Wildlife Diary 2008

January 2008

Weather Stats This Month
Max Temp =  10.9 deg C               Min Temp =   -0.8 C            
 Max Wind  25.9 mph              Max Rain in 24 hr Period = 55.9 mm
 Max Rain in 1 hr Period = 12.9 mm          Total Rain For Month = 404.5 mm
 Happy New Year  
31st.  The weather is still firmly the main topic in the garden as the it has now turned very windy coupled with ice,snow and hailstone. To add to the extremes as I crossed the road to work in the morning it also threw thunder and lightning at us. The forecast is for snow Friday night but I have my doubts as to whether and significant falls will materialise....although I hope I am wrong. We can sometimes think we are coming out of the grip of winter as the days start to lengthen but February is by far the coldest month of the year so we might just be getting a good dose of cold yet to come. I do like the cold as long as it is accompanied by clear skies or snow, not rain. Not much to report in the garden as I get little chance to watch it whilst the daylight is still short.
We will see what February will hold, I just hope I get what I like but I think it unlikely.
27th,  At last the weather has been less of an issue and has allowed me to plant some plants in the garden, make some nestboxes, pick up some framed Lars Jonsson..my favorite artist and yes get time to watch a small lodge in Barrow Nr Clitheroe in Lancashire for a lovely bird that goes by the name Slavonian Grebe. This normally coastal bird was as proud to be in Barrow as we were to see it in it's finest winter plumage so I took the opportunity to take a few photos. What I shall not mention is the fact that I forgot a SD memory card so I was restricted to the on board camera memory!!! My plan was to also visit another sight for Great Grey Shrike but the weather was dull and other matters stopped this so I hope that I will get the chance before it disappears.
The RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch was also undertaken with a real poor showing been the result but I guess it's all about what is happening around the country and not just the garden. Here are the results from the Wild Rossendale entry!
Blackbird x 10
Chaffinch x 2
Blue Tit x 2
Wren x 2
Robin x 2
Dunnock x 2
Goldfinch x 12
Grey Wagtail x 1
23rd. The rain continues as a total of 358.4mm has now been recorded with yet another record being set in the process. The record set in the garden for the most rain in a single hour which was attained on the 10th of Jan 08 at 55.9mm. This has now been broken again on the 22nd Jan 08 at 01:59 with 57.4mm falling in the 24 hr period. The rivers have been an awesome sight locally it was a shame I did not take my camera to work to capture a few images as it was an impressive force to witness.
If people are interested the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch is taking place on the 26-27th of Jan so if you are interested in helping the RSPB with a very enjoyable hour of bird watching in your garden please click HERE. I shall be posting my results on the site either Saturday of Sunday.
I have been approached for advice on a wildlife site being developed at a local school and have been asked to take a look at the proposals. I think it is great to see schools involved in this kind of project as a lot of the younger ones are, in my opinion, quite interested. I think sometimes a common misconception is that youngsters are only interested in game consoles. Given the right conditions I would challenge anyone not to be interested in mother nature. Steve the landscape developer is already an accomplished gardener so I hope to offer an extra dimension with nestboxes and feeders. I need the weather to dry up though as I need to assemble the boxes quite soon as the ideal time to get them up is shortly upon us.
20th.  The weather continues it's depression with the mentioned record of amount of rain falling in a month absolutely smashed! The most recorded for a single month is 242mm in Jan 07 but his had now been eclipsed by the total so far of 288mm. This really is an amazing amount of rain which has now become a serious annoyance in terms of my need to see the sun a little at this time of year. I realise that this does not compare to those with flooding homes in parts of the country but it does get me down as over 15mm has fallen on average every single day this month. It has stopped my photography opportunities and has also affected the garden and no doubt I would imagine this constant rain has taken it's toll on some birds particularly Owls that can easily become water logged. I am so desperate to see a bit of sun I have placed a weekly count on the calender to when are holiday abroad to Lesvos will be! 
Looking to  more positive things I was able to get out on the 19th to have a look at some local Bramblings that were hanging around in a park. Mandy took her camera in the hope of some pictures but again the light was poor and hampered this. We did see them and there was at least 30+ individuals but they did stay high up in the trees. We managed a couple of "record" shots" but quality is poor.
The other bright things are the continued appearance of up to 5 Siskin and the Grey Wagtail which has started to visit less and less which I wonder is a sign that he is now looking around for this years mate. I also saw a female Great Spotted Woodpecker high up in the poplar trees  in Jubilee walk at the side of the garden but sadly she did not visit the garden. I was also cheered to hear my first Song Thrush of the year in song on the 16th. I was posting a letter on my way to work in Stacksteads at 07:20 in the pitch black when I heard him going full throttle. I was also happy to hear a Song Thrush singing early morning on the 19th from just outside the garden. I guess I will just have to hope this rain subsides for the much thought of Spring.
13th.  The Wild in Wild Rossendale is very apt at the moment as the weather is taking centre stage with record amounts of rain being seen.  As you can see form the data above we have had a lot of rain so far with two of my personal records in the garden being broken since I first started keeping records of the weather within the garden back in September 2006. The first record amount was recorded on the 10th Jan 08 at 01:07 as 12.9mm of rain fell in a single 1 hour period (previous record was 12.4mm January 07.)  The other was again rainfall and was set on the 10th Jan 08 at 16:59 with a record of 55.9mm of rain falling in a single 24hr period (previous record was44.5mm in December 2006.) It will be interesting to see if the total amount of rain for a single month of rain due to these high rainfall amounts. The record amount to fall in a single month is 242mm in December 07 so if this carries on we will easily beat that total.
I did venture into the garden yesterday to do some clearing up of old vegetation and the rain totals have made the lawn area very "boggy" indeed. My new site for the compost heap is great as it has made room for more planting areas and the new rebuilt frame has now allowed a larger capacity whilst remaining very functional as I have added a sliding plate to it's face so that I can now take "ready" compost from the bottom of the heap. The pond is now easy to see with the clear up and I noticed we have a couple of Frogs still bathing in the pond. It reminded me that spring is not far away now and that it will be interesting to see how many Frogs the pond will hold this year. On my clear up I noticed the odd plant poking through the lawn which I think is Daffodils so I shall have to watch my step when filling one of the feeders.
A signal of my first real glint of spring was noted today as the gem of Whitworth finally began to sing. The Mistle Thrush has normally been heard by now but whilst it may be late it was still a welcome note as I left the office window open for an hour as he sang his repetitive song hidden in high trees.
I had ordered a few new plants for the coming season which are mainly for the new log/soil heap which is now in place of the old compost heap. I use Naturescape a lot for my plants as they are very efficient and well worth the cost.
Primrose - wild - plant 10 

Cowslip - plant 3

Cuckoo flower - plant 5

Iris - gladwyn - plant 1

Purslane - pink - plant 2

Sorrel - wood - plant 1

Yellow archangel - plant 1

Chicory - plant - 1
A lot of these plants are well suited to shady areas so this shall be good as the placement of these is tight up against a fence where sun is minimal. I am now not sure where to put the Chicory plant but I just felt the need for another as the flower is just gorgeous. I have also ordered some other plants from Jparker with a few special offers being taken advantage of.
1 X A002, Dahlia Bishop of Llandaff Pack of 3
1 X P559, Evening Primrose (Oenothera Missouriensis)
1 X P85010 Echinacea Purpurea Pack of 10
I have been looking to get the Dahlias for a while but as usual a place has not been settled on but at the price they were offered I could not say no! The time has come after about four years to look at the wildflower patch that has been at best OK but it is slowly drifting toward having to much of the plants I do not want in the quantities I have. Things like Plantain and Dock along with clover and creeping buttercup have done well at the expense of others that I liked. In my mind this patch is for the chop but for some reason I keep putting it off. I think that a nice patch of Dahlia, Rudbekia, Chives and others are already looking like replacements....we shall see.
6th. A mixed bag of weather has emerged for the new year with snow,rain and sun all showing it's face although I would rather have the snow at the moment. The Blackbirds and Goldfinch are the main visitors at the moment with upto 25 Goldfinch and 9-10 Blackbirds. The Siskins are now coming to the feeders more often and the numbers have now grown to 3 males. There are larger flocks around the area but only these 3 are feeding regularly. I hope this number increases over the next 2-3 months.
The bird song has now begun with Dunnocks, Blackbirds,Wrens, Great Tits and Robins all singing. Strangely I have normally heard the Mistle Thrush song well before now but whilst he has already attracted a mate he has not stretched his vocal chords. Today a third Mistle Thrush turned up in the tall Poplars at the side of the garden but he was soon chased off. The Blue Tit has become very interested in the only box without a camera in with many visits and entry being see. he did for a short time visit one of the boxes on the side of the house with a camera on this morning but he soon departed back to his usual nestbox. I keep checking all three boxes for overnight roosters but non have been used sadly. I hope this year a box with a camera will be used as it is fascinating to watch. We will keep our fingers crossed.

