Wildlife Diary 2007


Weather Stats
Max Temp =  10.8 deg C               Min Temp =   2.4 deg C            
 Max Wind  38.2 mph              Max Rain in 24 hr Period = 33.6mm
 Max Rain in 1 hr Period = 12.4mm          Total Rain For Month =  208.7mm
28th.  Most of the day was taken up with cleaning bird feeders, adding some metal trim to the base of the shed to stop unwanted critters from getting under and a general tidy up around the garden. Of course I found time to keep an extra close eye on the garden for an hour as I looked to submit results for this years RSPB big garden birdwatch. If you have not submitted your results just click the tab at the top of this page where you can do so. It has felt relatively quiet in the garden as the wind and light drizzle seem to have brought lethargy to our garden visitors even though the temps have remained quite high with a steady temp of 6 degrees all day.
My results for my Big Garden Birdwatch took place at 11:15 - 12:15. As stated the weather was windy with lots of dark cloud that were accompanied with light drizzle.
Greenfinch  1         Chaffinch 1
Blackbird  2          Blue tit  3
Goldfinch  4                Robin  1
Starling  6                  Dunnock  1
Wren  1               Coal Tit  1
Collared Dove  1        Grey Wagtail   1

I hope you all enjoyed the birdwatch as one thing that I am always amazed about is the feeling that not as many birds turn up as I felt could do but this probably shows that the garden is not always alive at any one hour but more over a longer period. One thing that I always feel sad about is the fact that I have never counted a House Sparrow to date when the count is on. It is something that I have been actively trying to change as I look at the type of planting and nesting that would suit there needs.
23rd.  Again the weather is the main talking point within the garden as the real winter began as the winds turned more northerly and with them an icy blast left it's mark on the garden in the shape of my favourite weather feature...snow! At 20:00 tonight it started snowing which has only just covered the ground by 13mm or so. The temperatures are very much up and down with it not reaching above 0.5degrees all day. The first real frost appeared this morning as it dipped to a low of       - 2.4 deg. It was a real treat as sunshine has accompanied the cold temps for the last two days which has made a big difference to the light at the start and end of the day. I actually returned home in daylight tonight...hurraahh.

14th.  A huge difference in the weather today allowed me to do a few well overdue jobs in the garden. The sun has shone from 09:00 until sunset and what a difference it makes to the hour at which it goes dark. The temps have also been very warm locally to match those nationally. It has reached higher temps than the whole of the December with highs of 10.8deg C and a low of only 1.9deg C.
My wife and I also made the most of the good weather with a walk to our local res, Cowm reservoir accompanied by binoculars and camera. It was very breezy but the sun was lovely in protected places round the res and the added benefit of no rain! The bird count was low with only a couple of Cormorants noted of any real interest. I will have to check but I think that's the first time I have seen these birds around the res.

On my return I also set to with a few jobs that I have been meaning to do when the weather was a little more friendly. I set to making a couple of nest boxes for a friend that wanted a Great Tit and Blue Tit box for his home. I also made a few alterations to the boxes on my house wall. The Great Tit box had a new colour camera with white LEDs fitted along with an external sensor that switched the LEDs on when daylight and off when darkness falls so as not to disturb the birds. The sensor seems to be in a poor position as the LEDs are not performing as I had hoped so a repositioning of the sensor has been done. I also have increased the amount of natural light allowed into the box by drilling about 10 10mm holes in the front of the box. The holes have then been covered with a small amount of perspex and sealed to stop water ingress. I could not test to see if the changed have made any difference as the light levels had faded. I shall have to add to the tech and info pages about the camera set ups so you can see the quite simple set up affair. I shall also add a few pictures to the diary tomorrow as the weather is set to continue for at least another day...hurraahh!
I did forget to mention that I have heard my first real songster of the winter period. I usually hear a Mistle Thrush at the end of December but this did not occur this year. I was rather pleased as I heard the welcome tones singing so proudly early on Saturday the 6th. I opened the window wide to enjoy his concerto, sadly a Carrion Crow did not feel the same as it pounced on him which led to an abrupt end of my enjoyment. I have not heard him since but I feel the soundbite will not be the last.
8th.  Well as you can see from the weather stats above the weather for 2007 has started rather "Wild". It really has been depressingly grey, windy and damp with only the odd amount of sunshine to speak of. As I write this at 15:00 the rain still falls from when it started at about 11:00 today. Not to much happenings in the garden of late possibly something to do with a visitor which seems to be using the garden a little to much having seen it 5 times on the 7th alone. On one of the visits I just managed a quick shot as another failed raid left it wondering if insider information was giving it away, this being the case as high up in poplar trees Starlings are ever nervous and often spot him well before a fly/drive through meal can be collected.

This Sparrowhawk I think is a young Male due to its brownness and mainly it's size but I don't mind if someone has another view? 
I shall keep my eyes open to see if it's success rate improves any!


Weather Stats
Max Temp =  9.8 deg C               Min Temp =   6.1 deg C            
 Max Wind  28.6 mph              Max Rain in 24 hr Period = 19.1mm
 Max Rain in 1 hr Period = 4.1 mm          Total Rain For Month =  140mm

27th.  Tidying up within the garden has been the main project at the moment. I cut down a lot of the larger stemmed plants like the purple loosestrife, Buddleja, hemp agrimony and other tall woody plants. I had kept a lot from the previous season as I have bought a shredding machine which now allows me to recycle the garden even more so than in my compost heap. The shredder performed superbly as the fine mulch was spread amongst the woodland edge patch. I had, for the first time, left all the plants stems alone from the years growth for several reasons, firstly to give a home to one or two insects, secondly for the effect of a more natural "untidy" look and thirdly to allow any birds to take advantage of any seed heads. I have to say that I will be repeating this system as it has given the garden much more interest through the winter and has kept the empty garden feeling you get at winter time.

I managed another quick getaway with my digiscoping gear over the weekend as Mandy and I walked around out local Reservoir, Cowm. Mandy took her camera gear only to find that she had replaced her batteries with "dead" ones...whooppsss! The day was mostly cloudy with few opportunities for photos as a lot of dog walkers had also had the same idea as us. 24 species were recorded in total with the Common Buzzard being the star bird. I also managed to let a photographer know of it's presence but I think it to far away to get any meaningful shots. It was enjoyable non the less and only the second time I had seen a Buzzard on my local patch, this being Mandy's first time.

I spotted a lone robin in song at the top of a tree and slowly set up my scope and camera. The Robin moved around and after a few failed attempts at Goldcrest and Long tailed Tits my attention returned to the Robin. I took a few pics and on my return home I was pleased with the results.

Matters back in the garden started hotting up as the Frogs began much croaking and signs of Frisky business as they thrashed around the pond waiting to pounce on anythink that dare move. I presume the recent night time temps of 7 or 8 degrees have helped as tonight the frogs are rather sedate as the temp has dramatically dropped to 0.3 degrees as of 20:00. It is all a precurser to events yet to unfold and the continuing presence of the hedgehog has made my thoughts turn to Spring. I have started to put food out for the Hog with a few dried mealworm being spread in the garden during the evening for the Hog to find. I have also noticed that the Frogs are also partial to mealworm!

21st. Matters outside of the garden have kept the entries few and far between but that does not mean I have not taken note of a few developments over the last few days and nights. The temps are very high for this time of year, typically February is the coldest month, with the temps reaching a daytime high of 9.8 deg at 13:00 on the 20th. It is staying quite dry although not much in the way of sunshine is evident although the last weekend did spoil us with many sunshine hours.

A major purchase took place last weekend with an addition to my optical equipment being added to. At last I have a descent Spotting Scope that I can really feel the benefit from, not just for use as a spotting scope for bird watching, but also as a extension of my digital camera to allow my digiscoping to climb a notch ...or even two! The scope I have bought has taken much deliberating over but I feel that I will not be disappointed. The scope is a large Zeiss with an objective lens of 85mm which in terms of spotting scopes is quite large. This extra lens size allows for better light levels which helps with contrast and resolution. I tested the setup out at Leighton Moss on the 18th. I took 151 shots in total using my Samsung NV3 camera attached via a modified bracket affair with a cable release system attached.
Out of the 150 shots I took only about 10 are keepers but one ot two pics I am really pleased with. Below are a few I am happy with along with a shot of the illusive Bittern that I managed whilst the floor of the hide was shaking due to the stampede to see the bird.

                                    Female Kestrel                                                            Song Thrush Bathing
The distances to the subject birds did vary with between 40 - 70 feet which, in my opinion, was quite amazing. For me the Song Thrush made all the poor photos worth while.

                                          Mute Swan                                                                       Bittern

I will update the photography page to give a little more detail as to the new optics as I have also some more adding and rearranging of that section.
I also managed a few pictures of the garden regulars as the Mistle Thrush take up residence in the garden. It feeds on the Starling table4' off the floor at the very back of the garden or, as i hoped, they feed on the Blackbird table at closer quarters and on the floor. The posture in the picture was taken due to alarm calls of a Blackbird which spooked quite a few birds.

