Wildlife Diary 2011

January '11

Weather This Month
Max Temp = 9.9°C   Min Temp = -6.6°C   Mean Temp = 2.4°C
Max Wind = 19 mph   
Day's Of Rain Over 2mm =11   Rain 24hr Max =  27.79mm     Total Rain For Month = 121.4 mm   
14th.  The

February '11

Weather This Month
Max Temp = 11.6°C   Min Temp = -1.5°C   Mean Temp = 5°C
Max Wind = 20 mph    
Day's Of Rain Over 2mm =19   Rain 24hr Max =  37.8mm     Rain For Month = 219.4 mm
24th.  The month starts to draw to a close and today is a day that has taken a long time coming. It seems an eon since a sunny day with a touch of warmth has been in evidence. The rains and greyness subsided and the temp hit a high of 11.6C this afternoon. Whilst I did have to work is was nice to come home and see the garden during daylight hours. Whilst it was nice it soon became apparent that the garden is well out of shape and it will take quite a lot of work to put it back into some semblance or order. 
A Sparrowhawk is hunting quite regularly in the garden and what is great about this male is that he is not shy at all. I have caught him several times just perched where he lands and he seems quite tolerant of movement from within the house which is unusual. I hope to get a photo of this beast of nature.
The frogs are getting more numerous in the pond so I hope that within 4 weeks or so we will have this years first spawning.
14th. My first sighting of a visiting hedgehog was noted on the evening of the 12th. Having now noticed this I have started putting out food for him. Other signs of spring being within reaching distance is the sight of frogs diving for cover whenever I pass the pond. Birdsong is now also evident from the Robin, Dunnock, Starlings and Lesser Redpoll. Whilst I have heard Blackbird song away from the garden I have yet to hear the fluty notes to let me know the garden has been claimed for the up coming breeding season. 
6th.  In my hurry to get something in the diary (just so busy elsewhere) I forgot to mention some things of real importance when we visited Leighton Moss. First up was the several sightings of Bank Voles and the squealing call of the Water Rail which was heard in a few places around the reserve. We also saw a fleeting view of one as it lifted off the path in front of us and headed for the safety of the reed bed. Of real significance was the sight of hundreds of thousands of Starlings coming to roost at the reed beds. What a spectacle as they whirled round and round before finally funneling down thousands at a time for the night. The noise when they were down in the beds was immense and the Peregrine that caught it supper was the icing on a very surreal, amazing cake. I would recommend anybody to seek out such Starling roosts as it really is a wonder of the natural world.
As you can see from above stats the weather is terrible with grey and very wet conditions continuing. The wind is also now having its turn...a  real horrible time at present as looking at the rainfall already tells it's own story as of 6th we have already had 94mm of rain!
3rd.  A very busy period at the moment as work on the house continues, letter writing to travel companies, a few trips out, sifting through photos etc....I think I am spreading myself to thin!
Anyway I missed the RSPB garden bird count so I am going to do it this weekend instead. I chose to visit Leighton Moss instead with a few companions. It was not much above freezing all day and most of the hides were bereft of any birds due to there being no open water only thick ice!
The places that had food out drew the obvious birds so I tried to get some shots but the light was so poor under the cover of trees and with the sun failing to show all day. None the less I did manage this shot of a real lovely bird.
I was pleased with this image as it is the best I have of this species and coupled with the weather I was pleasantly surprised. Sadly this image shows my next time consuming problem....above the bird on the left you can make out a small dark smudge. It may look like a fly or other object but sadly it is of something that is inside my Zoom eyepiece of my scope. This is bad enough for me to have it sent away for inspection and hopefully a warranty claim will be the outcome. We shall see as repairs to optics can be eye watering to say the least.

March '11

Weather This Month
Max Temp = 16.6°C   Min Temp = -5.1°C  Mean Temp = 5.1°C 
Max Wind = 21 mph    
Day's Of Rain Over 2mm =8   Rain 24hr Max =  7.8mm     Rain For Month = 39.6 mm   
30th. Spring is most surely in the air as the Sycamores are starting to leaf, the frogspawn is hatching and the daffs are out. I have spent a great deal of time in the garden over the last week or so as it had become a battle ground due to me being out of action most of last year. I have added a few sleepers around the garden to stop the cats pouncing technique. This way the cat cannot see it's avian target and whats more it has to go up and over now rather than just straight out. I am sure this will help. The chicken mesh in the woodland edge area also has been very successful. This has been set at about 9" off the ground all round and 2" hole size of the mesh allows birds to dive in and out of it and hedgehogs to wander underneath it whilst making it impossible for cats to lay in wait. It is hardly noticed once foliage is present.
Like others plenty of Queen Buff tailed Bumblebees have been present in the garden looking for nest sights. I wonder how last years faired under the decking.
The weather stats above show a very very dry month indeed and looking back it has been the driest march since my records began back in 2006. The nearest other dry March was in 2007 with a total of 71mm. Strange really as February this year was another record, but in the wrong direction as it became the wettest Feb at 219.4mm.
20th. Another event today with the Spring Equinox being an event that heralds springtime. The equinox is about 23:15 tonight whereby the day and nights lengths are equal. Whilst Saturday was a beautiful sunny affair and giving us the warmest day this year at 11.4ºC, today has been grey overcast and damp. More spawn has appeared with at least a bucket and a half now in the pond, this being the most we have ever had. The hedgehog also comes every night to be fed and I can almost set my watch by him at present. I missed out on taking a photo of his dropping the other day and I regretted this as I stepped in them instead!
I have had to send my Zeiss telescope eyepiece away for repair under warranty and after 6 weeks and two poor replacement units being sent in it's place I am still no nearer bringing this disastrous saga to an end.
19th.  Just a quick note of a reminder for those interested that a supermoon is due tonight and it could be quite an unusual sight.
Read about the Supermoon HERE 
9th.  A very unexpected treat today in the garden as Mandy told me of this years first in the way of frog spawn. It is quite a clump and at 17:00 today Mandy counted 18 frogs which were acting quite frisky. I think this is the earliest we have had spawn in the pond, which is surprising as temperatures over the last few days have been well below zero. I wonder if spawning is as much to do with light levels as temperature. The sunshine that arrived on Saturday afternoon and stayed with us until yesterday has now really given up it's task as on my way to work at 07:15 a touch of snow was evident which eventually gave way to heavy rain for a time.
I am keeping an eye on the nest boxes but as yet only interest has been shown in the Blue Tit box at the far end of the garden and the only one with no camera inside!

