The Garden Diary 2009

January (part 2)

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16 January - Another overcast morning, with the temperature approaching 7C after it dipped to just above 4C last night.

I shouldn't have been surprised at the appearance of the hedgehog yesterday evening as the temperature had been at around 6C for eighteen hours, and it was no surprise when another individual appeared at 10.45pm. This one was able to walk normally.

The first fox of the night appeared in the background of the cctv image at midnight. A healthy looking individual, it seemed to be hunting around the big pond. An hour later the injured fox arrived. This time it spent ages under the Hawthorn, eating soaked mixed fruit out of a ground feeding tray - now I know why that dish is nearly always empty when I first check on the garden in the mornings. I thought that early Blackbirds were finishing them off. When it moved it didn't seem to be limping as much last night, and was able to but the foot down. After having its fill of the raisins it approached the veranda but didn't go to the hedgehog food this time.

Fox visits at 4.32am


The third fox visit of the night occurred at 4.32am when a healthy individual came to the veranda, sniffed at the hedgehog food, and the logs in a bucket(!) before it trotted off down the garden again.

To add to the mammal tally, a Grey Squirrel was here at breakfast time.



It's just after noon, I think it's darker now than during mid-morning, and as I write this I'm keeping a watch on the feeders where there are some Sparrows and nine Goldfinches, and down on the ground are four Wood Pigeons very helpfully cleaning up the spillage from the feeders. The Siskins haven't made a return since two days ago so I guess they were just passing through.



17 January - There was some rain before dawn which helped produce a short colder period at around 8am, but for most of the day it has been around 8C. It was quite bright during the morning as I shifted a pile of logs (delivered yesterday) to the log store, but cloud rolled in from the west as the afternoon progressed, and there has been a bit of rain this evening.

Last night's cctv coverage of the veranda revealed just one fox visit (at 3.51am), by the individual with a limp which stopped first at the raisins and then moved on to the hedgehog food. There were three visits to the veranda by hedgehogs, with the last one just before 1am,

Cats on the veranda during the night


and there were visits by three different cats during the early hours of today.

Although the mottled cat sniffed at the hedgehog food, none of them ate it. That seems to rule out the animal that I had originally suspected of 'stealing' the food!




18 January - A sunny morning after some heavy rain before midnight last night.  It is several degrees cooler today, with the temperature only up to 4.5C by 2pm.

Last night there was just one fox visitor, the lone with the limp again. It appeared twice, at 2.16am and 4.51am, and each time ate raisins under the Hawthorn. There were no hedgehogs recorded in the garden last night, perhaps put off going out by the rain during their usual foraging period,  and neither were there any cats.

However, while I'm still waiting to see the first mouse of the year, a rat made its first appearance on the present series of overnight recordings. It arrived during what must have been the heaviest period of rain, ran about for a short time in the area under the Hawthorn and then climbed up the tree.  After a minute or so it reappeared as it fell (or did it jump?) from the tree. The line of its descent leads back up to where I have fatballs hanging so I guess that the rat had visited one of those. As if to confirm that suspicion, one of the wire mesh holders was empty this morning! There was no sign of the rat returning during the rest of the night.

This all happened in the background of the cctv coverage so the image quality is very poor. My attempts to enhance the still images have not met with much success so far, but I shall try again later today.

Update at 8pm - no luck with the image enhancement. Tonight's action started at 5.20pm when the injured hedgehog spent several minutes at the dish.


19 January - A day largely dominated by threatening clouds, but only a few light showers. The temperature managed to get up to 6C around midday.

Two foxes in the garden last nightAgain the news is from last night, or rather yesterday evening. During the evening I mentioned in n e-mail that is was frustrating that the foxes were visiting way after I had gone to bed. As I watched a programme on TV,  I didn't realise was that one fox was recorded at 8.45pm. Then, an hour later there were actually two foxes wandering around in the garden, including the fox with the now slight limp.

Unfortunately, they didn't come near the veranda at the same time and this was the only useable frame that showed the pair.

Foxes on the veranda last night


These were images captured while the pair were in the garden, but I suspect that they are of the same individual as I didn't see one of them limping.



