Wildlife Diary 2009

January 09'
Weather This Month
Max Temp =  8.5 deg C                 Min Temp = -6.8 deg C
Max Wind=   22.5 mph              Max Rain in 24 hr Period = 35.2 mm
Max Rain in 1 hr Period =  6.2 mm          Total Rain For Month =  152.2 mm
29th.  Another month comes to a close shortly and it was certainly an overall cool one with most of the temps barely staying above 2-3C. As I write this at 18:50 the temps are only at 0.7C although at 17:00 it dipped to 0.3C. If my weather forecaster is correct we are soon to be thrown back to Decembers snowfall although if I am truthful I also think a warm spell for a limited few is on the cards! So for next week get those woollies out and get that sledge to the front of the shed....can't wait.
25th.  I took part in the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch this morning counting the visitors from 09:00-10:00. A fair representation of the normal visitors were noted as the results below show
Common Birds
Blackbird 4
Blue tit 2
Chaffinch 8
Coal tit 2
Collared dove 2
Dunnock 2
Feral pigeon 3
Goldfinch 8
Great tit 2
Greenfinch 5
Robin 2
Song thrush 1
Starling 5
Woodpigeon 2

Scarcer Birds
Great spotted woodpecker 1
Mistle thrush 2 
Not to late to take part just click the logo above and get started.....go on....GO....WILD!
19th.  Wow the weather just keeps on throwing up something to talk about as the rain of the morning turned to sleet and then by 14:30 this afternoon a heavy snow fall occurred which has just stopped as I type this at 16:10. It has put down at least 2" of snow, which I really was not expecting as the usual weather forecasters were stating a bright and possibly sunny afternoon. I should have taken notice of my own weather station and what that was telling me, as this morning at 07:00 it stated heavy rain and storm! It still shows rain and with the temps tumbling from 3C at 12:00 to 0C at 15:00 it could only mean one thing.....and so it did. A few quick pictures were taken with our little Nikon P&S camera as I liked the look of the "Silver Birch" as it really lived up to it's name although my landscape photography leave a lot to be desired
The other thing of note was after the snow began to slow a little at 15:45 I could here a songbird through the outside microphone I use, which is played through the computers speakers. I turned the volume up  to be serenaded quietly by a young male Blackbird!(first of the year for me) Perfect, absolutely perfect as the snow and song gave a real slice of nature at it's finest...although the birds would probably rather not have the snow. The sultanas and feeders were kept busy with 45 Goldfinches taking it in turn to feed on the sunflower hearts. Chaffinch have been numerous as well, and against the pale of the snow on the trees  gave a wonderful backdrop to the smart uniform of orange the Chaffinch wears.
18th.  The weather is once again the main focus in the garden as you could not fail to notice it! It started on Saturday a quite nice day with good long clear sunny spells but as the day ended so did the clear skies. By tea the clouds were rolling in and the wind picked up. By 17:00 the wind was very blustery rather than gale force but I noted it was coming from the East which is not all that common in the garden when the winds are high. It continued it's blustery edge where a maximum wind speed of 22.5mph were recorded at about 17:30. Then the rain began lashing against the windows and I could see the feeders through the glass of the door as they were flung around. Later in the evening I was on the computer when a flash of lightning very quickly followed by a clap of thunder made me reach for the off button on the computer as well as pulling the plug on the router at the wall as I have had damage this way before! One more repeat showing of thunder and lightning and it seemed to pass fairly quickly with the wind and rain calming. Today it's the usual calm after the storm and the sky is quite nice with a few clouds present with a temp of 4.3c
A very rare and unusual visitor returned yesterday as it shinned it's way up a Sycamore in next door's garden. I was not quick enough to get the camera up and running but I shall be ready if a return visit is on the cards. A Treecreeper ,up until the last few weeks, has never been in the garden before and considering it's habitat you would normally see them in I can only wonder why this has visited again today. Not that I mind as it really is an attractive and charismatic bird.
13th.  The weather has turned warmer with high of over 8C being reached on several occasions. It has brought with it rain and at times a blustery wind. I much prefer the freezing temps but clear days that have stretched on for weeks although I am not sure half the nation or indeed half the garden visitors would agree!
I have the roving outdoor camera back up and running but it is difficult to get a decent image of the still visiting Common Shrew which is still loving the peanuts put out. Another few visitors that have been seen after a little time away from the garden are the Great Spotted Woodpecker and a couple of Song Thrush. 
6th.  BBBBrrrrrr describes the weather in the garden of late. A record low for the garden of any month since I began keeping records of the weather from Sept 2004. The low set in Feb 2008 was minus 6.7 but last night beat that marginally as at 08:49 it registered minus6.8 Deg C. The temps have not been above minus 1.5 all day but as I write this it has started to warm a little as it has risen to minus 1.7.
It has led to a smattering of snow and a large amount of freezing ice yet this has not deterred some of our smaller residents as I checked the roving outside camera at night and noticed that a fast moving critter was darting around under the decking and poking it's snout up between a gap in the beds and decking. A first for a camera catch in the garden in the shape of a Common Shrew. This took several peanuts away with it but soon disappeared when a Wood Mouse turned up to carry on the peanut snaffling. I have put out some mealworm and peanuts tonight but due to technical problems I will not be able to check on the visitors as the camera is out of action. The shrew has an action packed if not short life with a span of about 2 years. Shrews are insectivorous and carnivorous so the mealworm will be a welcome food. They are mainly solitary outside of the breeding season and this held true as only one was noted, as aggression to same species is strong. I hope to have the camera up and running again shortly as this little beauty is a new and welcome visitor. 
4th.  A belated Happy New Year to all the visitors to the website. Mandy and myself have returned from a short trip up Scotland over the New Year but unfortunately I was not able to do as much birding on Loch Ryan as I would have liked. Some great birds are present in the area but I only managed one quick visit which turned up a great sight in the shape of over 1000 Pink Feet taking to the air as their cries filled the air. Great Crested Grebe, Brent Goose, Wigeon, Oystercatcher, Goldeneye, Curlew and Turnstone were just a few of the birds but I am sure that if I had my scope other birds would have been spotted. Non the less it's a place we may well return to in the future as although over 20 Buzzards were seen not a single Red Kite was present which was in part due to the colder overcast weather.
It takes a while to re-shuffle the pages for the new year ahead but I think it should all be in order although if anybody finds any problems I would appreciate an email.

February 09'
Weather This Month
Max Temp =  9.4C                 Min Temp = -6.4C
Max Wind=   19.6 mph              Max Rain in 24 hr Period = 7.7 mm
Max Rain in 1 hr Period =  2 mm          Total Rain For Month =  25.3 mm
23rd.  Firstly things in the garden have taken a nice turn as I noticed a pair of Robins deep inside our woodland edge part of the garden. I then noted the male pass food to the female and she accepted it, and ate it. This is significant in this species of bird as the acceptance of food from the male always means that the nest is finished and breeding will begin. I have not had chance to take much notice of too many goings on around the garden due to time collating information regarding our India trip but I am pretty sure that the Robins nest is not in our garden, although I shall try to keep an eye on activity of these two from now on. It's always a risky strategy at this time of year this far north as a cold spell could prove fatal to any young in the nest. I have lost signal to the camera installed inside a Robin nestbox in the garden so I shall (when times permits) have a look to see if anything obvious is wrong.
Frogs have returned to the garden pond but as yet remain silent. Talking of Frogs we went out on our 5 mile Monday night walk tonight and spotted a Frog trying to cross the road! I caught it and placed it high up on a grass banking hoping it may chose a different route. On our return the Frog was back on the road not 1m away from where I spotted it first time so I crossed the road and placed it next to a stream.....and wished it luck. Not half a mile further on another Frog on the road side. By this time we were not far from home so we decided after a short debate to take it with us to our pond. It was shown the pond and left to it's own devices. 
I had a little time away from work this afternoon and decided to do a few overdue jobs in the garden. I wanted to move the Meadowsweet and Hemp Agrimony to a more suitable spot but boy did they take some digging up. I also wanted to move a purple Loosestrife but it was a woody bulk so I gave in although it really does need to be moved. I also erected a mini fence framing a path up the garden as I find this one of the best ways to stop Cat's ambushing the ground birds. It gives the bird a chance as the Cat has to go up and over rather than straight out at it's target. I am also toying with chicken mesh in several places but I really think this would spoil the look and feel of what I have tried to achieve...we shall see. I have not seen any Cat's of late so fingers crossed we will have a Cat free year.
16th.  A long break in the website entries due to a holiday in Goa, India for two weeks. I feel very cold already after temps of over 30C. I read that some parts of the country have had fantastic amounts of snow, upto 10". Just my luck to be away on such an occasion. The temps also plummeted whilst away with a minimum of - 6.4C being recorded back on the 7th at 05:30 and the fact that all my feeders are totally empty suggests that it may well have been a prolonged cold spell. I hope my regulars have not fled the garden! I am writing this early morning as the time difference between Goa and UK is 5.5hrs and my body says I need to be up as whilst local time is 06:30 the time In Goa is 12:00 midday and I would normally be coming back to the hotel after an early morning birding session. 
I loved the place of Goa but I can't imagine life without British flora and Fauna. I shall be collating a full trip report over the next couple of months for those interested with contact details etc.

