Sunday, 31 March 2013

Coldest UK Easter Recorded

According to a tweet from Weatherquest it is officially the coldest Easter ever recorded as the temperature in Braemar fell to -13C last night. Temperature map can be found at:

First thing this morning my local temperature fell to -3.5C though once the Sun came out it soon rose above freezing.

My recordings for March 2011 - 2013 show:
(Red for temperature in degrees Celsius, blue for apparent temperature taking into account wind chill)

Temp March 2011.jpg

Temp March 2012.jpg

Temp March 2013.jpg

 Hedgehog(s) were in and out of the hedgehog house last night. Following a tip form Jan I changed the dog food to a chicken flavour variety and it was all gone by this morning. No sighting of a cat.

Saturday, 30 March 2013

Hedgehog 1 Cat 0

So far so good. Last night a hedgehog entered the hedgehog house to eat some of the food I had placed in there. It looked to be a bit of a squeeze but it managed OK. As far as I can tell there were two different hedgehogs visiting early last night though only one entered the house. One thing I had forgotten - hedgehogs and plastic saucers don't mix. They always end up tipping the water out. Now replaced with a heavier water bowl.

I'm glad they came early as it kept snowing on and off though there is only a thin layer this morning. One long range weather forecast I read yesterday said that we can expect these low temperatures for another 15 to 20 days! At the time of writing (7 a.m.) we are getting a heavy snowfall. Looks as though someone needs to write a new song - I'm Dreaming of a White Easter.

When I checked the overnight video recording I could see that the cat had tried several times to get in the house but failed every time. So far it looks as though the simple modification to the entrance has done the trick.

Checking the contents of the house, the hog had eaten the crushed, unsalted peanuts and dried mealworms but not the dog food.

Friday, 29 March 2013

Hedgehog House Modification

There seems to be a couple of design faults in the hedgehog house which allow small cats to enter. Ideally the entrance should be on one side of the front rather than the middle. This would make the chicane harder to navigate for longer animals. Also the height of the entrance, at 6 inches, seems rather large. Hedgehogs are good a squeezing through tight gaps.



As a quick fix I screwed a piece of wood inside which reduced the height of the entrance from 6 inches to about 4 inches to see whether that will deter the thieving moggy.Also the food dish is now right at the back of the house.


Only time will tell whether that will do the job.

Hedgehog Food Thief

It didn't take long to see who or what was stealing the bits of dog food I put in the hedgehog house:

The house is supposed to be designed so that cats cannot get in. What is infuriating is that this thieving moggy has a collar so belongs to someone but it roams the area every night and is always hungry.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Food for the Hedgehog

When I checked the hedgehog house this morning I saw that the bit of tinned dog food I had put in there had been eaten. I have no idea what ate it - hedgehog, mouse or other furry creature? I took the opportunity to move the house to the hedgehog feeding area and give it a clean out. As it is in view of the camera I might find out what is visiting.

Of course I had a supervisor checking everything. After Penny watched me put some of her food in the hedgehog house she dashed indoors to gobble up the food in her dish in case that was given away as well.

I was pleased to see the male Blackcap visit the seed feeder this morning and I also spotted a grey squirrel slinking away as I went out the back door.

I Can See You

The Hedgehog missed a couple of nights but was back the past two nights tucking in to the crushed, unsalted peanuts I put out. Last night I tried to get a photo but Hoggy was too fast for me and scuttled off to find shelter. I just managed a quick glimpse before it made for the gap in the fence and through to next door's garden.


It doesn't look as though it has found the tinned dog food  I put in the hedgehog house so now the wind has died down and it doesn't feel so raw outdoors I will move the house near the feeding area.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Blackcap Visitor

Don't see these very often so it was nice to have a male Blackcap visit this morning:

IMG_5513 copy.jpg

Male Blackcap

Seems to be liking the sunflower hearts.

Monday, 25 March 2013

Macro on Monday - Guess What

gold starOK. There were a few who guessed on the right lines for last week's Guess What. It was a close up of the battery switch on an electronic cigarette so Adrian and Glo who were correct and Wilma with her guess of a nicotine inhaler deserve the virtual gold stars.


Some years ago I decided to try weaning myself off my pipe and bought one of the original e-cigarettes which looked something like a cigarette. I found it unsatisfactory. The battery was supposed to switch on automatically when I sucked but it rarely worked efficiently. Also the small batteries used at that time needed recharging frequently.

