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…

30 Days Wild 2018 – Day 26

Today’s 30 Days Wild isn’t quite so nice as all the rest.  This morning when I got to the house next to my patch I found a baby robin by the door (I don’t think it had fledged but could be wrong), with a pleased looking cat sat next to it!  

Now normally if he decides to catch anything its mice and rats.  He was a stray that has made himself a home as a farm cat.  After I had told the cat off – not that he listened, I took the robin and buried it in the garden.  I didn’t fancy letting him eat it.  I then noticed him looking in the flower bed at the front of the house and discovered the head and wings of a blue tit!!  He is not in my good books.  I don’t like the fact that he has killed two birds, but I can’t tell him off to severely.  Finally after 8 years he has just plucked up the courage to let people within 2 feet of him and I can actually stroke him now, which with him getting older can only be an advantage.  He is a nice cat, except the bird/mice/rat catching aspect! I’m hoping he doesn’t catch anymore anytime soon.  

I don’t like to think about all the animals he has caught over the years. I guess he does generally eat his prey so in a way it was / is survival instinct for him, but he gets fed, so generally he doesn’t have a need to eat extra items. In the last year another cat has decided to make his home there too. He is very friendly and to our knowledge is too lazy to catch prey, he just shouts at humans for food instead! 

It’s estimated by the Mammal Society that 55 million birds are killed by cats each year! To me that seems like a huge number, especially when so many of our bird species are in decline.  There is however no evidence to show that cats are causing a reduction in numbers as some of the species with the most intense declines would not have a lot of contact with cats.  However any species that already has pressure put on it with loss of habitats for example do not really need added pressure from our feline friends.   

The RSPB suggest putting collars on cats to alert prey to their presence. That has been tried with the friendly cat as he can be picked up, but he hates the collar. He walks backwards to try and take it off when it’s put on, so there is no way he will wear it! and the main prey catcher – well unfortunately I don’t think he will ever be tame enough to even try to put a collar on him. 

30 Days Wild 2018 – Day 18

Since I received my new wild flower book I have wanted to spend a little time out in the field exploring what plants are living along the margins.  The farmer has now cut a path around the edge where the wild plants were meeting the crop so it is now more accessible to walk around.  I spent about 10 mins this evening out in the field, I had intended on spending longer but I wasn’t expecting the rain quite so early!  I have managed to identify a few of the plants I found:  Soft-brome grass, Corn Chamomile, Field Forget-me-not and of course the Stinging nettle. 

 

Others are still a complete mystery!…

 

I think I might make a winter project out of the wild flowers in the field – photograph them in the summer and then identify in the winter.  I only looked at a small corner of the field, if I’m to try and identify what the rest of the field holds (126 acres though the crop covers 98% of it!) I think its best to get out and photograph them all in the coming month or two! 

30 Days Wild 2018 – Day 14

I knew today was going to be a day where I wouldn’t have much time to get out in the wild, so last night I put the trailcam out in the field with some left over cake! Yes I know not the best thing for the fox but they don’t get given it very often, its normally chicken carcass or eggs.  She has however, been helping herself to next doors new guinea fowl!!  They saw her watching them the other week but I’m assuming didn’t put them behind the electric fence with the other chickens so they went ‘missing’.

I think we can safely say she also likes cake!!  Over a period of 3 hours she squirreled it away to various locations nearby.  I’d cut it up a bit so it didn’t fall apart as she carried it off.  I don’t know if that was just to hide it from anyone else that might want the steal it or because she seemed a little weary of the camera, though she hasn’t worried about it before.  I wondered if she had cubs nearby… I hope she has cubs 🙂 

30 Days Wild 2018 – Day 06

This morning I noticed a lot of fledglings in the garden next to my patch. Unfortunately I was running late for work so didn’t have time to take any photos.  There were 12 starling causing chaos, 2 great spotted woodpeckers and 1 rook, all with their parents begging for food.  

This evening I managed to take some shots of the house sparrows that on appearance, fledged tonight.  The parents were still going into the nest hole under the roof tiles, as well as tending to the ones hopping around on the roof.  It seems like everything fledged in the garden today! 

My Patch – May 2018

May 1st – I thought the starlings had one nest at the front of the house like they did last year; under the roof tiles. Actually there seems to be two, both near the bathroom, and fairly close together.  There is also one nest at the back of the house again under the roof tiles above one of the bedrooms, this location was used last year as well. This afternoon I saw four swallows swooping over the field.  They didn’t stay around unfortunately but its good to see them back.  I was heading home and was already running late; then I spotted a tractor in the next field ploughing.  There were loads of gulls and in the distance following it a red kite.  Why when you have no time to stop do interesting things happen?!