February 2008
Weather Stats This Month
Max Temp =  12.3 deg C               Min Temp =   -6.7 deg C            
 Max Wind  29.9 mph              Max Rain in 24 hr Period = 31.5 mm
 Max Rain in 1 hr Period = 7.7 mm          Total Rain For Month = 128.9 mm
17th.  The sun continues in the garden but a sting in the tail also as the temps have dropped to a more seasonal level with the coldest temps so far this year being recorded last night. A very chilly - 6.1d C was enough to give the garden a real "wintry" feel and with this drop in temps so it brought in a few more birds. I decided to have a go at photographing some of the visits with the Nikon 600mm lens I have yet to decided on purchasing. The light again is the main issue as the garden sees little winter sun with only the far back North East geeting the much needed sun. No matter I thought it worth a try.
The Mistle Thrush & Song Thrush are regulars to the garden but whilst the Song is quite timid the Mistle more than holds his own even against the Starlings numbers!
The House Sparrow is an irregular visitor but this mornings cold brought him to the garden to stock up and after a few cheery chirrups' of he went.
This Dunnock evaded most picture as he skulked most of the time in the woodland edge of the garden. If it was not evading this it was moving fast to court another bird.
The Blue Tit & Goldfinch stopped briefly to fill up and they too were soon
As I write this at 18:00 the temp has already started it's downward spiral as already the days high of 4.8 d C have now slipped to 0.5 d C. I presume another cold night is in store unless a little cloud cover rolls in. The pond has remained frozen all day and whilst inspecting the pond I noticed that a cat strike had occurred!!!!!!. It looks like a Blackbird has succumbed to the marauding neighbours cat. I just wish a bell would be fitted at least. It waits in ambush in next doors garden and when a bird sits on the fence in just the right spot it seems a fair bet the cat is to quick. It saddens me as I have noticed that a lot of birds are now VERY nervous around the garden and I wonder if the cat in part has something to do with this. The Greenfinch are almost scared witless and have made so many failed attempts at the feeders as they turn back mid flight.
14th.  I had the chance to take a few more pictures in the garden as the weather again allowed a chance to see some very welcome sights. Back on the 11th I had the afternoon off and in the warmth I noted my first Butterfly for the year as it flew beyond a neighbours garden. I was also surprised to see a Bee species wandering around next door's garden. I think this must be the earliest I have ever seen either around the garden. I took the chance of sitting waiting for any birds to show up in front of the lens but they were a bit shy so I was limited to what I could capture.
This Ladybird was making the most of the warmth with a foray through a Lavender plant. It was quite unaware of it's early showing so I managed this poor shot of him. My new Nikon P5100 is not as good as my previous Nikon compact cameras for macro work which is a real shame but I shall test it more in the summer when the light is better.
This wren Posed for a short time as a shaft of light hit his face. It is always amazing of they can cling to such upright structures so well. This is one of a pr of Grey Wagtails that has now found it's mate! They love sitting by the pond and travel just about all over together. It's song is quite a strange affair with many high pitched whistles and notes thrown in to somehow come together to make an attractive and very " look at me" arrangement.
10th.  Back in the garden and the sun has finally showed his face. Today the temps have been a very nice 12.3 deg C which is the warmest of the year. This followed minus 1 temps overnight so quite a recovery but the wall to wall sunshine helped. It allowed me to sort out a new camera in one of the new nest boxes whilst also altering the amount of light entering the box with the addition of frosted perspex panels. This allows the low light cameras to give better quality colour images. The ironic thing is that the only nest box with any interest being shown in it is the one in the Sycamore tree at the back of the garden where a pr of Blue Tits are already showing signs of claimed terretery with aggression being shown to most bird in close proximity to the box. We wait in hope to see if the 3 boxes with cameras in them will attract a visitor.
A chance to show some of the plants in bloom at the moment with many of them clearly enjoying the strong sun.
Snowdrop, Mahonia Aquafolium(Oregon Grape), and the Wild Primrose
It's a small taster of the things yet to happen but a combination of Sun, flower blooms and warmth have almost wiped away the feelings of the constant rain as the record amount of rain to fall during last month are distant memories already! One thing I am well aware of though is the fact that traditionally February is normally the coldest month of the year with lows of -6 regularly seen. This is also a month of dry weather and at the moment the sun is set to stay foe at least a week or so horrah!
A small note as out resident Grey Wagtail has now turned up with a mate and both are tucking into the mealworm. I wonder if this is the same paring we have seen for the last two seasons or whether it is the same male with a different partner every year. Now that the pond has been opened up a little they spend some time dipping into the shallows.
3rd.  It  snowed on Friday which was great...but not great enough as I could still manage to get to work! This is the scene I quickly captured through the upstairs window.
I tried in vane to ignore the weather and headed on out over the weekend to see Waxwing, Slovonian Grebe and the Great Grey Shrike. I tried for the Waxwing in Burnley, a surprisingly common spot for them to turn up, but to no avail. It seems they were there earlier in the day but it seems like they may have moved on as when I returned on Sunday they were still absent. I visited the Slovonian Grebe on Sunday again in the hope of some decent pics but a combination of many things conspired to make it a fruitless journey. I still have not managed to get to the Shrike so all in all I feel disappointed. Whilst waiting for the Waxwing to return to a Rowan tree I snapped this Blackbird eating some berries.
The snow has already gone and the rain looks likely to return. I am now cheesed off with the weather as I hear of many parts of the country are being treated to sunny bright days. When I took up a career in a small town it never occurred to me that Waterfoot would be such a descriptive term for a place!

March 2008
Weather Stats This Month
Max Temp =  12.3 deg C               Min Temp =   -3.5 deg C            
 Max Wind  34.8 mph              Max Rain in 24 hr Period = 26.4 mm
 Max Rain in 1 hr Period = 9.3 mm          Total Rain For Month = 183.4 mm
23rd. Wow the weather again never fails to surprise as having strong winds replaced by heavy snow fall overnight. A quick picture of the garden at 10:26 when already the snow had started to melt as the sun shone.
The pond has finally produced the much anticipated frog spawn with at least one clump being produced on the 21st and three more on the 22nd. One seems to have been dislodged and fallen into the deep end of the pond but the others are all snug in the shallow end of the pond.
I was out early this morning after Mandy told me of the snow as I cleared a patch of snow to put out mealworm and sultanas. by the time I reached to office upstairs a Song Thrush and a pr of Mistle Thrush were tucking into the sultanas.
16th. It feels like I am waiting for the garden to irrupt but as yet no frog spawn, no nesting activity and no sun! I tried for a picture of the two Long Tailed Tits that are now regulars that only travel in this pair, which is strange for these lovely little chaps as they are really associated with small flocks even when nesting. They are well known for each member to assist in the "extended" family duties incuding nesting and feeding of new born. It is thought that individuls on there own have been cast out for some reason to fend on there own. Looking at these two butter would not melt what do you think?
They, along with many others have now found mealworm goes down a treat and as I throw some amongst the shrubs they activly search it out although it does look such a struggle for such a dinky bird.
The House Sparrow is still visiting and many sightings were noted today as he even found time to feed on occasion from the feeders and from the ground where again mealworm was gobbled up.
As mentioned earlier in the diary I am waiting on the change in the life of the Bamboo in the garden as the flowers continue to bloom. I got chance to take a few pics of this as chances are I will never have another flowering Bamboo in the garden. It is a real shame to be honest that this plant will most likely die as it was just starting to fill out nice.
10th.  I finally got chance to have a look at the Great Grey Shrike that has been hanging around Burnley/Padiham near Gawthorpe Hall. I chanced it with the weather being very changeable but I thought I might give it a go. Soon found the spot and located it in a plantation of trees some distance away. It was quite mobile within a small area so I set up my digiscoping gear although I knew this would only count as a record shot but it is a bird I have only encountered now and again. I could not get any closer than this shot allowed, which was about100' away due to it being what I felt was a private track leading up to a farm. Once again the 'special' people of Burnley made me feel welcome as the abuse from some 14 year olds made me wonder about the need for culling of over subscribed species. My second trip to Burnley in as many months, that also accompanied by abuse, makes me wonder if Burnley is a town in need of some old fashioned work mills and industry that it once had.
Back in the garden where I have failed to mention that the earthquake that parts of Britain experienced was well and truly felt in the this part of the world. Mandy and I both awoke at 01:00 along with the cat with the cats eyes resembling saucers. It seemed to last for some time and was an odd feeling as the wardrobe doors rattled and the bed juddered. 
The garden also will soon be a plant down shortly as the bamboo plant that we have had for about 3 years has flowered!! This seemingly is the start of the end as the energy expended in flowering weakens the plant so much that death is the only outcome. If your plant only flowers partly it can recover but this bugger has flowered on all it's columns....so I think it curtains!
Good news in the garden though as the House Sparrow that visited a few weeks ago id hanging around the vicinity chirupping at various times. I have not seen it in the garden since but it does keep singing from rooftops and such. I would love to have a colony of these in the garden and it has always been my aim to attract a House Sparrow colony to the garden. I shall keep the fingers crossed. 
2nd.  The month started as the last finished very windy with squally, some times heavy, showers although today it remains windy the sun is showing it's face amongst the cloud.
I have many jobs in the garden waiting to be done but I just can't motivate myself at the moment. I have a lot of feeders to clean, sweeping up, planting up, repair jobs and the biggest task of all I will have to re-work the pond I have in the garden. I made mistakes when I put the pond in 3 years ago but considering it was my first attempt at a pond I guess mistakes would be shown. I am almost sure a leak has occurred as it remains difficult to keep the pond at a good level. I would also like to make the pond larger with more gently slopping sides all round as the liner has become impossible to cover with the shear sides I have at the back of the pond. This task will be left to later in the year as the frogs and other mini beasts awaken from the winter slumber. Last night I watched the pond in the dark and counted at least 12 frogs moving around. No spawn as yet but I am sure once the temps lift a little we will have this years batch.
Birdlife in the garden is still minimal with only a few Goldfinches remaining along with a pr of Woodpigeon and several prs of Blackbird. I have not seen the Siskin for a while so i wonder if that is it for this year. If this is the case they will be missed as it always seem such a flying visit.