A fox scent marks the hedgehog dish



At 3.45am a fox made another visit. This time it approached the hedgehog food, then scent marked the dish before heading off under the Hawthorn where it scent marked again.



This evening I've set up a 'camera trap' on the veranda just in case the foxes  appear before I give up for the night. It includes an infra-red beam over the hedgehog dish, but high enough to avoid hedgehogs!

Talking of hedgehogs, a second, healthy individual appeared here at 7.30pm yesterday. This evening I have seen just one hedgehog, at just after 8pm. It ate at the dish for nearly ten minutes before running off.



20 January - Typical - When the camera is ready the subject fails to turn up. With only the one hedgehog turning up in the evening I brought my camera back indoors just before midnight, and it was 1.41am before the only fox (the one with the limp, very slight now) of the night appeared. There were no more hedgehog visits, no cats and no rats last night! The camera is set up on the veranda again this evening.

No news from the garden today, other than to note that a couple of Long-tailed Tits paid us a visit during the late morning. This evening the hedgehog with a limp turned up on the veranda just after 5.30pm.



21 January - We awoke to quite a hard frost this morning after the temperature had dipped just below freezing for much of the night. It stayed ice in the shadows for much of the morning and the temperature stayed below 5C during the day despite some bright sunshine.

With things quiet in the garden during the day I'm continuing to concentrate on the night-time visits for the moment.

After the early hedgehog yesterday evening, another, healthy individual appeared from the direction of our driveway at just after 9pm, and there was another which didn't appear until just before 5am. This one only visited the dish briefly, but was still wandering around by the small pond some twenty minutes later.

I packed my camera away at 11pm. If the camera had been left in place, it wasn't until 12.45am that the beam would have been broken by a cat which sniffed at the dish and then moved on.

Injured fox comes to feedAt 1.34am the first fox appeared, spending a couple of minutes at the raisins under the Hawthorn before coming onto the veranda.

After eating from the dish for a couple of minutes it turned as if to leave, but instead it sat down for a minute before returning to eat again.

when it had finished, it turned away again, and this time I had the clearest view yet of its back-left leg. It looks very much as though it has been broken. Once more, it sat at the edge of the veranda, for a while before heading off down the garden.

There were two more fox visits during the night, at 2.28am and 3.13am. In both cases it was a healthy fox. The first left the garden by jumping over the fence, while the second managed to move around the garden without triggering any of the sensors.



22 January -  After watching the recording of the injured fox again last night I decided to look for advice on the RSPCA website. This morning one of their officers called and had a look at the recording with me. He agreed that it wasn't going to be feasible to attempt to trap the fox. As it appears to be coping well and is otherwise looking healthy it will be best to monitor it during its future visits, with the proviso that if I see it in a distressed state then we will consider again what to do.

Having said that, last night the camera recorded no fax visits at all to the garden. In fact, after tow hedgehog visits during the evening (6.10 and 8.40pm), the only other sightings were a shadowy shape in the background at around 12.50am (probably a dark cat - definitely not a fox), and the cat with white paws and a collar t 8.15am!.

After what was a wet night, today has been a dreary one, overcast and milder than of late, with a high of over 9C. While the air felt damp, it didn't rain until this evening.



23 January - The temperature was back below 6C today, and overnight rain continued through much of the morning, stopping before midday.

The wet night kept the hedgehogs and cats away, but there were a couple of fox visits. A healthy fox appeared at 1.12am down by the ponds, and what may have been the same individual appeared again by the raisins at 1.21am. The fox with the broken leg appeared briefly at 3am. It too spent time at the raisins but didn't come to the veranda.

The final sighting of the night came in the form of the first mouse I've seen in this series of recording. At 5.25am it spent a few minutes running around under the bird feeders before disappearing again.

Goldfinches at their feeder


Today as the weather improved the Goldfinches became very active around the feeders, with up to fourteen about.

They are lovely birds, and a treat to have in the garden, but they are very wasteful around the feeders,



Siskin at the sunflower feederespecially when eating the sunflower kernels.

