The Garden Diary 2013
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15 January - I have just switched on my PC for the first time since Christmas it is going to take more than this session to get myself and the diary sorted out, so there will be a shortage of links as well as some that do not work. Hosting our young grandson means that tomorrow I will be otherwise (and very enjoyably) occupied all day, but I hope the basic diary structure will be up and running correctly by the end of the week.
In the meantime, we had our first snow of the year this morning. It was only a light fall which looked pretty for a short time, although with the temperature refusing to drop to freezing it didn't last too long, and we had rain during the afternoon.
18 January - More snow!
This morning when I first looked out soon after 8am it was fine and there was just a sprinkling of snow on the caravan shelter. However, within the hour it had started snowing again and this time it continued to do so all day, finally stopping around 5pm. The outside temperature remained just below freezing so the snow settled, although when I cleared an area at the front of the house it was quite wet underneath.
There were a few periods during the morning when quite large flakes fell, but most of the time it was quite fine snow, easily blown about by the breeze. At the end of the afternoon I measured the depth of a few patched of snow (top of the bird feeder, our bins, and paving) and found the depth to vary between 11 - 13cm. At 10.30pm the outside temperature is still between zero and -1C.
Apart from the bit of snow clearing, much of the day was taken up relaxing and watching out for bird visitors, although that wasn't as rewarding as I had hoped. We had most of our usual daily visitors, but there were some notable exceptions. No Great Tits visited, and neither did any Jays, despite my having seen one here several times earlier in the week.
However, I did see a Dunnock for the first time this month. As far as I can tell it made two visits during the day.
In sharp contrast, its arch-rival the Robin made frequent sorties to the bird table and the ground below the Hawthorn where patches of snow were being cleared by the Blackbirds.
There have been just two Blackbirds coming to feed, a male and a female, although I'm not sure that they are a pair.
They approach the garden from different directions, and female is much more tolerant of my movements that the male. While he flies off at the slightest movement even when I'm inside the house, the female remains on the ground even when I step out onto the veranda.
As I mentioned above, I have neither seen or heard any Great Tits today. Instead, a pair of Blue Tits have been feeding here throughout the day, moving between the apple, fat balls, bird table, sunflowers and the ground.
Also, from time to time a single Coal Tit darts in to pinch a peanut from the table, moving much too fast for me to grab a picture!
The other small bird to escape the camera today was a solitary Goldfinch coming to the sunflower kernels.
As usual, most numerous were the Sparrows (although at no time did I count more than seven), mainly at their dedicated Budgie seed feeder, but also taking sunflower kernels, much to the annoyance of the Goldfinch.
Our local pair of Collared Doves made a number of visits to the bird table. While they took care not to land on its snow-covered roof the Wood Pigeons had no such qualms, bulldozing their way through the snow, both on the roof and down at ground level.
In the late afternoon a pair of Magpies landed on the caravan shelter, and one flew down to the side of the pond briefly. Their arrival sometimes accompanies a visit by a Sparrowhawk or a Jay, but today neither of these appeared - disappointing. That reminds me - I have yet to find out about the Sparrowhawk ring that I photographed in December.
19 January - A very dull day with much lower light levels than yesterday, but no more snow.
The temperature has hovered between freezing and +1C (+0.5C at 4.30pm), resulting in a very slow thaw. By the end of the afternoon the snow deposits that I measured yesterday had reduced in thickness to between 9 - 11cm, a loss of around 2cm.
20 January - Light snow has fallen all morning, and with the temperature just below freezing cleared areas of ground are turning white once more, although it's only a thin covering so far.
Well, after it being very quiet in the garden yesterday, this morning brought some welcome Winter visitors - a quartet of Fieldfares.
I have to say that the term quartet has to be applied loosely because while four Fieldfares arrived more or less together, they are very reluctant to be close to each other once in the garden, chasing each other away from wherever they choose to perch.
This means that so far I have only been able to photograph individual birds.
It wasn't long before the first one was in the hawthorn and picking off haws.
However, it seems that the main attraction is the far easier treat of the apples that I put out (I'll be hanging some more tonight).
This apple requires the Fieldfare to stretch, making it look very slim and allowing a glimpse of its white thigh feathers, usually hidden from view.
Now that the Fieldfares have arrived I must also watch out for the smaller Redwings that usually accompany them.
There were two visits by a Jay during the late morning, although the presence of the Fieldfares seems to make it wary and so far I have managed just a distant picture of it in the Birch tree. It did not get to feed here.
Finally, another 'local' that hadn't shown up over the previous two days, a Starling. I only saw it here once during the morning.
There are no records from the rest of the day as we were out all afternoon, not returning until well after dusk.
21 January - A largely sunny day, and with the outside temperature just over 3C in the early afternoon there is a steady thaw under way.
