The Garden Diary
-Up to the end of March 2001
Throughout the past year I
have kept a cctv watch on the blue tit and robin boxes. Since
last year's nesting neither box has been used for roosting by
any birds. However, recently there have been occasional periods
of daytime activity in and around the blue tit box.
January (all times GMT)
7th - Two visits by a fox this morning, 8.30 and 9.15am. It looked healthy. We often hear foxes call in the night and I have seen them in the garden during darkness,but this is the first time I have seen one in the garden in daylight.
8th - A Sparrowhawk caught a sparrow and ate it by
the side of the pond, leaving a small patch of feathers. Our
flock of house sparrows is currently about 30 strong. I am considering
building a multiple nest box to put up under the eves at the
back of the house for them.
The first snowdrop flower bud has appeared.
11th - A blue tit seen in the box for a short time during the late morning. Unable to grab an image as my PC is out of action.
12th - A sunny day with a cold wind. Our female
blackbird still has a drooping wing as a result of two attacks
last year. However, It does not seem to hinder her now and, just
like the male, she frequently comes to feed by the Hawthorn.
She is also quick to take up the offer of mealworms in a corner
hidden behind our caravan. When I put mealworms out there is
usually a race between her and the robin to get the best ones!
13th - Great tits and a male greenfinch at feeder at 8.30am
15th - Blue tit activity around and in the box is becoming
a daily affair now. Yesterday saw several hours of occupation
with the occasional challenge from a third bird. At one time
the bird inside the box remained motionless for about five minutes
in response to a visit to the garden by the sparrowhawk.
I have not seen any dunnocks during the last week. This is unusual as they are normally regular visitors below the hawthorn.
19th - On a cloudy, cold morning with a little snow (1C) 30+ sparrows feeding Also, a pair of great tits back after an absence of a couple of weeks. A solitary goldfinch spent a couple of minutes on the bird table. The blue tits' daytime activities continue around and in the bird box.
The collared doves seem to be starting the preparation of their usual roosting/nesting site up in the leylandii.
22nd - A dull, wet day saw only limited activity in the garden. However the late afternoon saw a prolonged visit by a wren to the ponds. It is becoming a regular at the small pond where it goes down to the water's edge in the shelter of the iris plants. After bathing it returned to the Hawthorn tree to preen before going back down to hunt amongst the irises. It then went on to the big pond and spent some time there before disappearing back into the bushes.
30th - Over the last couple of days a small number of bits of straw have been brought into the BT nestbox. No roosting as yet. Still no sign of any frogs. Numerous snowdrop flower buds but none open yet. The robin pair are often together now, especially when mealworms are offered.
I have seen no more grass gathering
by the collared doves although they spend quite a lot of daylight
time going in and out of the leylandii. Last week I caught a
brief glimpe of my first goldcrest of the year.
11th - The first frogs in the pond today, counted 10. The snowdrops have all opened.
12th - Counted dozens of frogs today.
15th - The female robin spent some time this afternoon collecting nesting material and taking it behind the trees. It was a sunny day so perhaps she was misled by the good weather. Frog activity in the pond has come to an almost complete halt.
17th - I put up a block of four birdboxes for sparrows today. Also I weighed the robins! They both topped the scales at 21-22gm. Hopefully I can get the blackbirds onto the scales in the next couple of days to compare their weights with last year.
23rd - The male robin fed mealworms to his partner for the first time.
25th - Courtship feeding by the robin continues. The sparrows have started squabbling in the bushes. I watched three males around a female. They were pecking at her and she was responding in kind. The female robin has started putting on weight (now 23-24g). The male remained unchanged. The male blackbird weighed 101g.
26th - The female blackbird weighed 100-101g today
27th - Four song thrushes spent time in the garden this morning. there was displaying and a brief fight between two of them. They fed on ivy berries. There is a good number of sparrows here in the daytime now, 30+ today. Saw a goldcrest at the bottom of the garden.
28th - Three long tailed tits spent time here this morning, feeding on a fat ball in the hawthorn. Two returned in the afternoon. Watched as a wren hunted for food below the hawthorn and among iris plants in pond. The female blackbird weighs 105g today, and the female robin is 25g.
2nd - At last I managed to get a photograph of the robin pair together. Unfortunately, whlie the female is calling for food, the male had not got round to picking up a mealworm. Usually the feeding takes place away from the dish.
3rd - Watched a goldcrest hunting in the burberis bush. Saw a dunnock in the garden for the first time since Christmas.
7th - Yesterday saw a change to milder weather and with it a reappearance of lots of frogs in the ponds. A song thrush appeared in the garden yesterday and has returned this morning. Each time, after a short period on the ground it is chased away by the male blackbird. The female blackbird has been taking small amounts of nesting materials up into the leylandii. Blue tit box visits continue daily. Very little extra nesting material has been brought in as yet. A pair of green finches are daily visitors to the feeder, as are a pair of great tits.
