Wildlife Diary 2006


Weather Stats
Max Temp =  10.9 deg C               Min Temp =   -0.7 deg C            
 Max Wind  27.7 mph              Max Rain in 24 hr Period = 44.5mm 
 Max Rain in 1 hr Period = 8.2mm          Total Rain For Month =  190.1mm

31st.  A good holiday season rest has been enjoyed and whilst time has allowed me to keep an eye on the garden more than usual it looks like the birds and such have also taken time to relax in this very mild winter. 

Whilst I have not wasted the time away from work I have been reluctant to go out much over the last couple of days. With two rooms decorated before Christmas day and the delivery of 26 bare rooted plants on the 21st I had plenty to do. I ordered the plants, a mixture of native hedging, mainly for a little bit of open land that sits at the side and to the back of the house. It already has a good selection of plants like Mountain Ash, Oak, Alder, Polar, Holly and some other plants which people have planted. I have now added, to give it a more filled in appearance, 
5 Blackthorn 2-3ft Sd (Prunus spinosa) 
5 Guelder Rose 18-24 Sd (Viburnum opulus)
4 Quickthorn 2-3ft Sd (Hawthorn)
5 Dogwood 18-24ins Sd (Cornus sanguinea)
5 Rose, Dog 18-24ins Sd (Rosa canina)

It caused a stir as residents thought "dog walking" would disguise their interest. After a few conversations and enquiries about the plants I was using work continued. My wife and I did not notice the cold which had dropped down to about 2 deg c. My bit for the year of 2006 was finally completed as I gained much encouragement from all who Guerilla Garden. I shall, in 2007 do more either to this same spot called " Jubilee Walk" or maybe brighten up a few more spots locally.

I also kept one Hawthorn to grow in a tub in the garden and also a self fertile Holly J C Van Tol which I have yet to cram into the already bulging plant count. Surely a Hawthorn can be squeezed into any garden if kept and grown hard. My wife Amanda has always mentioned having a Hawthorn in the garden so with a little luck we will have a larger berry count than ever before.

Just to let people know that I have now set up selling my nestboxes through ebay under the user name of turdus0If you would like a box you can either buy through ebay or send money via paypal. If sending via paypal send me an email stating request and I will pass on my payment details. I have a page set up under the main menu just click that to get more details and pictures.

17th.  A welcome visitor chose to light up the garden on the 16th. I got up before daylight to watch any early feeders in the garden just before I set off to work. At about 08:10 the very low cloud was stopping any chance of the sunshine that had been promised for the weekend. This was soon forgot as a very small pale object sat quite still in the sycamore tree. The fact that it was so pale in colour made me look at it through my binoculars. A female Siskin lifted the gloom in the early light of the day. I always look forward to seeing them in the garden but was surprised to see them in December as I have never had them visit before in December only in the early months of the nest year and sometimes they don't turn up until as late as March. I looked around for others as often they carry a suitor close by, but not this time. I can only imagine that she came with curiosity in mind as the Goldfinches led the way. After a short time, and before the light was good enough for a picture, she disappeared with the Goldfinch. I shall be a little more vigilant as I would guess a return would be quite normal.

Photo opportunities are limited at the moment as light is an issue together with the low and very reflective light I get in the winter garden. I did manage to get a couple of shots of the odd visitor that popped in between showers. I even managed a shot of the returning Song Thrush that has been skulking around the woodland edge eating pyracantha berries.

The Song Thrush and Goldfinch pictures were taken with the digiscoping setup mentioned below with the Song Thrush being about 25' away and the Goldfinch about 70' away so considering the light levels and the double glazed unit it was taken through I am pleased as I gain more experience of this setup.

The weather has turned cold with plenty of rain continuing right through the whole of the last week. The temps today as I write at 11:45 have only reached 4.5c but the sky is quite blue which does not relate to the 4 rainbows we have already had today.

10th.  After what seems a long wait for a digiscoping bracket to return after a few alterations I have it in my grasp and I am more than happy with the alteration that an enginner friend took on. The new "design" now allows the bracket to be used quite freely as either a telescope or as a digiscoping kit. This has been achieved by having a new swing away bracket graphted into the new design. I will be updating the technical pages to give a little more detail concerning this upgrade so If you are interested I will add more info in the next few days. In the meantime here are a couple of pics that help give a more visual idea.

Moving back toward the garden activities leaves me thinking that I will not get much chance to use this set up for a while as the rain and low cloud take hold. To add to this the night time temps have dropped a little with last nights temp dipping to -0.7 deg. The maximum so far has reached just over 10 deg but this has been accompanied with sharp downpours and at times strong winds with a max wind of nearly28 mph being recorded.

Bird numbers are on the increase with more and more returning as the weather takes it's toll. I saw 3 male Blackbirds today all trying to feed on sultanas but a probable resident bird tried hard to keep them away. The Robins are still fighting for teratory and the Dunnocks are chasing one another. Goldfinches are numerous and are probably the most common visitors as every time I look out there are always a couple feeding. The Song Thrush that I spotted the other day has not been seen, which is a shame but this may have been hampered by the regular hunter in the form of a cat that hides in the garden.

A short note to mention  the continuing presence of a Blue Tit that has, for the last few weeks, been busy hammering away at this box entrance. I presume it is being used as a winter roosting spot but maybe for a future date, a nesting home.

 3rd.  After a short break due to projects in the house, namely n a new bathroom, I have returned to watching the garden as much as I can. I am faced with the same problem as most others though at this time of the year as the daylight ours are not enough for me to keep records of activity during the week. I am left to watch at the weekends so sightings are often few and far between.

Well the Met Office has given out severe weather warnings for the last few days but it in the most has failed to materialise. We did have a little rain accompanied with strongish winds last night but as you can see by the weather stats recorded above it was nothing like the70mph gale force winds that was predicted. In fact as I look out the window this morning at 09:40 the sky is cloudless and only a light wind is in evidence. The mild conditions that are recorded around the country have also been noted here with temps not really dipping below 5 or 6 degrees. The long range weather forecast for this winter is mild and wet and this is one I don't like to hear. I like to have cold and snowy conditions so I do hope that the weather come February turns in my favour.

Bird activity has slowly increased with a count of 24 Goldfinches, 9 Collared Doves, 80 Starlings and 6 Chaffinch. One returnee to the garden, and a welcome one, is the Song Thrush. As I came out of the shed at the far end of the garden I was walking down toward the house with my arms swinging as I scattered a few mealworm. I looked up just as a bird took off very low in to other gardens and at first glance I felt sure it was a Song Thrush although I was secretly hoping it may be a Redwing that had ventured in. Later on it became clear as the Song Thrush returned and for 2 hours it stayed on the edges of the woodland hedge. It seemed to be picking up small worms and the like from under a wood chip mulch and leaves. I shall keep my eyes open today in hope of it's return which may give opportunity for a picture.


