RSPB Ham wall – August 2018

I headed to RSPB Ham Wall over the August Bank Holiday weekend with a friend who wanted to try out a couple of cameras he had hired. I also had with me my new Sigma 150mm Macro 2.8, I had put it on my old Nikon D300 seeing I probably wouldn’t need to crop into the images much.  Although we had gone to go bird watching we were also trying out new kit 🙂    

We headed down to Tor hide; from previous visits we know it is a good place to spot bitterns!  There was a fair amount of activity, a marsh harrier, gadwall, great white egret, cormorant, swallow, little brown thing that flew between the reeds that I just saw out of the corner of my eye (I have no idea at all what it was!), black headed gull, moorhen, the Red Arrows flew over!, little grebe, and of course a bittern.  It took a very short flight over the reed beds, I was lucky to get a photo as by the time you had seen it, it was gone! 

After a few hours I walked back to the car park to use the facilities!  On the way I saw a mute swan and 4 cygnets and a little creature ran across the path.  I’m not sure who was most surprised, me or him, we both stopped, looked at each other briefly and he shot into the grass.  I think it was a vole but it was such a brief encounter I can’t be certain.  That will teach me for not taking my camera!

On the walk to the Avalon Hide I saw another vole! This one didn’t stop to look, he just shot across the path!  The hide wasn’t too busy when we got there but people were very spread out, it became obvious after a while that people who were there together were taking up a window each rather than sitting together to allow others to sit down. Now I do see the value of a window each because it allows you more room, however, I have always moved to sit with a companion if others come in to sit down, I just see it as polite. We had to squeeze in a gap in between a window and someone’s scope because they were taking up two windows, they were sat a good few feet away from the windows and at an angle, it was a little odd, they didn’t even acknowledge we were there!  After a while of feeling rather uncomfortable we were able to move to a window that became available.  

There wasn’t a huge number of birds about but enough to keep us occupied: little egret, great white egret, mute swan, coot, house martin, cormorant, 4 marsh harriers at once and a sparrowhawk!  The lady sat next to me noticed it at the same time and we were debating on what it was at the time.  I think it took us both by surprise sat in the water by the reeds. 

With regards to my new lens, after a bit of testing I think it would work better on my D3s, the D300 just doesn’t seem to work properly with it, it didn’t seem to want to focus, it just wasn’t right.  I normally have a wide angle on the D3s so looks like I might have to do some switching of lenses while out in the field when necessary!  Not something I like to do if I can help it, I rather dislike cleaning camera sensors!

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 2019

The RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch has crept up on me fast this year; I can’t believe it is the end of January already!  Maybe it is the mild weather that has fooled me into thinking we are not already one third of the way through winter! 

As always I like to compare my results from previous years, I wasn’t surprised that bird numbers were low again this year; only 6 species again.  We normally see some woodpigeon and feral pigeon but not today!  What I do know is we have had an increased number of cats in the garden, in particular new young ones that sit under the feeder.  I thought they sat there to attack the birds but today I noticed a wood mouse that appears from next doors garden to feed on the dropped food. 

On the up side there have been blue tits looking in the nest boxes and I think they have been using them as roosts. Unfortunately we don’t have cameras in the boxes so I don’t know for sure.  Fingers crossed they occupy both boxes again in Spring.

 

  2019 2018 2017 2016 2015
Coal tit     1 2 1
Blue tit 2 1 2 2 3
Great tit     1   1
Long-tailed Tit         1
Blackbird 3 4 7 4 2
Woodpigeon   4 4 2  
Goldfinch 5 1 7 9 2
Blackcap     1 1  
Greenfinch       1  
Robin 2   1 2 2
Collard dove     2 3 1
Starling     3 1 1
House sparrow 2   3 1  
Dunnock 1 1 1   1
Pied wagtail         1
Siskin     2    
Chaffinch   1      
Total no. of species 6 6 13 11 11
Total no. of birds 15 12 35 28 16
Weather Light cloud, dry Wind, rain      

 

In the garden throughout the year we have still had regular visits from hedgehogs and the fox, hopefully their visits will continue this year as well 🙂

I took a few photos through the kitchen window of this year’s Birdwatch attendees…

My Patch – August 2018

August 1st – The buzzard was back on the bale of straw tonight, it looks like it could be a juvenile to me.  

