Sunday, 31 May 2009

Those noisy Starlings

I must admit, much as I like to see the Starlings and their broods visit the garden there are two things about them which annoy me. One is the amount of food they waste. When they land on the feeders you can see seeds or pieces of fat ball raining down as they viciously peck away at everything. The other is the noise! The calls of the hungry young ones is never ending right through the daylight hours and when they are a few feet away from the back door it can get very wearing after an hour or so.

The new ground feeder has been accepted by most of the ground feeding birds as well as being taken over from time to time by the Starlings as can be seen in this short video I shot yesterday. Fortunately the back door was shut so the constant cries of 'feed me' are in the background. The video is straight from the camcorder without any processing here.

Even when they are scared off the feeders they only go as far as the 60ft tall Leylandii at the bottom of the garden and sit on the top branches waiting. Occasionally a parent will dive down, grab something and then speed back up to feed a youngster.


A few of the older juveniles are beginning to feed themselves so the noise should lessen fairly soon and maybe they will start looking for food over a wider area.

Hedgehog Visits:

Honey and Henry continue to visit. I see Honey every night on Hoggy Cam. Last night when Bobby went in the back garden he found both of them together. A short while later when I went out to check they were still together and Henry was making very loud snuffling noises. As usual they were nose to nose but as soon as I got close enough to record the sound he stopped! I will manage to record it one of these nights.

Saturday, 30 May 2009

In The Garden

Yesterday was absolutely glorious. We both spent hours lazing in the garden, enjoying the warmth from the Sun which was nicely moderated by a cooling breeze coming from the North Sea. My idea was to sit under the parasol with the cameras and see what turned up. It didn't take long for someone to decide that there was really only room for one in the shade from the large parasol:


So muggins here had to get out the old one and set it up elsewhere in the garden. This I duly did and chose a spot where I could watch the birds feeding ...

Birds Feeding

Ooo look I can see right down to your tail
I Can See Right Down to Yor Tail

... and any which came to bathe in the waterfall.

Birds Bathing

I could admire the various shapes which were being made by the few cloud formations. The first one looked to me like an enormous white feather in the sky.


From time to time I just pottered about seeing how the various plants were coming on and checked which of the potted plants needed watering.


I found the shell of a Giant Pond Snail on the lawn and after a quick photo put it back in the pond as it seemed to be alive. How it got where it had was a mystery.

Great Pond Snail

I had bought a ground feeder and it was quite a while before any bird gathered enough courage to see what that was. In the end it was a Blackbird who made the first investigation.


There were not many different birds bathing which was disappointing as I had set the camcorder on a tripod next to me. I got a few bits of video but will try to add some more before I upload any.

As the afternoon wore on the breeze got steadily stronger and colder so I called it a day, bought some chunks of Halibut from the visiting Fresh Grimsby Fish van and ended a glorious day with a lovely meal which we both enjoyed.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Around My Pond

Enjoying the warmth after a lovely beef carvery at a local hostelry this lunchtime I browsed the pond in my garden. I spotted one of the Common Newts so I fetched the camcorder but didn't think I had time to set up the tripod. Needless to say as soon as I got the camcorder lined up it spotted me and disappeared into the sludge at the bottom of the pond. While I hung around I spied the first damsel of the season - one of the blues but it only stayed a few seconds this time.

I hung around and was rewarded by the newt coming back to the surface a few times so I managed, for the first time, to get some somewhat shaky hand held video. In the later part of the video you can see the large back feet and the spotted belly quite well.

Just as I decided that the newt was going to disappear and I might as well put things away again I saw something splashing about in the little waterfall at the opposite end of the pond. A Blue Tit was having a good old wash and brush up. I had only been thinking the other day that I had never seen a Blue Tit bathe and here one was. Again - hand held and I've cut out the worst shakes and slowed the action by a quarter to make it a little easier on the eyes. There are two visits to the waterfall in a short period of time but I'm not sure whether it is two birds or the same one.

The waterfall is very popular with the birds. This I can tell as there are always water splashes over everything near it! I keep promising myself that I will set up the camcorder, on a tripod, one day and see how many different birds use this facility.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

How Many Starlings fit in a Dog Bowl?

