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Thursday, 7 February 2019

More Garden Highlights - September, 2018 to January, 2019

Continuing with the theme from two posts ago, here are some of the highlights from my garden from the past five months.

I'll start by saying a bit more about my garden, and how I attract the wildlife. This is probably best explained by use of a diagram based on an image taken from a drone by my next-door neighbour. The main provisions are for birds and hedgehogs, although used by other taxa too.


We have three hedgehog houses  - shown as HH in the image below. These are for daytime shelter in the warmer months and for hibernation in the winter.

We have two hedgehog feeding stations - shown as HFS in the image below -  comprising covered feeding trays with entrance tunnels (to keep the visiting cats out) and nearby external water dishes.


We have numerous bird feeders round our garden - shown as BF. These are of various types. That marked BF is a 'flutter butter'  feeder from Jacobi Jayne. I make my own flutter butter, however, from lard and peanuts. That marked BFx2 is a pole with two feeding trays (for sunflower hearts) attached and a 'log' mounted on top for photographic purposes. That marked BFx3 is another pole with two feeding trays attached (sunflower hearts again) and a peanut feeder on top. The two items marked BFx4 are identical poles with four hangers - the left-hand one usually has a fat-ball feeder and a mixed seed feeder (favoured by the House Sparrows) attached, and the right-hand one usually has a fat-ball feeder and a peanut feeder attached. Both these poles have additional feeders attached to give extra capacity when I go way. The item marked S is usually referred to as 'the stump'. It is an 'L' shaped length of of a thick tree branch, and has been drilled on the rear side with holes for peanuts and seed. It was put there primarily for photographic purposes, but has proven to be my most popular feeder with the birds - they wait for me to fill it, and empty it for me in no time flat! The item marked SD is a sun dial which is covered with sunflower hearts as a supplemental feeder in winter. 

The two items marked BB are bird baths. The upper one is very popular with the birds, and was created when the koi pond was filled in. The outline of the old koi pond is clearly visible to the lower left of the bird bath - it was nearly 2 metres deep and held approximately 14,000 litres (3,000 gallons). The lower one is a conventional bird bath on a plinth.


Just to complete the picture, C is the conservatory where we habitually have all our meals in the warmer months, but just breakfast and lunch in the colder months. My study is down the line that is marked S. I have a good view of most of the feeders from my desk and most of my garden bird photos are taken through the glass of my window. I have one camera constantly 'at the ready' on my desk!

Aerial view of our garden
So now that you've seen the setup, here are a few more highlights from the tail-end of 2018 and the start of 2019

1st September, 2018

The moth trap was deployed this night and 77 moths of 18 species were identified in the morning of 2nd September (it is convention to give the date of recording as the date of deployment of the trap, rather than retrieval). My favourite from the session was the Dusky Thorn.

Dusky Thorn (Ennomos fuscantaria) - from our garden
2nd September, 2018

I noticed a Holly Blue spending some time in the Ivy on our boundary, and went to have a look. It was a female that was ovipositing at the back of the flower buds on the Ivy. Unfortunately, it remained quite high up when doing this so photography was difficult. I have had a few unsuccessful attempts at finding evidence of larval activity or pupae, but will look again soon.

Holly Blue (Celastrina argiolus) (female, ovipositing) - our garden
12th October, 2018

A male Sparrowhawk made a nuisance of itself for a while, but I didn't see it catch much. We now have the Council's new fence in place as part of the development behind us. It has a trellis on top which is most unphotogenic, as you can see, below. I have removed our lower fence. This shot was taken from my study window with it on top of the left hand feeder marked BFx4 in the first image.
Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus) (male) - our garden
17th October, 2018

I have shown the Peacock butterfly in a previous post but here's another as it is, for me, one of the most spectacular of our garden butterflies.

Peacock (Aglais io) - our garden
19th October, 2018

Great Spotted Woodpecker have been a bit of a rarity in the garden in the past year.  However, this female visited us for a while in October. She was photographed on 'the stump' from my study window.

Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major) (female - our garden
2nd November, 2018

In November we had a garden 'lifer' in the form of a Tree Sparrow. This red-listed species is on the decline, and is usually found in rural locations, so to find one with the House Sparrows in our garden was extremely exciting for me. It was an occasional visitor, right up to the end of the year. These were taken from our conservatory, with the bird in the vicinity of BFx3 (the bird was feeding at the left-hand BFx4)

Tree Sparrow (Passer montanus) - our garden
5th November, 2018

The garden moth trap was put out without any expectations for results this late in the season. Happily, however, 3 moths of 2 species were caught, including my first December Moth, of which there were two. These moths, one of which is shown below, seem to be wearing fur coats against the winter's cold! 

December Moth (Poecilocampa populi) - from our garden
18th November, 2018

I doubt if I'll ever see another Tree Sparrow in our garden again, so here are a couple more images from this day.

Tree Sparrow (Passer montanus) - our garden
25th November, 2018

The Goldfinch is a common bird, and one of the most reliable and numerous in our garden. There's no denying, however, that it is a spectacular little bird in its appearance. This shot was taken whilst sitting at my desk - the bird is on the feeder marked BFx2 in the top image.

Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis) - our garden
10th December, 2018

We have not done well for winter visitors to the garden this year - so far! On this day, however, we did have a Redwing visit. I only managed a record shot. I am, however, quite pleased with the shot of a male Chaffinch, although a very common garden bird, especially at this time of year - this one was on feeder BFx2 again, taken from my study.

Redwing (Turdus iliacus) - our garden
Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs) (male)- our garden
17th December, 2018

We had two Redwing visit us this day, and I managed a shot that was a little better. Sadly, I missed getting any worthwhile shots two days later when we had a brief visit by 13 Redwing!

Redwing (Turdus iliacus) - our garden
27th December, 2018

Prompted by the sight of a moth flitting past on one of the trail cams which record the night time activity in our garden, I put the moth trap out. I was delighted to catch a male Mottled Umber moth (the female is wingless), plus a Light Brown Apple Moth micromoth. Here's the Mottled Umber.

Mottled Umber (Ernanis defoliaria) (male) - from our garden
5th January, 2019

For a while, we had a pair of Lesser Redpoll visiting the garden. Most years we do better than just the two! Here's the male, taken through my study window.

Lesser Redpoll (Acanthis cabaret) (male) - our garden
6th January, 2019

For a few days we had visits from a pair of Grey Heron. They don't count on our garden list as they didn't put a foot down in our garden, but landed on adjacent roofs. They seemed to be taking fish from the ponds of two of our neighbours. I guess they eventually emptied the ponds as they haven't been seen since!

Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) - from our house
That same day we had other visitors to our garden, including Carrion Crow, which very rarely visits us.

Carrion Crow (Corvus corone) - our garden

The Redpoll were with us that day too. The male is on BFx2, and the female was in the tree above it.

Lesser Redpoll (Acanthis cabaret) (male) - our garden
Lesser Redpoll (Acanthis cabaret) (female) - our garden
A Goldfinch came down onto BFx2 while I was trying to photograph the Redpolls, and it would be rude to ignore such cooperation!

Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis) - our garden
9th January, 2019

One of the Herons landed on the roof of the newly built bungalow just behind our garden - I'm not sure whether it compensates for the fact that there's now a building where there used to be rough grass, but it dispels some of the disappointment!

Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) - from our house
16th January, 2019

We don't often get Reed Bunting in the garden, but we had one visiting for much of January, and on a couple of days we had two. Here's one of them.

Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus) (male) - our Garden
There have been many more species than those featured here, and some of them quite exciting but not suitably photographed. 

I have spent less time than usual watching the garden this winter, so far, as there have been too many distractions - not all of them happy. Hopefully, all will be sorted inside the next couple of months. 

Thank you for dropping by.


  1. Hi Richard,
    it is really a beautiful aerial view of your garden and it is also a beautiful garden :-) The Dusky Thorn is beautifully photographed and very beautiful in the details like the tree blue. And you can shoot a sparrow in your own garden! Super!
    I really love all the birds below. What a variety of beautiful birds. You have a lot of wealth in your garden Richard :-) Brilliant.
    I have just read your blog below

    Greetings, Helma

    1. Thank you, Helma, for those very kind words. I get much pleasure from our garden, and I am delighted to be able to share some of that pleasure.

