The Garden Diary 2006

November (part 1)

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1 November - A bright, sunny start to the new month, although the blueness is rather diluted as the vapour trails left by numerous early morning aircraft gradually spread across the sky. With the temperature having dipped below 4C (over the last two days the low had been 10C), at 8am there is a touch of frost on the top of our Discovery for the first time this Autumn.

Over the last couple of days I haven't been paying too much attention to the garden, but the renovation job on our front porch is close to completion. Yesterday morning things got a bit noisy here as I did a bit of panel beating on the stainless steel top, and this morning I hope to install some lead flashing to complete the task. Next to the front door, which faces east, there is a large Fuschia plant, and in the mornings, that has been the centre of attention for some very large Bumble Bees, as well as wasps and a couple of Honey Bees (- they were here again today, and I saw a Red Admiral flutter by again).

As I write this, in addition to our usual breakfast visitors, the Sparrows, Goldfinches, Blue Tits, Great Tits and a female Blackbird,  I've just seen a Coal Tit come to the bird table - the first I've seen here since (I think) last February.

During the morning I was able to install the flashing on the porch, although it took longer than I expected - I needed to be a long armed octopus to manoeuvre the lead into place! It's now covered over to protect the mortar from the cold conditions that we are likely to get tonight.

Once I'd cleared up after that job I turned my attention to the scaffold tower next to the Ivy. With flowering over now (with the exception of a few late blooms) it was time to prepare for the birds that will come to feed on the berries.

I moved the tower back from the Ivy and set up the hide on top of it. As I started assembling the hide there were Goldfinches feeding high in the Birch. Hopefully I'll now be able to get some closer photographs of them in the late afternoon sunshine.



As I started to fit the fabric sides of the hide, and was out in the open, a Greater Spotted Woodpecker appeared on one of the tall conifers just over the fence and started calling loudly. It stayed there until I got back to the veranda where I had left my camera but hen disappeared! I'll have to watch for it visiting the tall peanut feeder (not visible from the hide).


The openings in the hide are about 12ft above ground, and the top of the Ivy another foot or so above that, and this is the view I get of the Ivy from the hide.

While many of the flower heads will not develop into berries, I'm optimistic that there will be a good crop this winter.


The Birch is much taller, but I still get a good view of it from the hide, and there are plenty of seed heads on this side to tempt the Goldfinches over the weeks to come.

Although the bright sky in the background makes it difficult to see the foliage, you can see that the tree is still largely green as we start November.

These three pictures are a bit dark because the sun had dropped down behind the conifers by the time I finished setting up the hide.



2 November - Another sunny day, with the temperature reaching 8C (the same as yesterday) after dipping close to zero last night giving a more definite frost first thing, but not cold enough to create any ice on the birdbath or ponds yet. There was less of a breeze today, but it was still enough to make it feel quite cold outside, especially up in the hide where I spent several hours.

After yesterday's fiddling with the porch I needed to take things easy today, so I decided to set my camera up in the hide in order to capture some closer images of the Goldfinches when they came to feed on the seed heads in the Birch. I spent time up there in both the morning and afternoon, but while I could hear them at the other end of the garden I didn't see one Goldfinch in the tree! There are still plenty of seed heads on the tree, so I'll probably watch for them again tomorrow.

However, the time wasn't wasted as the hide also allows me to watch the conifers beyond the fence at the bottom of the garden.


The Blue Tits have been very active in the garden for quite a while now, and are back and fore to the bird table (where they find chopped peanuts waiting) all day.

When not feeding there, they spend a lot of time in the conifers where the clusters of small cones appear to be opening at the moment.




The Blue Tits seem to spend some of their time sheltering and preening in amongst the branches before heading out to the cone clusters to prise out a seed which they would carry to a suitable perch before holding it with a foot as they extracted its kernel.



I saw neither the Coal Tit nor the Woodpecker today, although I heard the latter this afternoon while in the hide.

