Saturday, 27 February 2010

Heavy Rain is Good News for Some

A regular occurrence here. Heavy rain starts to flood the back lawn. This forces many worms to the surface. Once the water starts to drain or evaporate the Blackbirds go foraging as this one did for breakfast this morning. A quick paddle, grab a worm and take it somewhere drier to wipe it clean. Another silent video.

Bathing in the Rain

It may have been raining for hours but a back garden slowly disappearing under water was just the place for a quick wash and brush up for the Starlings.

 No sound as I forgot to switch the external microphone on. It took a while to persuade the camcorder to focus on the birds as it preferred to record the rain running down the window.

Friday, 26 February 2010

Friday at the Flicks (More Blue Tit Visits)

Sheesh! Talk about a senior moment, more like a senior day. Until I saw a mention on Adrian's comments I had forgotten all about the videos. Only one as YouTube seems to have thrown a wobbly and has stopped uploading.

A couple of days ago there was another short session of nest box viewing. It took a lot of visits to the entrance before one went in to be joined very briefly by its mate.

Walking on Water

It isn't just Adrian's Molly who can walk on water. Checking through the captures made by the ProStalk wildlife camera it caught this midnight prowling moggy on the middle of my frozen pond.


SUNP0062  SUNP0061

Although there were 90+ captures on the SD card most of the time it is impossible to see what triggered the camera. The most probable explanation is a bird flying through the detection area which was out of sight by the time the camera reacted. Those which do have something to see usually contain Bobby or myself as in this one of me planting my Winter Aconite corms.


No sign of the Heron which was my main reason for positioning the camera next to the pond. I will have to try a few different locations around the garden to see what else it can spot.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Watching the Watcher

After noticing a lot of outside activity at the Blue Tit nestbox yesterday morning I once again took the camera and positioned myself about 40 feet away from the box in the hopes of capturing any action. Once again there was not a Blue Tit in sight. That was until I turned round and spotted one sat on a dwarf tree about 20 feet away. It was sat there watching me.

Blue Tit

I had been rumbled! There was no way this little bird was going to have its house hunting recorded on film if it could help it.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

A Dunnock Comes to Call

When I noticed some activity on the outside of the Blue Tit box I took the camera down to the bottom of the garden to take some photographs. Needless to say, even though I was well away from the box, no Blue Tit was to be seen anywhere. About twelve feet from me was a tall Buddleia Globosa and every now and then a Dunnock would arrive and sit near the top of the branches.


There it would sit for a while, fly away and return a short while later.


It didn't seem to be too bothered by my presence or the camera mirror clattering. Every so often it would make a call.  Peep ....... peep ....... peep.

Dunnock Singing

The number of times it kept coming back to the same bush to make its call I guess this was its chosen vantage spot to call for a mate. I did go back and collect the camcorder but the sight of a tripod seemed to be too much or it had given up calling for a while. There was a cold breeze and my fingers were growing numb so I left the Dunnock in peace and will try again another day now I know where it likes to perform.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Blue Tit Pair - Will They Make an Offer?

The Blue Tit pair are still examining the nest box. Every now and then they remove some of the dried grass stalks I put in after cleaning it out last Autumn. Last year all the wood shavings I put in were removed before they started to build a nest which unfortunately was abandoned part finished. Will they make a firm offer on such a desirable residence this year?

A silent video clip captured yesterday afternoon. Blue Tit box in the top two views.

Bottom right is the Robin box where the flickering shadows of nearby trees keep activating the recorder.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Of Snowy Weather and Spikes

We had just over an inch of snow yesterday morning. Nowhere as much as some but more than enough for me, and for the local birds. Unlike me they were not put off by a bit of the white stuff. It has been a while since I have seen more that a couple of Goldfinches at a time at the feeders.


It takes more that a covering of snow to put off a Chaffinch from surveying his realm.


At one stage I wondered what kept blocking the view from one of my cameras.