April '11
Weather This Month
Max Temp = 23.4°C   Min Temp = 0.8   Mean Temp = 10.6°C 
Max Wind = 16 mph    
Day's Of Rain Over 2mm =6    Rain 24hr Max = 12.4mm   Rain For Month = 32.8 mm
26th. Wow after much looking up at the sky and with only the odd sighting in the valley it was remiss of me that I forgot to mention Spring has finally sprung as the much awaited return of the House Martins finally arrived on the Sunday the 24th. Three birds were spotted from the garden by my father and it was great to hear them back buzzing as they took angular routes through the sky.
Swifts up next....I am going with May the 20th.
25th. No increase in record temps for April as the norm of 18.6ºC  highs has been evident on several days now. The sun still shines very strongly though and it is hard work just sat in the sun as I am aware of the area around my face that received treatment that leaves me susceptible to sun burn.
I found time to look back at my records and note that this April as previously mentioned has been markedly warm with the previous high being recorded in 2007 at 20.5ºC. 
It has now been about 5 days since we first saw the Mistle Thrush pair taking food away to feed young so with any luck we may be able to see this years young in the garden. The Robins have been mostly absent in the garden as it seems non have decided to nest within view of the garden...sad really as I always like to see their antics although the other day I did note the male feeding his mate which at least shows nesting is well under way.
21st. A third consecutive day of record high temp for the garden for this year and without checking I am pretty sure this is the hottest temp during April I have recorded in the garden.  It again came at 15:56 and hit 23.4ºC. I will check this when I get the chance as I am writing this from the garden on the decking enjoying a fresh coffee, watching for House Martins having eaten a lovely dinner. If this is what utopia feels like then I have reached that point. A pair of Bullfinch are becoming quite regular so I hope we will be treated to a few youngsters this year. 
20th. Today again produced the second consecutive hottest day of the year in the garden but only slightly with a 0.1ºC increase to 21.4ºC and again it was at about the same time at 16:15.
The hedgehogs are the stars at present with two regularly feeding and spending time snuffling loudly around each other. I have never managed to have them nest in the garden even though several boxes have been constructed. I have watched them enter the boxes at evening time but it seems it acts as a social club rather than a place of residence.
19th. The website in general has been lacking in content with we way being on our India trip report and nothing much in the way of photos within the garden. I just have not really regained my get up and type after my illness. Non the less I can say I have enjoyed more than ever what the garden has to offer and our few birding trips out to other places with friends have been very therapuetic and welcome. 
Mandy and I are in a race to see our first House Martin of the year from within the garden but as yet nothing! Weather wise it really has been lovely with the warmest day of the year being today at 16:00 whereby it reached 21.3ºC. We ate tea out on the decking and I took to a bit of gardening. The garden has needed some attention after having abandoned it for most of last year so it has taken quite some time to get it something like a place of pleasure. 
I have found by mistake a gem of a plant called Night Scented Phlox.....I thought it was night scented stock when I picked it up....what a great smell. It opens it's flowers come evening and fills the air with a vanilla like scent

