Finchy Firsts

Yesterday there was a real feeling that spring was in the air. I know it’s technically still winter, but the day felt hopeful. The sun even made a (brief) appearance after what seems like weeks of grey skies here in Malvern. The primroses and crocuses were all out bringing a little cheer to the garden.

primroses

crocus

I had hoped there might be a few bees out and about, but was very happy instead to see my first hoverfly of the year. Eristalis tenax (also known rather unkindly as the Common Dronefly) was rather obligingly sunning itself on some large leaves. I’m very much a novice when it comes to hoverflies, but a very helpful man on Facebook ID’d it for me, with the top hoverfly tip that it is the only one like this that has enlarged hind tibia – which is probably the equivalent of fat calves on its back legs!

hoverfly-eristalis-tenax

I have been missing taking macro shots over the winter, so it was really nice to see at least one insect. I’ve tried the moth trap a few times over the last few weeks, but it has been completely empty each time – I need a mothy fix soon! The Garden Moth Scheme starts again in a few weeks, so I hope things pick up before then.

There may not have been many insects about lately, but there are always plenty of birds in the garden. Chris was (very unusually) up and about early and spotted a first for our garden – a lovely chaffinch. Despite the abundance of food I put out, this is the first time we can remember seeing one and definitely the first time either of us has got a half decent photo of one in the garden. Of course only he got to see it.

chaffinch

While he was still flushed with the success of the chaffinch – another first – a gorgeous male bullfinch arrived too! A few weeks ago I’d thought I’d picked up a fuzzy shot of a bullfinch on the trail camera, but it had been too far away and way too blurred to be sure. So it was great to get a proper shot of it; not only that, but it was actually in the same bush as the fuzzy trail cam image, so it sort of confirms the first one. Needless to say I missed the bullfinch as well as the chaffinch!

bullfinch

Determined to see at least some kind of finchy activity, I then spent an hour sitting behind a camouflage net in the garage peering through at the niger seed feeder. I was rewarded with a very brief glimpse and one dark and grainy shot of a goldfinch. Not a first as we get them regularly, but at least Chris missed this one!

goldfinch

Just need a greenfinch now!

Yesterday was also the first real chance to appreciate this in the sunshine – a present from my friends Helen & John.  Perfect thing for the Too Lazy garden.

wind-vane

Seeing the wind vane (I think that’s what it’s called?) made me dig out the camera to take a few pics of some other presents I’ve been lucky enough to get which reference the Too Lazy blog. Last month my friend Mhairi gave me this amazing embroidery that she’d made for me – it has everything – a butterfly, a moth, a spider and even a beetle.

embroidery

embroidered-beetle

Then there are the “moth balls” that my friend Bette gave me. In reality needle-felted balls with an Elephant Hawkmoth and a Moth Fly that she made herself using a couple of our photos for the designs.

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And finally a knitted hedgehog from my mother-in-law bought for us for Xmas.

knitted-hedgehog

It’s great to get gifts like this that are so personal and relate to things we love. And it also means they must have been reading the blog – bonus!

 

 

Hoggy Weight Watchers

Just a quick update on the newest member of our family – our foster hedgehog Meadow. He’s been with us now for over a month and I’m very relieved to say he seems to be doing fine.

We check on him every day to make sure he’s got plenty of food and water and that his newspapers don’t need changing, but other than that he is pretty low maintenance.  We think he’s been hibernating quite a bit as most days his food’s not been touched, although he does get up occasionally for a snack. We hardly ever see him as he is normally buried deep inside a nest of hay and we try to disturb him as little as possible.

But Viv our hedgehog guru from Malvern Hedgehog Rescue has asked us to weigh him, initially every week, but now we do it fortnightly. So today was weigh-in day. Armed with a pair of gloves, a set of scales and a husband, I approached the hay stuffed sleeping bag he uses. I grabbed what I hoped was a ball of hay around a  hedgehog and Chris pulled the bag off.  There was a lot of huffing noises coming from the hay, so I knew he was in there. It took a while extract him , but eventually we cleared enough hay to reveal him and popped him on the scales.

meadow-on-scales

A respectable 852g (minus a few grams for stray hay perhaps). He was about 940g when he came to us, so he’s lost a bit in the last month. Considering he’s been hibernating most of the time, the weight loss isn’t cause for concern. He does after all always have food there if he wants it.