This rather messy photograph shows the tray that catches the leftovers from their feeds. As they bite a kernel the two ends inevitably fall away as they eat the middle bit. This tray was empty five days ago.

At least it gives them and other birds a second chance before the bits fall to the ground.

Here you can see a Siskin making what I think was its only visit of the day.

Robin on bird table



All three of these pictures were taken within a few minutes, and like the pictures above this Robin was taken through the slatted blinds. The bluish background is provided by the water butt at the far end of the caravan shelter.





24 January - A day that started off with a frost and remaining quite cold, with  some bright spells and a high of just over 5C.

The cold night brought an increase in activity in the garden and by the end of the night the hedgehog dish was empty, mainly due to one hungry fox. The only hedgehog to appear did so at 11.17pm and that didn't even come onto the veranda.

Me and a fox (just about!)The first fox visit was by the individual with the broken leg and took place at 9.39pm. It had just arrived at the raisins when I went out into the garden. As I opened the door it headed under the fence and out of the garden.

However, while I was at the bottom of the garden checking on the barkflies it returned and continued eating, only to be disturbed again as I returned to the house. In this video image you may just make out both be and the fox in the same frame! I wasn't aware of its presence until I looked at the recording.

Anyway, as soon as I was safely inside the fox returned fro a third session at the raisins before leaving again.

The next fox ( healthy this time) appeared at 1.42am and headed for the hedgehog dish. Apart from a brief visit to the raisins it stayed on the veranda for the next nine minutes. There was a brief fox visit to the dish at 3.10am and another longer one (6 min) at 4.38am.

The final visit of the night came at 5.19am when a fox trotted down past the caravan to the veranda. It spent the next five minutes eating, interrupting the feast twice to get a drink from the pond. Meal over, it headed back to the pond before disappearing down the garden.

During the night two cats passed through, the cat with a collar and the one with the triangular white patch on its face.

This is the  weekend of the 'Big Garden Birdwatch' run by the RSPB, when you are asked to watch a particular area and record the birds seen over a period of one hour. As usual, I watch my own garden. The problem usual is which hour to choose. Today that was decided for my by the birds.

Over a five minute spell shortly after 1pm there was a flurry of activity that is all too rare here. I managed to photograph some of the participants

House Sparrows at their feeder



There were our usual House Sparrows, 14 being the largest group seen;



there were 11 (or was it 12?) Goldfinches fluttering between the shrubs and the feeders;

Male Siskine eats sunflower kernels



Along with the Goldfinches there were two male Siskins again, although I couldn't get a photograph to show them together.



Robin on bird table


The two Robins were about, and I couldn't resist including this picture of one in what is becoming a familiar spot to spot for a few moments -  a sharper picture today.

There was also a single Dunnock about in or under the Hawthorn, although it was last seen being chased away by a Robin.



Blue Tit at coconut fat feeder



There was just one Blue Tit about during that hour, and the Great Tits were noticeable by their absence.



Blackbirds on the veranda



Down on the ground a trio of Blackbirds were more interested in chasing each other than looking for food,


Wren hunting next to the veranda




And their antics occasionally got in the way for this Wren that was hunting along the edge of the veranda.


Song Thrush hunts next to the Snowdrops



A couple of days ago I read that an RSPB survey suggested that Song Thrushes have all but disappeared from gardens, but not today! This one flew in during the busy period and spent several minutes amongst the developing Snowdrops and under the Hawthorn.



I've already mentioned the absence of the Great Tits (they were about later in the afternoon) but also missing from the hour were our almost resident pair of Collared Doves and the group of Wood pigeons I rely on to clean up the spills from the feeders.

After the hour was over I headed out to buy a new supply of sunflower kernels and a small 12v battery to use with an infra red beam sensor that arrived this morning. Unfortunately, an otherwise successful mission fell apart when my Discovery suddenly decided not to play any more! The engine just stopped, and no amount of coaxing by a friendly AA man could persuade it to restart (no, I hadn't run out of fuel!). The last but of my journey home, which should have been not much more than five minutes took nearly four hours as darkness fell, the stars came out and it got cold! which is why today's diary entry wasn't added until the next day!