May '11
Weather This Month
Max Temp = 20.2°C   Min Temp = -1.0   Mean Temp = 10.3°C   
Max Wind = 21 mph    
  Day's Of Rain Over 2mm =20 Rain 24hr Max = 16.61mm   Rain For Month = 138.4 mm
6th. We had about 5mm of rain yesterday and today a miserly 1.5mm. The strange thing is that whilst the weather has gone a lot more cloudy it did not stop a warm temp today of 20.2C being reached at 17:15. It's now 19:15 and it's still 18.6C which is very nice indeed.
Interest is all around at present with a strong suspicion that after last years very successful Bumble Bee nest we may have another nest in progress not 1m from last years. I hope so as it was fascinating to watch at close quarters. 
More Swifts piled in today with many screaming...it feels like summer is nearing it's end already!
5th. Sat in the garden this afternoon, which I decided to take off, had me doing a few jobs in the garden. A lot of planting has taken place this year although strangely I am finding it difficult to locate a favourite plant that is a superb addition to the wildlife garden. The Verbena Bonarensis is superb in it's stature and it's ability to offer food to insects is superb. Other plants added are Snap Dragon, Cosmos, Hounds Tongue, Lupin, Dahlia ( all single flowering) Wall Flower and amongst others Teasle.
The Mistle Thrushes are the first to show us this years young and it has been great watching the parents feed two youngsters on the sultanas we put out to feed them and other birds.
My prediction to see Swift on 20th May may have been wrong as already several reports from the valley have been of Swifts. I shall look out for my own.
No rain for at least 3 weeks may well end today as I sit here on the decking the skies are darkening and the wind is just getting a touch fractious. To be fair the pond is in desperate need of water as I can't remember it being so low but the rain is evading us as even the forecast said rain by 16:00.....it's now 16:12 and no rain!
Late Edition. Having tempted fate on a few points I have got it wrong on two fronts. First it started raining at 16:26 today and is still lightly drizzling. The other I was very glad to be wrong about and that was the sighting of Swift. I came up into the office at 20:00 and immediately looked into the sky to see a pair of Swifts meandering quite low. Lovely sight indeed and one nobody could ever live long enough to tire from.
The other thing of note is that we are now entering dust from probably the most well known of all meteors , Halley's Comet. The meteor shower which can vaguely be noticed in the Northern Hemisphere is named Eta Aquarids. At it's peak between 5/6th May we should see about 10 meteors per hour but the Southern Hemisphere will see more like 30 per hour.

June '11
Weather This Month
Max Temp = 27.7°C   Min Temp = 1.8°C  Mean Temp = 12.4°C   
 Max Wind = 14 mph    
Day's Of Rain Over 2mm =11   Rain 24hr Max =  24.61mm   Rain For Month = 114.2 mm
30th.  A couple of things I need to include in the garden diary but for now I shall just leave you with these pictures of a real welcome visitor to the garden and indeed a first record ( I think) for Rossendale of a headless wonder!
The picture of this Little Egret is of an individual a long way away but a good record non the less. It has stuck around Holden Wood Res and Ogden Res over the Haslingden Grane. My first in Rossendale even at distance.
An enforced day off today as a hospital appointment was attended. What a good bit of timing as on my return I looked out into the garden and noticed the unmistakable movement of a very special moth....especially this far North and considering the overall cool temps up here of late. I have recorded these beauties on at least two occasions previous but that was later in the year when it was a lot warmer!
If you are not familiar with this species that is becoming more regular to these shores then please click the link for more inforamtion, and better pictures! HERE
Anyway the zig zag movement had me dashing for the point and shoot camera and luckily it obliged even though it needs warming up the moth hung around feeding from Primula Candelabra and Red Campion.
.The pictures, whilst poor, are good enough for me as these are notoriously difficult to capture due to the speed of their wings and coupled with the poor light and overcast conditions, I am pleased. Mandy may get a better chance with her DSLR setup...but did I mention some have to work!
27th.  Wow....it seems that a lot of the country shared in the high temps over the last two days. Some parts of the country have seen over 30C+ but here in the Rossendale Valley 248m above sea level it topped out at 27.7C which I think is the 2nd hottest temp I have ever recorded in the garden. To be honest it felt very stuffy and a high dewpoint of 21.1C today confirmed that. The useless humidity percentages  that meteorologists use in telling you how muggy things are is nonsensical, rather if you are interested in a more useful scale in the measurement of how muggy the day is then I would recommend reading up on dewpoint.
26th.  Ah ah.....the weather listened to my complaints and as the temps rose throughout today it did remind me of the comments I made as somehow even though it was 25C it began to spit! Mandy and I both laughed as the clouds were hardly noticeable so we wondered where it was coming from. Anyway that soon passed and eventually we hit this years high at 17:03 topping out at 25.8C. Id did drop again before it reached those highs again at 18:30 where it plateaued, and as I write this at 19:20 the temp are still high at 25.4C . It has been a remarkable change round from the rubbish weather we have had and whilst the wind has been evident today gusting up to 14mph it's been lovely. I have sat out on the deck most of it with just a few chores pulling me away now and again and Mandy decided she would like to resemble a belisha beacon, something she has accomplished!
Now what will the weather hold next week I wonder!
25th. The weather is really quite poor and sadly this has been the case since April. As you can see we have already had almost 5" of rain so far this month and the summer solstice on the 21st had us turning house lights on at 19:00! It really does seem odd that some of this little Island are undergoing droughts whilst others have forgotten what the warming of the sun feels like.
The weather report has suggested that a heatwave may hit us this weekend but as I write this at 17:00 I can assure you it has not been in the Rossendale valley. Non the less undeterred I now read that Sunday is going to top 22C.....oh good at least it will be warm rain then!
21st.  I set the new gadget up last night to just test out how it went about it's buisiness. I knew I had several hedgehogs visiting but what I did not know was how many times in the course of the evening they visited the garden looking for the food I put out. I presume we have more than two individuals but one things for sure we can prove we have two!
20th. Mandy and I celebrated our 12 wedding anniversary yesterday and today I am another year older. The gadget count grew during this time period thanks to an inspired buy from Mandy. A Bushnell trailcam was given to me and so I tested out both the video and picture capabilities. A couple of visitors were recorded today whilst we were out. I shall be testing it's night time capabilities tonight also but for now a few daytime visitors will have to suffice.
I think it shows great promise in it's chosen field but what visitors will it record overnight I wonder!!!!
3rd. Pheww what a scorcher....it's hard to believe we have been struggling for double figures in temps of late and now we are hitting year highs. It finally peaked at 17:43 today whilst topping out at 25.3C. 
No further sightings today of the young Blue Tit I photographed yesterday, I can only hope it made it to the safety of trees and mum!
2nd. The weather today was something that resembled spring/summer with a nice high of 22.9C being reached by late afternoon. It's strange as the press have been reporting on a dry May as though only the South of the country exists as we have had plenty throughout May.
The birds to have responded to the great weather with a flurry of youngsters visiting us for the first time this year. A nestbox at the far end of the garden has Blue Tits in....well I say in... they are now out and one is sitting very precariously on the garden floor tucked into the foot of a buddleia. I hope it makes it through the night as we will be keeping the cat in but other cats do patrol also. the picture below is the very bird I mention and you can see that it is a very young bird indeed with the yellow of the gape still very much in evidence.
Great Tit's have not been outdone as later this evening I could hear them calling as mum fed them wax worms that I have been putting out in small numbers. Sure enough I could see one of the youngsters been fed a worm which as always was greatly received. Goldfinch young have been visiting since last Saturday with those now numbering two. We have a pair of Male Bullfinch visiting with only the odd visit from a female. I am hoping that the male is passing regurgitated seed on to the young and hope for a chance to see a few of the young in the garden.
Other thing of note today as the sun shone was a visit by a small Skipper butterfly. It has also come to my attention that the rapidly spreading Tree Bumblebee has been recorded this far north so I am keeping my eye out for these as they were only recorded in the UK in 2001 so the fast spread of these is remarkable.

