… or should I say a clean memory card on my camera. It’s about time too. Already, we are almost half way through January and I still have photos to share and stories to tell from last year! I have kept these photos on my card deliberately to remind myself about them every time I uploaded new ones and… well you know how it goes. Perhaps you might want to pour yourself a cuppa…
Ah… the frog living around my pond. This photo was taken one evening back in October and I don’t remember taking it now. I am guessing that was the last sighting of this frog. I wonder where it spends the cold winter months. Perhaps it is in one of the many caves I built in this area.
The mossy rocks around my pond are commented on many times but oops… I don’t remember why these photos were taken now either. Sometimes I just test light levels through the window – you can see some reflection on the RHS. However, this photo does show the success of the logs partial submerged in the water as a way to help wildlife in/out the water. The birds drink from them and the wren gets food around its edges. I love this mossy area.
Ah… yes the leaves! Yes… I am thinking now this was left as a photo reminder to mention regularly removing leaves from ponds during Autumn and Winter to stop the water turning oily on the surface. Ah… I see slight hints of it in my pond at the moment. I’ll need to get my net and a bucket out. If I catch it in time I shouldn’t need to change the water. I could take a bucket or two out and just top it up with rain water from my water butt.
Not all moss stays on my sandstone rocks… the birds are responsible for some removal but not necessarily at nesting time as you can see in the photos above which were taken on December 27th. If you look closely you can see some sand on the beak of the female blackbird. Mm… the most recent culprit I suspect.
Now… I should point out that the blueberries that this robin is eyeing up aren’t the usual delicacy at this feeder! My teenage daughter had used the rest in a cheesecake topping and these ones were going soft. I didn’t see which birds ate them but they were all gone by the end of that day!
Back to the mosses… if you look more closely you can see subtle differences in form and colour. They look at one with nature, so woodland with their cushion mounds and elaborate weaving. However, that is not what these photo reminders were taken to show.
Mm… did you spot the purple leaves of the heuchera in the foreground? I don’t welcome the mosses in this area! Why don’t the birds lift these bits – I’m sure there must be insects below. Why don’t I welcome these mosses? Ah… I have a problem in my garden that some visitors may not know about. These photo reminders were taken back in the first week in October.
The problem? I don’t have many earthworms in my garden – in fact a sighting is cause for celebration! This moss is growing on the surface of the soil as the earthworms aren’t around to aerate the soil’s surface or the roots of plants. I need to do ‘worm’s work’ using my hand fork or hoe. I deliberately choose to use ground cover plants but there lies a problem with my hoe or hand fork because before the plants knit together the moss quickly fills in the spaces and I end up removing some plant material as I remove the moss. On the whole regular ‘worm’s work’ keeps the moss at bay but later on in the year when I’m not out in the garden as much, with rain or for other reasons, it can take hold as you can see above. It has been removed since.
You could argue that I am spoiling the natural wilderness that the moss provides, but this is growing in the middle of borders and on the top of the grit dressing on my rockeries. It can be seen in pots too. This moss needs to be removed. Not only will my plants suffer but insects and bees will suffer too if the plants don’t get a chance to grow well and produce flowers. I do have wild areas where I will let the moss grow but it very quickly covers shady and damp areas so I do have to keep it in check even there.
Do you recognise what is on the left of the photo above? I do hope many don’t! I’ve looked back files for this one. You are most likely to find it in damp places like under rocks or pots and I do I think that is exactly where I found this one back in 2007. I hadn’t seen one in while so assumed they had moved on. This chap is responsible for the absence of earthworms in my soil.
Let me introduce you to the New Zealand Flatworm and you don’t want this in your garden! It survives by absorbing the earthworm. It looks disgusting and this process is too. I’ll refer hardened readers to a previous posting where you can read more including how to reduce the spread of the flatworm. They must be caught and destroyed. It is as clear as that. However, I should say that a garden can survive with and after the flatworm – my garden is testimony to that.
However there are many, many valuable insects and invertebrates in our soil that we can help survive the colder months of the year. Creating a winter habitat is a wonderful idea and can be a lot of fun too especially for young children who love mini beasts. What a great way to use up things lying about the garden, shed or garage. This certainly comes into the category of ‘Do one thing for nature’ and ‘cleaning up our environment’ both at the same time.
The Wildlife House above was seen back in July in a wood at Pensthopre Nature Reserve in Norfolk. Notice the holes drilled into the logs for insects to crawl into or even lay eggs. I wonder how many species were in there at the time and how many more are in there at this moment. Much simpler versions can be made. You could take a handful of canes, cut them into small lengths and tie them together with twine or string and hang it up or tuck it in a sheltered spot. You could also make holes in a a few logs and put them in a corner.
Most of us delight in seeing these guys above fly around in the summer months – except my daughter after a toddler experience in a butterfly house! By providing winter homes for wildlife we are increasing the chances of this in our own areas. Ladybirds and bees too will appreciate a winter residence. Is it too late to build one? Well, perhaps not… where I am the ground isn’t frozen over. In my garden I have a rule that it is better to do some work late than not at all. But that’s just me.
My trip to Pensthorpe last July gave so many wonderful photo opportunities, including the butterflies above. I have been holding on to this last image of our summer visit. Oh no… it wasn’t taken in Piet’s garden but instead on a woodland walk around one of the lakes. In fact it’s not that far away from the home for wildlife shown above. This was one of the last looks over my shoulder as we left this area.
Unexpected drifts of plants winding through the trees. Soft grasses with tall golden daisy head flowers – some in the shade of the trees and others with stripes of sunshine across them. Just lovely! Yes… I do enjoy seeing birds and wildlife but plants will always be my first love – especially in woodland walks.
