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2009 - 2013


September 2013
Highlight this month was a walk with the South Somerset RSPB to Ham Wall and Shapwick reserves.  Here are a couple of views of a Glossy Ibis at Shapwick.
Ibis 1Ibis 2
There are always a number of waders and waterfowl and here are some Snipe.  I really like the twig and its reflection make it look like an equation - two snipe greater than one snipe!
snipe equation

August 2013
The 6 chicks and 2 adult Moorhens continue to run round the garden, the chicks are now nearly the size of the adults. Some nice visiting birds seen in the garden - Linnets again, Whitethroat, and Willow Warbler several times.  Small Tortoiseshell butterflies have been very numerous, as have Large White.  Our pond has become very overgrown, the reeds have taken over and need to be heavily thinned.

July 2013
22 July - 6 Moorhen chicks running round the gardenSame behaviour as in previous years - some chicks get chased away by the adult (too big? too greedy?) and the family has built an additional nest (need an extension for growing family?!)

Moorhen with 2 chicks 2013
Male LinnetFemale Linnet
A family of Linnets arrived - here's the male..................                                                                   and the female

Orchids
Orchids growing wild in the Mendip hills.

An Emperor Dragonfly (Anax imperator) on a reed on our pond. (Click on image for higher definition)
Emperor dragonfly
Marbled white
A Marbled White butterfly at Combe Hill near Street.

June 2013
As at 27 June, the Moorhens have built a third nest with eggs - persistence!

May 2013
Walk around Meldon Reservoir, 18 May with the South Somerset RSPB Group
The Moorhens have deserted their nest and built a new one which is very exposed. By 21 May there were 6 more eggs, but by 3 June the nest had been destroyed, possibly by a Crow or Magpie - we did not witness what happened.  The adult birds remain in the garden.

Apr 2013
The Moorhens have a nest with 7 eggs at the latest count.  A pair of Mallards visit nearly every day but no sign of a nest yet.  Swallows arrived 16 April, and Chiffchaffs and Blackcap are singing.

Mar 2013
10 Buzzards soaring over the house.  Neighbours have seen 17 in one field, 40 in another.  Two Moorhens have paired and chased all the others away, even out of the front gate!

Dec 2012
The 7 Moorhen juveniles are still with us, with frequent visits by 2 adults.

Oct 2012
Brian the snail says "I've always wanted to be a high-wire artist and this telephone line is perfect!"
snail on a wire
"And for my next trick I will do it upside down!"
snail upside down
By the end of 11 October, Brian was just 3m from the pole and then stopped.  The following day he had a rest, not moving all day.  But he then continued to the pole, some 25m (81feet) from the house, along a wire about 6m (20feet) from the ground.  One giant leap for snailkind!

At the end of October, we still had the 7 Moorhen chicks in the garden, now fully grown but lacking the adult colouring. On 29 Oct, an adult returned, with a bit of a showdown with the chicks where food was being competed. But the chicks remained, now nearly 3 months old.

A late-in-the-season Comma butterfly on Sedum.
Comma on Sedum

Sept 2012
The 7 Moorhen chicks have grown rapidly, and started fending for themselves on 9 Sep when the adults left.  In the last week they have begun to fly and have been seen on top of trees, and on top of the bonfire (not burning!)

August 2012
Moorhen chicks appeared on 6 August!    7 altogether plus the 2 adults.  So far (31 Aug) they are all still with us and healthy.
16 August - found a day-flying Magpie moth in the garden.

May 2012
24 and 26 May had max temperatures of 29.9C.  More summer visitors arrived - 27 Swallows on 15 May, plus Blackcap, Chiffchaff and Spotted Flycatcher. Thousands of tadpoles in the pond.

April 2012
Mallard ducklings hatched on 24 April, also within one day of their hatching in 2009!  Mother and 9 ducklings seen on the lawn (below), but didn't stay - they all walked off to another pond as they did in 2009. 
Ducklings

After the exceptionally dry March, we had an exceptionally wet April - see rain record.  On 1 May, most of the rivers in Somerset were in flood - this picture shows the River Brue at Lydford.

Brue flood

March 2012
Exceptionally warm and dry, maximum temperatures of 23.3, 22.0, 25.6, and 24C being recorded on March 26 through 30th.  On 25 March, a pair of Mallards nested and laid 6 eggs. The duck then covered the eggs so I cannot be sure how many there are now.  This is within a day of the previous date in 2009 when Mallards nested (they must have a calendar!).

