The Garden Diary 2004

February(part 1)

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3 February - The month is off to an unusually mild start, with February records already being broken in parts of the country. Here it is 14C at 3.30pm on a dull and very windy day, although it has stayed dry so far (some parts of the country are on flood alert).

Two flowers to note today, with crocuses popping up by both ponds since the start of the month. The one pictured here is on the point of opening, some two weeks earlier than last year's first one.

Also, this solitary daisy has been threatening to open since early in January and has now done so today. It looks as though a second flower should be open in the next day or so.



The windy weather has had an effect on the level of bird activity in the garden with visits less frequent and brief.

We had a visit from a trio of Siskins (I think) that spent a short time at the new feeder. Two of them spent all their time feeding more or less out of sight of the camera.

I haven't seen the woodpecker since putting up the feeder especially for it! The Wren has not appeared since the snow last week - I hope it didn't succumb to the cold snap.


While they continue to feed here, there haven't been any more visits by Blue Tits to the nestbox.


4 February - The mild conditions continue with the outside temperature of 12.7C at 8.45pm after a high of 15C  on a windy day which brightened up somewhat this afternoon.

One sign of progress into the year is the onset of hayfever! Over the last two days, following time spent in the garden I have had itchy eyes, a runny nose and today, a touch of wheeziness - a price worth paying (just about!) to follow changes in the garden! The Birch trees have lots of catkins on them but I don't know if they are actually producing pollen yet. I need to investigate further.


8 February - We have just spent a few days in Kent, staying in a very nice, small town called Cranbrook.  The house we stayed in (Church Gates) was built in 1736 - by far the oldest place we've stayed in (as far as I can recall) and very pleasant it was too!

The first two days were dull and wet, but yesterday's dawn saw clear skies and a chance to take a few photographs of the feature that stands out above the rooftops at the East of the town.

This is a view from the main street just as the sun rose, and shows a windmill, built in 1814 and known as the Union Mill.  It stands some 72ft high, including a 3 storey stone tower to lift it above turbulence caused by the surrounding houses.


A walk before breakfast (unusual for me!) meant that I was able to get some close-ups in the morning sunshine. Here you can see most of the stone base, and part of the mechanism for rotating the top of the windmill towards the wind direction when it is in operation.




Finally another view, but this time I couldn't resist playing with the image a little bit - not something I do very much of, but this seemed a suitable subject!

Click on the images to see larger versions



Back home in the garden little has changed in these couple of days. The weather today has been largely sunny and windy, and it has become a few degrees colder again.


9 February - A brief entry today as I have done very little. It has been largely sunny and the wind has subsided.

There was a frosty start to the day (-1C), and the birdbath was frozen over. When I went outside with a bowl of hot water I disturbed a Song Thrush, the first one I have seen feeding here since November.

I threw done some raisins for it but by the time I got to my camera it had fed and was on its way.

I managed to grab this semi-silhouette when it stopped on the fence for just a moment before flying away. It returned  for another short visit a bit later.


10 February - An overcast start today, with a thin layer of ice on the birdbath first thing.

There has been quite a bit of Blackbird activity this morning with, it seems, two distinct rivalries going on, involving at least two males and two females. As I write this at 10.40am one of the females is being very noisy in the Hawthorn.

About ten minutes ago I stepped outside and came face to face with the Song Thrush. It flew up into the low branches of the hawthorn and stayed there as I threw down a handful of raisins. By the time I returned indoors it was already down and eating them, and just afterwards it posed just long enough for me to get this picture - a bit better than yesterday's grabbed effort.

It is remarkably tolerant of me, considering we have only just met! I wonder if these morning visits will become a regular feature now.



As I write this I have just seen a female Blackcap in the Hawthorn again, for the first time since the beginning of January, and there are a couple of Wood Pigeons feeding on the Ivy berries. Earlier there were a pair of Robins feeding together under the Hawthorn, but they are very nervous and fly off at the slightest movement near the window. Since then the Dunnocks have had a lot of attention from one of the Robins and have been repeatedly chased around the Hawthorn as they try to feed.

11 February - Back to mild weather today, with an outside temperature of 13.5C at 12.30pm and the sun trying to peer through the high cloud.

A Song Thrush picture for the third day in a row - It was here for quite a long time during the second half of the morning, and even waited out in the open no more than 5ft away as I put down some food for it.

It wasn't even put off by the antics of the Blackbirds as they did their usual dashing about. While there have been territorial disputes in the past I have not seen so much activity by the Blackbirds in previous years.


This afternoon I have spent some time putting in the 12v supply ready for the Robin nestbox which I hope to get installed (finally) this week.

I had just come back into the house and I spotted these Long-tailed Tits. It's ages since I last saw them feeding in the garden. They didn't stay long, and didn't come nearer to allow a closer shot.




A Sparrowhawk appeared once yesterday, and today I've seen it here twice. These photographs were taken soon after the Long-tailed Tits had left, when the hawk perched in several places as it checked out the garden.



Friday 13 February - The weather is now dull, overcast but continuing dry with a high of 10C today.

The Sparrowhawk is back with us on a daily basis at the moment, but nothing was caught in or around the garden this week. The Song Thrush continues to feed here, and as usual, waits for me to put out food for it. It usually takes four or five raisins at each session.

I spent the afternoon sorting out the Robin nestbox and it was installed before darkness fell.

The picture shows it in place behind a lattice panel under the Ivy tree. You can see the cabling hanging down -this will be tucked away tomorrow, when I have completed my checks.

While the video and audio leads are connected to the house, the 12v supply is routed from the Blue Tit box where I will be running it via a timer switch to turn it off during the hours of darkness.

I have installed some white LED's in the box, but decided not to use them directly as this would produce 'hot spots' of light which I do not like.

To get around this problem I used a solid plastic handle from a small brush. I cut off both ends and drilled holes to insert an LED at each end. The outside of the tube has been sanded to form a translucent surface. The result gives a diffused white light. The wood was shaped to prevent light spill back towards the camera lens.

These LED's are connected to the BT box where I am going to experiment with different ways of controlling them. My initial experiment will be to connect the LED's through light dependent resistors (LDR's). A first try this evening looks promising. This will mean that the light level in the box will increase as the level of daylight increases, and the box will become dark gradually at night. I will position the LDR's  outside the BT box, just under the roof so that they are protected from rain and, more importantly, direct sunshine.

At some point I must put this info into the technical section of the site.


14 February - After a dull start with a little bit of rain this Valentine's Day has just turned sunny, with lots of blue sky. At mid day it is 10C outside.

The Song Thrush was here early this morning and took raisins from the ground no more than 4ft from me, and waited for more to be thrown! There has also been a trio of Siskins on the peanut feeder.

The good light has provided me with a chance to see how the new birdbox camera will perform, and I am very pleased with the first impressions.

To give an idea of scale, the floor measures 4x4 inches, and you can just see the corner at the bottom left. The entrance is about 2in above the base and is 2in tall.


This picture shows what the camera sees at mid day, without the interior light on. I should have said that the entrance faces north, and you can see the dark wood of the lattice panel outside the entrance. 

With nesting not due until late March onwards, we shall have to be patient!

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