A short while ago Adrian (Adrian's Images) had mentioned, and shown a photo of, some instep spikes he had bought to aid walking on snow and ice. They looked ideal to me for dog walking around a village where ice and snow is never cleared from the pavements. I had a good look around the internet but couldn't find any like that so ended up with these walking spikes which fit to shoes or boots. They are called 'Get-a-Grip'

Walking Spikes

When they arrived I thought to myself how could such short, blunt spikes help to walk on ice. I fitted them to an old pair of shoes and waited for the bad weather to return. This morning they were given a good testing on our early morning walkies. Result - perfect traction. Those short lengths of tungsten carbide crunch straight in the ice and there is no possibility of slipping and sliding. The sensation is a bit peculiar when walking over the occasional clear stretch of pavement as there are only six small pieces of metal in contact with the ground but anything is good which makes walking safer in the present weather conditions.

A couple of nights ago the crescent Moon was clearly visible so I had another go at photographing it. Two different exposures here. I can either get a clear view of the craters at the edge of the shadow but overexpose the rest or underexpose somewhat and see the other features more clearly.

Crescent Moon

The temperature is steadily rising this morning so I hope it will be reasonable later as I need to collect an item from the local Argos store which I had ordered and will be sent back if I don't go today.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Winter Aconite, a Change of Diet, Goldfinches in the Snow

The cultivated Winter Aconite corms I bought on eBay arrived a couple of days ago and they were left to soak over night in rain water before being planted in the rockery.

Winter Aconite Corms

It is a plant I have always wanted so now I am looking forward to my own display of cheerful yellow flowers to welcome the Spring. I hope they will eventually look like the ones in the local church yard.

Winter Aconite

In a trough in the garden the yellow crocus seem to have appeared out of nowhere.

Yellow Crocus

Yesterday I noticed a couple of birds on feeders where I don't usually see them. These last few days the peanuts seem to have come in to fashion again after being ignored for many weeks. These House Sparrows were pecking away when a small piece of peanut fell out of the feeder. The sparrow on the right deftly caught it and flew off with its prize.

Sparrow With Peanut

Quite a surprise was to see a Coal Tit on the slab fat feeder. Usually they are just interested in sunflower hearts for eating straight away or black sunflower seeds for taking and storing.

Coal Tit

It has been snowing for the last hour so I can see it is going to be another day of keeping warm and watching through the window.

The above was filmed a short while ago. It has now been snowing for three hours. As the snow continued more and more birds arrived to frantically top up from the feeders.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

A Brief Inspection

Both Blue Tits made a brief inspection of the nestbox today. One arrives and nips inside. The second immediately arrives at the entrance hole and eventually joins the first inside. The first leaves straight away and the second bird leaves soon after that.

First a still clip from the video:
Blue Tit pair in the Nestbox

 It could be a while yet before the female starts performing the 'nest box shuffle'. This can be seen HERE in a capture I made last year.

Friday, 19 February 2010

Friday at the Flicks (Frogs and Blue Tit Nestbox Inspections)

This is the piece of video I took the other day of a pair of frogs seemingly in a mating clinch. The smaller greyish one is easier to make out in the second half of the clip and it is possible to make out a front leg wrapped round the larger frog's belly. Bobby can be heard asking if there are any other dogs about.

It has been interesting to be able to watch the outside of the Blue Tit nestbox as well as the inside. The sound is a bit hit and miss as I was trying a different microphone nearer the box. To two top scenes are the main nestbox and the lower right is the interior of a different box. This time it is not Bobby barking.

Just the outside camera this time. One Blue Tit clears some dead grass from the entrance and enters the box. A little later a second pokes it head in and immediately flies away. The second bird returns and again flies away when the first leaves the box.

The question is - are these rivals or a mating pair. My money is on the latter.
The bird has been seen several times visiting and inspecting the outside of the box.

Have a great weekend observing the wildlife around you.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

A Frog, He Would A-wooing Go

A frog he would a-wooing go,
Heigh ho! says Rowley,
A frog he would a-wooing go,
Whether his mother would let him or no.
With a rowley, powley, gammon, and spinach,
Heigh ho! says Anthony Rowley.


