The Garden Diary 2014

May (part 5) 

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24 May - Swift eggs #5 and #6

A blustery morning with heavy rain before 8am but fine since (that is up to 1.45pm). At 1pm Farnborough was recording a temperature of 14C, so it is still quite cool.



The morning's main news comes from the nest boxes.

While the pair in SW(le) still has two eggs,







in SW(ri) a third egg has been laid, and it looks as though incubation has begun in both boxes.






And the pair in SW(up) have produced their first egg.

I haven't had the chance to check through the morning's recordings to find out if it was laid in this position or if it was rolled there as the Swifts moved about.





Anyway, concerned that it was just a couple of inches away from the entrance and could easily end up falling out of the box, I took advantage of the Swifts' absence to pop up the ladder and move it into what is a rudimentary nest cup.

It would be great to have a colour cctv camera that could give this image continuously - perhaps this is something I could experiment with before next year.





That attempt to return the egg to the nest cup was clearly not appreciated by the Swifts. Tonight it appears to have been rejected once more.

Last year an egg was ejected from SW(ri) - it landed on the driveway still mostly complete. I wonder if this egg will suffer a similar fate, but clearly infertile.




This morning there was a bit of a disappointment for me at the bottom of the garden. When I checked the pupa at 9am it appeared unchanged from yesterday. However, when I took my camera down the garden an hour later it had disappeared, and only the remains of the caterpillar were left. A search of the ground below the leaf proved fruitless.

It is quite possible that it had been shaken free by the movement of the branches in the somewhat gusty breeze, perhaps knocked by another leaf.


Tonight I have changed the video feed to the webcam to show each of the three nests in sequence rather than the quad image. As I cannot provide individual webcams I'm experimenting with this as an alternative that will give a better view of each box, especially when the eggs hatch. I'm not including the external camera in the sequence as the chance of a Swift being 'caught' on camera is rather small (I will be continuing to monitor that image).





25 May - Egg #3 in SW(le)

A much brighter day with no rain and lots of sunshine and a high of 16C. A southerly breeze did not leave one feeling chilly and I was able to wear shorts all day!

This morning, before the Swifts started heading for the exits, I arranged some netting below SW(up) just in case they should finally eject the egg which overnight had been moved to within an inch of the exit.

However, at the end of the day the net was still empty and the egg had been moved back from the opening and now rests against the far end wall of the box.

No egg was laid in the box today - it will be interesting to see if one is 'delivered' tomorrow.




I have not had time to go through the day's recordings to pinpoint when today the third egg in SW(le) was laid, although I think it was sometime this afternoon.

Neither have I had the chance to look at the footage recorded of the boxes at the front of the house.

There were at least fifteen Swifts flying about the rooftops around us this evening.




A few quick observations from the garden -




First, the Flag Irises started flowering today, over a week later than those in our local park.






On the Birch, the parasitized caterpillar has now disappeared. However, on another branch nearby I spotted this healthy example of the same species (which I must look up, but not tonight).





Growing in the damp soil at the side of the big pond there is a young Willow which has grown from seed and which is now around 7ft tall. I suspect that it is an Almond Willow (Salix triandra) although I do need to take more time to check on that. It has yet to flower - perhaps next year?

Anyway, what caught my eye this afternoon were a couple of short branches bearing skeletonized leaves. A closer look revealed that tiny sawfly larvae were at work.


Finally a butterfly. Butterflies have been scarce in the garden so far this Spring, with no more that three or four Whites seen passing though over the last couple of weeks, just a glimpse of may have been a Holly Blue one day last week, and a Speckled Wood which paused briefly in the garden four days ago.



Today I just happened to be standing next to the pond with camera in hand when this Speckled wood conveniently landed on a Marsh Marigold leaf long enough for me to get off one shot.





26 May - Egg #2 in SW(up)

A thoroughly miserable day with wall to wall greyness and more or less non-stop drizzle, and the rest of the week may be the same!

Box SW(up) has been problematic again this morning. The first egg was still in place and somewhere around 11am a second egg was laid. The pair were huddled over the nest cup, keeping very close together, but it was soon evident that the egg was not under either bird, but at the side of the nest.

A couple of minutes later, while the pair continued to move about in the nest cup, the egg could be seen half way across the box, finally ending up near the far right corner before one bird left the box.



At this point I should explain that in order to provide the image sequence on the webcam I have also had to record in the same way. As a result, each box is recorded for 30 seconds before a gap of  1 minute occurs. I this case that meant missing the moments the egg was moved!


Anyway, Once I realised what had happened, I got the ladder out once more. This time I was equipped with a spirit level to confirm that the box floor does not slope towards the entrance.

 Once the second Swift left I moved the ladder into place, confirmed and that the floor was in fact level. Then I used a thin strip of wood as a shim to tilt the raised section of floor down slightly towards the nest cup end, before returning both eggs to the nest.


It will be interesting to see what the Swift pair make of what has happened. Will they try to eject the eggs once more, or will they go on and incubate them (even though the first egg is likely to fail)?



Tonight for a while at least, the pair were tucked up together with both eggs hidden.








However, at 9.10pm I see that they have been exposed to one side of the nest. I wonder what I'll see tomorrow morning.....






27 May - A brighter morning - still cloudy but with no rain (up to 9.40am). Yesterday the temperature didn't rise above 11C but this morning it was 13C at 9am.


Well, it looks as though the Swifts in SW(up) are determined to reject those eggs - disappointing, but  I will not be trying again.

As I write this at 10.20am one of the pair is sitting in the nest cup - could this be a sign of a third egg on the way? Having laid and rejected the second egg yesterday I wouldn't expect it to lay again until tomorrow.





This evening I've added a fourth image to the webcam sequence, this time one of the House Martin boxes (#1). I have only been checking this set of boxes once a week since the Swifts arrived, and today I found that a bird (probably a Sparrow) has brought in some straw.

Including thiis image will allow me to check frequently for any further activity in the box. I should point out that there is no lighting in the House Martin nests this year so the image will be visible during daylight hours only.



Once again I have a lot of catching up to do. When I get the chance I will be adding at least some of the large images for the last couple of pages.


Click on images to see larger version


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