The Garden Diary

January - 2002

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1 January 2002 - New Year's Day

A very cold start to a new year, with a bright, sunny start and a temperature of -7C to start the day. Everything in the garden was coated with a fine coat of ice crystals, including this Dead-nettle plant.

The night was torn apart by the noise of fireworks for a couple of hours around midnight as celebrations went on. I wonder how many roosting birds were disturbed by all the noise?

The temperature did not rise above freezing in the shade all day, and at 9.15pm it is now -2.5C just outside the house.

This morning, in addition to our usual birds, I spotted a Wren (a rare visitor last year) making a brief visit to the house side of the Hawthorn.


These are two images that I took yesterday of some of the plants that will flower during the Spring. On the left are Bluebell plants at the bottom of the garden, and on the right, Snowdrops popping up under the Hawthorn.





2 January - Another bitterly cold start with the temperature down to -5C just outside the house at 8am with all the greenery in the garden coated with a white layer of frost.

All the usual birds have been down to feed. The picture shows a trio of Starlings taking advantage of the only liquid water about. Moments before, a Song Thrush was drinking from there, but left as soon as the Starlings arrived.

Just after 9am four Greenfinches came, staying where the sunshine had reached the Birch and the Leylandii. I have only seen one Blue Tit visit to the box so far (up to 9.25am). Down on the ground I have just watched a female House Sparrow having a frantic tussle with an enthusiastic, displaying male.

This afternoon there were further Sparrow 'interactions'. I have just watched two males being extremely agressive towards a female that they had almost trapped between branches. While one seemed to concentrate on her head, the other was pecking furiously at her tail end. Feathers literally flew before she was finally left alone. before leaving, both males displayed with wings spread and tail somewhat erect. The female paused for a moment and then flew to the feeder as though nothing had happened.

3 January - A brief entry today. The cold, sunny wether continued today, although the temperature was slightly up on the last few days. A lot of the frost disappeared in the more open areas of the garden. At 9.15pm the temperature is down to -1.3C by the house.

One of the highlights of the day was a Song Thrush bathing in the birdbath, and I missed it! I did catch a glimpse of a wren in the Hawthorn.

5 January - The icy spell came to an end late yesterday as the temperature crept up and the frost disappeared. Today started with a balmy 5C and this afternoon reached 8C on a dull, misty and damp day. This weather is really miserable after the bright, sunny days we have been getting through most of the holiday.

Bird activity today has been very restricted. All the usuals have been here, plus a Great Tit, but the visits have been far less frequent. During the periods I have been watching, I have seen no visits to the bird box - there were a couple yesterday.

6 January - Another dull day, with a foggy start and a high of around 8C. Not much chance to watch the garden during the day, but quite a bit of food disappeared so ther has been a good bird presence. I saw a number of Song Thrush and Dunnock visits.

There were numerous Blue Tit visits to the box. This picture of a visitor leaving the box was captured from a video recorded using my 300mm camera lens on a CCTV camera set up in my house.



While I was away from home the video recorded 4 hours of activity, during which the box was visited 15 times. On one occasion the Blue tit arrived with a House Sparrow in close pursuit. In the next few minutes the Blue Tit fended off a series of Sparrow close approaches to the entrance.



Even a Robin got into the action by making a single visit to the box entrance, it took one look into the box and then left. There was no Blue tit in there at the time.

In the next couple of weeks I hope to obtain a colour CCTV camera which will be much better.



7 January - A dull, damp, and cold day with a lunchtime temperature of just under 6C. I have decided to set up a separate diary to cover the bird box from now on. I have included all the pictures shown above in its introduction, although I will not remove them from this diary.

The fox has been digging again by the small pond.

I have just been tidying up the feeding area under the hawthorn, accompanied by the sub-song of our male Robin as he took a close interest inwhat was being done. I used the hoe to turn over some of the soil to reveal lots of small earthworms. Surprisingly, the Robin prefered the crushed peanuts and would every-so-often fly down to take a piece before continuing his singing. I tried recording some of it but, unfortunately a Chinook helicopter provided a rather distracting rhythm in the backround.