Weather Stats
Max Temp =  12.3               Min Temp =   -1.8            
 Max Wind  25.9 mph
Max Rain Fall =   157.5mm     Max Rain in 24 hr Period =  25.9mm     Max Rain in 1 hr Period =  8.2mm  


12th  The garden has undergone some changes in the last few weeks as the weather has finally snatched all the colour. There are still plenty of the plants with leaves still present but I think in a short while this will change too. I am, like last year, not going to cut down the old stems and plants as my idea is leaving the plants should give homes to insects to overwinter and provide seeds for the finches. I have already spotted a Goldfinch feeding on the seed heads of the Meadowsweet plant.
As I got home on the 11th I went out to the garden to check food levels only to be confronted with the inevitable...a dead Goldfinch that had come to rest on one of the trays at the bottom of the Nyger feeder. I had noticed a few other birds inc a Greenfinch and Chaffinch that were showing classic diseased signs some of which are a puffing up of the bird, lethargy leading to sitting for long periods either near food or water without moving. It can also be noted that they may try to sleep whilst on the feeder and your presence close up sometimes can go undetected. There are several diseases that can affect birds and if you would like to find out what they are or how you can limit them at your feeding station please click HERE

I immediately cremated the Goldfinch, cleaned all the trays and sprayed with a known cleaning fluid to kill bacteria. Disease from time to time is pretty common at the table and if hygiene is adhered to it posses no risk to humans. My feeders will again get another thorough clean in the next few days and I really would admonish anybody feeding the birds give all their feeders a good cleaning regime at the moment as it is an important part of the feeding program.

As I can monitor the nestboxes I have scattered in the garden by use of internal cameras coupled up to the computer I have been looking forward to seeing either a Blue or Great Tit take up residence in a nestbox as a winter roosting spot. Sadly this is not the case this year as non of the monitored boxes are being used but what i have noted is the interest shown during the day of the boxes as some of the Tit family hang around the entrance looking in. This morning I noted a Blue tit go inside a box that i do not have a camera in but it may lead to a roosting bird in that box.
Time off from work allowed me to spend the afternoon birding round Cowm res. It was a little breezy and cloudy when I started out but this soon gave way to a calm cloudless end to my jaunt. A couple of pics which i took whilst walking show why i do like the place so much.

   This image is looking North East toward Whitworth Quarry        A favourite spot midway between Res and the quarry basin
I was again in search of a better photo of Fieldfares and it was not long before I had connected with them as their rather raucous calls rang out. They were on the east bank of the res so I quickened the pace to reach a spot I felt sure they may well visit. As I started the walk round to this spot I had in mind I could not let a chance to photo another bird pass, so I slowly got closer and then perched my body on a wall that was a couple feet taller than me
A Male Stonechat posed just long enough to get this picture

As I moved toward my target spot, a mistle Thrush lifted from the ground in front of me and flew to a tall windswept hawthorn tree where it seemed to be rather annoyed at it's disturbance. When i had reached the spot I felt might give me a chance of the pictures I wedged myself behind a wall and the side of a large Beech tree. I waited with my camera on standby and kept the movement to a minimum. After about 20mins i noted a single Fieldfare in a Hawthorn in the middle of an adjoining field, i set off trying to keep quiet which was nigh on impossible due to the field being exposed with little cover. A wall 10 yard away from the tree helped me hide and would act as an improvised tripod. Sadly when close enough I lost sight of the Fieldfare and after some time I thought it had flown, but as I stood above the wall it flew from the tree....damn! I stuck around in the hope I might get another chance so again I kept well hidden, quiet and motionless. I was to be rewarded as 30mins later approx 200 Fieldfares started to feed from the Hawthorn. It was fantastic as the tree was alive with these winter migrants, their very subtle contact calls which were very wimpish seemed very endearing considering they are large and hard looking birds.

The only downside was the fact that by the time I was in a good spot to take pictures the light had decreased dramatically. I took about80 pics but only a few have survived the computer cull.They really are a "toff" type bird with their top hat and tails colouring. truly beautiful birds that I always look forward to seeing.

As you can see in these images they were aware of my presence but yet they chose to accept me...to a point..... as they chose to feed mainly on the backside of the tree with only an odd bird venturing to the side I was looking at.

They took it in turns to feed as 5 or 6 came in to the tree it seemed to signal that others should leave. I left them be after about 30mins and headed home but not before i had taken a few images which brought a fitting end to the day.



Weather Stats

Max Temp = 15.6                Min Temp = 2.9              
 Max Wind 24.1 m/h
Max Rain Fall = 202mm    Max Rain in 24 hr Period = 40.9mm      Max Rain in 1 hr Period = 11.3mm   


 31st.  A visit to my local patch Cowm Res produced what I really was looking forward to seeing. It's funny as I always seem to spot them in the same place. A patch of trees to the north of the reservoir which holds a few beech, Maple and Oaks interspersed with the odd Hawthorn breaking up the walled fields. The hawthorn seemed to play host to a lot of the Fieldfare. I made my way round at which point hundreds took to the sky coming from the hillside tree tops and from all directions. I quickly took a few snaps and the result was more a record shot than anything else.

They eventually settled in some tree tops where I took a few more photos before they departed to a distant corner nearing the quarry which is adjoining the reservoir.It was so great to see the Scandanavian visitors that it took a while to decide whether to take a photo or to look through my binoculars at them. As they took to the air I took the oportunity to count them and in total there were 300-400 which was a great count. As they took to the air I took the chance to hide behind a wall in close proximity to a hawthorn they seem to gravitate towards with my camera lens at the ready for a few closer pictures. I waited for some time for them to move back but it seemed as though another Hawthorn at the base of the quarry was a better proposition and so it was as they stayed there until the light was failing so much that a picture would have been impossible.                                                                                                        

As I made my way around the res I also got a distant picture of this female Stonechat that was being observed by a Male at close quarters. I struggled with the pic as I had to scale a wall with not much grip. A lovely bird non the less.

I also spotted the odd Meadow Pipit, three Mistle Thrush, A female Tufted Duck and as the day drew to a close a Little Owl sang it's murderous call! What was strange was although I had seen Mistle Thrushes and Fieldfare not a single Redwing was present, something I hope to put right at the weekend.
Well the weather is changing as if it knows it is November tomorrow. It is dry but at 19:30 tonight the temp has already dipped to 4.1 deg. The sky is starting to cover a little so I don't think that a frost will be present tonight, although as the sunny weather is due I am expecting a few night time frosts. This should colour the leaves nicely as with sunny days and cool nights the leaves increase the red possibly to act as a natural sun block to the scortching rays as the leaves expire.
One thing to maybe do while the clear skies arrive at night is to go into a quiet spot if possible in the garden at night and listen for any "sssssseeepppp"or "stuuuuuff" calls which you can sometimes easily hear. If you are lucky enough to latch on to any such calls you most likely are hearing movements of Redwing which is always quite a magical experience. 
29th. A short note today as the weather was sunny and reasonably warm helped by the light winds. Now at first light just before 07:00 now that we are using GMT I looked into the garden to check any activity......non but I did notice a large bounding bird in flight which was a Green Woodpecker. I do see them more these days as they fly over the garden and dip down into a sparsley planted area in the valley. I also noted a male Blackbird, 2 Jays and plenty of Magpies all of which were garden flyovers. I think the numbers should begin to increase as the cold is not that far away which will probably encourage the birds to top up at an easy feed spot.
The temps reached a maximum of 12.5 today which lead to two Red Admirals having a late foray. They both sat on some clear plastic warming in the sun with the odd flutter acrross to sample the decaying apple rings I have put out.
I shall again go looking round my local patch "Cowm Res" tomorrow afternoon as I am not in work. I failed to spot any winter Thrushes last week so I hope to put that right. I also am hoping that my digiscoping bracket, which I have given to an engineer friend, will be returned shortly as I am looking forward to testing the new setup. I have added some info to the technical pages about this if you are interested under the photography section. I am still adding to this section so please have a look in if it is of interest.
24th.  The weather has continued it's slide into autumn as rain a strong breeze and the fall in nightime temps have arrived. A low of 4.4 deg was reached at 08:56 this morning which is the lowest so far this month. As I write this at 20:15 the temp has again dropped to 7.4 deg but this may increae as the cloud cover will help it recover. As I set foot outside this morning I knew straight away of the cool temp as for the first time I could see a trail of steam as I breathed out.
A welcome visitor at this time of year finally arrived...and how I look forward to it's arrival. It is such a colourful bird with it's pinks,Blues and rather sergeant like mustashial stripe. It is a Corvid that is often very timid and reacts to any movement or noise. It also has a very loud harsh call and can often been seen collecting autumn spoils. Just in case you are left in any doubt I managed a couple of shots before my presence at the window scared the beauty away.