February 2012
4-12 Feb very cold, minimum -10.5C

January 2012
West Australian wildlife
New Zealand wildlife
these pages were removed on 05/06/13. Contact me if interested.

26 Dec 2011
It has been a very mild month - very different from last year. Temperature today reached +11C, compared with -13C last year.  On 9 Dec we saw a Red Admiral butterfly in the garden.  On 12 Dec, a second Moorhen joined our resident bird.

5 Dec 2011
The weather has been very mild and has only fallen below 0C on a few nights.  Some trees and shrubs still have some of their leaves.
Winter thrushes (Fieldfare, Redwing, migrant Blackbirds) appeared rather late on 17 November.  They are now devouring the sloes and berries.

3 Oct 2011
The weather has turned unusually hot for October - a hot spell started around 26 September, and on 1 Oct it reached a maximum of 28.9C here. Cooler weather is expected tomorrow.

23 June 2011
The last 3 Moorhen chicks left today to explore the world outside our garden.  From their first appearance on 17 April, it has been 67 days. Last year it was 16 May to 15 July (91 days), and in 2009 it was 17 May to 29 August (104 days).  So it looks like they are getting more practised!  The other interesting aspect was the construction of a second nest, something we have seen them do in previous years.  This year the adults built one again, but we noticed one of the young chicks helping to build it!  It looks like it's a training exercise!

26 May 2011
We went on a field trip organised by South Somerset RSPB group to West Sedgmoor reserve.  It was an evening walk and here is a recording of the Nightingale we found (5 mins, mp3, 4.7MB).  It was a bit late in the season and not the best I've heard.

23 May 2011
The six Moorhen chicks have now grown to almost full size, and are stretching their wings.  They have taken to searching the lawn most of the day, and even sitting down and sun-bathing.  A cat was seen today running round the back of the pond, so I walked round to check - it was sitting still in the reeds waiting to pounce.  When it realised I was only a few feet away, it leapt away, but it was unlucky, because it was facing the pond!  It landed in the middle of the water, and then had to swim out. A very wet and bedraggled cat raced away - I think it may remember the experience!

Meanwhile the adult Moorhen has built a new nest - something they've done in previous years. However it isn't much use because the chicks are so big only one of them would fit in! But a clue as to its purpose may have emerged - one of the chicks was seen helping to build it, so perhaps it's a training exercise!

17 Apr 2011
Summer seems to be here - two swallows fly up to the old nest by the back door to check it's still there - good navigation skills!  A Blackcap is singing very loudly in our Sycamore tree.  The Moorhens that have been swimming round the pond suddenly appear with 6 chicks - 1 month earlier than last year!  Butterflies are around - Peacock, Brimstone, Orange Tip, Holly Blue, Speckled Wood.  At 3.30 in the afternoon, a Pipistrelle bat flies over the house, and then two Peacocks from a house about 1 mile away come wandering round the garden!

26 Mar 2011
A Chiffchaff and a Willow Warbler were the first summer visitors to arrive, seen together in the same tree. The WW chased the CC off!  On the day before (25 Mar) a flock of Fieldfares left on their return to the north.

17 Mar 2011
Frogspawn appeared in the pond.

9 Mar 2011
A flock of 15 Redpolls in the garden.

25 Feb 2011
A warm day saw many toads in the pond - I counted 23. In the evening, two toads and a female great crested newt were found by the back door (again!)
Great crested newt

















31 Jan 2011
The cold weather returns (-8.9C overnight) and the Snipe returns to forage in the lawn for worms.

2 Jan 2011
December has been extremely cold all over the country.  Minimum overnight temperatures here were: -6.7C (26 Nov); -9.4C (9 Dec); -13.6C (19 Dec); -13.2C (26 Dec).  Maximum daytime temp on 6 Dec was -1.1C.  Snow fell again on 17 Dec (10cm); 18 Dec (8cm).
Bird sightings include 2 Snipe on 6 Dec, 2 Moorhens on 17 Dec, 3 Moorhens and 2 Nuthatches on 1 Jan.

house in snow
 
3 Dec 10
Cold!! Overnight minimum was -8.2C, daytime maximum was -1.0C.  We had 2 inches of snow yesterday, about half that has now disappeared. We have got off very lightly so far compared with the rest of the country (and western Europe).  A Snipe has visited on a few days recently, and two Moorhens were seen in the garden today.

