Summer 2018 seemed to last forever, Autumn came and went, Winter has almost passed, and apart from a brief record-breaking warm spell at the end of February, things seem to be on track for Spring.
I have been meaning to post a few things since my last post but I am easily distracted and posting here is soon forgotten for other things, today I’ve finally managed to sit down and put fingers to keys.
After heavy rain this morning the sun is now shining, although there is still a keen wind blowing it’s not freezing at least. Out in the garden I spotted my first newt of the season in the pond, having looked a few times in the past few weeks and seen nothing; there also appeared to be small creatures building themselves little coccoons, could these be pond nymphs or dragonfly larvae? There was also a bullfinch in a tree nearby, a rare sight in the garden; coal tits and others were busy singing about their territory and other things.
Along the road where there is a ditch by the field border I noticed something plop into the water and promptly disappeared, this is the spot where I’ve seen a water vole before so can safely assume that’s what it was, good to think that it’s still there and surviving, perhaps I will catch a better glimpse of it in the coming weeks before the greenery hides the ditch from view. Not far away from this spot was some frogspawn, perhaps a tad premature as the weather has turned cooler again since the warm spell in February (with the occasional frost).
Looking forward to an interesting spring and summer, full of wildlife and sunny days!
I’ve come to the site today to discover it a little sickly, after some poking and prodding I’ve managed to get it up and running again but have had to replace the old theme because support for it has been discontinued. Hopefully I can find something suitable that will not change the feel of the site too much, I expect something a little more modern would be a good move anyway but for right now I have changed to one of the default WordPress themes.
While out walking and hoping to spot a water vole I noticed this moorhen sitting on her nest, something I’ve never seen before. I tried to be as careful as I could while taking the photos but I think the sound of the shutter disturbed it so it walked off, that was my cue to leave. Hopefully she will return to the nest and keep the clutch of eggs warm.
In the past couple of weeks I’ve started to see frogs appearing in the garden, one was just by the house sitting behind a rock, another was in the pond; I’ve also seen a couple of newts in the pond since the temperatures moved above freezing, although since they have dropped again they’re not showing themselves (or I haven’t hung around long enough in the freezing wind to see them). Minus temperatures and snow again this weekend, forecast is for warmer weather next week.
Also in the garden I’ve set up a hedgehog feeding station, same as I had previously although much further up the garden this time as I think being so close to the bird feeders attracts too much unwanted attention from cats and such. So far nothing has approached the feeder station, a large fox was caught on camera trotting past in the background, plus the obligatory rabbit and occasional blackbird. I might try scattering some hedgehog moist feed on the grass nearby.
Hopefully we will start to see hedgehogs coming into the garden soon, once the weather warms up (again) and stays that way.
A recent cold spell brought quite a bit of snow which settled on the hills and in the valley, mostly covering everything in white, and remaining (along with ice and slush) for the best part of a week. This is most likely what prompted a small flock of around ten fieldflares to take an interest in the windfall apples currently being enjoyed by the blackbirds in our garden.
They went almost as fast as they arrived, as the snow was already melting away so no doubt they’ve gone back to their preferred fields and hedgerows nearby. Still, a rare sighting in our garden and one I was glad to have the good fortune to see.
So far since my previous post in October as the temperature dropped we have had a number of frosts, accompanied by ice, snow, and the occasional mist. Wildlife in the garden looks to be coping, with sightings of blackbirds, coal tits, great tits, and blue tits, various small brownies, along with a pair of bullfinches and a woodpecker (greater or lesser spotted). The trail camera has caught plenty of footage of field and wood mice running over and around the hedgehog house, possibly venturing inside too – it would be interesting to poke an endoscope down there to see what’s been going on inside.
The camera will be repositioned to see what’s visiting during the cold days and nights of January and February, then I think we’ll all be looking forward to warmer temperatures in March.