Of course the Jay is one of those birds that causes a big stir when it is stumbled upon as unlike a lot of our native Corvids which tend to be black this Corvid is more colourful. It will probably become a regular noe that a food supply has been found so i hope to get a few more images of better quality. I have watched it in previous years take, in it's crop, up to 32 peanuts all in one visit which is quite a feat. I shall be keeping an eye out for him but this may prove difficult during the week as my mind ponders the lack of evening light after the clocks go back at the weekend.

21st. A long quiet spell in the garden as autumn is well upon us. No doubt mother nature is feeding the birds and mammals that have deserted the garden for a short time. The bird which is, at this time of year, always missed as it rarely visits the garden is the Blackbird and it seems agaes since I heard it's flute like song. Collared Doves, Magpies,and the odd Grey Wagtail are still visiting but it really is noticable the abscence of the usual hordes.
We have had a few butterflies still visiting on the ongoing warm spell in the shape of a Red admiral and a Meadow Brown. They are finding less and less feeding opportunities though as the lst of the flowers begin to fade. The cosmos and the Rudbeckia are still flowering but the flowers are now small and less and less new buds are visible. I envisage a cold snap shortly which will do away with the cosmos straight away. When I look into the garden I am still surprised that the colours in general are still about with the morning glory, verbena bonariensis and nastursum giving a good accopunt of themselves. This is despite the temps beginning to lower. An average temp for the day has now dropped to approx 11 deg but I wonder if it is the night time temps, about 8-9 deg , that have allowed the plants to continue flowering.
The weather, whilst warm, has turned decidedly damp,grey and foggy. As I look out the window at 10:30 this pattern of weather is exactly that with the hills behind the house hardly visible due to the low cloud. As you can see from the weather stats above the total rain count has been increasing and to which will be added to today as the rain begins to fall.
I am working on the technical pages at the moment so if you are interesting in how we get the info we do for the site it may be worth a visit to those pages. It is an expanding section that I am still working on. It is proving difficult at this time of year as I struggle to get any good light to take photos due to me not being home when daylight is upon us.
8th.  A few tidy up jobs have taken place in the garden this morning as the weather has now turned a corner. Often I  put the table and chairs away from outside on the first day of October but in view of the great weather toward the end of september this has not happened until today the 8th of October.There are many other places to sit in the garden if the weather is good enough but it does seem quite some time ago that I could sit outside on the decking eating my breakfast before I headed off for work.
The garden remains quite colourful due to the conditions mentioned above and just to show this I took a pic of the garden at 11:00 this morning.  

If you look at the pergola I have added a few "apple rings" which I thought might look nice as a little autumnal decoration and also might entice an odd wintering Blackcap, or if they last, a winter Thrush or two! A closer picture shows the simple affair and I hope to add a few more but unsure.....what do you think good or bad? let me know how it looks to you. I just twisted some wire in to a two ply strand, poked holes with a skewer through the apples and then, having pushed the wire through the holes, twisted the wire where the ends meet and hung them up. I saw this idea in the Gardeners World mag and thought I would give it a go. 

One plant which for some reason rarely gets a mention is the Ivy plant which grows near the house and is covering an old concrete clothes post. I trim it back every so often to keep it from reaching the house wall. It houses the Robin nestbox which has a camera fitted and has been used once, two years ago. It is a plant that all wildlife, and non wildlife, gardens should have as it is so versatile and it has a great wildlife value. As stated it is great for nesting birds to build in, has a late flowering period for the last of the insects, it can cover eyesores well and is not bothered about harsh trimming, it grows well in sun or shade and it gives superb fruit early in the season when not much else is fruiting, which attracts a lot of birds like Blackcap,Mistle Thrush, Blackbird and even the ungainly Woodpigeon. If I were to stop and think I would say that this plant has been the most reliable attractant of Insects and birds in the garden....which is quite a claim considering the various plants contained in the garden.
The evening primrose has begun a second flowering spell which is more than welcome as the big sulpur yellow blooms really brighten up an apple tree, that it is growing against and is a showy big flower that only comes out at evening.
6th.The weather took a sudden turn for the worst on the first day of the month which has led to a lot of rain, wind and the odd cool nightime temps. This has continued in the main with sun being very intermittent. It is hard to keep track of the comings and goings of the garden visitors as the mornings and evenings are becoming darker. I can only really keep a close eye on the garden at weekends...which I will do. I will be adding a few pages on some of the equipment my wife and i use to capture the images on the site along with other useful bits of information like nest cameras and nestbox plans. I will update this when I get the time and light I will need to take a few images of my set up.
A bit of good news as this weekend the weather is supposed to be a little better as the pressure has started to rise on the temp station, so I may get chance to do a few little tasks I have been looking at doing for a week or two.

A month of weather
Max rain fall = 118.1mm            Max Temp = 24.2 on the 21st
Min Temp = 5.5 on the 8th               Max Wind 20.8 m/h on 21st
30th. As the month draws to a close the garden is still holding onto the summer warmth. Daily temps are still reasonable with 15 - 16 deg being reached right up to the last day. This unseasonable warmth is reflected in the colour which is still very strong with Rudbekia, Cosmos,Solidago, Morning Glory and Clematis which is having a second flowering. The trees are still mainly in full leaf colour with only the Silver Birch of next door giving the time of year away as some of the leaves turn yellow and fall. As I write this at 17:40 the sun still shines and the clouds are wispy. I just hope that we do not miss out on Autumn and go straight into a freezing Winter!
Bird life is still very muted and only six Swallows that passed at 13:30 this afternoon have given cause for any bird activity of any note. I imagine these Swallows are the last I will see this year and draws the curtain on a Sept month which has been more noted for the unusual warmth rather that any bird activity or visit.
Visits from the Hummingbird Hawkmoth have continued right up to the last day, usually in the first light of the morning or in the late afternoon/evenings. One visitor that has been noted by it';s absence is the Hedgehog which has now not been seen since early July. I fear they may not have bred successfully locally which is always a shame.
24th. Very warm and muggy conditions have been abundant since the last entry with a max of 24.2 deg being recorded on the 21st at 16:30. Very little rain in the latter stages of the month has fallen, and only the heavy downfalls at the start of the month which have lead to the 104mm total so far.
The garden remains quiet as again most of the visitors are choosing to take mother natures offerings instead of the artificial offerings in the feeders. I always dislike it when this occurs as the shortening days mean I can not get my daily fill of the bird activity. It is not getting light until about 07:00 now and I set off for work at around 07:10 so I can only catch sight of any early birds. One benefit to this time of year is the chance of seeing something that may not be a regular to the garden and on the 23rd this proved the case as a Great spotted Woodpecker decided to have a look at the offerings. I presume that this individual may be of this years young which is probably leaving the comfort of the parents ground and searching for it's own. It is one of those birds which I think has a magical element to it and always carries a hint of excitement as it hammers away at your peanuts and fat.  A poor image which was taken through double glazing and about 60 foot away. Well worth it's inclusion though as this may be the only Woodpecker I see in the garden for quite a few months. I have, in the past, seen them around the middle of October so I hope that this bird decides to return.

