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 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 25

This evening I went with a friend to Bampton Cemetery in Oxfordshire.  They visited a grave while I had a look around the Cemetery.  Filling the watering can was a slow process, the tap produced no more than a dribble. While I was stood waiting for the can to fill, I noticed the ivy that is making its way up the tree by the tap, a robin briefly sat on the wall then quickly flew off once it had noticed me.  Walking back along to the grave I noticed that the horse-chestnut tree has leaf-mining moth damage (you can record this data via an app called Leaf watch where the results are submitted to the Conker Tree Science project).  I recorded this tree last year with roughly the same amount of damage.

I noticed that it also had conkers starting to form.  The squirrels that live there like the conker tree, however they also like that my friend leaves them a pile of hazelnuts when he visits.  They have in the winter traded conkers for hazelnuts! Leaving him the conker and running of with the hazelnut, they are quite friendly in winter! 

There are quite a few birds in the area.  The blackbirds were eating the fruit off of what I think is a Japanese Crab tree and I managed to get a single photo of the song thrush before a passer-by scared it off.  There were blue tits and chaffinches in the branches of the trees and woodpigeons grazing among the grave stones.  

30 Days Wild 2018 – Day 24

I had lots of tasks to do today which meant I didn’t have a lot of time free to do much wild.  One thing I do everyday that is important, is watering the birds! 


We have one full sized bird bath and 2 small ‘poppy’s’ which are also filled with water that the smaller birds often use, especially when the pigeons are in the garden.  It is important for birds to have access to water all year round but when its especially hot (22°C here at the moment) the water evaporates quickly so its important to keep an eye on the water level and refresh it as often as needed.  Although I didn’t get any pictures earlier, we had goldfinches having a drink and blue tits having a bath.  The doves turned up late this afternoon for a drink. 

30 Days Wild 2018 – Day 23

Today has been warm and sunny.  I spent this afternoon in the garden looking for insects.  As I was given an insect book for my birthday, I have spent this evening doing my best to identify them.  Some were easier to identify than others! Its been really nice to discover what’s in the garden.  

As I started to thumb through my guide to British insects I spotted one of them straight away – its one of the reasons I like a photographic guide as my brain will connect to a photograph easier than a drawing.  I looked to the info page to find out what it was, much to my surprise it is a common froghopper!  Now on Day 01 when I wrote about cuckoo-spit I said ‘However, we are not very likely to see an adult! They are 6mm long but disappear as soon as they are disturbed – they can jump 70cm in one bound!’ now this one didn’t seem to be bounding anywhere, I think I was extremely lucky to find it 🙂

On the same plant I found harlequin ladybird larvae and on the roses next to that were pollen beetles. 

I moved over to the lavender where I knew there were lots of Honeybee’s (Apis mllifera), a Small tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae) fluttered around.  Also on the lavender were a couple of Rosemary beetle’s (Chrysolina americana).  

Over the other side of the path is the mini pond, I found a Helophilus Pendulus which to start with wasn’t going to sit still but it finally settled on a leaf and I managed to get a photograph.  

In the greenhouse I found a Large Yellow Underwing (Noctua pronuba).  I didn’t get a very good photo as it was all over the place and generally hiding down the back of the plants.  

So with a little time in the garden this afternoon I have seen 8 different insects, 3 of which I have never seen before 🙂

30 Days Wild 2018 – Day 21

I sometimes have to work away from home; tonight this had its advantages, a beautiful roe deer.  I was still working at the time, moving locations. Turning the corner into another field, I came face to face with this doe.  She stood and looked at me briefly before turning and trotting away.  I love having chance encounters with mammals when out and about.  It does worry me that she didn’t run as soon as she saw me, I was only ever going to take her photograph, but who knows who else she could run into! 

30 Days Wild 2018 – Day 17

I haven’t been to Wildlife Trust’s Lower Moor Farm since January, so I thought it was about time I made another visit and went along this afternoon.  I’m not sure if it was the weather or I just picked the wrong time of day but there didn’t seem to be much bird life about!  There was a cormorant sat on a post, a few woodpigeon’s flying from tree to tree, a black headed gull, a grey heron flew over and a family of mute swans were on Cottage lake.  There were smaller birds flitting from tree to tree but everything seemed to be hiding away in all the leaf cover.  

The most exciting event of the afternoon was spotting my first orchid – a common spotted-orchid.  I have probably seem them before but no knowingly so! 

Also there are loads of froglets! One poor little chap had got himself caught in spiders webs on the floor of the hide, so after carefully removing the web from his back legs I placed him safely back outside.  The walk back to the car was slow and careful, I counted 28 froglets 🙂

 

30 Days Wild 2018 – Day 16

Each year when late spring arrives I start to look out for the swifts.  The house that backs onto my back garden have nesting swifts  They don’t have a nest box but there is a natural cavity underneath some of their roof tiles. I’m not sure if they know they are there nor not but I get the impression they are not very nature friendly so I don’t like to draw attention to their arrival just in case they decide to block up the hole!  This year they arrived on May 7th. They are generally joined by another 4 swifts screeching around the house and its so lovely to hear.    

Swifts are an amber-listed bird, this means we need to be worried about them.  There breeding numbers have been decreasing; 51% between 1995 and 2015.  One of the reasons for their reducing numbers is partly down to the loss of their nesting locations.  They nest in the same place every year. When they get back in the spring their home can sometimes be gone.  This can be down to people fixing their roofs or buildings being demolished completely.  One of the best things we can do for them is to increase the locations that they have available to nest in.  I would love to have a swift nest box on the house but they have some requirements.  There needs to be a clear 5 meter drop from the nest as this is what they need when the swoop up to the nest and also for leaving it.  This I have on one side of the house, however its west facing and doesn’t have shade from the sun, so unfortunately its unsuitable 🙁 If you have a suitable location for a swift box, please if you can, help out these wonders of summer.  You can find out more at swift-conservation.org and also submit your sightings to the RSPB.