I was having a look in my garden pond to see if any fish had survived the many periods of ice covering this Winter, at one stage reaching two inches thick, when I spotted something in the edge of the reeds. Just the eyes and mouth of a frog were showing through the surface of the water. For several minutes I could only make out the shape of one large fat brown frog which appeared to have a grey patch on its back. It was only after I had taken some video (saved for Friday) that I realised the grey was in fact a smaller frog clinging to the larger one - presumably a male and female though it seems a bit early and cold as yet to be producing spawn. In fact even after they dived out of sight there was no evidence of any spawn in the pond.

One thing which may have encouraged the frogs was a day of glorious sunshine, apart from one hail shower, and temperatures which actually topped 7C in the afternoon though it soon dropped back to 2.5C when the Sun went down.

I did see two small fish swimming about so at least some have survived the worst of the cold weather. There will no doubt be more as there were last year when I didn't see any until well in to the Spring.

The verse at the top is the start of an old nursery rhyme / childrens' song which can be seen in full on many sites on the internet including Mama Lisa's World, House of English Nursery Rhymes.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Gathering of the Clans

Most early mornings there are gatherings of various birds. Maybe they are warming in any early sunshine. Probably working out the best route to take to find easy food.

The Rooks usually choose one of the highest houses nearby to sit and ponder the day's possibilities. Here there are Rooks and the occasional Woodpigeon.


Most of the Woodpigeons prefer a safer, more sheltered observatory.


The earliest arrivals are the Blackbirds which gather on my lawn just as it starts to get light and soon start bickering over the seed which is scattered from the feeders.


I think I can say that this morning was the first time I have heard a proper dawn chorus this year. Although I have often heard Robins, this time I could hear about four different species welcoming the Sunrise.

Monday, 15 February 2010

A Walk through the Churchyard - Which Fungi?

For yesterday afternoon's walkies I thought we would try a route we haven't used for a couple of months. As the earth footpath is low lying it soon gets waterlogged but yesterday it was just a bit on the squelchy side but easily passable. Along this path are tall stumps of old Ash Trees which were cut down a few years ago and I noticed one was now being colonised by fungi. (Photos are not brilliant as I only had the mobile phone and even though it was a dull afternoon the highlights were over exposed)


After much searching through Google I am pretty sure the dark finger like growths are Dead Man's Fingers (Xylaria polymorpha)but I am not at all sure about the orange growths. To me they could well be one of the many variations I found called Jack O'Lantern but which variety is still a mystery to me. There was also a clump of these growing on top of the stump.


Continuing through to the back of the churchyard there was a lovely patch of Snowdrops under a group of ancient trees,


There I stood for a while with Bobby patiently waiting as I scoured the branches and trunks for any signs of bird or animal life to no avail. The only creatures about were some fancy chickens which had escaped from the neighbouring house and a lone rabbit hopping about the grass.

As we walked through the churchyard we passed one of my favourite spots this time of year. Here a large group of Winter Aconite were showing their bright yellow flower buds which will be opening over the next week or so.

Winter Aconite

Twice in the past I have gathered seed from these plants. Each time they have germinated but as soon as they reached about an inch in height they wilted and died. I see it is possible to buy the bulbs of cultivated Winter Aconite so I must try that way to get my own display of one of my favourite late Winter / early Spring flowers.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Blackbirds and Jackdaws

I am still getting anything up to 18 Blackbirds visiting each day, especially at daybreak. This female was waiting patiently for the squabblers to move out of the way so she could nip down for a quick meal.

Female Blackbird

I wonder how long it will be before the winter visitors return to their native land.

Also becoming regular are short visits by up to 6 Jackdaws. They are very cautious and disappear rapidly when they spot me looking through the kitchen window. This individual is easy to pick out as it has an unusual amount of white feathers showing amongst the normal dark grey and black. I wonder if it is the same one I photographed last February.


Weather is a mixture of short sunny intervals combined with long dull cloudy periods coupled with drizzle and the occasional snow shower. Next task, a quick visit to the local Focus store for another large bag of high energy no mess bird seed. The birds are getting through seed even faster than they did in the colder weather. The small feeder was half empty by 8.30 this morning. By now the supply of hedgerow berries must be pretty well depleted and with the constant damp, cold days insects must also be in short supply.