July '11

Weather This Month
Max Temp = 24.2°C   Min Temp = 4.8°C  Mean Temp = 14°C  
Max Wind = 16 mph    
  Day's Of Rain Over 2mm =10    Rain 24hr Max =  22.61   Rain For Month = 118.8mm
31st.  Well a real empty page this month as I have been busy with other things. No pictures as I have sold my camera that I use to take snaps with....but a new one is on the horizon!
I have also found a recently revamped listing software for my birding counts and lists. It is so far proving really good as it is free, on line so that any computer can read the info, data is used in science and actually does it quite well. If anybody is interested it is called Ebird and you can find a link by clicking HERE
I have also been trying to lose weight. Since I finished my treatment over 14 months ago I have now managed (not easily I must say) to lose 2 stone as I ballooned due to my high dose of steroids, extra food and time off work. 
Mandy and I have both been walking more recently and it's proved I have found little time to update certain areas of the site although I have been updating trip reports on both our last trip to India and our upcoming jaunt to Portugal.
The hedgehogs are still visiting although I have been surprised that I have not seen any young. I shall post a picture from the camera trap in a short while.

August '11

Weather This Month
Max Temp = 25.1°C   Min Temp = 5.9°C  Mean Temp = 13.4°C  
Max Wind = 17mph    
Day's Of Rain Over 2mm =19   Rain 24hr Max =  27.20mm   Rain For Month =  170mm
15th. August.....balmy summer evenings, BBQ dinner on the decking, glass of wine maybe on in the garden....not likely. What a month on the whole. It's been wet almost constantly with some 32mm being thrown at us on one day alone. It has rained for 13 of the last 15 days and it has been at times cool in the sun and very cold out of it. Indian summer anyone?
No young hedgehogs have been noted on my trail cam although there is still time I am now thinking we may not see any this year.
I am missing not having a point and shoot camera now that I have sold my usual model although the lack of insects, butterflies and bees have certainly been hard to photograph you to their derth.
3rd The warmest day of the year today at just after 17:00. it was hot and very clammy but it has been very nice to be able to go out walking every other evening without fear of getting wet. In truth it's been a little bit cat and mouse as it was only the first evening that I thought it OK to go out without a thin jacket!
Bird wise it was very quiet and the garden to seems to be entering the same quiet spell. I hate to say it but it feels like things are changing as we head toward a favourite season of mine, Autumn.
It must be time for our annual pilgrimage to the British Bird fair in Rutland.  just hope it's dry!
1st. A day late but non the less having checked my trail camera I thought this had a nice colour to it due to the low early morning light. A Blackbird is always one of the first up to find food along with magpies and jay

