Tuesday, 27 December 2011

A Raven in Hillingdon

It was with great excitement that we witnessed a raven inspecting the corpse of the turkey yesterday. We had thrown it out for the foxes, but this magnificent bird got there first and helped itself to several beakfuls before flying off with a large chunk of turkey. We had to get the RSPB bird book out to check that it wasn't a carrion crow, but it was bigger and had that distinctive pointy head, dark beak and way of holding its wings and tail. And it was huge! To be doubly sure, I Googled images of ravens, including the Tower of London ones, and am now 100% sure that a raven it is! It appears to be solitary. I wonder where it is roosting?

By the evening, the foxes had dragged off the remains and we thought we'd seen the last of the raven. But no. This morning, I spotted it checking out the bird feeders.

And then it hopped down onto the grass to see if there was any more carrion around, which would be far more to its liking than peanuts and suet balls! I think it's going to be a rather frequent visitor from now on.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Mr and Mrs

'Our' vixen is keeping company with a large, fit dog fox. I threw some scraps out last night and she ate some, then stepped back so he could have a go. I think we can expect to have to feed another litter in the Spring.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Squirrel for the high jump!

We found a use for empty suet ball containers by cutting holes in them and attaching them to the bird feeder stand, to prevent squirrels from climbing up and raiding the peanuts. For a while, it seemed to work. Then along came this one. I couldn't work out how he had made it to the top so I waited until he leaped off to bury a peanut. When he came back, he steadied himself, then made one almighty leap, about 20 times his own height, straight to the crossbar at the top. I think they should make him part of the Olympic team!

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Posing Parakeet

The golden feathers on the underside of this parakeet's tail echo the tints of the last autumn leaves on the cherry tree.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Collared Doves

This sweet pair were sitting on top of the bird feeder stand just as dusk was starting to fall. Now, they really do have beady eyes. They are like little shiny juniper berries. I still haven't got used to it getting dark at 3.30pm! Though a friend did cheer me up by telling me that in less than a month, the days would start getting longer again.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Ghostly bird

Looks as if the stickers to prevent birds flying into the patio doors have lost their effect. They didn't stop a collared dove flying smack into the glass and leaving this spooky impression.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Latest fox shots

Three of the vixen's four cubs have dispersed, but the runt is still hanging around Mum, though she often gets snarled at. No doubt the vixen will be expecting her next family soon. As fox family members often help babysit the cubs, I wonder if this role will fall to the runt? Or perhaps she will produce her own family and I shall have to buy more bags of budget dog biscuits!

Here are a couple of recent shots of the vixen.

Sparrowhawk attack

Having marvelled at a huge flock of wood pigeons, about 200 of them, swirling around in the sky, I threw out some bread and settled down to see which bird would be first on the scene. As usual, it was a magpie, but just as a pigeon swooped down from the roof to join it, a brown arrow hurtled after it. The pigeon narrowly missed being exploded into a hundred feathery pieces as the predator missed its strike and darted off between the trees. It was thrilling to watch. It was also quite a while before any birds appeared in the garden again!

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Great Spotted Woodpecker and Parakeet

This was a duo worthy of a photograph! But I didn't take this one. My partner did, with his vastly superior 18 megapixel Canon camera. It quite puts my little 8 megapixel Fuji in the shade.

Friday, 28 October 2011

The last cub

The three bigger cubs are all fending for themselves now, but the runt, a small, slightly tatty-looking vixen, is still hanging around her mother, who is getting increasingly impatient with her. Having got used to being fed by mum, she looked quite shocked when she was not invited to share the scraps we had put in the bowl. Just look at her shocked body language when Mum snarled and chased her off!

Oh go on, let me have some.

But Mum, I'm ever so hungry...

Okay, no need to shout!

Saturday, 15 October 2011


When it got to this time of year and the plants were getting straggly and faded (a little like myself), my mother used to say, "The garden's looking back-endish," as in the back end of the year. I think this picture I took the other day illustrates 'back-endish' perfectly!

Red Kite Over Hillingdon

This afternoon, I was lucky enough to spot this red kite as it swooped over the roof and banked off towards the tall oaks in search of an airborne meal.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Autumn caterpillar

Isn't it a bit late for caterpillars? Obviously, this one doesn't think so as it is merrily munching my geranium. Anybody know what it is? It's certainly a handsome chap, which leads me to another question: do caterpillars have a sex? I don't mean, do caterpillars have sex. It's the butterflies that do that. But there are male and female butterflies, so are there also male and female caterpillars? To Google I must go.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Gatekeeper butterfly

I found this newly hatched beauty warming its wings on the patio doors.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Strange bird?

