21st - 23rd MAY 2010
I've spent a lot of time in the garden over the past few weeks, mainly finishing the pond and adding a bog, and clearing some of the ivy-covered wilderness further from the house. This has brought me closer than usual to the garden wildlife.
The nest box nearest the house has been taken over by a pair of Blue Tits. Their venture came close to disaster last Friday. I was alerted by their alarm calls, and went out to find the nest box on the ground with one of the neighbourhood cats standing over it. The cat must have climbed onto the box, and his weight broke the rather flimsy fixing. I lodged the box in the bush close to the original location, but the adult Tits wouldn't accept it because it was in the wrong place, so after half an our I tried another approach. The top half of the box front is removable, so I unscrewed it to allow me to drill a new fixing hole and hang the box back in its original location. It also allowed me to see the five or six tiny, bald chicks. With the box refitted, the adults immediately started bringing food again. To protect against further interest from the cat, a barricade of holly branches was provided!
Until last week, a pair of Great Tits had a nest in the fence between our garden and the neighbours'. The approximate location was evident from the noise of the chicks. Then one day all went quiet, suggesting the chicks had fledged. However we saw no sign of them on the feeder as we have in the past, and about the same time a pair of great Tits started bonding displays and checking out nest boxes. Was this the same pair, recovering from the loss of their brood to a predator?
The Wrens, having been evicted from a nest box by the Magpies, are now interested in another nest box. This Wren has seen me, and is wondering if I have seen him!
A family of Long Tailed Tits appeared in our garden yesterday, and has been here ever since, roosting overnight in the Rhododendron, and investivating the bushes, the pond, the trees, the vine, and anything else that takes their interest. Being newly fledged, they are quite tame (and not very good at keeping their feathers tidy!).
The Damsels were busy finding mates and laying eggs.
While clearing ivy and rubble from the ground, I disturbed frogs and toads of varying sizes and colours. I think I counted seven over two days. In most cases, they were caught and put safely among the rocks by the pond.
On Sunday morning I was in the garden and heard a flapping of wings followed by quacking. No sign of any ducks though. Eventually I located the source of the noise: on our neighbours' roof! It was a male Mallard, and stayed there for about ten minutes, quacking in short bursts.
My theory is that this is the Mallard that regularly came to our garden until recently, and he has lost his mate and was checking old haunts in an attempt to find her. A good story, anyway.
Another find under the ivy was what appeared to be a Bumble-Bee nest. I moved the nest material (mainly leaves) to a new location, and they seemed quite happy to go too.