Yesterday was a non-day. I was so tired I joined Bobby most of the time in sleeping the day away. Don't know why I get days like that. It just happens from time to time even though I haven't been missing night time sleep or doing anything energetic. I didn't even get the cameras out.

I am not in the best of moods as it has taken over an hour to get a connection to Tiscali this morning - not for the first time. Anyway here's hoping that the connection stays open long enough to upload a couple of videos.

First one of Honey taken a couple of nights ago.

Secondly - While I was watching the invasion of Starlings and their broods this morning I spotted these youngsters who had decided that a small dog bowl of water I put down for the Hedgehogs would make a fine bath. Now I know why the water was so filthy yesterday when I changed it.

Monday, 25 May 2009

Poem and Pictures

When Glo from Porcelain Rose visited the other day she kindly left me a poem. I am so pleased with it I have printed it here. It was written the day I installed the new Hoggy Cam and named my visiting Hedgehogs Henry and Honey. Also there were videos of a Hedgehog and a Magpie.

When Henry met Honey at night,
They thought they were hidden from sight!
What they didn’t know:
They were stars in a show,
Entertaining us all with delight!

Now Maggie is seen clear and bright
With colour cam set up just right,
But her basic hue
Is not red or blue ~
The fact is she’s just black and white!

Thank you again Glo for that lovely apt poem.


A few portraits from yesterday:

Female Chaffinch:
Female Chaffinch

Male Chaffinch:
Male Chaffinch
He was only six feet or so away from me and I had to move the camera into position very slowly in case I scared him away.

Bobby, awake for once, and listening intently:

The past few days the Starlings haven't been the only ones creating a racket. From time to time there have been some very noisy altercations amongst the Sparrows. This is a few shots of one such set to which occurred on the lawn not far from me:
Sparrow Argument
After much noise and fluttering each Sparrow flew off in a different direction.

Missed Opportunity:

If it hadn't been raining for the afternoon walk I would have had the video camera with me. As it was I missed being able to video a Blackbird courtship. To set the scene: Imagine a wide brick gatepost with a flat slab on the top.
Mrs B. was on the slab and Mr B. was on the gravel underneath look up at her. He spread his tail feathers and performed a little dance going round in circles a few times at the same time uttering a few quite sounds. Then he flew up to the slab and repeated the performance. By then Mrs B. had flown away - I did feel sorry for him but she may have already produced one brood and thought enough is enough for now!

Sunday, 24 May 2009

Food and Flight

The hoards have arrived - the invasion of the Starlings and their offspring. So started the day at about 6.30 a.m. with the raucous sound of young, hungry Starlings. Fortunately the bit of video is silent!

This youngster was hungry but didn't seem to approve of what was being offered:

This sort of thing continued on and off all day with various offspring coming to the birdy Bistro.

A Starling finally managing to get some food in the right place:
Open Wide

Later in the day a young Blackbird was brought to be fed:
Blackbird Feeding Young

While yet another Starling was going frantic collecting food:
Starling feeding Young

Even amongst all this activity the usual visitors were helping themselves whenever the opportunity arose:
Meal Time

Every so often some youngster would seem to be forgotten or maybe the parents were taking a well earned breather.

Ma! I'm Hungry!!
Ma I'm Hungry

As it was a very pleasant sunny day I spent the time pottering about at home - far from the madding crowds. Made a new latch for the gate. Planted some Sunflower seeds - beautiful flowers to admire later in the year and food for the birds in the Autumn. During the afternoon I sat out for a couple of hours, mp3 player and headphones, cup of tea or three and camera within easy reach. I had some practice trying to photo some of the birds flying about. Mainly miserable failures but here are three I kept.

A Starling launching from a branch:
Starling in Flight

A Blackbird dropping down to the feeders:
Blackbird in Flight

A passing Jackdaw:
Jackdaw in Flight

Writing of Jackdaws - they appear to have become very regular visitors.
A piece of video to finish with:

Phew - it's warm indoors so I'm going back out with a nice cool glass of amber nectar!

Oh - nearly forgot. No wonder there always seems to be a juvenile Blackbird around. While I was enjoying the Sun I spotted these two resting on the garden seat and at the same time another was picking up scraps from under the feeders.
Twin Juvenile Blackbirds

Saturday, 23 May 2009

Flowers, Bathing, New Hoggy Cam

Regulars may recall that near the beginning of the month I had a wild flower growing in the edge of the lawn. Greenfingers and ShySongbird identified it for me as Cardamine pratense - Lady's Smock.