Friday, 12 February 2010

Friday at the Flicks (Doves)

These two lovey doveys spent quite a while sat on the imitation wagon wheel preening each other.

It was a very pleasant surprise when this Stock Dove paid a visit.  At first it was very nervous and nearly left a couple of times when it spotted me looking through the kitchen window, Once it had joined the waddling Wood Pigeons it concentrated on collecting as much seed as it could find. I was entranced with the way the neck feathers looked as they shimmered different colours in the Winter sunlight. Of course the Starlings had to make their presence felt, if only on the sound track.

Have a great weekend observing the wildlife around you.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

A New Dove Visits the Garden

I had never heard of the Stock Dove until I saw a photo of one on ShySongbird's Twitterings so you could have knocked me down with a feather when one joined the Wood Pigeons on the lawn yesterday scavenging for scattered seed.

Stock Dove

Stock Dove

What had caught my eye was the glow from the neck feathers which looked like a piece of shiny sweet wrapper changing colour as it caught the sunlight from different directions. Often a metallic green and sometimes an iridescent pink. The bird started near the bottom of the garden and was obviously very nervous so I had to move about slowly in the kitchen as I took some photographs. Gradually it came closer and stayed long enough for me to get some video which should be available tomorrow and shows much better the colourful glow from those neck feathers.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Winter is Still With Us

Didn't get far on the morning walk. Not much more than a hundred yards or so on the nearest grass verge. After last night's rain and a drop in temperature the road and pavements where a smooth sheet of ice. A little later I could hardly see the houses opposite as a blizzard descended for a while. The snow showers have continued on and off all day so far though with a rise in temperature it isn't settling for long.

As can be heard on the soundtrack the Sparrows have hardly paused for breath all day as they chatter about the awful weather conditions.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Several Short Nestbox Visits in One Morning

Blue Tit Visits Nest Box

Yesterday morning Blue Tits made a few short visits to the nest box. In the first section of the video you can see that as a second bird arrives the first one leaves. Several times a Blue Tit leaves with a thick piece of the grass stalks I put in after the Autumn clean out. This is similar behaviour to that seen last year when the bird removed all the wood shavings I had put in the box before starting to line the box with moss.

There seem to be several days between visits. Maybe, as they do, the birds are investigating more than one possible nesting site.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Bedlam at the Feeders

An abrupt change in the weather this morning brought a gusty wind with rain and snow mixed. It is a long while since I had to top up the seed feeders during the morning but the birds had obviously taken notice of the weather forecast for a cold spell which may last into next week and decided to stock up with as much as possible in the shortest time.

Clear off mate. I was here first.

Go find you own feeder. This one is occupied.
House Sparrows and Greenfinches

Tally Ho. We will soon knock all those Sparrows off their perches.
Greenfinches Arrive

Ah. A free space at last.
Greenfinches and Tree Sparrow

How do you get the seeds out through those tiny slots?
Tree Sparrows

It's all mine.
It's All Mine

 It has been a while since so many Greenfinches came to the feeders near the kitchen. They usually prefer the feeders nearer the bottom of the garden.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

ProStalk Wildlife Camera

Back in the Summer I purchased a ProStalk Wildlife Camera. The camera has built in passive IR detectors and a set of LEDs for night time flash illumination. Although the camera body is weather proof I decided to give it some support as it is quite heavy and some cover to keep the worst of the rain, snow and bird droppings away.

ProStalk Camera

It was after missing shots of a visiting Kingfisher and the first visits by a Grey Heron I decided to  have an automatic camera watching over the garden pond. The camera takes four D cells or it can be run from an external 6V battery. Up to now I have been using rechargeable D cells but they only last a few days.

The ProStalk can take still shots or movie clips. The once I tried the movie facility I was very disappointed with the quality so I keep it set for still shots. There are a few choices when setting it up. I have it set to take three photos in succession when it spots any heat source and there is then a one minute rest before it will take any more. This to conserve battery power. Photos and video are stored on an SD memory card.