August 2nd – This evening there were 3 mint moths on the mint, so I’m really glad that it has been left to go to seed.  They were also joined by a mother-of-pearl month.  

August 8th – the great spotted woodpecker is still feeding on the nuts! He’s the main bird I see at the moment as he seems to be slightly braver than the other birds and will still feed if I’m in the garden as long as I’m not moving about too much. 

August 9th – I haven’t seen the rabbits in the field since March when I saw them running about in the snow. This morning they were running about near their burrows.  This afternoon I also found a 22-spot ladybird, I’ve never found one before! 

August 13th – One of the hedges has been cut! There isn’t a lot I can do about it as a local farmer is contracted to trim them but really! don’t they know they shouldn’t be doing that until at least September 🙁 There were fledgling goldfinches in the garden tonight, they were making one hell of a racket. I think the parents were trying to get them to feed for themselves. I wonder if they had been displaced from the hedgerows? I also found a buff-tip moth caterpillar, it took me by surprise as it was on the edge of the arm of one of the chairs. 

August 15th – I thought I saw a frog in the garden the other day but wasn’t convinced as it was small and mud coloured, it hopped but I only saw it out of the corner of my eye and it could have been a cricket. Today I saw it again, it was about an inch long, it saw me and leapt under the fence and into the field. 

August 22nd – This afternoon I found a badger in the ditch, I seems it was hit over the weekend and someone had moved it.  We moved her round into the field so any other creature wanting to feed on her wouldn’t be hit too.  The entrance to the field is where there are regular animal crossings. It’s on a slight bend and people just don’t slow down at all, they also seem to drive in the middle of the road so if another car is coming they have to swerve!  You would think if you were a regular driver of the road you would have more sense, but I guess not! 

August 23rd – tonight I took a walk down to the river, there wasn’t much activity.  There was litter floating downstream, sadly this is a regular occurrence each time I visit but the water is too deep for me to do anything about it.  The rabbits are still digging their burrows in the walkways around the field so I walked back along the track as I knew I wouldn’t be able to see them walking back across the field.  I can generally only see them when I walk into the field, in the other direction they are more camouflaged!  I spotted some of the culprits on my way back!

August 24th – One of the cats left a dead rat in the front garden of the house today!  At least we know the rats are still about… there is a barn a little further down the road and we think they catch them there, or next door have chickens so its a possibility they are in their garden too.  I do however think if they catch them they should eat them, not just leave them on the floor!

August 31st – tonight I found lots of caterpillars on the rose bush, after a little investigation I have discovered they are large rose sawfly.  All the gardening websites tell you how to get rid of them but these are happily munching away in the garden!  

My Patch – July 2018

I have been trying to catch up on writing some of my blog posts, which is why I am posting July in January!! After summer I have been rather rubbish at posting anything; partly because I have lots of images where I need to identify the insects or flowers and its taken longer than anticipated.  I end up with a list of ‘blogs to write’ and then feel like events occurred too long ago to write about them. I do however feel that they are all part of a story I’ve been telling on here so have been doing my best to start catching up….

My first trip out into the patch in July was the 9th – I wasn’t out there very long; I got bitten by a horsefly on the inside of my wrist.  I saw it and tried to flick it off but it didn’t move, I had to try and brush it off again, finally it went.  Now I had a few bites the other week that turned into great big red patches so I thought it best to go and put some bite lotion on it.  I have to say it didn’t help, this bite came up in blisters and half my forearm swelled up!  I was wearing Boots sun cream that has insect repellent in it, either I hadn’t covered that spot or it doesn’t work too well with horseflies!  I asked on Twitter for some suggestions to keep them away and two options that came back were, Avon Skin so soft and Jungle formula.  I’ll have to give each a try to see which one works the best for me.

While I was out in the field I heard roe deer in the copse; well that was until a walker spooked them with their yappy dog that didn’t seem to follow commands!  All I could hear after that was a high pitched dog whistle that wasn’t going to help me see anything!  Why do people have to be so noisy?!  There were numerous butterflies on the what I believe to be bristly oxtongue and also ox-eye daisies.  I am rubbish at identifying the ‘white’ butterflies, once I have seen them all in the flesh and I ‘know’ which is which I will be more confident but at the moment I’m still not sure.  They were quite difficult to photograph as they were continually flitting around not sitting still for a second.  There was a very small dark butterfly that I couldn’t identify, its what I was trying to follow when I got bitten!  I still have no idea what it was, I hope I can get back out there one evening to have another look for it. 