April 2008
Weather Stats This Month
Max Temp =  16.9 deg C               Min Temp =   -3.5 deg C            
 Max Wind  26.6 mph              Max Rain in 24 hr Period = 21.7 mm
 Max Rain in 1 hr Period = 6.7 mm          Total Rain For Month = 147.1 mm
30th.  A short update to end the month. The first Pipistrelle was seen over the garden on the evening of the 29th. A Willow Warbler passed through the garden at about 07:00 this morning and I was also visited several times today by a pair of Lesser Redpoll which is a good sign as I hope they will hang around. The pair of Long Tailed Tits are still coming for mealworm as are 1 Pr Grey Wagtail, Blackbirds and Dunnocks. The Robins have gone strangely quiet with no food been taken and not many visits although this could well be due to sitting on eggs at the moment. The Hedgehog is still a nightly visitor where again mealworm are very popular. 
27th.  A new daytime high was achieved on the 26th at 15:22 as it reached 16.9 DegC. Looking at the weather forecast it looks as though this will be the highest temp likely to be recorded for this month. Looking back on April last year we had highs of    20.5 DegC and a total rainfall of 28.4mm. Wow what a difference a year makes!
The lovely warm was enjoyed later in the afternoon and we ate our dinner outside as I had taken the cover off the table and chairs for the first time this year. I was hoping for our first House Martins for the year and they did not fail to show. Two were noted silently hawking insects which I am sure would be top priority after such a long journey back home.
I also forgot to mention that on the 25th I went out to the shed at the back of the garden to lock it up only to notice that a hedgehog was doing it's best not to be seen. Quite comically it failed as although it's head was stuffed up tight between a bucket and some wood planks the rest of it's body was all out on show. Even better was to follow as again I noticed a hedgehog late on on the 26th and on closer inspection this turned out to be two!
24th.  The weather again is throwing up some more usual temps for the time of year with a high of 16.7 degC being recorded back on the 22nd at 17:00. The next day also remained warm with 16 degC again being reached. Today it reached about 12.8 degC but a cool wind has been present making any time out of the sun feel a lot cooler.
Mandy and myself are still waiting to see "our" House Martins return from Africa but as of yet they have not been seen. We have seen and heard Willow Warbler and Swallow which is always very nice. As like the last entry mentioned it has been great in the garden with all the activity of late and on the 22nd evening the Bullfinch pair returned briefly to feed.  They were not to pleased  by the fact that I have removed the seed trays on the bottom of the feeders to discourage a couple of Feral Pigeon that are coming to feed. Another couple of visitors arrived on the 19th and took sunflower hearts for quite some time. I wonder if this is the same pair that brought young to the garden last year, and if so I hope we see them regularly although, as of yet, no more sightings have been noted.
This fabulous full breeding plumage male certainly lights up the garden.
In anticipation of our holiday away I ordered a large seed feeder with 10 ports and a massive 2 1/2 KG seed capacity and standing 36" tall. This should help keep the food availability open at all times when we are away. 
18th. The garden has been a great place to be at the moment with all the new growth and all the promise of what is to be later in the season. I have moved a few plants a while ago including the Himalayan Honeysuckle, Guelder Rose (compactum) and a Dogwood. They seemed to be struggling where they had been placed so the recent move will help them be more at home. All the plants I have moved seem to have survived even though it may stunt there progress for a year ot to but I think in the long term it will be beneficial. The weather is not budging much on temps with snow, hail and rain all having a substantial impact in the garden. The daytime temps have not really got above 5 - 6 deg C  with the odd showing of 8 deg C. I remember last year as we set off to Mallorca it was superb weather with lovely temps of 12 deg C. This seems such a long time ago!! 
Our trip to Lesvos this year has meant I have tried in vane to get to grips with the camera but the light is poor and weather very changeable but as soon as the sun has showed I have dived out to get a bit of practice in before the camera is well used on our holiday.
This House Sparrow which was taken a little while ago is now and again visiting the garden with another Male Sparrow. they sometimes do not stay long but today they both fed from a feeder and the floor so things are looking good for this species.
As you can see from some of these pictures the mealworms are without doubt the star attraction.
This Coal Tit, along with his partner are now regulars as they flit around whether it be feeding, fighting, carrying the cats hair away for nesting material or just dodging the aggressive attention of the Blue Tits.
This Great Tit was also interested in the mealworms but was very wary of me being close with the camera. It is often the case though as the breeding season progresses the need for food for young takes precedence over wariness as I usually end up feeding them from my hands.
this was a great surprise this morning as I ate my breakfast. It was nice and peaceful in the garden and a very rare visitor to the garden chose this as the day to pay a visit. Not only this male but a female also fed on the hearts and stayed for some time before finally moving on. I hope they will be back as they really are a regal bird and one which is always enjoyed when the visit.
10th.The weather forecast was sadly accurate and the rain has returned. The worst thing is that this is supposed to be accompanied with cold overnight temps. This is not good for the nesting birds like Robins, Dunnocks and Blackbirds as this can have severe effects due to chilling. I hope all goes well for them and happy in the knowledge that there is plenty of time for more broods if early attempts fail.
The great news for me on a personal note is that I am now allergy free!!!! I have been suffering for about 5 years now with allergy symptoms that include itchy eyes, blocked nose, lethargy, constant sneezing, swollen eyes and glands and wost of all, in the last two years I have also gained allergy related asthma which I would not wish upon anybody. As many suffers can understand this also has a detrimental effect on any other members of the household who have to try and sleep etc around my noisy existence. I have spent hundreds on air purification systems for the house and countless amounts of money on potions, anti-histamines, eye drops and almost all anti-allergy products out there. I visited the doctors and was advised to keep a diary as I was unsure if it was an allergy to our cat or whether it was tree or grass pollen causing the problem. The allergy was starting around February and carrying right through to mid August. At times I thought I had the chest of a sixty a day, 80 year old man but for now I am 95% free of any allergy symptoms. The culprit is strangely Mealworm!!!. I don't think it is the mealworm themselves but the dust created by the eating, fouling and breeding that takes place in the bran which they are delivered in. This dust becomes very fine and I am in regular contact with this dust as I decant the mealworms on delivery into my own containers. Contact is also made when feeding them or just when scattering them about the garden.
So for now I can't begin to tell you how pleased I feel as my life has now become a lot more bearable. I still feed the mealworms but I use a dust mask and make sure I always wash my hands immediately after any contact with them. Mandy also feeds them now and again to help with the amount of contact I have. Normally most people would not be troubled with this issue but I use upto 4 kg a month of the mealworm so contact is heavy. All I can think of is bring on the summer months once again!!!!!
8th  The garden is responding well to the warmer temps that have been evident of late. The plants have taken full advantage of this and the birds are also making hay while the sun shines, so to speak. So far the nesting tally has reached Robin,Blackbird, Long Tailed Tit, Carrion Crow and Woodpigeon. The most surprising thing was on the 5th as the Robin was seen carrying mealworm off to feed it's new born. 
I managed a few pictures in the evenings after work but I really must set up a better "scene" as the background and perches do the subject no justice.
A number of the Tit family showed as the mealworm was flowing but the Great and Blue tits were a little shy.
Another visitor to the garden which has not been seen for some time decided to bring a little song with her male friend for company. The female here was a little more open to photographing so I duly obliged.
All comers took advantage of the late evening sun which when out for any period was quite warming to the skin. This Woodpigeon sat for some time before having a good stretch.
As the light failed in the garden a fast moving object caught my eye. It was searching out peanuts!!
Sadly it seems that this may be the last of the dry weather as the forecast is set to turn unsettled conditions with rainfall being the main ingredient.
The birds of the garden can sigh a sigh of relief as the garden is now down two cats. the first one being ours which has now become a house Cat during the breeding season and the other is a neighbours cat which has now lives elsewhere as a house move has occurred. I could almost see the birds brow being swept.
2nd.   Having now changed to BST the weather seems to have decided that it needs to get it's act together as spring is in the air! The Dunnocks, Blackbirds and Great Tits have begun taking nesting material away. The day time temps have stayed quite high for the garden with regular double figures being attained. 
Plants are already responding to the longer and stronger light levels with Lesser Celandine, Marsh Marigold and Primrose all flowering well. I hope to get a few pictures of the plants in flower and bud soon but I am just to busy enjoying the length of the evening light to bother.