Today A trip to Hollingworth Lake 30mins from my home will possibly change my digiscoping equipment as I look to replace my Nikon 4500with a more user friendly camera and one which is a lot lighter, faster and smaller. A respected Digiscoper Paul Hackett is there offering advice along with a lot of other optics companies so I shall be taking some equipment to see if I can get satisfactory results with the Samsung NV3 which has caught my eye.
18th. A visit to Spurn Point in East Yorkshire was the journeys end on Sunday the 17th.

My wife and I set off at 04:00 and picked my Dad up on the way. After approx 2 1/2 hours later we found the weather a bit like hard work, not due to cold or rain, but due to a thick mist which was getting worse not better as the day wore on. Considering the time of year and the fact that we were on a very narrow strip of land which juts into the sea for about 2 miles we should be grateful of no cold winds. It is always a special place for a birder to visit as almost anything can turn up due to it's positioning for migratory birds to leave or land depending on season and bird. It was not long as the "big" bird of the day turned up in the shape of a Honey Buzzard which was a lifer for my wife and I. After quite a lot of time taken scanning the Sea Buckthorn and surrounding vegetation it was clear that a large fall of Chaffinch had arrived. Whinchat, Whitethroat, Yellow wagtails, kestrels, and Blackcaps all showed with other birds also present. In total48 species were spotted which for a visit to Spurn is quite low for me.
We also spotted Hummingbird Hawk-Moth which fed right in front of us but sadly non of the photos were good enough due in part to poor light. On our way home we stopped off to pick up some fresh crab and headed West. The weather was surprisingly pleasant as we neared home with warm sunshine abounding.
On the 17th Mandy and I tried in vane to get a good photo of the frequent visits by the Hummingbird Hawkmoth to our garden but non were of good quality with much blur in evidence. Then as Mandy walked away she noticed that it had come to rest on a tall Cosmos plant. I can only describe the scenes as Paparazzi "V" Hawkmoth as our lenses got closer and closer with fingers pressing down the shutter faster and faster.......no need really as he stayed like this for a good 10mins.

The Moth looks totally different in a stationary position with non of the bright orange hind wings which are so showy present. It is still my wish to capture it in flight but sadly I fear I will have to wait until next year as this little beauty was later flying with a certain slowness and wandering which suggested it may be coming to the end of it's life.
12th.  First of all let me make note of the weather that has been lovely for the last 4 days with plenty of sun and light winds for most of the weekend. A high of 22.7 deg was reached on the 11th at 15:30. This high temps has been accompanied with quite muggy conditions with dew points reaching 17.9 which reads as "uncomfortable". The high temps and cloudless skies overnight have also created cool nights where the temp has dropped as low as 5.5 deg, something that quite a few of the plants have not liked.
The garden is showing signs of the fast approaching Autumn as leaves on a Birch are yellowing and starting to fall.The small passage of birds continues with several sightings of Willow Warblers on their journey South. Bird numbers are still low and not much food has been taken. I gave the bird feeders a good clean on Sunday due to the news of a disease that is hitting finches for the first time this year. I will be putting a little section on the homepage to bring this to people who feed birds in the garden. If nothing else it will serve as a timely reminder of hygiene and vigilance around the feeding areas. I have spotted a Greenfinch with a problem that would suggest Salmonella, which is not unusual by the way at this time of year. If you would like to find more info about this please check the homepage.
Due to the balmy weather we have had good numbers of Butterflies with many Small Tortoiseshell, Red Admiral, Peacock, Whites and even a lovely Comma which hung around feeding on Rudbeckia 'Goldsturm' for a long time. This plant has probably been the longest flowering in the garden this year. It is still in full bloom with no signs of giving up with the superb bright glow really brightening up the fading colours in the garden. As I looked out of the window at 06:30 this morning I again saw a HummingBird HawkMoth which zipped around the Purple Loosestrife for a short time and then disappeared.
As I was talking to a neighbour this evening we had two failed strikes by a Male Sparrowhawk which has not been a regular over the last twelve months. I know a lot of people struggle with the idea of a Sparrowhawk taking birds but I always enjoy watching it's agility in the hunt.
5th.  I forgot to mention in the diary in August but we brought more than be bargained for back from the Bird Fair, as from under the bonnet of the car I spotted this beast emerging up from a gap between the wing and bonnet. It was photographed identified and then put into habitat that was more suitable for it. We choose not to put it in a neighbours privets as there would be chance of decapitation.

The Privet Hawk Moth
It was quite a sight as it's size was about 100mm long with a large girth.
The temps are staying quite low at the moment with highs of 19.8 and lows of 11.9 deg so far this month. The rain has been a constant presence with 52.8mm falling already in September. I have put the wind sensor of the new weather station on top of a 3m pole in the garden so as to get a better reading. It took some setting up with the pole needing to be absolutely vertical and then setting the wind sensor direction to TRUE NORTH. This was calculated and it was found I had to adjust the fixing of north by three degrees west. All sorted now so I have just got to find a more suitable place for the rain collector as this is in a easily disturbed spot and probably to close to a fence.
A late evening update as two Jays were seen flying over the garden just before the last light faded. This has been noted in the last few weeks each evening sometimes with much noisy accompaniment. A similar ritual has also started with a Tawny Owl calling at about 20:15 and then a shadow is seen against the pale night sky as it flies slowly North West to its night time haunt. 

27th. A cool breeze exists today with a wind speed of 7.8mph being recorded at midday with a temp of 15*C. Again bird numbers remain low with a surprise visitor appearing late on yesterday. My first juvenile Woodpigeon of the year turned up with an adult.
Another gadget I purchased while at the Birdfair is a better bracket which fixes my digital camera directly to my birding scope (hence the phrase digiscoping). This new bracket will allow me to take the camera on and off much quicker so that I can swap between observation and photography smoother, quicker and without the chance of damage to the camera. A pic below should give you some idea as to my set up which give some of the images on the site.

