The Garden Diary 2010
2 December - The snowy end to November has continued to
give December a white start, with most parts of the country covered.
Yesterday actually saw very little new snow deposited but the temperature
stayed around zero all day so that at the end of the day very little had
changed from the previous day.
Then, last night we had a steady fall of very fine, almost dust-like snow overnight and this morning we woke up to this scene.
Once down stairs my first task was to head out onto the veranda to fill the bird bath, uncover the ground feeding station and top up the feeders.
Judging how much snow fell is always a bit hit and miss, but sticking a ruler into the snow on the bird bath, the roof of the bird table, and the lids of our bins came up with similar depths of around 15cm. At the front of the house both cars had a layer about 13cm deep.
It seemed that very few people felt the need to use their cars today, and although I didn't photograph any, sledges were the preferred means of transport for youngsters.
At the end of the day, with the temperature still hovering at or just below freezing little had changed. Tonight the forecast is for the temperature to drop to around -7C, with it only rising to around -5C in fog tomorrow!
In my previous entry I commented on the non-appearance of Dunnocks. Well, there were at least two of them about today, spending most of their time hidden amongst the branches, chasing each other and occasionally getting involved with a Robin,
of which there were also two about.
A pair of Starlings, in their magnificent winter plumage turned up today - once an almost permanent feature these have turned into an occasional treat.
Having stayed away the day before yesterday, the Wood Pigeons were here frequently yesterday, and even more so today. They were only interested in what was on offer around the ground feeder, and when just one bird has the place to itself it could feed peacefully, with even enough time to close an eye for a moment!
However, when it come to feeding, even two is a crowd. Without warning, one would suddenly raise its folded wings and spread its tail.
Sometimes the second bird would quickly withdraw, perhaps being chased a short distance away, or as in this case it would respond and a brief stand-off would occur before the two returned to the business of feeding.
In this display, does the revealing of the white leading edge of the wing have some significance - perhaps a case of 'my stripes are bolder than yours'?
Things became much more edgy when more birds arrived, with more time devoted in establishing a pecking order than in feeding.
Some of the time there were up to five of them vying for feeding rights.
4 December - Just a brief entry to record the yo-yoing temperatures at the moment.
Yesterday the snow that fell on the 2nd remained in place as the daytime temperature didn't climb above -4C. However, by 10pm I noticed that the temperature had risen by a couple of degrees.
Then, this morning I looked out of the bedroom window to see that it was misty, with much of the snow gone. There had been some rain during the night as the temperature rose into positive figures, and today we have recorded a high temperature of +6C! There has been a bit more rain this evening and at 9.30pm the temperature is still 4C.
It seems that this 'heat wave' will be short-lived, with -5C forecast for tomorrow night - but with no more snow due over the next few days at least.
5 December - After yesterday's temperature rise today saw a drop of just a few degrees so that it remained above freezing for most of the day, ensuring that the thaw continued, for a while at least.
Having been completely frozen over for the last few days, there was duckweed floating on water again today, at least around the edge of the big pond.
Interestingly, there were two areas of liquid water at lunchtime. In addition to the perimeter areas, a raised and ragged edge to the ice enclosed trapped clear water.
However, with the temperature dropping below 2C in the early afternoon that water started developing thin filaments of ice as it was chilled from below.
By 4.15pm, and with darkness descending rapidly, those crystals had turned into a complete covering of ice once again.
At approaching 8pm it is -1C outside, but I see that the temperature may go up again during the night before freezing again by the morning - the yo-yoing continues...
Over the last two days it has been interesting to note that far fewer birds are feeding here now that the snow has melted.
6 December - A largely dull grey day with a hint of mist in the air and the temperature not getting above freezing in a chilly breeze. Not surprisingly the pond remained frozen all day and the bird bath started to refreeze within an hour after fresh water was added.
Our depleted log supply was replenished by one of my sons (Simon) this afternoon. Thankfully, it was all taken up to the log store for me. The log fire should now continue to keep us warm well past Christmas!
14 December - Over the last week the temperature crept up about freezing enough to encourage a very slow thaw,
so that by the time dusk came today there was just a small patch of ice left on the big pond.
16 December - The thaw was halted today by the return of cold winds, and by the end of the day the pond was once again covered with ice.
While I was outside at 5.40pm very large snowflakes started falling. while most melted on contact with the ground, these remained long enough on a covered seat for me to grab my camera and recorded their presence.
That snow shower was short-lived, but later in the evening much finer snow fell, enough to leave deposits on cars, and on the pond
17 December - With the temperature once again below freezing the garden and the road outside were covered with a dusting of snow which stayed in place all day.
18 December - When Sheila peeped out at just before 7.30am the scene was unchanged from yesterday, but that soon changed.