A note for the diary as our Cat has now become a house cat for the breeding season which she has adopted to very well already.

May 2008
Weather This Month
Max Temp =  25.6 deg C               Min Temp =   1.2 deg C            
 Max Wind  17.4 mph              Max Rain in 24 hr Period = 17 mm
 Max Rain in 1 hr Period = 4.6 mm          Total Rain For Month = 41.4 mm
29th. A break from the garden led my Father, Mandy and myself to the much awaited concert that should be on everybodies "to do" list. The Boss Bruce Springsteen treated the Theatre of Dreams of Old Trafford to a real night of fantastic music celebration. When some of his lines include "I got this guitar and I learned how to make it talk" you know it is something special and boy it doesn't just talk it ouzes poetry. The concert lasted about 2 1/2 hours and it was shear class from his opening of "No Surrender" of '84 to the close of "American Land" of 2001. It really is a rollercoaster of a ride as just as it peaks he brings you back down before hitting an almost euphoric high again. The "Magic" tour not only had songs off this album but of one of my favourites in the politically sensitive albums "The Rising" with many thoughts and feeling given a voice to the 911 disaster. Stunning does not do this man justice and I hope it will not be my last chance to see him touring as many a song I have yet to see him sing. If you are looking for a musical experience look no further than Bruuuuuuuuucccceeeee!!!!!!
23rd.  Wow the garden visitors are really an amazing sight at the moment with all the relatively newcomers all doing there bit. Only one loss in the garden since we went away and that is the two Long Tailed Tits that have now left the garden. I imagine that the mealworms were keeping them here so once these had run out whilst i was away I guess that looked elsewhere. The good news is that we still have a Male Bullfinch returning most days and the Lesser Redpoll are also still tucking into the niger seed. The Mistle Thrush is now collecting sultanas to take away for his young and the best news of all is that we now have 4 male house Sparrows and 2 female House Sparrows taking mealworm away for young. This piece of news really has been the goal of my garden. whilst I have as yet not totally fulfilled the aim of having "home grown" Sparrows I have for the first time held onto a small colony of them. I shall at this years BBWF at Rutland purchase a quality Sparrow box and place it under my eaves in readiness to hopefully take my next step into securing a colony of the "gardens" own Sparrows. 
Funny as all the energy saving measures and recycling have not even come close to the feeling of finally (hopefully) doing my bit for saving further the decrease in Sparrow numbers in our gardens. It feels quite personal in so much that I feel my actions are having a very local and beneficial effect on my immediate surroundings. It's tangible and I can see it every day out of our house window and it feels great. 
My allergies have also been non existent so I can finally "breathe" easy without having to take medication.
17th.  Well fresh back from our Lesvos birding holiday and it seems that just like last year when we went to Mallorca the weather here has matched ours abroad. I was surprised to see that temps had reached 25 deg C on the 11th and that only 24mm of rain  has fallen with1mm of that falling whilst we have been back! I shall updated the "Holiday Reports" section on the site but with upwards of 4500 pics to sift through this always takes longer than I care to think about. The holiday was great and a picture I took prior to leaving on the 1st of May looks a lot different to the picture I have taken after we got back on the 15th. I cannot believe the difference in the growth and flower count in only a two week gap. I presume much of this has been down to the sunshine and warmth, although a few plants around the garden do look in need of water. 

June 2008
Weather This Month
Max Temp =  22.1 deg C               Min Temp =   4.8 deg C            
 Max Wind  25.5 mph              Max Rain in 24 hr Period = 56.9 mm
 Max Rain in 1 hr Period = 16.5 mm          Total Rain For Month = 148.6 mm
29th.  Little time has been given to the garden as so much seems to stop me bird watching anywhere never mind within the garden at the moment. A couple of good sightings though are of the male and female Bullfinches visiting quite regularly with the continued presence of Lesser Redpoll as well. I have not had a great chance to get any snaps of the young birds within the garden as the weather is so changeable with very heavy rain at regular intervals. Some of the plants have not recovered from the weather with many now losing any shape they once had. I have tied a lot up but some are just past it sadly. 
One visitor today took my attention for quite some time as it whipped through next doors garden to take one of the many young Starlings. I noticed this and slowly opened the window to take a few pictures. I am pleased with the results as the light was poor and the distance was over 16m away. I would recommend not viewing these images if you are upset at a birds demise as whilst it is unpleasant for some others are happy to unfold before them....however gruesome.
22nd. A quick break to Northumberland for 4 days has taken us away from the garden to celebrate our anniversary. I shall be updating the Holiday section shortly with a few pics and trip report. I really should concentrate more on this section as I am still well behind on the Lesvos trip. 
In the garden on our return it was clear that quite a bit of rain had fallen with heavy winds also contributing to a very sorry and damaged plant count. When the wind subsides I will have a lot of work to do if some of the plants are to survive as a lot of them have been badly torn and wind swept. I wonder what effect this hard wind has had on any nesting birds. Goldfinches in particular are at risk as they seem to prefer nests at the tips of branches. Lets hope not to many casualties.
10th. The weather has been great of late with plenty of sunshine to be had. I carried on the task of tidying the garden which took most of Saturday and Sunday. I have just to give the lawn a trim which always gives the garden a more manicured look.
A great sense of AWwwww has arrived in the garden as a lot of young have descended on the garden. Young Great Tits, Starlings, House Sparrows, Blackbirds and the most recent is the 7 Wrens that decided to use one of the nest pockets attached to the shed as an evening roost where mum was ferrying mealworm to and fro. There heads were popping out with there gapes on show. They are now around the garden as there faint high pitched calls seem to come from any bit of cover the garden gives. The Coal Tits have now shown us this years colours as what seemed like a cloud of young all headed to the Black Elder tree where mum was handing out mealworm........AWwwwww.
Another good bit of news was the brief sighting of our Male Bullfinch that I was concerned about due to a Cats recent interest in the garden. Mandy alerted me to him as we were out on the decking having lunch on the 8th. I have not seen him since but at least he is still here and still remembers where we are.
I came in early from tea tonight to watch a bit of Euro 2008 interspersed with Springwatch  when from the office window I was alerted to a commotion in next doors garden.  A male Sparrowhawk had a young Starling in it's talons on the lawn. It sat on it with a very intense forward glare. The Starling calling all the time whilst the rest of the garden birds made all the calls possible. The odd thing was that not4 meters away my next door neighbour sat in her recliner chair totally oblivious at all as she carried on with her crossword!! The Sparrowhawk was not comfortable with the close proximity to human presence so in a flash the Starling was free and the Spawk followed it out of the garden, amazing!
I have ordered some Wildflower seeds to fulfill my role as a Guerrilla Gardener as I have spotted a large area where a local housing project has been put on hold. The land has been turned leaving the subsoil on the top with very little in the way of quality topsoil on show...perfect for wildflowers. I hope to take a picture of the area in question before and after as I am praying that the seeds will germinate or this could be an expensive trial. I wonder if I could give the Chelsea flower show a run for it's money?
All this great weather is also hindering my attempts of finishing the Holiday Reports section  of our latest birding hol to Lesvos. I really should try although the call of the garden is a firm winner.....wonder if it is time for a laptop so I can do both?
2nd.  The garden has undergone a mini makeover today as I spent about 5 hours ripping up tired and boring plants, moving some existing plants whilst also adding some of my more preferred species such as Dahlias, Rudbeckias, Anemones and another Viburnum Opulus (Guelder Rose) which is one of the most beautiful shrubs I think mother nature produces. The biggest reason for the uphevel is the cat which is now seen every morning waiting to pounce from under some of the plants which give it good cover for an ambush. I am very concerned as the Bullfinch has not been to the garden for some time now and I just hope the cat has not taken this cherished beauty. Mandy has kindly made a bracket to attach to the pergola which raises the large feeder to about 5 foot off the ground so i hope these measures will lessen the cats chances.
My mealworm provider has let me down with my usual 4Kg supply and the birds are really pestering for these. I have not had any since Saturday so they are becoming a little desperate as this years young are no doubt very vocal about this. One Great Tit, again a female, has become very bold and is now entering the house to tell us that the worms have all gone. She follows me up the garden to the shed where the mealworm are kept and then feeds from my hand. She also joins up for dinner when we are out on the decking looking for her "fix" of mealworms. I have ordered some elsewhere for now so I hope to receive these tomorrow. I wonder if it is the same female as the last couple of years as in these previous years it was also a female that took from the hand although this one is particularly cocky in her behaviour.
The garden has had a new youngster for the year in the form of a Greenfinch which was shepherd by Dad. It's cheeping had the desired effect as Dad regurgitated some food straight away. No young Robins have been seen as yet which is a shame.