I gave up and went back to my pipe for a long while until I discovered some modern e-cigs with larger batteries and manual switches. (the bottom one in the photo)


The main problem I found was keeping the mouth piece clear of any liquid as the nicotine irritates the lips. Recently I have discovered a newish adaption which has a container for the liquid and vaporiser which keeps the mouth piece clean and really works a treat. (Top of photograph)

On to the new puzzle photo for this week.
Guess What:

Clue: four legged vacuum cleaner

From a technical point of view I was very pleased with the above small crop. The photo was taken with my iPhone4 with yet another camera app (645 pro). Its main advantage is the ability to save developed RAW (dRAW) lossless TIFF files which give much clearer results.

Hedgehog Update:
No sign of the hedgehog these past two nights. I hope she (it is often a female which wakes early) has snuggled up in her nest and gone back to sleep for a while.  At least she has had a few nights feeding to help her.

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Spring 2013

Spring 2013

Looking at some information on the BBC website it shows that the temperature in this area for the same date in 2012 was +16C. Yesterday the temperature reached +2C with a wind chill of -4C in a blustery cold wind. At the time of writing this morning it is -0.5C

The Hedgehog arrived soon after 8 p.m. last night and scoffed nearly all the crushed peanuts I had put out. I hope it managed to find a warm nest site as it was snowing by 9 p.m..

Friday, 22 March 2013

Friday at the Flicks - Rook, Long Tailed Tit, Hedgehog

Once again the Rooks invaded the bird feeders. They particularly like the suet food and this one was having a great time attacking one feeder. Not shown are two other Rooks which were on the ground grabbing all the bits which were falling down. (No sound track)

A rare, fleeting visitor to my garden is the Long Tailed Tit. Though they normally move around in groups only one or two occasionally visit my feeders.

Once again the Hedgehog visited last night. Though this is about the time for them to wake from their Winter hibernation the weather this year is against them. Where the temperature would normally be in double figures, recently it has rarely reached 5C and this week it is struggling to get much above 0C and is likely to stay that way until next month. It will be difficult for them to find enough of their natural food which includes slugs and beetles.

I am putting out crushed, unsalted peanuts as a source of protein. The hogs need to find a reasonable amount of food quickly to make up for the weight lost while they were hibernating. Also available is a saucer of water - no milk as that is bad for Hedgehogs. I could put out tinned cat or dog food but that gets stolen by the roaming cats which are prowling around every night. I am not in to feeding other people's cats which kill birds, dig up my flowers and leave their mess for me to find when I am weeding. I might try putting a bit of tinned meat in the Hedgehog house where cats can't get at it.

Have a great weekend observing the wildlife around you and do give it a helping hand when needed.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

First Hedgehog of Spring

In spite of the unseasonal low temperatures I had a feeling there had been a Hedgehog around for a few nights as Penny kept investigating the areas where they enter my garden. Sure enough, last night there was one when Penny went out about 9 p.m.. It disappeared before I could get a camera. I broke up some unsalted peanuts and put them out in case it should make a return visit. Sure enough it did and was caught briefly on the surveillance camera.

Monday, 18 March 2013

Macro on Monday - Guess What

gold star
Yes, Adrian, Jan and TexWisGirl, last week's Guess What was that easy so you all gain a virtual gold star for identifying the strawberry.



Produce of Morocco; large, reasonably tasty but hard and crunchy rather than succulent. You just can't beat home grown but this time of year I take whatever is available.

On to this week's macro photo.
Guess What:


I think this may be a lot harder.

Clue: Gives me plenty of nicotine without the carbon monoxide, cyanide, etc..

No prizes - just for fun.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

The Case of the Disappearing Suet

The half coconuts I have which are filled with suet had been lasting for weeks as the birds gradually helped themselves. Occasionally the filling would fall out of one after it had shrunk during a particularly cold night. A couple of mornings ago I found two were empty where they had been half full the previous day. No sign of any fallen fillings on the ground. When I replaced them with a full coconut half I soon found out what was happening.

It doesn't take long for a large Rook beak to gobble it all up in a very short time:

Hungry Rook.jpg

An old coconut I have reused is one with only a quarter opening which was originally filled with suet. Now it is empty it is useful as a container for seed and suet treats:

Starling 3.jpg

Sometimes birds will spend a while trying to work out how to get at the food:

Puzzled Blackbird.jpg

All in all Birdy Bistro Mk2 is very popular, especially with the cold temperatures hereabouts.