I do love a good graph, so Meadow’s weight provides the perfect excuse (of course I have a spreadsheet too, satisfying my inner geek!)

meadow-weight

He stayed curled in a ball while I cleaned out his hutch and put fresh food and water down.

meadow-in-hutch

We then repacked him into his hay filled sleeping bag.  We’ve probably not got it all arranged to his liking, so he may well come out tonight and drag things around a bit to get everything how he wants it. So that should be it and we hopefully won’t have to disturb him for another fortnight. Sleep well Meadow.

A Bird in the Box

As the old saying goes (with just a minor adjustment) a bird in the box is worth two in the hand (although I’d be delighted if one landed on my hand too). So after blogging last Saturday about how excited I was that something had pooped in our new bird box, things got even better. I kept checking the box camera for more evidence of use, but didn’t really expect any more excitement. But at about 5pm, just as it got dark, the blue tit returned. I thought he or she was just going to check out the box again then leave, but it settled down in the corner and basically went to sleep!

I didn’t realise until I watched it just how much they fluff themselves up when they sleep. It looked like a totally different bird – just a small ball of fluff – it almost looked like a small mammal rather than a bird.

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blue-tit-fluffed-up

It was still there when I went to bed, so I made a point of getting up early (on a Sunday!) the next day to check on our new lodger. It was still there so I sat with my finger poised over the record button ready to get a shot of it leaving. At about 07:30 as it was starting to get light, the blue tit started fidgeting and stretching its wings and then with little further ado, it was off.

I would have blogged about this sooner, but I’ve been hoping the blue tit would honour us with his presence again, so have been checking the camera as it got dark each night. No sign though of any return visits, so I’ve decided to blog with what I’ve got so far. After a bit of practice I’ve more or less mastered the new software enough to cut and splice assorted short clips together into one film. The Oscar candidates for editing have nothing to worry about though!

Since all the footage was shot after dark the camera had switched to infrared and the video is black and white. Hopefully if we can get a blue tit in during daylight we might actually get some colour footage, which would be nice. But in the meantime, here is the star of our show.

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Big Garden Birdwatch 2017

Today has been all about the birds. It started when I switched on the tv to check our new nest box camera. I was amazed to discover something had left a “deposit” in the box  – clearly visible via the camera. Never have I been so excited by a poop in a box! While regaling Chris with the momentous event, it got even better – a blue tit appeared on screen in the box, had a look around and removed the poop. We hadn’t yet got the software to record the video feed (that arrived in the post about an hour later of course!) and I was too surprised to even grab the camera to take a photo of the telly. So you’ll just have to take my word for it. (I could post a photo of the stain left by the poop but that is probably more than anyone wants to see) Hopefully this is all a sign that the blue tits approve of the box and will start using it as more than a toilet in the next few weeks.

The main focus of this weekend though is the annual Big Garden Birdwatch – one of my favourite examples of citizen science. This birdwatch is also the world’s largest wildlife survey – an amazing achievement. We’ve been making sure the bird feeders have been well topped up the last few weeks and there have certainly been plenty of birds in the garden recently.

assorted-birds

So I sat down late morning in the garden to do my allotted hour of bird watching; camera and notepad at the ready. Although not everything showed up in the hour, I was really chuffed to record 14 species and 30 individuals – a significant improvement on last year when I only got 21 individuals of 7 species. I do love a graph and the RSPB sent me this little pie chart (well half a pie) of 10 of my species.

birdwatch-results

So topping the list was the house sparrow with 12 birds – I’m sure we actually have about 20, but I could only manage to count 12 at any one time. Last year I counted for the hour then took photos afterwards. This year I tried to get photos of everything as I counted them, although the best I could manage was 2 sparrows in one shot. I’d tucked myself away in the corner of a garden so that I disturbed the birds as little as possible, so I was actually a bit far away for taking photos – hence the dubious quality in some cases (excuses, excuses).

sparrows

The next most common bird today was the jackdaw – three appeared but only two ever seemed to land at the same time.

jackdaws

Collared doves and blackbirds both managed 2 individuals. The collared doves landed nicely together, the blackbirds of course kept their distance, so I’ve only got one.