25 January - After yesterday's activities and frustrations, wet weather during the night and this morning has brought a bit of quietness to the garden. Having said that, as I look out at 1.45pm the Collared Doves and the Wood Pigeons are here , and of course so are our Great Tits - too late to be counted, I'm afraid!

Last night I refilled the dish on the veranda ready for the foxes, however, the rain obviously affected them too.

Fox, too nervous to feed on a breezy nightThe only activity recorded all night concerned one healthy fox that trotted up from the bottom of the garden to the raisins at 3.53am. During its visit there was a gusty wind blowing that made the plants move suddenly and this made the fox very nervous.

Despite that it came up onto the veranda and started to eat, only to be disturbed every time there was another gust of wind. It actually stayed for nearly five minutes, but ate very little as it was too busy looking around.



26 January - A dry day, with the temperature just getting up to 7C as some sunshine broke through the cloud cover around the middle of the day.

No pictures today and I have still to catch up with the pictures for the last two days. 

Today we had visits from some birds that missed the survey on the weekend (in this garden at least). We had a couple of long-tailed Tits, one of which was happy to feed at a fat ball as I stood no more than three feet away, and was in the middle of topping up a feeder. While I was trying, without success, to photograph a Coal Tit, a male Blackcap appeared briefly in the Hawthorn, but was scared off when a pair of Wood Pigeons landed.


27 January - A bright, slightly misty and frosty start (-1C at 8am) with the temperature rising slowly to 6C by the early afternoon on what was a largely bright day.

During the night the cold weather kept the hedgehogs away, but there were three fox visits, which I suspect featured the same healthy individual. It came to the hedgehog dish three times, at 12.27am, 3.37am. and 5.18am. Its final visit lasted about six minutes during which it finished off the contents. The only other visitor was the white-faced cat that passed by the dish without touching at 2.12am.


28 January - After yesterday's brightness it clouded over in the evening and rained in the early hours of this morning. At 11.20am it is still overcast and very gloomy outside, but there hasn't been any rain since breakfast time - that dry spell didn't last and by lunchtime it was drizzling, and continued to do so for the rest of the day.

Last night's only fox (healthy) appeared at 11.04pm, visiting only the raisins before disappearing back down the garden. Moments after it left a cat came in via our garden gate and headed in the same direction.

It was 1.09am that the first hedgehog arrived, also via the gate. It ate at the dish for about four minutes before heading back towards the gate and the driveway. Perhaps the same hedgehog returned at 3.20am, first feeding at the dish and then under the bird feeders. By now it was raining quite heavily, so as well as spilt sunflower kernels there was probably a good supply of earthworms about.

Watching these recordings had made me begin to think that I was mistaken in suspecting that the local cats were eating the hedgehog food. Each time they have appeared they have either walked straight past the dish, or just sniffed at it before moving on. However, last night one of our regular visitors did stop to feed. Having first walked past the dish it came back and spent a couple of minutes eating.

This morning I woke up at just before 7am to the 'music' of a Song Thrush, a treat I only get to hear rarely as I usually wake up too late. It made up for not seeing the bird during the day. The Siskins didn't make an appearance today, nor did the Blackcap and Long-tailed Tits - a quiet bird day - I suppose I could nearly claim the the Heron that flew low and slow over our garden just after lunch!


29 January - An overcast but dry start to the day. After a high of 7C yesterday, last night the temperature dropped to 2C, which may explain the absence of hedgehogs during the night.

However, there were fox visits to report on. The first to arrive was the fox with the broken leg, still moving about with relative ease and otherwise looking healthy. It appeared at 11.35pm and stayed in view for nearly ten minutes, eating raisins before moving on to the hedgehog dish for a short time. Then it spent a while foraging between the veranda and the small pond.

The next two visits featured healthy fox(es). At 3.20am, for the first time I saw a fox enter the garden via the gate (under rather than over, I think). It headed strait for the veranda, ate for a coupe of minutes before heading down the garden. At 4.10am a fox (the same one?) trotted up the garden path and tucked into the hedgehog food. It stayed for just over five minutes, apart from two quick trips to the pond to drink.