Mistle Thrush

Other visitors are still being noted by the Song Thrush and the Great Spotted Woodpecker. I had a late night stroll out into the garden at about 22:00 on the 20th to have a look for any signs of Frogs and as soon as the back door was opened I could hear the amorous calls. They are very sensitive to any movement so as I made my way up to the pond they swam for cover. I sat waiting totally still but all I could hear was a scraping scratching noise. I turned round to see a Hedgehog moving around in the woodland edge patch, possibly finding uneaten mealworm. This is the first visit by the Hedgehog this year so I will keep an eye out for any tell tale droppings! I have helped them out with any foraging as I have left out a small dish with hog food in.

I have moved the roaming cam to near the pond to watch the activity and hopefully get a little more croaking noises transferred back inside the house via a microphone within the camera. As of 21:15 tonight little frog activity has been seen which is also the case with the Hog activity.

11th.  A gap in the diary due to the garden not really throwing anything unusual up. I have also been preoccupied with projects in the house. I have taken delivery of a new office setup which allows me to work whilst being able to keep an eye on the garden. Whilst I was moving the computer around I took the time to change the nestbox cameras display properties. I have been using the computer to view and record the goings on within the nestboxes but have never been totally happy with the performance so I have now reverted to an AV switcher which allows four video inputs and and four audio inputs. On the computer setup this only allowed for four video inputs but only one audio input. I then run these signals to a 14" monitor where a better picture can be viewed. The AV switcher can be set to automatically switch between the four inputs which can be displayed for my own predetermined time span or I can flick through the inputs manually. The only thing I cannot do is show all four cameras on screen at the same time. The switcher does give me the ability to have a second output attached, so I may well in time use this and run it back to the computer so that I can use the software on the computer to record images for the garden diary.....but as of yet little interest has been shown in the box!
Well after the relative quiet in the garden it all changed as temperatures plummeted with a minimum of minus 6.1 degrees being noted. The temps stayed low for some days which encouraged a few less regular birds to venture into the garden. These low day and night temps were accompanied with fantastically clear sunny days with cloudless blue skies. This triggered several birds to begin a warm up for the breeding season as song seemed to rule the days. Dunnocks, Song Thrush, Robin, Wren and even the Tit family courted us with a little taster for was is to come...and I can't wait. The weather then turned a little warmer, hovering around 0 deg which led to a snowfall on the 9th. It fell form about 18:00 right to when I had gone to bed. I was hoping it would continue through the night but sadly as i looked through the blinds in the morning a thaw was already underway and was pretty much complete on the 10th.

As I said though a few visitors were noted with a pair of Mistle Thrushes now taking advantage of the copious amounts of sultanas and these were also shared with a very nervous Song Thrush. The Blackbird count also increased with Mandy counting 10 at first light. Mandy was also quite happy by the fact she had returned home for lunch on the 9th to find a Great Spotted Woodpecker tucking into....peanuts?......fat cakes?....no..... sunflower hearts in a tube feeder. This individual I was told was clinging to the tube feeder for some time taking the hearts quite comfortably. I have heard others mention this but due to the lack of visits by a woodpecker I had not witnessed this. All visits in the past have been true to form with the peanuts being the order of the day. Maybe this female is of the new generation that knows sunflowers has a very high calorific value.

She returned this morning (11th) and again chose to feed on the sunflower hearts where she stayed for a good 5mins. I was also treated to the early morning sights of the Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush and a reluctantly welcome visitor in the form of a Female Sparrow Hawk. She whipped through the garden ignoring the small birds and went straight for the Blackbirds....I never knew the result as the chase led away from the garden. I wonder if a strike has occurred of late as I noticed a lot of feathers on the ground feeder where I feed sultanas. I hope it was the Sparrowhawk and not the local cat which stalks the garden regularly. As I mention the cat I have found something that it does not like, chicken poo pellets which I have used for the feeding of the hedgerow plants. I noticed the cat had not been in it's usual spot for hunting and then realised I had spread the pellets around there. I presume it is the smell as to be honest it is very strong and quite vile. I shall use this in the future to help with this cat"n"mouse scenario I try to end.


Weather Stats
Max Temp =  12.6 deg C               Min Temp =   -3.1 deg c            
 Max Wind  28.4 mph              Max Rain in 24 hr Period = 21.2mm
 Max Rain in 1 hr Period = 6.2 mm          Total Rain For Month =  71mm

29th.  The evenings are now lasting longer as the clocks leap forward to BST. This change of time was marked superbly with cracking daytime temps and three consecutively sunny days which lead to the garden furniture making an appearance from under their wintertime covers. On uncovering the chairs I disturbed a ladybird of the yellow variety which I did not get chance to photograph and identify. The maximum temps (12.6 deg C) which have been reached several times over the week has had a dramatic effect on the plants as more and more re-act to the warming of the soil. Many of the trees, shrubs and bulbs have been slowly showing more and more of the promise of things to come. I shall try to take some pictures of the plants in question over this weekend as the good weather is supposed to return by the weekend.

Good news on the nesting front as I spotted a wren acting suspicious around the purpose built hay rack that was placed on the shed exterior wall in the hope of giving a home to Wrens after they were spotted a few years ago making a nest in a neighbours hanging basket. I have now trained the roving cordless camera near to this nest building so i can check on progress. I hope this nest is used as the male builds quite a few before the female gives one of them the nod! 

19th.  The forecast was accurate and with a few hours passing by, the hail turned to snow which led to the garden looking more wintry than at any other time this year. I was hoping for a total white out on waking this morning but the distant sound of cars on the road outside shattered any hopes of this. As I write this at 15:00 the snow is again falling although the rapid melting of last nights flurry has not helped any new bursts stick before it has melted. This picture was taken at about 18:30 on the 18th. The snow continued to fall when I shut the blinds at 23:00 but sadly it did not stick around and the garden shows few signs of the wintry spell although some plants and the frogs showed strong signs of dislike.

A decision has been made to keep our Cat Ferly in doors for the upcoming breeding season, a decision that she does not like but I think she has got used to more as each year passes. The hunting instinct rises in them at this time and a bird in her mouth is not something I like to endure. I have to say that since we decided this was the best course of action over 3 years ago we have not had a single bird brought in. I am aware however that she may not bring them in but leave them elsewhere but the occasional mouse is still delivered through her cat flap which leads me to think that i am managing to lessen the impact she undoubtedly makes. The down side to this imprisonment is twofold as my allergy to her goes through the roof and other cats soon move into "her" gaff which leads to continued vigilance to scare them off.

18th.  The weather has taken the much talked about decline as heavy hail showers and day time temps that have not reached above 3 deg have taken control. The warmth of the proceeding days which reached 11.3 deg on 10th lead to breeding being spotted in the garden. A pair of Robins mated early in the day on the 11th and the male was spotted today feeding the Female with some mealworm today on the 18th. This behavior leads me to think that we have two pairs of Robins nesting locally whilst I am sure they are not nesting within the garden boundary, sadly. This mating and feeding is a real glimpse of how Robins behave at set times during the breeding season. When a pair of Robins are sure of their partner and a nest site has been chosen the Male constantly offers the Female food offerings but whilst she may beg like a young bird would, she will never accept the food until she is both ready and that the nest is fully complete and ready for laying of the eggs. When this criteria is fulfilled she will accept the food with head lowered and wings quivering like a young begging for food. So with this in mind and the fact that I saw mating on the 11th and feeding on the 18th I am hoping we have a couple of families of robins to come.

A Blackbird was also spotted carrying nest material on the 15th into next doors conifer hedge so things are also looking good for a Blackbird family. In the past it often seems that early nesting by the Blackbird are not to successful due to different reasons but with a little luck that may change this year. 

Frogspawn in the pond has increased to at least 7 small blobs and with 27 frogs present most nights. The drop in temperature will put any more spawning on hold for the time being but I hope when things warm up again so will the activity in the pond. I did watch the other day as the female laid her eggs whilst a male clung onto her back. he then released his sperm onto them and latter that day the clump took on a more normal looking frogspawn pattern with the clump swelling in size along with the formation of the clear gel and the floating qualities.
Going back to the weather and if the forecast is correct we may well get snow either tonight or tomorrow and as out garden stands at about 750 foot above sea level it is a distinct possibility.
For anybody interested I have updated the information pages regarding photography and optics just to show more of the equipment I use.

9th.  A mention of the Frogs is all it took to bring  a new milestone to the garden. I have never had "home" grown frogspawn in the pond before having only rescued frogs and imported spawn placed in the pond. Today this has changed and my wildlife garden has at least offered  a new home to some spawn. This new development really does show that we can all have a direct and positive impact in our gardens when features like ponds supply a real lifeline for the falling natural ponds in our wider landscapes. The enjoyment of this small oasis that I built is enjoyed with great curiosity by anybody, of all ages that happen to visit the garden or look over the fence and pear into this pool of immense life forms. If you are looking to add any one feature to your garden to bring in many forms of wildlife I would always recommend a pond...no matter what the size. The pond attracts all sorts of Bird, Mammal, Amphibian, Insects and just about anything else that needs water...and what doesn't need water?

