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Saturday, 28 March 2020

Self Isolation - Part 3 Birds and Moths

Whilst the continuing easterly winds have suppressed the numbers of birds there has been an added bonus. The stiff north-easter has driven relocating Red Kites south of the downs and onto the coastal strip. The last two days I have had a total of eight over the garden, the first wave was four birds which tracked north east and were observed by other birders. I don't have to scan the skies for them, I just wait for the resident Herring Gulls to go up in alarm. 






The regular Sparrowhawk paid a fleeting visit but this time, when I pointed the camera at him, he skedaddled. The three Jays have become two and these appear to be an item, now visiting together, several times day. A vociferous Wren has taken up residence in the far corner of the garden - you just can't miss it when he bursts into song. One always turns up around this time and has done for many years.







We have a pair of Collared Doves visiting the feeders, they also turn up most years but I have no idea where they nest and I have never seen any obviously young birds.



Last night I deployed the moth trap for the first time, with the low temperatures a bit optimistic. The light was on for about nine hours and we had a grand return of four moths of three species. I hope it picks up a bit when the warmer weather arrives.


Hebrew Character



Early Grey



Early Grey



Common Quaker


Common Quaker

In the greenhouse the welcome arrival of some colour in the form of Pleione orchids, nothing rare, just common or garden varieties that are easy to grow almost anywhere. I hope that in the coming weeks I will get to sow Bee Orchid, Ophrys apifera seed and also some Pyramidal Orchids. The dactylorhizas are doing well and I now have upwards of 70 plants in pots, I will be pleased if half of them survive.












Monday, 23 March 2020

Self Isolation Part 2 - Birds, bugs and orchids.

Only one comment about the blog - "What happened to Day 2 ?" Well unfortunately my plan went awry, nothing to do with me I hasten to add. I have a westerly facing back garden and the only time it is unpleasant to be out there is when there is a stiff easterly breeze with a touch of north in it.  Very little turned up throughout a very grey and cold day. Just a few hardy Blue Tits on the feeders and they didn't hang around.

Today the breeze was still present but it was tempered by some welcome sunshine and the birds and bugs came out to play. Blue Tits, Great Tits and Long-tailed Tits darted in and out. Twittering Goldfinches in a variable sized flock graced us with their presence. The long staying female Blackcap skulked around the feeders but declined to pose. Oddly enough one year we had seven Blackcaps regularly visiting the garden and none of them was shy.

Most of the Woodpigeons have gone but one resident had a shock as the pocket rocket Sparrowhawk paid another visit. Feathers flew but the pigeon escaped and the Sparrowhawk sat on the fence looking very annoyed. He really doesn't like the sound of my camera shutter - he just glares at the lens in disgust. Still, a few more nice pics. I haven't seen what I assume is his mate lately, she cruises around the district, flap - flap glide, flap - flap glide  putting in the occasional stoop into someones garden. Of course her presence always puts the resident Herring Gulls into alarm.



Sparrowhawk snack




Sparrowhawk

















Angry Sparrowhawk












The Jays didn't turn up until mid afternoon but we did have what for us is a rarity - a single Jackdaw calling from a television aerial perch. A bit of a waste of time as I am sure he the only one of his kind in the area. We have a Starling that sits on our antenna and time and again he has had me searching the skies. It mimics perfectly the call of a Buzzard - will have to try and record it.

Nice to record a Peacock butterfly, our second garden tick of the year.





The warm sunshine brought of the bugs, several type of fly, bees and hoverflies - none of which I can identify at this time. One fly by Comma that didn't stop and I was expecting to see a Bee Fly as our garden primroses are in full bloom. If you wait long enough one will turn up.


Dark-edged Bee Fly



This Bumble Bee was fast asleep.


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Bumble of some description - time will tell.


Meanwhile in the cold greenhouse the mild winter means that my Lady's Slipper Orchids are on the move. This one has six stems coming up, I am hoping that four will flower which means I can hand pollinate two for lots of green seed pods.






I also spent some time potting up Southern Marsh Orchids, protocorms from seed that I sowed between August and December last year. This is a delicate time as they are being weaned from oat medium in petri dishes along with their symbiotic fungus. The fungus needs to be able to generate carbon from the organic matter within the compost which the orchid immediately "borrows."









Might just flower in three years - probably  four

Thursday, 19 March 2020

Self Isolation Part 1 - Birding in the garden.

I have managed only two birding trips this year and just I was getting round to going out again along came Covid-19. Unfortunately, for various reasons, Liz and I have had to self isolate. Not, I hasten to add that we have the damned bug but to protect ourselves. Day 1 of our prison sentence dawned and I have to admit that a wave of despair came over me, dark news from social media can get to you pretty quickly.

However, mid-morning and the dark clouds lifted, my faith restored in humanity, friends and neighbours calling asking if they could help, deliveries of essential supplies left in the air lock (the porch). Spirits lifted I ventured out into the garden and, as on most days, a camera went with me. I resolved to record what I could during our enforced incarceration. Damn the doom-mongers and the storm crows. My interest in all things natural has never been shaken - it soothes the mind.

Anyway first to be recorded was our local Sparrowhawk who has taken to bathing in the pond. I was in the greenhouse, potting up some seedlings, when I became aware of an almighty racket, Blackbirds, Great and Blue Tits all giving strident alarm calls. I looked out and as soon as I heard splashing noises I knew why. Oddly when the Sparrowhawk is bathing he almost ignores me, so I stood in the open, less than 15 feet away and snapped him until he had had enough.



























Second subject was a Chiffchaff, there had obviously been an overnight fall as there were three frequenting the garden. The pond is a great attraction as there are always insects of some description to be captured and I sat and waited for a photo opportunity. Sadly the light was poor but I cranked up the iso and fired away.












The third visitor was one of our long staying Jays, we have had three frequenting the garden since November and I have fed them everyday. God knows how many peanuts they have had - most of them cached, but in all this time they have not become less timid. Given how they are persecuted then I can't say that I blame them.















So Day 1 ended as it had started, dark leaden skies and dark foreboding news from the BBC. Take care.

Wednesday, 18 December 2019

Garden Jays

Occasionally we have a mini irruption of Jays, birds that are probably forced south by a dearth of acorns in their normal environment. Luckily we live not a stones throw from a large avenue of Holly or Holm Oaks, Quercus ilex and these produce a veritable cornucopia of small acorns that are irresistible to Jays. I guess that not only Jays but Squirrels and Magpies are happy to devour them too. Trouble is that they don't eat them all and there are always mini oak trees sprouting like weeds in the garden, from acorns cached for harder times but obviously forgotten.

However, I digress. Our colourful guests are attracted by our collection of feeders and as the number of acorns available diminishes they are searching for new food sources. The first visits are very tentative as they are naturally shy birds and have, in the past, suffered persecution at the hands of gamekeepers.  When offered peanuts they become much more confident and given time they can be approachable.  I place small caches of nuts in strategic places in the garden and set watch by the patio windows, they obviously know that you are behind glass and often venture to within a few feet. Sitting out in the garden is a totally different matter, but in the end I have had them to within 10 feet. They land on the nuts and devour as many as possible before flying off to cache them.

Just to show that nothing is new in birding - almost the same happened in 2012 but slightly earlier in the year - look here