There was just one cat last night, which entered via the gate and headed straight down the garden.

My IR crossed beam project is on hold for the moment while I wait for a couple of bits to arrive from Bulgaria (never bought anything from that country before!). It may be a week or so before I can set up my camera trap again on the veranda. When I watch the overnight recordings I'm using the images to determine where I want the beams to cross. The aim is for the fox to break the crossed beams (and so operate the camera shutter ) only when it lifts its head up over the dish.

There is still a Siskin about. One appeared at the sunflower feeder with a group of Goldfinches at 11am, and although I didn't hear it this morning, a Song Thrush came to visit in the early afternoon. WE also had a group of six Starlings here for a while - quite unusual these days.


30 January - A bright day with hazy sunshine after a cold night with the temperature dropping to 1C around midnight, rising gradually through the morning to peak at 6C in the early afternoon.

I'm afraid that I haven't picked my camera up today (or for most of the week, I'm afraid!), and I should have done so to record the first Snowdrop to open - I'll try again tomorrow.

Breakfast time brought a couple of Long-tailed Tits to the fat feeders. There was no sign of any Siskins today, and I'm still waiting for the Blackcap to reappear. The resident (perhaps) male Blackbird is really becoming territorial as far as the feeding area is concerned at least. He was chasing off other Blackbirds throughout the day, and I think I caught a glimpse of the Song Thrush receiving the same treatment.

On a smaller scale, the Robin I've photographed on the bird table has become very possessive of that bit of territory, and I watched at he (probably) kept a Blue Tit at bay - it was quite a tactical encounter at the end of which the BT did manage to grab a sunflower kernel before leaving. Very unusually, for just a few moments there were three adult Robins here, until the intruder was chased away, and 'our' pair had the place to themselves again.

Last night there were four fox visits between 11.32pm and 4.13am when the injured fox was the final visitor of the night.

There were three hedgehog visits to the veranda, possibly the same individual. It came into the garden under the gate at 9.29pm stayed for about 10minutes before heading back out the same way. At 11.54pm the arrival was again under the gate. This time it ate fro a short time before heading down the garden. Then at 12.21am it came back up the garden, ate a bit more from the dish and left under the gate again.


31 January - Not so cold last night, with a minimum of between 2 and 3C. Today it was very hazy all day and the temperature only made it up to 5C.

Foxes that visited last nightLast night the first visitor was a healthy fox at 10.27pm. At 12.55am it was the injured fox that appeared, and it was back again at 3.45am. While it looks healthy, walking with just three good legs must be very tiring, and it took time to rest during its first visit.

There was another healthy fox visit at 3.45am, although it didn't get to feed as something disturbed it and it ran off. The fox that came to the dish at 4.18am was visibly bigger, suggesting that at least three foxes came to the garden last night.

If you click on the small image of the first visit you will see images of all four visits.  I can't decide if it is the same fox in the first two sets of images. The second one appeared to be much more nervous (and we had a very nervous individual here on the 25th.

There was one more fox visitor at 4.49am, but that had been beaten to the dish by the only hedgehog to appear last night.

A hedgehog and fox encounter - 1


When it arrived from under the gate the hedgehog  didn't start eating straight away, but spent a while sniffing at the edge of the dish. It had been at the dish nearly a minute when a fox came trotting down the path, passing the caravan without triggering the lights.

As soon as it came onto the veranda and saw the hedgehog it stopped quickly, looked and ran off the way it had come!


A hedgehog and fox encounter - 2

However, it didn't go far, walking around the far side of the small pond, and stopping for a minute or so under the Hawthorn. Then it approached the dish again, took one close look and headed off again - this time the lights came on.

It came back quite quickly and this time spent longer investigating without getting its nose actually over the dish. At the end of that inspection it turned tail and that was the last I saw of it.

The hedgehog ate for some fifteen minutes, and when it left the dish was empty!

There were still raisins under the Hawthorn this morning, so they proved less popular with the foxes last night.

Click on images to see larger versions

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