Here is a branch tip from the Birch tree by the bird box. In addition to the buds along the branches, many now terminate in the large, pendulus male catkins.


8 January - A brief entry only today - Last night, family matters meant that I was away from home until just after midnight. On our return, as I opened the gate to put my car away disturbed a fox in the garden. Today again I have little time to observe garden matters. Weatherwise, it is dull, damp and cold (3.5C) - typical British weather when a high pressure system is in control in the Winter!!!!

As I write this at 3.20pm the female Blackbird and a Song Thrush are feeding under the Hawthorn, almost side by side.

At 10.30pm the temperature is 2.5C.


12 January - The last week has not seen much attention being paid to the garden. On top of that, a major computer problem is only just being sorted out after two days of fiddling!

The weather has remained largely dull, with some sunshine and rain since my last entry. Daytime temperatures have reached around 6C.

As I write this (2.30pm) I have just seen a Redwing in the branches of my neighbour's Birch tree. I saw it in our Hawthorn earlier today, but this time it stayed put long enough for me to get a good look at it through my binos. Its eye stripe stood out clearly but its red patch was somewhat muted in the dull lighting conditions. This is the first time for many years that I have seen this visitor to the garden.

13 January - Since I first reported on it back in late November this Buttercup has been struggling to come into bloom. Well, on a dull, damp and very mild (max 10C) January day is has made it! Does this make it the first Buttercup of 2002, or the last of 2001(but somewhat delayed)?

Just below the flower you can see one of the seed 'parachutes' from the Reedmace which continues to shed them whenever there is a breeze.


As the Buttercup continues its unseasonal flowering, the first of the Spring's Snowdrops is also close to displaying the first of their flowers.




In contrast to the promise of Spring blossoms, the wood in the log piles is slowly rotting away. This afternoon I spotted this Slime mould growing on the cut end of a piece of Leylandii timber.

The small structures are about 5mm long - the black, 3mm long stalk is topped by a white slimy head which is almost 'light bulb' shaped. This sticks to anything that touches it, leaving the stalk behind.

I spotted similar growths some years ago and failed to identify them at the time. I must make another effort this time.

14 January - I spent some time doing some clearing around the ponds. I cut away the remains of last year's Red Campion flower stalks and as I cleared bits off the ground I spotted the first of our Daffodils pushing up out of the ground.

15 January - Due a serious illness in the family my diary is likely to be neglected for much of the next week or so.

18 January - Sadly, the family has suffered a sad loss, so there will be no further diary entries until at least next weekend.

19 January - A pause to rest allows me to make a short entry for today. First pictured on the 13th, our first Snowdrop has taken its next step towards flowering as the flower head drops down from the sheath that protected it.

This individual is quite a bit ahead of the rest at the moment, with some having reached the stage of the previous picture and a lot still only just above ground level.

The male Robin is happily taking mealworms this breezy, sunny morning (8C at 11.45am). Although the female is about he is not interested in feeding her at the moment.

The Dunnock is about nearly all the time but I have not seen the Song Thrush since the beginning of the week.

28 January - Returned home today. I was greeted by the robins who were both happy to see a renewed supply of mealworms. A pair of Dunnocks tucked into the food-processed peanuts. The main feeder was empty, but the peanut feeders are still more than half full (all filled on the 19th). I took the opportunity to clean the feeder and the bird table.

No picture yet, but the early Snowdrop flowers have started opening - some have still a bit more to go yet.

30 January - Getting back to some sort of normal life is proving a bit difficult and I am not paying too much attention to the garden at the moment. However, gazing out onto the garden from our bedroom window this morning we were rewarded by the arrival of a Sparrowhawk (a female I think, large with brown plumage). She landed in the Hawthorn and just perched there as a Robin, Blue Tit and several Sparrows seemed to be uncertain whether to stay still or flee. A short game of chess followed as she made several moves from branch to branch.

The small birds stayed put in the Hawthorn, moving to the opposite side of the tree each time she moved. She soon gave up, flew briefly to the Ivy tree, where a lot of Sparrow chirping could be heard before flying off empty handed to try her luck elsewhere.

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