Greenfingers told me how to propagate it as I wanted to grow it in a more suitable place. Detach a leaf or two and lay them on damp potting compost and cover with a plastic bag. This I did and now, 20 days later, there are new shoots which I hope will give me some plants to plant out when they are big enough.

New Growth

One of my favourite flowers in the garden is a succulent, unknown, which is very drought tolerant. You have only to look at the fleshy leaves to see why. In wet weather they swell and then gradually shrink as the plants uses up the moisture. They can go months without watering. It is at its best in a container where, given time, it will tumble over the sides and grow longer and longer. Just now it is coming in to flower with a mass of bright yellow blooms each about three quarters of an inch across.

Addendum: I finally found out this plant is Delosperma nubigenum (Ice Plant)

Yellow Flowers

While I was photographing this plant I could hear a lot of splashing behind me. I turned round to see a Blackbird having a good bath in the pond waterfall. First it looked at me and then decided to carry on only stopping for a brief moment each time the mirror clattered in the camera.

Splash it all over:
Splash it all Over

Have a good wash all over and then a decent scratch:
Blackbird Bathing 21

Make sure the ears are nice and clean - Bottoms Up!
Bottoms Up

Yesterday I received and installed a brand new video camera for Hoggy.
Over the past few days I have been thinking I need to name the Hedgehogs as I can't keep calling them smaller and larger. After some thought, assuming the larger one is the male, I came up with:
Henry for the bigger one - means ruler of home and estate, because he seems a bossy boots.
Honey for the smaller one - means sweet one.

Night time viewing - one Hedgehog:

Day time vewing - a Magpie: what a long tail they have.

Sorry - this turned out longer than I intended when I started.

Friday, 22 May 2009

Hoggy Cam Revisited and Others

As usual I keep trying different things with Hoggy Cam. A couple of days ago I changed the camera to one which is colour in daylight and black and white at night. The camera is quite old and, like me, sometimes temperamental. I wanted colour in daylight as many birds go on the paved area under the bird feeders and I can watch them from indoors this way. Night lighting consists of three solar powered LED spotlights which have just three LEDs in each but at close quarters give quite a reasonable light. Also I put an infra red light above the paved area to give more light which the camera could see but would not affect the Hedgehogs.

IMG_3412LED Spotlight

Last night just one Hedgehog showed up while I was watching.

This morning there was a Magpie gathering any spilled seed from under the feeders.

Disappointing that the colour view from the camera is not as sharp as the b/w view. This afternoon it was replaced with a new camera which looks better in daylight - just got to wait and see what the night vision is like.

This is the first time I have seen the Robin use a seed feeder. It normally flies in and out of the bird table all day.

Robin on seed feeder

Yesterday was the first time I had seen the Coal Tits for about a month. As they are back visiting the feeders I assume they have raised a family and the young have now flown the nest. Also the Blue Tits are back as regular visitors. They do look quite scruffy now. The hazard of bringing up a family? Here a Blue Tit is eating a Sunflower heart.

Blue Tit

Finally - the juvenile Blackbird seems to be thriving and continues to spend part of each day in the garden feeding on the seeds the other birds drop.

Juvenile Blackbird

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Saving Energy

Well, the morning started off beautiful and sunny and I thought we were going to have another lovely day like yesterday but as I sit here I am being deafened by the sound of hail pounding on the plastic roof of the conservatory.

Just a couple of videos today. First a compilation of three clips showing a male Blackbird gathering as much seed as he can get in his beak at one time. Certainly saves energy on the number of flights back to nest to feed the kids. In the last clip there is even a worm in with the seeds.

Second, a little video of Bobby doing what he does best - saving energy. He is desperately trying not to nod off while his ears are searching for the slightest sound which means there might be an opportunity to deafen someone.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009


This is more a test as yesterday's TWO HEDGEHOGS and a JACKDAW entry didn't show in the updates from Blogger for some reason.

Only the large Hedgehog showed up on camera last night. I had put a little chopped tinned cat food on a saucer to see if it would be eaten. Hoggy had a good sniff at it a couple of times but by the time I went to bed it had not eaten any. This morning the saucer was empty so something had a good meal.

