Thursday, 31 January 2013

Go East Young Man

This blog will be quite for three weeks while my wife and I travel to China to visit our daughter. See you on the other side and, with luck, there'll be some garden activity to write about by then.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Finger twiddling

Silence has reigned here because there has been so little to write about. Magpies, jackdaws and pigeons have been the main visitors. There have been some blackbirds around, the odd dunnock and the occasional blue tit.

It would be classic British understatement I suppose to say that this is disappointing but there we are.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Snow Show

We had a couple of inches of snow last night with an attempt at fresh powder this morning.

I always like fresh snow because in the early morning it shows the tracks of whatever has been wandering around in the night - in our case usually fox trails.

The birdlife remains quiet, although when I went into the back-garden this morning I could hear plenty of small bird activity from a couple of gardens along. I had a temporary flush of bird-feeder rage then just enjoyed the chirruping and cleared snow of the bird feeders.

I have one bird feeder up at the back of the garden which the birds have largely ignored since I put it there and I have been thinking of moving it. This morning it was discovered by a solitary blue tit and a dunnock, though, so maybe it will finally be established. 

Friday, 18 January 2013

Night Visiting

There was something making a noise in one of the gardens in our street last night so I went out just after midnight to check it wasn't in ours. For some reason, habit possibly, I glanced at one of the nut feeders and spotted this mouse feasting away.

I went back inside quickly and grabbed the Leica D-Lux 5 and expected that the mouse would have scarpered but it hadn't and it sat obligingly quietly whicle I snapped a couple of pics. I knew that something was eating the peanuts overnight and I suspected a mouse but it was a surprise to get up close and personal.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Still Quiet

The garden has been quiet these past few days. This could be for a number of reasons - sparrowhawks, cats, magpies... In any event the main visitors have been pigeons and multiple magpies.

Small birds have been noticeable by their absence - the odd blackbird in the hedge at the back, the dunnock in the picture, and a squabbling flock of house sparrows at the feeder briefly.

I'm a little surprised as the weather has been a bit bracing for the past couple of days and I would have expected them to be looking out every food source that they can.

We'll see.

In the meantime as the picture on the right shows, January is definitely here. I snapped this shot of the Pentlands from our front door around lunchtime today. We had snow flurries and a quick blast of hail at one point and over by the hills a pressure inversion.

Having said that, although the skies were threatening it didn't really amount to much. I'm going up to Inverness on Thursday though and I expect the train journey up to be spectacular.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

All a bit quiet

I was away for a few days this week and hence no posts here. If those days were like today, though, there wouldn't have been much to post - magpies and wood pigeons mainly. I know there are plenty of small birds around but they aren't coming here at the moment.

Two of the magpies were squabbling in mid-air though, handbags at dawn style, which was entertaining for a short while. There was also an increasingly uncommon grey squirrel trying to climb the harled walls of the flats opposite, the same flats which have jackdaws preparing a nest site in a chimney pot.

It is worth noting, perhaps, that even though it is only 12th January, there are buds appearing on my Katy and Cox's Orange Red apple trees. Colder weather is threatened though.

Monday, 7 January 2013


I mentioned the other day that recent sparrowhawk activity had happened when I didn't have a camera handy. That changed this morning as I was sorting breakfast for myself and caught movement out of the corner of my eye.

This sparrowhawk sat for about a minute on the roof of our neighbour's garden shed which is over the hedge just outside our kitchen window. Most of the time it was looking the other way but I managed to get a couple of decent shots of which this is one.

It looks well fed which, as I've mentioned before, is a good sign of the health of the general prey population albeit that they made themselves scare this morning. 

Nikon D7000 with AF-S Nikkor 18-200 zoom at 200mm

Sunday, 6 January 2013

When The Levee Breaks

I'm cross-posting this here and on Riding the Waves to Eternity. When the Levee Breaks is a project in which one of my on-line chums Ollie Hulme is involved. They plan to record a version of the old blues classic When The Levee Breaks as a charity single for flood relief in the West Country. Take a look at the page or the associated Facebook page

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Some more old pics.

Another through the kitchen window at the long end of a digital zoom - this fieldfare was one of a flock that hung around one of our apple trees for a while in 2009. Panasonic FZ7
A Devil's Coach Horse beetle (thanks to Jim King for identification). This specimen was out on our front driveway and was lucky not to get trodden on as we walked past. Leica D-Lux5, 2012

This young fox was another that hung around our garden in the sunshine for many days in 2010. Panasonic FZ7

This fox cub was in 2012 on the site where my new shed now stands. I had walked out into the garden to pick up some rubbish and hadn't noticed it lying there chewing a windfall apple. We sat and looked at each other for a while before it wandered off through the gap in the hedge behind it. Shot on my mobile phone at the time - HTC Desire HD.
Another frog, this one from 2010. I took this on an earlier mobile phone - a T-Mobile G1 - which I had down pretty much on the ground in front of its face. This one gave me a fright at the time - I thought it was a random piece of dog dirt until it started moving...

Walk on the Hill

I took a walk on Corstorphine Hill today. It is something that I like doing but today I also wanted to take a new camera for a walk. It was an afternoon of mixed fortunes - the walk was lovely but it will take me a while to get used to the camera. Also, have you ever deleted the SD card without checking that all of the files have actually transfered to the computer? I have never done that before - until this afternoon. Luckily there weren't many shots lost but one or two of them I wanted to keep.