                        The spawn was noticed at first light but Mandy grabbed a few images of the pond after work tonight.

                           24 Frogs as the pond bathes in sun                                    The gardens very first "home" grown spawn

A chance was also taken as the light faded to take a shot of this Snakeshead Fritiliary that I planted in the lawn about a week ago. This individual is more advanced than the resident ones in the garden and I hope to get another better image of this plant with it's nodding head at the weekend.

8th. I am still waiting impatiently for the garden to jump into life as the lack of frog spawn and derth of visits to the 4 nestboxes dotted around the garden seem to take forever. I am enjoying the increased bird song though with a first real song from the Blackbird from around the garden taking place on the evening of the 6th. The door was opened wide to outside to allow the melodious warble fill the kitchen. Mandy and I both stood wedged in the doorway listening to him proclaim his turf. This lovely time of year was heightened when a Song Thrush decided to test his vocal chords for a short time. I have become more appreciative of the Song Thrush song as sometimes when out birding I have never really connected with the repetitive notes but since it's closer connection to the garden over the last few years it really is now a cracking song to have on your doorstep, although the close proximity of it's song post to houses may offend some of the residents.......who cares...lets hear it!

The Female Woodpecker is still visiting the sunflower feeder and it seems about 08:30 is the regular time slot. I do hope she hangs around as it would be really nice to see such a species for a long length of time. Who knows she might even bring a mate.


Weather Stats
Max Temp =  20.5 deg C               Min Temp =   -0.7 deg C            
 Max Wind  18.3 mph              Max Rain in 24 hr Period = 14.5mm
 Max Rain in 1 hr Period = 3.1mm          Total Rain For Month = 28.4mm

30th.  As promised some good news and some bad news. The bad news first, which relates to the obvious lack of nesting that the Wrens are showing after the promise shown in the hay rack at the back of the garden. I fear that whilst away and our cat has been kept in two new cats have been patrolling the garden. One was seen under the nest of the Wren and the other was actually hidden in the roof of the Pergola that is now covered with clematis and honeysuckle. I have also unwittingly helped the cats hide on the pergola roof as I added a thatch type false ceiling in the pergola to give a sun shade to the area but the cats use it to sit and wait in ambush. My wife coaxed one down the other day with the aid of my 1200mm Stabila level! On checking the Wrens situation and noting a cat in residence I also found a dead Starling in the same spot. I do not know how this happened but at this time of year any death of adults will have a severe effect on any young they may have.
The other bad bit of news is not confirmed but is a little worrying. The Mistle Thrush have been carrying food away to feed young as of late and on the 29th I witnessed a Magpie being attacked by a pr of Mistle Thrushes quite aggressively. I have, as of yet, seen no Mistle Thrushes coming to the garden for food so I hope that the young have survived. I shall keep fingers crossed. The really good news is that of nesting.......in our garden....in our ivy.......right outside the office viewing window. I noticed that a lot of interest was shown by Blackbirds in the ivyand were most upset when a Mistle Thrush came to take the berries. At this point it did not occur that a nest was in use but later on that day I kept seeing the Blackbirds emerge from the ivy. On closer inspection ( that is from a distance) true enough a Blackbird was sat there with her eye looking back at me. What a treat at last! This is the first time that a Blackbird has chosen our garden for a home and we are both chuffed to bits. Today i took the chance to check on her eggs so whilst away I peeked in and I can confirm we have 5 eggs. What is stramge is that they are quite exposed to any elements but with the growth of the ivy soon to happen I hope this will serve as a little more protection.

A lot of birds are now regularly taking food away.

Blackbirds, Dunnock, Grey Wagtail, Robin, Starling and Chaffinch are all busy busy feeding mainly mealworm to the young. I have also found several egg shells around the garden of which I am sure they are Starling.

29th.  Wow....what a great holiday my wife and I had in Mallorca, 12 days of shear birdwatching heaven. If you are interested I will be setting up a new page to incorporate holiday ittinaries starting with the trip to Mallorca. As of yet we are still sifting and editing the4000 pictures that Mandy and myself took whilst we were there so it may take a little time to compile the report.

In the garden things have moved on a pace and we have sad things to tell of but one great piece of news. I shall be mentioning this when I get time to go through and check all my settings and let my head calm down a little. I hope to let you know of the changes whilst we were away in the next couple of days.

12th.  The lovely weather continues with no signs of ending. Bumble bees, Butterflies, Ladybirds, Tadpoles and other creatures are making many an appearance in the garden as the reasons for survival are for all to see, in the form of the most basic of tasks, namely reproduction of the species.

My neighbours next door informed me that a Blue Tit had been found dead in their garden recently so i kept an eye on whether this was "our" pair that had taken to the nest box at the end of the garden. It took until about 20:00 this evening to see two Blue Tits which were entering the box to end the fear of it being one of ours. It would be hard to guess what caused the death but on this occasion I really don't think it a cat as at the moment I am not seeing any in the vicinity.
Our visit to the Wildflower centre in Liverpool was more of a "what is going to be" rather than a "look at it now" visit as kost of the flowers were still only at leaf stage. We have joined with a membership for the year so we hope to visit at least once a month to see the changes over the period. The trip also gave me an excuse to purchase more plants including more lesser Celandine, Chamomile, Fox and Cubs and Knapweed.
The birding trip to Majorca will mean a short gap in the diary but I am looking forward to seeing the garden and the changes within it when we return. I hope to be swapping Sparrow Hawk for Black Vulture and Grey Wagtail for Purple Gallinule! 
8th. A lovely spell of fantastic weather has continued with the high of 13.5 deg C being reached at 16:15 on the 7th. I have spent most of Saturday afternoon and all day Sunday in the garden finishing a few tasks required including rearranging the nest box entrances to entice a few nesters as the "boxes" I have built are mostly empty. The Wren is still showing interest in the hay rack of which he has built a nest in, along with the Blue Tit interest in the box farthest away from the house ( and the one without a camera in!) so I am still without any residents in the other 3 boxes which have internal cameras fitted, although today I am sure the Robin is partially interested in the box in the ivy as I heard him singing near to the entrance and as I leaned over to look out of the window he flew off from the ivy...lets hope!
There is plenty of young in nests elsewhere outside of the garden as Blackbirds and Robins are all carrying mealworm off in their beaks for the new brood to feed on. 
As I said earlier I have spent quite sometime in the garden and I did manage to get a few pics to show the mass of colour that is erupting due to the cracking weather. I have used several means of grabbing the images including a few digiscoped birds as I am trying to get as much practice as possible for our upcoming birding holiday to Majorca. The light levels in Majorca will make photography that much easier but I am still getting to grips with the new scope and camera setup and how to get the best out of them in various lighting conditions.  Mandy is also keen on polishing up on her skills behind a lens as the wealth of wildflowers in some of the areas we will be visiting will be well photographed whilst we are there. I hope to write a few notes about our trip on return but this will be done when the weather stops us getting out. 

Here are a few of the images to show some of our visitors and the garden landscape at the moment.

The gabion baskets below were made by Mandy and give a more robust look to the garden which contrasts with the natural softer features like the numerous amounts of wood and stone that i have used around the garden. I am considering more of these baskets to edge the lawn with rather than the rotting logs I have used in the past

             Lesser Celendine                                Planted Gabion Baskets                               "Jetfire" Daffodils 
            Pasque Flower                                A Riot Of Colour Around The Pond                    Mahonia Aquafolium Flower
With these bird images you can almost feel the urgency in the fast paced way as they work up to the breeding duties

                 Robin                                   Blue Tit                             Goldfinch                               Robin
                 Blackbird                                              Mistle Thrush                                           Grey Wagtail
A trip to the National Wildflower is planned so I shall be adding a few more plants to the garden with any luck as the lesser Celandine really is a star performer in the lawn so I shall be looking for some more of those.


Weather Stats
Max Temp =  19.7 deg C               Min Temp =   2.7 deg C            
 Max Wind  22.3 mph              Max Rain in 24 hr Period = 21.2 mm
 Max Rain in 1 hr Period = 5.6 mm          Total Rain For Month = 103 mm

20th.  The rate the birds are eating the food I shall be a very poor man in retirement. At present the Starlings,Blackbirds,Mistle Thrushes and Song Thrush are eating their way through about 2 1/2 KG a DAY of sultanas. The Tit family along with the Robin and Grey Wagtail are demolishing the mealworms also at an alarming rate one which I hope will soon slow a little. After the initial rush of young in the garden it has all gone quiet with no juvenile Starlings being seen or heard and our Blackbird fledglings all deciding to leave this garden and seek cover elsewhere. I have not seen our young Blackbirds for a couple of days but I presume all is well as the female is still collecting food to carry away.

