Garden Wildlife

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This page is a celebration of the insects,animals and reptiles  that live in and visit our garden. 


The webcam season came to a sad end for our Blackbird mum and her five eggs. After sitting on them for a month that we know of, she either gave up, which we find hard to believe, maybe the eggs were not viable as she had been sitting them so long, or sadly, as we suspect she has come to harm somewhere. Blackbirds often succomb to hitting cars as they fly out of hedgerows at a very low level.


Anyway all we can be grateful for is that the eggs hadn't hatched. Meanwhile, our Robin was very busy about 2 metres away in the ivy. Unfortunately Robin nests are usually quite dense, as is the undergrowth, so it's not a suitable camera site. We had a family of Blue Tits spending a longtime in our trees after fledging. We suspect these must have come from the neighbour's garden. Most excitingly we can report a sucessful fledge of Greenfinches from our tall cypressus conifer. Not sure how many made it, but certainly two that we counted. The camera tit boxes were all empty last season so we will leave untouched until next year and see what 2014 brings!

So to Garden Wildlife generally.. starting with the birds.. we have a variety of nesting boxes.. I have to say with a variety of sucess!
The hollowed out log near tha mahonia is very rustic indeed. In fact so rustic that it is rarely used. We have Great Tits in there one year but it is likely it isn't high enough off the ground, so needs a wee rethink!



Catherine built this triangular box as one of her first woodworking projects at about 5 years old. Never hugely successful with only a couple of years with a brood. It is North facing.. generally the least successful direction to point we've found.



The well used Garden Room box right on the house. It's really in quite a noisy situation, with people passing by within a metre or so, but this hasn't put the birds off, it has had numerous broods of Great and Blue Tits. This box has a day camera which we will put on line if we get a bite!

This was our first camera box in the Peach tree. Before the camera was added this was the most successful birdbox position in the garden, which we put online each spring... It continues to be hugely successful with Blue Tit clutches of up to ten eggs each year. Quite close to some bird feeders, normally a negative with box placement, it also faces south, but is well protected from the sun by the Peach leaves.. and protected from the neighbouring cats by a robust security system of chicken wire around the trunk each spring!!




Our Garden's Dawn Chorus

The dawn chorus is something which really heralds the warmer months to come. Our Titbox webcams some years a raring success, some years a bit of a damp squib with no interest in either camera box, but then you can always rely on the chickens to put on a show! The bird feeder is always interesting  with Green Woodpeckers, Greenfinches, Blackcaps, Sparrows, Robins, BlueTits and Great Tits  wading their way through a hundred fat balls. The big bird table has crows, wood pigeons, collared doves, Blackbirds and Starlings with the doves turning up at the same time every day as we restock with Oats and seeds.

Below a Speckled Wood butterfly basks in the sun on the potatoes in May.

It's a butterfly that has spread back since the 1920s, and is recolonizing many areas in eastern and northern England and Scotland.



The garden... a labour of love. And much love  was declared by Catherine and Daddy at the sad burial of Freddie Frog the headstone on the right (the one on the left is Betty Blackbird who passed away a few weeks before). Freddie had been floating for a couple of days in the pond, and the mould had set in, so time for a trip in Catherines wheelbarrow to his final resting place..... A prayer was said for both Freddie and Betty as Catherine tipped the wheelbarrows slimey contents into the hole. Freddie's final words were said to have been  'ribbet ribbet', which is appropriate as moments later he 'croaked'!


We've been trying to work out what type of Dragonfly this is, initially deciding it was a 'Golden ringed' which is found normally May to July, so what it was doing in our house in October is anyones guess!! However with a little help from our new found friends Roy and Marie who run a lovely nature website called Moorhen, they suggest actually that it is a Common Aeshna' which fly June to October . If you find yourself in the same identification predicament as us, you could try dragonfly expert George Mahoney's website to help. But our 'visitor' was stunning measuring around 80mm, green in colour, and a wingspan of around 10cm. It reminds me of the amazing life cycle of these wonderful creatures. I've sworn about them when they have denuded the pond of tadpoles when they are in their larval stage. They develop for one to four years, misbehaving underwater ,before they crawl out early one morning, and a couple of hours later new wings unfurled and hardened off they go, flying through the air at up to 15 metres a second (that's fast!!) Sadly their time in flight is very short, just long enough to f'ind a mate, do the business and lay the eggs!



By the start of March, the garden birds are turning their attention to preparations for that naughty activity, and we’ve notice many checking out the various bird boxes around the garden. Since 2005 we have had a camera Tit box which has proven very successful. Both it and the little feeder alongside have a colour camera position overhead, also equipped with Infrared for black and white night vision (although this has a tendency to reduce the colour output of the camera during the day)



On other ‘spring like’ matters, we awaited the thaw of the ice in the pond before the frogs got moving again. The pond liner developed a leak, and repairs couldn’t be completed before winter. It  took quite a bit of care to find the leak and patch it up without disturbing the frogs, but I guess they had ‘other things’ on their mind so didn't get too upset.

End of March and the peace of the garden was shattered by more noise, one of the most welcome noises of spring in fact... croaking! Catherine came running into the house... 'the frogs! the frogs are back!' Yes, the pond 'washing machine' has started again. Once they get started they really stir that water up!



I heard a four year old Catherine scream.. I knew something big and ugly was afoot! (No jokes please!) We discovered that the stag beetle larvae that we had the previous year were still in the old fallen pear tree, and we have had them every year ever since, in part due to encouraging them by leaving rotting and decaying wood under trees and hedges. The grubs are enourmous and very very ugly (I said no jokes!) But the Stag Beetle is Britain's largest beetle, growing to 7cm. The males fight for their territory with their large mandibles that look like the antlers of a deer, hence 'Stag' beetle.  They are big enough to nip, but in reality they are not at all dangerous.. try telling Catherine!


We left the fallen pear tree specifically for Stag Beetles as when it was felled we found the less than attractive larvae living below the rotting trunk. Stag beetles are now extinct in some countries, such as Denmark, and is considered to be globally threatened. Listed as a priority species in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan, it is a protected species, and it's in our garden, we are obviously protecting it well!


The 3mm eggs, laid in damp earth hatch the awful looking grubs that feed for up to five years on the rotting wood . After pupating in the autumn, they emerge the following spring,and typical of most wildlife, they get on with the 'dirty business' in June and July, and the females are ready again to lay their eggs in the autumn. Amazing! And very very welcome in our garden! Perhaps not by Catherine!!


August and this poor old Stag bettle was having real problems taking off... mind you he might have just been nibbling our onions!! Sorry the snaps are out of focus.. thought they were worth including though... long live the Stag beetle!!



A moth with no name...I couldn't find it in my Observer book of Insects! Any ideas? Convolvulus Hawk Moth? Oh well, here he was on the seat outside our lounge.
These two haven't got names either captured having a brief rest in the pond (when aren't they!) Frogious Lazibonesius .


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