Sunday, 10 June 2018

#30DaysWild Day 9 - Moth Night, this week

Moths weren’t captured by camera on my first garden wander at 9pm last night. Wild flowers and a snail were. It was a cooler night after some rain breaking through at some point earlier in the evening. I didn’t see how much but looking around the garden I could tell it was a sprinkling. My attempt at filling watering cans from my water butt to top-up my suffering wildlife pond confirmed that.

Moths were on my mind with a second wander just after 10:30pm as it was being to turn dark (although it never gets properly dark at this time of year). I’ve noticed white flowers attract moths, but have seen them resting on ivy leaves too. I went to a border I expected to see them and a couple moved, one briefly in range of a photo. Getting photo captures though, I struggle with that.

There’s something about moths that don’t make me feel completely relaxed. I’d guess their visits indoors buzzing about lights is behind that and I’m not the only one. However, through blogs and twitter I’ve seen fascinating images of quite beautiful moths and I’d love to capture images and identify which ones visit my garden. I just have to not jump holding the camera when they move towards me!

JUN 9: Orange flowers of Foxes & cubs opening & yellow Bird’s-foot-trefoil

JUN 9: Snail tucked away, tucking away on Dog’s tooth violet leaves

JUN 9: Yay… first of Ox-eye daisy flowers open! I love daisy flowers :-)

JUN 9: 10:35pm with outside lighting, the glorious Wisteria flowers :-)

Moths did fly below and towards the Wisteria flowers which was great to see. Ha-ha, they were moving away from me! Anyway, I will continue to take odd evening ventures into the garden to see what visits. Please do share your tips on capturing moth photos from your garden, using moth traps (especially homemade ones) and your moth stories in comments :-)

If you are in the UK and moths are your thing you might be interested in this week’s event, Moth Night 2018 which will be held between 14th - 16th June. They have a theme which is Pyralid Moths and you can take part in day and night events. Some info from their website below. @MothNight on twitter is also a fun way to follow this event, hear stories and see images too.

"Organised by Atropos, Butterfly Conservation and the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, Moth Night is the annual celebration of moth recording throughout Britain and Ireland by moth recording enthusiasts with local public events aimed at raising awareness of moths among the general public.

Moth Night is normally confined to the warmest months; each event will last for three consecutive nights (Thursday – Saturday) and will take place on different date periods every year. You can participate on any one or more of these days or nights.

Participants are not required to comply with the theme and are encouraged to do their own thing.

In association with the Biological Records Centre at the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, we have designed an easy-to-use Indicia-based online recording system available from the first day of the event until the deadline for data entry."
Moth Night, 14th -16th June 2018

This post was published by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in June 2018.

Friday, 8 June 2018

#30DaysWild Day 8 – Trees, living and dead

Short on time today, but the message for 30 Days Wild is big – plant a tree :-) Living or dead they are winners all round for both us and a variety of wildlife from birds to insects. Here’s a little garden moment from this morning to add to the case.

Newly fledged coat tits excitedly explored the garden early this morning. The light wasn’t good, but above are a few record shots, showing some of the places they stayed still enough to capture. They perched on a branch structure feeding station made from posts with branches from a neighbours felled apple tree. They crossed over to the living pine tree and it looked like they were all at a children’s playground! So lovely to hear them from indoors – what a lovely start to the day for me too.

Early lunchtime and there was a straggler coal tit fledgling spotted perched on a previously living garden Rowan tree. This part of the trunk was planted in a garden border, not to grow, as a perch on route to lower feeders with winter in mind. It works too plus a great spot to capture photos of visiting birds.

Wishing you a great weekend, I wonder if you will see fledging birds or be planting a tree? Do share in a comment :-)

This post was published by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in June 2018.

Thursday, 7 June 2018

#30DaysWild Day 7- Silent reminiscing

No bird sound tonight with my, later in the evening, garden wander with a camera, little traffic noise either. I love this silent time in the garden almost as much as with full bird sound. It almost feels secretive as you look around, like I shouldn’t be wandering around my own garden. I’m guessing others may understand what I mean :-)

As is my plan for 30 Days Wild this year, I am not planning posts ahead. On queue the photos I’ve captured tonight have tied in with the day. Just how does that happen? I’ve many plants to pick from but each night/morning particular ones draw me in. Here’s my contribution tonight…

Colour of the day was purple, my favourite colour, 3x gift bouquets to be precise.
Checking in on the clematis from yesterday’s post – it’s flowering well :-)

Plant of the day was the Lupin from my Mum’s friend’s garden, bees loved it!
Added this year, above pre Chelsea, I had no idea this was making a come back.