A good day is in prospect today according to my weather station and as I write this at 08:30 the sun is just breaking through the thinning cloud. I am grateful of the respite from the rain as with the heavy downpours came a quite vicious gusty wind that has damaged my Bird Cherry (prunus padus) quite badly. I foolishly allowed the tree to split into two trunks which has caused the tree to have a weak spot which has now been found. The two trunks have been split in two with the split tearing away one of the trunks and creating a 300mm split line right down the middle of the main single shaft. As soon as I spotted this I sadly had to release some of it's strain and cut away one of the trunks. I have now banded together the single trunk left in the hope that it will recover. The recent thinking is not to apply any wound dressing at all to the cuts as this is thought to help disease penetrate and grow into the tree. I hope she recovers as I planted that in 2003 at which time it was a 2' whip. It has now grown to about 18' and has started to produce fruit for the birds.
17th.  What a difference a couple of weeks can make. Weather, Allergies, new birds births,death and plenty of birds! First off the weather has taken a steep downturn as a cool breeze coupled with cloud and persistant rain have took a hold. It has struggled to reach 10degrees in the last couple of weeks and has not really had time to dry up in between showers. A little respite was found on Monday as the sun broke through in the afternoon but no real warmth was felt. My allergy to what I suspect is to our cat has been driving me mad, with it also bringing a couple of asthma attacks for good measure. I have ordered a good quality Daikin air purifier so I hope that this will aid my nights sleeping. I suppose the advantages to being up at 04:30 in the morning are that the dawn chorus can be sampled in all it's glory something that I would recommend everybody should try at least once every spring time. The song is so strong it is amazing to hear such a relaxing song at such an ungodly hour.
New birds have been spotted in the form of our summer visitors the Swifts. I first noted them locally on the 11th with larger numbers being seen by the 12th. I have counted up to 20 in small parties since and I wondered if any of these were the same ones I spotted in Mallorca in April. A Goldcrest also came to visit early morning on the 14th with a passing tirade of song as it flitted around the Silver Birch gleaning insects.

Whilst the early morning taste of the dawn chorus occurred I also was amazed to see that one of the Blackbird chicks was out of the nest and on the decking outside the back door. When light permitted I carried it back to the nest to where it seemed more than happy to return. Considering that the eggs hatched about two weeks ago I thought it odd that these were out and about. I then spotted another one so i again returned it to the nest. This one was keen as mustard to leave and again it hopped out of the nest and onto the floor. I thought it best to leave it but kept an eye on them. Mum kept feeding them using gentle calls to detect where they were. I helped out by using mealworms which the female now actively takes right at my feet. On my return from work on the same day (14th) I was saddened to find that two chicks were dead in the ivy and one was sat at the top of the ivy in the heavy drizzle. I removed the two dead chicks only to find that they has blood on them around the body area but they were intact with little signs of attack. This situation is puzzling but I guess I will never really know the reasons. Theses few pics show the extent of how young they actually are.

Other young birds are now visiting with young Greenfinch, Pied Wagtails and Starlings all making use of the available food put out for them. The Pied Wags are not really visiting the garden but they have chosen to bring their young to a neighbours roof where insects are being found. The Grey Wags which are still taking food away with them are less regular considering the amounts of food that they have taken. I would guess that this slow down is due to some or all of the young being lost. Lets hope there chance at another nest it more successful.
A few pics I took on Monday whilst the light was better show how popular the mealworm has become!

1st.  The lovely warm weather continues with a nice daytime temp of 19.7 deg c being reached at 17:18. Whilst sat in the sun it feels very strong but out of the sun the wind can make it feel very cool indeed and this has been bore out as the windchill has dipped to as low as-2.6 deg C.

More good news as the fears for the Mistle Thrush young have been swept away as I witnessed this morning, at about 06:45, both parents carrying food away to feed to the new crop of youngsters. I would of thought it not long before we see one or two of their young within the garden. If I remember rightly it should not be difficult to spot them as they have been very vocal in the past as their appetites seem to be insatiable and even plenty of food in their beaks does not stop their noise level.

Another first for the year as a new fledgling in the shape of a Robin watched me as I went to the top of the garden. I saw mum also keeping an eye on me. I walked to where I store the mealworm and threw some on the ground where it did not take long for the Robin to spot them and hoover them up! Another first for the year was the appearance of a Willow Warbler in next doors garden. If about it always visits the Silver Birch next door and this time was no different. I had not spotted it but it's wistful song gave it's presence away. 


Weather Stats
Max Temp =  28.1 deg C               Min Temp =   7.9 deg C            
 Max Wind  19.2 mph              Max Rain in 24 hr Period = 37.8 mm
 Max Rain in 1 hr Period = 7.2 mm          Total Rain For Month = 159.5 mm

24th.  A long gap in the diary as I continue to update information on other pages including adding new pages like the holiday reports page. This particular page is taking quite some time to collate and build.

All is well in the garden apart from the cat that is now becoming a real problem as not only is it killing birds via ambush it it causing much damage to plants and has even smashed two of my feeder trays on the bottom of the feeders. I guess it's one of those things that happen within a garden.

I have found two dead birds that look like they have had impacts with things around the garden. A young Starling was found on the deck and a young Blue Tit was found at the back of the garden near the shed. Neither had any external damage so I presume either a strike by a Cat or Sparrowhawk may have startled them causing them to quickly take flight and maybe not taking enough notice of where objects are.
The weather at the moment is grey, which is probably the best description. The rain has mostly been at night but cloud has not parted much to release any sun. Watching the weather forecasts would suggest that we have done a lot better than most though as heavy rain and winds have hit many areas across the UK. A little bit of sun would be nice now though as the grey clouds are now becoming monotonous.
My allergies have being playing havoc with me with my asthma becoming a real issue. It is quite startling how many people have now become, in some way or another, allergic to "life", I can't help wonder if the massive increase in the diesel engine has to do with it? I am now recovering and am feeling a lot better with sleep being attained through the night. Maybe the diary will now be more regularly updated! 


Weather Stats This Month
Max Temp =  22.8 deg C               Min Temp =   7.6 deg C            
 Max Wind  57.2 mph              Max Rain in 24 hr Period = 33.6 mm
 Max Rain in 1 hr Period = 6.7 mm          Total Rain For Month = 219.1 mm

23rd. I am thankful that the high rainfall of late has not wreaked any damage like that seen around the country culminating in flooding of homes and businesses. My home is about 800ft above sea level and I am situated on a hill albeit part of a valley. The sun rarely shines and the clouds rarely differ from the monotonous grey colour at the moment and I think the garden is suffering from a lack of direct sunlight bringing with it any heat.

The meadowsweet is now in full flower which the Bees like. They are seemingly so intoxicated that they appear to "fall" around the flowers at speed rather than the usual orderly collection seen on most plants. Very few Butterflies are evident with only a few passes of a Comma and Small Skipper to report. Frogs are still out and about round the pond with numerous taddies at various stages being noted.

We purchased a few new plants at the weekend from our now rarely visited garden centre. I was after a new Buddleia plant with "Black Knight" in mind but soon changed my mind when the colour of "Royal Red" caught my attention. I have a "white" Buddleia already at the back or the right hand boarder up against the pergola so I thought I would add this new variety to the same position on the left of the pergola. I was also swayed with a Helanium and some Nicotania which will fill out a few spots that the cat has flattened. Talking of the cat my new devices to annoy the cat visits are working!!! They really don't like the water sprays and this has now taken affect as I now rarely go into the garden and see them in their usual ambush places...hurraahhh!
No more visits from the Lesser Redpoll but we have had a Willow Warbler pass through and a couple of Raven fly over calling late in the evening. This is the second time I have seen and heard them. I have also heard and seen the odd Oystercatcher as they fly over the garden usually heading East or West. Young birds from the finch family are now increasing as juvenile Greenfinch, and in particular, Goldfinch are coming for food supplies.

I headed to my usual spot for bird food supplies only to be informed that the sunflower hearts I buy have increased in price by 22% to £21 for 20KG. This seems to be the trend, unless you are Tesco, that prices are on the increase and by some margin. Working in retail myself I see this trend to be frequent and encompasses a vast amount of products although I can only guess the hearts being of direct consequence of the poor weather for crop growing this year.
14th.  A trip to a local spot produced pictures of a lovely bird. A normally nocturnal bird becomes more crepuscular as weather and young birds to feed have an effect on it's normal activities. This gave the opportunity to get some reasonable shots of this Juvenile bird in particular. Sadly the sun was behind it and the owl had it's back to us so I did struggle with the light but all in all I am pleased with the results.

