The Garden Diary

November - 2002

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5 November - As the sounds and flashes of fireworks shatter the quiet on Bonfire Night I am trying for the second time to write up my first diary entry after my trip to Cornwall - the first attempt came to a crashing end just as I was about to save it!

We came back from Cornwall last Friday, earlier than intended to beat the poor weather forecast for the weekend.

The beginning of last week started with the first big storm of the year and we spent much of the Sunday down on the Lizard Point watching the rough seas on what was a largely sunny day with winds of 80-90mph.

The picture shows the seas breaking over Man of War rock, which stands about 40ft above the sea level.

It was fascinating to watch a Cormorant continuing to dive for fish as the sea veritably boiled around it.

Back home, Autumn has really taken hold in the garden now. Last week's wind has virtually stripped the Hawthorn of its last leaves, but the Birch is still holding onto most if its foliage, although the leaves are now various tints of yellow, orange and brown now. They really light up in the morning sunshine.

The ground is wet and fungi are now appearing around the garden. I shall have to search for interesting examples.

The first to take my notice is this fungus that has appeared on the side of the log in the middle if the big pond. The enlarged image shows what appears to be a fruiting body. My first attempts at identification have failed - I shall have to look through my guides again.

After our wondering what had happened to the hedgehogs this year, there were two in the garden on Sunday night, and again last night. This one appears to have something wrong with its right eye.

Now that they have appeared again I have started putting out slices of brown bread, spread with chunky peanut butter, soaked in water and sprinkled with chopped peanuts. The hedgehogs seem to smell it out easily and devour it with great enthusiasm.


7 November - Back to just a written note today. Yesterday, when Sheila came home from school she called me out to the front of the house to witness a squabble between two sparrows in one of the nest boxes photographed on 19 October. With wings and/or tails popping in and out of the entrance, the fight went on for what seemed like a couple of minutes before the two sparrows flew off across the road, one in close pursuit of the other. If they are fighting over the accommodation then perhaps I need to supply more!

Tonight, as I write this at 8.50pm the hedgehog pictured above is tucking into a peanut supper on the deck. Yet again there are fireworks going off this evening and the hedgehog reacts to every bang but is carrying on eating as though it hasn't seen food for a week.


14 November - I'm not sure where the time is going at the moment, but I'm not getting much done, neither in the diary, the garden nor the house! The camera shutter has not opened more than a few times, usually too late to catch the moment.

Anyway, we are getting typical late Autumnal weather, with low pressure systems queuing to visit and days like today when it has alternated between bright sunshine and heavy downpours, complete with hail.


During a dry spell I started lifting some paving in the front garden in preparation for providing an extra off-road parking area.

Pruning some shrubs there was virtually no animal life to be seen, with the exception of this little snail. Its shell measured about 8mm across. A search on the web suggests that it is a Hygromia cinctella, which is an alien species that has established itself in southern England.


While we were in Cornwall, either birds or the strong winds must have dislodged moss from the roof and blocked the guttering at the side of the house, so yesterday I got a ladder out to deal with it.

I couldn't resist taking the camera up with me and these pictures were taken of the moss and lichen that is thriving on the ridge tiles at the corner of the roof.

The main lichen present appears to be Xanthoria parientina. I'm not sure of the grey areas are simply dead areas of this lichen, or a different type.

The moss tufts have lots of young fruit capsules.

Yesterday the roof of our veranda rattled with the sound of these moss tufts being throw down from the roof as a flock of starlings searched for food.

A late addition to the entry at 11pm after I went down the garden to lock my shed. A very 'watery' moon is peering through a thin layer of fast moving clouds, creating this coloured halo. Earlier this evening we had more heavy rain, accompanied by thunder and lightning for the first time (I think) this Autumn.

In the image the moon is hopelessly over-exposed in order to capture the clouds.

Click on the images to see larger versions


21 November - Over the last week I have hardly picked up my camera at all. The weather has been really miserable for most of the time, which hasn't helped, and I have been doing a couple of jobs. One photo opportunity is 'sitting' outside the back door since I demolished a garden wall at the front of the house and found a chrysalis in a hole in the mortar between two bricks. I must find time tomorrow to take a couple of photographs of it.

On the bird front, the Sparrows are as enthusiastic as ever about the feeder, and there are more Starlings about than I have seen here. In addition there are regular visits from up to six Collared Doves and a similar number of Blue Tits. A couple of Dunnocks a Robin and a female Blackbird are the other daily visitors, while Jackdaws and Magpies are chimney top regulars. A Sparrowhawk is also making at least one swoop on the garden ever day, although I haven't seen it make a kill recently. In fact, most of its attacks have been very 'half-hearted' - perhaps it is an inexperienced juvenile.

