The Garden Diary 2005

November - Part 3

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17 November - A bright, cloudless morning with another frost as the outside temperature dips to 0C for the first time (at mid-day it is now up to 6C).

With much of the garden quite sheltered it is going to take a more severe frost to produce really photogenic  scenes, but at least this ground ivy leaf was well decorated!



The cold start encouraged the Sparrows to gather at the top of the Hawthorn as the sun came over the rooftops, and they were joined, unusually, by the Robin, with its body feathers puffed up to give added insulation.



There has been no sign of the woodpecker so far, so I have been trying to get better images of some of our regulars.

First of all, the Dunnock, foraging below the fat balls that hang in the Hawthorn while keeping an eye out for the Robin.



Next, a bird that isn't really a regular at the moment, a female Chaffinch that came several times during the morning.

 I haven't seen a male Chaffinch for a while.




Finally (for the morning at least) back to one of our most colourful regulars, and probably the sharpest shot that I've so far managed of a Goldfinch at a feeder.




The Orange Ladybirds pictured yesterday remained in the same place all morning, and are still there at 2pm. It doesn't look as though they are going to be active today.


18 November - The coldest morning so far, with the thermometer just outside the house reading -3.5C and one placed just above the ground out in the open overnight reading -6.5C at 7.30am!



Many of the plants were white as dawn broke, including the buddleia which was affected more than most.





I took a brief look at the lichens on the caravan shelter. Everything was covered with ice crystals, but what stood out most were the podetia (the cups on top of stalks).

These were all wearing crystal tiaras.



Even the Hawthorn looked white before the sun came over the rooftops enough to start warming its topmost branches, and this Sparrow, soon after 9am.





21 November - The cold, dry spell continues, with the lichen wearing their head dresses each morning.

Having said that, last night it only got down to -1C (after lower than -3C the night before) and the frost disappeared quite quickly this morning.




Down at ground level most plants started the morning with a coating of frost, with the more exposed fern fronds having bold, white edges to them.




Much of the big pond is now covered with a thin layer of ice, although it doesn't extend to the edges yet, and it isn't obvious because of the blanket of duckweed.


My first tasks each morning are to ensure that warm water is added to the birdbath to melt the ice, and to top up the food supplies for the birds. Over the last couple of days I have seen very little of the Goldfinches, while is a bit of a concern. In the days before the frosts we were occasionally getting up to ten of them here, but yesterday I only saw two, and today I have only seen one, and that wasn't until lunchtime. I hope the flock hasn't succumbed to this cold spell.

While the Blue Tits have continued to make regular visits, the Great Tits have appeared far less during this cold weather. In contrast, the Coal Tit pair have been back and forth constantly - one is pecking at a fat ball as I write this.


22 November - This morning was frost-free and a sunny day raised the temperature to at least 7C this afternoon. I spent some time doing some necessary jobs in the garden, including thinning out the Iris leaves around the small pond, clearing the path between the ponds, and re-bedding some bits of that, and the garden path. Also, one of my sons was doing a grand job of giving my neighbour's Silver Birch a trim.

All this activity meant that bird activity in the garden was somewhat reduced, although we did watch an unsuccessful Sparrowhawk attack as my son packed away his equipment.

Yesterday, I did eventually see three Goldfinches here, but today I didn't even hear any.

This evening, with the outside temperature at 4.5C at 7pm it is mild enough for at least one Orange Ladybird to be active on the Birch.

The group of four that I photographed back on the 16th are still in the same spot - I will be checking on these again a bit later on.



An hour later, at 8pm, I've just been checking the Birch again. The group of four are still static, as are three others that also haven't moved for the last six days. In contrast, the ladybird in the picture is well and truly on the move along the branch towards the trunk. A further search also revealed another seven active ladybirds, despite the air temperature having dropped to 3C. Also, a thick fog has descended on us making everything dripping wet - it could be very interesting if the temperature drops a few more degrees tonight.

23 November - A dull morning, with a misty start, but no frost with the overnight temperature dipping at around 1C.

The gloom was suddenly brightened with the appearance of an almost luminous colour in the Hawthorn, in the form of a male Bullfinch. I have to search deep into my memory to recall the last time I saw one of these here, back in the 70's or 80's.

It was a case of rushing downstairs to get the camera. It visited the feeder, and returned for a second visit shortly afterwards. Unfortunately, it didn't perch out in the open for me, so this was the best shot I could get of it.



While I was waiting just in case it would appear again, a trio of Long-tailed Tits turned up and spent time at the fat balls.

Talk about a ball of feathers!



Despite the grey skies it's been a good morning, with the Great Tits, Coal Tits and Blue Tits visiting, along with Collared Doves, Starlings, the House Sparrows, the Blackbird pair, the Robin and Dunnock, and one Sparrowhawk visit by 11am - and I nearly forgot(!) the four Goldfinches.