Long Eared Owl
These beautiful birds gave cracking views with 3 young and one parent being present. The parent was quartering fields adjacent to where they were roosting and returning with what looked like voles low across a main road that was worrying to watch.
"Balmoral" Barn Owl Chicks

A thank you to Andy Simpson who sent me this picture of "his" Barn Owl chicks which have been legally ringed near their home in Scotland. Andrew has spent time and effort accommodating this, and previous families of Barn Owl, in his Scottish retreat. It must be a real pleasure having these beauties nesting near your home and with the help from Andrew I am sure they will continue to flurish. I would have thought that it showed a very good habitat was in evidence as four, nigh on full grown chicks, are almost ready to fledge. 

News in the garden has been in short supply due to the continuation of wind and rain although today has turned sunny with a 2007 July high of 19.8 deg C being reached. The rain and wind has finally taken it's toll on the Bird Cherry I planted about 4 years ago. It was about 3 foot high when planted and reached about 15 feet to present day. After the tree had split a few months back I had doubts it would leave the remaining trunk strong enough and sure enough that was the case as I looked out of the window to see the tree had secummed to the inevitable. I chopped away the trunk and whilst new growth had already taken place below the older broken trunk, I am unsure whether to keep it or to plant something else in it's place. I shall see!
As I was out inspecting the garden and thinking that a lot have plants have not been allowed to reach their best due to the weather I noticed a small insect on the floor in the pergola. At first I thought it was a ladybird but on closer inspection it turned out to be a micro moth of an unknown name. If you could help with it's ID I would appreciate the help. A couple of pictures to may help. It is only about 6-8mm in length.

8th.  The rain has been incessant, and this shows in the total rainfall for the month 109.8mm so far that's quite incredible really. Yesterday the 7th, due to a break in the rain, did give me chance to get out into the garden and clear away some of the plants that have secummed to the wind and rain, and I can assure you it has been quite a lot sadly. The taller plants like the Hemp Agrimony, Purple Loosestrife and the Meadowsweet are almost prostrate so I have had to tie them back in several places. The combination of the constant rain and gusty winds (57mph) have left the plants to much to cope with and it has stopped a lot of plants growing as they should have with the usual help of the July sun! As you can see the max temp has been 17.8 deg C and this has been reached only a few time with 15 or 16 deg c being more the norm.

A new visitor to the garden was recorded in June (I forgot to upload the image) and yesterday he brought his sister with him. On this occasion I did not manage a shot of them so the image I took on the 11th of June will have to suffice. Both of them have headed straight for the Sunflower hearts and stayed quite happily for some time before finally disappearing with Goldfinch.

                                      Juvenile Lesser Redpoll                                                          Cheeky Blue Tit
After the first visit by the Redpoll I was very surprised when he returned let alone when he brought his sister so I hope this becomes a more regular occurrence. No sign today (11:30) although a quartet of Goldfinch are feeding. The other pic of the Blue Tit just shows how desperate they can become for food as a normally shy bird has resorted to foraging near to us with a supply of mealworm. The feeder he is perched on it about 12" away from us.

Whilst out yesterday arranging my new anti-cat measures I was just about to reach for a bit of hose pipe I have in the "just in case" pile I was stopped by an insect that I have never seen here before. I watched it for some time and then quickly ran inside for my camera. It stuck around long enough to get a few shots of it but the light was poor so only one image was of reasonable quality. It really does stand out with it's cerise abdomen.
                                          Ruby Tailed Wasp                                        A Froglet

The wasp is small about 11mm in length and is parasitoid of other other insects and Bees. The other picture was taken a month or so ago so I wonder if this is not from our pond as it is to far advanced for this years crop.

I have just looked out of the window to see the sun shine has finally made an appearance so I shall wander out to see if anything is about of interest. I hope for just a glimpse of any butterflies as they have been subdued with the rain. The temp outside has still only reached15.9 deg c and this really could be doing to be higher!


Weather Stats This Month
Max Temp =  24.9 deg C               Min Temp =   6.4 deg C            
 Max Wind  21.6 mph              Max Rain in 24 hr Period = 24.8 mm
 Max Rain in 1 hr Period = 7.2 mm          Total Rain For Month = 67.3 mm

26th.  After yet more debate regarding the ID of the bird I have seen lower down this page on the 23rd I am now happy and confident that this bird was, as I originally thought, a Marsh Harrier.

Several reasons in my mind. This bird I feel is a young bird possible second summer Female which tend to show a pale patch on the inner primaries leading onto the secondaries which this bird shows. The rusty brown of the bird follows through to the undertail coverts which is then punctuated with a pail undertail. The wings are quite broad considering the bird is at an angle and I am happy with how the bird did not show  signs of Red Kite Jizz with this feature. The big sticking point has been the tail which in the picture clearly shows a very Kite like appearance. I noted that the upper tail showed no signs of ruffous or red and neither did the tail show any fork in it's tail whilst I watched for 3-5mins through my scope. The other thing for me is that the picture does not show any black emargination to the undertail outer feathers as would most probably be on a Red Kite.

For those interested I have put a few links to comments on several sites just to help/confuse the issue.
This link helps to show that tail shape is not the only characteristic that differentiate one bird from another.

I have enjoyed this excercise and whilst I know some are happy with this ID others will not, but I really appreciate the messages,emails and thoughts sent to me including the use of others sites as above.

25th.  Back from our trip to Spurn Point which we hoped may throw up an odd bird we had not seen before. On arrival at 8:00 high cloud but light winds made it feel a lot cooler than we were thinking. Non the less we headed down to the lighthouse area and the usual Swallows tipped their hats as they skimmed by. Whinchat and plenty of Whitethroat were about but boy they liked to skulk. We walked round to the beach area where Sandwich and Common Terns were in good numbers. These were constantly being joined with more and the group became quite raucous. Apart from the more common birds to be seen we did manage to catch a glimpse of a nice Turtle Dove. These had bred successfully here this year so it was nice to see such a wary bird. Plenty of Linnets were in evidence making the most of the copious amount of ragwort seed.
On one of the hides a Little Grebe family patrolled the far bank where the rattle was only spoilt by the scolding of the Coot whenever anything got to close to it's chicks. A good day out although a little early for any real migration. A Hobby flew through early on with a Tree Pipit not far behind. I noticed that a Red Backed Shrike appeared near to the Warren later that evening and has remained until today so that is a real shame as I have never seen a Red Backed Shrike. A few pictures below taken with my new digiscoping adaptor (SRB Griturn). Not sure if I like it yet as there is evidence of movement in the bracket at the eyepiece. I will try out a new camera too soon as I look to get the new Nikon P5000 that may increase my digiscoping keepers.

                             Common & Sandwich Terns                                                           Little Grebe

                 Juvenile Coot                                               Linnet                                                 Turtle Dove
24th. After some deliberation the ID of the bird below  the incorrect ID I gave as a Marsh Harrier has been updated. Thanks for the emails and comments.

23rd.  Pheww! A hectic period since my last diary entries as a trip to the 2007 British Birdwatching Fair was squeezed in as we spent 5days in the smallest County in England, Rutland. A lovely place where a whole miriad of people interested in nature in general are able to rub shoulders with others with a similar outlook and where education comes in the form of free lectures and talks. I will be adding this years view on the fair to the others in "And On The 7th Day" page on the menu. When time permits I will add a few pictures of the fair for those who may not get chance to look through other pages.
It seems that at the moment it really is all or nothing with many new interesting happenings in and around the garden with new visitors strange goings on and some great photo opportunities due to the, wait for it........great weather! It seems that for a change the weather is treating us Northerners to a bit of late summer sun and to be honest I think it's our turn.
The weather has steadily been getting better as we arrived home on Monday and by yesterday (wednesday) the sun was really quite nice although a strong wind did accompany it but, it really was a day full of sunshine. Today has followed on with a max temp of 23.3 deg being reached at 18:00 and the wind had died down considerably. It has been so long since I was able to go out into the garden without it feeling chilly and with that, the strong sun of the past two days, I now favour a balesha beacon.
Just as yesterday Mandy and Me sat in the garden enjoying our break form work. We had considered going on a birding trip but due to the great weather in the West we decided to leave this to Friday and let the better weather filter through to the East coast where we hope to visit either Spurn or Flamborough.
As we sat enjoying the sun I noticed a large bird of prey being mobbed by crows and soon realised it was not a Buzzard. After swapping my Bins for my scope it became apparent that I was seeing a Marsh Harrier!!! Amazing not just because this is a first in Rossendale for me but the really big plus was that I had my scope and digiscoping gear set up and so managed a few rather poor quality images due to the shots being taken from almost half a mile away. The bird was flying low and gradually built height where it then set off in a South Westerly direction. I will post this image although I do realise it is not great.