collared-doves

blackbird

We’ve got a pair of blackcaps that regularly visit the garden and both male and female showed up within the hour. The female was more nervous though so I only got a shot of the male.

blackcap

The robin, a starling (one of 4 we sometimes get) and the song thrush all turned up on cue for a change.

robin

starling

song-thrush

Earlier in the morning I’d seen several long-tailed tits, a great tit and a pair of blue tits. Of these only a single blue tit deigned to put in an appearance during the hour.

blue-tit

I’d put up a new niger seed feeder just a couple of days ago and the goldfinches had found it almost immediately. I’d seen 3 or 4 of them on it yesterday, but today I was grateful when just one arrived. Unfortunately when positioning the niger seeds I hadn’t considered trying to take photos from the other side of the tree – so there’s a few too many twigs in the way!

goldfinch

A magpie, a dunnock and a wood pigeon all appeared briefly, but out of range of the camera. The final bird was a wren. This wren has been tormenting me for weeks. It has a tendency to appear whenever I’m in the garden without the camera. If I do have the camera, it appears but hides behind as many twigs/branches/weeds as it can find. So believe it or not this is probably the best photo I’ve ever managed to get of it – which isn’t saying much!

wren

I’d had the trail camera on while I was counting, just in case it could pick up something I’d missed. It didn’t spot anything different, but it did film this goldfinch – probably the same one I photographed from the other side of the tree.

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Of course once the hour was up and I was back on the sofa, the birds returned en masse to taunt me. Leading the mockery was the woodpecker, which I haven’t seen for weeks but chose to land on the bird table just after I’d submitted my results. The long-tailed tits flew back in and the wren perched on the most photogenic spots possible – safe in the knowledge that I couldn’t get a photo from this distance!

Anyone thinking of taking part in the birdwatch has until Monday to have a go. Full details on: https://ww2.rspb.org.uk/get-involved/activities/birdwatch

As I now have the image capture software all loaded, I will probably be spending the rest of the weekend watching an empty nest box with only a dubious stain on the bottom!

 

New Nest Box

With the Big Garden Birdwatch just around the corner, we’ve been reviewing what we could do to attract more birds into the garden. We already get quite a lot, but the more the merrier!  So I’ve added a few more bird feeders and have been keeping the existing ones well topped up. Spring will hopefully be here before too long, so we’ve also been looking at the nest boxes.

It may just be that we’ve been watching too much Spring/Autumn/Winterwatch, but we (well mainly I) have been longing to get footage from inside a nest box. Last year we were delighted to get shots like this of our blue tits using the old nest box.

Blue Tit on Bird Box

Of course as soon as we have a bit of success with one thing, we want more. Last year we could only film the adults coming and going, so this year we’re hoping to get the action from inside the box. So we’ve gone wild and bought a new bird box complete with fitted camera. We’ve only a limited number of places where we can put a bird box, so decided to take the old one down and replace it with the new one. We may of course regret this if the blue tits reject the new one and we get no nesting activity at all! So first job was to take down the old box. On opening it up we found last year’s nest still pretty much intact inside. It’s the first time I’ve ever really had the chance to look at a nest up close like this. It was very well made and still held together firmly. We were intrigued by the bright green stuff, which looks remarkably like the green fluff you get off a tennis ball – they certainly didn’t get that from our garden. The rest was made up of bits of grass, moss and possibly wool.

blue-tit-nest

There was still one tiny perfect intact egg inside – not even the size of a 5 pence coin.

blue-tit-egg

Slightly less attractive was a couple of tiny skeletons – presumably chicks that didn’t make it to fledging. Blue tits can lay large clutches of eggs, so we just hope that these skeletons and unhatched egg, were just the unlucky ones and most made it to adulthood last year.

blue-tit-skeleton

The new nest box is now up (still complete with wire netting to prevent next door’s cat getting an easy meal) and all ready to go. The new box has Perspex panels each side to increase the amount of light getting in for the camera. The transmitter is the black box to the right.

birdbox-system

The whole thing came pretty much set up and was all very easy to install. So we can in theory now watch all the action – assuming there is any – from the comfort of our living room. This is the current view of the empty box. Hopefully we won’t still be looking at an empty box in a few months time!

