The Garden Diary 2010
January (part 2)
10 January - A change in the weather - after rather less than a centimetre of snow fell last night, the promised higher winds fizzled away and the temperature didn't drop below -1C. Today it has remained above freezing all day, with a high about 2C. That has brought about a slow thaw. This evening there is still snow to be seen on the thicker branches of trees as well, of course of most of what is on the ground, but rooftops have started to clear.
The 'milder' conditions don't mean that it has been a sunny day. In fact it has been completely overcast, and very dull. There were periods when it snowed very lightly, but this evening it feels damp outside.
The conditions provided a bit of a photographic challenge when Redwings appeared during the morning, at least 15-16 of them perching in the trees of our and our neighbours' gardens.
While they stayed about for a couple of hours I didn't see any of them actually feed.
That may well have been down to the fact that with them were two Fieldfares, here for the first time since my last definite sighting of one here in March 2004.
This was the only chance I had to get a photograph of a Redwing and a Fieldfare together, although I didn't get a chance to adjust for the bright back-lighting for a better picture before the Redwing flew off.
While the Redwings didn't feed, one of them was happy to tuck into the apples in the Rowan tree, polishing off four of them during the day.
This individual seemed to lay claim to both the Rowan and the Birch tree today, occasionally chasing off Redwings and not tolerating any approaches made by the Blackbirds.
While I watched the Fieldfare I caught sight of a couple of Long-tailed Tits for the first time during this cold spell. This one approached the apples before being seen off by the Fieldfare.
Getting a taste of their own medicine didn't stop the Blackbirds continuing their harrying of the Song Thrush, seen here looking out from the shelter of the Rhododendron plant before flying down to grab a few raisins.
11 January - A second grey, leaden day with the temperature staying just above freezing so that the slow thaw made just a little progress after another sprinkling of snow fell last night. We are now entering that 'dirty snow' phase at the sides of busier roads, although residential roads like ours are still covered with snow and ice.
In the garden it is actually quite quiet around the feeders. The Goldfinches and Sparrows are feeding at them and I though that I would have needed to top them up frequently, but I have only needed to do so once since before the snow fell last week. And while I have ensured that there has been water available I have yet to see any bird drink from it during the same period.
In contrast, the apples that I put up before the snow arrived have been gobbled up by the new visitors. After the flock of Redwings turned up yesterday, today there were (as far as I can tell) just a couple about, as well as two Fieldfares again. Yesterday I put extra apples up on the Rowan. However, instead of going for these the birds chose to finish off the original apples on the Rowan, and then turn their attention to apples in the Hawthorn and the Buddleia. These had been put in place at the same time as the original apples in the Rowan and Birch. As all the apples were from the same batch I must assume that the sub-zero temperatures had helped break down the tissues in those apples and made them more attractive.
I bought new supplies today, and until they are needed they are being stored outside in a pile of snow. Perhaps this will help to tenderize them ready for use!
Anyway, the pictures. While it was a Redwing that made the first approach to the apples in the Hawthorn, it wasn't long before it was chased away from them by one of the Fieldfares which then stood guard over them all morning.
It was the afternoon before the Redwing had more chances to get near these apples, and between them the two birds demolished the both of them.
This evening I've put up two more apples in the Hawthorn, but I will wait until the morning to go up a step ladder the replenish the supply in the Rowan.
12 January - the greyness continues, but with the temperature continuing to hover around freezing thawing is a very slow process.
These pictures show the garden and our road at lunchtime today, a week after the snow fell. The darkness of the wheel tracks is down to the first grit having been put down onto the snow and ice today.
Despite these scenes there is liquid water on the surfaces of the two ponds today, and for the first time since last week I didn't need to empty ice out of the bird baths this morning.
Little new to report on from the garden so far today, so I'll bore you with a couple more pictures of one of the Fieldfares.
There were two apples on the wire at the start of the day and it looks as though this second one will be gone by sunset.
The second Fieldfare is making similar progress through the apples on the Rowan.
The pecking order is being maintained with the Fieldfare often distracted by the arrival of a Blackbird at this end of the garden. While the Blackbird is most unlikely to attempt to eat these apples, heading instead to the raisins on the ground below it has to be chased away.
And while this goes on you are likely to spot the Song Thrush also waiting its opportunity to gain access to the raisins. This time it spent several minutes motionless on a heap of snow behind the Buddleia.
During one chase the Fieldfare discovered that I had put some apples on to ground, and spent a few minutes there before returning to the unfinished meal up in the Hawthorn.
Notice the pink 'confetti' on the snow - fragments of apple peel torn off the suspended apples and discarded by the Fieldfare.