Marsh Harrier
As stated a lot more info to come but I am in the process of sorting the images and getting ready for my day out tomorrow on the East coast where I am hopeful of a new bird to tell about!
12th.  Well a real treat today as I looked out the window I noticed a slim and slightly wary bird feeding on the Honeysuckle berries on top of the pergola. Initially it disappeared  into the Sycamore but quite quickly returned to feeding. A female Blackcap had once again lit up an otherwise dull morning. I had not got my digiscope equipment ready and by the time I had set it up another larger, more boisterous visitor had arrived leaving all other birds fleeing the garden. I did manage to get a few shots of this bird whilst it settled down to take many peanuts into it's crop.


 Today started very wet with 5.6mm of rain falling in one hour but has grown into a better day with the chance of a few photos grabbed as I wanted to get a picture of the juveniles that are about the garden at the moment.

                                    Juvenile Robin                                                                   Juvenile Dunnock
Other things have caught my attention whilst checking for bugs and the like around the garden and these have proved just as difficult to get good images of. I was inspecting the grass and this creature resembling something from the "Alien" movies sat motionless on the lower blades of the grass. I also got a chance to photo the new Froglets that have lost their tales and which are now appearing all around the garden.
These smaller residents of the garden are probably making very good food for our next visitor which I have been feeding dried mealworm to for the last 2 weeks or so. He is very much a creature of habit and appears at the "table" at the same time every night. Mandy and me sat outside in the pergola last night until about 22:30 where we saw the Hedgehog appear from a neighbours garden from under the fence. I say "he" but I am hoping it is a female that may bring it's young in the coming weeks...we will  have to wait and see. The picture to it's right is a Garden Snail that has so far evaded the Hogs attention.

                                           Hedgehog                                                                       Garden Snail

2nd.  No real news in the garden except to say that Summer has finally reached Whitworth. The sun has now shone for several days which has allowed us to eat outside on the decking for quite some time. The warmer weather has not really produced a lot of Butterfly sightings which is a disappointment, with only the odd White and a Small skipper stopping to rest. The moth trap has not yet been out in the garden this year so I hope to have this out shortly.
A few birds are about the garden with "our" Blackbird pair producing another set of young which hailed from our neighbours hedge at the bottom of our garden. I have only seen one youngster from this clutch but I suspect that there will be more. A family of recently fledged Wrens is seeking cover in the mixed stems of Lonicera and Clematis which runs across the roof of the pergola. One parent is shuttling mealworm to and from the feeder to the pergola where the young are being fed in relative safety.

A Willow Warbler stayed quite some time in the Silver Birch next door as it flitted about the branches picking off minute insects. Is this bird the start of the migration south for many of our breeding birds? I was reminded of the fact that summer is soon to be turned as the Times newspaper gave mention of the young Swifts of this years nests are already starting their unacompanied flight South. With the poor weather it feels like I have not had my fill of screaming Swifts and the fast "churrring" like call of the House Martin. I hope August is kind to the birds who make this perilous journey to their feeding grounds for the winter..........did I mention winter!


Weather Stats This Month
Max Temp =  21.3 deg C               Min Temp =   2.1 deg C            
 Max Wind  20.8 mph              Max Rain in 24 hr Period = 33 mm
 Max Rain in 1 hr Period = 9.3 mm          Total Rain For Month = 105.6 mm
24th. Another trip to Spurn Point had us up at 05:30 for the 2 1/2hr trip to this East coast delight. It was to prove a good day with good views of Red Throated Diver, Bluethroat and a Jack Snipe! Not a bad day in all with the Bluethroat being the pick of a really good bunch of birds. The BT kept us busy taking pictures of this mini roadrunner as it darted about on foot whilst retiring to nearby reeds. A few shots that Mandy and me managed to get are a real treat as this is a very good bird to see let alone get pictures. Mandys' new DSLR kit (Nikon D80 & Sigma 100-300 F4 lens & 1.4 Sigma teleconverter) was on it's first real outing so considering the circumstances Mandy did very well.

What a beauty
I wonder if the question was asked, could you differentiate between the two images. One of which is Digiscoped by myself and the other has been taken by Mandys DSLR equipment.
Back to the garden where the weather has done nothing but rain all day today as 20.7mm of rain has already fell in the last 24hrs and the rain has now been accompanied by strong winds that are battering the rain against the window. After the new positions for the feeders have now been established the Goldfinch have now decided to visit in good numbers, 40 to be exact! I love these little finches as they brighten the garden up no end with their tinkling calls and flashes of gold. I am missing the Blackbirds though and I am already looking forward to their return in a month or so. the other good news is the fact that Spurn recorded it's first Fieldfare of the year over the weekend so I look forward to seeing them come winter around my local spot Cowm Res.
Another thing that I have noted of late is the presence of a frog that I see quite regularly on the decking later in the evening. I suppose the frogs are having a whale of a time with all the slugs worms and beatles I see around the garden due to the damp weather. The Cat also took interest in it but was, gladly, frightened to death of it with her tale looking more like Basil brush!

18th.  The prolonged sunny spell has continued which has allowed the garden to continue it's late colour showing with the superb Rudbeckia Goldsturm really coming into it's own, It has a wonderful clean bright yellow colour and in it's third year it is now producing enough flower heads to allow some to be used as cut flowers for indoors. The butterflies and hoverflies like them once their black "eye" has opened in the centre and it seems no matter what the weather they always add a real glow to the garden. This plant has to be in my top 20 must have plants of any garden.

Bird activity is low throughout the day as moulting and migration take hold. No Blackbirds have been present for about 2-3 weeks although I did have a party of 13 Mistle Thrush fly over the garden calling a week or so ago.

A few pictures as promised of this years Bird Fair held at Rutland Water. We have attended for at least the last 4-5 years and this is always a good chance to help toward conservation of endangered species throughout the world. I often wondered why funds form a British effort always go abroad but soon realised that a single £1 can go a LOT further toward conservation in more far flung regions than it can here. I guess also birds are so mobile that money spent anywhere in the world is a good thing as when migration is taken into account it matters less about a certain area but more on a global scale. Anyway it is also a good way to test a few new items out for our hobbies. I was looking out for a new digiscoping bracket,birds of Kenya book,Nikon P5000 camera and Mandy was eyeing up the pros of switching to DSLR. It is a good chance to talk to people that design, make and sell a product which is not always that easy to do in everyday purchases. It is also a great opportunity to meet up with friends and rub shoulders with a few celebs.
2007 BBWF Mural

The Mural is worked on throughout the fair by many of the artists exibiting and at it's completion is sold to gain more funds for the years chosen cause.

This years fair was a little damp on the Sunday but this certainly does not affect our enjoyment as a quick dodge of showers can be made inside many of the lecture, catering, or marquees.

                        Simon King           We had to pay to get this shot and this lady kept the T shirt!      A wash of the sandals
It was great to catch up with some friends inc Andy & Dot (above) and some friends from our recent trip to Majorca Ken & Carol but sadly we missed the intrepid couple Geoff & Joyce. Hope to catch up with you two next year.
A note of caution at this time of year as I have become aware of a Greenfinch showing signs of illness in the garden. As most will remember a very large number of Finches fell ill and it may well be prudent to check information HERE regarding cleanliness at our feeders. I have recently moved the main feeders to new areas and changed how they are now hung in the hope that the extra height I have now got them at will lessen the chance of the neighbours cat strikes. Mandy kindly built some steel poles with metal sleeves attached so that the feeders can now sit on top of these. I also managed to attach the existing rain hoods.
More info will be added to the relevant page as and when I get the chance.
2nd.  A bit of a catch up regarding a few images I captured whilst the weather treated us to a prolonged sunny spell. First up is a new visitor to the garden. This Dragonfly from the family, Libellulidae and species Sympetrum striolatum. She was very obliging and hung around the garden in various locations for quite some time. This is the last dragonfly to be on the wing as it is still to be seen as late as November but I would imagine this to be more Southerly. Whilst the pond is always available to these visitors she chose to ignore it and just soak up a few rays and snatch the odd fly if it came to close.

Female Common Darter
I also took the opportunity to get a few pics of the House Martins which nest under a roof of a neighbours house. They are still feeding young in at least two nests so I tried to capture an image of a bird that is synonymous with migration.

I bid them a usual "good luck" and left them to bring up their young which now face a very ardous journey to their wintering grounds. Strange really as much of the House Martins migration is shrouded in mystery as they join up with more Martins from Russia and Asia approx about 80-90 million inc the European population. They then head South with Swallows but whilst the Swallows are well observed in East and Southern Africa the Martins are not well accounted for at all. The fact that some youths were throwing stones up at the nesting birds does not help them but I was surprised when I tried to explain the plight of the bird, and that they came all the way from Africa to nest in this nest, the reaction was a very positive one which led to one of them, aged about 15, saying sorry! I was rather pleased with this response as I think it proves education can prove greater than any law.