This morning, a  weather forecaster was talking about a cold snap with the possibility of snow before the end of the month, so it may be a good idea to start some pond clearing over the next few days.


5 November - Bonfire Night - Another bright and sunny morning as the present cold and dry spell continues. Having said that, after several nights when the temperature dropped to nearly 0C, last night it didn't drop below 4C as cloud cover crept in, and at noon it was 11C while we sat out on the veranda to have coffee.

For the last few days I've been struggling to stay awake as the CFS kicks in again, no doubt after doing the job on the porch, so I haven't been paying much attention to the garden. This morning the Fuchsia plant outside our front door is once again attracting wasps and noisy Bumble Bees, and I've seen another Red Admiral flutter by. In contrast, the Ivy is now a very quiet place.

The official Aldershot Firework Display took place last night in Manor Park (our local park, just over the hill to the north of us) and, just like last year I took advantage of the scaffold tower to take photographs of some of the aerial fireworks that are visible from our back garden. Here are some moments from that display -







I don't think there were as many of the really spectacular firework combinations this year and there seemed to be more repetition of firework types, but it was still a very good display.

The weather is good again this evening, and I have no doubt that, as it's today that is really Bonfire Night, a lot of fireworks will be going off after dark, although I won't be recording any this time.

Even nature was getting in on the act when at sunset the light of the sun turned the clouds a bright red against the deep blue of the sky - the first dramatic sunset of the Autumn, taking place just after 5.45pm.


6 November - An almost perfect November day, with sunshine, a high of around 11C and pleasant enough for lunch on the veranda again. This morning I finished off the porch job with a touch of paint on the wall above the lead flashing.

I was taking the paints etc back into the back garden when I spotted a Nuthatch on the tall peanut feeder, only the second time I've ever seen one here ( the only other sighting was for a moment as it disappeared over a fence).

It was still feeding as I crept into the house, but by the time I got upstairs with my camera it had been replaced by Starlings and Sparrows.

The wood being used as a perch by the Starling is a piece of driftwood brought back from Cornwall.


The Nuthatch didn't reappear, but I did catch a glimpse of a male Blackcap, one of our usual winter visitors. I have put up some fresh fatballs and a couple of apples to tempt it into the Hawthorn.


While I watched, the female Sparrowhawk turned up, although while there were chirping Sparrows in the hawthorn she simple perched on the top of a conifer (seen here through the Birch) for a few minutes before heading for the Brickfields Park.




Even though the Sparrows seem to be mainly vegetarian at this time of year they still have a taste for insects which they find on the leaves of the bamboo plants.

This group were on the large clump of bamboo in front of my workshop shed, working their way around the leaves, many of which still have groups of aphids as well as small numbers of Bark-flies.


This afternoon I needed to record another, less welcome first in the garden.

Having intercepted an adult Harlequin Ladybird as it arrived in the garden on the 11th October, I have now found a harlequin Ladybird larva for the first time, actively moving about on one of the bamboo plants that line the area of the garden where we park our Discovery. It's just over 6mm in length.


I spent ages checking all the plants in the group but could not find any more examples. I inspect these plants frequently throughout the year and, not having seen any adults on them, I'd be very surprised if this larva had developed from an egg here. If that had happened I would expect to find more of them. I'm wondering if it could have arrived as a passenger on the Discovery?

Talking of ladybirds, I've seen just one adult Orange Ladybird over the last three days. This time last year I was seeing up to a dozen each day - I can only hope their population will recover next year.

7 November - A largely overcast day with a maximum temperature just below 10C.

There has been no sign of either the Blackcap or Nuthatch today, but we did have a male Greenfinch come to the sunflower feeders this morning, and a male Blackbird which ate some  Pyracantha berries.

I haven't been able to find any more ladybird larvae so it does look as though yesterday's Harlequin larva may be on its own.