September '11

Weather This Month
Max Temp = 26.4°C   Min Temp = 4.2°C  Mean Temp = 12.9°C  
Max Wind = 20mph    
Day's Of Rain Over 2mm =18  Rain 24hr Max =  31.6mm   Rain For Month =  186.6mm
30th.  PPPhhhheeewwwww...another hot temp today with another record temp for the garden being recorded, that's the third in 3 days! Today it took an extra hour to get to the new record of 26.4C at 16:27. The really interesting thing will be that October is only a day away and that could signal record highs recorded for October also. We shall see.
29th.  A scorcher again today and yes a record temp for Sept with it sneaking past the old record of24.2ºC, from 2006, and carrying on until at 15:37 it topped 25.6ºC. It felt lovely indeed. The other interesting thing is that it shows just how poor this year has been on the whole as it also is the second highest temp the garden has reached all year with only June's 27.7ºC topping it.
I note that things will start to slide ever so slightly as we head to weekend....forgive me but with our upcoming hol I hope we see no rain until then!
28th.  Yikes...they got it right. The hottest day of the month and it felt quite sticky at times due to the mercury rising to 23.7ºC at 16:47 today. It's supposed to carry on for a few more days yet so who knows we may see a record temp for the month being recorded, if that has not happened already, I shall have to check back.
Not had much time to notice the birds but I again cleaned the feeders replacing all the feeder trays that are contaminated with droppings etc.
25th.  It seems that we may get a mini Indian summer after all as the weather forecast is suggesting highs of 22ºC by late next week with a slow improvement as at this afternoon. Well it's not happening as I write this at midday. The 13.7ºC at present is so far the highest temp for today and we have had 3mm of rain.
Birds are still quality rather than quantity at the moment as the lack of common birds like Blackbirds are a missed visitor. We have Bullfinch young and adults along with several Goldfinch, chaffinch and
Greenfinch, some of which are diseased most probably with Trichomonosis. This is sadly becoming ever more present each year and I would urge anybody that feeds garden birds to take a moment to read through the following information
About Trichomonosis HERE
GBHi website HERE
I have so far noted 3 adult Greenfinch and 1 juvenile Bullfinch showing signs of this parasite.
In line with what is advised I have cleaned my feeders and most likely will be stopping feeding for a few weeks.
19th.  Mandy and I spent a little time away at Spurn over the weekend and on return I wondered what may have visited the garden so yesterday I checked the trail cam. I had noted that there were remnants of feathers in the garden so I wondered what had happened. I was hoping that the culprit would be revealed as how many times does something occur leaving us wondering what had really happened and was it that pesky cat again? As normal a few birds, a lot of Squirrel photos and then something of a surprise as i searched for the photos pertaining to the feathers.
It started with a nice shot of the usual Jays that are now regularly coming for monkey nuts.
Later on it came clear whom was to blame for the feathers
Taken at 16:27 ( the prey is under the Sparrowhawk)
Taken 16:27
Taken 16:33
Taken 16:34
Taken 16:54
Wow.....I knew a couple of Sparrowhawks were busy at the moment as I have noted quite a few attacks but this is the first I have captured. It was all over in 20mins but I am not sure if the body was carried away of eaten on the spot. I changed the settings of the camera to take fewer pictures and with longer gaps between triggers which seems a shame now. I am certain it is a Starling that has been killed on this occasion. 
12th. Mandy and I braved the gusty winds this evening for our walk out round our local res. As we reached about 1000ft above sea level and reached flat land it became fun as the wind made it difficult to keep your balance. Did not seem to much trouble for the many House Martins, Swallows and Carrion Crows that seem almost to be enjoying the gusts.
I hope other people have not been seriously affected by the strong winds as it seems Scotland in particular may have seen some rather bad weather. I hope all are safe.
My hospital visit is on my mind at present and I will be glad to ask about a strange thing that has come up on my hand over the last week or so.
11th.  Today is a day the world stopped for a large proportion of the world in some form or another ten years ago. It's still a very surreal event that took place at the twin towers and in the end all the talking seems distracting. I thought the following track I have used elsewhere on the website was also a respectful contemplation on an event that often leaves you speechless.
Back to the diary and today Mandy, my Dad and Myself were treated to a new bird for Rossendale. A beauty that sadly cannot be disclosed due to any disruption possibilities from unscrupulous people.
All the talk about Tropical Storm Katia seems to have died down fortunately as it seems to have faded away having read only last night how 80mph were headed for North West Scotland. The wind was supposed to hit later today and carrying on through Monday. The wind in the garden has certainly increased with gusts up to 15-17mph being recorded and the main feature is the constant blustery wind that is present. Quite a few people will be pleased if Katia has decided to diminish no doubt.
4th.  This year has built on the last few years that Bullfinch have been visiting and breeding near to the garden. We have had at least 3 adult pair visit us this year and a minimum of 8 youngsters over several broods which are no doubt from several if not all of the pairs visiting. I notice that Bullfinch can have up to two broods a year. The latest young visiting are three individuals which have now become more or less independent of mum and dad although this picture did have mum visit with them but out of shot of the camera.
One notable ommision from the garden over the last 3 weeks or so are the Lesser Redpolls. They are no longer visiting and neither have we heard them whilst out walking close to there local breeding sites. I am not sure where they go at this time of year but they often return later in the season.....well I hope for that!
The Jays are making the most of the monkey nuts that I have been putting out with up to three visiting at once. I love their raucous calls yet I have also noticed a very subdued cat come whine sort of contact call between them. I had me what it was at first as it seems anything but bird like.
3rd.  We have had a cracking female Sparrowhawk visiting the garden of late and as I peered out the office window at 14:00 today I witnessed her grab a Feral Pigeon but sadly even though she got it to the ground it managed to evade her. Mandy managed a few pictures of her rueing the opportunity.
You can make out that in her right talon shows evidence of the strike.
1st. An afternoon at home and of all things.....the sun shone and it felt half warm! I did a lot of tidying in the garden and I was not the only one making the most of the long forgotten summer sun. I eventually got my new camera the superb Panasonic TZ20 and I made use of it. It most certainly a better macro camera then my last TZ7 camera as it's focus was a lot more accurate.
As soon as I looked out into the garden I recognised a welcome visitor and one that we have not seen for a few seasons. The other strange thing was that I was telling a customer about my lack of sightings of this beauty so it was strange to have one turn up.
We also had numerous other butterflies make a dash for the flowers soaked in sunshine and one of my favourite plants also suited the butterflies, Verbena Bonariensis.
I also forgot to mention that last month I noted the first Willow Warbler of the the season slip through the garden.
I note the weathermen are suggesting that September is going to be cool and stormy.....is that any different from now I ask......on the quiet I am hoping for a super Indian summer though.

