The Garden Diary 2010

January (part 3)

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18 January - No technical problems, but other things to do meant that there was no entry yesterday, and today's will be only very brief.

Yesterday's weather was in complete contrast to the previous grey days, with sunshine all day with a high of nearly 10C, followed by a starry late evening before the clouds returned to leave today overcast. At 6pm today it is around 7C outside and rather misty. The only snow remaining now seems to be the remains of large snowballs, and where it was heaped up as people cleared paths etc.

Siskins at the feeders, 18  January


I didn't even get to raise the slatted blinds at the back of the house today, so when I spotted a sextet of Siskins I had to point the camera through the gaps to record this picture of some of them.

Perhaps tomorrow I will have more time to watch out for other bird activity, although the forecast for the next couple of days doesn't suggest brighter light conditions for photography.




Simon and Georgina returned from New Zealand today after what must have been a fantastic holiday, and Simon has wasted no time in making me jealous with just a few of his photographs. They range from fantastic views, including some from a helicopter of snow-covered mountains, to close-ups of fur seals and dolphins, to pictures of whales in the classic 'flukes in the air' pose and images from inside caves where the ceilings are light starry skies as the result of large numbers of 'glow-worms' that live there - amazing, and just a quick glimpse has been had so far.......


19 January - A grey morning gave way to some sunshine during the late afternoon with the temperature reaching around 7C. Interestingly, there is rain promised for tonight and the forecast is suggesting a 'moderate possibility' of snow tomorrow as more warm air from the west meets up with cold air from the east.

I haven't seen the Fieldfares over these last two days, and the apples don't seem to have been touched during that time, so it looks as though they have moved on. Likewise, I've seen neither Blackcaps nor Song Thrush here during the same period. However, the Siskins were here this morning, six of them again. I hoped to get some photographs of them away from the feeders but they were too quick for me in the gloomy lighting conditions.


Snow falls, just about, 20  January20 January - The forecast was correct. We did get a bit of snow, along with sleet and rain, on what was a generally glum and cold day with the temperature not getting about 3C.

The snow had little effect on the ground apart from a few slushy patches on vegetation as well as on car windscreens.

Just one observation from the garden today - a Grey Squirrel appeared for the first time since the cold spell began. I was surprised not to see it when we had the heavier snow.






30 January - Since that last reports we've not seen any more snow, and it has been largely dry, although yesterday there was a brief shower of either hail  - or was it granular snow! Anyway, the temperature climbed up a few degrees for a few days before dropping back down as this weekend arrived, so that there was ice on the birdbath for much of today.

I had hoped to get outside to get some gardening done but have not yet managed it, and for the last few days both of us have been struck low with colds. The RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch takes place today and tomorrow and for it I need to record birds visiting the garden over a period of just an hour. It should be easy, but not today - I will try again tomorrow.


A Goldfinch prepares to visit a niger seed feeder, 30  January


During the course of the day I did see most of our 'usuals' here. The House Sparrows are extremely active between the boxes and the feeders, and still carrying greenery back to their roosts. The Goldfinches are increasing in numbers again, with twelve here for a short time this morning.

And there are at least four Siskins that come to the feeders with the Goldfinches. A few days ago I counted eight Siskins, the highest number so far the month.

A Song Thrush arrives to feed on raisins, 30  January



The Fieldfares and Redwings have not been seen since I last mentioned the former on the 16th, but the Song Thrush is still a daily sighting, seen here this afternoon before being chased off by our increasingly belligerent Robin.



Blackbird 'Scruffy' arrives to feed on raisins, 30  January



Also continuing to visit regularly, but still looking extremely distressed is Blackbird 'Scruffy'. The light patch on its breast is down to sunlight penetrating between the branches of the Hawthorn.



Over the last few days I've seen Scruffy at the bottom of the garden, and I'm sure that on one occasion he was interacting with a female Blackbird - not being chased away by her.

A female Blackbird arrives to feed on raisins, 30  January


A few minutes after Scruffy left a female turned up at the dish of raisins.

She has a few light flecks in her plumage. I'll have to watch out for a chance to photograph her more from the front to get a better look.




Over the last week the male Robin has spent much of the daylight hours singing loudly from high in our Birch tree. While I saw it chase away the Thrush, there are no Dunnocks about at the moment - I wonder if their absence is down to the Robin's territorial behaviour? They usually manage to sneak past it from time to time.

In addition to the regular Great and Blue Tits that are here every day, on the 25th there were two Long-tailed Tits here, and this morning I spotted a Coal Tit for the first time for several weeks.

Collared Doves and Wood Pigeons seem to be less frequent visitors at the moment, although I still see them here at least one each day.

I see just the occasional Starling here. This time last year the Starlings were very active in their nest box. At the moment that box is in my log store as I continue to go over the pros and cons of converting it for use by Swifts.  That reminds me, I should get on with switching on the cameras etc in the Great Tit box. They were also active in January last year.

Another area of neglect this month has been the pond. I really must get on and clear the far end before the frogs decide that it is time to spawn. So far I haven't seen any early indications that they are becoming active. Tonight the ponds are covered by a thin coat of ice.

On the mammal front, I've not see any signs of either fox or hedgehog activity these last few weeks. There was sunshine today, but the fox still wasn't temped to sunbathe! The one mammal that I have seen since the previous entry was a Grey Squirrel - surprisingly just a single visit a week ago, despite there being a supply of freshly bought peanuts on the bird table!

A full moon at 9.15pm, 29  January

Last night, a phone call from one of my sons had me heading outside to see what was the largest full moon of the year. This picture was taken at around 9.15pm.

It seems that because the moon is at its closest approach to earth in its elliptical orbit (perigee), it was some 14% wider, and 30% brighter than when at its furthest from us (apogee).

The difference between the two distances is 50,000km, with the moon being on average some 384,400km from the Earth. If I have the opportunity (and remember to do it!) I must take a photograph of the moon at its apogee and compare that image with this one.

If I hadn't been feeling rather grotty, I'd have stayed out longer in the hope of catching one of those moments when an aircraft crosses in front of the moon. As it happened, in the time I was outside several did pass quite close, but not close enough....



31 January - A dry day, with some hazy sunshine and cold (less than 4C at 1.45pm).

After mentioning the absence of Dunnocks yesterday, this morning there were two here, despite the attention of the Robin which also chased off the Thrush again. It doesn't appear to want to take on the Blackbirds.

A male Blackbird arrives to feed on raisins, 31  January


Despite being unchallenged, this male Blackbird only occasionally visits the feeding area, and when it does approach it is extremely nervous, flying off noisily at the slightest provocation.

What a contrast there is between this bird's plumage and that of 'Scruffy'!

A female Siskin at the niger seed feeder, 31  January



Perhaps they have a fear of being counted, but so far today (at least, up to 2pm) I have only seen four Goldfinches here at any one time, and only two Siskins, this female that comes on its own, and a male that seems to be flying around with the Goldfinches.

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