May 3rd – I put the trailcam out in the field last night with some left over food and some eggs.  Although it was misty it did show a mouse, a hedgehog and a fox.  At least we now know the hedgehog is travelling though the field and not across the road!  The fox took the food away.

May 4th – The starlings are definitely feeding their young; when in the bathroom you can hear them calling in the roof space. I’m not sure which nest it is though seeing there are two close to the bathroom! 

May 8th – This morning I noticed the starling chicks at the back of the house are calling when the parent disappears under the roof tiles. There was a Streamer moth on the kitchen window – thanks to all those on Twitter who confirmed this for me.  Identifying moths is new to me and this one didn’t seem easy to find!

May 9th – I was out working on the garden, the starlings at the back of the house are working hard to feed their chicks, I could hear them calling once every 10-15 minutes or so 🙂

May 14th – I haven’t seen them yet but the owner informs me there were 10 fledgling jackdaws lined up on the fence being fed suet this morning! 

May 15th – The starlings are busily back and forth to the nests taking in food.  At the back of the house the parents have been sat outside the nest with food calling, I think they are trying to encourage the young to leave!  At the front the parents don’t seem to be calling, just flitting in and out.  One carried out a fecal sac but I missed getting a photo and one has also been taking in a bit of nesting material.  I wonder if they are starting to get prepared for a second brood?!  The jackdaw in the the middle chimney has been sat on the edge of the brick work with food.  I have been seeing many more moths in the garden but I am having problems identifying them! 

May 17th – Tonight I discovered house sparrows are nesting under the roof tiles at the back of the house 😃 they were busy taking in food. 

While I was trying to take some photos of them I took a very quick picture of two birds on the roof thinking they were house sparrows.  After correcting the exposure that was, well, not correct! I discovered that they were actually linnet.  I have never knowingly seen linnet before and this was a definite first for the garden, I now wonder if there are more out in the field.

The jackdaw nesting in the end chimney was sat on the TV ariel with food, they seem quite jumpy when there is anyone in the garden and are reluctant to actually go into their nests. 

I went to walk around the field but its getting too over grown to get around.  I will have to try a different route on another day.  Hopefully they other side of the field has a wider margin, at least I know on that side there are no rabbit holes to fall down! 

May 24th – There are fledgling starlings in the garden 🙂 I don’t think they are from the nests here as they are still taking food in and I can hear the chicks calling still.  Hopefully ours will fledged soon.  

While I have been working on the garden I have noticed a lot more of the small creatures that live here. A potential Ichneumon wasp, lots of snails and slugs, and some very fast moving spiders that I haven’t been able to have a good look at yet! I may have to relocate some of the slugs and snails out into the field as some of my sunflowers have met a slimy end!

May 30th – The cuckoo is stall calling from across the field.  He always seems to be where I am not!

May 31st – The jackdaws are still feeding young in one of the chimneys, I could hear them calling this morning. The fledgling starlings are making it difficult to hear if there are still chicks in the other nests as they are just so loud! 

My Patch – A Garden update

The garden has started to develop a little, its unfortunate that we had so much rain at the start of spring as it was difficult to get out and work on it, but with our recent sunny spell its improved considerably. The snowdrops turned green so I have relocated a few of them underneath the hazel tree. There are lesser celandine and bluebells too so I am going to turn the area into a very small woodland and plant winter / early spring flowers around the dogs graves. 

The raised bed has been dug over and some of the ivy roots removed – the ones that would come out! The roses have been relocated slightly, they were at the front of the bed which meant it was difficult to tend, so they have been located closer together and fill a patch of their own.  Through the middle of the roses there is now a brick path to the fence, solely so plants don’t get trodden on when the trailcam is attached to the fence post! The fence has been jet washed and treated. The wildflower seeds have been sown – some are already sprouting 🙂

Before starting a proper plan for the garden I thought I ought to look up plants that are poisonous to cats and dogs.  I never knew ivy or cyclamen were harmful to them.  Seeing there are both already in the garden I checked with the owner what his thoughts were.  Seeing they have been there for years and there has never been any ill effect he is happy for them to stay.  I will however be checking anything I plan on planting first as I would hate to cause any harm to the furry residents!