Reminiscing with an old friend, Erysimum linifolium 'Bowles' Mauve' :-)
So nice to see it this evening, so nice to see so many familiar faces today xo

Ha-ha… and just when i thought there was no wildlife in the garden :-)
How I spotted this in lower light I’ve no idea... serious reminiscing here :-)

Wishing you happy reminiscing in your garden, be it silent or noisy! Tonight, the trail camera is pointed towards the hedgehog feeding station entrance (Hedgehog Manor). Will I see diners in the morning? I’d say a mouse for sure, hedgehogs a maybe. I reminisce often about hedgehogs visits in the garden. Here's one of my favs from a hedgehog house my daughter made in High School as an exam project :-)

This post was published by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in June 2018.

#30DaysWild Day 6 - Appreciating romance

Morning sunshine and evening light across a garden can create a romance through the plants that we only notice, if we stop and take time to notice. What a wonderful sense of calm and healing a garden can give us. I for one have always felt it. Do you? Media is talking about how important gardens are for our mental health and well being but we gardeners have probably known that for a very long time. It's good that there is wider awareness of this now.

Evening watering of the garden doesn’t sound that romantic but the quick phone image below was taken tonight when I saw the romance through my border with the evening sun lighting the water drops in the background. Could this possibly be a contribution for 30 Days Wild? I’d say so, I was appreciating just one single moment in the garden and it was magical (way better than my phone capture shows).

Romance was also in the background of a more practical garden job tonight. My, now, son-law bought me a birthday gift of a Clematis last year which was part of a combined gift with a ladybird bug house from my daughter. They felt one would support the other and help the wildlife in my garden which they both knew I like to do. So, I just had to plant the clematis near the location of the bug house :-)

My plan for the clematis climb was up the garden twine supports I had given it through my pine tree which has bottom branches already pruned short for visiting birds going to the feeders. It was working too. The clematis however, had other plans and was sticking to the brief of this gift and had made its way over to the bug house. It sneaked over when I wasn’t looking.

Aww… I appreciated the romance in this too so helped them be together, adding support trellis up the posts and carefully relocating the plant over and tying it in. It was one of the loveliest of garden jobs today and I will really look forward to seeing how this romance blossoms :-)

This post was published by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in June 2018.

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

#30DaysWild Day 5 – 15 mins by the pond

My recommendation for building a garden pond can’t be said enough times. It really is a magnet for both wildlife and humans alike. Returning home at lunchtime to blue skies and sunshine, once again, my pond drew me outdoors to see if there were any large red damselflies around - they have been spotted recently.

Being so tiny, length 33-26 mm (1¼ ins to just under 1½ ins), the ‘large’ red damselfly is pretty hard to spot amongst pond plant leaves, roots and stems – especially the red ones. My tip is just to stand still and wait for movement and then the flying little red ‘sticks’ can be spotted!

I stood less than a minute when I spotted a flash of red clash in the air above the water, then one damselfly landed on a sunny rock at the water’s edge. At first I couldn’t spot where the other went until I spotted movement again and the reason for the clash above the water became clear. The pair of mating large red damselflies moved around the surface of the pond with the female depositing eggs on vegetation just under the surface. I always find this fascinating to watch.

After lunch (not by the pond in this occasion) thoughts went to an experiment for today’s contribution for 30 Days Wild. 15 minutes by the pond was the plan, when there wasn’t a damselfly there already, would one come and how long would it take? I was pretty confident seeing as they had already been spotted. The timer on my phone was set...

Success! 5½ minutes in and a large red damselfly perched itself to the leaf of a short red stem - it blends in so well. Can you spot it in the full picture above?

The damselfly maintained its horizontal position throughout the 15 minute experiment allowing me time to look around. Oh dear, the drop in water level due to lack of rain has the main waterlily crown exposed – we need rain soon! This is a beauty of a plant :-0

Movement of a long legged fly catches my eye as it lands on a pot of mud. It wasn’t until I uploaded my photos to get a closer look that I realise that this pot had a small waterlily variety that likes a shallow depth! Now this doesn’t look good at all – there’s no rain in the forecast for at least a week either :-(

I take a step back from the pond to notice three cheddar, trollius flowers. A breeze is catching the cupped flowers in the partial shade. The flowers are just opening but something dark in one of them catches my eye. Photo captures were tricky but I got some angles showing what was inside. I had been expecting a bee when I walked over!