March 09'
Weather This Month
Max Temp =  11.8C                 Min Temp = -3.2C
Max Wind=   24.8 mph              Max Rain in 24 hr Period = 20.2 mm
Max Rain in 1 hr Period =  5.1 mm          Total Rain For Month =  92.2 mm
31st.  Another month draws to a close but we still managed to squeeze in a few more points of interest with the warmest day of March this year being recorded at 18:10 this evening as it just tipped 11.8C. The warmest day up till then had been 11.4C. It did actually feel nice and mild as well, probably the first time this year that I have felt warm as I travelled home with the car window down listening to the bird song without feeling to cold.
On arrival home I as usual go straight through the house and into the garden to fill any feeders. I noticed two birds fled to the top of a Sycamore and as I carried on up the garden it began to call. It was the trill of a now regular returnee to the garden at this time of year and it sat with a female calling as I retreated to the house to make sure of it's species. Yes we had our Lesser Redpoll back and hopefully like the last two years we may get a family come summer.
The weather is supposed to hot up over the next few days so let's hope for this happening. I was reading how we are possibly going to see some fantastic colours in the evening sky over the next few weeks after a massive Volcano erupted in America. The dust particles are already reaching Europe which should give us some superb orange and reds to end the clear evenings.
30th.  A new visitor to the garden turned up yesterday as it walked around the garden taking waste sunflower hearts. Mandy spotted it and thought it was a Hose Sparrow. On hearing her shout about it I looked to see a wonderful female Reed Bunting. The numbers of Chaffinch have probably drawn it to the garden as Reed Buntings are present just over the hillside at Cowm Res. A great addition to the garden list and quite a surprise. It eventually hopped into another garden and disappeared with no follow up visits being noted. It seems hard to beleive that another month is drawing to a close but I am looking forward to a warmer April with life in the natural world starting to hit full speed.
29th.  I hope everyone has remembered that today marks the beginning of British Summertime and that the clocks jumped forward 1 hour last night! One person that did forget was mother nature as the last the clouds cleared and although BST began the temps plummeted to a monthly recorded low of -3.2C. The pond has frozen over and we also had a sprinkling of snow which has remained as the freeze continues as even at 09:00(BST) this morning the temps is still only -2.2C. The plants have not reacted well to this drop in temps as even the Daffs have gone over. A bonus we get with these cold temps is that a beautiful sunny day is now underway, and with all the rain we have had of late the sun is very welcome.
I have not witnessed many inspections of any nestboxes this year but I realise that this is still a possibility as as I write this a Great Tit has just flown across to the house and inspected the Sparrow box. I hope at least one of the 4 boxes I have installed in the garden will be used as it is quite a good feeling when a young family chooses your garden to grow up in. I did notice on the 28th that a Blackbird was taking away sultanas to a place some distance away as it filled it's beak with sultanas and headed off over the rooftops and into some open fields with hedgerow.
Despite the cooler temps last night the Hedgehog was out as I caught sight of him drinking from the garden pond. I hope he returned to a good sleep hole as today's temps will come as a bit of a shock.
20th. The official first day of Spring passed as a spring day should do, plenty of sunshine, warmish temps and a clear fresh day...perfect. I forgot to mention that the first frogspawn was seen in the pond on the 18th. I could see one large clump in the morning but on return from work in the evening I was surprised to see that it had disappeared. I figured it had been kicked into the deeper part of the pond (2' deep) with all the frog action. I wondered how this would fair but on my return home on the 19th I noticed it had floated to the surface so I gently pushed it up to a shallow area. This morning I checked for spawn and a new patch had been produced in the same place as the previous so tonight it was no surprise to find it vanished again into the deep area. I shall move this into a more suitable area of the pond if this one also floats to the surface. I noted a Hedgehog drinking from the pond last night and it soon found the dried mealworm I had put out for it in another spot in the garden. As I write this at 20:00 the Hog is again tucking into the dried mealworm. The positive of this Hog is that it is already a good size which means it must have had a good hibernation period despite the bitterly cold winter it has endured.  
18th.  On my return from work today I finally remembered to put out some of the cat and alpaca hair that the Tits, Robins and Blackbirds like to use in the construction of their nests. I also spotted our first Bumble Bee of the year as is made it's way around the garden and finally into a tree before it landed on a Tit box and went inside. It stayed in for a while so much so that I did not notice it leave. I have just reshuffled the log pile around the pond to incorporate a Bumble Bee box but it did not venture that way. As I was moving the log pile a Common Shrew was running around under a concrete roof tile I put down under some logs. It shifted about until it finally disappeared down a hole that went under some Purple Loosestrife. I replaced the concrete tile over it and built the log pile around his hidey hole so I hope he was not to put out! 
17th.  St Patrick's day is celebrated today and the weather was sympathetic to anybody celebrating outside as another warmest day of the year was reached at 15:30 when it just scraped past yesterdays warmest day at 11.4C.
The Hedgehogs were out again snorting and munching around as the sound of this snorting via the roving cameras microphone alerted me to their presence. I have three boxes within the garden and I am pretty sure non of them are being used for hibernating or otherwise. I shall start to put out some of the cat hair we collect throughout the year as this is the most readily taken nest material I have found. I also purchased some alpaca hair which is quite popular.
16th.  Another lovely day... I could get used to this! The hottest day of the year occurred at 14:30 as the mercury rose to a balmy 11.2C. It felt lovely in the sun which had a nice warming feel to it. The temps are supposed to get better as the week goes on with a chance of14C on Thursday.
I was looking out into the garden last night when I saw our first visit of not one but two Hedgehogs. They were routing about in leaf litter when they came across each other and I am not sure if it was a frisky interlude or a territory stand off. As I look out tonight at 21:00 there is no sign of either of them although the lure of a few peanuts should encourage them. I have set up my roving external camera to see if they return to the harder parts of the garden. 
15th.  What a lovely morning, the sun is shining and a Song Thrush is making the most with his fluty song. The frogs are getting frisky in the pond but as of yet no spawn although numbers are increasing as yesterday I counted 14. The temps are slowly rising with a regular 9C being reached over the last three days and if the sun remains today I am hoping that the 10.8C max reached this month will be at least matched. No Daffodils have opened in the garden so far but whilst out yesterday lots were seen in public places which was very cheery indeed. 
Good news on the bird front with a lone male Sparrow taking some time in the garden back on the 9th and on the (what turned out to be not so unlucky) Friday 13th a single female Siskin., first of the year, fed on several occasions on the sunflower feeders. I have not seen her since which is a shame as often in the past it follows that more visits with numerous mates follow. Non the less we are just glad that the Great Spot Woodpecker is now a regular again as it is seen dancing high in some Poplar trees. He flies off West toward the hillside on the reservoir so I presume he is looking for territory and a mate. Still no nesting activity within the boundary of the garden although the Robins that have built a nest elsewhere are carrying food. In an earlier post I mentioned the chance of the young hatching around the 13th-14th so it is now possible that this food is for the newly hatched. I have still tp pinpoint it's whereabouts. One bird we have lost as a garden bird is one that has returned for the last 4 breeding seasons and that is the Grey Wagtail. He will be missed very much as his song and many young they brought up were a fantastic thing. Let's hope the Sparrows can replace a little bit of that magic and nest in the garden for the first time! 
8th. A day where the weather has just about thrown it all at us as we had early sunshine which was accompanied with a strong gusty wind, this then turned into sleet and then followed by thunder and very heavy hailstone. As I write this at 13:10 the sun has come out and the wind has dropped along with the temperature which has just about reached 2.8C. One bird that made us laugh was a Woodpigeon that lapped up the hailstone and sleet as it sat in a tree lowered it's body onto the branches and  opened it's wing out and then over it's back. It did this in turn with each wing for quite some time and it was clearly enjoying this, what could only be described as a body massage as the hail hit it's underwing and armpit. 
Good news also today was the sighting of the Great Spotted Woodpecker that has not been seen since we returned for Goa on the 16th Feb. The male was seen feeding on fat in the garden at 12:00 today so a great relief was felt as I did wonder if something had happened to him either ill fated or just down to the fat it the garden running out whilst we were away. My thoughts on seeing him immediately turned to the possibility of him finding a mate and the likely hood of a second year male finding a partner. Let's hope he is an Alpha male as we think he is a rather dapper chap.
1st.  Today is St Davids day so I hope the Welsh are having a sunny day and a special mention to Howard & Siwan. An argument that always exists at this time of year is when spring actually is sprung with the Met Office saying today the 1st but historians stating  "Historically spring starts on the day of the vernal equinox, which usually occurs on the night of 20/21 March. Vernal comes originally from the Latin word for bloom and refers to the fact that, in the northern hemisphere, this equinox marks the end of winter and the beginning of spring. An equinox is a time when the nights are as long as the days and the vernal equinox is recognised the world over as the start of the new astrological cycle"
Well the 1st or not spring has not sprung in our garden as yet, as no Daffodils are flowering. One thing that most certainly has changed is the bird song which is now very obvious with a highlight of a Song Thrush singing his heart out early on in a Sycamore tree next to the garden...beautiful. The Blackbirds are warming up and a Wren sings often through the day. A sharp turn of pace sees the Dunnocks sing like they just want to get it over with and the twitterings of Goldfinch are always an added bonus.