October '11
Weather This Month
Max Temp = 26.1°C   Min Temp = -1.9°C  Mean Temp = 10.5°C  
Max Wind = 17mph    
Day's Of Rain Over 2mm = 14  Rain 24hr Max =  28.6mm   Rain For Month =  181mm
31st. It seems the garden is taking a break at present with all the warm temps around. The birds must be finding enough food at present in the wider countryside as the garden remains devoid of much action. I really look forward to the Blackbirds returning to the garden for the sultanas, but as yet they seem nervous and showing little interest in taking food.
My vismig watching could not take place on Sunday as I returned home in the early hours after a night out and fog of all things decided to throw itself into the mix so sadly I could not get my Fieldfare fix.
The hedgehogs seem to have disappeared for now although I am not convinced they have hibernated as the temps have been to high for this to occur. I shall have to check my trail cam for any evidence.
23rd.  I was looking forward to seeing Thrushes on our return from Portugal and my first chance I took was this morning. I have a place picked out that has a good vantage point and I was not disappointed as mainly Fieldfare eventually turned up en masse with some of them coming over my head at 3 meters.....fantastic as I just love the Thrushes in the winter. The funny thing is that I noted different calls whilst they were flying than I have noted before. It was a gentle call rather than the more harsh "chack-chack-chack". Woodpigeon also was noted in a few numbers. I have posted a vismig page on the left hand menu for those interested. That page includes a map of where I stand and an automatically updated list of bird noted whilst there. For now I will just give a summary of today's sightings.
Visible Migration, Whitworth, Manchester, GB-ENG
Oct 22, 2011 8:00 AM - 10:00 AM
Protocol: Stationary
21 species

Eurasian Sparrowhawk 1
Common Kestrel 1
Black-headed Gull 12 (1-5-2-4)
Common Wood-Pigeon 30 (6-6-6-1-12)
Eurasian Jay 3
Common Magpie 30 This group congregated before a long dispersal period.
Rook 1
Carrion Crow 7 ( 1-1-2-3)
Great Tit 3
Long-tailed Tit 8
Eurasian Wren 2
Goldcrest 2
Eurasian Blackbird 2
Fieldfare 208 (20-10-90-50-2-36)
Redwing 10 (10)
European Starling 18 ( 1-12-5)
Dunnock 2
Common Chaffinch 8 (4-2-2)
European Greenfinch 5 ( 1-1-3)
Common Linnet 7
Eurasian Bullfinch 2
20th.  The first minus temps have hit the garden today with -1.9ºC being posted at 06:30 this morning. It's compounded the holiday effect we have experienced since our return and I have sadly given in to having the heating in the home on!
I forgot to mention the other day that a few Magpies have taken to flying up to the office window that I watch the garden from and sitting there quite happily as I move around in the room. They seem also to have connected me with food so I shall be exploring this shortly when I will begin responding to what I "think" they may be asking of me....I shall see. Bit of footage to Autumn watch may well be in order.
18th.  Back safe and sound after a great holiday to Portugal. We now start the task of sifting through thousands of images and collating info for the trip report.
The feeders were empty in the garden so I was up early to fill them up and it did not take long for the birds to notice with a very welcome sight of Blackbird and Wren putting in an appearance. The Jays and Magpies are business as usual with the monkey nuts and the Starlings are making the most of the windy conditions as a small party float around the area on the buffeting winds.
Did I mention the weather.....yes we are home, it's windy, wet and feeling rather cool....we have swapped highs of 32ºC and lows of 15ºC for temps of high so far today of 7ºC and lows of 3.6ºC. It feels cold!
1st.  Hold the weather talk as a lovely sight this morning as I decided to watch the garden for about 06:30. I was commenting only the other day to Mandy that our usual Great Spotted Woodpecker has missed his cue as for at least the last 3 years a young one finding his own spot often visits the garden, first noticing the peanut basket and shortly after swapping alegience to the fat cakes. Sure enough at 08:15 the red trousers stood out as it clung to a branch before heading for the peanuts and then the fat cakes. This time for the first time in 4 years a female has turned up. I, like most folk, love the GSW and I just hope that she now accompanies us through the winter months.
I shall have to put out plenty of fat cakes whilst we take our short break away.