I now have a rough plan for the garden but it is likely to adapt as time goes on and I learn what I am meant to be doing!  As you can see from the below, I plan on keeping the ivy on the outside of the fence away from the dogs but still accessible for insects.  There is going to be a very small pond area in the corner near the ‘woodland’ with a frogaloo next to it.  Next to the bird feeders will be a viburnum that will eventually grow large enough to offer a lot of cover for the birds.  The rest of the flower beds will hopefully be covered in wildflowers – though I am expecting it to be a sparse covering this year. I am however slightly worried about the grasses and stinging nettles that might appear from the other side of the fence and take over! so I will have to keep a close eye on what grows. 

My Patch – April 2018

A year ago this April was my first visit to my patch and my first blog about it.  The year seems to have flown by far to fast! 

Now daylight saving has occurred and Spring has finally arrived, my evenings are filled with visiting the patch or garden after work when time allows – the garden has been top of the list because I want to get the wildflower seeds in!   

April 5th – The starlings and jackdaws were all collecting nesting material and flying up to the roof. I need to try and locate where they are all nesting in the roof. I’m sure the jackdaws are using the chimney and facia boards as they did last year but need to do more research on the exact location of the starlings. 

April 9th – Two mute swans flew in to graze and a rook landed on the bird feeder. It’s the first rook I have seen land in the garden area. I am surprised that the mute swans are still about, although low in numbers now.  Last year they didn’t stay as long, though it was a different crop in the field.  I can only assume they will visit as long as there are shoots to graze on. 

April 10th – I put the trailcam out last night after thinking I had identified hedgehog feceas in the garden, I was correct 🙂 There are also loads of baby snails in the garden; feasting on the cyclamen leaves.

April 12th – I went to put some food out for the hedgehog and discovered that he had already found some! 

There are definitely jackdaws in the roof, you can clearly hear them chattering through the ceiling of one of the bedrooms 🙂 the occupant of the room isn’t so pleased about it!  I wish I lived there, it would be lovely to wake up to them chattering every morning. 

The trailcam footage from the garden showed that the hedgehog feeding station isn’t really working…

At least we now know that a fox is visiting the garden! It explains where the cat food dishes have been disappearing too!  

April 19th – The deer were in the field first thing, barely noticeable in the rape. 


April 20th – I took a short walk in the field this afternoon, to be honest it was a bit too warm to be doing so.  The oil-seed rape has sprung up since the weather has improved which does mean it looks very pretty now.  Along the field margins are many wildflowers; dead red-nettle, etc The stinging nettles which are now great in number are camouflaging the rabbit holes rather well! I know this as I managed to put my foot down one, thankfully it had been dug out at an angle and not a direct drop! I may have to tie ribbon to the hedgerow to mark out where they are! There were bee-flies, and numerous butterflies; brimstone, small tortoiseshell and peacock all of whom didn’t want to sit still for long enough for a photograph, when they did they kept their wings firmly shut! There were also some white butterflies in the distance but I couldn’t clearly identify them. I could hear the pheasant calling down the bottom of the field, he is quite vocal these days. In the hedgerow I could see house sparrows and blue tits, while woodpigeon’s and crow’s were flying over overhead.  On my walk back I didn’t fancy my chances with the rabbit holes so walked along the track just the other side of the hedgerow, the deer were grazing in the next field over 🙂  

April 24th – there was a toad in the garden. 

April 25th – a starling took a leaf under the roof tiles, a different location to where I noticed them the other day. 

April 30th – a jackdaw was sat in the tree with a beak full of fur! I heard my first cuckoo of the year 🙂

My Patch – The Garden

As I mentioned in January’s patch post I have been given permission to make the landowners garden more ‘wildlife friendly’. Well I’ll be honest, it wont be too difficult to do!  This is what the garden looked like in December…

As you can see it is plant-less more or less.  There are some roses, and a pussy willow tree to the left with a bush beside it and a hazelnut tree to the right but other than that ‘weeds’ covers it for the vegetation, I guess weeds is a harsh term ‘plants that have not been chosen’ might be a better way of putting it.  I raked through the dead plants and it was mainly grasses and crop that have crept through from the field and taken over the raised bed.     

In January I marked out where the snowdrops have come up so I know not to dig them up once they have died back and also the cyclamen that I have identified.  Now I don’t know a lot about gardening so it will be a new experience for me and the owner as he doesn’t know much either!  The bird feeder was a new addition in December and the birds seem happy that their feed has been moved away from the windows.  They seem to like that it is located near the tree and the bush. It does need to be put into a base rather than just the soil as high winds have blown it over on a couple of occasions. I plan to plant a shrub behind the feeder to give the birds even more cover to dart into if the sparrowhawk comes looking for lunch!