July 2008
Weather This Month
Max Temp =  26.3 deg C               Min Temp =   8.5 deg C            
 Max Wind  21.4 mph              Max Rain in 24 hr Period = 26.4 mm
 Max Rain in 1 hr Period = 13.4 mm          Total Rain For Month = 190.1 mm
31st.  Another twist in the weather with the return of the wet weather. The worst of it is not the rain but the high humidity that is still making it very uncomfortable during the day and night. If you remember the floods of July last year the garden recorded 219.1mm of rain over that period. Whilst this amount came quickly and in bursts it is quite remarkable to think that in a repeat of lasts years weather pattern we have seen 190.1mm of rain again this month yet we have not seen any flooding due to it being spread out during the month with some good dry spells. It is rather tiresome with all the rain we are now seeing in the summer months...I just hope this is not a prelude to what the future is to be.
Birds are still collecting food in the garden with several still feeding young although I would imagine that nesting is coming to a close. The bird song in mornings and evenings is muted and even the constant overture of the Song Thrush has fallen silent. It always seems to be over before you can get time to really enjoy the season, in part over the last few years due to the mentioned bad weather which has limited us to days in the garden and trips out birding.
One of my neighbours informed me that the troublesome cat has been seen several times with birds in it's mouth. I have already began next years plan of making the ambush area cat proof with chicken mesh. I am reluctant to do this as it's spoils the look of the gardens natural appearance but I am hoping that if I take my time I can lessen the look of the wire as new growth covers it.
This young Robin has been seen quite regularly in the garden of late as it searches for mealworm
27th.  Phew! a real scorcher of a weekend has been enjoyed and not just for the high temp reached of 26.4 degC. The high dewpoint of over 17 deg at night meant that in the early hours of Sunday morning at around 04:00 I could no longer sleep so I got up and waited for the day to awaken. What a great decision as at around 05:45 3 juvenile Woodpigeons were all perched in several areas around the garden watching there parents take food. Not long after that a bird came zipping low through the length of the garden and carried on into other gardens. I thought that it looked like a Woodpecker and after a few minutes my suspicion was correct as a Juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker was soon swinging from a basket of peanuts. It was a little edgy and soon flew back into a neighbours tree where a Magpie saw it off. It returned not long after and spent at least five minutes on the peanut feeder before disappearing with no further sightings. I really hope that it returns as they are always a real pleasure to see, but sadly I normally only ever get a maximum of two visits over the course of a year.
Later on in the day I was sat enjoying the sun when high up I spotted a bird of prey. Binoculars at the ready it was clear I was watching a light phase Common Buzzard as it gained height and moved on in a North Easterly direction. Not often witnessed by me over the years but sightings have been more in the last couple of years. It can't be too long before they are common once again surely.
24th. The sun has been treating us to some well over due rays with the last three days reaching 22 deg although at times it has remained cloudy but....dry! It's funny how the garden responds after the ongoing rotten weather that has been wet and cool. Dahlias have come out along with the meadowsweet and Bats in the Belfry. The Buddleia that I am waiting to see which was planted last year has yet to flower but I can't wait to see it's excellent colour of the variety Royal Red.
Bad news also in the garden as the pest Cat was observed taking a young Blue Tit from the garden as it waited in ambush. I try my best to clear the garden with a jug of water but on this occasion this swine beat me. I often wonder what the owners are thinking as it must bring in a lot of kill. Why can't they keep it in during early mornings?
A few pictures I managed with the digiscoping setup tonight before the clouds started rolling in. The Wren is a group of three young birds that is resident in the garden. You can see his yellow gape at the base of the bill. The young Starling also shows a slight change in costume as his moult to winter clothes is well under way.
Other news is that two Hedgehogs are regulars to the garden. I am feeding them with crushed peanut and dried mealworm in the hope that this is a pair ready to show us this years young. 
14th. Well it's rain all the way with only the odd day that is anything like warm and sunny. As you can see above the rain count so far this month for July.......is 120mm which is rather disappointing considering this follows the weather pattern from last year that left us with219mm of rain for the same month. I hope this starts to improve as I may well have to book another holiday!
A regular to the garden turned up a little surprise for us over the weekend as we know that the male Grey Wagtail had lost his partner at the beginning of the breeding season. It has taken a while but he showed us his new partner as she sat in next doors garden whilst he showed her where the mealworm was! I have not seen the happy couple since that visit but I would imagine that the business of nest building will be taking precedence. Lets hope I am right and that this year may yet bring us some young Grey Wagtails. 
6th. I am still struggling to get some pictures of the youngsters around the garden as the weather again is hampering my chances and when the sun does shine I seem to be doing something else. I have though found the time to update to "Holiday Reports" section for those interested and I shall promise to spend more time on the Lesvos report for those whom have mentioned this to me.