I have not managed to locate where the Robin is nesting so far and it is possible I will have to wait for the eggs to hatch. She lays them normally consecutively one a day with 5 or 6 in the clutch. Considering that I saw feeding taking place between the adults on the 23rd Feb and if 5-6 eggs are laid with an incubation of around 14 days I am guessing that the chicks (all being well) will hatch around 14th March so I will keep an eye on food being carried.

April 09'
Weather This Month
Max Temp =  17.5°C                 Min Temp = 0.1°C
Max Wind=   20.8 mph              Max Rain in 24 hr Period = 16 mm
Max Rain in 1 hr Period =  4.6 mm          Total Rain For Month =  54.9 mm
30th. The rain that ended the good dry spell has carried on today with 3.1mm falling throughout the day as light rain/drizzle. It has not dampened the House Sparrows enthusiasm for mealworm although the trade of in worms is out weighed by the chiirruupp that I can now hear outside the office window. The new water butt timer is working a treat and the pond is now looking like...well a pond again! No more sightings of the Mealy Redpoll but I hope it was not a one off as the Lesser Redpoll still come now and again. With all the sun and now rain we have had it has sent the garden into a fit of green and yellow with a good deal of plants attaining a lovely fresh green colour which has been complimented with yellow from the Marsh Marigold, Cowslip, Primrose and the now flowering pink of the Red Campion. 
I can't help thinking of the things in store fro the month of May as the flowers in the garden start to show. If the Met office is to be believed we are in store for a real treat of a summer.....bring that on I say!!!
27th.  The weather finally broke down today with a rainfall of 15.5mm. Whilst I have enjoyed the almost 2 weeks of sunshine I think the garden and particularly the pond has been in much need of a good drink.....and now it has. I store water in a butt that is connected to the house roof downspout by means of a diverter and have a timer rigged up that is set to give water out at 2 minutes every 24 hours. I noticed this was letting water seep out even when off so the water was not being conserved over a long period of time. I have replaced this with a new model and can set this to a finer degree of only one minute over 24 hours.
Bird wise it has been interesting as the Siskins that reached a maximum of 20 have now departed. The arrival of the Lesser Redpoll have coincided with a thought of having a Mealy Redpoll that has visited the feeders. This species of bird was and the same, often being referred to them as Common Redpoll with the Lesser Redpoll (Carduelis cabaret) being thought as a subspecies of the Mealy Redpoll (Carduelis flammea). This has now been given as a seperate species that is quite a hard bird to distinguish in the field. When taking away the Arctic Redpoll (Carduelis hornemanni) the variation on these two birds can overlap with some features seen on both. Typically the Mealy is slightly larger, paler, more white to the rump, more pink that often only extends to the flanks unlike the Lesser which usually covers the chest and belly. Other marking on the undertail coverts could not be seen so i have been waiting to see if it returns to pose for a picture as the camera is at the ready. Other good news is the fact that the House Parrows are back in town with them finding the supply of mealworm irresistible. About 3 pairs are here most of the day as they ferry the food to their young. The mealworms always proves a big hit at this time of year as most birds find them a great resource for protein.
House Sparrow
Siskin & Lesser Redpoll
20th.  Wow the hottest day of the year arrived today at 18:00. It was a massive leap from the previous warm day of 16.2°C and to be honest it has really felt warm. The 17.5°C was a perfect day with mostly unbroken sun and only a slight breeze. I had the afternoon at home and made good use of the day with a few jobs being moved along even if not finished. I have been putting a ceiling in the pergola, which was built several years ago to give some protection from the sun, rain and the falling leaves of next doors Sycamore tree. I used york stone in the base of the pergola and when autumn arrives it can become a real slip hazard, so hopefully the new roof will help alleviate the problem. I have also done some cleaning up around several areas but the pond drew my attention for quite some time as I watched with a neighbour, our frogs bathing in the warmth of the sun. I also noticed that a Pond Skater was on the surface of the pond, waiting for any passing prey. It's not all that common in our pond to see one of these as most of the water is covered due to a plant I put in taking over. This year I have carefully extracted this plant each time I have noticed it rearing his head and will try to eradicate it once and for all. The pond is extremely short on water with all the hot sunny, and dare I say rainless periods lately. I set up a water butt to collect water from the roof of the house and have this diverted via the butt and eventually into the pond. I put a timer on the hose to allow a small amount of water into the pond every day but I noticed this had failed and was letting water through all day...hence I have now run out of my reserve and the pond is looking rather empty....have I a leak or is it the plants and evaporation I wonder?  
15th  After some careful consideration a new tree has been added to the garden. I long ago took a fancy to the Sorbus family and after sifting through lot's of cultivars we settled on sorbus aucuparia "sunshine" which is a small erect tree that has yellow berries, grows to about 20ft and has a great red colour to the leaves in Autumn. This tree is more than likely going to replace a Crab Apple "John Downie" as this tree has never really been well since we planted it 4 years ago. It has canker and probably had this from the beginning so I will let it flower (and if as usual it produces no apples) it's a goner! The usual Sorbus is a red berrying variety but I noticed that the Starlings usually strip the tree of these almost as soon as they ripen so I have seen the yellow, white and pink variety get left a little longer....long enough I hope to see the arrival of Waxwing in winter. These birds really would be a bonus as whilst I have seen them from the garden in 2004 they have never been in the garden...so here is to hoping.
A growing number of seasonal birds have been present today with at least 9 Siskin and 4 Lesser Redpoll. They are not as skittish as many birds which visit the garden with some allowing me to get within 6 ft of the before heading for cover. I have tried to encourage nesting behaviour in the 2 Tit boxes on the side of the house by putting new fronts on with one 32mm and one 25mm hole being cut into them. Nothing as yet has been seen in them but I hope this may change.  
13th.  I had no sooner wrote that the GSW had gone missing before I turned to look out of the office window to see him hanging on "his" fat cake. The pair of Lesser Redpolls also turned up with the reappearance of 3 Siskin. Whilst numbers of birds are down in general as they spread out to find nesting places the actual number of species visiting the garden is surely greater than in previous years, although when I look back at my records kept since 2003 last month saw a slight increase in numbers throughout most of the species that visit the garden. I have also looked at records for weather that I have kept since 2007 and strangely enough the last 3 months have seen the least amount of rain compared with the same months over those three years, any correlation I wonder?
The other good news is that the massive journey for two of our most eagerly awaited migrants is over as two House Martins were noted hawking on the 11th and today a single Swallow was chattering away as it passed over. This amazing journey that is undertaken twice a year by these migrants has never failed to ignite a sense of hope as each year they return to a local nesting site. The other migrant is the Swift but they are two weeks away from making their journey although they will be well into it by now. Let's hope for a safe passage for them. 
I have also noted several birds taking my nesting material away with the cat hair at the moment being the most popular with the Coal Tits and Great Tits being rather partial to it. I also witnessed a Greenfinch taking Alpaca hair a week or so ago. This time of year brings about a tidy up and one of the things I now do is to keep any strands of dead material inc long grass etc as Blackbirds like to use this as an ideal material to weave their nest with. Later in the year I also try to mix a bit of mud with any grassy fibrous material as they go mad for this..I just keep it nicely moist.
Having taken away my feeder trays from the base of the feeders I have noticed a considerable drop in consumption as the Collared Doves, Woodpigeons and of late some Feral Pigeons are demoted to picking tit bits up off the floor. No bad thing it seems as the rate of food I was going through was quite imense and with the price of sunflower hearts being so high I think this is going to be a little more permanent. I shall try to rig up some sort of catching bucket lower down the poles that will help with the food going stagnant on the floor which when dry weather is here it's OK but any wet weather just creates a mess.
11th.  We have been lucky enough to keep the Lesser Redpoll at the moment although it has only been the female that has been feeding. She has returned quite often and stays for a long time as she munches through a lot of niger seed. The Great Spotted Woodpecker is again missing so I hope nothing has happened to him but it seems the Blackbird and Robin's attempts of an early nesting chance have been scuppered as neither is now taking food away for young. Some good news on the nesting front though as Mandy has located a Mistle Thrush nest that we hope to get a few pictures of as she sits on eggs.
A trip to the garden centre is a must shortly as I would like a few more daffodils and a replacement tree for the John Downie apple tree that I planted four years ago that has never really performed. My lack of knowledge at the start was probably my biggest problem as I ws not aware that it was riddled with canker that I just cannot eradicate. I am thinking of a Rowan tree although I think I would like a small variety that produces red berries.
5th  Warmer temps have stayed with us of late and a mostly sunny garden has been observed. I have been keeping an eye on the longer range forecast as I have a little time off over the Easter period but as it approaches it seems it way well be a poor one on the whole. I like to use an online weather forecaster called metcheck which I find a very good and quite humorous site at times as it seems it has a geeky edge to it that weather watchers appreciate. If you are interested in a good weather forecaster click HERE.
The Hedgehog was seen last night which again soon found the dried mealworm I put out for it whilst it sat, almost waiting, for me to place them before it! No returns from the Lesser Redpoll or the Reed Bunting but on my extra vigilance of the garden we noticed a Greenfinch taking away nest material on the 4th. She chose some of the alpaca hair we put out which has now been replaced with more of the same. We have also put out cat hair, horse hair and some feathers from an old pillow. No interest really shown from the Tit family as yet but it is still a bit early fro us Northerners. The Blackbirds are still taking plenty of mealworm and sultanas away and the Robin is seen taking the odd mealworm away to feed his mate. What has happened to the nesting pair in a neighbours garden I wonder. Always hard to tell but Cat's, cold weather and Corvids can all take it's toll. 