      I hope you have a great weekend and week ahead - - - Richard

  2. I really love that aerial shot of your garden and it is great to know where everything is, you have done a good job. We get some of the same birds as you, but I think you have more variety. We used to have masses of Goldfinches, but I have seen almost none in the last couple of years. No Buntings here or Redpolls. I think our garden is bigger than yours, but you have a lot of shrubs and trees. I have not tried a HH box though I have only seen 2 HHs in the past 14 years since we have been there. Maybe a box would attract them. Hope you have a good trip. Take care and keep well Diane

    1. Hi Diane! My garden is rather scruffy, but well-provisioned! - so we do get a good variety of birds - especially in winter. However, this winter has not been as good as usual - probably because we now have buildings at the back of us, rather than rough grassland.

      Sadly, the new buildings have fairly effectively blocked most of the access the Hedgehogs had to our garden. I fought for there to be hedgehog holes in the boundaries, but the council went against the advice of their ecological advisor - one Councilor even suggested that a hedgehog hole (which would be about the size of a CD) would mean that "pets, and even babies, would escape from the gardens"!

      If you have hedgehogs in the area the best way to attract them is to leave food and water (never milk!) out for them. The best food is chicken-based dried cat food. Hedgehogs like to wander over great distances (maybe 2km a night) looking for food and love. The hedgehog conservationists are encouraging the creation of 'hedgehog highways', linking gardens, so a 15 cm access hole in each of your boundaries would help. Drop me a message if you'd like ideas on construction of hedgehog feeding stations and houses.

      With my very best wishes - - - Richard

  3. Hi Richard
    Well, didn't you do well. The Sparrowhawk, Grey Heron, Linnets, and the Goldfinch. They are beautiful.

    1. Thank you, Bob. I do get a great deal of pleasure from our garden - even if I'm not a keen gardener! My very best wishes to you - - - Richard

  4. Lovely to see the ariel view of the garden. A really nice wildlife garden and well demonstrated by the excellent photos you have obtained.

    1. Thank you, Marc. Sometimes, when there is plenty going on in the garden, I have to remind myself that I ought to tear myself away and go out and visit the big wide world that is out there!

  5. Another interesting and well shot selection. I hope things settle down soon. It looks a beautiful garden, not something I see very often up here.

    1. Thank you, Adrian. Things are looking as if there is a distinct improvement happening, but the war has not been won yet!

      I'd never describe my garden as 'beautiful', even when at its best, but I do get a lot of pleasure from it - primarily because of the wildlife that visits.

  6. Lovely to see the aerial view of your patch and then the wonderful selection of critters you have photographed.

    1. Thank you, Margaret. I'm delighted that you enjoyed the post. Best wishes - - - Richard

  7. We just returned home from Costa Rica late last night, after a slow, foggy drive from the airport, having already lost almost an hour due to not being able to land on account of poor visibility. The shot of the garden takes me right back and I can recall the times I spent watching the comings and goings in the back yard. My favourite bird I think, if I had to pick one would be Long-tailed Tit, with Eurasian Bullfinch a close second. Now if only you had enticed that Sparrowhawlk to pay a visit......

    1. Glad to hear you got home safely, even if a little late, David. I hope that you got home to find everything in good order.

      I can fully understand your choice of Long-tailed Tit. Sadly, we don't see them very often but both Lindsay and I are absolutely delighted when they do arrive. Bullfinch is a little more reliable these days, and we tend to notice the days when we don't see one. Your comment about the Sparrowhawk got me consulting my records. We can go for months without seeing one and then we go through periods when it arrives several times per day. My records told me that we had a gap in Sparrowhawk sightings from 9th July to 6th August inclusive. But - hang on!! you were here on 7th August from when I have a garden record! Perhaps Lindsay informed me of a sighting in our absence?! The next record was from 10th August - the day you left. Not my fault - you should have stayed longer!

  8. There have been great observations!

  9. A real birds Paradise your garden Richard. You get some great birds that visit it. I love to see that you even have the Lesser Redpoll and Goldfinch, amazing.

    1. Sorry for the late reply, Roos. I have just come back from a visit to Scotland with Lindsay. Sadly, we had to stop feeding the birds while we were away as we have started getting some unwanted visitors. I have put bird food out again, but we have only had six bird species visit us so far today (the highest number so far being 3 Goldfinch) - I think it may take some time to build up to good numbers again.

      My very best wishes. Take good care - - - - Richard


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