tv-view-of-birdbox

We’ve got plenty of blue tits (as well as great, coal and long-tailed tits) using the garden at the moment, so hopefully some of them are from last year’s brood and will remember what a great place our garage wall was to grow up!!

blue-tits

While searching for information on nest boxes, I discovered that the British Trust for Ornithology runs a survey called the Nest Box Challenge. They want people to submit observations on nests/nest boxes in their gardens. Since I can never resist filling in a form and a bit of citizen science, I have registered our new nest box. Fingers crossed it gets occupied and I don’t end up just submitting “empty” as my observation each time – although even that would apparently be useful data. Anyone interested in registering their own nests can find all the info at: https://www.bto.org/volunteer-surveys/nbc

Wildlife Hides – Part 3 The Kestrel

This is the third and final part of the blog about our wonderful day spent at the Wildlife Hides near Droitwich. Our last hide of the day was the Kestrel one. Once again we were a bit worried when the previous 2 groups had all seen kestrels feeding – would they be too full to fly down for us?

Initially all we could see was a very distant kestrel perched on a telegraph pole way across the field.

distant-kestrel

Dead mice were positioned in front of our hide, so we just had to hope she was still hungry. While we waited (with everything crossed) for her to fly down, we could at least enjoy lots of the small birds that were flitting about. The blue tits and great tits posed obligingly on a branch in front of us and a chaffinch was poking about in the mud on the field. A wagtail and an absolutely stunning bullfinch also made appearances, but we didn’t manage to get decent photos of either.

blue-tit

great-tit

chaffinch

While we’d been watching the small birds, the female kestrel had been joined by the male on top of the telegraph pole. After what seemed like an age they eventually both took off and after a bit of hunting about, the female landed on one of the posts in front of us. All 3 of us clicked away frenziedly, to the point that we didn’t even notice the male had landed until it took off again – d’oh! So we only got photos of the female, but she was stunning. I’d never been so close to a kestrel before and hadn’t realised just how beautiful they were.

kestrel

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kestrel-5

kestrel-4

kestrel-2

kestrel-3

I think we made a bit too much noise and spooked her (and the male) off, but it wasn’t long before she returned. She was clearly wary of us though and decided to sit on the ground (actually on what looks like a great big turnip?) in the middle of the field for a while, probably hoping we’d go away.

kestrel-in-field

But as we stayed put in the hide and kept quiet, she decided to have another go for the mice.

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kestrel-10

kestrel-11

kestrel-12

We could have happily stayed and watched the kestrels for a lot longer, but by now the light was starting to go. Before we packed up for the day though we had one final visitor – an inquisitive squirrel. I know it’s not a red one, but I still can’t resist them.

squirrel

As before while Chris was taking most of the photos, I had a go at videoing. They are such beautiful birds to watch, but you get a real sense of their strength when you see her pulling at the mouse. I wouldn’t want to be at the wrong end of those claws or beak!

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All the hides featured in these last 3 blog posts were at Nature Photography’s site near Droitwich, which is only a half hour’s drive from Malvern – brilliant! Other hide rental sites are no doubt available, but we were very happy with our day and couldn’t have asked for better views of the birds. If anyone’s interested in trying something like this for themselves, here’s their website: http://www.naturephotographyhides.co.uk/  They also have hides in Scotland for red squirrel and mountain hares – very tempted for next year!!

I know in an ideal world we would have gone out and found these animals for ourselves, but when you have limited time and resources, sometimes it’s good to take a short cut. The birds were all still wild and there were no guarantees of seeing anything, so it was a big thrill for us just being able to watch them. For beginners like us, it was also a good way of practising taking birdy photos – it’s very hard to practice if there’s nothing there to photograph!

Wildlife Hides – Part 2 The King of Fishers

This is the second part of the blog on our amazing day out on Saturday at the Nature Photography Hides. After the Reflection Pool Hide we moved to the Kingfisher Hide. The group before us reported seeing the kingfisher feeding about half a dozen times, so we were a bit worried that it might be full and not visit while we were there! We were joined in the hide by another photographer (nice to meet you Dave) and the three of us settled down to wait.

