The Garden Diary 2004

November (Part 2)

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18 November - This week is flying by - I just wish I could keep up with it! The weather had been quite good (with no further frosts) until this morning, when the cloud and rain returned. The nights have been quite mild and I had hoped to catch a glimpse of at least one of the hedgehogs, but they haven't made an appearance while I have been about.

In the daytime garden there has been little to report on. The Sparrows continue to empty the feeder and the Goldfinches appear each day. I have put up an extra thistle seed feeder as we have had three of them here on a couple of days this week.

I'm still waiting for the Woodpeckers to return, but the male Blackbird is now becoming a regular.

I've seen him feeding on the Cotoneaster berries a couple of times this week. This picture opportunity was spoilt by me rushing to get several shots when one decent picture would have been better. The image suffers terrible camera shake, which is more obvious on the large image!


The sunshine over the last few days didn't have much effect on insect activity around the Ivy. There are now very few flowers still 'active' and I have only seen a couple of wasps all week, and no hoverflies. Not even the Bluebottles were showing much interest in the remaining flowers.

The Hawthorn is now virtually leafless, apart from a few small twigs that still have green leaves on them.

The Birch still clings to some of its orange/ yellow leaves, although, as I stood under it to take this photograph there was a constant fluttering of leaves as they fell.

This Orange Ladybird was one of just a couple still visible on the lower leaves. It was definitely not active, and will probably get a parachute ride to the ground quite soon!


Following and e-mail I received  a few days ago, I've had a cctv camera running in the Blue Tit birdbox to monitor if it has any visitors. As usual, it shows no sign of any roosting having taken place over the last few months.

I shall be keeping an eye on that camera from now on, although I won't be setting up a webcam until there are signs of activity as we approach next year's nesting season.


I know that a couple of the Sparrow boxes are being used as roosts by sparrows, and I have seen Blue Tits fly up towards them so maybe they too are roosting up there, although I would need to confirm that.

The increased presence of the Blackbird reminds me that I need to replace the temporary nesting platforms to put up behind the bamboos that grow in troughs on the North side of the Garden. The Blackbirds nested there last year, although that attempt, like all the others failed for some reason. We have to put up with a lot of cat activity. I cannot be certain they were to blame, but I regularly have to chase off cats that are stalking in the garden.

I'm waiting patiently (well, fairly patiently!) for news that my new camera is ready for collection. In the meantime I've just bought a 20mm Canon macrophoto lens which will let me get closer than ever once I have the 20D, with magnifications of more than x10.  Part of yesterday was taken up making a mount that will allow me to use it on my camera bellows.

Tonight it is quite miserable outside, with it raining as I write this at 8.40pm.

However, it is still quite mild (11C) and a short while ago, just before the rain started, I was able to count some two dozen frogs that were easily seen in the two ponds - I wonder how many more were hidden by the vegetation. It reminds me that I must spend some time tidying up the pond and updating the badly neglected pond diary.

This individual is at the shallow end of the big pond, next to the developing shoot of a Branched Bur-reed.


Last, but not least, thank you to all who have visited mybitoftheplanet since last weekend, and especially to those of you who contacted me from England, Scotland, and around the World, from places as varied as Libya, Alaska, Uruguay, and New Zealand.

19 November - Yesterday's mildness has moved on. At 11.25am it's dull (although there was some sunshine earlier), dry and colder, at just under 5C.

About half an hour or so ago I was watching the Sparrows and four Collared Doves feeding. It was the first time for ages that we had more than one dove here at one time. The all hell broke loose, with many of the birds flying off in all directions - we had a Sparrowhawk visitor.

It had dived into the top of the Hawthorn (top right image) and tried in vain to climb down through the tangle of branches, while a group of very noisy sparrows remained out of reach below.

The hawk soon gave up on this strategy, got itself out of the tree and perched briefly on my water butt. Then it charged the Hawthorn again, this time through the lower branches. Needless to say, the Sparrows were now above and out of reach! It kept still for a couple of minutes while they told the World about it, before giving up and flying off to a neighbour's tree to sort itself out and try its luck elsewhere.

This afternoon the Goldcrest pair made an appearance again at the bottom of the garden, visiting the Birch briefly, and loosely  accompanied by several Greenfinches and Chaffinches.

20 November - A miserably dull and drizzly morning!

A week or so ago I mentioned the hedgehogs that visit the garden at night. As well as a large individual there was a very small one which disappeared quickly into the undergrowth each time I appeared. I have been watching for it during the mild spell so that I could check its weight, but it wasn't until last night, with the temperature down to 2C that I finally had that chance. It weighed about 356g which is way below the 500-600g that various websites suggest as the minimum required to survive hibernation. At the very least I need to help it build up its fat reserves.

It is now in my insulated garden shed (which has a low-power heater installed) while I decide how to help it through the Winter, and this morning I bought straw and suitable food to keep it going for the moment.

This afternoon the Winter's first snow (sleet really) fell-  not enough to get any photographs, and it disappeared on contact with the wet ground.

In this image you can just see a blurred streak as a snowflake passes the second Goldfinch from the right.