I was tending the 12 tomato plants and noticed a leaf cutter bee buzzing around my head, I moved away and watched from the other side of the garden as I was unsure of where it was going.  It carried a piece of leaf into a tray of soil and went into a burrow.  I managed to get a very bad picture of it.   The tray now has a label on it saying it shouldn’t be disturbed as there is a potential nest in there 🙂 

July 16th – tonight there were 6 swallows feeding over the field. 

July 18th – I was surprised by all the corvids that flew over the field tonight to roost – there must have been about 70 of them.  I couldn’t clearly identify them as I was looking into the setting sun but I would make a guess at mainly rooks and carrion crows.

July 19th – I was pottering in the garden tonight when I spotted the starlings were collecting on the telephone line. I like to think it’s a family photo of all the starlings that have fledged in the garden this year! 

July 20th – The farmer has made the first test cut of the oil-seed rape in the field.  Its great because there is now a clear path to walk around the field, not so great at the loss of all the field chamomile and bristly oxtongue that were in flower 🙁

July  23rd – the crop was cut today. 

July 24th – I didn’t know there was a wren nest in the Jasmine but today a fledgling wren was perched on the archway while I was watering. I took a quick photo and moved to the other side of the garden to stay out of its way. There was a parent nearby shouting at me!

July 25th – approx 30 swallows flew over and I discovered 104 large white caterpillars on one of the plants in the garden – I think it’s a false London rocket but I’m not 100% sure. I left them all where they were, happy that they had come to feast in the garden. The garden is after all being created for the wildlife 🙂 

July 26th – today I managed to go for a walk in the field.  It is really dry, there are cracks in the ground.  All of the bristly oxtongue where the butterflies were has all been cut down.  It feels a very different place with all the vegetation/crop removed.  The copse is starting to look brown underneath the trees.  The next field over hasn’t been harvested yet and still has some greenery around the margins.  All that is really left in the field now is mainly stinging nettles and a few patches of grass on top edge.  I know these are important but its sad that the chamomile etc has all been cut down when it would still have been useful to the insects buzzing around the field.  When the farmers all cut at the same time this sudden vanishing food source must have a real impact on our wildlife.   

July 27th – this morning there was a buzzard sat on one of the straw bales. 

Over the month I have also been looking at who else has started to visit the garden area next to the field, some I can identify easily but there are so many new creatures I have never seen before! which I have been trying my best to identify (if I have any wrong, please let me know):

RSPB Ham Wall – December 2018

Last year I didn’t see a starling murmuration so I headed to RSPB Ham Wall on Thursday hoping to see one.  10mins after leaving home I hit the first bank of fog, it cleared a little and at some points I saw the sun but as I got closer to Glastonbury, again the fog appeared.  The weather said it would clear around midday.  I headed out on the reserve and made a bee line for Tor View hide, to say it was foggy would be an understatement!  As I headed along the footpath, a little bird flitted into the hedgerow; a blue tit.  There were a number of people in the hide but as people moved on a seat became available.  The fog was thick but it gave a different perspective to the reserve; although you generally listen to the birds, their calls in the fog were more prominent.  I liked that the lapwing were swirling around in front of the hide and the occasional duck would slowly appear out of the gloom.  

Every now and then someone would call marsh harrier and everyone would start looking for it, it would be visible and then vanish, then appear again.  Trying to take photographs in the fog was interesting, it was a case of forgetting the ‘normal’ shots you would want to take and make them more abstract or ‘arty’.  Focusing was the biggest problem, there was just no contrast.   

As the fog lifted a little, the other birds that had been using it as a cloak slowly began to appear… kingfisher, mallard, moorhen, coot, teal, tufted duck, and gadwall were distinguishable and didn’t need to just be called a ‘duck’ anymore.   

I was heading back towards the car park for lunch when a man let me know a pair of bearded tits had been seen in the Mini marshes.  I wasn’t lucky enough to see them, they had vanished when I got there and then shortly after a sparrowhawk flew from a nearby tree, I didn’t think they would be seen anytime soon!  