First thoughts on ID were of a soldier beetle, then a long horned beetle.
Twitter confirmed the soldier beetle - Cantharis nigricans (Buglife Scotland)

Back at the pond edge again I confirm the large red damselfly is still there.
Now, Blackbird calls can be heard, I turn around to see a juvenile appear :-)

Also appearing all around the pond, on flowers, rocks and in the sandy edges were hoverflies – this one was stepping over flowers. I loved its stretch.

The 15 minute alarm went off on my phone and the statue damselfly remained, still, well passed it. Well, that was a fun and successful experiment. I moved away on a garden wander with my camera returning to catch it moving to a very sparkly spot before flying off. It was very tricky trying to get any focus on this stem! Enjoy sightings and capturing images from your garden this month of June. Maybe you might enjoy a similar 15 minute experiment :-)

This post was published by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in June 2018.

Monday, 4 June 2018

#30DaysWild Days 3 & 4 – Evening sounds and ants

Weather-wise, Day 3 for 30 Days Wild was much cooler, thank-goodness! We had clouds but we didn’t see much rain. On my mid evening garden wander, I could hear swifts calling but couldn’t see them through the clouds. I decided that would be my contribution – last bird sounds from the evening garden. I, for one love hearing them quieten down as the light goes. I bet I’m not the only one?

The Knapweed/ Perennial Cornflower Centaurea montana 'Carnea' had been catching my eye, fully in flower in my front garden. It was gently blowing in the wind so the plan was it would be pretty background image for the swift calls heard above it. However, as I have found many times throughout gardenwatching, I got a 'bit' of a surprise when I uploaded my images.

The Crawling ants really did catch me by surprise. I had been looking to the skies and not paying attention to the flower in the camera screen. So, as with all surprises like this I went web browsing. One link led to another and (don’t know where now) I read that foraging bees can be chased away from flowers by ants wanting to keep the nectar for themselves! Here's last night's wildlife surprise...

Day 3's video length 35 seconds, turn volume up to hear swifts.
Warning, for the squeamish, many crawling ants.

For the squeamish, still capture of crawling ants, discoverd on Day 3.

Weather-wise, Day 4 for 30 Days Wild was still much cooler, thank-goodness! Although a cloudy morning, I thought I’d take a look out to see if any bees would be feeding on the knapweed flowers. I had something to look out for now! Yay, there was one small bumble bee ...

Morning of Day 4, bee feeding, tucked away deep in the flower clump.

Day 4's bee goes deeper, foraging around flower stem bases.

Day 4’s duller morning capture of this stunning wild flower.
It's name again - Centaurea montana 'Carnea'

Day 4’s surprise was that I was too busy following the bee around (not so smoothly, sorry) with my camera that I didn’t notice the small number of ants below the bee until I uploaded my video clip below. I’ll leave you to decide for yourself, but, I’ve possibly captured the ants biting the leg/s of a bee to chase it away! It went quickly too and it was fascinating to watch the ants look like they were patrolling their flower.

Day 4's video length 20 seconds, noisy background, music added.

If you are in the UK and insects are your thing, you might be interested in National Insect Week later in the month of June. Will I be on the look out for more ant video footage? Perhaps not ;-)

What is National Insect Week?

National Insect Week encourages people of all ages to learn more about insects.

Every two years, the Royal Entomological Society organises the week, supported by a large number of partner organisations with interests in the science, natural history and conservation of insects.
National Insect Week

This post was published by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in June 2018.

Saturday, 2 June 2018

#30DaysWild Day 2 – Creating memories outdoors

Take a relaxed woodland or beach walk, for example, just a wander. So often we are oblivious to what our eyes have seen, our ears have heard or what smell our noses have picked up. We are creating memories all the time, many still strong from our childhood and I believe they become part of the garden spaces we create many years later.

Perhaps that sounds a bit of a romantic notion, but I’d say we put way more of ourselves into our gardens than we realise and once we become aware of what we are doing we open the gates to creating an outdoor space that connects us to nature and truly refreshes our soul. Gardening ‘isn’t just for summer’ :-)

My contribution for 30 Days Wild today is to celebrate being in the outdoors as much as possible, especially if you have young children/grandchildren. Create many memories. Here’s three from my garden tonight…

Pebbles and rocks along waterside edges, as shown above in my, seriously in need of rain, wildlife pond tonight. Something drew me to the water’s edge of a local river when I was growing up. I found myself rearranging the rocks and the angles of larger stones to help the water flow through routes. Creating small pools I became transfixed by the reflections and the patterns they created both above and below the water. At the time, I had no idea that I was connecting to the natural world. My memories were of the most peaceful of places.

