Sunday, 20 December 2009

Christmas card scene

The stake-out lasted for hours, but at last I managed to capture a (not very good) picture of a robin in the snow. Aaaah!

Sunday, 13 December 2009

New bird sighted

I called out to my partner this morning to help identify a bird I'd never seen in the garden before. At first I thought it was a chaffinch, though we have never seen chaffinches in this area. Then he identified it as a brambling. I am putting out some new seed that I bought from the Wetlands Trust. It obviously contains something that bramblings love - and sparrows, too, as for the first time ever, we had a flock of about twenty of them on the lawn. Unfortunately, my camera batteries chose that moment to die. Just my luck!

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Raiders of the Lost Birdfeeder!

This is by far the fattest squirrel I have ever seen and its mate is just as porky. No wonder, seeing they spend all day stuffing themselves with my expensive bird seed! Squirrels, parakeets, jays and woodpeckers, they're all at it. The little birds hardly get a look in! One of th squirrels (I bet it was the female) worked out how to unscrew the tops of the feeders. I looked out the other morning and two of them had vanished. They were on the ground, empty. Now my partner has drilled holes in the tops and inserted a nail, though the furry fiend got one of those out, too, so I have had to twine rubber bands round them - which now bear traces of tooth marks.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Bumper day for birds!

The birds are beefing up for winter. Here are some of the pics I took earlier. The squirrel gets all the birds' danders up. I've seen her chased by jays, magpies and parakeets, but she always comes back for more. This morning, I saw her with her mate, waiting in a queue to get to the peanuts. The green woodpecker always drills into ants' nests on the lawn.
It was wonderful to see a sparrow on the feeder. A rare sight indeed these days.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Apple pie squirrel

This squirrel really took a liking to the apple pie I threw out this afternoon. It diverted the attentions of two magpies, a crow and a pigeon by running off with a chunk, dropping it so that the birds went after that piece, then rushing back to the main wedge of pie. Talk about greedy!

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Photogenic Fox

This beauty came into the garden early yesterday morning and ate the birds' bread. Probably fattening itself up so it can get through the lean and hungry winter months.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Parakeet tree

Towards dusk, I heard what I thought was a flock of noisy starlings. Looking out of the window, I found about 15 ring-necked parakeets on next door's silver birch tree. They gathered there with others swooping down to join them for a noisy chat and a bit of preening, then off they bustled in a shrieking cloud towards the woods at the end of the road. Some people hate them, but I love them and think they add colour and personality to our neighbourhoods. Though whether I'd like them to roost outside my bedroom window, I'm not at all sure. The magpie's nest is bad enough!

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Red Kite mobbed by crow

We were just getting into the car today when my partner looked up and spotted what he thought was a buzzard being attacked by a crow. I raced for the camera but struggled to find them in the viewfinder so he took the photos for me. Having magnified it on the computer, it's not a buzzard but a red kite, the first one we have ever seen in this area. Very exciting!

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Beautiful fox

I think I have seen a son of Russet, the beautiful, unusually coloured vixen. This young fox
was exactly the same pale auburn shade and had a wonderful thick brush. He trotted past the window then slipped down the side of the shed where there is a gap that leads through to the front garden. Naturally, by the time I found the camera he had disappeared.

Monday, 5 October 2009


Tried out the zoom lens on the new camera. The magpie was down the bottom of the garden so I was quite impressed with the quality of the pic!

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Spider time!

It wasn't till I started experimenting with the macro lens of my new Fuji digital SLR camera that I realised how many colour variations there were amongst garden spiders. Here are just two. I was lucky enough to catch the black and white one in the act of repairing its web. It's worth clicking to get a close-up as you can actually see the silk coming out of its spinners.

The female squirrel - do they have young this time of year? Her teats look as if she is suckling babies - had been for a drink in the pond and I pressed the shutter just in time before she skittered off across the lawn.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Hillingdon Pigeon!

My partner couldn't believe his eyes this morning when a very strange looking pigeon strolled onto the deck and began pecking up spilled seed from where I had filled the bird feeders the previous day. It had red feathers underneath and on its tail, otherwise it looked like a very large pigeon, until the cat fancied his chances, whereupon it took off like an Olympic sprinter across the lawn and easily outran the cat. It was seeing it fun rather than fly that made my partner realise that it was in fact a partridge. There is a petting zoo down the road with all kinds of fancy birds including partridges and pheasants. Perhaps this was an escapee! Wonder if we can persuade it to perch in th pear tree for Christmas?

Friday, 11 September 2009

At last a fox!

