardenwatching window, for the hour’s duration of my daughter’s test, was properly distracting her enough that she considered closing the curtains but she didn't want to scare it away. One particular distraction I am seriously jealous of. Although she called me through I didn’t hear her as the squirrel jumped up on to the window sill and looked in my gardenwatch window straight at her! I doubt anyone would believe her accounting test added an unexpected number to red squirrel records for 2016 :-)

Little did the red squirrel know that it was facing the direction of a feeder on a post especially put up for it. The pine tree was only a temp overnight location.

The bird table roof is bottom left, the squirrel feeder on the right with a bird bath pedestal sited as a possible perch.Muddy record photo after border replanting.
A photo of the feeder nut pattern is currently set as wallpaper on my phone home screen so I can see at a glance if the lid has been opened in my absence :-)

Finally, that red squirrel didn’t half explore my garden and its borders yesterday. At one point it jumped from the potting shed roof straight across to the face of my leylandii hedge and ran up, down and across it before returning to the bird table. What an entertaining little acrobat it was!

Sunflower hearts were quickly put out in a small ground feeder to distract a woodpigeon, the previous garden assistant, but when the red squirrel spotted this it munched a while there instead. Ha-ha… but the woodpigeon ate the trail of peanuts leading to the new squirrel feeder first ;-)

Yesterday, was dull with showers. The red squirrel got a bit muddy gardening ;-)

My favourite muddy face from yesterday. In contrast, snow is forecasted for today. I wonder how the red squirrel will behave in a very busy garden.

You have to be patient in getting wildlife to use what you put out/up for it, that's another thing I've observed over the last ten years blogging and gardenwatching. The fun part is the anticipation and the bonus is it happening. Now, I'm awaiting the red squirrel discovering the feeder with the hinged roof full of nuts that has been put up in my garden especially for it. Currently it is running right under it! There's definitely a bit of a seasonal pantomime feel in the garden just now... hey red squirrel... its above you ;-)

This post was published by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in November 2016.