8th - The sparrow hawk visited today. I saw it perched on the fence by the Blue tit box, looking a bit bedraggled. After a couple of minutes it flew to the top of the ivy tree and made a half hearted effort to investigate it's contents. A magpie arrived, landed next to it, and moments later they both flew off. Soon afterwards the thrushes came to the ivy to feed. The female blackbird is definitely nest building in the leylandii.
9th - The first frog spawn appeared today. There must be 70+ frogs in the pond now. The female blackbird is taking nesting materials from by the small pond to her nest high in the leylandii. She has not tried this spot before.
10th -Female robin weighed 28g against male's 20-21g this morning. The male blackbird weighs 104g. The female blackbird continues nest building - has not started taking moss yet. Watched song thrush digging for worms by snowdrops. Later there were three of them at the bottom of the garden, at the top of the ivy tree.
11th - Song thrushes were feeding again.
12th - The female blackbird has put on 16g
in the last two weeks and is now 116g. In this picture you can
see her damaged right wing.
- The first Lesser
Celandine flowers have opened in the morning sunshine.
17th - A cold, dull and very damp day has meant another quiet day. I caught only brief glimpses of greenfinches, great tits and the song thrushes in addition to our usuals. The highlight came in the early afternoon when the sparrow hawk arrived and spent some time trying unsuccessfully to scare some sparrows out of the berberis bush. Unfortunately, by the time I grabbed my camera it had given up, perching itself on top of a tree behind the leylandii.
18th - Another cold, dull morning (4C at 11am) has meant activities in the garden were a bit slow today. However, when I put mealworms out the female blackbird weighed 108g. After checking that the scales were set properly I took advantage of the fact that she was feeding to climb up the leylandii to check on her nest. This is not as strenuous as it seems. I have constructed a walkway up there for when I clip the tree tops and a ladder is permanently in place.
She has built a nest just under the tree canopy, completely hidden from above. In it I found three eggs - this explains her loss of weight.
The nest itself is a remarkably neat affair. In the photograph you can see that it appears to be made up of layers. It would be a great temptation to try to set up a TV camera but I am concerned that I do not cause unnecessary stress.
Despite the cold, I saw my first bumble bee of the year at lunchtime.
I had a close look at the hawthorn this afternoon. Some of the buds on it are quite well developed (see right).
19th - We are having some sunshine today and
the opening of the first white dead nettle flowers (Lamium
album), at the side of the small pond and one of the snake's
head fritillary (Fritillaria meleagris)flower buds looks
as though it is about to open.
20th - On a cold, dull morning, with a few snowflakes
in the air, the female
The daytime temperature has struggled to get above 1C all day and we have had periods of wet snow. Activity in the garden has been at a minimum, although we have had a visit from the sparrowhawk who could not find anything to catch. A song thrush has been down by the hawthorn eating several worms this afternoon and a couple of female chaffinches have been here several times.
21st - A slightly less cold (6C) and dry day has not seen a great increase in activity today. However, I spent quite a while watching a pair of song thrushes hunting worms between the hawthorn and the house. Poor light made it difficult to get a good photo opportunity. They are very wary of any movement that I make even with me inside the house.
- This morning saw
an increase in temperature so that by 9am it was over 7C and
this afternoon it reached 13C, with snatches of sunshine. It
was enough of an improvement to bring out he first wild pansy
flower (Viola tricolor) by the small pond.
23rd - A miserable, wet day with even the feeder quiet
for most of the day. The highlight has been an all too brief
visit to the table by a solitary goldfinch - it looked almost
out of place in the gloom, but very welcome. The female robin
appeared near the mealworm feeder and was fed by the male. I
spotted a siskin pair in the tree of a neighbour, but I could
not claim them as visitors today. As I write this the male blackbird
is mining for worms just outside the patio doors and a dozen
or so house sparrows have come to the feeder - the blackbird
has now gone to the pond and is bathing.
- The London Weather
Centre said this morning that there have been just 5 hours of
sunshine in the last 10 days - at the end of today it was 5 in
11! Another cold (max <6) but dry day.
27th - Activity continued to be very quiet in the garden as yesterday was largely gloomy and wet. However we had a brief glimpse of blue sky in the early evening - unfortunately the sun had already dropped behind the trees so the garden missed it. Very little bird activity, the highlight being a brief visit from a solitary goldfinch which seemed nervous in the absence of other birds and left quickly. The male robin continues to take food to the female on their nest.
29th - The day started very early today when sometime
after 3am (I think!) we were woken by very loud screaming and
wailing outside - the sounds you might expect from an animal
that was trapped and in a lot of pain. By the time I had dragged
myself out of bed the sound source had moved out into the road.
One look out of the from door revealed the cause - a pair of
foxes! Their spring time activities have started.
30th - A bright, sunny day with a high temperature
in excess of 14C brought three butterflies into the garden today,
two bright yellow (Brimstones?) and a smaller darker coloured
one. They did not land or come near enough to make identification
possible. A couple of bumble bees were seen, although these did
not visit the nest box today!
31st - I have not been paying much attention to the garden today. The weather has been good for much of the day, as yesterday. I have found pictures of the bumble bee nest and have added one of them to the 'Wildlife Pictures' page.