The hill was relatively quiet in terms of wildlife, possibly because of the number of people about. The highlight for me was four bullfinches, three male and one female, flittering around in the higher branches. Several jays were about I believe but I didn't see them. The buzzards spent a lot of time being mobbed by crows and unfortunately I couldn't get any clean pics of them - although if I had I would probably have inadvertently deleted them :-(

I have a number of cameras though all of my SLRs have been film cameras - three Canons (AT1, A1, T90) and three Contax (139Q, 137MA, RTS). All have their charms. My first digital was a Panasonic Lumix FZ7 which my daughter currently has with her in China. Until now my main digital has been a Leica D-Lux 5 but I have just bought a DSLR - a Nikon D7000 - which I think I'm going to enjoy once I get the hang of it. I know pretty much what to do to get what I want out of the Leica but haven't yet worked it out with the Nikon which, in my defence, I've only had for 24 hours.

Anyway, I've posted below some snaps from the garden. Most were shot through the kitchen window and I've had to play with them a bit in Lightroom. So it goes.

This wee fellow was hopping around on the decking outside of the patio window. We don't see them often - I can only remember three over the years, but I suspect that there are many more around which sensibly stay out of sight.
From 2009. This fox was often to be found lazing in this spot for quite a lot of the day so it obviously felt safe. We've had some work done in the garden recently but I'm sure they'll get used to it. They are a feature of life around here and are quite unconcerned by human presence or activity.
This wee chap was one of brood born and raised under our old greenhouse, now demolished, in 2007. I enjoy having fox cubs around but am not so happy with them living in the garden. The shed behind which it is hiding here is also history.
The most frequent visitors are currently jackdaws which have worked out how to get food from most of the feeders around the garden, although there is one that they haven't spotted yet. They are quite a pest because they wolf down food and leave none for the rest. They are particularly adept at emptying the peanut feeder in the foreground. Interestingly pigeons have until recently looked forlornly at the birdfeeders and simply strutted around below pecking up seeds which fall. In summer 2012 one juvenile started copying the jackdaws. I haven't seen it lately but I'll be watching for it.
This female sparrowhawk was photographed at the long end of a digital zoom through the kitchen window during the hard winter in November 2010. Our most recent sparrowhawk has been male but so far has escaped being photographed.
And finally another eater of peanuts. This mouse was often found in the climbing honeysuckle which is taking over the wall at the back of the house and sat there very still to avoid being seen.

Friday, 4 January 2013


The list that I published yesterday (to which I have gone back and added starling which I inadvertently omitted) does not actually say anything about the incidence of those birds or patterns in their appearance. For example song thrushes used to be common and we had some nesting a few years back, but the one I saw the other day on the apple tree at the back of the garden came as a pleasant surprise as they have been scarce here in recent times.

Similarly greenfinches and chaffinches were at the feeder all of the time until the hard winters of a couple of years ago took their toll. 2011 was notable for seeing mainly dunnocks in the garden whereas 2012 saw surprisingly large flocks of house sparrows.

The winters of 09-10 and 10-11 definitely had a massive impact and in terms of diversity of species we haven't recovered, at least within the four corners of our garden. On the other hand the prevalence of sparrowhawks suggests the opposite - the numbers of apex predators is a decent indicator of the quantity of prey available and, all things being equal, this is a self-regulating relationship. Perhaps the correlation is with the numbers of particular prey species, such as sparrows.

In any event I'm hoping that the relatively benign winter we are currently enjoying will mean plenty of surviving insects and therefore plenty of fledglings come spring.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Day 1

Inspired by a brief Twitter exchange with the owner of What Birds I've Seen Today who lives quite close to me, I've created this as a place to record the assorted wildlife that finds its way into or overflies our garden.My "main" blog - Riding the Waves to Eternity - will remain as my online diary.

At some point over the next few days I'll also sort out the formatting of this blog - I've adopted a standard template for now to get things going.

We've been in this house on the side of Corstorphine Hill in Edinburgh for sixteen years now I think. We get a lot of foxes and the inevitable cats coming through the garden (and a couple of badgers in the street) and the occasional frog. Squirrels are less common since the arrival of the buzzards on Corstorphine Hill and we also see mice from time to time at one of the birdfeeders. The main visitors are birds and over the years I have kept a running list of them. The full list to date is:

House Sparrow
Tree Sparrow
Blue Tit
Great Tit
Coal Tit
Long Tailed Tit
Song Thrush
Mistle Thrush
Wood Pigeon
Collared Dove
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Herring Gull

and overflying:

Common Buzzard
Grey Heron.

We've had Waxwings nearby though not in our garden and a neighbour reports Goldfinch and Tawny Owl.

So that's the first post done! More as we get it and as I remember. It will probably not be a daily update but I hope it will be regular and also include photographs. I'm particularly interested in the Corstorphine Hill Buzzards which have been resident and breeding for three years now I think. At one point last year there were seven of them in the skies, a couple of them so high that I couldn't see them except through binoculars. I'm hoping to spend more time watching them this year.