26th.  Fresh back from the British Bird Watching Fair at Rutland Water ( I will be adding the report of this in the "And on the 7th day" page)and all seems well in the garden. Our cat Ferly has now been allowed back outside after her captivity in the house during the breeding season. She has already had several run ins with the problematic cat that has taken to hunting in our garden taking full advantage of Ferly's absence.
The birds are now most definitely skulking with hardly any visits from the Blackbirds. Starling numbers have also decreased, which has made it easier on the sultana purchase costs! Dunnocks are still well numbered with 3 or 4 always somewhere near as they forage in the woody edge for grubs and insects. Magpies are only early morn visitors as they look for any uneaten mealworm from the evening before. Robins have now started their song as battle for winter territory begins. There are two at the moment but that can rise as the cold sets in and as most likely young birds are in search of winter feeding and these will also be joined by the odd migratory bird that is in need of food.I love the Robins winter flute like song, some see it as a sad lonesome tune but I think it is quite the opposite as it makes the winter that bit more bearable. I have been very lucky the last two or three years as a Robin has always found a song post near to my window which overlooks the garden. I will no more mention winter as it seems rather premature as the daytime temps are still reasonable.
Whilst at the bird fair I was bought, amongst other things, a professional weather station that I have already begun taking readings from. It is superb as it now gives me rainfall amount over several periods, Wind speed, air pressure values and a very accurate, unlike humidity readings, dew point readout.
13th. The weather remains changeable as light rain, cloud and a cool mind in dominant, although this has been interspersed with nice warm sunny spells. As I write this at 12:40 the temp is a miserable 14.2 deg with a cool blustery wind in evidence. I hope that a little better weather is not far away as my Wife and I head to the Bird Fair held at Rutland Water in Leicestershire from the 18th. This is a huge event with all kinds of selling, lectures, advice, holidays and much more to be found. Bill Oddie is a big crowd pleaser and will host a few witty events. We are lucky enough to have tickets to see Ian Wallace give a lecture this year so that will be a real treat. It really is a fantastic break where you can realax and be educated without much fuss. Who knows I may bump in to one or two of you ......particularly near the light refreshment tent !! If you would like more info on the fair please click here.
The bird numbers remain low with the exception of the Collared Doves whose numbers have crept up to 12 as they fight for the right to feed on the sunflower hearts even if this means standing on one another. The other noticeable point is the passage of birds through the area in readiness for the upcoming migration of our non resident birds. I have seen several Willow Warblers passing through with other birds, mainly Long Tailed Tits, and one little possy have at least four willow warblers amongst them. They gleaned next doors Silver Birch tree before being urged on by the Tits in the extended party.
1st. White Rabbit day...although I forgot to utter the words. The weather has now changed to wet cool and very windy. The max temp today reached a sad 15 deg c which was accopanied with heavy downpours of rain. The garden is very greatful of the extra water as it was looking a little parched and in need of a natures finest ....which she duly obliged with.
Bird numbers are falling at the moment in the garden as the food in the wider countryside becomes available. The garden still has lots of variety including Starlings, Greenfinch, Goldfinch,Mistle and Song Thrush, Blackbirds,Chaffinch and a more sinister visitor in the shape of four Magpies!. The Magpie gets some really bad press but I really do like the creature. I find then very attractive with the irridescense in it's feather and "bother Boy" attitude. I realise the Magpies tendancy to take young birds and eggs, but I simply think that the garden would be a poorer place without there presence. A young Mistle Thrush was feeding on sultanas at about 06:30 this morning as I looked out, it stuck around the garden for quite a while before heading off into another garden.
I had a water butt rigged up in the garden to keep the pond topped up but it really did not fill quickly enough to quell demand so I have now rigged a water diverter to my house downpipe and collect this in a water butt instead. I then ran a short length of hose to a timer and out of this I ran another hose directly to the pond. The timer has been set up to let water flow from the butt for 2 mins every 12 hours. It seems to work a treat with this setting but  will monitor  the top up to empty ratio I get from the butt. It is only a 100 ltr butt so it will not hold much in reserve but I am hoping that the surface area of the roof will keep the smallest amount of water running into the butt.
Swift numbers, along with Swallows are very high around the garden skies as I can look up most times and count 30 Swift and 6 -7Swallow. We have lost the nesting House Martins in our local avenue this year but they are nesting in a church nearby so I do get the odd passing buzz now and again although My wife has said she really misses their calls this year and i would agree.
The Humming Bird Hawkmoth is proving a real devil to photo as it is really flighty when approached. It has been at least six times to the garden feeding on various flowers inc Great WillowHerb....time will tell as I increase my readiness to take the pic I would most like to get this year. The frogs are now regularly seen around the garden particularly at evening time where they venture out in search of food. I have noticed that the frogs do have a real taste for mealworm and that one frog sat and ate about four in quick succession. Here is one of our welcome residents in his finest pose. The pic was taken by my wife.

 27th.  I am still taking plenty off time out of the virtual world and enjoying the fantastic weather we have had over the last 2-3 weeks. temps have reached 35 deg C in the garden with plenty of cloudless days and night. To be fair the weather has been very humid and not condusive for the crowds that have to work, although I am outside every morning on the deck having breakfast and as soon as my wife and I return from work we are straight out of the back door and into a relaxed and calming environment creating in the garden with the help of natures finest birds, insects, plants and of course the best tonic...the suns rays.
I have been trying to take pictures of the passing birds in flight but not with great results. Swifts create a real challenge for me but considering the speed, agility and height they fly with I guess it's not bad.



A few things of note to mention as a new visitor to next doors Silver Birch tree was the highlight of the month. A Redpoll flew up the surrounding garden singing at about 07:00 just as I was getting up off the deck to go to work. It stayed for 3-4 mins and then dissapeared. I have kept an ear open for a return but as yet no such luck.
The other things of interest is the Song Thrush which is still visiting the garden very regularly to take away sultanas to feed young with. Below I managed to steal this image of such a beautiful but relatively shy bird.

I will fill a bit more of the diary in tomorrow as the last of the evening sunshine is calling. I shall also update the relevant page fot our recent trip to Tatton Park Flower Show.

25th. A break from the diary as I have taken time to enjoy the garden and it's wildlife etc. The young birds continue to increase as up to 15 young Great Tits, 7 young Blue Tits, 5 young Goldfinch, 5 young Blackbirds and even a single young crow. The garden has been full of flower bloom coupled with great smells which have come from a common valerian. The big news in the garden is the visit of a Male Bullfinch which has been feeding on the sunflower hearts of late. It has now not been seen for a week or so so it may have moved on but we are hoping it remembers this spot come winter time. I have had Bullfinch here before but they have been fleeting visits by to young in 2003 and a pair last year, however they never stayed to feed.
Our anniversary was celebrated this month which has lead to a moth trap being gained. The weather has not yet been dry enough to use it so come high summer I hope to have a few moth species to tell of, although this is really Mandy's domain in truth. Insect activity has been low with only one or two butterflies being seen. Orange tip and and a large white being two that have showed. What has been seen though is the Hummingbird Hawkmoth which has visited twice but each time it has not been in a photographic pose...yet! I have planted one of my favourite plants last week, the Verbena bonariensis and a slightly different form Verbena hastata The former of the two has always attracts many species of butterfly and the big puller of the Hummingbird Hawkmoth.. The only downside to this plant is that it is not fully hardy and has always died in the winter so I have to buy new every year.

22nd.  Just a short note to record a bird that sadly only visits on the rare occasion. This House Sparrow came to have a nosey at what the Starlings were feeding on, then after not being taken with sultanas hopped around the garden and then dissapeared. They never seem to stick around considering how much and diverse the food available is. I presume it may well be looking for food for it's young and decided the seeds were not up to the mark, sadly!

21st.  The rain continues to fall at quite a rate which left the pond as full as I have ever seen it. The temperatures are remaining low with a temp of 8.5 deg at 11:30 this morning. Sadly for the most things in the garden this trend of very wet and cool weather is set to continue for at least another 5 days or so. A lot of the plants have come into flower at the moment, but due to the conditions they have suffered considerably due to the rain and wind damaging a lot of the flower heads and stems. The clematis is well into flowering which seems to be wasted on these very grey days at the moment.
The mealworm consumption is hard to keep up with at the moment as Tits,Grey Wag, Blackbirds, Starlings, Robins, Dunnocks and Wrens all tuck in to the easy meal option. The sultana count is also rising as mainly the Starlings take them away to feed their young.
Afew images have been caught around the garden by Mandy or myself. Very few insects are about so the larger species have mainly been the focus.

