Sunday, 20 October 2019

The wait is over, a Nuthatch!

Not a garden sighting as yet, but a first sighting non-the-less. Delighted! I knew where there was a chance of seeing this bird, now that it is being seen moving north and into my area of Scotland. I’ve sat by the observation window at Loch of the Lowes with camera and coffee just waiting for a glimpse, many times.

The wait finally ended yesterday and in good style too, with three very brief visits of a nuthatch during my hour’s window watch. As I sat there quietly, in terms of visitors inside and outside at the feeders, I didn’t expect any surprises. Nor did I see the nuthatch arrive at a feeder right in front of me. Spookily, I had said in my head, ‘if I see a nuthatch, today, I will blog it’. So here we are, it's been a while :-)

First image (phone) to gardenwatch companion, daughter in car park!

Wow, what an agile bird, the nuthatch was. I knew it had a sleek look from images in books and online, but what a beauty. So very fleeting its visit was too, but it did spend some time inside a feeder with mixed seed (my images were dark) keeping alert as it did. Quite a strong character it looked, but I'm guessing quite a cautious bird too with it coming to feed when feeders quiet.

Photo uploads revealed it caught an insect at feeders too (top right).

Prior to the nuthatch, the most agile bird at the feeders was a determined mallard duck on a table roof, successfully picking up seed from the table below. I had never seen that before. Quite entertaining it was. Red squirrels, always entertain and were regulars too, as was the eye catching partial leucistic coal tit that I’ve been seeing this year.

Photo uploads revealed, like the coal tit, the nuthatch favoured
black sunflower seeds. Thinking a shopping trip required now :-)

Very hard to pick a favourite image of nuthatch, but I think this is the one.

Meanwhile back in the garden another special visitor was seen at the beginning of October. Not a regular butterfly this one, the Comma, it was only seen this one bright sunny day. I was delighted again! This butterfly has only been seen on two previous years and not for long in each occasion.

This capture has a true feel of colour in the garden at the moment.

The vibrant flowers that shine on at this time of year, to me, are valued more than the first fresh colours in spring. Purple (asters following on from the buddleja), yellow (rudbeckia and acer leaves) with reds of sedum and silver foliage dotted around, a few mentions from the garden right now. The Acers have been their vibrant best and are dropping their leaves now, but for me, this year, the comma butterfly has topped autumn colour :-)

Spring and summer, 2019 have past with much to blog about in terms of garden works and visitors, but little time to do so. There have been a few garden challenges along the way, one in particular which I had thought was sorted until a few days ago. Thinking cap on again then! However, 2019 revealed a new garden visitor, another I hoped to see but never expected to, more on that another time.

Back to Autumn 2019, this morning, with apples newly out on twigs to attract passing fieldfares, redwings and waxwings to the garden. 'It's that most wonderful time of year'! I wonder what wildlife will see out the 2019 gardenwatching garden, a nuthatch would be good here ;-) What's been your garden highlights from the summer, have you any wishes/plans for this autumn?

This post was published by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in October 2019.

Wednesday, 10 April 2019

Wordless Wednesday: Spot the wildlife

This post was published by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in April 2019.

Thursday, 4 April 2019

The boatman and the ladybird

As per much gardenwatching over the years, unexpected sightings often happen when the focus is on something else. Last Sunday, a morning check on the wildlife pond frogspawn didn’t just reveal a thin layer of ice (which was a worry). Here’s the real wildlife drama in pictures...

Early morning frost leaves ice along the pond edge where the frogspawn sits.

Mid-morning sun melts ice and the frog's eggs look like they are developing.

Across from the frogspawn, is this a new pond creature with an orange patch?
No, the strong sunlight confused things, looking through the camera zoom,
a greater water boatman/backswimmer has a hold of a ladybird!

Snapping a few zoom shots, cropped here, clearly revealed a ladybird had been caught and was being held by a boatman and it was still moving!

The boatman and the ladybird slowly spun around the surface of the water.

Did the boatman get bored? Did it get disturbed by my camera clicking?
Whatever the reason, the ladybird was left floating on the water surface.

Having seen, through my camera lens, that the ladybird’s legs were moving,
I picked off a pond edge bergenia leaf and scooped the ladybird out.
It remained still for a bit looking like it had never been near water at all.

Slowly the ladybird began moving, it turned around and headed up over the leaf.
This cropped image shows how soggy it still was. Was it going to survive?

I have no idea, but this seven-spot ladybird knew where it was heading now.
Had my camera lens just discovered it, I would have had no idea of the drama.
This ladybird looks completely well and at home in it's environment.

Watching the new wildlife environment that can be found in a garden pond has become quite fascinating. We have much to learn about it's current inhabitants and with each one we want to know more. I can't recommend having a garden pond highly enough, it would be just brilliant if sharing our discoveries resulted in other garden ponds being built. What a fabulous boost for wildlife that would be :-)

Wishing you a great weekend in your garden, wildlife and pond watching too. We are still waiting on our first hedgehog sightings but the weeds are well underway and in need of attention. Garden works involving cameras are ongoing too :-)

Below is some info on the water boatman. I have also read that where the greater boatman is carnivorous the lesser boatman is smaller and isn't, nor does it swim on its back. My guess is that our ladybird had wandered on to a sunny, pond edge pebble or rock where a boatman/backswimmer was and that's where it got caught. I hope it had a happy ending.

