The Garden Diary
February - 2003
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2 February - I didn't feel like doing anything for the diary yesterday evening.
What I did do was to go out side and look up at the stars, as I have often done during Shuttle missions, especially those to the ISS. I often have the computer logged on to NASA TV to follow the missions, but this time I only logged on to watch the launch and then their return to Earth. At the same time the television is tuned to which ever news channel is covering the event. Then came the long pause, and soon afterwards those TV images, played over and over again of the Shuttle breaking up, with what looked like 'glitter' peeling off a fiery mass streaking across the sky.
Even though I was watching from afar, it was nevertheless a heart-breaking sight. My feelings go out to the families of those seven brave astronauts. It may be little consolation to accept that at least they died doing something they lived and dreamt for. I hope that their dreams and aspirations can be carried forward by others, in a Space program that will have learned from their sacrifice.
Here, the snow has now gone again, although there is still a milky layer of ice on part of the big pond. Yesterday morning rain washed away much of it, although some held on stubbornly until afternoon sunshine warmed things up a bit. The picture shows my neighbour's Birch tree covered with raindrops instead of snow.
Today it is mainly sunny with occasional showers, with a cold wind. The temperature was 8C at 2pm, but the wind made it feel colder.
There have been a few bird activities to report. The Thrush has made brief appearances on the last couple of mornings and there has been a pair of Chaffinches about again, but not near the feeders. Yesterday I think I may have seen a Goldcrest in the conifer line at the back of the gardens. Unfortunately, by the time I got my binos it had disappeared so I cannot be sure. I shall have to watch the trees carefully over the next few days.
Excitement waited until this afternoon and the arrival of this 'pair'. My first sighting was the Sparrowhawk swooping towards the Hawthorn and its cargo of panic stricken Sparrows. After a few trips around the tree the hawk landed on our caravan cover, joined a few seconds later by the Carrion Crow, about 4-5ft from it.
They stayed there long enough for me to rush upstairs a take several pictures before the hawk attacked again, several times, and without any success. While on the roof the crow called several times, startling the Sparrowhawk, as though it were trying to get it to get on with the attack!
Eventually the hawk gave up and went to perch on our 'flagpole' (used for a short wave radio antenna), while the Crow perched on one of the Leylandii trunks close by. They remained there for several minutes before the Crow left. The Sparrowhawk stayed for over five minutes before she too departed.
In the past I've seen a magpie following the Sparrowhawk around, but I have never seen a Crow accompany one like this.
9 February - Small bird activity has remained quiet in the garden these last few days, perhaps because there have been numerous visits by the Sparrowhawk. I have seen nothing caught, which is just as well as it had a Blue Tit trapped in the hawthorn this afternoon.
We are going through one of those periods when the garden is on its visiting list. It pounced twice this afternoon. The first time, it flew a couple of orbits of the Hawthorn and was last seen chasing a Sparrow past the side of the house.
A little while later it was back. This time it swooped onto the Hawthorn and then the Ivy tree before flying up and perching, again, on the 'flagpole'. It spent several minutes looking down at the Ivy which had numerous noisy Sparrows hidden within.
Instead of trying for a Sparrow it chose to fly to one of the trunks sticking up from the Leylandii and spent over five minutes there, partly hidden form view, preening and apparently resting before flying off behind the trees.
There was no sign of the Sparrowhawk today and there was some increase in bird activity, including this pair of wood pigeons.
A short while after their coming down to feed, I spotted them at the top of the Leylandii, with the right hand bird obviously displaying while the other one looked on.
It slowly turned clockwise through 360 degrees, with its wings drooped and its head being dipped repeatedly.
While its partner stayed put it then flew a short distance to another conifer, only to be surprised by a Collared Dove that had been hidden from sight. The courtship was put on hold as it flew off very rapidly!
14 February - A bright, sunny but cold morning has seen the bird bath needing hot water to melt the ice, and at 11.50 I need to repeat the treatment, despite the sunshine.
Our usual birds are more active today, with no sign so far of the Sparrowhawk. A little bit earlier, I caught sight of this Greenfinch in the branches of my neighbour's apple tree. They seem to be about in the area, but I rarely seen them near the house, so this was a rather distant shot, with the bright yellow flash on the wing rather washed out by the bright sunshine.
18 February - The weather has continued to be dry, bright and cold with daytime temperatures of only a few degrees and the birdbath needing de-icing.
This morning saw the first of our Crocuses opening, bringing a bit of colour by the far end of the pond. The Snowdrops are all in flower now and the solitary Oxlip continues to produce its blooms.
On the bird front there has been little to report. The Dunnocks are still chasing and displaying, and there was a pair of Robins down feeding (and chasing the Dunnocks). For a short time there were four Chaffinches about, although they didn't feed here.
Our Blackbird pair are back and forth all day after food, and enjoy the mealworms put out for them, when they can get to them before they are spotted by the Starlings.
20 February - A largely dull day which was a little bit less cold than the earlier part of the week (up to 7C this morning, but colder again as the afternoon progressed).
Along with the sounds of the Sparrows and the Robin, I heard a Song Thrush singing this morning and a short time later spotted it at the top of the Conifers beyond our garden. I watched out to see if it would come down to feed, but it flew off in the direction of the Brickfields Park.
I also spotted a Wren in the border, working its way along the fence, but there was no chance of getting a photograph of that one - the Wrens still elude me.
The female Blackbird spent some time tearing moss off a couple of the stones that border my ponds. She was not taking it away, and it was left strewn over the ice as she hunted for food elsewhere.
21 February - Today has been a non-garden day, as I re-formatted the hard-drive on my computer and re-installed Windows (and all the other bits and pieces!). If you can read this it means the battle is almost won - tomorrow morning I am promised a visit by an engineer to sort out my cable modem problem.
Before I started on the marathon, I did spot a couple of things that are worthy of note. First, on a cold and very misty morning, a pair of Great Tits came to feed - a rare sight these days.
Even rarer, (a first!) a couple of Jays passed through, perching one side and then the other side of the garden, although not stopping to feed. No pictures of those I'm afraid as they were at the other end of the garden, half hidden by the combination of branches and mist.
Although I did not have too much time to contemplate the garden today, late this afternoon I did spot a couple of Wood Pigeons feasting on the berries of the Ivy tree.
I managed to grab a couple of quick images, but the pigeons are very sensitive to movement and took off rapidly as soon as I showed my face outside.
25 February - On a bright, hazy morning, with the temperature at 6C (at 9.45am) The Wood Pigeons are again having breakfast on the Ivy.
In the picture you can make out the female sitting on the nest as her partner brings another, if rather small, twig.
Every so often he can be seen chasing another dove away from the garden
I haven't seen it so far this morning, but there was another wren visit yesterday.
Not being the most delicate footed of birds, the pigeons had a great deal of careful manouvering to do in order to reach the best food. A wing sometimes came in handy as a prop.
There were Greenfinches in the conifers this morning, and during the afternoon the Wren made another appearance, this time I was out the garden, only a couple of yards from it, but without my camera!
This dejected Collared Dove perched for ages on the bamboo, frequently looking in at us and having to blink ocassionally as a raindrop hit its head.
First thing this morning a couple of Greenfinches came to the seed feeder for a few seconds, for the first time this year.
Before I forget again, the Sparrowhawk was here yesterday. It flew six orbits of the Hawthorn without success before it spotted something 'up the road' and flew off at speed.