I got quite a surprise when I saw what I thought was a most unusual bird on the suet ball feeder. It was pale grey with black and white spots and I just couldn't work out what it was so I looked it up in the bird book and found out it was a juvenikle starling. Apparently their heads are the last bit of them to go dark.

Hummingbird robin!

The robin finds it difficult to hang onto the suet ball feeder, so instead he flaps his wings fast enough to keep him stationary in mid-air while he snatches a lump of suet. His wings were positively whirring. If I see him doing it again, I'll try to get a shot that's in focus!

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Second brood

The blackbirds have had another family. This afternoon I was down the garden with the rake, knocking some lovely red apples down from the top of the tree, when suddenly I heard piercing squeaks and something brown was writhing about under some ivy at the foot of the tree. It looked like a small brown rat... till I saw that familiar yellow triangle of an open beak. It was a baby blackbird and I'd hit it with a falling apple!

It was making a hell of a din and I could see Chi Mimi, next door's Bengal cat, trotting down the garden to see that the commotion was. The female blackbird was making her alarm calls from a tree, so I scooped up the cat and shut her indoors and consulted my parter about what to do. I didn't know if the bird was injured or not. He went down, looked at it and said it was best to leave it and 'let nature take its course'. Either its mother would get it to safety somehow, as it was still unable to fly, or... Well, there are cats and foxes galore in our garden, not to mention the sparrowhawk.

I watched through the window as the mother blackbird was down in the leaves with the baby. Later, I went down there and there was no sign of adult or youngster. I hope this time the young bird had a lucky escape.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

The crow that thinks it's a woodpecker

This juvenile crow keeps jabbing its beak into the ground just like a woodpecker pecking for ants. I wonder if it could be copying the green woodpecker that is often on the lawn? Anyone else seen a crow behave like this before?

Dragonfly rescue

I was standing in the doorway talking to my partner who was out in the garden, when I suddenly heard a weird whirring sound. I looked around the kitchen but couldn't see where it was coming from. Then Mr G saw it. A big green dragonfly which had somehow got down between the back of the cardboard housing the cat bed that Chimi Mimi from next door sleeps in, and the patio doors. It really didn't know which way was up - or out!

We moved the box and it whizzed out of the door. I have scanned the Dragonfly Identification charts but can't decide which species it is. Any ideas?

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Hedgehog chat-up

"Now, excuse me, I couldn't help noticing your blue hair. Very attractive, if I may say so. Do you come here often? Mind if I stroke your bristles? Ooh, very soft. Now that we've introduced ourselves, I wonder if you fancy a bit of prickly action?"

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Big-mouth fox!

The vixen appears to have elastic jaws. No matter how much food is in her bowl, she manages to scoop up the lot in one go and carry it off to her cubs.

All four cubs are doing well. They are just over half her size now and soon she will be chucking them out of the den and forcing them to fend for themselves. I wonder if any of them will fight her for the very well supplied territory of our garden? It's been hers for the last year, so I should think she'd win.

Hungry hedgehog

Spying a vague shadow in the darkness, I picked up my camera from the kitchen table, swiftly switched it on and into zoom and flash mode, and this is what it was. A hedgehog raiding the fox's bowl. A very well fed-looking hedgehog, too. In fact, one could truly call it a hedgepig!

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Comma butterfly

I snapped this beauty just as it settled on the garden bench. What a wonderful colour and shape. You can clearly see how it got its name.

Friday, 8 July 2011

Stag at bay

Hearing a commotion in the kitchen, much banging and crashing, I rushed in to find next door's cat had caught a huge male stag beetle and dragged it in through the cat flap. She was busy batting it about the floor with her paw when I rescued it in the dust pan, took a photo, then released it outside in the shrubbery where, after a few dazed 'where am I?' moments, it took flight and soared off presumably in search of a mate.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Cool Cat and the Cubs

The cubs fought, squabbled and played all around Flad yesterday. One of them galloped right up to him, frisked around, ran away and came back, trying to entice him into a game of chase. But Flad is so used to them now that he didn't so much as twitch a whisker.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

A troublesome flock

There is a large flock of starlings in the area. I have seen them on the school playing fields in their dozens and I assume they roost in the trees that line the fields. Once every day, though, a group of 40 or more decide to visit our garden. They descend like feathery locusts and strip everything they can see, from fruit trees to feeders. The smaller, less bolshy birds don't stand a chance in the face of such an invasion. Though this morning, a group of sparrows actually mobbed a lone starling trying to cling to one of the fat ball feeders.