The Lily beetles are doing what comes natural as the common Frog chills out in the pond
As the image of the beetles were taken a sharp "(screaming) could be heard from the beetle if you touched them. It was, for such a small critter, a loud noise and one I had not noticed before. The image of the Frog is evidence of the only adult Frog in the pond. I presume this is the Frog I placed in the pond 18 months back. It was rescued from the clutches of a cat and transported to the garden pond. There are other frogs (11counted) but they are much smaller and are most likely from last years frog spawn which we took from a tractor track that was drying up locally.

The Wood Pigeon enjoys a few fleeting rays of sun, enough to allow a little nap while the Blackbird sings his flute like song as another day ends.

The First of the Juvenile Starlings sits begging with his usual strong vacal outburts.
The Male Grey Wagtail is now taking food away with him so it looks as though we may have the privledge of seeing some young Grey Wags in the garden, something which has not occurred before. The female has not been seen so I guess she is still sat on her young incubating and keeping those that may have hatched warm and dry.
18th.  A few more notes for the diary as the growing plants really get a grip in the garden. May is always by far the greenest month of the year  particularly as the sometimes heavy showers and warm sunshine combine for good growth conditions. The Clematis ( Montana Elizabeth) which was planted about 3 years ago, is a mass of flower buds which started opening on the 16th. It grows well over the pergola which extends to about 20'. A honeysuckle also grows along the same structure but is later flowering. The red campion has made several appearances around the garden but sadly it has already been damaged by the strong winds and rain of the last few days.
Last year I decided to let the garden do a little more growing without much in the way of pruning. I think this is going to be a good decision as the Pyracanthas in particular look like they will be a mass of flowers as I watch the flower bud count increase in number and size on all three plants. The Black elder also has plenty of emerging flower buds so I am hoping for a bumper berry crop and also hoping for a good selection of insects etc.
The Bird Cherry tree I planted 3 years ago has been a success this year as this was the first year it had a number of flowers on it. The flowers have now gone but it will be interesting to watch the fruits develop to see which birds ( if any) like the fruits.
More young birds have come to the garden with a Juvenile Starling been seen on the 17th, the same date as last year. The 2 young Blackbirds are still seen around the garden with a few Robin young joining the feeding sessions. The Blue and Great Tits are still feeding their young with the mealworm with at least 2 pr of each birds taking food. The box in the garden is still seeing the Blue Tits going in and out so incubation is still underway.
15th.  Sadly I have lost all my work on this page during May for some unexplained reason. I will try to add some of the lost images as and when time permits.
The weather has now turned from it's sunny warm state to a wet cool affair that is probably most welcome in regards to the water levels and plants. The weather is set to continue in this vain all week. The max temps of last week seem long gaone as more familiar 12 - 13 deg return. The positives are that the newly planted plants will be well bedded in and the water butt that I use to keep the pond topped up will be replenished.
The Tawny Owl returned but met his match with a Rat that has been in the Garden for a few nights. It pounced on the Rat three times only for the Rat to carry on regardless. This state of affairs probably means that we have a young Tawny visiting as I would imagine an adult would make short work of the Rat.
The Blue and Great Tits are now feeding theirr young as more and more mealworm is being ferried out of the garden to the respective nestboxes. The Blue Tit box in the garden is in use with Blue Tits but all is fairly quiet which suggests the female is incubating her eggs.
Young Robins and Blackbirds are now regulars in the garden with the Male Blackbird feeding his two young within a meter of the table I sit outside with. He has become quite at ease with me as it now recognises that I am provider of food. It follows me up to the shed and waits while I throw some mealworm on the lawn and then after it eats some his self, packs his beak with more and feeds his ever increasing call of the young.
Lost Images from the 14th May and before are all below

The Linnets have returned to breed locally somewhere.

The Tawny has taken to the Frogs in the pond

Eyes Fixed as the Owl goes for an easy meal

The Blue Tit as he sits in a box to recuperate

The Blue Tit recovers from a window strike and soon carries on his daily feeding

30th.  The month has ended with good weather which included highs of over 16 deg which has lead to a much greener scene in the garden. The action within the garden has been varied with sad and happy events being reported. The footer to all my pages has been most prophetic and always remind me that nature is a strange creature.
 The female Great Tit has not returned sadly. The male has been calling non stop but all to no avail. I took the nest out of the box and took a few pictures below.

Heartbreak as the four eggs remain only as a still of life.

The image illustrates the size of the egg alongside my wifes fingernail and a mealworm
Nature moves on quickly in the garden as the sadness was soon replaced with utter delight in the shape of a very welcome thrush. I had been watching as the Blackbirds had set up nest in some ivy against a house wall a few gardens down. I has noted that mealworms had been taken to the nest from the garden for some time...and then I heard the calls of young Blackbirds from various gardens. I first heard them late evening on the 28th but I could not see them due to their reluctance to show themselves. I then spotted one juvenile in our garden hidden under the newly planted holy bush.

Here is mum as her fledged young looks, with beak open, to be fed.
This next picture epitomizes why wildlife gardening is well worth the effort in time and expense. How could looking at a large focal point in a garden, say....a turkish urn with water flowing over it with a bed of gravel compare to the satisfaction of  this , natures own focal point?

The first Juvenile to the garden in 2006, a Blackbird.
27th.  Sadly I have bad news in the garden. All has been going well in the Great Tit nesting activities. I think four eggs have been laid with the fourth being laid this morning at about 05:30. I began to wonder as I checked the video log after I got home. Normally speaking there are many visits to the nest even if it's just to to bring in a bit more bedding. They video log showed the last visit at about 08:00 this morning. That had alarm bells ringing. I also noted the Male singing in it's usual spot but no female was present. As I write this at 19:26 the female is still missing when she would usually be tucked up in the box with her head under her wing. This sad event was sadly mirrored last year at about the same stage as I watched a Sparrow Hawk take the female. I had another box available at the time so the male set about finding a new female and used the new box.
I think if what I feel has happened here again I will be cleaning the box out in the hope that the Male can repeat his feat like last year. I shall leave the box tonight and tommorrow and monitor it via the computer feed using the internal box cam. If no activity is noted then I will go ahead with the sad job of removing the nest and the four (?) eggs. I will be posting a few images of the nest as I am again reminded that nature can be a rollercoaster of a ride fiiled with all emotion which is always in the extreme in so many different ways.

I just hope that the Males efforts of getting this distance into breeding etc will be rewarded with a chance to mate again and have young. Fingers crossed and with a little intervention from me I will help in the home department.
A little good news is that the House Martins have been seen for the first time this year. One was flying not to high up over the gardens around here. I hope to see them around the usual nesting spot a few doors down from here.
18th. The nesting Great Tit story carries on to it's next stage as the Female has now chosen to roost in the nestbox. This usually means that egg laying will soon follow. I will be setting the computer up to start in the early hours as this is mostly when eggs will be laid. In truth one egg a day will be laid and the usual number I have experienced is between 5 - 7 so only time will tell. The Male will mate with her every day until each egg she holds is fertilised. The pic below shows her with her head tucked under her wing. The male is not far away with his usual night time calling song in progress. 
The days weather has ended lovely with quite a bit of sunshine about. It started wet and dull but the change allowed me to finish off the new section of planting I have been doing. I have taken up more of the lawn and put in some native plants along with  plants that will be of benefit to bees, moths and butterflies. It is sadly only a small section but non the less I am sure it will be of some benefit to me and the insects.