May '09
Weather This Month
Max Temp =  23.9°C                 Min Temp =  3.8°C
Max Wind=   23 mph              Max Rain in 24 hr Period = 21.2 mm
Max Rain in 1 hr Period =  9.8 mm          Total Rain For Month =  133.6 mm
31st.  We have been video recording the Great Tit taking food from our hands and BBC Springwatch decided to use it so if you would like a quick snippet of this visit this link.
25th.  Phew what a scorcher....and a bank holiday weekend at that. It has been a quite lovely weekend with the sun showing up from Saturday afternoon until today at 13:00. The hottest day of the year so far was reached today with the temp scale touching 20.5°C. I have of course made the most of this with several bit's of gardening jobs being undertaken and a few outside of the garden even though they have also been bird related. The news that is most exciting is the fact that we have again managed to get the Great Tits to feed from our hands which is always quite touching. A shot here is of Mandy tempting her with mealworm.
I am a little late to the computer tonight so i am just filling a few details in but I hope to put a few more updates together over the next few days although the start of the Springwatch series on BBC2 which will run for the next three weeks always has my attention at this time of year.
10th.  I have not had chance to do much updating of late as every moment seems to be given over to tasks within the home. I must admit that my recent weight loss of 2 stone has given me a bit more zest for doing things which led me to erect a new satellite dish with a quad LNB in readiness for my next new gadget, as I am tired of the heavy subscription sky places on a PVR and HD. I am going to buy the new Humax Foxsat HDR which after the initial cost of the box is absorbed subscription is then FREE! You get BBC & ITV in HD along with other major channels. I managed to align the dish toward Astra 2 and after finding the correct elevation and skew we were locked on and the sky box is now holding on by the skin of it's teeth as I have yet to order the new box. A new lick of stain on the front door followed by new kitchen mixer tap had me enough brownie points to have a day off today!
The wet weather has pretty much carried on with the odd bright spell between the rain showers and constant drizzle! This has not dampened the young birds that have now started visiting the garden with the first young of the season being that of the Mistle Thrushes which were first seen back on the 4th. Two young birds are being fed in our, and next doors gardens. The next door garden has quite a large open expanse of lawn so it has been ideal to search out a few worms which is a definite favourite. They venture into our garden with the adult handing out the sultanas which are also readily received. The other young birds belong to the Robin with the first sightings on the 8th. They too are being fed around the garden as the mealworm count, and cost goes up! I managed a few distant shots from upstairs as the constant drizzle is not camera friendly.
Mum here feeding her young with the sultanas as the other sibling watches from the garden fence whilst this shot below is a couple of days later which shows mum and both young together as they wait for a huge worm to be passed on
The Robin below is also watching out for Mum as she collects mealworms 
I shall try to get a better image of both these beauties as the better weather is supposed to happen tomorrow afternoon! The hog count has gone up to three individuals although two are more than friendly toward each other as a short attempt at mating was seen early the other night....how they manage this I will never know but after plenty of snorting and shuffling it seemed to all come to nothing. The hog food I put out is well received and I can guarantee their presence as the light starts to fade. The other nightime regular at the moment is at least 3 Tawny Owls that are seen flying over the house to a wooded hillside leading to the local res. They are very vocal at the moment as I am sure mating is also at the top of their objectives.