The fog had thickened again so after a walk along a few of the trails I headed back to Tor View hide in the hope of seeing a murmuration.  A great white egret landed over to the left of the hide and a tufted duck swam closer to keep us entertained as the light levels slowly began to drop.  After a while of waiting a small woosh of starlings flew over head, then a little later another, as the numbers increased they would suddenly appear from nowhere the only clue they were there was the sound; like a wave breaking on a pebble shore. They dove down into the reeds in front of the hide chattering as they went. 

My Patch – A Garden update: June & July

When I last wrote about the garden on May 27th it was still looking rather unloved, as you can see over the summer it has been developing rather well 🙂 

I was concerned that I would only have a sparse covering of wildflowers this year, I was partially right.  Now I planted half of the garden a few weeks before the other half and with a different brand of seeds, so, there are a lot of variables to take into account.  The part I planted first really took hold and is full of greenery with some flowers in bloom.  The other half, well, its more soil than it is greenery!  Some ‘things’ have grown under the roses but I’m fairly sure they have naturally occurred and are not what I sowed.  I have left them as at least its vegetation protecting the soil from the intense heat – I am yet to investigate what they actually are, mainly because they are all leaf!

As plants have been flowering I have been taking photos and doing my best to identify them, so far I think I have: Red Dead-nettle, Great Willowherb, Love-in-a-mist, Corncockle, Cornflower and Hollyhock.

and lots that I still don’t know what they are!

The stinging nettles haven’t come through the fence as much as I thought they would, so have not been too much of a problem, but the ivy is starting to come in again and bind weed has been untangled from a sunflower!  The Velvet Queen sunflowers are doing really well and are still flowering.  

The sunflower seeds that I sowed back at the beginning of June have grown into strong plants and have been planted out into the garden, I actually had more than I expected and a few are in pots.  The birds have also been helping to grow sunflowers and I had two spring up that are doing really well, other smaller ones have been eaten by the slugs and snails.  To help with this issue I ‘collected’ the snails that I could find and took them on vacation; out into the field! 

What I have noticed about the garden is the section by the pond is in a lot more shaded than I initially thought it would be, this could be part of the reason why there is very little growth occurring there.  Next year I either need to sow plants earlier or I need to make sure that only shade loving plants are put there.  I’m not sure what route to take yet, I want to see what they do during what’s left of the Summer/Autumn. 

I have also relocated all of the pots to one location in the garden, it makes them easier to water and also adds more greenery to the borderless sections.  I have a few plans for developing it further next year to add more flowering plants and already have a very small lavender that is destined for one of the currently empty pots! 

One of the things I like about working in the garden is the sense of achieving something. If it’s 10 mins looking after the tomatoes or 15 putting supports in for some of the flowers you can see what you have done. After a long day at work feeling like you have been wading through mud it’s nice to have a sense of achievement at the end of the day. 

My Patch – June 2018

So June’s blog is a little late! July’s will probably be a little later still! 

I have to say that I have spent a lot more time in the garden than I have out in the field because 1) the edge of the field was over grown and extremely difficult to walk around 2) the garden needed lots done to it 3) I’ve been working long hours at work and 4) 30 Days Wild happened 🙂

June 6th – I saw a Jay in the garden for the first time, it was a very fleeting visit but it was nice to see.  There are lots of fledgling birds about at the moment.  Starlings, great spotted woodpeckers, rooks and this evening I watched the house sparrows leaving their nest from under the roof tiles.  

June 11th – I heard the cuckoo again so he’s still here at the moment 🙂

June 12th – Seeing the slugs and snails have been making a meal out of the seedlings in the garden I decided they would be moving home, into the field! I found a brown garden snail and what I think is a white-lipped banded snail and a grey field slug – happy to be corrected if I’m wrong as I’ve not identified snails and slugs before! 

June 13th – I put the camera out last night to see how the fox is getting on in the field.  She’s still about and takes full advantage of any food that is put out for her 🙂

June 18th – For 30 Days Wild today I went out into the field to see what flowers were about, I found; Soft-brome grass, Corn Chamomile, Curled dock, Field Forget-me-not and of course Stinging nettles. 

June 25th – there was a Roe deer in the field first thing, a male.  I didn’t get a photo as only his antlers were visible in the rape!

June 26th – The cat showed his colours today – two dead birds, one juvenile robin and a blue tit.  There hasn’t been a ‘kill’ left on the doorstep for a while so not sure why its happened today.  