Friday, 15 March 2013

Frustrating Week and a Sleepy Pooch

There are times during this week when I seem to have spent half my life on the phone chasing things up. I am in the process of changing my power supplier. Last time I changed everything went smoothly but moving from Scottish Power is a different ball game. Sometimes I get a strong feeling they are deliberately obstructive and dragging their feet.

On the Summer House front things have moved on, slightly. After a call from Laura at GardenBuildingsDirect the greenhouse parts were collected yesterday morning. This morning, the first reasonable one weather wise for quite a while, I decided to assemble the base of the summer house and make sure the floor fitted OK. Fine in theory and would have been fine in practice if they had delivered all of the floor but I only had half! Another call to Laura - the missing part should be delivered tomorrow morning. That means a delay of several more days as the weather forecast indicates heavy rain for at least three days. I hope this is going to be worth all the trials and tribulations.

Of course I had a four legged supervisor helping this morning, but peace reigns tonight as she sleeps off a busy day followed by a hearty tea.


Penny showing her sparkling white teeth after her visit to the vet last month.

Today I found out that this area is on the list for receiving a faster broadband service - up to 24Mb/s - but not until 2016 as we are in phase 6.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Summerhouse or Greenhouse?

Well, my order for a small summerhouse from Gardenbuildingsdirect arrived on Monday as requested. Not the best of weather with blustery snow showers and a wind chill down to -10C. Mine was the final load on the lorry and all was eventually stacked on the drive. Then I lugged each piece into the back of the garage to protect it from the weather. While I was doing this I thought there were a lot of sections.

Over the past couple of days I have been checking through trying to match the pieces with the shipping list. There were some large sections which didn't look correct and didn't match anything on the photo on their site:

Photo from Gardenbuildingsdirect site:
z Summerhouse.jpg

So - what are these large items?
2013-03-12 10.38.42.jpg

Three tall items each with two tall windows. Nope - nothing like that on their illustration.
Ah, what are these I found?

2013-03-13 12.43.35.jpg

Packing list, hardware and instructions for a greenhouse.
Now it was slowly dawning on my remaining grey cell that I had several pieces of someone elses order for a greenhouse. By the time I had finished a few sessions of checking I found three wide and two narrow sections, two doors, four gable end pieces - all belonging to the greenhouse. I guess there is another Gardenbuildingsdirect customer who is just as annoyed as I was feeling.

Needless to say I have been in touch with Gardenbuildingsdirect and am waiting for them to sort things out. Apart from checking the glazing for my summerhouse the rest seem to be present and correct though the experience so far has been very aggravating to say the least. Especially as all the parts which have nothing to do with my order are now cluttering up my shed.

2013-03-13 11.09.51.jpg

I will be expecting adequate compensation for my time and trouble sorting out someone elses incompetence in not being able to deliver the right items to the correct address. So far the idea of installing a small summer house cannot be said to have been a pleasant experience. It will all depend on the final outcome. I will keep you informed.

Monday, 11 March 2013

Macro on Monday - Guess What

gold starCongratulations and virtual gold stars to Adrian. TexWisGirl and Wilma who correctly identified last week's Guess What as a piece of rock salt. There has been plenty of that scattered on our roads during this long period of low temperatures.

 2013-03-04 07.48.04c2.jpg


This week's macro is part of a rather crunchy but tasty treat from Morocco.
Guess What:


No prizes, just for fun.

I don't seem to have picked a very good day for my little summer house to be delivered. The temperature is below freezing and the weather is a mixture of alternating sunny, blue sky and blustery, heavy snow showers.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Birdy Bistro Mk2

The old wooden home made frame for holding the bird feeders is being dismantled. It has to go as it is in the way of a small summer house I hope to erect next week - if it doesn't snow. I wanted to replace it with something which wasn't so spread out so on the way back from my annual check up at the hospital I called in the local Wyevale Garden Centre. I didn't expect to find anything so was pleasantly surprised not only to find something ideal, but also at a reasonable price.


There are hooks for hanging up to 12 feeders. The feeders were not included. It hadn't been put in place for very long before a Blue Tit was brave enough to investigate. A Robin thought about it but bottled out. Of course it didn't take long for a few Starlings to try out every feeder.