November '11
Weather This Month
Max Temp = 14.9°C   Min Temp = -1.6°C  Mean Temp = 8°C  
Max Wind = 22mph    
Day's Of Rain Over 2mm = 11   Rain 24hr Max =  15.8mm   Rain For Month = 95mm   Rain For The Year = 1417.2mm
28th.  A trip out to Martin Mere over the weekend had us enjoying Swans, Geese and Marsh harriers. We also had a look around the North West Birdfair stalls held at the Mere and in truth it was terrible as few stalls of interest were present. I did have a good chat with the lady on the Red Squirrel stand which was nice. My father perused a stall of wood carvings and bushcraft having recently become very active in this field. Mandy set her eyes on a new pocket guide to Butterflies and I treated myself to a DVD on the birds of Northern America. The DVD will help with a few of the birds we hope to see next year although over 500 species are on the DVD I would be happy to encounter 180.
I had things to do on Saturday on my return from work and Sunday was at Martin Mere so few chances to check out the garden in daylight. I did steal a few moments at first light on Saturday morning though and boy was it a treat with plenty of Chaffinch and Goldfinch present. Four Blackbird also were present and much to my delight one was tucking into the berries on our homegrown Pyracantha plant. Next up was a sighting a lovely female Great Spotted Woodpecker as it strangely clung to the sunflower feeder for some time as it picked out sunflowere heart one after the other. Gone are the days of peanuts I think. Not to be outdone a cracking Song Thrush leapt down to the sultana feeder and snatched a few before heading to the security of the Elder tree. Winter, dare I say, is here!
20th. The garden is starting to come to life as the average temps begin to fall so the birds start to seek gardens more and more. As most of the reports suggest it has by no means been cold as most days reach double figures, but it has been cooling down every so slightly with the odd dip down to where an air frost has been present. Dare I say it but the rain has mostly been non present but I have noted that this could change for the coming week as a Westerly moves in. The Goldfinches are the first to show signs of the change with small flocks of 20 birds zipping between feeders and the tops of next doors sycamore trees. I have still not noted any real numbers of Blackbirds with only singles been seen as they sometimes steal an odd sultana before disappearing with a high pitched wail! Jays are now regular as clockwork as I put out monkey nuts before first light. They have to make the most of this early feed as I am unable to put them out before dark in the evenings. They are so keen to be fed they are often here before any real light is noted. This beats the Squirrels and Magpies.
The garden is still quite green on the whole and even the odd flower from a Verbena and soapwort are still braving the days.

7th. We decided to have a look at the new nature reserve that has been created by the Lancashire Wildlife Trust just outside Preston. Brockholes Quarry opened it's doors this year with it's cutting edge visitor centre design that is a floating island in effect. The centre itself is very impressive and it does feel quite different from other Nature Reserves we have visited. It's brief is to share nature with everybody of all ages, sexes and levels of appreciation. It hits the mark spot on with that remit but as primarily a birder it seems the hides are a jack of all trades yet master of non. Sadly the design is strange with windows being obscured at eye level and the ledges to low to lean on. the other thing that I am surprised at is that they have been built out of wood that has ended the life of two hides already due to them being burnt down and others being vandalised to great extent leading to many windows smashed out.
Where the reserve is a winner is the promise that this site holds. Already fantastic birds have been recorded and I am sure that once things fill in and grow up it really could be a premier site to visit. We made ourselves members only to find that we have to pay the same amount to park the car as those who are not members. A convoluted explanation is forthcoming but to be honest you can never excuse members being treated the same as non members. we note we are supposed to think of it as helping Lancashire Wildlife Trust....MMmmmm.
Did that sound negative? Well in truth it really is a superb site despite it's approach to reach out to all people. It is our second visit to the area and most certainly will not be our last. In two visits it has cost us £15 in car parking charges which is a considerable cost over only two visits but I am sure this is something that will change in time. If you would like to read more please click HERE.
We noted 38 species on our trip and was surprised to note so many Dragonflies and Butterflies on the wing. No Swans apart form mute but the Ancient woodland is very beautiful at this time of year. It helped as it was a day of blue skies and whilst in the sun, warmth! We even had 3 Buzzards soaring on thermals.
Before we set off for Brockholes I quickly visited my Vis mig spot and after getting there at 06:45 I was pleased to count many Fieldfares (326 in total) Also had a couple of Crossbills land right at the side of me which was ace. I managed two hours as it was freezing but I was happy with the amount of Thrushes.

December '11

Weather This Month
Max Temp = 11.6°C   Min Temp = -4.9°C   Mean Temp = 4.3°C  
Max Wind = 26mph    
Day's Of Rain Over 2mm = 24   Rain 24hr Max =  21.4mm   Rain For Month = 265.2mm   Rain For The Year = 1682.4mm
31st. Another year over and I am sure I am not alone when I say that I am grateful of that fact and even more grateful that I have many more to share with both family and the natural world. I always felt I have not seen or done enough yet as I still wake every day to a healthy outlook of wonderment for what lies ahead in the day. Anticipation of good things that may happen is something than runs through me.
I recently noted a few words from Martha Sher Epstein 
To be Alive 

It’s good to be alive
To laugh and love and thrive
On the things that make life worth while
Like the sweetness of your smile

It’s great to be alive
To be aware, to share, to strive
For the things that make life worth while
Like the joy of a good lifestyle