June '09
Weather This Month
Max Temp =  25.5°C                 Min Temp =  3.9°C
Max Wind=   19 mph              Max Rain in 24 hr Period = 16.5 mm
Max Rain in 1 hr Period =  3.6 mm          Total Rain For Month =  39.3 mm
28th.  The Rossendale valley has certainly had it's fair share of good weather of late and that is supposed to carry on through into the coming week with possible temperatures of 28°C! It has felt very clammy at times with the inside temps reaching a maximum of 25.9°C as I write this at 19:40. The humidity level that is much talked about is actually quite a poor recording of true humidity and the moisture level in the air so I prefer to use the dewpoint which is a much more accurate way in which to measure and describe relative humidity, If you are interested a good example and description of this is shown HERE. The dewpoint at the moment is showing 16.3° whilst the maximum was reached on the 23rd of this month at 17.8° Both these measurements when looking on the table on the link above are described as "OK for most" The upper two measurements is bordering on "uncomfortable" if it had reached 18.3°.
Switching topic here as I have looked for information regarding the earlier thoughts of the release of the Beaver back into the British countryside. I managed to find a bit of info which if any body feels interested by this release can pick up a little background info HERE. & HERE
The garden colour is looking very good with a good amount of plants now coming into their best. The real bonus for me is the two most lovely smelling plants in the garden, Dogrose and the Common Valerian. I have to admit that I snap off a few rose flowers as the smell is just so sublime.  The birds are slowly calming down after all the hustle and bustle of the breeding season. It won't be over for a good month or so yet but the initial intensity of the May-June period is over. A new young bird seen this week is not a common youngster in the garden at all so it was great to hear it's piping call as it begged food from it's parents. The young Bullfinch was a lovely surprise and once one had been seen another followed closely as they circled the garden before flying off in pursuit of mum, dad carried on eating sunflower hearts. We have not seen the young since but I would presume Mum will be keeping them under wraps whilst their flying skills improve!
21st. Happy fathers day to all fathers around the globe I hope you have had a day that you enjoy...whatever that maybe! The gadget count has risen with Mandy gaining a Macro flash to use with her DSLR setup. It is a Marumi version that seems like quite a good little addition to her camera kit.
A few things at the moment keep coming to mind that I forget to mention and that is firstly where are all the Butterflies????? I have seen a few Cabbage Whites and Green Vein Whites but as to the recent mass immigration of the Painted Lady...well we have not had any in our garden....or any other little beauties. I noticed about 2 Painted Ladies in n=my Fathers garden a week back and they were happy enough on a lovely smelling plant that we narrowed down to sweet rocket. The perfume is lovely so we made a stop at our garden centre and picked up a few young plants and a packet of seed. They are now sown and planted so let's hope this changes are butterfly count!
The other thought I have wondered about are the recent reintroduction of the European Beaver to a place In Scotland I think. It will be a strange thing to have this critter back and I am not sure that it will fit in very well with "modern" Britain. I shall see if I can find some info out on it's well being and hope that it is a positive outcome for the future. 
19th.  A celebration of our Anniversary has brought more gadgets into the house but the gadget of the lot being one I have had my eye on for some time. I have done a little research on Night vision and, like most people, have decided that the Generation 1 is the one for me (price of Gen 2 & 3 are very expensive). Mandy must have done her homework as not only did she get a brand that was a well known one but she eliminated some of the disadvantages of night vision. Like most things these days night vision has gone through a digital revolution and my scope is now this, digital. Any body whom as looked at night vision knows that they cannot use them during the day and that whilst using them at night any exposure to bright light (car headlight or street lamps) over time can damage the intensifier to a point where it is useless. The other thing with a lot of night vision is the green cast to the image and a "bubble" effect on the optics. They also suffer from poor outer edge image quality which can give a halo effect. This new digital version is black and white in it's image with very good image definition right along the viewing area and it is not damaged by any rogue bright lights and goes one step further in so much as being able to be used in daylight! It also has a brightness intensifier wheel, 2 IR levels, ability to increase and decrease the IR on it's no2brighter setting and a great feature that allows me to have the image sent out as video directly to the computer or any other device with a phono video input. Unlike a lot of other scopes it also has a magnification of 5x which helps bring the image a lot closer. The only down side to this new scope is the very narrow field of view which is 5° as opposed to 15-20° on the older scopes. If you would like to read more on this scope please click on the link
17th.  Another garden murder has occurred this morning as all the noise from a Blackbirds alarm call woke me at 06:00. I went out into the garden to find a pile of feathers in one of the borders. Sadly it is either another Starling or a Blackbird that has fallen victim to the cat. The border has little vegetation to allow the cat to hide in but it must have found a spot so more bamboo canes will be used in this area. This cat is a serious pest at this time of year and whilst the cat is the culprit I could quite easily use a bamboo cane on the owners as the amount it must bring home would make any reasonable person to keep the cat in in the mornings at least. I find it tiresome that a lot of people say "ahh well it's just nature/or natural" It quite clear that whilst the cat is doing something quite natural to itself it should not be doing it in the UK as this is not a native beast but a alien species to the British Isles. As I have stated many times I am a cat owner so I squarely put this at the owners feet and say it is a dereliction of care and responsibility often acquired through apathy and ignorance....own a cat? Think of your actions in the wider world...please!!
Soap box away and I am glad to report that the weather has been very kind to us indeed with a lot of warm and sunny days....which seems rather grand. The forecast today is for rain and at the moment I would not doubt this as I look out of the window the wind has picked up and thick clouds are covering the skies. I have to give a lot of credit to the forecasters at the moment as most situations have been forecast correctly and back on the 15th we were told of heavy showers and a possibility of hailstone and so it was...rain like was last seen in Noahs day poured out of the sky followed by large hailstones. The spectacle was over in 30mins and the sun once again shone which soon dried the rain up . The odd thing was that I work 5 miles from home and my wife works within 2 mins of home and I mentioned the storm was heading her way yet Mandy said it never arrived. On return home I was looking forward to seeing how much rain had fallen in this short period but as Mandy had said not a single drop had fallen on the garden....who'd be a weather man!
11th.  A few very contrasting events of late in the garden as one of the better stories is the fact that a single Male Bullfinch was spotted feeding back on the 7th from a feeder and now he has brought a mate with him so that they have now been seen regularly which makes the mind leap forward of thoughts of Bullfinch young being a possibility. It was some time in April last year that a pair turned up and stayed around the garden for a few months before disappearing and although it may be a few months later than last year, it is still just as welcome a sight. A lovely proud bird which has a very timid nature which often only ever leaves you with a view of it's very white rump as it flies off into dense woodland.
The contrasting site has been one of great consternation as I have gone to great lengths to stop a neighbours cat from wreaking havoc on the birds. I have erected small fences and used chicken wire in vulnerable areas where it sits in wait and I use prikka strip in other areas. I had been noticing a few feathers on the lawn but was unsure as to what it maybe but sadly this morning it was all to clear to see as the garden erupted in noise as the cat pounced on a young Starling before wandering proudly up the garden with it in it's mouth. I have tonight erected yet another fence to alleviate the straight out pounce as with a 12" high fence in place it has to go up and over which hands a very small advantage back to the birds. I have also used garden canes in areas to stop the beast from sitting in the plants which are growing at a fair pace. I drive them in at angles and wedge them at short distances apart in the hope that it can no longer deliver a deadly and undetected assault. It too has damaged a lot of some of the plants that I have been waiting for ages to smell the scent of and that is common valarian. It has decimated one plant to the point that it will now not flower this year and on another reduced the flower heads by 50%. 
It is a constant battle and one I am never sure I will ever win but it's a part of life that whilst I find hard to accept ( as although a cat owner we seek proactive cat restrictions on our own at various times of the year) I will have to live with.
6th. The garden is now awash with many species of young birds of this year. We have now added 
Goldfinch, Blackbird, Woodpigeon, Greenfinch, House Sparrow, Dunnock, Mistle Thrush, Magpie, Robin, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Starling and hopefully we will soon see Lesser Redpoll young. The Starling young are making such a noise at the moment that it feels a constant chatter is all around as they come in to dive bomb their parents. They often sit with beaks wide open stood on top of the sultanas whilst shouting "feed me"......kids hey! 
The hot weather that was with most of the Country at the end of May carried through for a few days into June with the top temperature of the year so far being reached on the 1st at 18:00. It felt lovely as it topped 25.5°C and this was fully appreciated as we ate our evening meals outside on the decking for the first time this year. Of course nothing lasts forever and the wind and rain soon returned after over a week of glorious weather. As I write this at 15:30 the temp stands at 9.9°C and it feels rather cool with light drizzle and low cloud!
It seems the only bird that we are missing at the moment is the male Great Spotted Woodpecker which has not visited from the middle of May so I just hope he is well and has found a mate in another spot locally. The Hogs are still being fed at night as the sounds of their snuffling continues.
The frogs also enjoyed the warmth of the recent sunshine so much so that one took to a bit of shade in next doors kitchen...quite a shock for them by all accounts! 
We have been video recording the Great Tit taking food from our hands and BBC Springwatch decided to use it so if you would like a quick snippet of this visit this link.