Aug 2008
Weather This Month
Max Temp =  20.1 deg C               Min Temp =   6.4 deg C            
 Max Wind  23.2 mph              Max Rain in 24 hr Period = 39.8 mm
 Max Rain in 1 hr Period = 12.4 mm          Total Rain For Month = 231.5 mm
31st  Well another month gone and what a total wash out this summer has been here in the North West of England! Looking at the rainfall shows just how much rain has fallen and added together with July's total we have a combined amount of 418.5mm of rain! This has not been one or two heavy downfalls, this has been heavy rain with most days seeing rain and thick cloud. Lets hope for better come September but I fear looking at the long range this is not going to be anything like an Indian summer!
A quiet period assumes control of the garden on the whole as birds start to hide away to mostly undergo moulting. Blackbirds always seem to be the most noticeable absentee along with Starlings. This dereliction creates a gap in the amount of sultanas I have to put out for these two species (at peak about 10kg a week) so it gives me chance to allow funds for the birds to build up, and along with the lack of mealworm being taken it makes a big difference to monies spent in a week. 
Since we got back from the BBWF it has been rather sad as we have now lost our House Sparrow parties along with the Lesser Redpoll and Bullfinch. I presume they have moved on to the open countryside but I do wonder where the House Sparrows have gone? The numbers of visitors of the Sparrow was pretty good so I did not expect them to desert the garden so quickly and without any further visits. In the hope of having some home grown Sparrows I have erected a Schwegler Sparrow terrace box high up under the house eaves. I have a feeling that Great tits will probably use this though, so we will see. A couple of good points at the moment is the juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker that is still visiting regularly through the day as he enjoys the fat and peanuts I keep topped up and also the night time visitor in the shape of a hedge pig. Every night the pig comes out at about 23:00 to feed on the few piles of mixed up peanut granules and dried mealworm I put out. I was hopeful of seeing some young as I thought a large Hog was seen earlier and now a slimmer version is visiting (assuming this is the same Hog). So fingers crossed that a few youngsters are in the "den" waiting to visit our garden. I have two Hog boxes but as far as I am aware neither have ever been used.
In light of the fact it was national Butterfly week Mandy tried in vain to capture a pic of a butterfly! Wow with the weather being so poor it was hard work but this Holly Blue did venture into the garden for a short time.
Another picture taken with the macro lens include this picture
and these two beauties caught earlier in the month showing the males fineries.
21st.  Another yearly pilgrimage to the BBWF held at Rutland water in Leicestershire. I had a list of gadgets,books,holidays and lectures I was looking forward to buying,booking or listening to so of we set on Thursday with the fair starting it's 3 days on Friday. We usually book well in advance at the travelodge Morcott about 20mins journey to the fair. Over the last few years the price has crept up at the travelodge and less and less is provided as a service inc toiletries or even a courteous hello from staff.  This time was the final straw for us as whilst we understood that toiletries etc were not provided to keep costs low what we were not told was to bring a scouring sponge, vim and a large helping of elbow grease as the room would require cleaning before you could use it. The bath was just simply disgusting. The net curtain was ripped down and thrown on top of some shelves. This curtain plays a part in privacy and security as binoculars etc are on show in the room as we were on the ground floor it was important. The bins in the room were poor and splashes of milk were left on the mirror and sideboards. Least to say we have booked a B & B for 2009 for the same money that also includes breakfast. The weather was very kind with plenty of sun showing on Friday and Sunday. Some heavy rain on Saturday night left it wet underfoot but not really causing many problems. 
I had managed to get tickets to a lecture given by non other than Sir David Attenborough at the Braodway Theatre in Peterborough for the Friday night. What a superb talk given as he read journals from Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace. It became clear that David took great pleasure in these two great Naturalist (Darwin) and Geographer, Naturalist and Biologist (Wallace). He read out passages from these two, both quite clearly different men from different backgrounds but yet both seeking to further each others work, opinion and views rather that of ones own, something that may be lacking in today's (evolved) society. Darwin actually stated that he would rather burn his findings and studies than for Wallace's work to be given up as his own and likewise Wallace applauded the fact that Darwin brought many of Wallace's thoughts to life in his well engineered books something that Wallace said he could never do. It was clear that David himself founded his attitude along these humble foundations as shows in his ability to appeal to a massive amount of people on many levels. Please excuse the poor pic quality but the light was poor. The first is Sir David accepting the challenge of being species champion for an endangered species the Araripe Manakin. Please click HERE to find out more.
I bought a new camera attachment to help my Digiscoping from SRB Gritturn  a company quite good faor odd ball items for this type of photography. Books for India were purchased along with DVD by Malcolm Rhymer a Naturalist who compiles video footage of areas he visits. If you are interested in visiting the fair at some point please click HERE to find out more.
It's also a great chance to catch up with friends old and new and in this picture a rosy glow caused by sun and drink is quite evident.
Ken,Andy,Carol,Ste and Mandy.
Howard & Siwan (Lesvos 2008)
Our trip to Backwoods Camp in Goa was organised through Leio who had a stall at the fair and some items from Paramo were purchased to keep the insects at bay whilst out in India.
6th.  The weather has continued wet yet stuffy but this has not slowed the garden in it's turn toward late summer with the amount of young birds passing through either to find their own bit of the planet or as they head further South as migration grips a number of our summer breeding birds. Who can blame them as they think about spending the winter months in South Africa! A picture of a classic migration bird to start with. It's always nice to see this harbinger of Spring with his majestic flute like song but on this occasion this young bird is more likely passing through and feeding up as he heads South, I always bid them good luck.
A good view of this bird at this angle shows the classic longer wing length over the tertials which are an absolute clincher for Willow Warbler rather than it's twin the Chiff Chaff. As you can see the leg colour here is quite dark which can cause confusion along with other variations apart from the song!
A close up of him on next doors conservatory what a beauty!
Another few that I have managed to capture on camera even though the light was poor due to the early time of the morning and the poor light. They all seem to prefer the early mornings to visit as I presume that it is when they are the most desperate for food after a night of inactivity.
This Juvenile Wood Pigeon (note the lack of white on the neck sides) is one of three that have visited of late although they are unsure as to why there parents have brought them!
A poor picture again due to the distance and light levels but it clearly shows another young bird as the red on the head is only present on the Juvenile with the adult female having no red at all on her head or neck but the male having a red patch on his neck (or nape as it is known) This Great Spotted Woodpecker has also brought his sibling with him so I hope they will stick around for a while. In encouragement of this I have put out to of the finest fat cakes either side of the peanuts but as yet only the Starlings have shown interest in them.
This party of young Wrens has been feeding in the garden for the last few weeks and one individual has taken an interest in our parasol, I presume for insects under any flaps and folds and also to soak up a bit of warmth whilst the sun quickly showed his face
This sibling decided that being tucked up in bed was not the done thing so he tried to wake him!
To no avail I might add!
I am still waiting for the chance of a picture of our now two visiting young Bullfinch and are very brightly coloured Male Lesser Redpoll. I got a picture of the Bullfinch but they were very poor and mostly blurred.