Having finally taken the plunge and committing to the build of a wildlife pond in my garden a few years ago, it is the most special place in my garden and I absolutely recommend adding one if you have space. I also recommend the 'gardening' fun of planting up a water garden :-)

Common Bird's-foot-trefoil arrived in my garden a few years ago, deliberately. Again, coming from my childhood memories where it was seen growing along the grassy edge of a pebbled river with colt’s foot, violets and many other wild flowers. I grew this plant from seed many years ago and it always makes me smile, growing by the edge of my pond. It was the one of the first wild flowers I brought into my garden :-)

The herb, Chives arrived in my garden a good few years ago and is one of the very few plants that I have never moved! It gets a gold star for that alone. Strictly speaking, I’ve no childhood memories of this – just the loose connection to the intense smell of wild garlic on woodland walks. However, growing herbs in mixed garden borders is one I’d like my daughters to take forward to their gardens of the future. They are fantastic for pollinators too and we seriously need to help our bees.

This post was published by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in June 2018.

Friday, 1 June 2018

#30DaysWild Day 1 – The value of climbing plants

Perhaps an unforgotten group of plans in terms of wildlife, pre blogging I never considered their value other than to add height, colour and interest to my garden. Vertical gardening is great for a small garden too, so the garden presenters and designers say and I’d agree.

This morning’s wander with a camera stopped me at the golden hop and then today’s topic for 30 Days Wild was decided. My contribution today is to celebrate climbing plants. Here’s three from my garden today…

Golden hop Humulus lupulus Aureus, a plant I added many years ago for its fantastic yellow-green colour. Little did I know then, that it’s a great Comma butterfly larvae foodplant. Now that’s a bonus to it and me as it has been moving further north to my parts in recent years. I’m delighted to report I’ve spotted garden visits back in September 2012 :-)

Hedera colchica Sulphur Heart (Persian Ivy) was a plant save from a search and rescue sales area at a garden centre many years ago. It was in a sorry state at the time but its rescue was a serious success for wildlife from nesting, flower nectar for pollinators, winter berries for thrushes and wood pigeons to homes for spiders and countless other insects. I guess I was creating a garden for wildlife before I knew it.

Chinese wisteria Wisteria sinensis f. alba was a plant that took many years to deliver its first flowers and still to this day the excitement of them opening is still there. Little did I know when I made this plant choice, purely for aesthetic reasons and the promise of scent that bees enjoy wisteria flowers as much as me. Again, I had planted for wildlife without knowing it at the time:-)

This post was published by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in June 2018.

Thursday, 31 May 2018

Re-connect with nature for 30 Days Wild

Tomorrow sees the start of the UK Wildlife Trust’s month-long nature challenge and I absolutely recommend it! I had great fun back in June 2016 when I took part for the first time. Wedding prep kept me preoccupied in 2017 but 2018 is now free to join in again and a great opportunity to re-connect with blogging too :-)

On the back of the Chelsea Flower Show, I’m going to take a different spin on this year’s challenge. Long before bird feeders went up in the garden it was my love of plants that shaped my garden. Since blogging and encouraging wildlife to the garden, my plant selections have changed and with this brought a new wave of wildlife to appreciate.

For #30 Days Wild 2018, I’d like to share nature from my small garden through plants as much as possible – not exactly random acts of wildness but I suspect other ideas will pop up when I begin! I’d like to keep it simple (more photo based) to show that plants and small changes really can make a difference to nature. That’s the outline plan anyway with late evening postings likely - like this one :-)

Tonight’s 9pm camera wander shows last of the rhododendron flowers.

Evening aquilegia with newly planted lupins in background.

The sweet pea seedlings are spending tonight outdoors :-0

Tonight’s brief pond plant wander – nice to see this again :-)

Tonight I didn’t sit on the bench by the pond but will do again soon :-)

What is a Random Act of Wildness?

A Random Act of Wildness is any thing that you can do in an average working day to bring a little nature into your life. They can take a few seconds, a few minutes, or if you lose yourself completely, a few hours! We've got 101 ideas below (follow the link) - but you can make up your own, too!

Don't forget to share your month with us using #30DaysWild “
The Wildlife Trusts

This post was published by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in May 2018.