July '09
Weather This Month
Max Temp = 28.8°C                 Min Temp =  7°C
Max Wind=   18.5 mph              Max Rain in 24 hr Period = 32.1 mm
Max Rain in 1 hr Period =  9.3 mm          Total Rain For Month =  163.1 mm
26th. The main topic in the garden is AGAIN the weather as it really is depressing as it every so often stops raining and allows the summer to show it's face! Yesterday being one of those days where the clouds broke by mid morning and the sun showed us it still exists. Mandy and I made the most of it and set to tidying up the garden that included a cut of the lawn that has just not been possible due to the incessant on off rain that has never allowed the lawn to dry. The Dahlias made the most of the sunshine also with many a flower breaking it's cover which was more than appreciated by the passing bees and butterflies. It was on the Dahlia that two Meadow Brown butterflies stayed for a while before an altercation arose and one of them moved on to another flower type. It was lovely to see a few Butterflies about as they really have been scarce in the garden. We also noted a Small Skipper and a Small White in the course of the day.
The Sparrows must still be feeding young as plenty of mealworm is taken away. They now have to contend with a family of 5 Magpies which are quite regular as they try to snatch any stray worms from them as they come out of the caged feeders.
20th.  We decided to have a look back at the Twite today so we dragged our camera gear with us only for me to discover I had left part of it back home so it rather limited my chances of a good image (that's my excuse anyway) Mandy faired a little better but to be honest we struggled with the light and the flitty nature of the bird. Non the less a few shots (both Mandy's) are below.
We shall return at some point to get some better images once the talked about upcoming weather allows and when I find the rest of my digiscoping gear!
19th.  Well I must have missed the part where the weather forecasters said that the Barbecue summer would only apply to June! After the hot 28°C in June we have now dropped down to the 15-17°C mark...which at times feels distinctly cool. The amount of rain we are seeing is also more than we were hoping for, as already it has put down nearly 100mm with over 32mm coming in 24 hrs on the 17th. The plants are looking a little tired from the heavy showers with not much in the way of direct sun or heat to aid their growth.
I set out today in search of Twite but the weather turned poor,so in no time my feet were soaking even though I was wearing waterproof boots. To be fair the waterproof aspect may refer to the ability of the boots to hold the water inside! 
I really hate wearing glasses as it's a nightmare with rain, even a trusty base ball cap or wide brimmed Tilley fails to stop the rain on your lenses. Anyhow, it rained most of the walk and even a few scatterings of Niger seed could not tempt this quite rare breeding bird into our sights, so I shall try again when the weather is a little kinder. Maybe I can get one or two shots of them before they move on...I hope!
Back to matters in the garden and this morning before I went out I was greeted with a welcome sight as it hung from the peanuts...a juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker. So I have now put out plenty of suet cakes so I can tempt it back for a longer stay. Another little bird that has not been to the garden for at least 3 years is the Pied Wagtail. We used to have Pied Wags coming to the garden in the breeding season as the mealworms were such a big attraction to feed to their young, but, after swapping the Pied for the Grey wagtail, they stopped coming. After a few brilliant years of the Grey Wagtail, we have now gone back to Pied, and, although we miss the Grey it is nice to welcome back the Pied. We were surprised also to get a good number of Bullfinch turn up last week, with 2 males, one female and 2young, what a lovely tally for the garden.
Birds are still feeding young including Song Thrush, Blackbird, Robin, Sparrow, Starling and Dunnock. The Mistle Thrushes are now becoming more scarce in the garden but it seems that at least 2 broods of 2 have managed to survive which is quite good. Magpies are now regulars to the garden with 3 young in tow. I like these birds and find their bother boy antics quite a fascination.  
2nd.  A record for the garden was set today at 20:11 as the hottest temp recorded since my records began (Sept 06) as the temperature maxed out at a massive 28.8°C. The previous high was set in June 07 with a top temp of 28.1°C. It has felt very sultry again today although the weather forecasters are now saying a cooler period is about to begin with the chance of a heavy shower or two to start this off tomorrow. 
1st.  Phewww what a day. It's been very warm today and to be honest the dewpoint has reached a level which states "very uncomfortable" and boy it has been. The 27°C was reached today around 15:00 and the temp is still showing 23.5°C at 20:30 tonight. The fan has been on constant all night to make sleeping easier but this really is not the weather to be good for sleeping or working in....even a cooling drink in the garden is to much like hard work!  We had a barbecue out on the decking tonight as Mandy and I turned our attention to a holiday for next year. We are still unsure as to where we will go although Goa is still a very attractive destination with Lesvos not far behind although a trip to Thailand is still somewhere I do fancy as I know quite a few people with homes out their that are always trying to persuade me....one of said people has promised me a guide book on his return from spending 3 months their in his second home....hmmm we shall see. 

August '09
Weather This Month
Max Temp = 22.9°C                 Min Temp =  8.7°C
Max Wind=   19 mph              Max Rain in 24 hr Period = 17 mm
Max Rain in 1 hr Period =  5.1 mm          Total Rain For Month = 116.4mm
31st.  A rescue of a Starling has brought about the close to another month. I heard the sound of a bird hitting a pane of glass and as I looked out into the garden from the office window I saw the the culprit of the accident...a young Sparrowhawk had come tearing through the garden. Before long Mandy was calling out as a bird was laid out on the decking. Sure enough it was lay there upside down with beak wide open and panting extremely heavily. It was not really moving and at first sight I thought broken jaw at the very least. My usual ploy is to bring the bird inside and place it in a cardboard box in a very quiet and dark room. I leave them for about 3/4 to 1 hr and then check how they are doing. Looking at this bird I thought it was not going to be any use even though all other casualties like this had been successful. On checking the young Starling after about and hour I was amazed to see that it was sat up in the box, beak closed and seemingly very alert. I popped the box outside when a few other Starlings were feeding in the garden and although he took his time he soon hopped onto the rim of the box, sat looking around and flew to the fence about 2 meters away. I watched him as his levels of alertness increased and the usual heavy amounts of bird poo were expelled due to the trauma. He sat for 10mins before he finally plucked up the courage to fly to some conifers 60' away which he did without problem. I wished him good luck.
The rain continues...it's depressing I can tell you with a new total for the month being noted with 17mm falling in 24hrs last night at 23:00. What I would not give for an Indian summer....
30th. I will stay away from the weather as as usual it is just poor....sooo.....I thought I might share a few words that I thought summed up those who are touched by nature and those, as Simon Barnes recently put it, who as yet do not know they are to be touched by nature.
"The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way. Some see nature all ridicule and deformity ... and some scarce see nature at all. But to the eyes of the man of imagination, nature is imagination itself." - William Blake
A common thing at this time of year seems to be the noting of Greenfinch that succumb to disease. Up to now I have witnessed 3 such individuals showing signs of disease that leaves them puffed up and basically unable to feed. They often sit near food or water with eyes closed or under their wing. If you notice this kind of behaviour I would suggest reading this article and consider acting as it really can be a very contagious disease that is fatal to finches.
27th.  Our cat Ferly has now been allowed back out into the wild after her incarceration from about April time where she becomes a house cat. She does not seem bothered about it now at all and just goes out now and again although the first night out was hectic as she made full use of the cat flap! The "hunting" cat, of a neighbour, that seems to replace Ferly in the garden when she is kept in has already had a run in with Ferly which has resulted in us not seeing it in the garden over the last few days.
Birdlife in the garden is very much up and down at the moment with busy spells followed by a quiet ones. The real stand out is bird song....from the Robin. This signals the end of breeding season as the song is a precursor to his hopes to hold on to this territory as his. Some say his song is a sadder, slower song but I wonder if that is just something within us and our reluctance to accept the fast approaching Autumn.
The Great Spotted Woodpecker is still with us and just like last years youngster this new visitor is turning out to be a male as once again the red cap is diminishing with a red neck patch appearing. Let's hope he too sticks around for the winter. The female Bullfinch fed early this morning but It looks like her mate must have slept in as he did not show. The lesser Redpolls are still quite regular but these last two species mentioned often disappear very shortly, most likely they head farther South (staying often in the UK) to warmer climbs and where food is more plentiful, and who could blame them!
25th. We have visited the British Bird Watching Fair over the last 5 days and as usual we spent a fortune on various items including clothes, books and accessories. We had a fantastic time with lot's of time taken to meet up with friends. We met quite a lot of new people as the talk on Lesvos attracted people which were eager to discuss findings and of their longing to return in the near future. I always take the fair as a good opportunity to flaunt the website a little bit with most always glad of websites that put information up on trips abroad. We stayed at a B&B this year for the first time and the lady that ran it spoilt us rotten....if you are reading this Ann, thank you very much. If you would like to read about Rutand water and the Birdfair then just click on the corresponding names for more info. In the meantime a few pictures of yet again a great (and I hear record) Birdfair. 
            Mandy interviewed for Radio 4                                     This years mural was a special Rutland Birds
                 Simon Barnes at the celebrity lecture.                                     Music form the Philippines
Traditional Dance
We said hello to the Backwoods camp crew where we also booked in for the upcoming trip to India. It was fascinating to go to some of the lectures on various countries wildlife and it really does get your juices flowing as you decide between the cold of Britain or the warmth of India, Nepal or maybe South America mmmm just hard to decide! A few celebs were encountered and a few conversations were struck up between some of the stall holders. The Taiwan stall is probably the happiest stall I have ever come across and only those that have visited it can truly understand this!
19th. It's hard to believe but the warmest day in the garden this month was reached today at 18:42 with a temp of 22.9°C. The garden is sadly starting to change as things up in our northerly regions head toward September. I do look forward to the sight of the Japanese Anemones and the brightness that the superb Rudbekia Goldsturm gives at this time of year. There is still a lot of colour in the garden with many plants at, or starting the period of great flowering. One of my favourite plants of this time of year is the Verbena Bonareiensis which gives a fantastic account of it's self with it's lovely purple flowers and strong stems that seem to stand up to the harshest of conditions.
As August starts to fade I wonder what September has to offer... I do hope we get an Indian summer as it can be lovely with the warm light you get in the Autumn...anyway I have a few plans over the next few days so we are praying for good weather!
17th. A busy time away from the garden with some very sad news and some very nice news.  Firstly a special mention for a work colleague of mine Brenda Walsh and her family. Brenda was was a special person with the outdoors and horses being a big part of her life. A tragedy that we suddenly lost her on Thursday the 6th August 2009 unexpectedly. We both wish her family well for the future. You will be missed Brenda.
Much better news followed as whilst I attended Brenda's funeral on Friday I had nicer things to contemplate on Saturday as my sister Lydia was to be married, so a big congratulations to the new Mr & Mrs Macklin. A weekend of deep sadness and of great pleasure which felt rather perverse, but one thing that is never stopped and that is life itself, no matter what. 
I have also completed my 2nd summer BTO TTV for the Bird Atlas 2007-11 which Mandy and I completed tonight from 18:30 - 20:00. I shall put my results up later in the week. I shall repeat the same area twice more in the winter.
TTV SD81T Whitworth
First Summer visit