This was a photo reminder of how keeping a hedge regularly trimmed gives you more room inside the garden and pushes it right out into the background allowing our eyes to see the other plants instead. If you look closely you can see that we were trimming it at the time. The hedge then becomes a backdrop and a wind break – and hopefully not a nuisance to your neighbour too. We trim our Leylandii hedge in August.
You can also see how close my bird table (and other feeders further along) is to my hedge. The birds are spending a lot of time in this hedge just now especially in the mornings. They pop out quickly to get food and back in again. The Sparrowhawk is still regularly popping by and over the weekend I saw it fly in and through this gap missing the bird table and the fairly large and wide bamboo planted to give the birds some protection.
In this tiny space the Sparrowhawk caught a bird sitting on a feeder less than a foot from the safety of the hedge. It was so quick. It dropped immediately to my lawn with the bird. I’m not certain but I am taking a guess, by the colouring of the head, that it was one of the Siskins that has been visiting recently. I stood up to see and it flew off with its catch.
When I first saw this happen in my garden I felt sick at the thought. However, I have to say I do find watching the flight of this bird, around the obstacles I have put in its way, quite fascinating! Yes, I know it has to eat to survive too just like the birds that come to my garden. I would just like to make a request that it moves on to other gardens now. I’d like to keep the Siskins a little while longer if you don’t mind. Numbers of Greenfinches are increasing now too. Yes… Mrs Sparrowhawk, please keep flying on by next time!
The Dunnock, being more a ground feeder bird, should be less likely to get caught by a Sparrowhawk. But… in my garden, even with food on the ground for them, they can be seen feeding from my bird table and fat feeders. It also uses the feeder hidden in my small domed Acer tree. Instead of jumping up from the ground it does the same as many other smaller birds. It lands on the top branches of the tree and bounces through them down to the food. So this was a photo reminder to say that although some birds are said to behave in certain ways from what I see in my garden they also adapt by watching others.
Bulb photo reminders are an excellent idea for me. This one wasn’t taken to post but as a reminder of what I put where. Perhaps others forget like me?
Back to the birds with a couple of ideas for more natural looking feeding areas in the garden. The montage below shows an area of twigs and logs below a bird table at a nature reserve. I liked this idea and partial adapted it in my own garden with a thought from the Pensthorpe wildlife home too. I’ll show this in another posting.
Tree trunks make the most natural bird and wildlife feeder of all but in a garden the roots of large trees are usually a problem so on the whole they are dug up and the trunk has to go. Although… I suppose you could cement a piece of tree trunk into the ground as you would do a post for fencing – that might work. I really meant to post this photo back in October when I took these photos – the ground is too hard for most people now. Perhaps an idea for next year?
Have you any idea what the top right photo on the montage is about? I was certainly curious when I saw it at this Scottish Nature Reserve. I had never seen it on any other visit or since. This was a trap for a new visiting grey squirrel. The reserve was trying to catch it and planned to remove it completely from this estate which is home to the red squirrel. I don’t know if they ever caught it or not but I did see one running across the road in front of my car nearby on a subsequent visit. I do hope the red squirrel is not driven out here.
Frost and snow photos have been appearing in so many garden and bird blogs recently. What amazing photos too! Lucky us… we have only really had a couple of days of hard frost here (already posted on) but this image caught my eye since. Just a little frosting I grant you but I thought it pretty and I kept it as a photo reminder of how even the smallest of pine trees can have cones and what fun it is to watch the coal tits pull out the seeds from inside them. These cones have a bit of growing to do yet but I’m sure the coal tit will be up to the challenge of getting inside when the time is right. I couldn’t believe what it was doing the first time I ever saw this.
Growing teasel is something I have never done and I will be honest and say that I am in two minds about pulling it out. I grew it for the seed heads in winter as a food supply for goldfinches – sorry boys and girls if you don’t get interested in this soon it may go! I really grew so I could take photos/videos of the goldfinches eating from it. It is not really suited to this part of the garden but I positioned beside the feeders so the birds saw it and also so it would only seed into the bark below and not into my borders – I hope!
Ah.. but that was not why I kept it as a photo reminder. I did wonder why when I first looked at it last night. The teasel isn’t really in focus. The light sprinkling of snow isn’t that pretty either. Ah… but take a look closer! Sitting on a branch on the tree behind the teasel, almost looking like a seed head itself, is a Long-tailed tit.
Ah… I remember now. This was a photo reminder to say that we’ve still had occasional visits of Long-tailed tit groups but we’ve also had one coming in on its own with the blue tits. This little chap seemed quite keen to explore without the group. It also shows how well camouflaged birds and wildlife can be and its so very easy to miss seeing things right in front of you. The Starlings, especially on a cold day, won’t be missed coming in their groups and with the squawking they do you can often hear them before you see them! They particularly love fat based foods.
The camera card is empty now, outstanding stories told and photos shared. I’m ready for the new and current stories of 2009. Well… perhaps a video or two yet to come! Your tea/coffee must be cold now… oops.
My poll ‘questioning posting preferences’ is complete now and I’d like to thank everyone for voting. The ratios are pretty much as I expected with two/three postings per week – although not as long as this one!
I began blogging to post bird videos and I do still enjoy that immensely. I can’t wait to get using my outdoor wildlife cameras again too. However, I don’t believe I have succeeded in one other aspect. This year I plan promote plants more. If I was to be stranded on Dessert Island… it would be a plant I would take! Mm… that might be a good subject for a posting – I may come back to that one. Plants are my passion and I would like to share that passion more in 2009.
All photos above were taken from July 2008 to the present unless otherwise stated. They were taken both in and out the garden.