Thursday, 22 March 2018

The Siskin Garden Party

Outside the window, a bobbing tail of the mostly monochrome Pied Wagtail waved as if to say “Sorry, I missed last week’s photoshoot deadline for infrequent or new garden visitors during winter cold spells”. No worries, you can join the Siskin Party that rocked the garden over the weekend that followed! Why is it though, happening countless times, does a visitor like you appear after I hit the publish button?

Counting guests to last weekend's Siskin Garden Party was challenge. A serious challenge. I eventually admitted defeat when they were in the garden as they constantly moved everywhere from feeders, trees, shrubs to along the ground. Taking off en masse I might have guessedtimated 60+ easily.

Feeling like I was watching a nature, celebrity television programme, I focused my attention on the ‘Who’s who’ garden list. Not featuring, were passing Waxwing and Fieldfare groups of last week. They probably took one look down over the garden and said to themselves, too crowded and too much commotion for us!

In the absence of the ‘King of the Apples’ Mistle Thrush, a single Fieldfare gate-crashed the Siskin party. Halved apples were scattered on the snow so it, Blacklbirds and Song Thrushes had a quieter area to feed (yes, that white stuff arrived again). However, the Fieldfare didn’t mind mixing it with the Siskins and they didn’t appear to mind it's company on the feeder tree either. They were probably too busy feeder queuing and squabbling to notice it.

Not surprisingly, other finch species were in attendance. Which ones though? The binoculars came out. Only a small number of Goldfinches were spotted which was a surprise as previous Garden Parties hosted by the Siskins were popular with good sized Goldfinch groups. The binoculars failed to spot Redpolls or Reed Buntings which have been seen at these popular Winter Parties in previous years.

No binoculars were required to identify the male Bramblings at the party. It was a delight to see these winter garden visitors again. Spotting female Bramblings was a bit more tricky in a mixed crowd, in low light, especially when female Chaffinches and Greenfinches were around. Brightly coloured, male Greenfinches and Chaffinches were spotted easily without the aid of binoculars.

Branches of the coral barked Maple look especially great catching sunshine, early morning. During the Siskin Garden Party, many guests used its branches as they passed through the garden en route to the sunflower feeders. One bird caught my eye. Camera captures made it look like it was playing hide and seek with me. Its markings weren’t too clear until she moved. Cropped below is my #photooftheday of the beauty that is a female Brambling!

The usual garden species of Blackbirds, Dunnock, Robin and Woodpigeon joined the ground feeding party guests. It was great entertainment watching how they all mixed. There was less commotion on the ground below the feeders as seed, spilled from above, spread around more. Other garden regulars Blue, Coal and Great tits were seen joining the party feeding on peanuts as were Starlings.

When the Siskins took a party break a couple of Carrion Crow’s came feeding on fat filled, half coconuts as did the Jackdaw and Magpie. The feeders were busy all weekend with the large 12-port sunflower feeder needing topped up twice. The potting shed supply emptied, fortunately after the party was over. As commonly said of good parties - it was a blast!

Unfortunately, winter’s current blast of cold kept garden jobs at bay last weekend. Although the snow has gone again, last week’s jobs are still unticked. Rain gardening is not unusual for here but gardening in the cold – nope, not keen on that. Taking photos of flowering plants was the plan for today too – nope, no point in taking photos on cold, windy days where nothing stays still - including cold fingers holding a camera. Maybe this weekend?

Wishing you a great weekend! I’m not thinking we’ll be having another garden party this weekend. In fact, I’m fairly confident on that. Why am I so sure? Well, today, the postman brought the large bag of sunflower seed I ordered earlier this the week. Ah well, I’m sorted now for the hungry, hard-working nest builders - when they need it :-)

Well there you go, it's honestly happened again! I'm about to hit publish and a little Wren (a regular that wasn't seen at last weekend's garden party) has just stopped on a branch perch outside my window. It's bobbing up and down in a quite different way than the Pied Wagtail but the story is the same. Yep, you completely missed everything photoshoot and party too I'm afraid ;-)

This post was published by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in March 2018.

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Winter catch-up, some fantastic garden moments

Early February saw the male Bullfinch return to overlook the garden from a neighbour’s tree. From there, this fine sunny day, he dropped into the garden and explored the ground. He stayed a while, perching on trees and shrubs. What a delight to get such a close-up view of such a colourful bird. I've been waiting for this for a long time. This was just the start of some fantastic gardenwatching for 2018!