Starling 152
Blue Tit 3
Great Tit 1
Robin 8
Blackbird 10
Willow Warbler 6
Woodpigeon 4
Magpie 11
Chaffinch 7
Blackcap 1
Greenfinch 3
Carrion Crow 15
Chiffchaff 2
Swallow 15
Canada Goose 23
House Sparrow 5
Curlew 1
Mallard 6
Skylark 16
Meadow Pipit 17
Swift 4
Grey Wagtail 1
Sparrow Hawk 1
Jackdaw 1
Collared Dove 1
Mute swan 1
Morrhen 1
Mistle Thrush 1
Song Thrush 1
Feral pigeon 10
Great Spotted Woodpecker 1
TTV SD81T Whitworth
First Summer visit

Woodpigeon x 17
Carrion Crow x 19
Blackbird x 3
Greenfinch x 23
Goldfinch x 8
Starling x 1
Magpie x 15
Skylark x 2
Meadow Pipit x 5
Pied Wagtail x 2
Northern Wheatear x 2
Blue Tit x 1
Great Tit x 1
House Martin x 2
Wren x 1
Robin x 3
Black Headed Gull x 40
Mute Swan x 6
Long Tailed Tit x 2
Moorhen x 1
Mallard x 3
Swallow x 33
Canada Goose x 72

9th.  Like it or not but for me the first signs of the summer coming to a close up here in North West England are happening with two sightings of Willow Warblers flitting around the garden as they begin the dispersal with the migration to strong 'a pull for them to ignore, to be honest who can blame them as a winter in West Africa (Ghana , Ivory Coast amongst others) must be far more attractive than here! The second visit by a Willow Warbler appeared on the 8th at about 17:00 as I sat on the decking. It eventually came within about 2 meters of me as it gorged itself on spiders in the Ivy. It soon zipped away as a Magpie disturbed the peace, well what else are Magpies for? It got so close that I really was mentally reaching for the camera that was in the house up a flight of stairs in the office....baahhh!
Mandy was trialling a new lens out earlier in the day as a quick purchase of a Tamron 28-200 macro lens was added to the arsenal of optics. It has been purchased as a general walk about lens which will add flexibility to our Trip to India next year. The Sigma 100-300mm F4 with 1.4x converter can sometimes be just to much to carry around all day whilst also trying to use binoculars so this lens has been purchased to aid closer work as well as been able to take pictures of landscape, buildings and people. Mandy was wondering round the garden when this Butterfly began feeding of the Verbena plant
Green-Veined White
We also set the Moth trap up last night...first time this year!..and to be honest it was a little disappointing as the "catch" was rather monoculture considering we were up at 06:00 to photograph and release them.
2nd.  Well I am finding it increasingly difficult not to mention anything but the weather at the moment, although today has been a little brighter which allowed a short foray into the garden with Mandy's camera. The birds were not really in the mood but I did manage a few shot's of some of the youngsters that feed here.
This young Starling is now undergoing the moult which can clearly be seen on it's flanks. Mandy dislikes Starlings at the best of times but she really dislikes them at this stage for some reason. I don't think one thing or the other about the "look" I just think that it's amazing to see the transformation of a young bird into a pristine individual.
Who can fail but to love our Sparrow. It is now a welcome visitor which seems to have done rather well for youngsters this year which I hope in part is due to my massive financial outlay on mealworm!
This little chappie was pointed out as it sat near the pond...it reminded me that the modern sunglasses at the moment also give an angry fly look.

September '09
Weather This Month
Max Temp = 20.1°C                 Min Temp =  7.3 °C
Max Wind=   20.8 mph              Max Rain in 24 hr Period = 29 mm
Max Rain in 1 hr Period =  6.2 mm          Total Rain For Month = 72.5 mm
Live Local Weather HERE
20th.  Blimey....no rain since the 8th! This spell of drier weather has allowed the Butterflies to visit the garden and take some of the late nectar from the plants I purposely planted to give this late summer food to insects. The Hemp Agrimony is the favourite at the moment with Verbena Bonariensis, Rudbeckia Goldsturm and Japanese Anemone coming in a close distance behind. Mandy and I managed to get a few images over the last week or so ago but I was unable to get a picture of a beautiful Butterfly that is not that common in the garden, a Comma. The country has seen a massive amount of wasps over the last 3-4 weeks and the garden has not been any different where the bird table where the sultanas are placed has been a no go area as many are feeding on the fermenting fruit.
These 3 butterflies  (Peacock - Speckled Wood - Red Admiral) are regulars with the odd visit from a Comma and Painted Lady.
The Common Garden Spider is quite spectacular which often worries people due to it's colour, size and patterning....but they pose no danger. The fly with the bright yellow abdomen landed on my clothing outside and I thought it was rather unusual although I have no idea as to it's species unlike the familiar, and hairy Green Bottle!
3rd. Well again the big issue for the garden is the weather....different day same topic! The Tropical Storm Danny that is moving along the Eastern Seaboard of America is having a mini impact on us here in the North West of the UK. Any hopes of an Indian Summer seem like a fantasy as strong winds and lot's of squally showers have hit over the last 24-36hrs. Looking at the totals above it shows that over 1" of rain has fallen in the last 24hrs and that rain was at it's hardest this morning between 05:00-06:15 where 6.2mm of rain fell in that same hour. It woke myself and Mandy up as the sound of rain could be heard through the double glazing. 
The model below shows the Storm starting North East of the Bahamas where it's path turned NNE where it was downgraded to a Tropical Depression. This depression has left us, the UK, with a mild ripple in our weather although that ripple is most certainly felt as it passes in a North Easterly direction across the country.
It's certainly kept the garden quiet as the birds fight the effects of the wind and driving rain. As I write this (15:00) the wind has subsided quite a lot and no rain has fallen for the last 10 minutes. The long range forecast is not really that good with cool temps forecast and at best whilst it is supposed to be drier it will still be very cloudy. Oh well I look forward to the winter which I am betting will be drier and sunnier.
That reminds me I have to visit our travel clinic today for some injections to cover us for our travels and I have to say I am a coward when it comes to needles!!!

October '09
Weather This Month
Max Temp = 16 °C                 Min Temp =  1.2°C
Max Wind = 21.2 mph              Max Rain in 24 hr Period = 36.7 mm
Max Rain in 1 hr Period = 6.2 mm          Total Rain For Month = 98.9mm
Live Local Weather HERE

