The Garden Diary 2009

February (part 2)

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10 February - A wet start to the day with very little snow still remaining in the garden. However, by 9am the rain had eased and the prospect is for it to become dry and bright later. The forecast is for the weather to stay that way for the rest of the week, which may provide me with the chance to tackle a few of the jobs awaiting me in the garden.

Despite the sunshine that did indeed arrive later in the morning, none of those jobs were done today, but the bit I needed to complete the infra-red beam arrived and I have been able to test the set-up successfully indoors. Hopefully I will be able to sort out a frame for it tomorrow.

Those of you who have followed my diaries for some time will remember that our Ivy tree was partly blown over in a winter storm back in February 2007. Since then it has been tethered with strong ropes  to prevent it from falling over completely and damaging the Birch. I have a plan to get it vertical again and had a chat with my neighbour about putting my Land Rover Discovery in his garden to act as a anchor point from which I can winch the tree before supporting it with treated timber posts.

The plan will work, and I may put it into practice either this or next week. However, as we chatted I spotted what could be a 'spanner in the works'! I could see our Robin pair going in and out of the same spot, near where an old nestbox is hidden in the Ivy. Tomorrow I shall set up a cctv camera to monitor the spot. If it turns out that they have started nesting in there, I'm afraid that the plan will be on hold once again, with the intention to get it done this summer......


12 February - A sunny morning with a frosty start (-2C at 8am) but with more cloud about as the day progressed, although it remained below 3C all day.

Robin hunting under HawthornThe cctv camera has been monitoring the Ivy for the last 24 hours and I've seen no evidence that the Robins are actually nesting, so it looks as though it will be safe to go ahead with the righting of the Ivy tree if I get on with it soon.

To that end, if the force is with me I shall go out tomorrow morning and buy the fence posts and other bits that I need.

If the daytime forecast is correct I may be able to get the most essential work done over the next couple of days.


Dunnock hunting under Hawthorn


There is a lot of chasing going on in the garden at the moment. The Blackbirds continue to chase each other and the Song Thrushes, and there was a pair of Dunnocks dashing about this morning - the first time I've seen more than one here this Winter.

Hopefully the restored Ivy tree will be inviting enough for the Dunnocks to nest in it again this year.



The Siskins continue to visit. In fact, when I opened the dining room curtains at 8am they were the first birds that I saw, followed closely by a couple of Long-tailed Tits, although these didn't return during the rest of the day.

Female (or juvenile?) Siskins at feeders


For the first time there were two female Siskins here today.

At least I think these are adult females, although they look rather pale, and they rather look like the illustration of Siskin  juveniles in my guide.

Male Siskin in Hawthorn




Their rather drab appearance is in sharp contrast to this particularly bright male.




13 February - A bright, almost Spring-like day and I was able to take the first steps towards rescuing the Ivy tree.

The Ivy tree - constructing a new supportThe tree leans towards the top-right of the picture (and also away from the camera) and for the last year or so it has been prevented from falling over by ropes on either side of it.

Today, I've put up the first part of the framework that will be needed to support the tree.

Hopefully, tomorrow I'll be able to park my Discovery in my neighbour's garden so that I can use a puller winch to get the tree vertical again. Once that is done I can complete the framework around it.

If all goes well then it will be a case of training the Ivy to grow over, and eventually hide the frame, and putting in a couple of new nest boxes/platforms.

The croaking of a frog today reminds me that I need to do another job as a matter of urgency once the framework is completed - I have yet to clear the shallow (spawning) end of the big pond before the frogs start mating.


14 February - A bright, sunny and really Spring-like day, although the frost first thing reminded us that it is still Winter!

As planned, I spent part of the day tackling the Ivy tree. It went quite well, although I couldn't get quite the right angle from my neighbour's garden. Having straightened the tree as much as possible from there, I then moved the Discovery to the front of my own driveway and set up ropes the length of the garden to the tree. This allowed me to get it more or less vertical, once I corrected a crucial mistake! I was wondering why the tree wasn't moving despite there being a lot of tension on the ropes. Then, Sheila called to me on the walkie-talkie to stop pulling - I had forgotten to release a cable that was tethering the far side of the tree to the log store! Fortunately no damage had been done and when that cable was released the tree sprung into position.

By the time I gave up for the day I had a third post in place. The fourth one will have to wait until I clear some of the Ivy growth from behind the tree - a job to be done soon, certainly before we get any windy weather.

I've restarted recording overnight output from the veranda camera. Last night we had just two visitors, a black cat at 10.42pm and a healthy fox at 4.51am. The fox came first to the hedgehog food and stayed at the dish for six minutes. Then it moved to the area under the feeders and the hawthorn and foraged there for the next eleven minutes before leaving the garden by jumping over the fence.


15 February - A day which started bright, became increasingly cloudy through the morning, and which turned damp in the latter part of the afternoon.

The Ivy tree - constructing a new support - 2I was back outside for several hours, trying to make some more progress with the Ivy tree. I took the decision to get as far as stabilising it, and clearing the area on the West Wing side of it, removing an old lattice panel.

I had hoped to get the fourth post put in but I've decided to leave that until the summer when I use a winch again from next door to take the strain off the framework as I complete its assembly. The framework is now tethered on both sides and I think it will be safe should we have any bad storms.