First bird to appear was not the hoped for kingfisher, but a rather round looking robin. I took a photo of him anyway, just in case this was all we were going to see!

robin

Turns out I needn’t have worried. An absolutely stunning kingfisher arrived fairly quickly and sat on the bulrush perch. It then moved to one side to sit on the reeds. He (or she) then proceeded to sit in the same spot for about 25 minutes. It was there so long, we actually started to get  a bit tired waiting for it to do something different! (never could have imagined before that I might tire watching a kingfisher, not that I’m complaining) But it gave us plenty of chance to take loads of photos – here’s just a very small percentage of the ones we took at this point.

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After about 25 minutes, it decided a bit of preening was in order.

kingfisher-preening

kingfisher-preening-2

It then regurgitated a pellet of presumably unwanted fish bits. This was something neither Chris nor I had ever heard of and was fascinating to see. It also explained how it had managed to scoff so many fish earlier that morning. It only digests the good bits and spits out the rest! Chris just about managed to catch the fishy pellet being expelled.

kingfisher-regurgitating

Once the fishy waste had been disposed of, it obviously felt it now had room for more fish, so flew back to the bulrush perch.

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The bulrush was positioned over a tub containing small live fish. After a while bobbing up and down to judge distance through the water, we finally got what we’d been waiting for – it dived for a fish.

kingfisher-in-tank-3

Once caught the still wriggling fish was flown back to the perch. The kingfisher then manoeuvred the fish around to get a good grip, before bashing it repeatedly to kill it and then of course eventually swallow it.

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It tended to fly away for a few minutes between fish, but came back and repeated the process a couple of times. It didn’t always catch a fish when it dived, but was successful more often than not.

The thing about taking wildlife photos is that it makes you greedy. Before we started, we thought we’d be happy just to see one. Once we’d seen one, we thought we’d be happy to get a few good photos. Then we wanted to see and photograph it catching fish. Then the ultimate goal became to catch it diving down towards the water. I clearly don’t have quick enough reflexes as I didn’t manage it at all. But Chris managed to get this (admittedly after several missed attempts) – quite possibly his best shot of the day.

kingfisher-diving

Since I’m not as good a photographer as Chris, I had a go at videoing the kingfisher instead. I took several short video clips, so here’s just a selection of our beautiful bird in action. (the clicking noises on some of the videos are the sound of camera shutters frantically going in the hide!)

Kingfisher
Kingfisher
Kingfisher

The hide was so close to the kingfisher we got stunning views for the couple of hours we spent there. It was so much better than either of us had dared to hope. Kingfishers must be one of the most sought after subjects for any British wildlife enthusiast and to have spent 2 hours watching one like this was a dream come true.

Wildlife Hides – Part 1 Reflections

We ventured out from the Too Lazy garden yesterday and had an absolutely fabulous day at Nature Photography’s wildlife hides near Droitwich. I hate to admit it, but the big five oh is looming for me, so this was my birthday present – a day freezing my proverbial off while clutching a camera – but I couldn’t have asked for better. We’d gone for one of their “multi hide” days where you get to try out 3 different hides. We took so many photos that I’m going to have to split this blog post into three – one part for each hide we tried.

So first up a section on the Reflection Pool. We did actually start off at the Fieldfare Hide, but the fieldfares weren’t playing ball. There were lots in the field, but none of them came anywhere near the hide. The best we managed were some very distant shots – so far away in fact that we didn’t realise there were redwings amongst the fieldfares until we downloaded the photos at home. So here are some fuzzy photos of a distant fieldfare (top) and redwing (below).

fieldfare

red-wing

The Reflection Pool Hide was right behind the fieldfare one, so we cheated a bit and moved to that instead. The pool is set up so that you’re at water level to get the best reflection shots. In total we took over 1000 photos between us yesterday. A new record even for us. Here are some of my favourites from the pool – I have included quite a few (apologies) but there were just so many to choose from – even after I’d deleted several hundred rejects!

The blue tits and great tits probably frequented the pool the most while we were there. You had to be quick to get a photo though and we ended up with a lot of photos of pool with no bird!

blue-tit

great-tit

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I like this action shot of the great tit – shame the only bit really in focus is the edge of the pool though!

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Between visits to the pool, the birds sat on branches nearby waiting their turn it seemed. This great tit was particularly fluffed up against the cold.