I mentioned a squabble between two sparrows over a nestbox a couple of weeks ago. At the beginning of the week they were at it again in the same box.

There are at least two hedgehogs in the garden every night now.


23 November - Just a short entry to include one of the only pictures taken all week. This hedgehog turned up at around 8.30pm this evening, within minutes of my putting out some bread, peanut butter and chopped peanuts.

The hedgehog was too small to climb the step but its nose was twitching like mad as it strived to reach the dish. Eventually it admitted defeat and took the 'long route' to avoid the step and reach the food easily.


24 November - Yet another day started with heavy rain, although by 11am there were patches of blue sky.

The usual birds were here to feed despite the wet conditions and about 9.30am the chirping of the sparrows turned to panic calls as our local Sparrowhawk swooped on the Hawthorn. like most recent visits this one had all the signs of inexperience. It landed on the top of the tree, which is now leafless and just looked at the twenty or so sparrows just below it. Making no attempt to pursue them it soon flew off to my neighbour's apple tree which overhangs the bottom end of my garden. It perched there for several minutes, watching the sparrows become more and more relaxed in the Hawthorn, to the point where a couple of them started feeding again.

Just after I took this photograph (I'll blame the rather poor quality on the miserable weather, and bad light!) from the kitchen door, the hawk departed without the Sparrows giving it another thought.

During the brighter spells, there is a fair amount of displaying by male sparrows going on. Also, the resident Robin seems to be getting less tolerant, and more agressive towards the Dunnocks.

During a break in the showers I took a look at the timber piles and spotted these tiny gill fungi fruiting bodies on a piece of rotting wood from a plum tree (a past failure in the garden!).

My best attempt so far at identifying the fungus suggests that it is one of the Mycena species.



While I was taking these photographs this afternoon there was another Sparrowhawk attack on the Hawthorn, just a couple of yards from me. This bird was bigger than this morning's visitor and showed much more determination. It circled the tree and repeatedly landed on it until a sparrow finally panicked and flew out, heading out of the garden with the hawk in pursuit.


26 November - My Birthday, and we have had sunshine after a misty start! I've been out all morning and on my return I spotted a wren in the garden for the first time since 1st January. Unfortunately, it disappeared before I could get a photograph.

As I write this there is a heated exchange going on between a Robin and a Dunnock in the Hawthorn. The picture shows the victorious Robin minutes afterwards, and it wasn't long before the Dunnock was feeding as usual again.

Yesterday there was a pair of Blackbirds down feeding together for the first time since the Spring.

Click on the images to see larger versions


27 November - No mist and largely blue skies this morning (although, by 9am most of the blue has given way to grey!), and a visit by a Sparrowhawk at about 8.15am.

The attack started with three orbits of the Hawthorn where at least 20 Sparrows, a Dunnock and the male Blackbird were trapped. The circling by the hawk 'squeezed' the panicked sparrows to the uppermost branches where there is most protection. It did not land this time, but flew off to a neighbour's tree.

After pausing for a few seconds it launched into another attack, orbiting the Hawthorn three more times before landing on the side nearest the house. This gave me a moment to grab this photograph.

Then it made the mistake of climbing down through the branches. This gave its prey the opportunity they needed and they all left from the other side of the tree and were hidden elsewhere before the Sparrowhawk could extricate itself. It left the garden without success.

Later in the day I had an attempt at measuring the size of the hawk by putting a ruler up into the tree. I estimate that it measures about 30cm from head to tail, its vertical height in the photograph being about 23cm.

A rather scruffy picture this time, to record a first for the garden - the first time I can recall seeing eight Collared Doves in the garden. Here they are feeding on chopped peanuts under the Hawthorn.

Click on the images to see larger versions


28 November - The garden is a pretty drab place at the moment, but hidden away there are still treasures to be found, including these 'out of season' wild flowers, pictured this morning.

There have been Red Campion flowers in the garden since the first one appeared on 23rd April. Masses of flowers followed through the Summer and the occasional blossom is still appearing now.

Tucked behind the pond, I was surprised to find an Oxlip in flower. This usually flowers between March and May. Looking back to my diary entry, I planted this on 14th April, but at the time decided it was a cowslip, which I now think was a mistake. I had bought examples of both species from the same garden centre and I suspect that labels had been mixed up.

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