Another busy weekend with one thing or another but I did get the chance to break away for the second trip to Spurn Point in a month. The first trip was a very quiet affair with little in the way of either anything out of the ordinary or even any great numbers of common birds. The weather was all wrong with high pressure and a SW winds. The day was lovely though as friends accompanied us and the sun shone for most of the day with a touch of sunburn in evidence. There were a few birds about but we dipped on most like the Barred Warbler, Lapland Bunting and even the Snow Buntings. The second trip had Mandy, Dad and myself up early with a 05:00 start due to the 2½hr journey time. The weather looked a little better with strong Northerly winds and a fall in pressure. We had a good wander round the point and it was not long before a cracking Short Eared Owl was hunting in front of us as it followed the shoreline. We noted it twice in an hour and the second time it flew right above us giving amazing close views. I was sure I could here the calls of Brambling as they rattled a little like Greenfinch, although I could not connect with them. Plenty of Redwing, Blackbird and Fieldfares were about which is one reason why I like to visit at this time of year. We earlier stopped off at the Canal Scrape hide and a little patience was rewarded with views of a Water Rail although the recent sightings of Jack Snipe alluded us.
We headed out up the canal in search of Yellow Browed Warbler but after a few glimpses of a possible it was gone and we could not be sure. Eyes were trained on the beach as we took in some waders with Grey and Golden Plovers, Knot, Sanderling, Little and Ringed Plover, Dunlin and plenty of Redshank on offer. As we headed to the end of the path I noted the famous Twitchers Shuffle as several birders had taken up speed walking.....eh up! Sure enough as we walked into the car park of the migrant hot spot of the Crown & Anchor pub it became apparent that something was about. With ears and eyes wide open it wasn't long before a radio bellowed out that it was a Red Flanked Bluetail! That would be a lifer for me! The crowds were mobbing so we headed out into where we were hopeful of catching site of it as it had not been seen for half an hour. It was not long before another radio blurted out that it had been caught in nets at Kew Villas and would be released in 20mins at Canal Scrape car park. Well we too joined the Twitchers Shuffle and picked up the pace to reach the car park which was some distance away. We waited as people jostled for position. Several altercations broke out, somebody walked into my Dad's scope and the usual small appendage brigade did there best to infuriate anybody around. The gathering was reminiscent of a Jelly Fish as the crowd expanded and contracted as a suitable shape ( one big line- two double lines and several size circles) was found to give people a good view. I just stood in the same spot and it worked out good as the car turned up and the bird was brought out past me. It was exciting for some reason yet it just felt wrong, really wrong. This bird was a migrant that in the words of the handler was light in weight. It was a young female and had just been caught in a net, handled by giants, stuffed in a bag, weighed, rung, stuffed back in a bag, driven in a car for 10mins, brought out with legs held and finally paraded around a ring of fire! That will be my last time I do that as although I now know this bird by it's common name I feel I never really saw it and to be honest if that bird ever sees me...I shall be embarrassed if it ever utters my name. I am all for Scientific research and I think ringing done correctly is very worth while but to be a part of what we did was only about self gratification....and that is not scientific in any language. It is easy to get caught up in the furore and Mandy got some very close pictures of it but I am not going to post as the more I think about it the more I can't justify my actions. If you fancy keeping an eye on Spurn for future visits the website HERE is a great resource for what is about. 
Moving on from that we headed to the seawatch hide and before long I was noting a Bonxie, Guillemot and Gannets which was nice even though overall it was quiet. Thanks to the guys in the hide who put up with my questions I really appreciated the help as I don't get much chance to sea watch.
It was soon time for hoe after a fruitless trip up to beacon pools where the tide was rushing up to the already much eroded shoreline. Mandy was very kind to us all as she drove there and back whilst other had a sleep so thank you!
I bought a GPS tracker with our trip to India in mind so I tested it out at Spurn to see how well it performed and to be honest I was very impressed. Have a look at the map below which shows where the GPS tracked us.
Click on the map for full trip detail
15th.  A huge gap in the diary due to other commitments. Today changed that commitment as a friend came to visit me at work. He said he had a bird in his van that his Cat had brought in that morning and thought I might know what it was as he had no idea. Howard has an interest in birds and wildlife so whilst it did run through my mind that it may be a new plumaged Starling or something similar I was aware that he knew his common birds. On opening his van door I peered into a cardboard box and could see a small Starling/Blackbird size bird that had some fantastic colour to it that showed up nice in the light. As I noted it's body I was unsure until I noticed the longish red bill and red outer eye ring. A beautiful Water Rail was laid down! I could not believe it as the area it was found at was Waterfoot in Rossendale and whilst it must visit any kind of water source, it is usually noted at larger waters with good cover. A river was about 300 yards or so away so it is quite possible that it was there although I guess the other possibility is that it had landed exhausted from a migration over night as the weather in the evening and night was poor with lots of heavy drizzle and low cloud. 
Anyway I managed to get a few poor pics of the bird with my mobile phone. They were poor as I did not want to stress it any more than I felt obliged. Between us it was decided that the best thing to do was a trip to the Three Owls bird sanctuary in Norden would be the best option so Howard took it over. The news was that whilst it leg looked broken, it seemed like it was just soft tissue damage and they were sure that it would overcome this injury although feeding the bird was the most daunting prospect with this point being the difference between surviving the ordeal or not.

November '09
Weather This Month
Max Temp = 13.3 °C                 Min Temp =  -0.5°C
Max Wind = 28.1 mph              Max Rain in 24 hr Period = 41.9 mm
Max Rain in 1 hr Period = 12.4 mm          Total Rain For Month = 317.5mm
Live Local Weather HERE
8th  Well as you can see the rain has again been the main ingredient in the garden with some large rain falls on the 3-4th. As I look out into the garden at this time (12:31) there are small streaks of rain on the office window but the sun is peaking from the clouds from the SW. Whilst the rain has driven me to distraction it seems that the birds are not bothered with a good mix of birds being noted over this weekend. To start with a flyover this morning from East to West of a Common Buzzard was a nice, and increasingly common sighting. I also was alerted to, via their calls, a small party of Redwing of about 25 flying high and South early on. Other notable but irregular visitors to the garden have been common over the last two days are 2 female Bullfinch and 3 House Sparrows both species only really being noted in the breeding season. Another good garden bird was spotted this morning as it flitted around on top of a neighbours shed roof with it's bright yellow rump on show. The Grey Wagtail over the years has done well around the garden but has been mostly absent in the last two breeding seasons.
We have been treated to a Corvid fest with 4 Crows,2 Jackdaws, 10 Magpies and 5 Jays all fighting for the peanuts that are fast going down! The Woodpecker is still very much a fat lover all though his head been turned by the sunflower seeds in a large feeder. He does not look at all comfy on the feeder as he clings to a port but he keeps trying so the reward must be worth it.
We finally managed to capture a mouse that has been patrolling our kitchen cabinets for food. The lure of peanut butter (extra crunchy of course) was to strong and the live capture trap did it's job. He was released unharmed outside to the great relief of Mandy.

December '09
Weather This Month
Max Temp = 10.4 °C                 Min Temp =  -7.5°C
Max Wind = 32.6 mph              Max Rain in 24 hr Period = 16 mm
Max Rain in 1 hr Period = 5.1 mm          Total Rain For Month = 82.3 mm
Live Local Weather HERE
25th.  The snow is still with us as most of the country celebrate Christams and for a few lucky ones the snow has fallen today making it an official "white Christmas", the first for five years. I took a quick snapshot from the office window overlooking the garden and surrounding area and it simply is beautiful.
22nd.  A short entry in the diary just to note another low temp in the garden with a drop to -7.5. The birds are still regulars as the snowfall continues on and off all day today. Thanks to all who have emailed and called about my recent "Only when I laugh" ordeal. I remain positive about things although the holiday to India is looking more and more unlikely at the moment....I hope we can make it as I have a date over Christmas for a small operation in place. I hope this goes well and the wait for results will be short.
20th.  Wow the weather has followed the path of many places in the UK of late and this morning has left us with a good 60mm of snow and a new recorded low temp in the garden. The low was recorded at 06:54 this morning with a very chilly -7.4ºC achieved The birds have responded to this with many species all zipping about the feeders as they try to combat any dwindling fat reserves they have expended through the bitterly cold night. I say night but in effect the cold is still a problem as as I write this at 10:38 the temp is still well below zero at -4.5ºC. I mentioned to Mandy yesterday that we were due a Song Thrush...and this morning she obliged with a quick pitstop of sultanas. A very christmassy scene is set in the garden with the snow providing a lovely backdrop to the many species feeding here. I hope that the cold temps and snow covering have had you thinking about putting out a little food? I am sure it has.
My visits to hospital are ongoing and I have been coming to terms with a possible long term lay off from work....something that I have never contemplated before and to be honest scares the living daylights out of me. I have had several tests and a CT scan and shortly a visit to a consultant to talk about any findings. It's strange since I pray every year for snow yet now I am praying for it not to be here as it may stop any important hospital appointments. Fingers crossed.
6th.  Long gaps in the diary at the moment seem to be the norm as I seem to be spending more time in a doctors surgery for one reason or another. I have finally got an appointment for the ENT hospital which I hope will stop any health fears one way or the other. 
The garden is as usual active with plenty of wildlife in evidence with the Woodpecker a regular at the suet cakes. Up to 6 Jays are still taking an enormous amount of peanuts away and these have been joined by 3 troublesome Feral Pigeons which I discourage as much as possible. We also have 3 Grey Squirrels making the most of the nut bonanza as they have begun hiding peanuts all over the area. A small group of Long tailed Tits are now visiting the garden throughout the day which is always both a treat and a reminder that winter is not far away. Talking of the weather, as usual it is damp and grey and although a blip in the temps early in the month it has been quite mild as again yesterday the temps reached double figures at over 10 degrees.
We are now on our 8 mouse capture in the house as the live capture trap with peanut butter seems a good combination. I am still unsure as to whether the peanut butter is drawing them in from outside! It seems a common problem at the moment as sales of traps, poisons and electrical gadgets have increased significantly of late.....is this due to the recent rise in the water table or I wonder if they know we have a cold winter in store? We are hoping to miss out on any cold this year as our thoughts are slowly turning to our much anticipated holiday to India. The Christmas break will be a good chance to renew myself with the birds we hope to encounter and also a chance to finish a few jobs that the poor weather has not allowed me to get on with. The replacing of the fencing of the front garden is top of the list as the constant rain and short days have not allowed me to complete the task. I have noticed that the long range forecast is possibly favorable to a dry spell in the next few weeks so I hope this will be the case.

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