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The robins’ red breasts were of course very photogenic reflected in the water; but even the blackbird looked good with his upside down twin!

robin

blackbird

There was a large group of chaffinches in the hedgerow next to us. Initially they were very timid, but once they’d settled a bit they came down and posed for the cameras. We never seem to get chaffinches in our garden for some reason, so we got a bit carried away (again) with the photos.

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chaffinch

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The prize of our time at this hide though was undoubtedly this Greater Spotted Woodpecker. Chris spotted him in the trees initially and we watched as he gradually got closer.

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woodpecker

woodpecker-on-feeder

Once he’d reached the bird feeder, we held our breath as he got closer to the pool – everything crossed that he’d land there. And he did! An absolutely gorgeous bird looking back at himself.

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You can’t really go wrong with the reflection pool. Whilst not necessarily always technically brilliant (often far from it), all the photos here had some appeal. I even love the photos that weren’t really in focus, like this one of a blue tit taking off. The colours and the reflection make up for the lack of everything else (like focus) you’d normally look for in a photo!

blue-tit-2

While we were in the hide we could hear geese flying overhead, so Chris stuck his head out to try and get some photos. Not easy against the sky to get the exposure right – but at least you can see they are geese!

goose

geese

So that was the first part of our day in the wildlife hides. We were already really chuffed with it all and it was only 11:30am at this point!

Parts 2 and 3 to follow as soon as I’ve waded through the next set of photos. We’d thought things were going well already, but then we went to the Kingfisher Hide…..

 

Proud Hedgehog Foster Parents!

We’ve become parents! Albeit to a hedgehog and only temporarily at that. But I couldn’t be more proud of our new addition to the family. So here he is – Meadow the Hedgehog.

meadow-arrival

Meadow was found as a baby in Worcester and has been cared for by Viv at Malvern Hedgehog Rescue ever since. Viv has nearly 100 rescued hedgehogs in her care at the moment, so was looking for volunteers to foster some until the spring; at which point they can be released. So this is how Meadow came to be living with us.

Never having looked after a hedgehog before, we had to scrounge a rabbit hutch – many thanks to Michael Reece for the donation. We’re on a bit of a learning curve at the moment, so hopefully Meadow will put up with his novice carers. Under instructions from Viv, he now has a hay filled bedding area, plenty of newspaper and of course food and water. He initially made a bee-line for the hay, but has since chosen to bury himself under the newspapers.

meadow-hedgehog

Other than feeding him and changing any damp newspaper/hay, we will be leaving him pretty much alone. He is not a pet, so we don’t want to treat him as such. Viv has asked us to weigh him once a week though. He is currently 941g. We’re supposed to try and maintain it around that. We don’t want him losing weight, but apparently we don’t want him to put on any more either. If hedgehogs get too fat they can’t curl up properly into a ball (I have the same problem myself!), which makes them vulnerable to predators.

Hopefully if we get a cold spell Meadow will go into hibernation. Viv has told us what to look out for so we don’t panic if he stops moving! I’ll try and give updates on his progress over the next few months, although there may not be many photos, as we will try and handle him as little as possible and generally leave him in peace.

For information on Malvern Hedgehog Rescue go to http://www.malvernhedgehogrescue.co.uk/  Like so many hedgehog rescue centres, Viv gets no funding and relies totally on donations. Please consider helping your local rescue centre – help with food, vets bills, equipment or even just donating old newspapers will all make a difference.

Big Lazy Review of the Year

Can’t believe 2016 is all but over. It’s been an awful year in many respects (depressing national and international voting outcomes, various terrorist atrocities, plus the loss of some truly great people), but our garden has provided welcome relief throughout. We may live in the middle of Malvern, but the garden is quiet and peaceful and the wildlife never fails to cheer me up. So here’s a bit of a round up of some of the highlights from 2016.

The year began with one of the many “citizen science” projects we try to participate in – the Big Garden Bird Survey. Throughout the year we also took part in the Big Butterfly Count, the Garden Bioblitz, the Garden Moth Scheme and Moth night as well as submitting assorted records for bees, ladybirds, dragonflies and even a glow worm.

30DAYSWILD_ID1 blackThe biggest project was taking part in the Wildlife Trusts 30 Days Wild Challenge. This ran throughout June and I managed to blog about something “wild” we’d done each of the 30 days. I was really chuffed when the blog made it to the final short list for the 30 Days Wild Blogger Awards. We didn’t win, but that didn’t matter as I had such fun doing it.