No sign has been seen of the mangy fox since the day my neighbour rang the RSPCA. The food has been disappearing, though and I put out the three treatments as directed. This morning at around 6.45 my partner spotted this fox in the garden. Full, healthy coat and bushy brush. Could it be the same beast, recovered? Or is it a different one? I think (and hope) it is the same one because, just like the mangy one, it stands and looks towards the house as if begging for food. It didn't want the bread. Perhaps it had come to say thanks for making it better! I'd like to think so, anyway, fanciful though that seems.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

The Fox Mystery Continues

The squeals I heard couldn't have been cubs. All my research has shown that vixens do only produce one litter in March so the cubs my neighbour saw must have been that year's litter. The food is still disappearing, to be replaced by a 'thank you' present of more black fox poo, but is it the same fox? Is the sick one even still alive? I wish I knew.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Where's the fox?

Since the day the fox lay around the garden all day, we haven't seen it at all. The food keeps disappearing though. Last night we gave it the third and final dose of its mange treatment from the RSPCA. I hope it has worked. Our next door neighbour's theory is that it was a vixen about to give birth and its agitated behaviour was down to that, though I would have thought it would have chosen to lurk deep inside its den.

According to the RSPCA officer, foxes only have litters in March, but our neighbour has seen cubs in October, so perhaps this is what has happened to the little fox. It certainly wasn't emaciated. It looked plump and well fed. Could it have been pregnant? Well, I was walking home late last Friday night and heard what sounded like the high-pitched squeals and squeaks of fox cubs so... you never know. And now I must take bag and shovel and go on fox poo duty in the garden. Yuck!

Friday, 28 August 2009

Farewell, summer!

Was just on my way to the post office (as always), when I noticed a great number of birds wheeling in a cloud in the sky. More joined them from all directions, then, with a whirl, they were off, coiling like smoke through the sky. Swallows heading for Africa, taking summer with them.

Saturday, 22 August 2009

RSPCA Fox Treatment

I sent away for some more homoeopathic fox drops, to the tune of a tenner. However, in the meantime my neighbour who had seen the fox out of his window, had rung the RSPCA who promised to deliver a drug called Ivermectin.

It was lucky I was working upstairs and spotted the RSPCA van parking, as my neighbour had gone out. I flew down the stairs in my flipflops (and other clothes too, I assure you!) and the upshot was that he gave me three syringes full of the drug, to be injected into fox food once weekly.

I asked if it could harm any other creatures and he said it could, if the food was eaten by a very emaciated cat weighing less than 2 kilos. As Flad weighed over 8 kilos at his last weigh-in, I don't think he's in danger.

So at around 11.30 last night, I syringed the drug into a jam sandwich, put it on top of some leftover pasta and ventured across the lawn - and was halted in my tracks by the sound of a rhythmic, barking cough. Oh dear, I thought; that poor fox isn't at all well. In fact, it could even be throwing up. But as my eyes adjusted to the gloom, I found the source of the sound - two bonking hedgehogs grunting in blissful harmony! I was reminded of the old quip. Q: How to hedgehogs make love? A: very, very carefully.

By the way, the drug can't harm hedgehogs. I asked the very, very nice man from the RSPCA. And another plus: the drug comes free, unlike my fox drops. I'll keep them though, just in case...

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Frog on the Twine

Okay, I know, you have to be a certain age to remember the hit by Lindisfarne, but I AM of that age, so excuse the awful pun. It's wonderful when a wild creature sits still for long enough to allow you to rattle off loads of photos. The frog posed on the pond netting for so long that I was able to do comparative shots from four different cameras, and it was the Fuki digital SLR that was the sharpest, but I still haven't learned how to use it properly so I actually got better shots from the little Pentax 7 mega pixels camera as I had the anti-blur feature switched on.

After we'd finished playing David Bailey, I suggested to my partner that he should catch the frog as it might be stuck on the netting unable to get off, like a human wallowing on a hammock. But as soon as he tried to grab it, it squeezed through the twine and plopped into the water. I think it was just enjoying its 15 minutes of stardom.

More caterpillar poo

I moved the tub of rocket and caterpillars away from my tomato plants. Big mistake. The little so-and-sos have migrated to my roses which my parter bought me as a romantic gesture. I am now having to ferret around amongst the thorns, removing little green wigglers.

Sick Fox

From 5 am yesterday this fox was hanging around the garden, acting semi crazy. It seemed desperate for food and drink but couldn't manage the whole brioche we threw out, even though it was so soft. In the end I had to break it into pieces and then it sank down in the middle of it and ate little bits at a time, then collapsed behind the pond. Sarcoptic mange can kill a fox in a matter of months but I have sent for some more of the homoeopathic 'fox drops' that I used with great success on another fox two years ago. I hope they don't arrive too late. Today there is no sign of the sick little vixen at all.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Caterpillar poo !