”The Common Backswimmer, also known as the 'Water Boatman', is widespread and common in ponds, ditches and canals across the UK. It can swim upside-down through the water, often near the surface where it grabs insects that have fallen into the water film. It is an active and voracious predator, hunting many smaller invertebrates, tadpoles and small fish. Sensing the vibrations of its prey, it charges at it with lightning speed and stabs it with its 'beak', injecting toxic saliva into the wound so it can suck out the contents of the body. Common Backswimmers mate between December and May, laying eggs from February onwards. The larvae go through a number of moults before reaching adulthood.”

“The Common Backswimmer is light brown with large, reddish eyes. It has powerful, oar-like hind legs, which it uses as paddles when it swims upside-down. Its body resembles the shape of a boat, hence its other common name. It may have a silvery appearance due to trapped air bubbles on its lower surface, which allow it to breathe.”

The Wildlife Trusts, Common Backswimmer

This post was published by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in April 2019.

Thursday, 28 March 2019

First frogspawn 23/3/19, no hedgehogs yet

A wildlife pond highlight, for sure, was the discovery of a clump of frog spawn in the shallow, sunlit pond edge last weekend. It was a quick snapshot on my phone to record the moment, after stepping near the edge to avoid garden works chaos created with new wiring work for the hedgehog feeding station. I couldn’t believe my eyes! That busy morning I hadn’t checked for spawn and there it was.

After regular evening torch trips to see possible mating, after one frog was spotted moving among the nicely dense pond plants last week, we missed the event that our wildlife pond was built for. Has this clump been fertilised? Will we see more spawning yet? Time will tell. For now, we are just thrilled that our pond has the right conditions for the full life cycle of the common frog. This one returned :-)

As yet, there have been no return sightings of hedgehogs for 2019. Around now, the end of March, I am expecting them to be coming out of their winter hibernation here. I suspect our first clues will be seeing hedgehog droppings on the grass or paths. Sad, but true, seeing this always makes me smile. We feel so very privileged when we see evidence that they have visited.

Seeing hedgehogs moving around the garden, live, via cameras, has always been such an enormous treat and something I never tire of or take for granted. I know only too well, how special this is. Time permitting, sharing clips and photos with updated technology is the plan for 2019. I wonder what other wildlife visitors and activity we will discover, especially around the pond. We won’t count neighbours’ cats (a problem at the moment).

Hedgehog feeding station with new camera installed, image taken last night.
Open and ready for hungry hedgehogs passing by. No cats please!

Our previous IR cameras served us well, both inside and outside this and previous feeding stations and a hedgehog house made by my daughter. These early days were such fun with so many new discoveries of the garden at night. Work is still ongoing on the full camera system for 2019 but it’s an interesting project to explore. It’s happening soon too, my birthday being the driving force for my husband. What a fantastic birthday gift and one we will all be able to share :-)

Wishing you a great weekend of garden projects and wildlife. Perhaps you have plans for 2019 too? I must make time to get out more with my daytime camera and capture the garden plants throughout the months when flowering and in bud. I've missed doing that.

Wishing you many photo opportunities in your garden and out and about too. I'm thinking if it's sunny we will see bees, early butterflies and maybe signs of birds collecting nesting material. It's all go in the garden right now, enjoy :-)

This post was published by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in March 2019.

Thursday, 21 March 2019

Redshank and stone skimming

Wading back into blogging with a Redshank and a bit of stone skimming may seem like an odd start. However my blogging mantra has always been to share things new to me that perhaps others might be interested in too and both fit that perfectly.

In the far distance, my camera caught what looked like a wading bird on last week’s trip to Aberdour Beach on the East coast of Scotland. Not being familiar with waterbirds, I turned to a WWT book on watching waterbirds (with Kate Humble & Martin McGill) on my bookshelf for an ID. I discovered the Redshank is a winter visitor to this area. I do like the informal format of chat and images in this book and it is a great stepping stone from garden birds. I really should read it more, before we go on visits.

Closer up, back on Aberdour beach, a serious improvement in stone skimming could be seen by my daughter and husband! They had been inspired by watching the television programme ‘Sink or Skim’ which is still available on BBC i-player for a few more days and really worth checking out especially if you already enjoy stone skimming. Taking a slightly different approach really did make all the difference.

For the serious stone skimmer, did you know there are world championships over on a small island off the west coast of Scotland? We didn't. There are limited places but after watching the television programme, I’d say even just being a spectator would be fun, the atmosphere looked great. The 2019 World Stone Skimming Championships are on Sunday 29 September on Easdale Island, near Oban, Argyll.

“The World Stone Skimming Championships were started in 1983 by Bertie Baker, and then lay fallow until they were resurrected in 1997 by Eilean Eisdeal (The Easdale Island Community Development Group) as a fundraising event. Contestants hail from around the world and the championships now attract over 300 participants and many spectators. Anyone of any age and any level of skill can enter the championships.”
World Stone Skimming Championships, Easdale Island

A video flavour, with great views of this small Scottish island of Easdale, can be seen below. Enjoy!

Video by LoveLiveRun, see more on full channel.

Meanwhile back in the garden, this weekend we hope to have installed a new camera system in our hedgehog feeding station and making a few alterations. We’ve had no hedgehog sightings for 2019 as yet but we’re going to have food waiting to help build their weight up again after their winter hibernation.

The garden is certainly waking up properly now too with weeding and pruning needing attention. The wildlife pond is coming alive again with creatures seen moving around – the ones we are checking nightly for are frogs! We’ve seen one and have fingers crossed more will come and they will spawn. That would be great to see.

What are you hoping to do and see in your garden this weekend? Wishing you a good one and a great 2019 both in the garden and out and about! Happy stone skimming too – it’s great to be outdoors again don’t you think? So good for the soul :-)

This post was published by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in March 2019.