It doesn't look very pretty for the moment, but least now I don't have to duck any more every time I walk up the path to the West Wing!


Last night there were no foxes (or hedgehogs) seen in the garden. The only visitor was a solitary cat (white nose & collar) around 6.30am. After dawn, there were several more visits by the same cat and also a black one! Fortunately they had left before the birds started using the feeders.

There were six Siskins here this morning, and I caught just one glimpse of a Song Thrush. The Dunnocks were about all day, despite my presence in the garden. In fact I saw more of them than the Robins today.

Around noon I stopped what I was doing to watch a pair of Crows mobbing a Sparrowhawk. I'm surprised that I haven't seen the hawk visit the garden for some time, which of course is good for all the birds that are visiting at the moment.


16 February - A bright and sunny morning, with the temperature up to 10C before noon, and lots of birds about,

A Goldcrest under the Hawthorn this morningincluding this all too rare treat in the garden - a Goldcrest. Last year I saw one here just twice, in March and November.

I was happening to be looking out of our bedroom window when I saw it fly in, with just a flash of yellow hinting what it was and it spent quite some time hunting in the Hawthorn and the Pyracanther,

The only chance I had to photograph it was when it dropped down to the ground for a moment or two. It was a bit too far away, and with its constant movement I'm afraid I could only get this trio of not-so-sharp pictures for the record.

And the Siskin numbers have been up this morning, with six (including four females) around the feeders at one time. In fact there have been at least a couple of Siskins at the feeders just about every time that I have looked out this morning. Not to be out-done, there have also been up to six Long-tailed Tits here. I've just watched a male Siskin stand up to a Robin, and win as the Robin flew off and the Siskin continued to feed.

As a sign of how Spring-like it was this morning, at one point Sheila and I sat out on the veranda for the first time this year to have a drink, and we were treated to a couple of Long-tailed Tits having a good go at one of the Coconut feeders, no more than five feet from Sheila - fabulous!

The rest of the day was rather busy in the garden with me spending time clearing areas of the big pond, having been prompted into getting on with the job by the croaking of at least a dozen frogs. In fact, during the process I came across two bundles of frogs rolling about in the water. With me all muddy there was no chance to get any photographs.

And the day ended with the delivery of a large pile of logs, the stacking of which will have to wait until tomorrow.


17 February - On an overcast morning (8C outside at 9am) the Siskin count is going up with up to nine at a time now, including at least five females. In contrast, I've been seeing only a couple of Goldfinches coming here this morning. There is still a Song Thrush visiting.

By the end of the day the logs had been stored away and I was glad to put my feet up!


18 February - A dull, overcast day with the temperature not having dropped below 8C overnight and just getting up another degree today.

Siskins and a Goldfinch

After the various activities of the last few days I have more or less taken today off, apart from watching the birds. There must be at least eleven Siskins about at the moment. Although I only saw up to nine at a time there were at least six males or five females here at one time.

I know that including more pictures of them may get a bit repetitious, but I though this one gave me a chance to compare their size with a Goldfinch - a maximum of five of the latter were seen at any one time today.

Male and female Siskins



This one compares the back plumage of a male and a female.


Long-tailed Tit



The Long-tailed Tits continue to delight us with their visits, with their colour scheme that is so very different to the other birds that visit the garden.


Robin (male?)



And finally, back to one of our residents - the Robin was caught as he displayed briefly after visiting a tray of food.



There's been no sign of the Goldcrest these last two days ago, but the Thrush continues to make at least one visit each day.


19 February - A miserably dull and slightly damp start to the day, with a temperature of 7C at 9am, and at least thirteen Siskins fluttering between the feeders and the surrounding perches (but just one Goldfinch so far!).

Sparrowhawk on tv antennaThe first Sparrowhawk attack I've seen here this year, and an unsuccessful one at that, just before 10.30am.

My first warning was when a Sparrow flew (unhurt) into the window right next to me and I looked out to see numerous small birds seeking shelter amongst the lower branches of the shrubs.

By the time I grabbed my camera and got outside the Hawk had flown up to a neighbour's tv antenna, and I only managed to grab a couple of pictures before it (a male) launched itself away from our garden.

Five minutes later and the Siskins are feeding as though nothing had happened, but it doesn't look as though the Sparrows have recovered yet. I wouldn't be surprised if we had a return visit by the hawk in the near future.

Before I forget again, there have been no fox or hedgehog visits to the garden over the last three nights.


20 February - A bright Spring-like start, although it became cloudy by the afternoon.

The morning sunshine encouraged the frogs to produce a chorus of croaks, and up in the Birch the Siskins were also performing. No photographs this time, but I recorded them as their babbling was interspersed with occasional rasping calls. It's the first time that I have heard them like this, and you can hear a 30 second clip of them here (469KB).

Having commented on the absence of foxes yesterday, last night there were three visits, at 1.55am, 2.56am and finally at 4.52am when the fox stayed until 5am. Each time it was a healthy individual that looked quite young. No hedgehogs appeared, but a mouse visited the dish  numerous times during the night, perhaps the reason for a cat to arrive on the veranda several times.


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