My Patch – February 2019

February 1st – I managed to get to work in all the snow and at lunch they decided to send everyone home.  Of course I didn’t go home I went straight to the patch – I wasn’t going to miss using ‘free time’ to check out what’s going on even if it was snowing!  I headed out and over by the copse found deer tracks and found a robin in the brambles.  I really liked the monotone colour of the field with the snow falling the carrion crow added to the artistic feel.  There were not that many birds on the ground though I did hear a buzzard and overhead 8 lapwing, a black-headed gull and a cormorant all flew over while I was out.  I was looking at the trees when a small movement caught my eye, a wren was at the base of tree trunk looking for food in the little bits of ground there where not covered in snow.   

Once back at the house I sat and watched the birds on the feeders: 2 blue tits, 1 great tit, 5 starlings, 1 robin and one bird that made me look twice – a reed bunting!  I have never seen one in the field or the garden before so it took me a while to recognise it as I just didn’t expect to see one.     

February 2nd – Today was a beautifully sunny day.  I had to go out in the field as we don’t get many days like this a year!  The only footprints in the field were mine, fallow deer, fox, brown hare and rabbit. No other humans had been there.  It’s good to know the creatures of the field don’t get a lot of disturbance.  I know people walk down by the river as there are sometimes dog walkers but generally they only seem to be there at weekends. When I reached the copse I could hear a redwing calling, I finally located it at the top of the trees in the hedgerow just opposite.  

I walked along my normal route down the side of the copse what I hasn’t notice when i walked across the field was the fallow deer led down along the side of the trees, they were really well camouflaged against the brown of the tree trunks.  I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised to find them there as they were in the same location where I had noticed the snow had been disturbed yesterday.  

I didn’t want to disturb them so I walked in the next field over on the other side of the copse.  The sun shining through the trees looked really pretty.  It was hard work walking down to the river as the snow seemed to be deep on this side of the trees, in some places it was half way up my calves!  

As I reached the river I noticed three cormorants sat in one of the trees further downstream.  I wouldn’t have normally seen them as I wasn’t technically in my patch.  I have seen the odd one fly overhead so its nice to know there is more than one passing through.  There were lots of hoof prints down by the river, the deer must use the copse to get to the river to drink.  It is actually really useful to go out in the snow when no other humans have been about as the animal tracks have given me a much better idea of how they use the features of the field.  

I haven’t really got to grips with the river yet and this summer I would like to spend some more time there (though I might need to tame some of the vegetation so I can actually see the river!).  I heard a moorhen, saw a blue tit on one of the trees, two pairs of mallard swam by and four long-tailed tit worked their way along the bank from tree to tree.  There are large gaps between each tree so maybe there needs to be a couple of extras added for them.  I felt like a rabbit at one point as shadows moving along the ground caught my eye, thankfully in my case it didn’t mean danger just two grey heron flying over.

I decided to walk all the way around the field so not to disturb the deer on my walk back to the car.  It looks as though they generally only venture to the copse, the river and the ‘island’ which I believe was a meander in the river which had been altered to straighten the river once more.  I do however think this could also be the reason the river bank is eroding and the trees are leaning in the river as they loose their stable ground.  According to the land owner the river is much wider now than it was when he was a child.  

As I walked along the far edge I noticed fox prints, there were more towards the barn and I think it may have caught something as the snow was all scuffed up but there were not any signs of what it might have caught.  It looks like it could have been hiding in the hedge and pounced out.  I noticed a bird box on one of the trees which I haven’t seen before, they have cleared the ditch so I guess that’s why it’s visible now.  I wanted to check to see if had been used but I don’t know who has put it there and didn’t want to interfere.  One of the trees was old enough, to be large enough, for me to stand against its trunk, I liked the shadow the sun was casting of it on the snow.  

I had reached the barn but had to be conscious of the deer that were still relaxing on the other side of the field.  I didn’t want to spook them so moved slowly and stopped regularly to check on them and take more photos 🙂 

February 14th – 20:25 no owls heard – none heard all week

February 17th – The swans have returned 🙂 There were three in the field down by the river. I wonder if they will stay; there were numerous feeding on the crop shoots last year. 

