Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Around the Garden

Spent the middle of the day pottering round the garden pulling up a few weeds and generally enjoying some fresh air. In with the frog spawn I had transferred a couple of Great Pond Snails to keep a check on algae growth and both seemed to have settled in all right.

Great Pond Snail - Limnaea stagnalis

On the surface of the big pond there was one lonely Water Boatman occasionally waiting on the surface and then diving to the bottom. Such strange looking creatures, I think, with their pair of elongated legs with which they can scull across the surface or swim under water.

Water Boatman

Water Boatman

Most of the flowers in the lawn seemed to have one or two minibeasts which must help in the spread of pollen as they move from plant to plant.

Yellow Flower

My Prunus cerasifera Nigra is nearly in full blossom and fortunately managed to hang on to the flowers during the fierce winds a few days ago.

Pink Flowers

Quite a few birds were making short visits to the bird bath including this Chaffinch.
Chaffinch Drinking

Overhead flew a couple of Crows which gave me a nice silhouette shot of one of them.
Crow Silhouette

As for keeping large birds off my new feeder - it didn't take the Starlings long to work out how to get at the food and that several could hang on at the same time. I don't mind them having a reasonable amount of the food I put out but a few Starlings can get through food even faster than the same number of pigeons!

Starlings Collage

Lastly - one bud getting ready to open. Sometimes I think they look nicer at this stage before they open up completely.

Flower Bud

Sunday, 29 March 2009

This and That plus a Couple of Redheads

Very cold (-1) on the morning walkies but the day improved with lovely sunshine and beautiful blue skies. On the way back from a quick shopping expedition I called in at the local garden centre and bought a new bird feeder. I like the ones with a cover - helps to keep larger birds and the rain away from the food. This feeder I will use for mealworms and suet treats. I wondered how long it would be before the first brave bird gave it a try. It didn't take long before a Blue Tit gave it the once over.

Blue Tit

After lunch we went for a short walk round the village. It took us about an hour to cover not much more than half a mile. Me stopping to photograph and Bobby to investigate all the interesting smells. Even though the temperature was not very high it was really nice to be out without having to wear a heavy winter coat. There was a gentle breeze so the warmth of the Sun wasn't being spoilt by an icy blast.


One reason I went out was to get a new set of photos for the panorama at the top of this blog. It was hazier than I expected but I got a new set anyway.

Looking in peoples gardens to see what was blooming it was nice to see a clump of Fritillary.

A Prunus (possibly cerasifera Nigra) tree in blossom
Flowering Tree

and some lovely red tulips along with pansies in a wall basket.
Red Tulips

Along Old Mill Lane the lichen on the Ash Tree was illuminated by the bright sunlight

Finally, on the homeward leg, I spotted the two redheads.....
... which were taking advantage of the brilliant sunshine.

Nestboxes Update (Monday)

More moss is appearing in the Blue Tit box. There are times when it looks as though the bird is thinking of building a nest on top of the camera. It keeps going to the top of the box and I sometimes see bits of nest material fall down.

More flutter activity in the Blue Tit box

Today is the first time I have seen a bird in the Robin box. Not a Robin but a Great Tit which spent a while investigating every corner. Maybe it was just looking for insects to eat.

Saturday, 28 March 2009

Robins Bonding

There can be hardly a day goes by without the cheerful sight of a Robin somewhere in the garden. If you cannot see one you can be sure one is watching somewhere. This time of year there are several Robins along the lane here and they spend a lot of time singing loudly to mark their territory and to attract a mate. Yesterday I was watching a Robin on top of the fence when up popped another. The newcomer had a seed in his beak. The first Robin then slowly went up to the new arrival and gently took the seed. I found out from a quick visit to the Robin information on Wild England that this is part of their courtship and that if she is happy with the gifts brought by the male then nest building will follow. I wonder if they will use my nest box? Fingers crossed.

Didn't get a photo as it was a very brief episode and I was fascinated just watching so here are some general shots taken over the past year.