I have given up on eating my home-grown rocket for reasons that are obvious from a glimpse of this leaf: caterpillar poo! They are the larvae of the Large White butterfly. I watched their mums laying the eggs so I don't mind doing my best to raise them from egg, to pupa, to butterfly. So long as they stay off my tomatoes!

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Suicide Slug

Poised on the netting, he gazes down at the fish and prepares to take the plunge... until my kind partner rescued him with the fishing net then invented a new game called Hurl The Slug. (Note to RSPCS: he had a gentle landing and has since slithered off towards the bread I put out for the birds.)

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Large white and peacock

Trying to photograph a large white is almost impossible unless you have a camera fitted with a motordrive. They flutter so much and flit about here, there and everywhere, and rarely seem to settle. This was the best photo I managed to get.

The peacocks, however, are most obliging. One sat for ages on the decking, allowing me to take lots of photos...

and when I turned back towards the house after my frustrating time trying to photograph a large white, what should I see awaiting me on the patio table, but this beauty!

Thursday, 30 July 2009


It's been ages since I wrote anything in the blog, mainly because it's been raining so much that not a lot has been happening in the garden. The rocket I planted did very well until the butterflies found it. Now almost every leaf has eggs on it, so as I want to encourage butterfly preservation, I am prepared to sacrifice my salad leaves. The caterpillars will need it more than I.

It's a brilliant year for butterflies. Almost as good as 1997, when I kept a list of all the species I saw. Coming from the middle of London, from a flat without a garden, I was entranced. Lots of Painted Ladies and Peacocks.

Mangey-Bum the fox still calls nightly for whatever grub we throw out. He's so shy that I haven't managed to get a photo, but, due to his condition, he isn't very photogenic. Hope the homoeopathic fox drops work.

The tits are emptying the bird feeders faster than I can fill them (unless it's the pigeons and squirrel when I'm not looking. Haven't seen any deer in the garden this year, despite all the windfall apples.

Monday, 13 July 2009

Pigeon shower

Couldn't work out what this wood pigeon was doing, sitting on the edge of the pond during a sudden heavy shower with its wings and tail at odd angles. Then I realised it was taking a shower itself, cooling down and getting rid of a few bird bugs!

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Strafed by a swift!

We are lucky in having a large group of swifts hunting in the skies above our street. As I was walking home this morning, one swooped so close that it almost brushed my hair. I could feel the draught as it whizzed over my head... and vanished under the eaves of a house where it must be nesting. It was a thrilling experience to witness the power and agility of this bird so close at hand.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Harlequin Ladybirds

"Look at this lot," said my partner, ushering me out to the cherry tree. The tree has leaf curl and aphids, and these have attracted ladybirds, but ones that looked nothing like I'd ever seen before. I sent a photo up to a website run by ladybird expert Paul Mabbot ( and he told me that they were Harlequin ladybirds, the invasive foreign species that first arrived in Britain in 2004 and is replacing our cherry red and black native species. Every stage of ladybird development was happening before our eyes on the cherry leaves: pupa, hatching, spiky grub and fully grown ladybird. They are not nearly as pretty as the familiar British insect and I'm wondering what is the best way to wipe the beasties out.

Sunday, 21 June 2009


I thought I'd see how many different bees I could find in the garden this afternoon. Apart from the horbet, which doesn't qualify, I only found four. One, a small mortar bee, had left before I could grab the camera, but here are a worker bee, a small bumble bee and a larger bumble. There is a huge one that rumbles past from time to time but I didn't see it today.

Friday, 12 June 2009

Nest-building sparrows

Having been glued to Springwatch, I know that some birds are now raising a second brood. This must be true for the local sparrows as I saw a male presenting a beakful of grass and straw to a female yesterday, which were obviously destined for a brand new nest.

On the downside, I saw a dead baby starling on the pavement. It didn't look well developed enough to fly so perhaps it had fallen, or been dragged, from its nest as it looked as if it had been bitten or chewed. The sparrowhawk was much in evidence yesterday and the crows and magpies set up a deafening warning racket as he soared over the trees.

Monday, 1 June 2009

Swift survey

The RSPB are doing a survey on swifts, so if you see any in your area, do fill in their survey form on their website. I did so this morning after seeing almost a dozen of them whizzing and shrieking between the houses.

Several more frogs have moved into the pond, which next door's extremely naughty Bengal cat keeps trying to catch. She and her siblings have put paid to several frogs in the past, so I have just bought a water pistol to deter not only her, but the swaggering tom cat that keeps bullying our Felix.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Painted Ladies

After a friend had told me about how Painted Lady butterflies had come over in their hordes from Morocco, I went out into the garden and instantly spotted two on a hebe bush. The brighter one was joined by the paler one and they went spiralling into the sky on a graceful mating dance.