A brief explore out in the garden after sunset this evening was initially a little disappointing – no hedgehogs, no bats, nothing, despite the very mild weather for mid-October thanks to a tropical storm coming in off the Atlantic this weekend. It was only as I approached the house and the security light that the bat detector chirped into life, seemingly the sky was suddenly full of bat chirps; the reason soon became obvious – there was a vast assortment of night life buzzing around the bright security light, and the bats were having a feast! The bright lights didn’t seem to bother the bats, though they were very good for lighting up their bodies as they fluttered by. There must have been at least two bats in attendance, possibly more, difficult to tell as they came and went and the chirping seemed too much for just one bat.
Just a short report on what the trail camera saw at the hedgehog house. I set it to 24 hours mode with video and photos, the photos were a little underwhelming (they usually are when it is in video and photo mode) but the videos showed some nice footage of blackbirds, robins, and thrushes rooting around in the soil and grass debris that I’d left around the place, but cutest of all was the little mouse that hopped right in front of the camera, as is shown in the short clip below.
Now that I know the camera will detect even a mouse during the summer months, I will set it to night time photo mode and see what it picks up this week. At the moment it is set to high sensitivity (recommended for summer / warm conditions) and high night shutter speed, but with low LED power (because we are only seeing a close up subject and don’t need to cast light into the distance).
Last summer I built a wooden hedgehog house out of an old wooden crate and some bits of wood we had spare (not MDF or similar, but proper planks of wood), put some rubber membrane over it with some sods of grass on top and left it in some undergrowth. To my disappointment nothing made use of it over the winter.
As it’s now approaching autumn again I decided to check it out, inside there were a few mouldy droppings (not big enough to be hedgehog, probably rat) but apart from that nothing much had changed – no extra bedding, no evidence of hibernation, nothing at all really. This time I wanted to complete the job properly so set to with a fork and spade to properly cover the thing with stones and earth, and add a bend to the entrance to put off cats and hopefully prevent cold wind blowing straight in, I’d acquired a short length of air conditioner hose which seemed ideal for the job some months ago, now was my chance to use it.
Here are some photos of what I ended up with, the first two are my original efforts, the next are today’s (hopefully) much improved setup; the house is situated much further into the undergrowth than before as well.
One side is semi-exposed to the air, perhaps this will be enough to allow the wood to breathe (there is also a hosepipe for ventilation on the back wall) while at the same time not letting in too much of the cold during the winter; the rubber membrane will hopefully keep out the damp in case it gets really wet, water should just run off and under (I put some underneath the box and up the side that’s against the earth bank). I’ve placed my trail camera to watch the entrance, which I will try to check weekly.
It has been a funny old year so far, with personal difficulties and changes taking up much of my time. I am attempting to split my spare time between hobbies and interests old and new, including wildflower surveys, gardening (still very new to this), astronomy, and others; some of these hobbies do have potential cross-overs, wildflowers and gardening obviously do, astronomy can be linked to these as well as they are both outdoor type of activities so having a good environment to do them in is important. A garden in the evenings is where the creatures of the night come out, including bats, owls, newts (easier to spot at night in a pond with a torch), hedgehogs, so it can be quite interesting sitting outside on a cool autumn or winter night gazing up at the stars.
Coming back to the present, it’s turning into an amazing year for fruits of all kinds – more blackberries and plums than I’ve seen for a long time, ripening rapidly in what must have been ideal conditions for them, although right now the weather has turned cooler with a bit of rain I’m confident we will see plenty of warm sunny days before the season is over.
The camera trap has been out in the garden in various locations, earlier it spotted a family of young pheasant chicks and their mother strolling by in a section of the garden that we let go to a wildflower meadow for a while; it was interesting to see paths appearing in the long grass that are not visible when it is kept short – I positioned the camera to watch one of these paths the other night, it captured a pheasant hen and also a bright-eyed hedgehog, very good to see them still visiting, if I manage to get a good capture I will try to post it here.
As for the rest of the season, I intend to complete a couple of wildflower surveys down some local road grass verges, but above all just get out and enjoy the sunshine.