Whilst on the topic of nesting birds I have been waiting to inspect the special artificial nest I had put in place for the Wrens. After observing that Wrens do like to build nests in hanging baskets my wife kindly agreed to build me a large hay rack that I would attach to the shed and fill it with plants moss and soil. This was lined with a plastic liner which I punctured. I then dug out a cavity at the corner of the rack and placed a plastic tub on it's side. This was then covered above with soil and perspex was placed over the top to help with waterproofing. The Wrens were seen to be entering this within days and nesting material was being brought in. Then sadly I noticed a Cat had also taken an interest in the nest and I would find said Cat regularly sat under the nest. The pictures below show the nest and it was sad to see that they had laid eggs but due to the Cat I would imagine the Wrens became a meal or they were put off enough to abandon the nest.


Weather Stats This Month
Max Temp =  15.9 deg C               Min Temp =   0.9 deg C            
 Max Wind  17.2 mph              Max Rain in 24 hr Period = 16 mm
 Max Rain in 1 hr Period = 5.6 mm          Total Rain For Month = 56.4 mm
31st.  A wet end to the month which really has been quite dry as the figures above show. No freezing temps have been recorded with only a couple of ground frosts to report. As the clocks have now gone back it becomes harder to record events within the garden as light is at a premium in the hours I am at home. Work really is a scourge to the wildlife gardener!. In the garden I have started to notice that the Blackbirds are the first to feed on sultanas at first light. I always like to see the return of the Blackbirds which are in greater numbers as the resident birds are also accompanied by migratory individuals. Outside the garden as myself and Mandy went for our evening stroll we noted a Bat that was flitting about over the main road and a field which was lit by street lamps. This was not a pipistrelle but due to my ignorance of Bat species I am unsure as to it's ID. I hope for the great weather that most of the country has witnessed to continue into November but I guess time will only tell!
21st  Another trip to Spurn point with hope of a few new birds to add to my list. It was fantastic weather with clear skies and temps at midday reaching 14 degC. Our first point of call was at the point to watch any visible migration. The sun made it awkward to take pictures of the many Fieldfares,Blackbirds,Redwings and Starlings that were taking advantage of the warm early sunshine so photography was limited until we managed to get the sun behind us. We started well with sightings of Bramblings feeding with flocks of Greenfinch on seed heads. Plenty of winter Thrushes were calling all around and after an early sit down we noted a Arctic Skua coming close into shore followed by a Woodcock coming in over the sea. Rumours of Ortolan Bunting and Penduline Tit abounded but no real substance was gained. A late House Martin was present and a lifer for Mandy and me in the shape of a Water Rail was seen at the Canal scrape. Plenty of Brent geese were present which is always nice to see and hear as they almost purr with a few odd notes to boot. A little bit of Sea watching did not really provide much other than Common Scoter and several Gulls although a Grey Seal and Harbour Porpoise was seen. A search for a Black Redstart proved in vain but a nice walk upto Beacon ponds were rewarded with a peaceful chance to get a few shots of Blackbirds eating hawthorn berries.


                               Water Rail                                            Common Scoter                                    Brent goose

                                            Blackbird                                                                            Redwing
Back in the garden and a great Autumn is in full show with plenty of dry crisp leaves now falling all over the garden. Much of these are a neighbours sycamore but a few from our own John Downie and other plants are mixed in. I shall collect these up and put them in a pile near to the newly created log pile where they will be allowed to rot as nature intended. As you can see from the weather stats the temps are starting to show a cool edge with the coldest temp of the Autumn now recorded as 0.9 deg C although a slight ground frost has made it feel very cold during the night a clear sky during the day has also lead to daytime recovering quite well with 11.2 deg being reached as I write this at 14.22. The cold nights have now pushed the Blackbirds back into the garden where they stock up at first light with sultanas and then move on throughout the day. Over the years we have noticed a Blackbird with outer tail feathers of white which is quite noticable in flight. We are not sure if this is the same bird but we think it is a strong possibility. We also await to see another Blackbird of the past that has very bright opaque yellow tallons which again stand out very well...we shall see. As I write this another sunny day has brought out a Tortoiseshell butterfly to feed.
14th.  The garden is managing to hold onto some summer colour with the Rudbekia Goldsturm and Verbena Bonariensis doing a terrific job of adding a real splash of colour to the turning and falling of many of the other plants, although the red campion is holding it's own in some quarters of the garden. I remember not really having an Autumn as such last year so this year it is great to witness the superb colours that are now showing amongst our native woodlands. I was reading in the newspaper the other day that stated, due to the timings of the wet and then the dry periods through this year the leaf colour would be mostly browns and golds rather that the reds of some Autumns, and this seems to be quite true locally as the  colours mentioned do seem to be gloriously gold rather than crimson.
The garden has also witnessed the Autumn in the form of new winter visitors. I have been seeing Redwing flying high over the garden all month but today before setting off to Martin Mere 4 Redwings chose to rest up in next doors Sycamore tree for 10mins. It always is a surprise to see how small these scandanivian birds are. If you are interested in theses birds please click here to find out more. I have also manged to hear their migration overnight as I usually try to get out into the garden late at night and listen for the "seeeeppppp" calls overhead, something I managed a few nights ago with three such calls heard. Another visitor was a Green Woodpecker, OK strictly not true, as It flew low through the width of the garden and on through next doors Sycamore and Birch tree. All the same it was great to see his bright greeny yellow rump flash through!
The Grey Wagtail is still very much a regular although he is not best pleased with the changes in the garden near to his feeding area where I throw mealworm for him. I had moved the compost bin to the rear of the garden and placed a log pile in it's place. I have added compost. logs, wood chips and a few plants to which I shall be adding more plants to next year. I have also added a meter square of bark chips where I will again add some plants like the native primula, bluebell, snowdrop and a few other plants that can stand a little shade. Even though the Wagtail is not keen the Robins and Dunnocks are more than happy as many small insects become good pickings on the surface of the bark.
The weather is still really quite warm with day time temps still reaching 14-15 degrees with nightime temps on the whole also holding there own recording averages of 12 or 13 deg. Next week is also supposed to be reasonable after a hiccup for monday. I am hoping that this will hold for the weekend as another trip to Spurn Point and Formby a strong possibility.


Weather Stats This Month
Max Temp =  14.1 deg C               Min Temp =   -3.3 C            
 Max Wind  28.1 mph              Max Rain in 24 hr Period = 30.5 mm
 Max Rain in 1 hr Period = 7.2 mm          Total Rain For Month = 123.2 mm
24th.  A real up and down weekend with the Friday being a beautiful day with sunshine being the order. A day off work for Mandy and myself but a hospital appointment cut the day short. It stayed cool only reaching about 3 deg C and with the overnight lows due to the clear night a light snowfall was here early saturday morning. This soon turned to rain as the previous nights low of minus 3.3 deg C were up to 4 deg as the clouds rolled in. Most of the day then stayed very grey,dark and wet! Sunday was a better day with much cloud but largely remained dry with temps rising to 8 degC.
In the garden I keep chuckling as one of the recent returning visitors is turning out to be quite a personality. A Mistle Thrush has now taken up residence within the garden and has taken it upon himself to guard the "Starlings table" which is laden with sultanas. This Thrush defends it and the surrounding trees from any Starling or Blackbird. It is quite comical to watch the Starlings have there own behaviour forced upon themselves.....I just have to laugh as the Starlings inch there way down the tree only to cross and imaginable line which sends the Mistle Thrush into action making sure they are forced away from the area. I know it's unfair but I would rather a Mistle Thrush any day. The Blackbirds seek alternative feeding arrangements in the garden where they can stock up on sultanas. It is the first time that a Mistle Thrush has shown such strong attachment to food in the garden and I wonder if this is a sign of the bad winter in store???...I hope!
18th. Today is one of those days where I am expecting something seasonal to turn up like an overdue Goldcrest or even a more unusual visitor like a Brambling. It's strange how you can feel like this but with the weather of late turning decidedly cool and the volume of birds visiting at the moment coupled with the sighting of 12 Redwing in Poplar trees that run adjacent to the garden yesterday, makes me keep a closer than usual eye on the garden. In the garden this morning I have counted 9 Blackbirds, 20 Goldfinch, 4 Greenfinch,2 Chaffinch, 1Grey Wagtail and 3 Collared Doves. This is more like what I felt the garden should be like at this time of year but it was no surprise to see this as the first of the snow arrived last night. Whilst in the garden it was evident by a little sleet it was quite obvious that others had had a reasonable fall with cars driving by having at least a couple of inches added to them. It is now, at 10:15, just drizzle with thick cloud which is making for a real dark damp dismal day, certainly not one for photography!
Here are a few pictures I took a while back with the Great Tit making me go aaaHHH. It waqs late evening when I took this and I presume it was looking for somewhere to roost but I think this old peanut feeder was possibly not really a good idea.