So far it has spotted very little, sometimes because I forget to change the batteries in time, sometimes because I think it is slow to react. During the icy weather it did manage to capture some Blackbirds and the occasional cat walking on the surface of the frozen pond or the occasional Collared Dove flying past.

ProStalk Camera Captures

 Although I have been somewhat disappointed with its performance so far it is still handy to have a camera which will automatically record visiting animals and birds. The next thing I will do is connect it to a rechargeable sealed lead acid 6V battery so that it can keep operating for longer periods without me having to keep an eye on the power levels. The batter will also be constantly trickle charged so it should never run down. The camera has the facility to plug in an external battery so no modifications have to be made.

More information about the camera can be found HERE.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Just Good Friends

A couple of House Sparrows were sat next to each other calmly ignoring the constant arguments between the Blackbirds on the ground below.

Just Good Friends

Here a pair of Collared Doves were sat on top of the artificial wagon wheel taking it in turns to preen each other. It was probably this pair I saw mating the day before and one of which was snapping small branches off a miniature tree to take up to the tall Leylandii.

Collared Doves Preening

They stayed there for about ten minutes so I was also able to take some video which I will probably keep for Friday.

Nest box news.

A Brief Visit to the Blue Tit Nest Box

A Blue Tit made a very brief visit to the nest box yesterday so at least they haven't forgotten about it.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Friday at the Flicks ( Pheasant, Rook, Dunnock)

It was quite a surprise to see the Pheasant helping itself to the fat ball I had placed in the ground dish for the Blackbirds. Two different views from different cameras.

This Rook had spotted me watching and spent a while in a tree waiting to see if I would go away before deciding to try elsewhere.

This clip of a Dunnock was taken a while ago and then forgotten about until I found it again a couple of days ago.

Have a great weekend observing the wildlife around you.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010


Every now and then a Blackbird decides it wants to eat from one of the seed feeders. The problem is that the ring perches are too small for them to balance and get their head in the hole so they have to flap like mad to maintain their balance.

Determined Blackbird

The Pheasant continues to make the odd appearance. This time it was interested in a fat ball I had placed in the ground dish so the Blackbirds could get their share.

Pheasant Eating Fatball 2

Whoops - clumsy!
Pheasant Eating Fatball

There should be a video clip of this action on Friday.

As far as the Collared Doves are concerned Spring must be round the corner. This morning I spotted one breaking a thin branch off one of my dwarf trees and flying off with it into the large Leylandii.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

When is a Blackcap not a Blackcap?

There I was standing just inside the conservatory with the door open trying to get some clearer shots of the local bird visitors in the nearby bushes. After a couple of false alarms I spotted a small bird with a jet black cap and thought to myself, "At last" as I had never seen a Blackcap before. Although it was roughly twelve feet away it took no notice of me or the sound of the mirror clattering in the camera as I took a few shots.

Once I had transferred the photos to the computer and cropped them I decided to check with my trusty Collins Complete Guide to check whether what I had seen was really a Blackcap. Of course I had been wrong.

Female Bullfinch

The body colouring was completely wrong. What had visited was a female Bullfinch. The first one of those I have seen. A couple of years ago I had briefly seen a male Bullfinch but no other sightings since until this female turned up yesterday.

Female Bullfinch 6

I hope there are a couple breeding in the area.  It would be really great to have them visit the feeders.

Monday, 1 February 2010

Pigeons in Flight

There can be up to five Wood Pigeons in the garden at the same time these days and they are often flying around the neighbourhood. Yesterday I stood just outside the back door to see what I could get in the way of flight shots.

Just about to land on the telegraph pole - a favourite vantage spot.
Flight 4

Racing a Greenfinch to the trees.
Flight 3

Wings and tail spread for a glide down.
Flight 1

Touch down -
The Angel of the East Midlands? - with apologies to the Angel of the North.
Flight 2

After spending two nights in a tree at the bottom of the garden and staying around long enough to be counted the Pheasant seems to have moved elsewhere.

So far I have seen no more activity in the Blue Tit nest box since my last piece of video.
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