Once again the garden was transformed as snow fell continuously all morning.
And the road outside once again became a place for sledges and not cars.
This time I recorded depths of up to about 8cm, only around half that recorded at the beginning of the month, although I read online that some 20cm were recorded in Farnborough, just a couple of miles north of us.
Looking at the chaos that the snow caused at Heathrow airport it seems that we got off lightly!
During the afternoon brighter skies were accompanied by a temperature rise to just above freezing, and its effect was obvious as I cleared our cars. Once the blanket of thick snow was removed much of what was left simply melted away.
19 December - Overnight, freezing temperatures returned but no more snow fell.
In the garden I continue to top up the feeders and melt the ice in the birdbath. There is still no sign of winter visitors here, but it was interesting to see how frequently one of the Dunnocks is visiting the Sparrow feeder.
There is the usual conflict with the resident Robin, but this individual seems able to sneak to this perch from the adjacent bush while the Robin is distracted by another Dunnock.
The Wood Pigeons are grateful for the chopped peanuts and other bits that I scatter under the shelter of the Hawthorn. There are up to nine about at the moment, and unusually, some have taken to perching in my neighbour's apple tree.
20 December - Today saw the temperature rise quite dramatically from a low approaching -7C in the morning to just over +1C in the early afternoon, continuing above freezing for the rest of the day.
Down at ground level in the garden the most obvious signs of this 'warming' were to be seen in the ponds where the snow cover over the ice disappeared quickly.
21 December - the temperature hovered at or just below +1C all day there was once again a layer of liquid water on the big pond.
During this latest period of lying snow I have been watching out for signs of foxes visiting, and today for the first time there were a few prints near the small pond.
I searched the rest of the garden but could find no other similar prints.
However, there were quite a few of the inevitable cat tracks. Here, below the Sparrow feeder, cat and Wood Pigeon tracks cross each other.
25 December - Christmas Day - Following the slight thaw on the 21st/22nd, frosty night returned with the night-time temperature dipping below -1C, creating very slippery conditions under foot, and today it remained below 0C all day under cloudy skies.
No photographs, but I can record that we saw our first winter visitors to the sunflower feeder today in the form of two male Siskins during the late morning.
27 December - Another dramatic change in the temperatures -
Yesterday morning was very cold, with the temperature remaining near to four degrees below freezing until nearly lunchtime. Then, with the help of some very welcome afternoon sunshine it climbed to around 2C.
Today it rose to more than 5C, and at 10.30pm it is still 3C outside.
Much of the big pond is still coated with a layer of ice, albeit submerged under water.
Out of interest, on the 19th I turned on the temperature data logger that monitors the temperature outside our north-facing wall next to one of the Swift nest boxes.
This is a graph produced by the logger software from the data collected. If I'd a bit more patience I would have processed the raw data in Excel to produce a graph with 'sensible' units marked along the axes!
As far as I can tell the Siskins have not been back since Christmas day, but my camera is now ready in case they make another appearance.
I hope to complete adding the large images and other bits to the page tomorrow.
28 December - On a dull grey morning there are just a few traces of snow left after it rained during the night, and with the outside thermometer showing +4.6C at 9am I suspect it will be all gone by the end of the day.
It was a gloomy, overcast, damp morning, but at least there was a bit of brightness to be seen in the form of a solitary male Siskin that visited the feeders briefly - this time preferring the Nyjer seed.
31 December - A cold December is coming to an end on a somewhat milder note. Since that last entry the temperature continued to rise until it reached over 9C in our driveway in the afternoon of the 29th. Despite that, it took until yesterday to finally melt the last patch of ice in the big pond, and the small remnant of the snow that I had piled up in the corner of the front parking area before Christmas. Today it has crept up from a low of just under 5C to just over 7C at dusk.
The weather has remained grey and feeling damp, although there has been no more rain since the 28th.
I've seen a solitary Siskin here just twice since I took that last photograph, and yesterday, when it was just too gloomy to consider pressing a shutter, a trio of Long-tailed Tits appeared for just a minute or so.
While we have had a great success with the nesting of the Swifts this year and two very enjoyable stays down on the Lizard Peninsular, overall it's been a disappointing period with large gaps in the diary, August being lost completely, and the garden suffering the worst neglect for many years.
It's no good pretending to make New Year's resolutions that may or may not be kept, but after several moments when I considered closing down the diary I've prepared the main directories etc that I'm going to need for it for both 2011 and 2012! There is a problem that still needs solving. I cannot make out why the website counter, after many years of reliable service has become so unreliable over the last few months. I will probably remove it until I can sort out a solution.
Anyway, here's to the New Year, and best wishes to all of you who continue to visit.....
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