The first stage of the garden plan is cleaning and protecting the fence and moving the rose bushes back in the beds. I have also learnt that I need to prune the roses back harder! as a first attempt in December, apparently it wasn’t too bad.  I pruned them a second time in February and have done a better job! I think I’ll be tuning into Monty Don and Gardener’s World on a Friday night for some advice!

Over Easter I spent a morning in the garden tidying, there was a lot of leaf litter that had been left decomposing over Winter.  When I lifted it there were a lot of creatures scurrying around. Although a lot of it was removed I also used some of it at the base of a basic log pile I started to create.  I have put it in an old wooden plant pot so it can be moved if necessary.  There was a lot of rubbish in the garden and turning over a car mat I found a centipede (Cryptops parisi), I was quite excited as I have never found one before! I moved it to the log pile for safety.  

There is a lot of work to do and I realise I might not get it all done this year but I do hope by the end of summer it will be a wildlife friendly habitat. 

My Patch – March 2018

March 1st – So today it snowed! Work decided to send us all home, which to me was a great idea especially seeing when I got to the patch there was a fieldfare in the garden 🙂

I spent some time in the garden defrosting the birdbath, ensuring the bird feeders were full and of course cutting up some apple for the fieldfare.  In the afternoon I headed out into the field to see if there was anything else around.  Sensibly most everything was either at the bird feeders or in hiding.  The vegetation covered in snow was very pretty and the river looked lovely in the snow. I liked the mini icicles that formed on the branches that were dipping into the river, there must be a technical term for this but I have been unable to find it. Walking into the wind and snow on my way back up was a challenge!  In the copse the only sign of life was the brief glimpses of the redwing foraging in the leaf litter, but it was great to see them.

March 2nd – Today I focused on the garden birds, mainly because the bird bath needed defrosting five times! The fieldfare had been joined by two others which meant I had to start strategically distributing the apple to keep them from fighting too much and wasting energy.  There was plenty of apple to go round and they eventually all sat guarding their own piece.  There were also three robin’s, I noticed that one has a ring.  Unfortunately I wasn’t able to take photos of it from enough angles to get a clear picture of the code.  I don’t know if it was a resident or just visiting in the cold, but I will be keeping an eye out for it again. 

March 3rd – So I finally found out who lives in the holes in the field – rabbits! I spotted them over the garden fence, they stand out easier against the snow! I went out looking for snow tracks and discovered that four of the holes belong to bunnies.  Its nice to know they are there even though I generally don’t see them.  I guess it does explain the regular visits by the foxes seeing there is an abundance of food near the hedgerow.  Each time I go out into the field I have been breaking the ice on the water troughs to give the larger mammals somewhere else to drink from. I was surprised to see a song thrush in the field on my way back, its the first one I have seen in this location, the fieldfare were also out defending their food.  In the afternoon a brown rat started to appear at the base of the bird feeder.  I know there are rats around here but I hadn’t seen one venture into the garden before.  He would put his nose under the fence, have a look around, dart out, grab some food and dash back into the field.  I don’t blame him seeing there were two cats roaming around.  One of which does catch mice and leave them as ‘gifts’ especially in the summer! As I was watching the rat a red kite flew low over the house and away over the field.

March 6th – 7 mute swans, I believe the rest are still located in the next field. There was a bird singing but I have no idea what it was! 

March 13th – It was a sunny evening so I took the chance to take a short walk in the field. As soon as I walked through the gate I saw what I thought was a female pheasant in the distance, since then, looking at the image I’ve discovered it was a red legged partridge. The first one I am 100% I have seen there (February’s sighting was more of a guess). Walking along the top edge there were lots of roe deer and cat prints in the mud and the occasional clear fox print.  There were 9 mute swans down in the dip at the bottom of the field, they were just about visible.  I spotted a balloon in the field, so of course I had to collect it.  I had to carefully tiptoe through the crop to untangle it from the plant it had wrapped itself around.  At least it was away from the mute swans as I would have hated one of them to have got tangled in it.  In the copse there was a lot of chattering, I think it was starlings but I couldn’t see any of them.  It was lovely to just stop and listen to them. On the way back I noticed some red dead-nettle flowering near the gateway.  

March 14th – The two male pheasants seem to be becoming a regular sighting. They always seem to be together. 

March 16th – A mallard flew over as I was topping up the bird feeders, it must have been lost as it turned round and flew back towards where it came from! 

March 26th – starlings are going up into the roof with nesting material 🙂

March 28th – tonight I took a brief bird count in the garden: 27 house sparrows, 1 dunnock, 2 great tit, 1 collard dove, 5 starling, 2 blue tit, 1 coal tit and a great spotted woodpecker.