The Garden Diary 2005

January(part 2)

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17 January - A miserably dull day with some heavy rain this afternoon.

I'm afraid another few days have gone by without any photographs, but there are a few things that should be recorded. Yesterday I caught sight of another Goldcrest making a fleeting visit to the garden, this time it was spotted in the Hawthorn. Under the Hawthorn the first of our Snowdrops was partially open, but it seemed to be closed again today.

Horace departed the hedgehog house around 9pm last night. I then recorded between 3-7.10am this morning. It arrived back at just after 6am, had a short feed and a drink before retiring for the day. The mouse made a brief appearance around 4am.

The last couple of evenings I have gone out into the garden about half an hour after the hedgehog's emergence and haven't been able to see or hear it in the garden. There are a number of places where it can leave the garden, so I wonder how far afield it wanders each night?


18 January - A pleasant, sunny morning, but overcast by the afternoon. Last night there was heavy rain around the time I went to bed, and this morning there were signs that at some point that rain turned to snow for a short time.

There was nothing on the ground, but first thing this morning the caravan shelter roof and cars were covered with this pattern of ice, while there was no ground frost.


Perhaps because it was a cold night, but last night's video (3am to 7.05am) showed that while we had already seen Horace leaving its house at 9.10pm, it must have returned at some time as it left again at 3.10am. It returned again at 6.10am.

No wildlife pictures today but I did take advantage of the morning brightness to get some pictures of the West Wing. I have yet to get around to sorting out the very out of date 'The Garden' section of the website so I'll include a few of the images -

The left hand image shows the path that passes the Ivy tree and goes up the short slope to the patio area. The bottom right image shows the path, looking back towards the house.

The fence panel at the end is covered by Solanum crispum (Chilean Potato Vine) plants which the Bumble Bees love in the summer. In the middle of these there is a large round convex mirror which gives an interesting view back down the garden.


I spent much of the day working on a lens mount for my macrophoto lens so that I can use the new ring flash with it. Hopefully I can get it completed tomorrow.


20 January - A dull, overcast, but dry morning brightened by another all too brief appearance of a Goldcrest.  It's a very mild day, over 12C at 2pm with a strong West to North-West wind.

Yesterday I saw a Wren here (in the Hawthorn) for the first time since the beginning of March last year. On that occasion it was spotted at the entrance of, and on top of the birdbox. As for the birdbox, the straw I put in it back in November has been disturbed slightly, suggesting that there has been a visitor since then, but we are certainly not yet getting the regular inspections that have happened in the past during January.

I finished the lens mount yesterday, and it works well. However, today I'm already planning to modify it - I'm going to add some white LEDs to aid focusing at high magnifications. That was a job put off until tomorrow!


Out in the garden the wind has been strong all day, and the Snowdrops are being blown around like silent bells.

There were numerous flowers opening today, and although most are in groups a number of individual plants have popped up away from the original planting area under the Hawthorn.




21 January - A bright, sunny start, but the blue sky was gradually hidden by cloud as the day progressed, and it was damp by the late afternoon.

During the morning I spend a bit of time out on our deck waiting for opportunities to use the new camera to capture birds in flight, in particular, the Rooks that have become quite vocal.

Unfortunately, while I could hear them they didn't fly over us. While I waited, I took a photograph of the old nest  to record it while the tree is still bare.

I have seen a bird at the nest a couple of times in the last week and the two pictures of them in flight were taken a few days ago and are from too great a distance to have much detail.


The Magpies are quite active at the moment and several times I saw one perch at the top of one of the conifers and give its raucous call.

Each time, I waited to grab an image as it flew off, but nearly every time it simple dropped out of sight behind the trees. The left  hand image shows the one time I was able to capture that moment.


The nearest I got to success this morning was with this Wood Pigeon as it flew over the garden.

It was a pity that by this time the sky was white instead of blue and it makes the pigeon in the main image look as though it has been cut out from a picture, which it hasn't!


I must try to get some images of the three Blackbirds that are now frequent visitors in the garden, spending more and more time in the Hawthorn and the Birch tree, and bathing in the big pond. There are a male and a female, and I think the third is a juvenile male, judging by the way the mature male reacts to its presence, chasing it away.

Horace continues to go out at night, showing no interest in hibernating at the moment. This morning it returned to the house at 5.50am. Yesterday the video recorded it going out at 4.30am and returning at 6.10am (recordings made from 3am to 7.05am).


25 January - A largely overcast morning with no frost and a temperature of 4C at 10.30am.  Yesterday we actually had some sleet in the late afternoon, just as I was delivering some rubbish to our local recycling centre.

Over the last few days I have been occupied with tasks away form the garden so there is little to report, except that I did catch a glimpse of, perhaps four Greenfinches on the conifers yesterday morning.

I can give a Horace update - The night before last I saw it leave at around 11pm. The early morning video captured it leaving again around 3.50am and returning twenty minutes later, with no further departures before dawn. Last night there was no sign of it before I went to bed at 11pm, although I did see the mouse again.