As always, during cold spells of winter, fat filled half coconuts get hung around the garden. They are well received by a variety of birds. Blue, Great, Coal and Long-tailed tits, Blackbirds, Starlings, Magpies and Carrion crows were all seen feeding on them as was the Robin.

A grumpy looking Blue tit caught my camera eye, it was a bit scruffy but a closer look showed that its beak was not as it should be, being longer with the top overlapping the bottom. No wonder it was grumpy. It seemed to feed ok so that was good to see.

A Woodpigeon (or two) discovered how to get the peanuts in the squirrel feeder. Snow came and went and I was pleased I didn’t cut down the sedum stems last autumn. Apples continued to be offered to tempt possible passing Fieldfares and Waxwings, the Blackbirds and Starlings enjoyed them.

As everyone here in the UK will remember, February ended with some serious snow flurries and extensive drifting where we were advised not to travel unless an emergency. We were used to snow conditions here in Scotland but this was a new level. Our area was issued with a red alert weather warning by the Met Office – a first for Scotland. There was major disruption throughout the UK with areas in the far South getting high levels of snow too.

Out in the garden, snow being blown about in all directions covered low bird feeding areas and prompted the building of a snow igloo-esk structure. Birds were nervous out in the snow for fear of predation but some discovered this food source like Blackbirds and a Song Thrush.

A jumbo, 12 port seed feeder with sunflower hearts didn’t see much business with the smaller finches. Winter conditions usually brought them in large mixed flocks but they were nowhere to be seen. This was unusual, I was worried for them. I was delighted to see them reappear in this last week, with good numbers of Goldfinches and high numbers of Siskins. More apples were put out, just in case…

Yay… Fieldfares arrived on March 3rd, the snow was still with us and the colourful apples must have caught their attention. I was thrilled! A large group landed on my neighbour’s tree overlooking the apples. In previous Winters, we had seen an odd single Fieldfare come in to feed on apples but this was a group of at least 20. They bounced excitedly around the branches of this tree before beginning their descent down to the garden. However, all didn’t go to plan.

The apples already had a regular diner, apart from the Blackbirds and Starlings and this bird was becoming very possessive of the 20+ apples on offer, chasing others away. I originally thought it was a Song Thrush until I saw this behaviour and the size difference with other birds. A Mistle Thrush, one bird, was to stop the Fieldfares feasting on the apples I put out to attract and feed them.

The Fieldfares began their descent, running along the top of my hedge, dropping down to my homemade feeder tree structure, the branches of the Pine trees beside it and other trees and shrubs in the garden nearby. The Mistle Thrush wasted some considerable energy chasing them, it was hard to believe that this one bird stopped a group of birds feed. It did and successfully too.

The main group of Fieldfares finally gave up and flew away. Aww… it was still fantastic to see them all. A few more determined ones stayed and landed around the garden watching and waiting but the bossy ‘King of the Apple Castle’ spotted them and the chase was on again. The Mistle Thrush continued to patrol this area of the garden with almost Sparrowhawk like body language and fed like a King. I did see odd Fieldfares get to feed when the Mistle Thrush briefly moved away but what a wasted food opportunity for the group.

On my, deep snow, walk to the Supermarket to get more apples I had spotted Fieldfares bouncing through gardens in search of berries. They were fun to watch as they travelled down the street alongside me. So I knew they were in the area before they arrived in my garden.

Now that the snow is as good as all gone, as I said above, large groups of Finches (especially Siskins) have been attracting my attention at the feeder tree. They have been seen squabbling with each other and the seed is running down fast. It has been great to finally see the larger nyjer seed feeder get used too. The bossy Mistle Thrush seems to have moved on too, a good number of species are visiting just now and the garden is getting very busy again. I was delighted to see this and not looking for any new visitors...

Well, what a shock it was to wander into the kitchen to fill the kettle on a dull Tuesday morning to look out the window to see three brownish birds I didn’t recognise as regulars feeding on the apples. Then I spotted what looked like a prominent crest!! Never, ever, expecting to actually see Waxwings feeding in my garden… there they were! Wow, just wow.