The frog we rescued from the top pond's overflow tank (it couldn't get out as there was no frog ladder) now looks happily settled in the bottom pond where it has the fish for company.

Saturday, 23 May 2009

Mating damsel flies

I ducked as a huge insect whirred by. For a moment, I was back in Kaya village in Turkey where they have enormous red hornets. But this mega bug was only two red damsel flies locked together in mating. They considerately posed on the wheelbarrow for a few moments while I fetched the camera.

The other pic is of the mountaineering slug I found on my bedroom window. On the outside, I hasten to add!

Blue tit's first flight

I was just getting up this morning when I heard a 'thunk' against the window. I opened the curtains and there was a baby blue tit clinging to the outside ledge of the transom, staring in at me. It fluttered its wings and cheeped rather pathetically. I rushed off to get my camera but by the time I returned it had managed a second flight and was perched on the nearest twig of next door's overhanging copper beech tree.

Blue tits seem particularly clumsy when it comes to learning to fly. Another one flew straight into the patio doors at the side of the house last week, landing dazedly on the step, where it shook its head and scrambled back into the air, to land safely on the lilac tree once more.

Monday, 18 May 2009

The Midnight Snail

Poor Olive is around again, but she has got mange, probably from the extremely mangy dog fox. She is considerably more nervous and no longer sits in the garden in the daytime but sneaks in at night to grab our leftovers. Luckily, I had a spare bottle of the homeopathic mixture for fox mange, so I have been making her a honey sandwich every night and sprinkling four drops on it, as instructed. I hope they do the trick. (My partner is sure it's Olive, but I'm not so sure; I think it could be her sister, Kinky, who was always more shy than Olive. Whichever it is, I shall do my best to save her.)

As I was putting out the sandwich, I came across - in fact, almost trod on - these two snails making one another's acquaintance, I assume in preparation for doing whatever it is snails do to propogate their species. Exchanging slime, perhaps. Although I hate slugs, who seem obscenely undressed without a shell, I have a soft spot for snails and love their burnished, earth-coloured shells. Here they are, Romeo and Juliet, though I have no idea which is which.

I also snapped this peacock butterfly on some blossom beside the pond.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Young robin

I saw a bird I didn't recognise, sitting on top of the peanut feeder. It was an orangey chestnut all over, and about the size of a dunnock. My partner recognised it as a young robin, because the red on their breast takes a while to develop. Wonder if it's the one that was being fed by Widow Robin after Flad the Impaler had munched her mate?

Thursday, 7 May 2009

The Swifts are Back!

As I was walking back from the post office this morning, the air was suddenly split by the joyful shrieks of swifts. I feel sure it was May 7th that I first heard them last year. Wonderful!

I also spotted the solitary bird of prey I have seen for the last few months, wheeling around quite high up. It's not a buzzard as I can't spot the familiar 'fingers' on the wings. Wonder if it's a red kite?

PS: I just checked my 2008 blog entries and I first noticed them on 8th May. Just one day's difference. How accurate their inner clocks must be.

Monday, 4 May 2009

Hillingdon sparrows

Sparrows thrive in Hillingdon due to the large number of privet hedges which resound with merry chirrups as you pass. The sparrows in the photo are parents of one baby which they were feeding earlier - pity it's just one. Let's hope the other pairs in the neighbourhood have managed to raise bigger broods. Pictured with them is the bird we call the Blush as at first we weren't sure if it was a thrush or a female blackbird. It has a wonderful orange speckly breast - and a mate who is definitely a male blackbird.

As for this picture... who do you think won the race? (Considering I was at least 30 feet away, sitting at the kitchen table and shooting through the patio door, my little Pentax Optio doesn't take a bad picture.)

Friday, 1 May 2009

A frog at last!

We thought the frogs had died out or deserted as last year there was no spawn. This year some spawn was laid but it didn't develop. But today we saw this frog, and there was another somewhere in the pond's murky depths. Perhaps they will spawn again - or is it too late in the year?

Sunday, 26 April 2009

The Lone Hornet

Well, here he is, sunbathing on the fence. I thought I was very brave to get so close (about two feet with the little digital camera on full zoom). I must read the manual for my digital SLR as I'm sure that would have taken a better photo.

Friday, 24 April 2009

Mrs Robin and the Lone Hornet

My partner saw Mrs Robin all on her own, feeding a single chick at the bottom of the garden. Wonder if this is the sole survivor, or if they only had one anyway?

The Lone Hornet is back! It drinks from the pond then sits and sunbathes on the fence. I bravely tiptoed close with the camera, but it suddenly took off, whereupon I screamed and rushed indoors, coward that I am! As my partner says, "It's a big lad!" (This pic isn't one of mine. I wouldn't be brave enough to get THAT close!)