The Garden Diary 2010

February (part 1)

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1 February - When I headed to bed last night the skies were clear, and when I looked out for the first time this morning there wasn't a cloud to be seen.

Snow first thing this morning, 1 February


However, as the picture indicates, some time during the night a cloud must have passed overhead and deposited a thin coating of snow the second year in succession that we have had snowfall on this day.

Last year, that turned into a heavy snowfall by the next day. However, there is no hint of that being repeated over the next few days!

The snow vanished during the morning, although the temperature rose only a few degrees above freezing, as indicated by the small amount of ice that has lingered on the bird bath into the afternoon.


Robin on the Buddleia, 1 February



As I mentioned yesterday, the male Robin continues to share his time between singing loudly and chasing off Dunnocks and the Song Thrush. When I took this photograph he seemed more interested in 'who' was eating the food rather than what food there was on offer.



A male Starling on Buddleia bush, 1 February



There was a familiar, complex song to be heard in the garden this morning, being performed by this male Starling.

I really need to make up my mind about the nest box before much more time passes me by.




A male Siskin (& Goldfinch) at the niger seed feeder, 1 February


The Siskins continue to visit, and as I mentioned yesterday, the male inevitably turns up along with the Goldfinches.

There were just two Siskins about this morning, and just five Goldfinches.



The scruffy Blackbird: pictures taken a year apart, 1 FebruaryWhile I have seen the Thrush here just once today (and chased away by the Robin), I have not as yet (up to 4.10pm) seen the scruffy Blackbird.

That is a pity, because if you look back to last year's entry for 1 February you'll see a couple of photographs of what I'm increasingly certain is the same bird. It was already quite scruffy then, but if I'm correct was certainly fit enough to survive.


Grey Squirrel on the bird table, 1 February



The Grey Squirrel was back this morning, nibbling at the peanuts on the bird table and taking some away to bury. Mind you, it wasn't taking them far away. Several were buried around the base of the Buddleia, which is right next to the table.


Snowdrops next to the small pond, 1 February



Down at ground level, and looking between the 'leftovers' of last year, there are the early signs of this year's plants preparing for the Spring, with the Snowdrops at the forefront. Last year their first blooms opened in the first week of February.





The fox didn't emerge to enjoy this morning's sunshine, at least not in our garden. Last night, as I went to lock the front door at bedtime I heard the unmistakeable bark of a fox outside. I crept out and saw it (was it our fox?), standing in the middle of the road just a couple of houses away. I returned indoors but by the time I'd got my recorder and microphone it has become quiet again. It started barking again, this time from a back garden about half an hour later. By now I was upstairs and again the calling stopped before I could record it. Tonight (and for nights to come) I'll have the kit ready!


5 February - Today was the first time that I have been able to get outside and and do jobs for ages. It was mainly sunny, and with a temperature of at least 10C there was no need for a fleece as I did some pruning. Most of the cuttings are now spread over the roof of the shelter next to the Great Tit box. I do this each Spring with the idea that the roof will gradually turn green! The Ivy along its back edge are well covered with berries which are now turning dark.

The cameras in the Great Tit box are now switched on, although there is no sign that the box has had any visitors as yet. I'm now recording the output from one of the cameras.

While I didn't get to take any photographs, some of the Snowdrops opened for the first time today.

I haven't heard a fox barking since the last entry.

On the bird front, things have become quiet in the garden again. A few days ago there were ten Siskins here, but yesterday I saw just two, and I have seen neither the Thrush nor the scruffy Blackbird over the last four days. Nor have I seen the Dunnocks. Ten Goldfinches came to feed two mornings ago but this morning there were only four here.

It looks very likely that the Robins have set about nesting in the Ivy tree. This morning I watched the pair going in and out of the same spot in the Ivy, although so far they don't appear to using the old nest box that was used last Spring.


6 February - On a dry day with some sunshine but 'picture-free' again, I spend time working on/in the big pond in preparation for spawning.  There was no sign of frog activity apart from an individual which I obviously disturbed from its slumbers! I've got a bit more to do, but the shallow end is now ready for the frog invasion!

While there was a pair of Great Tits in the garden today there were no visits to the nest box. Around breakfast time there were at least ten Siskins (including 8 females) about, and later a similar number of Goldfinches came, along with three Siskins (just 1 female this time).


7 February - Another dry day, but colder with a northerly breeze and the temperature only reaching 5C.

I'm afraid I needed to take the day off after yesterday's work on the pond. Again there are no photographs, but when I went outside at 10am I was greeted by a very welcome sound - a Song Thrush calling loudly from a Chestnut tree in a garden further down our road. Interestingly it was singing from a spot high in the tree surrounded by a group of five Starlings.

I recorded the sounds for a couple of minutes before the Thrush flew off. Unfortunately it was impossible to avoid the constant background of traffic noise but here two segments from that recording.

The recordings also include contributions from Goldfinches, Siskins, a Blue Tit, our male Robin, distant geese and a Wood Pigeon, amongst others. In the second recording you will also hear the sound of a Wood Pigeon flying overhead, and the call of a Great Tit male (not seen at the box today).

recording 1 (864KB : 53 seconds)

recording 2 (679KB : 43 seconds)



8 February - The current photo-free period continues. Today was a thoroughly gloomy one with grey skies, continuing northerly winds and light snow which disappeared on contact with the ground which has warmed up(!) a few degrees over the last week. Having said that, in a local car park I noticed a heap of rather dirty snow still remaining from the January storm. As I write this, a forecast on TV is suggesting more snow over the next few days, with the temperature dropping back to just a couple of degrees above freezing.