 

Scarlet TigerMoths were, as always, a big part of my year. The trap was out once a week throughout the summer for the Garden Moth Scheme. In the end we recorded 211 species in the garden – a new record total, which included many firsts for our garden. All beautiful, but none more so than this Tiger.

Purple Emperor 12One of my resolutions from last year was to see more butterfly species. We may not be able to attract any more species to our garden, but when we were Out & About we managed to bag 10 more species – way more than I’d hoped for. This takes our lifetime tally to 38 – only about 20 more UK species to go! Every one was a delight, but ultimately you can’t beat the Purple Emperor!

ivy-bee-7Last year we recorded 12 species of bee in the garden, which I’d thought was pretty good. This year we made it to 25! There may even have been more, but some require microscopic identification and as I don’t want to kill any, that was out. The final bee of the year was this Ivy Bee – new to Britain this species is gradually spreading north, so we were really excited to find it in our garden. Chris even got one of his Ivy Bee photos published in the Worcestershire Wildlife Trust magazine!

woodpecker-2One major innovation for the garden was our Trail Camera. Wish I’d bought one of these years ago as they are brilliant! We’ve been able to watch blue tits using the nest box, catch the squirrel stealing the bird food outside and mice stealing it in the garage, as well as watching the birds themselves feeding up close. We discovered we’d got Siskins and a Woodpecker that we’d never seen and followed Stumpy the magpie.

 

hedgehog-fredOne particular joy from the trail camera has been being able to watch our hedgehogs. We rescued 2 baby hedgehogs one boiling hot day in July, who were then cared for by our local hedgehog rescue lady. One of them (Fred) was returned to us and we watched him trundle around our garden with another older hog. We’ve now got 2 hedgehog houses and have learnt a lot about their behaviour from watching the video footage. Fingers crossed Fred and his friend survive the winter.

KestrelAs well as watching the wildlife in our garden, we were out and about quite a bit in the summer. We are lucky here to have so many wonderful nature reserves within easy distance. As well as the various new butterflies, we’ve seen slow worms and glow worms (the latter only as a larva unfortunately), kestrels, deer, puffins (admittedly we did have to go a bit further for these) and of course some beautiful countryside.

2016-12-31-14_39_48_315Last year I set out some wildlife resolutions and surprisingly we’ve actually managed to achieve some of them (wildlife resolutions are clearly much easier to follow than the ones about losing weight or cutting back on the Prosecco!) We did see more butterfly species, I did have a go at beetle trapping (not a huge success, but at least I tried), we did replace some of the naturally thriving weeds with specific butterfly/bee loving wildflowers. I even managed to identify the bats that come to the garden in the summer (Pipistrelles) thanks to another new toy, my bat detector.

We didn’t however manage to dig a new pond and the old one is getting increasingly silted up. I also haven’t got round to the new moth tattoo, although I have made some enquiries with various tattooed lorry drivers who come to my work as to where they got theirs done. (much to their bemusement I expect!)

So New Year’s resolutions for 2017?

  • The new pond has to be top of the list, before our frogs and newts give up on us totally.
  • Get video/photos of the blue tits fledging this time (assuming they nest in the garden again). Although we filmed the adults feeding, we somehow managed to miss the babies emerging, so really want to get that this year.
  • Try to bag a few more butterfly species – targets will be Small Pearl Bordered Fritillary, Duke of Burgundy and Grizzled Skipper, but more if we can manage.
  • Try and find Ivy bees at a few more sites. Don’t think there are many records for Herefordshire yet, so hopefully we can head over to my Dad’s and add a few more dots to the map.
  • Start compiling records for hoverflies in our garden – I know we get lots, but we’ve never really had a proper go at identifying them all. I feel a new obsession coming on!
  • 30 Days Wild for 2017.
  • Maybe that tattoo!

Thank you to all the people we met while out and about this year. We met some lovely people who helped us identify birds and butterflies and pointed us in the right direction when we were wandering aimlessly in search of this species or that. Thanks also to our local hedgehog lady Viv who does such an amazing job and let us have Fred back all fattened up and healthy. And thanks to everyone who’s been following the blog and to all the other bloggers that I follow and who are so inspiring. Wishing you all a happy, healthy and wildlife-filled 2017!