Yes, it’s great to be alive
To sing - to dance - to have a romance
To get from life Another chance
To be A-L-I-V-E 
Happy New Year to all who read and indeed to all that have not found the natural world.....yet!
30th.  A good look into the garden with a clean of the feeders and a stock up of food did the trick as a welcome visitor appeared with the numerous Chaffinch. The Brambling is not a common visitor so I am always pleased when one turns up. It is a poor picture but non the less
Despite the picture (weather and light verses distance) it is probably the best coloured Brambling we have had visit the garden as even the black head has some good markings.
It's raining still although I did get chance to do a few jobs around the garden this morning. I note with a big sigh that the weather is to remain like this for at least the next 4 days with a chance of an odd dry spell in between. Where is the clear crisp days I ask myself.
29th.  Mandy and I have been out birding a few times lately although the weather has been a little unkind. The rain has actually been kind but the winds have been wicked. A high tide at Marshside, Southport had us scampering over to what is a great place for winter birds. Thousands of waders, ducks and gulls all flitting about. The close views of thousands of Pink Feet was fantastic but although I searched a lot of these individuals I could not find myself a white fronted version. I also did not do enough homework to add Glaucous Gull and Great White Egret to the list but it was a good day despite the winds that at times were hard to stand up in. I did manage a nice shot of this Kestrel which was cowering out of the winds in a dyke.
We also visited Pennington Flash which again is a very good site in Lancashire. Again sadly the winds were cruel and it made viewing distant birds through a scope challenging to say the least. We had a nice view of a pair of Gooseander and some lovely Gadwall coupled with the very smart Teal. It was quiet on the finch front and the only place of any real intent was the feeding station hide where Bullfinch, Willow Tit, Reed Buntings and many of the Tit family showed nicely. I was quite taken with a couple of Stock Dove at the back of the area as I had not seen these for some time. 
25th.  Well I hope Santa has brought you something a little merry. 
I found it interesting to note that on this day 12 months ago the minimum temp got down to -10.2ºC and a max of -2.4ºC. It seems a far cry from today's balmy 10.8ºC which is actually the highest temp recorded this December.
20th.  Whilst too many in the world only one date is of any importance in December to me that is also true but my important date is  the 22nd. Normally it is the 21st but this year at around 05:20 on the 22nd the sun is at its most angular and southerly point meaning as from the 23rd days get longer and nights get shorter. Ahhhh, don't get me wrong I have come to love winter, particularly cold and snowy ones but I do miss my dose of vitamin D. 
18th.  If it is going to snow I always think it is better to have a load of the stuff and whilst the news of a pump failure on the central heating that occurred last night as the lowest temp of this winter were recorded (-4.9ºC), dampened the mood, I was still pleased to hear Mandy tell me it had snowed. I got up around 7 whilst it was still dark and snowing to try and take a picture with my point and shoot whilst still dark.
A view down the street a few houses away from us.It is atmospheric I always feel. This is of course as I sit in the relative warmth (minus any heating) of the house.
The queue for the peanut feeder was where many a fierce scrap ensued!
In total about 2-3" has fallen but as I write this at 09:30 it is already beginning to thaw. 
11th.  The overall warm temps have caused a strange time of year as it seems impossible to tell what time of year it actually is. This has been evident in flowering plants like the Snap dragons and Red Campion that are still flowering along with a lot of greenery still present on such plants like the black Elder and the Spindle. This has been the case for the birds also using the garden as we have already heard Mistle Thrush song (1st) Song Thrush song (8th) and today a most welcome melody from a Blackbird (11th). Mandy and I actually first heard a Blackbird song the day before as we were out in a nearby town. Interesting for the garden as we have never noted these occurences so early before.
The other thing that had me wondering as I watched the garden today was what are Long Tailed Tits called that have no tail?
6th. The weather again is the hot topic as the first real bit of snow has fallen over the last few days. this morning it looked quite festive but it soon started to fall as rain instead. I love snow and the only disappointment is that we never really get enough...it all goes great before it turns to rain and slush. The amount of bird food I am using at present indicates this change in weather as the sunflower hearts are needing topping up daily almost. sadly like most things the price of bird food, like everything else, has gone up and it's hard to believe that a 20kg bag of sunflower hearts 8 years ago cost me £20. The same bag now costs £32. I simply could not imagine giving up feeding the birds so as they say here up north "pay up and look cheerful" and I do! 
3rd.  As many interested in the natural world will have noticed that the winter seems to have now kicked in with a few below zero temps being recorded. We have even put the heating on today! The birds have responded to the change in weather with Blackbirds feeding off apples that I have put on the lawn and a welcome visit by a stunning male Bullfinch on a few occasions today. I hope he sticks around for the winter although it would not surprise me if he is just passing though heading south. 
A treat also today as Mandy managed to secure 3 tickets for the upcoming Boss tour next year. It's no surprise that ticketmaster and livenation have a bad reputation though as it seems a very strategic effort to thwart your efforts are considered fare game. 
Back to the weather as today it has been horrid with lead grey skies blustery winds and a heavy drizzle. That was not forecast at all so i am hoping we will get the better weather tomorrow as I need to clear up a few things in the garden.

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