It's been strange how, during the cold spell the amount of food taken by the birds seemed to be reduced. Seed levels in the sparrow feeder have only dropped slowly, and I haven't had to replace the fat balls for three days, whereas previously I was having to put new ones every day.

26 November - A touch of frost yesterday morning, but the cold north winds failed to bring us any of the snow that hit the Welsh valleys we were brought up in, and caused disruption in Cornwall. This morning it is dry and just under 4C.

I haven't seen neither the Bullfinch nor the Long-tailed Tits return since my last report, although I haven't been around to watch very much. A Song Thrush appeared twice yesterday morning, but it was very cautious and flew off as soon as it saw movement in the house. Over the last two days I have only seen up to four Goldfinches at a time. I wonder if the others were lost to the cold snap?


28 November - A quiet period in the garden, with the weather remaining cold (above 0C)  and largely dry.

This evening, I went out of the house and spotted the first snow of the year - just about. There was a sprinkling of granular snow particles on the sunroof(?) of Sheila's car.

One of my sons was driving up to Cumbria in North-West  England and he sent me a picture from his camera phone of pretty miserable, snowy conditions on the motorway.

It seems that there is snow moving down the middle of the country although it's expected to be short-lived and may not arrive here at all. By Thursday the forecasters are suggesting that daytime temperatures could be back over 10C, with some wet weather in store for us. That will be useful as both ponds need to be topped up.

 Today has again been very quiet on the bird front. The only 'different' moment came when  a Magpie tried to tackle one of the fatballs hanging from the Hawthorn. The branches proved too thin and flexible for it to get a steady perch so it left after just a couple of pecks.

I've hardly picked up the camera over the last few days, but I did record our local Starling flock as it prepared to fly off to roost for the night.

They visit the garden frequently at the moment.



And another Dunnock shot - this time in one of its usual perches, hidden amongst the lower branches of  the Hawthorn as it checks the coast is clear before heading down to feed on the ground below.




The Hawthorn is more or less bare now, with just a few leaves hanging on. In contrast, the Birch still has something like two thirds of its leaves, and those still attached come adrift as soon as you disturb them. It's interesting to see that the Orange Ladybirds are still present on the leaves. It looks as though they will be parachuting to the ground over the next few days.


29 November - A bright, sunny, cold, but frost-free morning, made brighter by a visit from our local Woodpecker, seen here against the background of the Rowan and the Birch foliage.

This shot give you a chance to see the drainpipe insert in the peanut feeder. It was put in so that while the feeder has a large external circumference it doesn't contain excessive amounts of peanuts that may otherwise become stale before they are eaten.



These are cropped images of the Great Spotted Woodpecker as it investigated the branch that is bolted to the feeder's support. Unlike on the last visit, this time the red patch at the back of the head (indicating that it is a male) is showing clearly. I wonder if/when we will see a female here this winter.

The holes in the branch are sometimes filled with fat or peanut butter (with bits!), but not this morning.

- they are now!

The Song Thrush visited again early on, but again there wasn't a photo-opportunity. There has only been one Goldfinch during the morning.


The Ivy berries are still developing and far from ripe, but that has not discouraged this Wood Pigeon from sampling them for lunch today.

I wouldn't expect to see this happening until after Christmas.




30 November - Just a touch of frost to start with. Since then the morning has been dry but a bit dull, with high cloud cover only letting through the odd glimpse of sunshine.


Today the Birch tree has started shedding its leaves with great enthusiasm.

Every time a bird lands on a branch leaves can be seen fluttering down, and I have been using a soft brush to sweep them off the path and minimise the danger of treading on any ladybirds that have fallen with them.



I've just spent a bit of time down the birdbox, starting to fiddle about with the lighting for the cctv camera(s), using white LEDs.  My initial impression is that the basic arrangement seems to work, although I can only test it properly with the camera on a bright morning when there is sunshine on the front of the box.


The Starlings have been particularly prominent in the garden today. At one stage there were fifteen of them arguing noisily as they all tried to fit on the bird table, which measures just 17x12 inches.

This one was perched on the Hawthorn, checking out the area below for suitable pickings.


I set my camera up at our bedroom window for an hour or so in the hope of getting a closer shot of a Woodpecker, but I didn't see any today. While checking the set-up I captured an image of a Blue Tit at the peanut feeder, and I've just finished putting together this composite image to try and compare the sizes of the two colourful visitors.

I've included centimetre and inch scales to the left and right, but an easier way to do any measurements is to remember that the wire mesh has a 1/4 inch grid size. If you look at their feet, the BT's claws span three squares (3/4 inch) while the Woodpecker's claws easily span six squares (1 1/2 inches).


Click on the images to see larger versions -

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