Robins - Collage

The Blue Tit nest box has more moss in the bottom and at last more seems to be going in than is being taken out. What fussy birds they are.

Friday, 27 March 2009

More Garden Blooms and Birds

It was so windy this morning I just had a quick look around the garden. The Snakes Head Fritillary has been opening its flower heads and I was determined to get a photograph before the wind wrecked them.

Snakes Head Fritillary

The only other new colour in the garden so far was the blue of some rather skimpy Hyacinths but at least it is some extra colour.


On the birding front there have been the usual regular visitors like this male Chaffinch taking a Sunflower seed from the lawn. He had better make off with what he can as I will want some of his Sunflower seeds soon to get plants started. I just adore their cheerful yellow faces in the Summer and he can have some extra home grown seeds in the Autumn.

Male Chaffinch with Sunflower Seed

My favourites - Blue and Long Tailed Tits
IMG_1117Blue Tit Long Tailed Tit

Yesterday there was a visiting Jackdaw glimpsed briefly through a rain splattered kitchen window.

A few days ago I loosened the horizontal sections so that they would move round with the weight of a large bird on them. The idea being to make it more awkward for them to take too much food. It makes no difference. They are too intelligent and persistent to be put off by simple ruses like that.

Always a cheerful sight - a container with a line of miniature Daffodils. The miniature varieties always seem to last longer in poor weather conditions and stand up to March winds much better than their full size cousins.

Miniature Daffodils

Miniature Daffodil

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

New Lens - New Birds

I have been patiently waiting for a new lens to arrive which it duly did today. After fitting it and making sure it worked properly I turned to the kitchen window to try it out. Of course the best laid plans.... the heavens opened, the wind blew the rain straight at the window, result - couldn't see a thing! Fortunately those clouds blew over fairly quickly, the window dried and the birds returned to the feeders. I couldn't believe my eyes. For over a year I have been trying to attract Goldfinches without luck but today that changed. One lone Goldfinch was tentatively trying out the niger seed feeder and after a few attempts it settled down to some serious eating.


Next came a Thrush which sat on the cables above the feeders with a Robin along side but as I took their photo the Robin flew off right in front of the Thrush and it also left. That was the first time I had seen a Thrush in the garden for over a year. Luckily I later spotted it amongst the branches of a tree and got my photo.


To cap that along came another bird which I have yet to identify positively. It is hard to see the top of its head but I think it could be a Goldcrest. Another fairly fuzzy photo shows a yellowish stripe right on top of its head. Here are two views of it:

IMG_0918c IMG_0921c

It seems to have such large eyes for the size of its body.

The rest of the time I took photos of the regular visitors - Robin



Starlings on the lawn

And finally another newcomer for me was a group of Crows which immediately took off as soon as I picked up the camera but I managed one shot:
Crow in Flight

I am delighted with the results from this new lens. All hand held. Quite a few are small crops from large pictures. What was I using? - the Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS USM. An image stabilised lens which has made a lot of difference to the hand held pictures taken by this wrinkly. I had read fantastic reviews of the quality of its optics written by many users so I took the plunge.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Bugs, Blooms and Frog Spawn

This morning I made my daily check of the pond to see whether any frogs had appeared. No, still no sign of any. I did get a clear view of one of the resident newts for a couple of seconds so I am now certain that at least one survived the winter. It was in view too briefly to get a photo though.

There are a few fish in the pond and I spotted a couple of fry which cannot be all that old as they are about 2.5cm long. Just as I was watching one of them it suddenly started darting about very haphazardly. Closer inspection showed that it had been caught by a Water Boatman which was intent in making a meal of it. That took me by surprise as I hadn't thought of Water Boatmen as being carnivorous. At least not until I checked with Wild England.

Goldfish Fry

Water Boatman

I had been looking out for signs of 'minibeast' life in the pond and this was the first I have seen this year. By Summer there will be lots of Water Boatmen and Pond Skaters about.