This evening I cleaned out all of the nest boxes ready for this season.  I know last year a great tit started to build a nest in the starling box, what I hadn’t realised was it made a full nest; I don’t think it raised any young, though now I’m not sure and wonder if I missed the signs.  The sparrow terrace had a nest too!  Last year there were no signs of nesting in it at all and I was expecting to have to relocate it this year.  Seeing there has been some success all the boxes were put back in the same locations.  Fingers crossed for more nests this year…

February 22nd  – I spent the day in the garden cutting back the hawthorn hedge.  The birds were not happy with me; a) because I was in the garden and they didn’t want to go to the bird feeder on the left side (their favourite feeder) and b) I was cutting down their favourite place to sit before they dart onto the feeder!  I have promised them that once the fence has been jet washed and painted I will make sure there are some shrubs in pots put next to the feeder that they can use as additional cover.  The great spotted woodpecker kept landing in the goat willow tree, then I noticed another land close by, they seemed to have a disagreement and one flew off.  If I sat quietly on the garden bench, one would come down and feed on the feeders a few meters away.  Later on I heard drumming in the distance.  I spotted my first 7-spot ladybird on one of the plants and a bumblebee was buzzing around but I didn’t manage to locate it to find out what it was.  

It does worry me that the insects are out already, that its going to be warm all weekend and it could possibly get cold again.  What worries me more is the majority of people don’t see this as worrying.  Colleagues at work were talking about how nice the weekend was going to be and that soon they will be able to get the BBQ’s out etc, I mentioned the insects and they sort of went quiet (I often feel like the odd girl in the corner that doesn’t talk about normal things!).  A couple of people engage with talking about their gardens and planting some flowers for the insects – a couple is better than none.

I know there is a lot more in the news about the issues we face but I’m not sure people really see what’s going on around them or how everything interacts – I guess they just aren’t interested.  I managed to convince my office to be more aware about crisp packets; to collect all their empty packets so they can be sent off for recycling.  I was known as the ‘girl collecting crisp packets’ for a while after my office manager agreed I could have a box behind my desk for them, but now people from other departments sometime drop off used packets too!  In my mind any packet collected is better than it ending up in landfill.  I’m just not sure how we convince everyone to care about it!  I think they have to see the effects with their own eyes to understand how it actually effects them.   

February 25th – 19:55 no owls – none heard all week

February 27th – there were 19 fallow deer in the field at sunset.  The long-tailed tits wanted to get to the fat balls to feed, they weren’t happy I was stood in the way watching the deer, they were shouting at me from the hazel tree, I moved so they could feed.  Two tree sparrows were following each other through the jasmine looking for bugs, they flew off together, I hope they find one of the nest boxes nearby, though last year some did nest in the roof space just above the jasmine so fingers crossed.  

The mute swans didn’t stayed longer than a couple of days, hopefully they will come back when the crop is more suitable for eating!

My Patch – January 2019

I was trying my best to keep my blog posts up to date this year, however, I have already fallen behind!  Work has had some changes that haven’t been for the better, so I have been struggling quite a lot with the day to day and not had any motivation to write anything 🙁 The darkness of the evenings hasn’t helped very much either.  I’ve not been able to have much time off from work, so I have only got to go out briefly on one afternoon.  

January 18th – I had the afternoon off work to have a walk around the patch, however it didn’t really go to plan!  To start with I had to remove the remains of a spruce tree from the field.  The land owners brother, although told not to, decided to dump in the field what he couldn’t fit in the trailer to take to the recycling centre!  I spent about an hour moving everything he had moved, back round to the house and put it in the so called full trailer!  I knew there was quite a bit there but I didn’t expect to have to drag half a tree down the road!  I’m not very big so it must have been quite a sight!   The vegetation underneath the debris I had moved from the field was yellow from the lack of light, at least now I hope it will recover.  A blackbird was thankful I had moved it as he had found insects to eat in the vegetation.  

The remaining time I had left before sunset I was going to be spent looking at the vegetation in the field, but the hunter was seen going down the track so I couldn’t go far.   He’s not allowed to shoot in the field but he can in the field and the copse next to it, so any stray bullets could be disastrous!  I did take a short walk next to the house; the rabbits have been busy digging new burrows of which they will try and kill me with in the summer when they are covered over with nettles and grass!  Its good to know that they are still there after their burrows were disturbed when the ditch was re-dug. 

There is vegetation, but to me it is currently unrecognisable as it is all leaves – I’m not that good at identification yet!  I was hoping to find at least one plant in flower, but no, nothing in the area that I walked.  I did find some lichen on one of the trees, its not something I have looked at yet in the field but is something I should be looking at more this year – it might mean I need another new book! I think this one is yellow wall lichen but I could be wrong! 

The garden birds are still very present, I saw; chaffinch, robin, blue tit, great tit, collard dove, starling, house sparrow and jackdaws this afternoon.