When I reviewed the morning video (3 - 7.05am), at the start of it the food dish showed very little sign of having been disturbed (other than by the mouse). Then at 6.20am Horace emerged, spent several minutes eating, and then headed out into the garden, failing to return by the time the video ran out at 7.05am. The thermometer reading of 10.2C at 8.30am indicates that it did return at some point between those times.

I wonder how much more the temperature has to drop before Horace decides to stay in the comfort of the hedgehog house. Tonight, with the outside temperature just below 4C it headed out into the garden at 8.50pm. I went outside with my camera a few minutes later but Horace had already vanished!


26 January - Another a frost this morning with the temperature around 0C at 8am.

I'm afraid my weariness has been getting the better of me and I have hardly picked up my camera over the last few days. However, I did catch one of our three regular Blackbirds while it was feeding under the Hawthorn.

This one looks pretty scruffy and appears to be undergoing a moult. Is it a young male in the process of gaining its adult plumage? With its single white feather, this is the bird most frequently chased off by the adult male.

A check of this morning's video showed Horace heading out at 5.20am (having returned at some time before 3am), stopping to feed on the way, and then returning to the house at 6.40am.

The Blue Tit box remains undisturbed by bird visitors. The morning light shows up an orb web that is now stretched across the top of the box.

Tonight, Horace made an appearance at 9pm and is now somewhere in the garden after spending a few minutes feeding - the following morning's video showed no action at all between 3am to 7.05am.


28 January - An overcast, very dull, damp day with the temperature up to around 8C at noon and with no night-time frost.

Horace continues to go out at night. Last night it set out on its travels at just before 10pm, and this morning's video showed it going out again at just before 5am and returning at 6.20am. After an absence of a couple of nights the mouse also appeared again around 4am.


As I write this at 10 am, the blackbird pictured above as feeding under the Hawthorn. Earlier, I captured this image of the female member of the trio down in the same spot. Notice the lighter plumage and the dull coloured beak.



To complete the set, here is the mature male, pictured a couple of days ago.




This picture of one of our Starling visitors was taken yesterday and shows the iridescence characteristic of its plumage.



This morning I saw a solitary Goldfinch come for what is now an occasional feed, and an all too brief glimpse of a small, olive-greenish coloured bird with a lighter underside. Although it was the correct size, it didn't have the head blaze of an adult Goldcrest - could it have been a juvenile?

Tonight, Horace emerged at 9.47pm.


29 January - A bit of blue sky first thing this morning soon disappeared and we descended into gloomy, dampness for the rest of the day, with temperatures around 5-6C.

A couple of bird sightings to note. First of all, I caught another glimpse of that small Olive-green bird again, although it was too far away down the garden to see any detail. Also, I saw a Wren here twice during the day, but with no chance to get a photograph.

At the moment the birds are very nervous, and even the slightest movement near the window sends them into panic.


One regular visitor that is very wary is the local Robin. It often comes down under the Hawthorn, but rarely comes into the open. This image was grabbed as it perched on a new log pile behind the hawthorn, overhanging branches shielding it from the light of the flash.

In this picture, the black and orange cables are two of the leads used to connect the house to the cctv cameras at the bottom of the garden.


30 January - Still mainly cloudy, but definitely brighter than yesterday.

Last night Horace hadn't made an appearance by 11.30pm but the video recorded it emerging at 4.10am and returning at 5.20am. It's continued activity in the nights isn't surprising. I dug down just a few inches into the topsoil and there are still plenty of earthworms to be found near the surface. It simply isn't cold enough to force them deeper.

This morning the Wren made another, prolonged appearance in the garden. Unfortunately, for most of this visit it was either too far down the garden, or too hidden.

However, I was ready with my camera this time, as it hunted by the small pond. As it searched through the fronds of a fern (which was about 26ft from me) I at last had an opportunity, but made the mistake of pressing the shutter too soon.

As soon as I took this picture of its rear it turned to face me. I took a second picture, but the flash hadn't recharged so all I got was darkness!!! There is now a new set of batteries in the flashgun.


31 January - Another cloudy morning, although there are a few signs that there is blue sky beyond the grey! It's nearly 8C at 9am and dry - we have not had much in the way of rain during the month, and only a couple of frosts.

Last night Horace was seen going out at around 10.30pm. It must have returned before 3am. The video recording from then until 7am remained 'empty' until the hedgehog emerged from its house at 6.55am and remained at the food dish until recording finished at 7.05am. A check of the house temperature (11.1C) at 9.15am confirms that Horace is in there.

One picture from last night. There are few webs to be seen in the garden at the moment, but this spider produces one regularly under a lower branch of the Birch tree and appears on it each night.

During the day it retires under a fold in the peeling bark.

Philippe Moniotte of Belgium suggests that it is very possibly
Nuctenea umbratica. Although it seems much lighter than other pictures I have seen of that species, its behaviour fits exactly.


Today we have seen a trio of Robins dashing about, with sessions of singing from the higher parts of the conifers, presumably in the process of setting up territories for the forthcoming nesting season.

Click on images to see larger versions

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