Monday, 13 June 2016

The garden needed a bit of rain

The Safari was hoping to get out and about again yesterday afternoon. It was wet in the morning but dried up enough for us to try a walk round to Patch 1, somewhere we've not visited for the best part of a year. The field with the superb display of Creeping Buttercups and a few Bulbous Buttercups had recently been mown and was disappointingly flowerless. A bit of searching found the only plant of Common Wintercress we know, again mown to within an inch of its life but it keeps hanging in there.
Once in the wild area of the park we heard a Chiffchaff and Song Thrush singing nearby but the cool temperatures meant there wasn't the usual hum of insects on the wing. A bumble bee settled on a Bramble leaf even with only a glance obviously wasn't a 'true' bumble bee but the hoverfly, Volucela bombylans.
Please excuse pics today, dull light, blowing vegetation and shaky hands made them all a bit blurry - sorry.
We had a wander through the long grass flushing nothing at all and couldn't leave at the far end due to the amount of Bramble growth since our last visit - really does need some habitat management work in here if we're not to lose the much of the invertebrate interest. We like Brambles but on small sites you can have too much of a good thing.
In the park proper we were pleased to see only the edges of the footpaths and the kids kick about area had been mown the rest left to grow and an diverse variety of grasses were in flower, some of them we need to go back to check their ID. Less pleasing were some large trees that had been felled - windblown?
We had a look in the large pond, it was covered in Duckweed and filled with branches either scavenged from the felling piles or torn off living trees by the local scrotes, we didn't see any dragonflies or damselflies although by now there were spits of rain on the wind. Hoping for better we headed round the 'hill' to the top pond where a Coal Tit was singing from some overhanging branches on the (not so)far side. We somewhat unexpectedly flushed a Moorhen which darted into the reedy stems of Typha and Flag Iris growing in the middle of the pond. We say unexpectedly but in fact we have recorded them here in the past, are they resident and just very good at keeping out of sight? A mystery we might have to do more research on later in the year. It was extremely shy and we had to hang around a good while hiding behind the pathside shrubby - never the best idea in a park these days! - before it decided to venture out of cover again.
As soon as it heard the shutter go it shot off into thickest overhanging shrub and wasn't seen again.
From there we had a look along the edge of the 'smooth' field were we came across a Large Skipper resting in the grass well back from the track as the spits of rain began to turn to a more persistent drizzle.
A few yards further on we disturbed another butterfly, this time off the path in front of us, which flew across the field a short way before landing again. Keeping an eye on where it went down we soon found it sat in a depression in the grass that the overnight heavy rain had made, a Painted Lady our first of the year. Good to see the recent influx of these has reached our area but we do wonder how many could be from releases by schools that rear them as part of their science lessons.
The rain was getting heavier now and we had to abandon our walk around the 'rough' field which was a shame as we could hear a Whitethroat singing about half way down at the back of the adjacent houses' gardens. 
Retracing our steps through the wild area we passed under the large Weigela shrub to the scolding 'tacks' of a Blackcap, looking up we saw some movements and then caught a glimpse of a red headed bird and another, the tacking was coming from behind us, from a male with a beakful of tiny flies. Good to know they have bred and have fledged at least one youngster. The Chiffchaff and Song Thrush were still in full voice, it's probably this Song Thrush we hear for hours at a time throughout the day at Base Camp. The rain now was beginning to get us wet through - yes we'd come out without a coat - never wise in June! - and it was time to scurry back to Base camp as fast as maybe.
At Base camp there was little we could do other than watch the (fairly quiet) feeders. It's always good to see the Starlings visiting, we've had suet blocks out all year but it's only really the fledglings that go for them, we never see adults taking advantage of them in the winter, in fact they last for months in the winter they're going down much faster now in early summer! Will these youngsters continue to visit all year? Even the most simple observations in nature, like a Starling visiting a feeder, can spawn a thousand questions - you can never know it all, you can never get bored, there's always something new to learn.
The male House Sparrow continues to come and go at irregular and totally unpredictable intervals.
Good to finally get a pic of him on the suet feeder
As you've probably guessed we like our House Sparrows and have missed them being around  over the last few years, only getting one or two visits at this time of year. We spotted a new nest the other day in the eaves of a house over the road and the nest in the house on the corner is active too - that's a 100% increase in the street this year which is very encouraging. But the big but is have they seen our House Sparrow 'terrace' and if they have will they be able to get in there before the Great Tit next year?
Certain birds and animals evoke certain emotional responses in us, we love the up-lifing fluty song of the Blackbird in the early dawn, the tea-cher tea-cher of Jean Louis le Grand Tit-ty (As Wifey calls him) outside the bedroom window is mildly annoying but fun, the chirruping of House Sparrows is just a happy sound, how can anyone not smile when they hear it? And we're hearing it more and more often with the local fledglings coming into the thick climbers over the pergola across our front gate - and we've hung some suet block pieces up there for them.
These were taken through the only a tiny bit ajar front door this morning.
Look at the pic above more closely you can see bits of frass from the leaf-mining caterpillar in the leaf by the sparrow's tail.
Click the pic to enlarge
Yesterday evening we were hoping Wifey would drive us down to the Prom so we could test out the new Hawke scope we won looking for the Bottlenose Dolphins that have been up and down the coast recently. It was raining heavily so Wifey quite rightly refused, the dolphins seem to have forsaken us for the other side of the bay in the last couple of days too. Hopefully they be back before too long.
Why did we have the door ajar this morning? Other than to get pics of the House Sparrows that is? We needed milk and that meant another walk up to the shops, we took the same route as we did when we failed to get bread last week and this time spotted a crazily shaped Oak tree in someone's front garden.
No, it's not for sale - that's the house next door. It's going to get a bit big for a small suburban street in few years time too. Hope they prune it sympathetically rather than getting rid of it altogether - would be great to keep those awesome curves.
Unlike our bread trip today's milk trip was a success but once back at Base Camp and needing a cuppa it took about five minutes to get the top off the bottle and we were lucky not to sill any. Whoever designs these things should think about how folk with bad hands might go about opening them - we needed all manner of instruments of torture and a sharp knife to get in, how do elderly people with rheumatism and/or arthritis manage?
Nothing much happenning in the garden this arvo so it'll have to be Euro 2016 instead - - with one eye on the window just in case of course.
Where to next? We might have another wander round Patch 1 tomorrow if it's not too rainy. 
In the meantime let us know who's the cheeriest in your outback.

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