The Garden Diary 2004

February(part 2)

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18 February - Very little has happened in the garden since my last entry. The Song Thrush continues to visit frequently. When offered raisins it takes 3 to 5 at each visit, although it always takes the last one away in its beak as it heads off through the conifers beyond the bottom of the garden.

I have not seen any visitors to either nestbox as yet. The lighting in the Robin box seems to work well, although I have added a link that allows one of the LED's to stay on at a very low light level throughout the night.

Today has been brighter, and dry until I went out to check on the ponds tonight. We have had a few showers over the last few days, helping to top up the pond.

I haven't taken any photographs over the last few days. This image (no larger version) is the first taken with another cctv camera that arrived today. I have bought this camera (on eBay, as usual) especially to experiment with microphotography.

This first (and poor quality) attempt shows a tiny mite living on the underside of a Buddleia leaf. The best I can do about its size is to say that it is far less that 1/10mm long.




19 February - A bright sunny morning, and we are off to visit the Royal Horticultural Gardens at Wisley in search of wild garden ideas.

Before we go, here is 'our' Song Thrush soaking up the sunshine within the protection of the conifers beyond the bottom of the garden, having just been down for a feed. Also seen was a Wren for the first time since the cold spell at the end of January.



In some ways the Wisley trip was disappointing. It's a good place to visit, but it's not really geared up for the wildlife garden (and it didn't help that despite the sunshine there was a strong, cold wind all the time we were there).  Despite the wind it was very busy. We shall have to go back when Spring has arrived.

I did take the opportunity to buy some useful books for insect ID's (covering Grasshoppers, Insects on Nettles, Solitary Wasps, and Ladybirds). We also bought some native Primroses and some Daffodils which will be planted out tomorrow.

20 February - A very dull, if dry day with strong cold winds. The temperature this afternoon is below 3C.

Today in London there has been a conference at which DEFRA have launched a House Sparrow leaflet as part of a drive to encourage people to help the sparrows and reverse their decline in parts of the UK. To my surprise (and pleasure) Dr Humphrey Crick of the British Trust for Ornithology asked if he could use some of my Sparrow photographs in his keynote presentation at the meeting.

Here in the garden the cold weather has ensured that the sparrows have been queuing up for the feeder, especially when I spent time working in the area around the feeder. One problem with the  seeds that I provide for them is that there is a lot of chaff created. As much as I try to clear it up, the ground below gets covered so I decided to do away with the grass in that area.

The soil contained large numbers of earthworms. Despite that, when  female Blackbird came to feed she chose to search for the chopped peanuts rather than the worms!

click on the images to see larger versions

I also got the Primroses and daffodils planted.


23 February - The cold spell continues - I had to put hot water on the birdbath to melt this ice first thing and it partly froze over again later in the morning.


Overall, today was brighter. Despite some threatening clouds passing over it stayed dry, although Sheila did see a few snowflakes falling when she went out just after lunch.

The picture shows the Birch tree with some of its branches lit up by the late afternoon sun.



I am still to see the Blue Tits visit the box again. This is the male that continues to sing loudly every day, here perched in the Hawthorn with feather coat fluffed out. The picture was taken against the backround of the house lit up by the late afternoon sunshine.

On the weekend I bought a wireless microphone set-up at a car-boot sale, and today I installed it in the bird box, replacing the baby monitor that was subject to interference.


The thrush continues to visit - As well as feeding several times during the day, at the moment it is one of the last birds here in the early evening, after dusk when we can just see its light markings.


24 February - Just a short note today. It started off bright with a frost but soon became dull, overcast with rain in the afternoon.

We went to the local garden centre and bought some more native primroses and foxgloves, and a Climbing hydrangea which I have planted in front of the Robin nestbox to provide some cover. The plant tolerates shade and will flower in June-July and brighten up that corner. While at the garden centre I saw my first hoverfly of the year.


25 February - A sunny start today, although ice on the birdbath and a slight dusting of fine snow meant it was another cold day.

Back in December I recorded the first visit for many years by a female Blackcap. She hasn't reappeared since the new year started, but this morning we have had several visits from a male Blackcap, which, unlike the female (shown bottom left), really does live up to his name.

As with the female, it was the Golden Delicious apples, hanging from the Hawthorn, that were the only focus for its attention.

The Blackcap didn't return again later in the day - I shall be watching out for it tomorrow morning.

The Song Thrush made just one visit that I saw and came within four feet of me to feed after watching me put down some raisins. It must have been hungry as it took seven, the most I have seen eaten at one time.



The afternoon was disrupted briefly by the attention of a male Sparrowhawk that made a half-hearted attack on the Hawthorn before flying up to perch on conifer, a little bit too far away to get a good picture, especially with the trees moving in the breeze!

click on the images to see larger versions

27 February - The cold weather continues with the temperature at 0C at 8.30 this morning. We had an all too brief, fine sprinkling of snow but by 9.15am the sun was shining.

This morning it was the turn of a female Blackcap to feed on an apple, and she obliged the camera by perching 'in the open' for a few seconds between feeds. I haven't seen the male since its visit day before yesterday.

The Song Thrush is getting more and more trusting. As I took a bowl of water out to put onto the frozen birdbath, it flew down and waited until I provided some raisins!




This male Blackbird without any tail feathers has just turned up since yesterday to feed here. It appears to be in the middle of a moult and the rest of its body is covered with the jet black feathers I expect of the male adult bird. The lack of a tail seems to have little effect on its flying.

Just after this picture was taken it had to seek refuge in the Hawthorn as the male Sparrowhawk made another surprise visit, leaving without any catch.


28 February - A dull, overcast, but dry (up to 5pm) day with a cold north-westerly wind.

We have been out for much of the day, and the garden has been very quiet since our return. Nevertheless I must include these two images of  female sparrow on the feeder.

The sparrows seem to have group feeding sessions and in between these there are often a couple of dozen just perched in the Hawthorn. During one of these rest periods this female obviously decided that the feeder was the place to have a quiet few minutes, feathers fluffed up against the cold and disturbed only slightly by the occasional visitor coming for a snack.

click on the images to see larger versions

29 February - A brighter day , although we had a brief sprinkling of snow this morning - not enough to stick.

I spent several hours away from home again today and missed a chance of some Sparrowhawk close-ups. On my return I found the characteristic circle of feathers (in this case from a Sparrow) around the log under the Hawthorn. The hawk had swooped on the tree before I went out, and obviously returned for a successful attack in my absence, devouring its catch in clear view of my dining room!

As I write this I can hear (via the Robin nestbox microphone) the sound of Wood Pigeons flapping as they endeavour to reach the berries that are more awkwardly placed on the far side of the Ivy tree. At 4pm it's trying to snow.


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