I've only caught a brief glimpse of any Redwings today - three of them flew off when I walk down the garden this morning and so far they haven't returned.
One slightly disappointing aspect of the snowy conditions has been the lack of sightings of, or evidence of activity by 'our' fox apart from this single quite clear footprint on the path past the caravan shelter.
The only other identifiable prints were some rather poor bird prints (probably pigeon) and the inevitable cat prints.
13 January - Well, yesterday's grit is now history, buried under another 6cm+ of snow overnight.
As it approaches 11am it is still snowing, albeit lightly, and with the temperature continuing to hover around freezing, the thaw is on hold again.
Ironically, it seems that this snow is the result of warmer air moving in from the west, and temperatures of a heady +6C are forecast for the west of Cornwall!
Our forecast suggests that similar daytime temperatures will reach us in three days time.
Snow continued to fall through most of the morning, but this afternoon it was clear that the thaw was underway once more. It was easy to clear our paths but for the first time I was left with wet and very cold gloves!
There were more Goldfinches here today, although I have still to get a
photograph of one away from a feeder and with a snowy background. I think I
spotted a warbler but I need to see it again to be sure. I've been a bit
disappointed that the Blackcaps haven't made a reappearance over the last
four days, and the Redwings also seem to have gone - none seen today.
However, the Fieldfares continue to dominate the apples (just about!). The two birds stick to their own ends of the garden, but for a short time this morning the equilibrium was disturbed by a brief appearance of a third one.
Once the intruder was chased away the pair returned to their usual diet of apple and chasing Blackbirds (and the Thrush a couple of times).
The level of dominance of the Fieldfares was actually put to the test several times this afternoon when Starlings decided to sample the apples.
While the starlings showed no aggression towards the Fieldfares the latter didn't attempt to protect the apples. Instead, they moved away a metre or so and waited while the Starlings fed.
I also noticed that the Fieldfare in the Rowan was easily disturbed by the group of House Sparrows that moved about the Birch tree. The one in the Hawthorn seemed to ignore the Sparrows in that tree.
While I was clearing snow from our paths I could hear the sound of a Woodpecker drumming somewhere in the Brickfields Park. It would be nice to see one of these birds in the garden before the snow vanishes.
14 January - With the outside temperature approaching 3C under grey skies the thaw is well underway this morning.
So far I have only seen one of the Fieldfares (the guardian of the Hawthorn!), seen here as it defends the tree from a Blackbird.
As the day has progressed the Fieldfare has spent more and more time away from the garden. Could it be preparing to move on?
The male Blackcap is here again, making brief excursions into the Hawthorn to peck at a fat ball.
There may be a thaw, but this bird still needs to fluff up its feathers to provide extra insulation against the cold.
I'm also pleased to see Blackbird 'Scruffy' after its absence yesterday. It still looks terrible but otherwise appears to be healthy.
Having been chased away by the Fieldfare once, it still managed to sneak in to eat some raisins.
I'm afraid that a technical problem may cause the diary to appear to come to a halt for the next week. Since I posted the initial entry for today our internet connection, which also includes our cable TV signal, has failed several times (my guess is water in the wiring somewhere between us and them!) and the earliest that a technician can visit is the 20th! In the meantime the diary will continue and will be uploaded when the connection works.
15 January - Well, after several hours of an intermittent connection out internet/TV service returned to normal last night, and has behaved all day today, so I'm optimistic that whatever the fault was it has now been rectified.
The thaw has accelerated today while the skies have remained a dreary shade of grey. If the forecast is correct then rain will move across us tomorrow before we finally see the sun again on Sunday! The temperature has been around 3C for much of the day, and as I write this at 6.30pm the air temperature is between 4-5C in the garden.
Only one bird photographed today - the Fieldfare again - sorry! It was absent from the garden for much of the day, although it returned numerous times to feed (and a second one made a single, brief appearance in the late morning.
Here, one of them 'yawned' as it visited the apples in the Buddleia, giving me a chance to photograph its tongue.
It was still feeding at the apples in the Hawthorn as dusk fell.
16 January - As promised, the rain arrived early this morning. It had stopped by lunchtime but the afternoon has remained extremely dull. As I write this at 3.15pm it is just under 7C outside.
Needless to say, there is now very little snow left, and the garden, which looked rather sorry for itself before the snow, is now in desperate need of some TLC.
However, in the late morning we did have a pair of Siskins (male on the left in the pictures) come to the Niger seed feeder. They were very nervous and the slightest movement had them heading into the sanctuary of the Hawthorn.
This is just two days later than our first Siskin visit last year.
The forecast is for showers tonight, then possibly a frosty (and icy) start before a sunny tomorrow - my fingers are crossed!
Click on images to see larger version