June 28th – Today I found my first Tiger Cranefly (Nephrotoma flavescens), I was looking at the plants in the raised beds and it caught my eye.  

June 29th – I was stood in the front garden and ‘something’ landed on a nearby tree – a Marmalade Hoverfly (Episyrphus balteatus).  

I do seem to be writing about more insects this month; 30 Days Wild has started me looking for the smaller creatures in my patch and as I mentioned the field was a little difficult to get around so my attention diverted to what I could easily get too 🙂

I hadn’t heard the cuckoo since the 11th so I can only assume he’s left again for another year – safe travels little chap, hope to hear you again (and maybe see you!) next year…

Foxes in the garden

A friend has fox cubs that have started to visit their garden; so of course I HAD to go and see them.  I was told they turn up at dusk, so I made sure I was there by 20:30 and settled into a garden chair.  I was slightly surprised when a face appeared out of the hedgerow at 21:26.  This was quite a bit earlier than expected.  Initially there was only one cub, who stayed close to the hedgerow. 

He disappeared for a while and then I saw him sprint across the bottom of the garden, he worked his way round the back of the garage and was later spotted using the cat flap to get to the cat food in the shed!  The owner is now fully aware that it’s not the cat eating the cat food!!!

Another cub stuck his nose out, and then a second joined him, after a few minutes they ran off; there was some quiet barking from behind the hedgerow.  What we believe was the vixen wandered into the garden followed by one of the cubs, they moved off and out of the bottom of the garden.  In total there are three cubs and both parents.

I went back again a couple of days later – they are only cubs for a short while and I wanted to see them again before they go their separate ways.  They were a lot more wary tonight, I’m not sure why as I did exactly the same as the night before, the only difference being the cat that was wandering around a bit.  They did come out of the hedge but only slightly and didn’t hang around.  I retreated into the house and sat just inside the back door; they then ventured out further into the garden but didn’t stay about for long. 

I went back again the following night.  They were out in the field at the bottom of the garden.  There are often rabbits in the field so I guess it is a good hunting ground for them.  A dog fox walked across the field, we don’t think this is the father of the cubs, but what I did notice is that he doesn’t look quite right, his snout looks short? 

I guess he must be doing okay as he looks quite healthy but I’m not sure what would have caused it, I guess he could have been born like it. There were a lot of people out in their gardens which didn’t seem to bother them while they were in the field, but they didn’t come very far into the garden until it was dusk and I had retreated to the kitchen.  I guess it’s a good thing that they are wary of people as it will help them survive longer.  I don’t believe there are any hunts in the area thankfully and the parent foxes have been visiting this garden for a couple of years now and this is their second litter of cubs that we know of.    

30 Days Wild 2018 – Day 30

We have had hedgehogs visiting the garden for the last three years, I think we have three in total but we only ever see two at the same time.  They vary in size and that is why I think we have three.  Last night each hedgehog headed straight for the water bowls as soon as they entered the garden.  We have been filling them up each night, which is vitally important for them in this hot weather, what they don’t drink over night the birds have as reserve water until the bird bath is topped up in the morning.  

Last night we initially had one hedgehog show and then 15mins later a second turned up.  They didn’t get too close to each other but they didn’t argue.  There were two hedgehogs out the front of the house the other week that were barging each other around and making a lot of noise!  For some reason last night they both ran off at the same time in the same direction, I hove no idea why as nothing showed up on the camera.  We do have a lot of cats who use the garden as a corridor, they generally just pass thought and don’t stop.  Both hedgehogs did return not long after though.   

We know that at least one of the hedgehogs gets to the garden from the road side of the house, we generally know when it arrives as our house rabbit sits and listens, facing the wall it walks next to! the other looks like it comes from the back of the garden through the fence. 

30 Days Wild 2018 – Day 29

A few weeks ago I noticed the Oxeye daisy’s at work were in flower. They come up every year and their numbers are strong.


Today I went to see if they had gone over. Many of them had so I broke off two flower heads, thanked the plant and took them home. I plan to distribute the seeds in the garden next to my Patch (I have permission to do this) and also some along the road verge. They have recently cut the grasses that were happily growing, so I thought if a few flowers come up next year it would add to the variety of vegetation. If you don’t count the cow parsley there are actually no flowers growing in the verge at all, I’d like to slowly change this to try and help our pollinators 🙂