It was good to see this group several times today, and there was usually a fifth Goldfinch waiting its turn in the Hawthorn.


The male Woodpecker was perched on top of a nearby conifer for a while but flew off when the male Blackbird landed next to him.

A little bit later the female came to feed. I watched her for a while and she appeared less 'lop-sided' than when I last saw her. Unfortunately she stayed on the left side of the feeder so I didn't get to see her left foot, but this shot suggests that she may have been using it, which will be good news.



25 November - The weather continues dull, although dry and it has been mild again.

The garden has been relatively quiet, with the 'usuals' feeding ( which includes the Goldfinches now), but no more sightings of the Woodpeckers. However, a short while ago the twittering of the Sparrow flock turned to almighty panic when a (I think a female) Sparrowhawk turned up.

She swooped onto the Hawthorn and then flew over the the caravan shelter where she waited until some of the panic stricken sparrows flew off over the house, with her in pursuit. I assumed that she would have caught one of them, but I was wrong and she returned to the Hawthorn.

As I watched through the bedroom window she landed on top of the Hawthorn again and spent all of two minutes there as the sparrows twittered below. Then she flew two quick orbits of the tree before landing on a post between me and the tree.

She had her back to me but turned enough for me to get this shot (amongst others) before she flew around the tree again. She landed on the same post again before deciding to give up and leave to find easier prey.

As I write this some 30 minutes later the Sparrows are busy feeding again, as though nothing had happened.


At the bottom of the garden there are very few leaves left on the Birch as they continue to fall, including the one with the Orange ladybird pictured on the 18th - that one fell yesterday, presumably with the ladybird still attached.

The little hedgehog seems to be feeding happily in my shed. I try not to disturb it during the day, cleaning out the water and food dishes in the late evening. There are no photographs to show as I have tried to avoid putting it under stress until I can see that it is used to its surroundings. I will weigh it again when a week has past.


27 November - A dry day, but I was away from home for most of it.

Yesterday was quiet out in the garden. I didn't see the Sparrowhawk at all and the Sparrows were able to get on with their feeding, between taking turns to be look-outs at the top of the Hawthorn.

I cannot remember if I said this before, but the Sparrow feeder is always filled with 'Budgie seed', which is a mixture of White and Red Millet and Canaryseed(?). The Sparrows love it, but the seeds' small, rounded shapes mean that a lot spills out as they feed. In the lower left image you can see one of three black plastic collars that I have been experimenting with to control this wastage. It seem to be working quite well, and certainly doesn't hinder the Sparrows.

There were five Goldfinches here again yesterday, and there is an ongoing competition between them and the Sparrows for the four perches on the Thistle feeders.

The ground below the Sparrow feeder gets covered with the discarded husks. I hoe these into the soil every-so-often and that area is well blessed with earthworms which I am now starting to use to supplement the hedgehog's food. It tucked into the cat food straight away this evening - it will be interesting to see if it also eats the earthworms tonight.

No picture record of it, but yesterday I saw a pair of Blue Tits inspecting my neighbour's old birdbox. It was definitely not a just food hunt. Something similar happened last year, when I took a picture of one cleaning the box out on 15 December, so it looks a though they are already planning ahead for next Spring.

My cctv camera has not revealed any activity in my box, except the spider which I can see moving about in there tonight!

The darkening that you see in the bottom front corners of the box are a result of my use of a hot air gun as part of the cleaning process when the old nest was removed.

Tomorrow I shall scatter a few bit of dry moss or grass on the floor of the box - their movement will act as a 'tell tale' should a bird visit, without me having to set up the computer to monitor the image continuously until Spring.

The three bright spots by the entrance are reflections of the Infra-red LEDs on the camera.

28 November - Another dull, damp day.

Following on from what I said yesterday, I have put some dry straw into the birdbox. Now I shall be able to see at a glance if there have been any daytime visits to the box.



29 November - Grey skies through much of the day cleared as the sun slipped behind the trees in the late afternoon. At 7pm the temperature has dropped to 3C.

Just a couple of pictures taken today, both from first thing in the morning. The first images are of the female Woodpecker at the feeder  just after 8am.

I have included them to show that she is still not using her left foot for support. I think I saw it flicked out towards the mesh several times but at no time did she hold on with it.



A bit of a teaser from the nestbox - look carefully at the straw to the right of the box. There has been a small amount of disturbance since yesterday afternoon.

Nothing entered the box yesterday evening, so this must happened during the night, or before I switched the computer on this morning, and the straw has not been disturbed since then.

I wonder if this amount of movement could have been caused by spider activity, although if that had been the case I would have expected disturbance around the sides of the box, favoured most by the spider I watched yesterday.


30 November - The month is ending dry, and like yesterday, a dull day seems to be lifting just as evening approaches.

An unusual visitor to note from this morning - the appearance of a Pied Wagtail, the first time I have seen one here for many years.

 It didn't land on the ground, and is pictured here (but not too sharply, I'm afraid) as it perched in my neighbour's Birch tree and spent a short time preening.


There has been no disturbance of the birdbox straw today.

Click on images to see larger versions

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