Walking swiftly through to my gardenwatch window and slowly towards my camera, I got to it in time which was brilliant as this often doesn’t happen. However, these birds weren’t in a hurry to move and I got some garden record shots of this fantastic moment of gardenwatching, like having red squirrels visit, I could never have imagined I’d see in my small town garden. I also had time with their visit to just quietly watch them. What a privilege and delight :-)

Was that the first day Waxwings had been feasting on the garden apples, that I didn’t know but I was so very lucky to be at home and look out the window at the right time to see these ones. I still can’t believe it. Did I see them yesterday morning as I filled the kettle, no I didn’t but I did spot another first for 2018…

So there we have it, the nesting season has officially begun in my area with the Blackbirds. This female Blackbird was collecting blades of dried out ornamental grasses. She’ll find a lot of them around too as I haven’t been tidying up. I need to get out in the garden to lift the flowering bittercress weeds and get some pruning done but I will leave dry prunnings in corners where the birds will be able to find them (like under my hedge).

Aware that today is also Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day, I nipped out to the garden last night to see what flowers I could spot with the help of outside lighting. Happy GBBD to everyone taking part! That’s the garden flowering season properly started here too with Spring bulbs, Crocus, Iris and the wonderful Snowdrops and Snowflakes (my preferred kind of snowflakes) and Hellebores.

Oh dear… I see I’ve forgotten to prune my wisteria! I will get to that over the weekend, pruning all healthy stems back to two sets of buds. After many years this pruning has reliably produced flowers which I never cease to get delighted to watch open. The bees are happy to see them too :-)

Also, Hedgehogs have been spotted out and about in March in previous years so I need to sweep out my hedgehog feeding station and put out regular food and fresh water in the evenings to help them put on weight after their winter hibernation.

Wow… it’s all go now for the gardenwatch year! Another job for the weekend is emptying the camera nestbox (after a deserted, part nest build last year) so that prospective tenants for 2018 can view it in earnest. The seasons of a garden have much to keep our interest that’s for sure. Enjoy yours!

This post was published by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in March 2018.

Friday, 2 February 2018

Surprise garden sightings

Last Sunday saw a fantastic colour splash from a bird that has never been counted from this garden during the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch! Last September saw sunshine through golden Acer leaves and a late garden nest build never seen either – any guesses there? I’ll leave you thinking on that for now.

The Bullfinch had been on my garden wishlist for some time now – the stunning male in particular. I can’t believe it flew in landing on my popular Acer tree along with some blue/great tits during my count. What luck! On odd occasions I had seen it eating berries from a distant neighbour’s tree – only a few times though. My OH and daughter had reported a couple of garden sightings to me before I saw two very brief ones myself. It has never been seen feeding as yet, perhaps one day I might be able to capture some video/photos but until then...

Bullfinch male, not my photograph, Wikipedia Creative Commons Licence

Bullfinch female, not my photograph, Wikipedia Creative Commons Licence

A flash of yellow from Siskins was spotted during my count (2x male, 1x female) and to encourage them and perhaps redpolls again a new larger nyjer seed feeder is hanging now. From past experience, this food takes time to be discovered (almost a week on and no takers) but when it does it will bring in a great variety of visitors.

Woodpigeons, closely followed by Blackbirds, should have topped my garden list last Sunday and they did appear, but only just (Woodpigeon x1, Blackbirds 1x male & 1x female). Although numbers weren’t high I was delighted to have a good species count of 13. It was great to be at my window again and be able to see what species are visiting just now.

The full birdcount species list was: Blackbird (2), Dunnock (2), Robin (2), Wren (1), Blue tit (2), Great tit (2), Coal tit (2), Goldfinch (1), Siskin (3), Bullfinch (1), Woodpigeon (1), Magpie (1) and top of the list for 2018 the Starling (4). That’s good news for the Starling as its status on the conservation list is Red. I should add here though that four is a small garden visiting group from what I’ve seen here.

Maybe the Starlings had been deliberately spreading their numbers around the gardens to show things are on the up for them now. They certainly had me looking up to the skies in the evenings over the weekend. They swooped around from side to side, shape shifting over the rooftops and around the mature trees I can see from the garden. Serious show-offs for the birdcount they were, as my count was over and there’s no way I could have counted a murmuration!

Starling murmurations are just fascinating to watch and I got a real feel for speed as they went low just above my window – wow what a delight that was! There were two groups that I saw swooping around but probably many more joined later in open spaces away from the houses. A real spectacle this behaviour is.

As mentioned above, currently it is the Woodpigeon that more regularly takes the highest number of visits to our garden. They’ve even discovered how to feed from the squirrel feeder. I’d say they were almost at the point of nuisance at times but OH and daughter love to watch them. In past summers this bird has built and added to a nest space hidden in the ivy above my pergola. Eggs have been laid too but I suspect magpies discovered where they were.