This morning the Song Thrush was already singing when I first woke up just before 8am but had finished by 8.30am. I didn't hear it again during either the rest of the morning or after we returned home in the mid-afternoon.



10 February - A cold morning, with the temperature around 2C outside and a strong north-easterly breeze making it feel even colder. To start with there were mainly grey skies with the occasional snowflake falling although during the late morning there were spells of sunshine.

Yesterday I reconnected the cameras in the Swift and House Martin nest boxes so that I can check on them. Droppings present in all three Martin nests indicates that they have been used as roosts, although they remained empty last night, as did the lower Swift box. However, there were at least three House Sparrows sheltering in the upper Swift box.

During the late afternoon Sheila spotted a fox in the driveway opposite our house. It looked as though it was going to cross the road but was disturbed and retreated back behind the hoses once more. We watched for a while but it didn't reappear. I must set up a cctv camera to monitor the garden at night again.

This morning as I write this there is a sad event taking place outside. My neighbours decided that their Silver Birch must be cut back rather severely and this morning the tree surgeon is taking his chainsaw to it. The tree has been a feature since before we came to live here in 1975. I hope it survives, but the tree surgeon (one of my sons!) has warned there is a possibility that this could be a cut too much for it - my fingers are crossed.

Our neighbour's Birch tree is pruned! 10 February



As it turned out the result isn't as bad as it could easily have been - the fox still a place to shelter. We shall have to see what progress the tree makes over the next couple of years.



Male and female Siskins at niger seed feeder, 10 February



For a short time this afternoon the ground started to turn white as more snow fell. I didn't get around to photographing it , but I did record a pair of Siskins that gave me another chance to compare the dramatic difference in appearance between the two sexes.




By the end of the day, or perhaps tomorrow,  I hope to have done a bit of important catching up - I'm aiming to get last May/June's holiday diary uploaded!!! Those pages will be available as soon as I have completed adding the large images -

An update to that: the diary is now in place, although so far I have only added the large images to the first of the two pages. The rest should be added by tomorrow night. To get to the holiday diary either click here or visit it via the 2009 diary button at the left of the screen.


11 February - A bright and breezy morning with a peppering of mainly granular snow which is remaining in places away from direct sunshine.

Snow on the big pond this morning, 11 February


It was about 2C outside during much of the day and at Farnborough airfield they are giving a wind chill of -4C.

It has left the ponds icebound once more, thick enough to support a couple of Wood Pigeons that wandered over the big pond (didn't manage to photograph them).


Sparrows walk on the ice-covered pond, 11 February




By the early afternoon a slight rise in temperature melted the snow, although the ice was still there to support House Sparrows as they foraged amongst seeds etc. blown onto the ice by the wind.


A Blackcap female on the ice-covered pond, 11 February


As I watched the Sparrows I was surprised by the appearance of a female Blackcap, a bird that I haven't seen here since 9 January, although I saw a male on 14 January.

This female was foraging amongst the vegetation of the pond while the Sparrows were also present.



Blackcap female challenges a Sparrow on the ice-covered pond, 11 February


When she headed for a spot favoured for bathing by other birds she was aggressive towards the Sparrows that tried to join her, although it was she that left first.

I'm surprised that I haven't seen it visit any of the apples that I've put up.



I haven't got around to getting the rest of the large images sorted out for the holiday diary. Instead I've been trying to sort out an interference problem with the image from the camera that monitors the outside of the House Martin nests. It's been a frustrating afternoon with very little progress made by the time I stopped for the evening. I shall look again tomorrow.


12 February - A gloomy, with a high of 5C and damp, which gave me the excuse I needed not to get the ladder out today.

A Blackcap female in our Birch tree, 12 February



The dull conditions also meant that it wasn't a good day for pointing the telephoto lens down the garden, although I did get this one chance to photograph the Blackcap once again as it preened itself on a branch of our Birch tree.





Tonight I start another period of barkfly monitoring using a cctv camera. This time it's not an insect that I've found in the garden, but one that arrived in the post from Edinburgh! I'm going to record its feeding habits over the next two weeks to help Bob Saville with a study that he is carrying out. I'll say more about it in the days to come.


17 February - After a cold start with the temperature just above freezing it turned into  deceptively Spring-like day, with the temperature reaching 8C.

I haven't had much time to watch the garden over this last week, let alone take photographs. During that time the days have been mainly cloudy (yesterday was quite wet), and the temperatures have ranged form around 1 to 5C. On several days we were treated to more performances by the Song Thrush. I can't remember ever hearing one so loud here. I managed to record it again, but as usual there is a great deal of background noise. When I have time I will try to clean up the recording and add it to the sounds page. I haven't seen the Thrush in the garden for a while now.

The Siskins and female Blackcap are still with us. While the Siskins are regulars at the feeders the Blackcap remains at the other end of the garden and frequents the apples that hang high up in the Rowan.

While there is no picture to confirm it, a Great Tit looked into the nest box this morning - the first time I have seen ay activity there since I switched on the cameras. I've just received two new wide angle lenses to replace the narrower view lenses in two of the House Martin lenses. Once fitted it will mean that all three nest cameras will have 2.1mm lenses. Perhaps the Martins will return this year!

Despite the complete absence of ice on the ponds I have yet to see any sign of frog activity.

The barkfly study continues. While I can't say much about it, it has been fascinating to watch very different behaviour to that O saw when I watched P. rostocki.


Click on images to see larger version

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