The female entered the box early at about 19:00
17th. A short note to tell of the recent visitors around the garden. First up was a Swallow which whipped around the gardens and shot off not to be seen again. Second was a Willow Warbler which did stick around for a little while as it gleaned insects of next doors Birch tree. Whenever I see Willow Warbler around the garden it always favours the Birch tree as I guess it is rich in insect life. I managed a picture ( albeit quite poor)  but considering it's flitting about and distance away I guess it was as goos as I could expect.

You can make out the head pattern of the Wiilow Warbler
I also took these two pics of the visiting male and female Grey Wagtails which I hope will be nesting locally and with some good luck may also bless us with a look at thier offspring. These two come very regularly to the garden to feed on the mealworm and also they do quite a bit of "sitting" around the pond area with a little wing stretching and preening.

The male on the right does not take his eyes off the female...wherever she goes he follows. I will try to get a few better images of these two just to help show the difference between the Males and Females
16th.  The Weather has been quite good so far this easter weekend with highs of over 13 degress in the garden. This fine. more settled weather has helped in the ongoing nest box building of the Great Tits.

You can now make out where the nest cup will be . The whiter finer material is the beginings of the said cup.
I have also seen Wrens, Starlings, Blue Tits, Blackbirds, Crows and Greenfinch all carrying nesting material. I managed to take a few photos of the Tit family making use of the Cat hair which I have collected from our cat and also they have been taking the fine hair from our recently installed hanging trough which was designed to attract Wrens into nesting ( also see the garden projects tab). I have now been left with several bare patches on the trough as they have ripped the hair away leaving the black liner showing....well at least it has been of some use this year. Here are a few pics of the mentions activity.

Rather acrobatic as she hangs on to an ivy branch.

The Cat can at least contribute to the birds welfare...and the birds duly tuck in.

Even the Blue Tits can't help but get in on the act.
12th.  The Waxwings again returned to the polar trees running some 200' away from the garden. I am presuming that they are are two of the four that has visited in the last couple of weeks. It really is a privilege to see them so close to my own home...I just wish they could make it into the garden to feed on the cotoneaster and Pyracantha berries...and of course the "apple" tree fruits which (if you check further down this page) I hung out on a John Downie apple tree.
The Great Tit nesting is coming along nice as more work continues. Much of the activity is in the mornings with very little being brought in in the afternoons. Part time maybe? I will post a picture later to show the change in the nest box.
A solitary Frog still sits in the pond croaking as he tries his best to attract some interest. I am surprised as I am sure he broke out into an extra deep croaking frenzy reminiscent of Barry White!!
The temp has been the warmest it has been so far this year as it has reached a balmy 10.7 deg. The strong breeze has kept it feeling quite cold though.

This is the image I promised. Good progress has been made with much moss brought in.
10th.  Good news as the Great Tits have finally decided it was time to make a nest!!! My camera began recording at about 09:00 this morning as the first lot of straw was brought in. By 10:30 work had stopped for the day with no more nesting material being brought in. The picture below shows the work carried out so far. It will be interesting to follow progress as the weather is to turn decidedley wet and a little cooler than today's temps.

The sun has shone all day today but with the night temp dropping down to - 2.7 deg it took a long time to reach it's maximum of 7.4 deg although in the sun it felt a lot warmer.
9th.  The Waxwings look like they have now left us as I have not noted thier presence for a few days now. It has been a good month regarding bird visits with Siskins, Waxwing, Mistle and Song Thrushes and this morning at 08:30 a male Blackcap was routing around in a hedge in a neighbours garden. It then flew into the "Sycamore" which is always contensious as I seek to count it as mine although strictly it started it's life in next door garden but now extends 15' or so over the width of my garden. I have only had one other Blackcap visit, a female, about four years ago.
The temps of late have remained cold with snow and hail still covering much of the garden this morning. The max over last few days has been 8 deg with the minimum being - 0.5 deg. We have had a lot of rain so far this month so drought should not be a problem up here in the North West. The sunny weather this morning is set to change to cloud and wind later this afternoon but I am confident of the sun sticking around a little longer....I hope.
The Hogs are still a regular feature in the garden at night with a little hanky panky taking place for quite some time the other night. They forage with great zest to find any spilt mealworm but I mainly feed them chopped peanuts and a special Hog food which I buy from a bird food supplier. To my satisfaction they also make much of the garden pond as a drinking hole with lengthy drinking sessions.
News of the Great Tit nesting activity grows as the first bit of streaw was brought in on the 7th. No more has been noted but the visits continue and are becoming more regular.
Evening Update. The Blackcap returned mid morning and briefly broke into song from it's perch in a Silver Birch in nest doors garden.....again! I have not seen it since. I have posted a few pics below to show the on-off falling of snow. The temp at 20:00 is 0.3 deg and has not reached higher than 7 deg all day.

The snow was quite heavy at times but did not cover for long.

This is more a kin to a winter scene rather than spring. This picture is the view I get from the backside of the house as I look down the valley and onto a hillside which hides an old quarry.
2nd. I again was treated to several views of the Waxwings as thet carried on thier meetings in the poplar trees. The last visit was at 18:30 and to my surprise and utter disbelief one of them came into a Sycamore tree in next doors garden. It always proves a dilemma as whilst the tree hangs more or less half over the width of my garden I will not allow my self to count it as a garden bird. To combat this, and in the hope of counting it as a garden bird I have hastily cut up some apples and tied some wire round them and hung them on my, wait for it........John Downie apple tree of all things.

The raised crest on the Waxwing is a noticable feature here. Note the bill
My neighbour watched me do this and I can imagine that they are probably worried about my sanity! Who cares, I say as long as the Waxwings come in and have a look.

The weather has been true to it's heritage as we have has "April showers" alright today. They have been very heavy with a lot of water being deposited in the garden. No bad thing I guess as we have been short on water over the winter. Another positive is the pond is now at it's max level along with the water butt I have rigged up to keep the pond topped up during the summer months. The sun has also shone on occasion and if the hail, rain and wind was ignored then it could be counted as very pleasant. Temps are rising slowly with a max of 8 deg being reached with a low of 3 deg.
Nesting activity has been noticed in other gardens and trees. A blackbird has now built the nest in some ivy growing up a gable end and Crows are well into a construction job of their own. Sadly not much to tell in any of my nest boxes as the Great Tits are keeping me guessing. As a Blue Tit came over to the box the Great Tits flew straight at it and made sure that it did not enter. The female then went inside and did a little "wriggle" as the pic below shows

It is now 19:45 and the good news is that the Waxwings have settled behind  a works which is about 800 yards away so It looks like they may still be around tomorrow. I will be up early to check whilst things are quiet in the garden in the hope of them feeling brave enough to come down into the garden. I think it is possible as they are notoriously forgiving birds that can be in very close proximity to you without being unduly worried. I once stood in the Meadowhall car park 6 foot away from about 50 of them as they gorged themselves on Rowan berries.