Sept 08'
Weather This Month
Max Temp =  17.9 deg C                 Min Temp =  4.9 deg C
Max Wind=  20.5 mph              Max Rain in 24 hr Period = 61.1 mm
Max Rain in 1 hr Period =  9.8mm          Total Rain For Month =  156.4 mm
28th.  A trip out today had us up at 04:00 for the 2 1/2hr journey to Spurn Point on the East coast. I look forward to going here as I love the feel of the place when Fieldfare and Redwings are plentiful. A little early in the year for the mass influx of these Scandinavian beauties so we had to do with,amongst many others, a Juv Red Backed Shrike and Common Whitethroat. We were hoping for Yellow Browed Warbler but it seems they have moved on. One thing that reinforced the notion of migration was the 1000 or so Pink Feet we saw going over in parties of up to 50 in each Skein. A long way to go for these birds so In the not to distant future we shall return when the "chack chack" calls of Fieldfare abound.
Just a couple of pictures I managed. Not bad on the Shrike as I was at least 50m away.
21st.  A largely sunny,warm and still day on the 20th had us thinking we were in June and that all the rain had been a dream! The hottest temp for Sept was also reached at 18:05 as it touched 18 Deg C..wow! Today the sun has failed to break the thin cloud down and at 13:00 it is 16.3 deg but is remaining cloudy. The hogs are still visiting for food but last night I only noticed this years lone youngster. I hope mum is well but I would imagine that the youngster is now pretty independent of her although they have visited around the same sort of times. A little food was left over in the garden last night so I presume mum did not visit at all. The youngster is gaining in size toward it's needed target weight of about 500g, this being the weight it will need to survive the rapidly approaching hibernation period. 
House Martins are still with us and surprisingly 3 swallows whipped around the area in the afternoon for some time. I guess they are making the most of the insects as the sun shines...and who would blame them. The young Woodpecker is still visiting which is ace as this is the longest time an individual has stuck around. It has also given me the opportunity to watch this young bird shed it's juvenile plumage to reveal a more and more distinct red patch appearing on it's nape which gives the sex of this young bird as a male, as the female has no red on the head or nape at all. Lets hope he sticks around a bit longer.
14th.  A few pictures taken with the new macro lens for Mandy's camera as the sun showed it's face for a short time in the afternoon. It becomes clear when using the setup that lighting and stability are essential, something I had neither of, which I hope will be addressed at some point in the short time future. Depth of field with macro is the biggest hurdle so with practice and a better understanding of use of the camera for macro will hopefully give us better results.
Yesterday I noted an influx of Honey Buzzards around the Eastern side of the Country so It had me looking high into the clear skies where I did see about 40-50 finch like birds all blogging in the area. I was hoping to have them come a touch closer but they flew off behind some trees. I also noted 30 House Martin feeding high up in the skies as the chased one another and insects. The other day a single Fieldfare flew over the garden which was rather early but welcome. I look forward to seeing the winter migration and my mind is thinking about a visit to Spurn of Flamborough.
12th.  I have been out of action for a few days with a dental abscess, and boy do they create some pain. Having had this problem I thought it a good time to maybe remind anybody that have not done a feeder clean for some time to maybe undertake this as soon as possible as it's about this time of year that disease can run riot amongst our wild birds. I have done this job last week and if I am honest it is a time consuming affair due to the amount, and in some cases, sheer size of the feeders. Non the less it is important so if you get chance I would suggest clicking HERE just to familiarize yourself of the reasons. I can remember the disease outbreak of 2006/07 that was a nationwide problem so lets hope that a fejudicious thoughts now can help stop any possible recurrence.
7th.  Again the weather is the main topic as a a new record for the most rain in any 24 hr period was broken. The previous record was in January 2008 when 57.4mm of rain fell but this was eclipsed by the 61.1mm that reached it's maximum at 07:59 on the 6th of September. As this total was gained very much overnight I bet it mostly went undetected but the roads did show signs of heavy rain as shale and debris had been dragged onto the roads. Also one or two of the garden contained small pools of water where previously non had been. It seems that whilst other parts of the country are preparing for more heavy rain it could well be that the weather here is thinking of sunnier times as unexpectedly we had long spells of strong sunshine on the 6th. One thing of note with this poor weather pattern that has been with us for at least the last month is the fact that the barometer has at times read like it should be a high pressure with sunny days but it just seems that even a high pressure does not always equate to sunshine! The barometer is again on the rise so it will be interesting to watch the weather over the next 12-24hrs as most forecasts are for rain.....lets see.
The Hogs are still appearing in the garden and take there time as they forage around for things to eat. Our first young Hog for the season has now been joined by another sibling which is great to see. Mum visits a touch later than it's offspring but all of them stay in the garden for at least 1 1/2 hrs as they quarter the garden searching for the food I put out for them in various places. I have noticed that over the last few nights Mum is sporting a new pink rinse on several parts of her spines so whether somebody is spraying her or whether she is sleeping in a area of paint storage I do not know, is it that somebody wants to know if the same Hog is visiting their garden during the night?
A single redpoll has returned to the garden feeding on it's favourite the Nijer seed. At the moment the nijer seed is by far the most popular as I have to refill the food everyday. The numbers of Goldfinch are responsible but with upto 8 youngsters visiting it does not take long for the seed to be scattered as well as eaten. The elusive House Sparrow was noted yesterday with a lone Male tucking into mealworm but soon departed with no more sightings during the day. 
Butterfly numbers increased massively yesterday as the sun beat down. I counted 4 Peacocks, 1 Meadow Brown, 3 Small Tortoiseshells and one Small Skipper. That is some total as the garden this year has been bereft of these beauties. 
So later on tonight or tomorrow I shall see if my forecaster is correct or if the national forecast is correct!
1st The weather is again producing the most debate as already the rain gauge for the month reaching almost 1" of rain in three days! It's tiresome if I am honest as I think the body is missing out on such much needed UV rays. Non the less good numbers of Goldfinches are visiting with lot's of this years young in tow.  The Great Spotted Woodpecker is still visiting daily but the biggest news as regards visitors to the garden is the first young Hedge Pig of the year. He fed last night on dried mealworm and peanut granules and later after I put a touch more out Mum visited on her own to top up on some much needed food. I shall be keeping an eye out to see if any more young turn up. To help keep track of them feeding I have set my wireless cctv camera up near to the feeding spot to see visitors during the night.

October 08'
Weather This Month
Max Temp =  16.4 deg C                 Min Temp = 2.6 deg C
Max Wind=   23.9 mph              Max Rain in 24 hr Period = 57.4 mm
Max Rain in 1 hr Period = 11.3 mm          Total Rain For Month =  291.6 mm
30th.  Another month passes by and we move into Autumn proper as I enjoy the colour that Autumn brings. This is definitely one of the best so far as the dry and cold weather has allowed the leaves to be strewn around the garden as they are crispy and dry. I even noted somebody kicking the leaves around on the roadside the other day. The dry weather and clear skies had the temperature tumbling on the 29th at 5 in the morning to a low of - 2.6 deg. It made for defrosting of the car tedious but it really is a pleasure with the lovely feel of Autumn present in all it's glory.
This continued drop in temps (already it has dropped to 2.4 deg C tonight at 19:30) has resulted in Blackbirds visiting at first light and with quite a few all queuing to sample a few mealworm and sultanas I throw out on the lawn. The cold temperatures have most birds making the early visit for food a priority as before I go to work I have watched 1 x Great Spotted Woodpecker, 3 x Jays, 3 Great Tits, 7 x Blackbirds amongst others all tucking in before real daylight arrives. I like this time of year and I am hoping the dry weather continues into the weekend which will allow me to do a few jobs in the garden, one of which is quite urgent as the Dahlias now need attention after the fist frost abruptly ended their blooms.
27th.  A day off today due to a gas meter change in prospect along with a possible delivery of a new wireless router as I finally look at the advantages of a laptop which will allow me to work in the garden whilst updating the site. Best laid plans are always threatened and these plans are already crumbling as I received a call at 12:00 from United Utilities telling me that the engineer would not be able to make it (is engineer the most overused descriptive term?) as he has rung in ill. The router is not here as yet (13:30) but I hope it does turn up. 
I was up early in anticipation of seeing more migration over the garden as the winds had changed direction to a more WNW and a high pressure ridge was pushing in from the West so I was hoping the birds would be having a high pressure that would push them into setting off. Having set the clocks back it meant getting up early to see first light but as I watched the clearing skies it was clear that migration was not on the agenda, sadly! I watched the garden as the light started to increase where the first visitors were Blackbirds shortly followed by Goldfinch and a Robin. The Blackbirds are nearly all young Male and Female birds and I wonder how many of these birds, which turned up together and also follow each other around the neighbourhood gardens, are migrants. The Woodpecker is still visiting the fat cakes and the Grey Wagtail is now in winter mode as he visits alone on every occasion whilst searching for mealworm.
The Hedgehog has not been seen for a couple of weeks so I hope that he is tucked up nice and snug in his winter slumber. The hogs have been replaced by Grey Squirrel which are eating my feeder ports at an alarming rate. Today our single squirrel turned up with a mate and so battle commenced for peanuts! This battle was watched by two Jays that take the peanuts whilst the Squirrels are burying the nuts or pitched in battle with one another.
More birds have been seen showing signs of disease including a Chaffinch, Goldfinch and Greenfinch with the tell tale signs of puffed up, food around mouth, reluctance to fly when you approach and often in later stages of illness, tucking head away under wing during the day. Th weather forecast says very cold blasts are to hit us as from tonight so I am hoping that the bugs will be eradicated as the temps fall.
19th. The month seems to be going very quickly and the arrival of the first real numbers of winter Thrushes is under way around the Country. A few days ago 6000 Redwings were counted on the East coast along with lesser numbers of Fieldfare and sure enough, as I had hoped the Thrushes carried on inland with me seeing some on the 17th. I got up early on Saturday morning and kept my eyes to the skies. I am lucky enough to have quite a large open expanse of sky to watch without much in the way of obstacle as the garden is situated in a valley which is 800 feet above sea level, so often as they come over the hills around me they are quite easy to spot. Sure enough at about 07:30 with light winds and lovely clear skies the first two parties of Redwing pass over with each party consisting of about 60 birds. It carried on with smaller flocks and then single birds heading in different directions. After this at about 08:20 a few Fieldfare flew over with an odd single bird following. Smaller parties of the Fieldfare were still seen as I had to leave for work at 08:40. 
I kept a hopeful eye on the sky this morning but it was a waste of time as heavy fog made visibility impossible. Later on in the morning when the skies cleared a party of about 20 Fieldfare flew up and along Cowm reservoir hillside before sliding out of view. The wind has picked up as I write this at 10:30 but the sky is mixed with cloud and the odd break where a little blue pokes through. I shall keep an eye out as I do like to see these birds in flight...here's hoping for a flyover Pink foot Skein to!
12th. A gorgeous day today with the temperature of 16.4C being the hottest recorded in Oct for three years. It did feel really quite nice as I sat in the pergola thinking that I really should be doing some tidying up in the garden but the excitement of studying the birds of Goa won out for a long period of time. I did eventually get round to a touch of preparation for the Autumn as the table,chairs and parasol were put under cover for the year. I put some bark chippings down in places and added a large amount to the log pile.  I also planted a few new plants which are
I have also taken some cuttings for a neighbour of various colours from the Buddleias around the garden. I gave the lawn it's final cut of 2008 and put the mower in it's winter store. 
I am already thinking of next years tasks within the garden as I look to move the Hemp Agrimony, Purple Loosestrife and the meadowsweet which I shall be moving to the back of the far borders to allow more flowers to be seen nearer to the house. I am also hoping the moving of these will allow the Apple tree some extra room whilst allowing me to support the moved plants better. It seems to early to be talking about next year I know but now that I have seen the first Christmas adverts on the TV I think it is only right!
5th. Not much chance to get into the garden of late as yet again the rain has been taking centre stage. Already a 104.6mm of rain has fallen with much of this falling last night (4th) with a total of 57.4mm drenching the garden in one 24hr period. Today the weather is supposed to be quite reasonable with no rain...yes no rain! set to fall.
The Hedgehog is still visiting in the late evenings where he mops up dried mealworm which I scatter on the lawn. The now, male Great Spotted Woodpecker, is still visiting the fat cake hung up on the pergola but the garden has been plagued with up to 11 Collared Doves and4 Woodpigeons which is wreaking havoc with the amount of food that is being consumed. The Squirrel has been destroying the feeding ports of the feeders so I am at present having to replace these with metal. Funny really as this is the first time a Squirrel has been so destructive.
Another reminder if you are feeding the birds to clean your feeders regularly at this time of year as even though I have been cleaning mine I have so far had one Greenfinch and one Goldfinch showing advanced stages of disease. If you get the chance please read thisHERE