BTO tawny owl survey update: 
January 9th 19:40 no owls heard – none heard all week
January 16th 20:15 no owls heard – none heard all week
January 22nd 19:15 no owls heard – none heard all week
January 31st 19:40 no owls heard – none heard all week
I really hope I hear one again soon!

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 – 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 03

After the blue tits fledged yesterday I thought I’d sit in the garden this morning and see who else was about. Unfortunately we believe ‘nest box 1’ fledged early this morning and some if not all were predated by magpies. 4 magpies were seen in the tree chasing something and we can only assume it was the blue tit chicks. There has been no feeding flights to the box and no chirping coming from it. We just have to hope at least some survived. 

I didn’t time my bird count today, though I was watching for over an hour. I saw:

1 robin, 3 great tit, 2 blue tit, 2 woodpigeon, 2 blackbird (1 juvenile) 1 greenfinch, 2 goldfinch, 1 dunnock and 2 white dove

The robin has a pattern to his garden visits.  He lands on the corner of the garden shed, fly’s to the bird bath, and then either on to the feeders or the floor.  He followed this pattern on 4 out of 5 visits.   I haven’t seen any of the fledgling blue tits 🙁 

Blakehill Farm Nature Reserve – February 2018

This afternoon I had a few hours spare so decided to visit Blakehill Farm Nature Reserve.  I have been meaning to visit since last summer but I just haven’t got there! The idea of seeing a short eared owl tempted me.  As soon as I had set foot in the reserve I saw a redwing, my first for this year 🙂  I wandered along the path keeping an eye out for anything that moved.  There was a collection of carrion crows and rooks feeding on the grass but little other activity.  I carried on walking as it was bitterly cold – I had dressed in all my warmest clothes but my fingers were suffering even with gloves on.  A kestrel flew over in the distance.  The sun was starting to set and the temperature was dropping further, I started to head back to the car.  I noticed a stonechat and then a robin in a nearby tree.  The stonechat’s accompanied me on part of my walk back, keeping a few fence posts in front of me.  I stopped to take a few images, on another post behind the stonechat’s a kestrel had perched.  I didn’t see a short eared owl on this occasion but there’s always another day, hopefully a warmer one!    

Wildlife Trusts Lower Moor Farm – New Year’s Day 2018

Happy New Year! Today I decided to make the most of the final day off from work and take a trip out to Wildlife Trusts Lower Moor Farm.  It was raining heavily this morning but the sun was due to appear this afternoon, so I arrived at the site early afternoon as the clouds cleared.  I headed to the hide looking out over Cottage Lake.  The feeders on the left were covered in birds flitting back and forth; 5 long-tailed tit, 2 robin, 5 bullfinch, 6 great tit, 9 blue tit, 3 chaffinch, 1 dunnock, 2 blackbird, 1 starling and 2 reed bunting.  The long-tailed tits were flitting across in front of the hide and back to the feeders, they are such lovely little balls of fluff! some got a little braver and sat on the floor feeding by the hide. The rest of the lake was fairly quiet with just a few sightings; 2 cormorant, 2 carrion crow, 13 woodpigeon, 2 magpie, 4 mallard and 1 great spotted woodpecker.  A few people came in and asked if I had seen the otter?! Sadly not.  The sky clouded over at one point and a very light rainbow could be seen against the clouds.

I did take a walk around to a couple of the other hides, spotting 2 mute swans and a camouflaged grey heron.  It seems the otters were seen this afternoon on Swallow Pool when they crossed from one bank to the other.

My Patch – April 2017

At the beginning of April there was still Swan activity in the field, approximately 40 Mute Swans were feeding on the shoots but by mid April had moved on.  While they were still there they were joined one evening by a heard of 22 Roe Deer. It was a fairly warm evening and they were primarily led down in the middle of the field.  They stayed until dusk, when they got up and started to graze. I believe they moved on when it got dark, but it was too dark for me to see where they had moved to!  I like it when the Deer are in the field, I know it means that they are safe. The land owner has an agreement with the farmer that no wildlife is to be harmed on the land.  This means when the culling season is upon us they can’t be shot in this field.

The middle of April I decided to take a closer look in one of the hedgerows, it didn’t go to plan.  I had company on my walk that isn’t the type of company that goes with looking for birds – a cat! My friend lives in one of the houses adjacent to my patch and has a cat that lives outdoors.  She’s very friendly and decided that coming for a walk with me was the way she would spend her evening.  I didn’t expect her to walk all the way down the track and into a copse with me, then walk all the way back! If I stopped to look at something she stopped and waited for me! All I saw was a Robin at the top of a tree and a Rabbit who was quite a distance away thankfully! 