Much of my day has been taken up planning and cutting out pieces of aluminium to make a macro stand  to allow me to use my Canon bellows with a Zeiss microscope mechanical X-Y stage that I've just bought via eBay. That job will occupy me tomorrow as well.

It was dark by the time I cleared up and as I walked down to my workshop I kicked something (very gently!) soft on the path. Reaching down in the dark I soon found out what it was when my hand came into contact with the spines of a hedgehog. This picture was taken some two hours later, at about 8.30pm.

I forgot to mention yesterday that I saw some fresh hedgehog droppings up on the West Wing, and this morning there were more on the veranda. It seems as though this hedgehog is not yet ready to hibernate.



8 November - A very dull, overcast day, but with a high of nearly 14C this afternoon after a low of 6C last night.

Much of the day was spent fiddling with the bits for the macro stage. It's not as though it a very complicated job, it's just that I take lots of breaks! Progress is being made, and I should complete the basic assembly tomorrow.

As I headed for my shed this morning I surprised the Sparrowhawk which was on the West Wing, on the  ground under the Ivy tree. It took off and headed up over the conifers, leaving behind just a cluster of Sparrow feathers. It pounced on the Hawthorn again later in the morning but that wasn't a successful attack.


Tonight, with the temperature still 11C at 10pm,the hedgehogs are out and about again, and I've just taken this picture through the patio window - this pair have found the pile of chopped peanuts that I put out earlier.



9 November - Back to sunshine again today, although the temperature only reached 10C this afternoon.

The garden has been strangely quiet today. The Sparrows have been less in evidence and the Goldfinches didn't turn up until late morning, and then no more than four at a time. I can only assume the Sparrowhawk is still about even though I didn't see it at all.

Today I managed to complete the main construction tasks on the macro stage, and here it is.

I still need to sort out a few rough edges, and round some corners, but then the metalwork will be ready for painting. I won't be doing that for the moment, not until I've used it for a while and carried out any inevitable modifications.

The Zeiss stage will allow me to move objects about under the lens, although I now need to make a Perspex replacement for the piece of Cornflakes packet which is on the stage at present (while I decide the shape it needs to be)!

I'm pleased with how it has worked out. It will be a great improvement on my previous macro stage which was rather limited in use.


I've added a few more details about the stage in the technical section of the website.


10 November - Another pleasant day with a high of 10C, although there was more cloud, and the forecast suggests rain tonight.

The rain would be useful. I did some work in the garden which included making a start on clearing the far end of the big pond, ready for spawning next Spring. The water level in the pond is quite low, but I'll wait to see if the rain comes before I resort to the water butts tomorrow.

There seemed to be more birds about, although I saw the Sparrowhawk make three visits during the day - no wonder the small birds are being cautious!


I did hear, and then see the Great Spotted Woodpecker again when it perched on the same conifer that it used a few days ago.

The red patch at the back of the head (best seen in the large image) indicates that it's a male.





It didn't come into the garden but, as I waited, the sun came out and lit up the Rowan, showing up the red foliage against the greens of the Ivy (left) and the Birch.




I aimed to get two jobs done in the garden today. First, I needed to clear the area around the feeders. Once that was done I turned my attention to the pond. It's surprising how much vegetation has grown there during the year, and I'll need to do some more on another day before the area is clear enough for the masses of frogspawn that will be produced next March. (Thinking of frogs, I came across a couple out and about last night.)

As usual when I do any pruning in the garden, I spend time checking what may be on the plants. Today I found very few things. There were several leaf hoppers on the long leaves of the  Bur-reeds, but they lived up to their name before I could photograph them.


However, I also found this small caterpillar which was on a mint plant,





and several snails like this one on dead Bur-reed leaves.

I first noticed this species back in April when I found some on the Marsh Marigold leaves at the other end of the pond, and I have still to identify it (and the caterpillar).


Click on the images to see larger versions -

2006 Garden Diary Index............... ...Last Month................... November (part 2)

September trip to Cornwall