In small groups they are an amusing spectacle, like a troupe of squabblesome, strutting clowns. The pake coloured, gawky adolescents still flutter their wings and hope mum will save them the trouble of looking for their own food. Here is a shot of just one small section of the invading horde, taken three or four days ago. They say starlings are in decline in Britain. Not round here!

Wednesday, 29 June 2011


As I walked down our street yesterday, I noticed a large number of birds above my head. They turnbed out to be swifts, with a couple of pigeons mixed in. I started counting and had to give up at 35. There must have been upwards of 40 swifts, wheeling and whirling, coming together in groups, then flying apart.

I wondered if they could be assembling ready to leave our shores, but when I looked it up, I found out they don't leave Britain till August. Still puzzled, I emailed Edward Mayer of Swift Conservation (http://www.swift-conservation.org) and told him what I had seen. He's always happy to chat about swifts and he replied, Now's the time for big Swift get togethers, we can sometimes get as many as thirty high overhead here. Watch the skies - last week I saw a Hobby passing over, being chased by the ten Swifts!

By the way, (oops, the font has changed!), the RRPB would like it if we all recorded our swift sightings. Here is the link: http://www.rspb.org.uk/applications/swiftsurvey/

Incidentally, Edward didn't tell me why the swifts held their 'get-togethers'. Does anybody know?

Friday, 17 June 2011

Even more foxes

There were six foxes on the lawn yesterday - Mum, dad and four, yes FOUR cubs. I managed to get a photo showing three of the cubs. The smallest, shyest one was hiding in the bushes.

Poor Dad appeared with a very sore leg today. He was holding it up off the ground and wasn't using it at all. To add to his woes, Mum chased him off. I've never seen a three-legged fox run so fast. She also ran at her cubs and chased them off, too. Maybe she just wanted some 'me-time'. Just look at her flat out on the deck!

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Young chaffinch

This poor little bird couldn't understand why it couldn't get at the water in the pond. It bobbed about the netting for ages, getting more and more frustrated, until it found a spot where the filter sent some spray into the air. Then it flapped its wings and had a shower.

Tiny mouse

Close this page now if you suffer from musophobia (fear of rats and mice). The other day Flad spent hours lying in one spot in the garden, staring fixedly at the decking. That night he didn't want his dinner. Next day I found this. A very small baby mouse. Dead. I think he ate the rest of the family and didn't have room for dessert! I'd much rather he killed rodents than birds, though. At least he's earning his keep!

Monday, 6 June 2011

Peanut thief

I wondered why the blue tits were hopping round the cherry tree looking most put out. I looked again and saw an empty feeder that looked a bit odd. When I got closer, I saw that the bottom was missing and all the peanuts had dropped out. An even closer inspection revealed that the wire had been forced and the bottom prised off.

I soon realised who the culprit must have been. This photogenic squirrel who had posed for me a few minutes earlier.

Monday, 30 May 2011

A stag on the washing line!

Here she is getting rather wet - and so was my washing, as I didn't want to disturb her.

What a shock I got when I went to unpeg my knickers from the washing line and almost put my hand on this fearsome beast! I feel quite sorry for her as the ideal conditions for mating involve warm, dry weather, not rain like we are getting now.

Stag beetles spend 3-5 years as a larva fattening up in rotting wood, then they turn into a pupa and finally hatch out around the end of May. They fly between May and August, not eating for this entire period and after mating, the female lays anything up to 90 eggs, often dividing them between several locations. After her task is complete, she dies, which makes me very glad I am human!

I think her antennae look just like the twirly moustache on the opera singer in the Go Compare ads!

Friday, 27 May 2011

Fox cub

Mother fox brought one of her babies to visit us yesterday. She walked right up to the patio doors, made eye contact with me, then walked away and sat in the centre of the lawn while the cub played around her. She wasn't asking for food, she was just showing off her baby. My partner thinks he glimpsed another through the hedge. I hope she brings both of them next time. I reckon this cub is male. Look at how dirty and scruffy it is!

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

More fox photos

The vixen has now got so brave and bold that she walks right up to the patio doors and sits down, waiting until she has caught my eye. Then she puts her head on one side and points her huge ears towards me, waiting to catch my soothing, "Here you are, dear," as I walk out with a peanut butter sandwich or a tin of dog food.

She usually drinks from the pond...

But yesterday I caught her playing peekaboo while lapping from the bird bath.