My attention has been drawn to the birds in the garden, who are nesting in my friends house. As far as we know there are 2 Jackdaw nests and 3 Starling nests all located in the roof, be it the chimneys where the Jackdaws have made home or underneath the roof tiles where the Starlings are. I’m looking forward to seeing their fledglings in the garden 🙂

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 2017

Every year the first date that goes in my diary is the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch. I always notice the birds in the garden, whether its the Woodpigeon’s squabbling over the grain, the Blackbirds digging around in the flower borders or the small charm of Goldfinches that are on the feeders.  But once a year I stop for a whole hour and really pay attention, counting them all.  

I perch myself on the kitchen counter to make sure I can see as much of the garden as possible and get as comfortable as I can! This year I felt more prepared. I invested in some binoculars last year which made identification quicker; its easy enough to complete the count without binoculars but there are loads of shrubs in the garden and the smaller birds hide in them, so with the aid of binoculars this time I could figure out who didn’t want to be counted 😉  In the past I have used a 500mm lens on my camera which gets a little heavy when holding it for an hour! This year I just used it to take some photos 🙂

I like to keep a table of what I have seen including previous years data for my own interest.

  2017 2016 2015
Coal Tit 1 2 1
Blue Tit 2 2 3
Great tit 1   1
Long-tailed Tit     1
Blackbird 7 4 2
Woodpigeon 4 2  
Goldfinch 7 9 2
Blackcap 1 1  
Greenfinch   1  
Robin 1 2 2
Collard Dove 2 3 1
Starling 3 1 1
House Sparrow 3 1  
Dunnock 1   1
Pied Wagtail     1
Siskin 2    
Total no. of species 13 11 11

 I had a surprise visitor today; the Siskin.  I have seen them in the garden before but only on one occasion, I was just lucky they turned up during my count 🙂  15 mins after I had finished counting I spotted a Greenfinch on the feeder! There have been Long-tailed Tits in the last few days but sadly none turned up today. I’m so glad the Sparrowhawk didn’t turn up or it would have really altered my count! When it shows it can be seen sitting on the fence waiting for the Goldfinches, we found a pile of feathers a few weeks ago!

The RSPB also ask what other animals you see in the garden throughout the year, we have: Hedgehog, Fox and Slow-worm.

Below are a few record shots of some of the birds I counted…

RSPB Ham Wall – December 2016

Over the Christmas break I decided to take a trip to RSPB Ham Wall. Although I didn’t leave overly early it was still freezing and misty outside. After an hour and 20min drive to Glastonbury the mist had cleared and the sun bathed the wetlands.

I have only been to Ham Wall once before and that was in June so this time I decided to explore a little more of the site. It was also an excuse to keep warm! 

At one of the screens I was watching 6 Snipe, when the lady next to me asked if I knew what the smaller bird next to them was. She thought it was a Water Pipit, as she had heard one had been seen recently, so having a closer look and comparing it to an image I looked up on my phone we decided it indeed was a Water Pipit. This was the first Water Pipit either of us had knowingly seen. A great start to the day!

On the Loxton’s Marsh Trail there were Black-headed Gulls doing laps of the reeds. They were so predictable it was quite easy to get a nice shot of them. I quite like Black-headed Gulls they seem to have a lot of personality 🙂

I headed to Avalon Hide in the afternoon. On the walk there, there were signs that Deer had been sleeping in the reeds.  The hide is currently being used by a Barn Owl as it’s dining room so there are a lot of Starling feathers about! With the sun creeping just above the tree line the reeds seemed like they were made of gold. A great time for a Bittern to appear at the far side of the reed bed 🙂

I headed back outside at 3pm to get set for watching the Starlings. There were hundreds of people congregated so I stood a little away from the crowd. They first started to appear at 16:08, streams of them coming in from all angles, diving down into the reeds. The sound they make is lovely. Unfortunately there were no murmurations but the sheer number alone was a sight to see. Its definitely worth a visit. 

My full sightings list:
Wren, Robin, Snipe, Water Pipit, Shovler, Great-crested Grebe, Coot, Mallard, Cormorant, Little Grebe, Mute Swan, Grey Heron, Great White Egret, Black Headed Gull, Greylag Geese, Canada Geese, Kingfisher, Wigeon, Stonechat, Reed Bunting