31st.  The Waxwings have returned several times today so far. I have managed to get some better shots as the weather has turned in my favour with a good bit of light available. I have used my digiscoping equipment for these shots and considering that the Waxwings are a good 200' away and I am taking the pics through a pane of glass I am quite happy with the results. As I write this at 13:45 the Waxwings are not present but I am hopeful that I will get more opportunity to take some more pics.
30th. At 19:00 the Waxwings returned to the poplars and once again I was not ready with my digiscoping gear that should allow me to get much better pictures even at the distance of 200'. I have replaced the bottom image with one I took tonight. I have taken a day off from work tomorrow so fingers crossed that they return!
29th.  A huge sighting for the diary in the form of 4 beautiful winter visitors ....Waxwings! I noted them sat in Poplars with a few Starlings at 17:30. They were about 200' away from my home garden which is a real cracker to be spotted. I managed a few photos but considering the distance away I hope you will excuse the quality. The actual outline of the bird gives it away. I have included a pic with a Starling in the same frame as a comparison as they are quite similar in flight in particular. I have seen Waxwings before in several places in the UK inc Rawtenstall in Rossendale (8 miles away)so seeing them on my own door step is a great feeling.

The raised crest on the Waxwing is a noticeable feature here. Note the bill difference also.

They will be soon heading back to their breeding grounds in Scandinavia
26th.  Two dates of importance are with us today. Mothering Sunday and the start of BST. I had forgotten about the latter until my wife reminded me about this. Light night are here to stay with the sun not setting until 19:30 but we lose a little light early mornings as the sun now rises at 06:55. Isually like to get up a little earlier than 06:45 so that I can watch the birds in a more relaxed state due to the lack of disturbance but I will gladly give this up for the extension of light at the end of the day.
A milestone was noted last night as I looked through my binoculars and telescope at the pond. One Frog appeared to be sat motionless croaking. I have never had any frogs appear "naturally" in the pond in the 3 years it has been there. I have rescued two adult Frogs in the past (one from a cat) and put them in the pond last summer. I also around this time last year placed some spawn in the pond. The spawn did well with hundreds of taddies emerging and becoming good Blackbird food. Plenty of young frogs were found around the pond late summer so I hope this will bode well for the future. No spawn has been noted this year as only one adult frog was about. The other 2 that I saw were much smaller so are probably not ready for mating just yet. I am going to place my outdoor roaving camera near to the pond for a little while to see if I can spot and more activity.
More good news as the one Hog has now become 3. They are all regular feeders within the garden and all have quickly sussed out where the food is placed for them. I try to keep little areas along the boundary of the garden open by digging under the fencing here and there. It is a constant battle as neighbours seek to fill in the holes! I am beggining to understand how Steve McQueen felt in the great escape as I quietly find new tunnels to dig.
The Grey Wag is still visiting and looks in peek condition after loosing his winter feathers. My wife picked up a bright white tail feather from him and it is intereting to note the worn edges to the outer edges of the feather. The Siskins are winning the award for the most vocal as they continue to entice and consolidate thier relationships with one another. No more nestbox visits by the Great Tits have been noted ......I fear I may not be able to see any nesting in the garden this year.
I bought a new plant from a local nursery yersterday. A holly ( J.C. Van Tol) which is self fertile and is a good cropper of bright red berries. I have no place for it yet but I will find a spot if it means more of the lawn being eaten away.
19th. The temperature today has been the highest of the year so far. The maximum was 7.2 degrees with a low of 2.1 deg. The sun briefly shone between 07:00 and 09:30 this  morning, but sadly disappeared for the rest of the day behind thick cloud.
Bird activity has been high in numbers but few in species. Goldfinch, Starling, Blackbird, Dunnock and Siskin have given a good account of themselves, whilst Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Collared Dove and Magpie have all been thin on the ground. Good news though, the Song Thrush has become quite a regular visitor. I am now quite sure that the Robins are in the process of building a nest elsewhere as the usaul pair that I had high hopes for in my garden have been disappearing with mealworm to a neighbours garden. Better news on the Great Tits as the visits have continued from about 09:00 this morning. The usual happened with the Male enticing the female into the box but once inside he makes a sharp exit to leave the female checking out the possible new maternity ward.
The hedgehog has stuck to his routine of early evening visits at around 19:00. I watched his progress as he began to wander around upon where he stopped and drank from the garden pond for what seemed like ages. Once he has been fed and watered he makes a dash for the opening in the fencing and away he goes with only one more thing on his mind.....probably a good job they are nocturnal! 
16th. A quick update to the diary to mention a new year visitor. A hedgehog has broken it's winter slumber and returned to it's usual feeding spot in the garden. I had my suspicions that the hedghogs had returned as I was sure that Hog droppings were around the garden pond. I started to put food out and on the 15th the Hog was spotted at about 23:00. As I write this at 19:00 the Hog is already out and tucking in to some crushed peanuts and ready made Hog food. Up to now only one has been noted but as the weather begins to warm up so will the numbers....hopefully.
12th. The snow is falling as a write this at 10:00. The temp has not yet got above zero and is residing at - 2.4 deg. The forecast is for the snow to continue today with the possibility of up to 4 inches!!! Hurraahhhh!! I hope the prediction of the 4 inches is correct as I long to  see some reasonable snow coverage.

 A  picture of the snow fall so far. Keep it coming as I dream of not having to go to work due to the heavy snow.
It is taking some time and effort to keep the snow off the food on the ground as the snow seems to cover it in no time.
ADDITION  Fantastic....... at 11:00 today as I looked out into the garden a group of Fieldfares numbering 60 decided to sit in a Sycamore that sits over my garden. They made their "chack chack chack " calls as I hoped they would come down to feed on the sultanas, Ivy and Pyracantha berries. My hopes were dashed as next doors visiters decided to make a snow man at the same time. They flew off with much noise but I will be waiting and hoping for a return visit.
6th. I have now installed the DVR inside the computer. I can say that I had imense trouble which led to an extra large financial outlay as my computer failed to boot and had to be sent away for repair.
It all seems ok now and the DVR is working a treat. The software that I use can now display all of the 4 cameras I have. The cameras are in A Blue Tit, Great Tit, Robin box and  one is a camera which I use all around the garden and is wireless  The real bonus is the ability to record the cameras footage  straight to my hard drive as I can set the software to detect motion within the picture. It is very clever as I can also set the software to detect motion in set places within the frame of the image. This system now saves me recording to a traditional video which often lead to 6 hours of no action footage.
Today was the first day where I tested the system as I had to go to work for the day. I set the system running at 07:00 and stopped it at 17:00. On checking the footage I could see that between 11:30 - 11:40 a pair of Great Tits visited several times. As usual the Male enters the box and seemingly entices the female in with a quivering song interspersed with sharp monosyllabic calls. When the female is suitable enticed she enters the box which then always signals the exit of the Male Great Tit. The female, after several turns and cursory looks, sets about her "dance". The dance consists of lowering her body to the bottom of the box, opening both wings and then scooting her chest along the floor with wings vibrating fast. This behaviour is a positive action as this seems to signify that she is happy with the decor but justs wants to check if the internal dimensions are suitable for a nest of chicks. This "dance" is also used later on to push the nest material into position making the cup visible.
The weather has been very cold which led to snow on the 3rd of March. The temps dipped down to - 7.5 deg on the 3rd and - 8.5 deg on the 4th. This has caused quite a bit of activity around the feeding station. A Song Thrush has now begun taking sultanas from the garden along with up to 9Blackbirds and two Mistle Thrushes. As I write tonight ( 20:00) the temp is down to - 1 degree. If the forecast is to be believed rain and warmer temps are expected in the next few days although my digital barometer is saying sunshine for the next 12 - 24 hours.....we will see.!

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