Also I have gradually been increasing the amount of visible light where the Hedgehogs feed. I have used some solar charged spotlights which are not too bright and should allow the hogs to get used to the idea.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Two Hedgehogs and a Jackdaw

Yesterday I spent quite a lot longer than I had anticipated altering the cables between the shed and the living room. The video signals now travel a shorter route which means some improvement in the quality of the pictures. Today involved all the excitement that goes with an hour or twos shopping. I did remember to get a tin of cat food to see if the Hedgehogs would eat it.

Last night both Hedgehogs made an appearance on video. They met up several times. This time I was able to see the way they interacted more clearly. In the past it looked as though the large one was pushing the small one away from the food. Now it can be seen that the large one almost prostrates itself as it nears the smaller one. You can see how it lowers its head and tilts it to one side. A few times it then lowers its head and neck right down to ground level and seems to rub its neck on the ground.

Assuming the large one is the male it looks like he is saying, "Is it time to make baby hedgehogs yet?" and she is saying, "Not tonight dear. I've got a headache."

For an all too brief few seconds I did see the Turtle Dove was in the garden again yesterday about teatime. I hope it will become a regular. It certainly makes a change from Collared Doves and Wood Pigeons.

Never to give in to a challenge one, or possible more, of the Jackdaws has been making concerted efforts to feed from the fat balls. The wooden beam above the feeders makes it awkward for it to reach down but with a lot of flapping it is able to grab a few beaks full before it has to let go of the slippery metal.



I keep trying to get some video of its antics but it so skittish it vanishes at the slightest view of me through the kitchen window.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Look out for Garden Creatures + New Visitor

When I am gardening I always try to keep an eye open for wildlife. This is especially important when I let the grass get longer than usual before cutting it. I always keep an eye out for frogs hiding in the longer clumps of grass but they always end up taking me by surprise when they leap out in front of the mower. This morning was no exception when this magnificent creature suddenly leapt into view and thoughtfully rested on a short wooden peg while I fetched the camera and took its portrait.



Of course the other one to watch out for here is the Hedgehog or I should say Hedgehogs. I haven't found out where they are nesting but I will be taking care when I get round to using the compost from the compost bins at the back of the garden.

As usual Hoggy showed up on Hoggy-Cam last night. For the first time I had to tell Bobby off for trying to play with it but he did find out that licking a Hedgehog was not a good idea!

A short video of the larger Hedgehog having a drink and a meal last night.

The juvenile Blackbird continues to visit and joins in with the others finding the seed I scatter on the lawn.

Juvenile Blackbird

They need to keep a good lookout as I saw a Sparrowhawk fly over earlier this morning.

This afternoon I spotted what at first I thought was a strangely coloured collared dove but on closer investigation proved to be a Turtle Dove. Not seen one ever before and delighted it visited my garden.

Turtle Dove

A rough piece of video as the darned dove would not stay still.

Saturday, 16 May 2009

The Usual Garden Visitors

Nothing exciting today, just the usual garden visitors and me playing with the computer and some bits of video. I think I've got everything about as good as it will go at the moment.

Just a bit more experimental video of some of the regulars in the garden: Chaffinch, Magpie with Jackdaw, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Starling and Sparrows.

The juvenile Blackbird is getting about a bit more and has been practicing flying between some bare branches in a dead tree. I haven't seen the juvenile Greenfinch but did briefly spot a juvenile Sparrow so many of the locals have been busy bringing up their broods. Today the adult Greenfinches visited more often so I think they are recovering now the brood has fledged.

Last night the large Hedgehog was about and Bobby went and gave it a quick inspection, twice, at bedtime.

Friday, 15 May 2009

Drenched + Hanging on by a Claw

Walkies this morning was a time for both of us to put on our waterproofs. At least we could do that. The poor old birds really did look a sorry sight as they went about the daily business of feeding themselves and gathering enough to feed the kids back home.

Rain Soaked Birds

The only one looking reasonably dry was the juvenile Blackbird who seems to have adopted my garden as a source of easy food. It spends most of the time under an old wooden garden seat next to the feeders and pops out to pick up a morsel and then back under cover.