November 08'
Weather This Month
Max Temp =  11.4 deg C                 Min Temp = -2.2 deg C
Max Wind=   23.2 mph              Max Rain in 24 hr Period = 28.4 mm
Max Rain in 1 hr Period = 7.2 mm          Total Rain For Month =  109.8 mm
23rd.  A gap in the diary as events have been slow and with me again suffering a dental abscess which I hope will be cured by an extraction on Monday! Whilst the garden has been slow a new addition to the garden list has been acquired and a bird that has not been seen in the garden since April 2003. The day was started bright on the 16th and as I looked out into the garden I could see that the feeders were popular with quite a few Chaffinch. As I checked through the birds in the trees a bird stood out straight away as a cracking male Brambling. It was very skittish and flew off on several occasions before it returned on at least 3 occasions that morning. I have not seen it since that day but we are still getting many Chaffinch visits with around 5 males and 4 females seen regularly, so it may yet return.
The bird that has been added to the list which has never visited before zipped across next doors garden on the 22nd and clung to the bottom of a Sycamore. It stood out as it's clean white was very striking. It started making it's way up the trunk in a circular spiral movement and I even had chance to shout Mandy to have a look....fantastic.... a good bird anywhere, but all the more so in our garden...a Treecreeper! I would imagine that it was just passing through so I doubt a repeat visit will be seen, although you never know.
I went out on the 22nd with Mandy to get a few shots of a truly beautiful bird as it was only 40mins away I thought I would chance the weather as it was trying to brighten up. The photos were grabbed in between bad light and strong winds so although not the best images they are still the best I have to date of this stunner.
5th. A walk out to my local patch on the 3rd to see a bird which is not very common to these parts. A Brent Goose has been hanging around Cowm Res but to be honest I am not sure it is wild or feral as it hung around with the hand fed birds on the res. A lovely bird non the less so I enjoyed the closeness of the view which shows how nice the feather pattern of this bird is. The light was poor leading me to use a 400 iso which leaves quite a bit of noise in the picture. A couple of other regulars also managed a few poses to boot.
Brent Goose
Tufted Duck
Black Headed Gull
Sadly no winter Thrushes were present but the lack of berries on the Hawthorn & Mountain Ash trees were testament to the presence of them earlier in the week. I hope to catch up with them soon though along with the few Waxwing that have been seen mainly on the East side of the Country but now have moved in land.
2nd.  Another great day on the 1st for migration as I was up hoping to see a repeat of Octobers Thrush fest over the garden. It was even better as I watched the skies from 07:00 to 08:30. Clouds of Redwing filled the sky and these were soon followed by masses of Fieldfare, fantastic. The garden was not to be outdone as migration was also evident within the garden as 3 Redwings decided to rest in the tops of some Sycamores in the garden next door. They stayed a while before the Starlings flew off at speed prompting the Redwing to follow. Then soon after our smallest bird showed it's beauty, and not just one of these cuetis but two. These Goldcrest flitted around the garden and came close up to the office window as it sought sanctuary in the Ivy tree as two resident Wrens did not like their presence and duly chased them off. It was a mad start to the day with the busy spell cut short as work matters called.
I have a lot of contact with people during the day at work and a day never goes by without somebody asking me questions about wildlife or such like. It's great to see so many people with an interest and every now and again somebody has pictorial evidence of their experiences with wildlife.
A gentleman called Victor Jordan who lives in Waterfoot is fortunate enough to live on the banks of the river Irwell and sometimes he is ready with his camera. This picture was taken sometime in September and although not the best visually the content is rather special as capturing one of these special birds by camera can be hard enough but two in the same tree is rather special so I though I would post his proud shot. 
Well done Victor!

December 08'
Weather This Month
Max Temp =  10.8 deg C                 Min Temp = -5.2 deg C
Max Wind=   21.6 mph              Max Rain in 24 hr Period = 27.4 mm
Max Rain in 1 hr Period =  9.8 mm          Total Rain For Month =  133.1 mm
21st.  The most important date to me in December is today as we finally reach the winter solstice. The time when the Sun is at its furthest from the celestial equator will happen at 12:04 today and boy do I look forward to this time. Whilst it takes 2 or 3 months for the difference in light to be noticed at least my mind feels more positive from this occasion. 
It is also the case that if you listen to the outdoors you will notice that life outside is also aware of the changes as the birds begin to, well not so much as sing, but start a few bit's of chattering amongst themselves with the Starlings being one of the first that really stand out as they begin to make all sorts of weird and wonderful whistles, clicks and abrupt notes. One bird which does begin full song around this time is the Mistle Thrush. A very relaxed drawn out song similar to a Blackbirds but more monotone to my ears. I have a microphone outside so I can hear what noise is outside even if it's to cold to have a window open. Talking of Thrushes the garden had two Song Thrushes feeding yesterday which is nice and a single Redwing rested for a while high up in Poplars at the side of the garden.
The temps have recovered of late with 9 deg C being recorded as I write this at 10:30 but this has been spoiled by the return of grey damp conditions. It seems that there is no chance of a white Christmas this year and it seems that the forecast is for a little sun more than anything.
7th.  Another cold night leading to below freezing temps and light fog. The garden is very picturesque with frost glistening on just about all the plants. It was not long before a favorite bird of mine, the Bullfinch turned up in the garden and began feeding on Viburnum Opulus berries. I reached for the digiscoping gear but as usual the subject disappeared. It was not to long before another lovely bird turned up and one, like the Bullfinch, has not been seen in the garden since the summer months, a Song Thrush. I took a few pictures of the visitors of the garden even though the fog and double glazing limited the quality some what.
2nd. The picture above was taken today by Mandy and shows the snow which fell in the early hours from 4am onwards. As November ended on a cold note so it was that December carried this on, and looking at the weather stats above you can see that is the case with top temp so far being just 2.2 deg C! I have to say it was a pleasure seeing what is more than likely the most snow locally (4") I have seen for ten years or so. First thing I did before setting off for work was to put out some sultanas on a platform as the previous nights sultanas were well buried!
It seems the birds have been flocking in while I have been at work as the bird food has been polished off in quite a few feeders. Looking back to the last day of November a lone male House Sparrow came to feed followed by another Goldcrest visit to the Ivy below the office window. It sat in the Ivy as though it was resting up before it resumed it's mad flitting around other plants in the garden. 
The weather reports are showing a little snow and rain for Wednesday and then on Thursday we are down for more snow in the early hours...lovely!!

No comments:

Post a Comment