In the garden the Great Tits have made a reappearance and after there being just a single Goldfinch visiting over the last few days there are several here this lunchtime. I've only caught one brief glimpse of the Jay at the bottom of the garden during the morning.
As for the Fieldfares, I have only seen one here so far today, although its visits have been frequent (assuming that it is the same bird every time!).
It spends most of its time feeding on the apples that I've split and put on the ground under the Hawthorn.
This individual has become very territorial, chasing off the Robin and the Blackbirds when they have approached too close to the apples. It clearly knows its limitations though, and does not attempt to be aggressive towards the Wood Pigeons when they turn up!
23 January - We are under gloomy, grey skies this morning, with a temperature of 2C at 10.30am, so that the slow thaw is continuing. While the road outside is a slushy mess, much of the garden is still white. That is partly down to the thaw suffering a slight setback yesterday. With the thaw seemingly underway I cleared Sheila's car of snow during the afternoon. However, as dusk fell it started snowing once more, and this morning I cleared another 2.0-2.5cm of snow from the car's roof. It does look as though this snowy period is now over - the forecast is for a temperature of around 8C on Sunday as rain sweeps over us!
As I write this a Fieldfare is once again tucking into the apples, having been here since first light. There was a second one about briefly, but that seems to have gone elsewhere now.
The snow hasn't quite finished with us yet. For over an hour since midday light snow has been falling. However, with the temperature remaining just over 2C there is little likelihood that it will settle on areas already cleared by the thaw.
At last a chance to 'capture' a visiting Coal Tit. Usually, visits consist of the bird pausing on an inner branch of the Hawthorn before a dash and grab raid on a feeder (or the table), either returning to the shelter of the tree or heading out of the garden.
This time it paused for a moment or two on a branch of the pruned Buddleia which is right next to the table.
A very rare sight in the garden - there were two Coal Tits here earlier, although one was quickly chased away by the other!
25 January - The sky is grey again, and the thaw continues at a very slow pace - our outside thermometer is reading 2.5C at 1.30pm. While pathways are now more or less clear, there is still a covering of snow over much of the garden, caravan shelter and veranda canopy.
In fact, I have not seen any Blackbirds here over the last few days, probably down to the Fieldfare, which is a bit disappointing. In an effort to redress the balance somewhat, I've moved the apples to the vegetable plot at the far end of the garden - the Fieldfare found them by the time I returned to the house.
Hopefully I can now tempt the Blackbirds back!
Perhaps it will also give the Jay more chance to collect peanuts without being harassed.
This was its only visit seen by me this morning, at just after 9am when lighting conditions were horrible and a shutter speed of just 1/20sec was needed to take this rather unsharp picture, the only useable one before it left again.
This morning also brought a few more Goldfinches to the feeders, with five here for a short time.
26 January - A mainly sunny day with the temperature soaring to a mighty 7C by lunchtime. By the end of the day there was precious little snow to be seen on the ground, although looking out from our bedroom window it was striking to see that most garden shed rooftops are still white.
Well, my ploy to draw the Fieldfare to the far end of the garden seems to have worked - while It have frequently seen it feeding on the apples that I've put on the vegetable plot it has not visited the area near the house at all. Incidentally, since its arrival it has now eaten its way through a large bag of Sainsbury's Basic apples (a little more rustic, but just as tasty!), weighing 1.4KG. I shall have to open a second bag tomorrow.
Not only has the Fieldfare moved to the bottom of the garden, but today, as I hoped, the male Blackbird reappeared in the garden, not only to feed but also to bathe in the big pond now that the ice has more or less all melted - will the female return tomorrow?
And the Jay made just a single visit again.
30 January - Since that last entry rising temperatures and some rain made short work of the final remnants of snow. Today has been sunny, and with the temperature exceeding 11C this afternoon it has been almost Spring-like - A foolish thought with so much of winter yet to go!
As if to emphasise this optimism numerous Snowdrops have opened next to the small pond.
I did see one open two days ago but this is the first time that there are multiple flowers in bloom.
Well, As the snow finally departed, so did the Fieldfare, with the apples left undisturbed since Sunday (27th). Then, just the one appeared and was included in my contribution to the RSPB's 'Big Garden Birdwatch'.
Also included was the single Jay that had started making its daily visits once more. However, late this morning we had not one but three here for a short time at least.
Look carefully at this shot and you can see the blurred form of Jay#3 as it was being chased off by Jay #2 as Jay #1 waits on the log!
A rushed photograph, it suffers from various problems, not least the horizontal bars across Jay #3. These are reflections of brightly lit wooden blinds at the other end of our house. If I know that I intend to take photographs I usually hang a black curtain behind me to prevent this happening, but this morning the Jays caught me by surprise.
The remaining pair of Jays returned numerous times over the next twenty minutes, and were much more tolerant to each other.
Below the birds are the Snowdrops shown in the first of today's photographs.
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