Tuesday, 9 July 2019

A swirl of swifts

Following a disappointing start where the swifts were late arriving and there only seemed to be two of them, there were at least 50 high in the sky over the fields and gardens late yesterday afternoon.

And today, when I walked down the street, there were about ten swifts flying low, darting between the houses, circling and passing me at shoulder height, so I could see every feather and look into their eyes and boy, they are much bigger close up than the tiny eyebrow-shaped arcs you see in the sky! It was a magical experience.

I felt privileged to be so close to these speedy, beautiful and increasingly rare birds.

Monday, 13 May 2019

The swifts have arrived - hooray!

I had been getting very worried, especially as the red kites are swooping majestically over our local patch in ever increasing numbers. The latest the swifts have arrived since I have been logging them has been May 11th. But I have just spotted two today, the 13th and my spirits have lifted. It's wonderful to have them back.

Saturday, 11 May 2019

Swifts 2019 - none yet!

It's now May 11th and I have not seen a single swift. The weather has been showery and blustery and the temperature is low for the time of year. Could this have put them off arriving? I shall keep my eyes glued to the skies in order to note the first local viewing. A friend in West Hampstead got 'his' swifts back a few days ago. As there is plenty of countryside round here on the Western fringes of London, I should have thought they would be here by now.

I apologise for the dearth of posts. Quite honestly, I have been so depressed about the dwindling numbers of the local wildlife that I haven't felt like putting finger to keyboard. But... we do have hedgehogs. Two of them, in fact. I hope to see the numbers increase.

Sparrow numbers are definitely down. I have planted bird pockets, e.g. mini nests that you can buy from many wild bird seed websites, in the privet hedge - what's left of it. New neighbours on both sides have torn down their side of the hedging and replaced it with fences. They have also cut down all the beautiful trees, thus robbing the birds of nesting sites and cover. The outlook from the back of our house looks far less verdant than it used to.

In previous years, I have seen a lot of peacock butterflies, sometimes as early as March. This year, the score is 1 so far. A couple of blues, one orange tip, and that's it.

We are visited by a limping vixen who scouts around the garden in broad daylight, no doubt trying to feed hungry cubs that are stashed in a den amongst the oak trees in the field beyond our garden. At least we have made sure that wildlife can get in and out via the bottom of the garden - or The Wild Bottom, as I call it! I promise to write some Tales from the Wild Bottom this year!

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

The perfect plant to keep bees happy

I have a mauve Erisymum. Two years ago it was a tiny twig and just look at it now! It has bloomed throughout the winter and is a magnet for butterflies and bees. I actually counted seven different types of bumble bee on it, including a coal black species which I still haven't been able to identify, plus the honey-bee.

And as for butterflies, I have seen commas, peacocks, cabbage whites, painted ladies and orange-tips adorning its blossoms. Every garden should have one!

Friday, 11 May 2018


I was away for a couple of days and as I was plodding up the street with my bags, I heard a welcome screeching above my head. They are back - the acrobats of the sky, bringing summer with them.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

First swift of 2017

I happened to glance up at just the right time yesterday lunchtime, and saw a swift flying over the house. Usually they arrive in this area between 7-9 May so this one was a bit early. I hope the rest of the group that nest locally won't be far behind - and I hope their nesting sites will still be there and not destroyed due to house renovation or new building.

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Young blackbird or young song thrush?

It's often difficult to identify a fledgling because they can look so very different from the adult bird. Take starlings, for instance. The adults have dark plumage which gleams purple and blue when the light catches it, and they are covered with speckles. The adolescent birds, on the other hand, are pale and look more like thrushes.

You can see the spots quite clearly, and the bluish tinge on the breast of the adult bird on the second left of the picture.

This youngster, above, is a pale buff and its speckles are only just starting to show. With its chestnut wings, it looks like a different species altogether.

We are all familiar with the blackbird, the male with its egg-yolk-yellow beak and the browner female. When I saw this chestnut brown bird on the lawn, I thought it was a song thrush at first. Then I saw the dark flight feathers coming through on its tail and realised it was a young blackbird, though, with its speckly breast, it does resemble a suntanned thrush! What a handsome bird.

And here is its dad, who I have just this minute spotted on the lawn and managed to grab this shot before he flew off into next door's apple tree.