This Robin above is now the proud owner of this garden and as such enjoys the spoils largely to himself although now and again he has to defend his plot from the odd invader. Whilst he/she is dominant I have been surprised at the lack of song to be heard and can only assume that the influx of Robins has not reached our garden so the Robin has not had to be very vocal. We shall see as the winter progresses!
4th.  Bonfire season is in full swing with never a minute passing without a loud bang or crack. Our cat is sheltering inside as she really does not like this time of year. The garden is very quiet during the day and I am now wondering if a marauding Cat is responsible. I was stunned to watch a cat leap 6 foot in the air straight up to one of the feeder trays attached to the feeder poles. It clung to the tray for a while sending the birds crazy and then dropped down into the hedge plants below! Mandy has made a baffle to put around the pole to stop the direct route it took so I am hopeful I may just foil this persistent bugger.
I made use of the dry and sunny day today and cleaned out a nest box which had been used in the spring by a Blue Tit. It had been used with success as no eggs or chick carcasses were in evidence. I am always wary of cleaning the boxes out as I have, in the past, ended up with many itches and lumps due to parasites in the nest boxes attaching themselves to me and my clothing.
 I also redesigned a nestbox with a colour camera in it. This I use to monitor any nesting Great Tits but was sadly not used this year. I have now included larger "windows" into the box so that the camera can give a better colour image due to the increased light. I used polycarbonate sheets and affixed fablon opaque film to two sides of the polycarbonate. I have done this with the front and one side of the box and although it was late when I finished and the light levels were fading early checks seemed positive. I just wonder how the birds will like a box with more light in them.
If anybody is interested I am selling a few items including Mandys canon camera and my Manfrotto 128RC tripod head. If this is of any interest please click on the links below


Weather Stats This Month
Max Temp =  12.2 deg C               Min Temp =   -3.7 C            
 Max Wind  23.4 mph              Max Rain in 24 hr Period = 39.3 mm
 Max Rain in 1 hr Period = 7.2 mm          Total Rain For Month = 242.9 mm
31st.  Yesterday we visited Formby where the National Trust runs a site with a Red Squirrel reserve. we have been several times before but never managed a reasonable photo. We set off armed with are photo gear and most importantly monkey nuts and the irresistible hazel nuts (at some cost). We arrived at about 09:15 and set off looking for a reasonably open bit of pine forest as the light available was not great and with the dense forest it made it worse. A spot was found and a squirrel was detected. I threw a few hazel nuts around but it ignored them. I then threw some monkey nuts which it sought out readily and grabbed them and quickly ripped the shell off to get at the nuts. It ran off and buried them whilst we set up out "stage". A reasonably comfortably spot was found to sit and set up the tripods whilst I then placed a few nuts around the stumps of trees. After about 1 1/2 hours at least six of them were now quite comfortable in taking nuts from around where we had placed them without us bothering them. A few other photographers joined us in enjoying the spectacle and we all clicked away hoping for some decent shots despite the failing light. The hazel nuts were soon the order of the day as the monkey nuts were now largely ignored.

We were rewarded with the patience of sitting there with great "cute" views and even very close encounters where the odd one would wander up to us at about 2-3' distance. Sadly this utopia was soon destroyed by the same old culprits.....dog walkers. Up the hill came bounding some hound and went bananas at any squirrel in sight. It had no chance in catching any but it was having a great time. It then shot off and kept going until we could not see it! WE collectively shouted get it on a lead to the two owners walking up the hill thinking they are the only ones there. The dog owner said it is under control what is the problem? I explained that it just chased all the squirrels and that it should be on a lead. The remarks are always the same...it doesn't chase squirrels he said and anyhow why do I need it on a lead. It was mentioned because they were on national trust land and they state dogs have to be on a lead. He said where does it say this? Pointing out that in the car park and around the reserve he just said that he was not parked in the car park. So it turns out he also is a skin flint. He walked away shouting his dog which guess what did not reappear! I hope it did not bring a toddler back in it's mouth as a gift, but all would be OK when he could say !it's alright it does not bite". Dog walkers you are not alone on this planet please have some consideration. That really ruined the fluidity of the appearance of the squirrels so at about 13:30 we called it a day. We wished the remaining photographers good luck and made our way home in anticipation of some decent pics.

                                                Joy?                                                                         Apprehension?
Always Good Manners To Keep The Elbows Off The Table.
26th.  Mandy and myself have been looking forward to getting out photographing birds this Christmas holiday and with the weather staying bright and crisp right up to the 21st I thought our look was in. How wrong I was, as it has turned out dull damp and very dismal!. We did manage a trip out today with my new Nikon P5100 digiscoping camera and Mandys' D80 and 300 F4 with a 1.4 teleconverter. We set off to a great spot in Leigh named Pennington Flash. The sun tried to come out but sadly this limited our photographic chances but between us we got one or two reasonable results and what it did show was that come spring time when the light is better I think it fairly certain that the camera equipment will come into it's own and produce some great shots. Here are a few shots that were reasonable.

                                                 Bullfinch                                                                                  Chaffinch
                                                   Willow Tit                                                                     Great Spotted Woodpecker
                                             Reed Bunting                                                                           "Our Robin"
                                                Song Thrush                                                                                Blue Tit

16th.  The day did not provide the light I was hoping for to test the new lens further. I did manage to get an odd picture of a few welcome visitors in the shape of Siskin and Mistle Thrush.

These pics were taken through double glazing in poor light. I think I mention that to much! Anyway I hope to use this lens a bit more when the light returns in the spring but I shall be adding some extension tubes to this as the minimum focus is about 5m which makes it impossible to get a full frame image from a small bird that is close to me. This is still all dependent on the price of the lens though. Having watched the garden for a while today I also noticed the small flock of at least 30 siskin back feeding in the Alder trees again which was a treat. I hope when they have exhausted the cone supply they will stick around the garden as this fantastic male is doing. It is odd to watch this male as it seems to travel on it's own and does not join with the flock. The Mistle Thrush has now attracted a mate to the area with these two now being seen together all the time. I shall take make a special effort to listen out for song as is normal present around the 25th of this month. As is stands he is still fighting off all comers to the bird table with the sultanas on which is quite comical to watch.
15th.  It has taken another 7 days to see the Siskin return but this time in numbers! Today I saw a small flock take to the air form the little wood behind the house which came to settle in the Sycamore over the garden. Binoculars were on hand to see a flock of about 20 all say wiping their beaks on the branches. The light was not good so no photo opportunities arose but with the weather supposed to be sunny tomorrow I hope to change that. They have been drawn to the area by the Alder trees in the area and it is great watching them tease the seed acrobatically from the seed cases. I am in the process of purchasing a new lens for the camera and early tests show promise.

The weather was bright but non of the direct sun was in the garden so considering this I was pleased with the results. Most of these shots of the Blue Tits were taken about 25ft away except the Long Tailed Tit which was taken at about 35ft.The lens is a Nikkor 600mm F4 ED and that amount of reach is vital for bird photography. i look forward to possibly owning this beauty if the price is right.
8th.  A nice start to the day which was nothing to do with the weather, but a winter visitor in the shape of a lovely Male Siskin which came to feed with a flock of Goldfinch. It stayed quite a while as it perched nervous like on one of the feeder trays. I shall keep an eye out tomorrow for it and hope a photo opportunity may arise. This is unusually early for visiting the garden as normally it is in the new year that I am lucky enough to have them visit. I wonder if this is a sign of a poor back end to the wild food availability like alder seeds and the like. It really has been poor of late and when you consider the amount of rain that has fallen in the last eight days (almost an average of 19mm a day) it is no surprise that birds are opting for an "easy feed" in the boundaries of the garden.
A new lens has entered the setup for Mandys' DSLR in the shape of a Nikon 600mm F4. I am hoping to test it out and see if a mutually acceptable price can be agreed with the present owner. It may take a little time to get this lens setup as due to it's age a lot of the usual auto metering and exposure settings will have to be done manually. I have checked the weather report tomorrow and a small chance of decent light may come our way in the afternoon so I hope to be ready to do a few remedial tests. I hope it is successful as a 600mm lens would be a good addition.
2nd.  The weekend could not come quick enough as on the 28th Nov a relatively rare bird for Rossendale turned up at Clowbridge Reservoir not half hour away from me. With work commitments not allowing me to see the bird in the hours of daylight my hope was that it stayed for the weekend. I was sure it would as they are renowned for stopping a short while where they have landed. To find out more please click HERE. The weather was poor but it did stay dry which was a bonus. The idea was to get a reasonable photo from either Mandys DSLR equipment of my own digiscoping. The wind was very strong and the light was always fading from the moment we arrived. We soon located it and whilst trying to get into a comfy spot it dived and turned up about 500 yards further out!! It moved out when it felt it was to close to human activity so I decided to stay in the same position and hope it would return. It did to some degree but with the wind and light the pictures were only a "record". None the less it was great to see this lovely bird.

Great Northern Diver
The weather today is pretty poor with much rain and strong wind, not really photography weather. This weather had made the garden busy though with lots of visits from several species inc Blackbirds, Chaffinch, Mistle Thrush, Grey Wagtail and a few Greenfinch. I am keeping a close eye on the chance visit of a Brambling.

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