To me it looks a tad overcrowded but the birds don't mind and it is for them.

The hospital check up went well again this year so it will be another 12 months before I start fretting again.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Email Account Hacked

It looks as though my Yahoo account has been got at and some spurious messages have been sent today. Please ignore and delete them. My apologies for any inconvenience. I am in the process of trying to secure the account and stop any other messages going out.


Wings on Wednesday - Robin

So much for the BBC weather forecast saying that yesterday promised to be the warmest day so far this year. Got out of bed to -2.5C and it eventually reached +6C for a short while. What kept the temperature down was sea fret which kept drifting in from the North Sea. The sea temperature is a couple of degrees below normal for this time of year, somewhere around 4C, so any weather coming from that direction is chilly to say the least.

There seems to be a pair of Robins visiting the garden. Seeing two in close proximity without scrapping is almost certain to be a mating pair. I hope to catch some video of the mating ritual where the male feeds the female but for now I'll make do with this solo shot I took in the morning:


Monday, 4 March 2013

Macro on Monday - Guess What

First the answer to the last Guess What. Guesses of hail and sleet were close. Actually it was snow - that fine powdery stuff we get from time to time. The air temperature was high enough for it to start melting as soon as it landed.

2013-02-21 09.50.49.jpg

On to this week's Guess What:

2013-03-04 07.48.04c2.jpg
iPhone4 fitted with miniature microscope lens

Ignore the bright circle. That was the LED lights illuminating the clear plastic of the microscope.

Clue: Actual size about 5mm. Only seen in parts of the village when the temperature is around freezing, or lower, but it won't melt when the temperature rises.

No prizes. Just for fun.

Heavenly Photo Opportunities

For those in the Southern Hemisphere Comet Pan-STARRS (C/2011-L4) is bright enough to be visible to the naked eye. By 12th and 13th March it will have passed its closest point to the Sun and reappear in the Sunset sky to be visible in the Northern Hemisphere not far from the crescent Moon.

Information from Spaceweather dot com.

I hope we can get a few cloudless times for photographs as the comet should be pretty bright by then.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

A Sunny Day - for a change

Saturday was a lovely sunny day though with a cool breeze. There are only a few flowers showing as yet but the extra warmth from the Sun should encourage more.

2013-03-02 09.32.34crop.jpg

2013-03-02 09.36.38crop.jpg

What was nice to see was the first bees of the season busily visiting the crocuses:


Surprisingly I didn't notice any bumble bees.

Of couse, madam was making the most of the sun:


For our lunch time walk we took a tour round the edge of the cricket field. From the bottom of the field I could see part of one of the rookeries. The rough piles of sticks which pass for nests are easy to spot:


Most of the trees in that area are deciduous and exposed to the cold winds so there isn't much sign of new life yet:


Hidden amongst the trees are some outbuildings which serve as stores and shelter for the sheep which usually graze nearby:


Next to one of the Poplars is an older tree which has been shaped by the prevailing westerly winds:


For our afternoon walk we went to have a look at one large field which is usually arable but this year has a large flock of sheep grazing. Amongst the usual all white sheep were a few with black faces and about four brown sheep. A type I haven't noticed before in this area:


Maybe several people are sharing the cost of hiring the field for grazing. Most of the sheep are heavily pregnant so it won't be long before there are Spring lambs frolicking about.

Friday, 1 March 2013

Toon Time + Impressionist Video

We have managed to get one and a half days of sunshine recently which gave me the opportunity to test out yet another iPhone photography app. This time it was "ToonCamera" which caught my eye. This app has many different settings to create photos and videos in the style of toons. Usually such things are done as a post processing activity but this app does it in real time, even with video. The only down side is that the results are of a lower quality than those taken with a standard camera app and each photo has to be manually saved before another can be taken but it still has it uses as a novelty, fun camera. Certainly worth the 69p charged.

A few still results exactly as taken by the app:

2013-02-27 10.02.53.jpg

2013-02-27 10.00.58.jpg

2013-02-27 12.32.35.jpg

2013-02-28 11.58.44.jpg
Lunch at the Wagon and Horses

Walkies - Impressionist Style
iPhone4 hand held:

I seem to have got well behind following other blogs so will have to try catching up over the weekend.
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