It is a while since a certain visitor came to the feeders.
Recognise this tail? I bet you guessed who the owner is.

IMG_3267tail Grey Squirrel

Squirrel Nutkins, of course. I was once again marvelling just how tenuous its hold is when reaching for food. Those claws on the back legs must dig in well accompanied by good strong muscles to support the weight.


A piece of video I took last year as SN raided a peanut feeder with those back claws just hooked over the edge of the slate cover.

At last the Sun is poking through the clouds, just as well as the pond has been toppped up nicely but is very near overflowing now.

Last night when I went to put out a bit of food for the Hedgehogs the smaller one was already there on the paved area so I gently scattered the little bits of peanut. Little hog stayed for a short while making quite peeping noises but eventually ran and hid. It was soon back for its supper (breakfast really) once I had gone back indoors.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Juvenile Greenfinch and Intelligent Rook

Firstly updates - the juvenile Blackbird I saw in the garden yesterday is back again today so it must have found somewhere safe to spend the night. At least one Hedgehog continues to visit each night.

Today I had a juvenile Greenfinch in the garden. It seemed to be feeding itself quite happily from a dandelion which had gone to seed. Also it spent a short while finding scattered seed on the lawn.

From time to time I have found one of the fat ball feeders on the ground. Today was the first time I have managed to see who is responsible. Fortunately I had the camcorder set up in the kitchen and was able to film the action. This Rook has obviously learned that it is a lot easier to get at the fat balls when they are on the ground rather than having to balance on a thin metal bracket. The first section is slowed down to make it easier to see how the bird goes about unhooking the feeder. The picture is a bit grey as the light was reflecting off the kitchen window in that direction.

Who knows what they will get up to next.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Juvenile Blackbird

When I went out to the shed for the first time today I spotted a bird I had not seen before. Such a beautiful orangey brown chest and back. I though it was a type of thrush with the speckles on its chest. Then, having noticed the black tail I began to think it might be a juvenile Blackbird. I had to look it up to make sure. It appears healthy and well developed and has been feeding on the food scattered by the Starlings aggressive feeding on the bird feeders. It has been easy to get within about ten feet though it will fly out of sight if I get too close but it soon comes back. The bird has been in the garden all day and I hope it can find a safe place to roost tonight.

Juvenile Blackbird

A couple of times the youngster tried to get Starlings which had food in their beaks to feed it. Needless to say they didn't really think that was a good idea. Throughout the day there have been several adult Blackbirds visit the garden but none have made any attempt to feed the youngster but it does appear to be able to feed itself without any problem.

The male Blackbirds have been scooping up seeds from the lawn so they are still feeding young somewhere.

Blackbird Collecting Seeds

How do they pick up so many seeds without losing the first ones?


Here's hoping that the juvenile finds a suitable roost for the night and we shall see whether it is in the garden again tomorrow.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Loads a Birds

Yesterday must have been a record here for a Starling invasion. At one stage fifteen of them descended on the feeders within a couple of seconds. At least that was the number I definitely counted, there may have been one or two more.

Today at one stage half the lawn looked as though it had turned into a low level Rookery. Actually it was a mixture of Rooks and Jackdaws which often arrive and feed together, There were too many to get in one photograph.

Rooks and Jackdaws

Every now and then a couple of Rooks would get too close together and there would be a short altercation. Nothing nasty, just a flapping of wings and opening of beaks.

Rooks Arguing

At one stage a Collared Dove decided that it was economical to drink and paddle at the same time.

Off and on during the day I got short snippets of various birds at the feeders. There is a health warning with this video - the wind was so strong the feeders were blowing all over the place and you may suffer from sea sickness. The sound track is general local bird song recorded a while ago. This is really an experiment while I learn my way round the software.

During our afternoon walk a few of the sheep and lambs were very close to the fence at the end of the cricket field so I managed to get a couple of shots with the camera in the mobile phone. It was too cold in the very strong wind which felt as though it was blowing straight off the North Sea to take the DSLR.

The lambs are growing fast and are now past the cute 'Aw' stage. The sheep was completely unruffled though it did keep a close eye on Bobby.

DSC00228 Sheep DSC00229 Lambs

Finally a short clip from Hoggy Cam of the Hedgehog's final visit last night.

Happy birding to all. John
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