Why on earth then did a pair of woodpigeons decide to build a nest in the open, central garden location of a small Acer tree about to drop its leaves? Back on September 17th 2017 the bird feeders were in need of a top-up and when out filling them up I spotted this surprise late nest build and set up the video camera on a tripod and left it running. Below is the capture that caught my eye where the male gave the female some taps of encouragement. The focus was set to auto so moves out and in a couple of times.

Woodpigeon nest video, 1min 54sec sound from garden only, try HD quality.

Could Woodpigeons actually successfully raise chicks late September in Scotland? I had no idea, although fun to think they could, I had concerns. This late build was in far too open and busy an area of the garden and after much hurried activity over a few days it was deserted. This woodpigeon pair may have been successful elsewhere but I’m so glad they moved on as strong winds soon after this footage was taken shook the thin acer branches and broke-up the nest. Now, I really don’t want them returning to this vulnerable tree in 2018.

So what are the real top birds in your garden just now? Have you had any surprise sightings recently? It’s very clear by watching the garden just now that birds are pairing up. We’ve definitely got the blue/great/coal tits visiting in pairs. Three robins are around at the moment too and two are definitely ok feeding near each other suggesting a pair and there is a chase on with the other. Have you seen any nesting activity yet? What about nestbox viewings? We've seen Blue and Great tits viewing ours - they always compete for this one.

Looking out to the garden borders now and spring bulbs. How are yours doing? Have you any surprise sightings of flowers? I must get out in the garden over the weekend to take a look. Oh dear, reading this over I see I've asked a lot of questions this time! Sorry :-) Wishing you a great garden and wildlife weekend!

This post was published by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in February 2018.

Thursday, 25 January 2018

Returning for the Big Garden Birdwatch

Okay, so I deserted my gardenwatch window space in favour of a small upstairs room with a view over the roofs of my neighbours’ houses shortly after seeing a red squirrel in the garden! Why on earth would I do that?

Well, believe it or not, I favoured a black and white Koala over a red squirrel. Ha-ha… no I haven’t discovered a new species of Koala or had a new garden visitor to add to our growing species count. You’d have heard about that in the news (even you, Lisa in Indiana) had that been the case – that secret would have got out!

However, the black and white Koala that was in my upstairs room was growing in secret. This very special Koala was a Christmas gift for my, garden visiting companion, daughter and required a fair bit of my attention. Cups of tea & coffee to keep me going and for the Koala, black ink in 0.7mm and 0.25mm technical pens ;-)

Understandably, as this is a gift to my daughter,
I haven't scanned her Koala but wanted to include it here :-)

Pen & ink line drawing is a creative medium I really enjoyed in my teens and what a refreshing revival this has been! I can’t believe that I have managed to just pick it up again. On leaving college I worked as a graphic designer, the job I hoped for, but sadly my drawing hand was dropped in favour of a design one.

My drawing revival began with a Scottish landscape (a gift again) before the red squirrel visitor of my last blog. Confidence growing after being surprisingly comfortable with my pens again, I moved on to the idea of family Christmas gifts. The Koala for my daughter was based on a phone capture taken during a visit to Edinburgh Zoo, a very special moment as my daughter and I silently watched these animals. She’s had that image as her phone background since then - she was thrilled with her picture and I was thrilled by her reaction!!

A group of baby penguins came next for my eldest daughter and finally last weekend I finished the set (belated birthday gift for OH) with the familiar, family favourite, landscape of Tentsmuir forest from Kilshandy beach as we would walk over the shells towards it.

The bedroom/new drawing space with beach picture in the making,
to create mood, light watercolour washes were added in this one.

The behind the camera view at the gardenwatch window back in November.

Returning for the Big Garden Birdwatch this weekend, I will be back at my gardenwatch window with my paper garden journal and note taking pen at the ready to record the garden visitors that decide to show! Tripod at the ready, I will also return to capturing images with my camera again. Perhaps I will have a drawing pad handy too for the quiet spells (rough fast pen sketching this time which I also enjoy). If you are taking part, wishing you many birds for your count :-)

Returning to the world of bloggers and blogging, for the first time in 2018, I’d like to wish everyone a great and healthy 2018 – HAPPY NEW YEAR!! Phew, got that in before the end of January ;-) Wishing you all a great garden, wildlife and blogging year too! Spring is just round the corner, before we know it birds will be collecting nesting material and spring bulbs will be bringing colour to our gardens. I do enjoy our changing seasons :-)

This post was published by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in January 2018.