Despite the thermometer showing 9 degrees my hands were getting frozen holding the camera so I had a quick tour round the garden and came back in for a well needed cuppa! On the way I could see that the catkins on the Corkscrew Hazel are now fully open and that a clump of Muscari were looking at their best.

Corkscrew Hazel Catkins

Grape Hyacinths

A couple of days ago there were scores of small flies appearing everywhere and I thought I was photographing one on the inside of the kitchen window ... until I looked at the results. So - one unidentified bug, size about 9mm:



Well knock me down with a feather!! I thought I heard croaking a couple of days ago but saw nothing. I have just had another look in the pond as the Sun had come out again and there it was. A nice big dollop of frog spawn.

In the main pond:
Frog Spawn

As the fish in the pond normally dispose of the tadpoles before they are big enough to survive I had prepared a nursery pond in an old water feature with plants and water from the main pond. I have now transferred a lot of the spawn along with sludge and water from the main pond. Next job will be to build a secure area in the main pond for the tadpoles as they hatch. Easier said than done. I tried last year but all the tadpoles managed to escape into the main part of the pond and I don't think any reached maturity.

In its temporary home:
Frog Spawn

Nest Box Update:

What are the Blue Tits up to? Bits of moss in - bits of moss out. Bits of straw in - bits of straw out again. Feathers appearing - feathers disappearing. Gradually there is more moss appearing in one corner of the box. They are certainly still active in the box - just so much dithering!

Present state of affairs:
Moss in Nest Box

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Nature Reserve for the Next Generation

Last Sunday I searched on the web for local nature reserves where it was possible to take Bobby. Most of them do not allow dogs and I can understand why. I found one which is new and looked interesting so we set out to South Thoresby Warren.

From Blogger Pictures

It is situated on the outskirts of South Thoresby, a small village in Lincolnshire. The reserve is very new. In the past this piece of land has been a sand pit and later on a landfill site. Now it is becoming a local nature reserve and was officially opened December 2007.

On arrival the road gates were padlocked but the walk in gate was open. There was plenty of room to park on the slip road. The first impression is rather bleak as so much of the earth is dry with very little vegetation in evidence. I am sure we were the only ones there and Bobby was kept on his lead at all times. A dog waste bin is provided so there are no excuses for not clearing up.


We walked up to the impressive display board to see what routes were available round the site.

IMG_0641South Thoresby Warren

I decided to take a route through the small wooded area.


To the left I spotted a few rabbits and I could swear that one of them was jet black. It looked like a rabbit and it moved like a rabbit but it was in view for such a short while .... well, who knows - my first UFO sighting (Unidentified Furry Object). No - they are not in the photograph.

Entering the wood I spotted an owl box which looks as though it has been there for some time and I hope that it is in use as there has been so much work going on here thinning out the trees that there may have been too much disturbance.


Some trees have been cut down and others have painted dots on them and I assume these are marked for further thinning.


It was nice to see that some of the old sections of tree branches had been left in piles as they will make suitable habitats for small creatures and minibeasts.


There has been a lot of planting and it looks like hundreds of trees and bushes have been added so in years to come the wooded habitat will cover much more of the nature reserve.


Most of the green at the moment is at foot level as much of the ground is covered with grass, moss and brambles.


Apart from the few rabbits and the sound of some birds singing in the distance we did not see much evidence of life, but it was a short visit as I intended to go on to another site on the way home. Unfortunately I missed that one and drove straight past it. I have always said I could get lost in my own village, especially when driving!!

A lot of effort is being expended by a lot of people on the South Thoresby Warren and when Nature has had the chance to do its thing I'm sure this will be one of many small natural treasures in Lincolnshire for generations to come. I will certainly visit again and take more time now I have given it the once over and know what to expect. There are several benches so it will be possible to sit quietly and wait to see what turns up.


On the way home I took a few photographs. I wanted another panorama but the hazy distant views made for some very dull shots but I did get this one of one of the many disused, but cared for, mill buildings which can be found in this county.

Old Windmill

It was really nice to get out in the sunshine and visit new places.
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