25 Oct 10
One Moorhen has returned, and we have had 23 Goldfinches on our lavendar shrubs.

15 Sep 10
All our swallows leave on migration - they obviously left it a bit late and we can only hope the young managed to keep up with the adults.

14 Sep 10
3 Swallow chicks fly for the first time, one having unfortunately fallen out about a week before. Another swallow joined them and tried to intercept the adult birds feeding the young - perhaps this was one of the first brood?

9 Sep 10
This toad was found near our front door with mottled markings. The experts say that this is within the range of colouration that can be found in the Common Toad (Bufo bufo).
Toad with mottled markings
1 Sep 10
There are 4 swallow chicks visible in the second brood.  Meanwhile the aerials and power lines around us are in regular use by swallows and house martins, today's count being 120!

26 Aug 10
The second brood of swallow chicks has started making squeaking noises!

12 Aug 10

Weasel seen "bouncing" around the garden - a very acrobatic display!

6 Aug 10
Swallows appear to be going for a second brood - adult is back on the nest.

29 July 10
Adder and grass snake seen in garden.
 
20 July 10
4 swallow chicks have left the nest - they fly off early in the morning and every evening 3 return at 5pm for a rest!

15 July 10
Moorhens have all left now.

7 July 10
Moorhens are still here  - 2 adults and 7 young.  The young have grown their wings and can now fly.
The swallows have young, but we don't know how many yet.

5 July 10
Found a bat in the loft - probably a brown long-eared bat (Plecotus auritus)
Long-eared bat in loft

25 June 10
The wrens had 4 chicks (at least) and they fledged on 19 June. Two chicks visible in photo below.
The thousands of tadpoles have developed into "micro-frogs" - here's one...
"Micro frog"

10 June 10
Here's a recording of a Blackcap singing in the garden. (mp3 file, 313kB, 20sec, stereo)
We have wrens nesting near the front door, and swallows trying to nest in the garage, but have decided on a location near the back door instead.
swallow on nestwren chicks


16 May 10
The (apparently) single Moorhen has turned out to be a pair with 7 chicks!  All still with us today (12 June) and growing fast.

14 May 10
Raven flying overhead, and again on 16 May

27 Mar 10
A flock of 7 Yellowhammers arrived in the back garden and stayed for about 10 minutes. Crummy photos but you get the idea. Females are less brightly coloured than the males.

YellowhammerYellowhammers


20 Mar 10 - Loads of Toads on Roads!

We had a very dry spell from 1-17 March, and with the return of warmer wetter weather, a large number of frogs and toads have decided that it's Spring!
They've been all over the place - on the road, on the patio, and in the pond.  Here's a Common Toad on the patio...

Common toad on the patio

Cute newt
Not only frogs and toads - here's a female Great Crested Newt (Triturus cristatus) on the boot scraper by the back door - with painted toenails!
 
Great crested newtNewt's painted toenail

 
9 Jan 10
With the snow about 5cm deep we have now seen 12 blackbirds at once on the lawn!

5 Jan 10
A Woodcock was seen in the garden, searching for worms.  This brings the total number of species seen from the garden to 55.

19 Dec 09 
at 4.11pm - Starlings coming in to roost at the Ham Wall RSPB reserve.  A Peregrine Falcon flies through the flock trying to catch one of them.  
  Video (37sec, 8MB, .avi format)

Starlings at Ham WallStarlings at Ham Wall (2)


29 Nov 09 - 8 blackbirds in front garden, probably migrants.

15 - 29 Nov 09 -
The three juvenile Moorhens that were born here earlier this year visit us on several days.Moorhen chicks return

13 Nov 09 -
Common Toad found near front door, in good shape.

2 Nov 09 - Winter thrushes (Redwing and Fieldfare) arrive from the north.

31 Oct 09
- Mallards are back  - a flock of Mallards came to roost on the pond almost every night in October, arriving at dusk and departing at first light. We have counted as many as 20 birds on the pond at once!!
 
20 Oct 09 - Female Great Crested Newt found sitting on the doorstep late at night after a very wet day, quite well, just not moving.
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swallows on yagi

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* (in imperial measurements) - is it rod, pole or perch?
 









Kingfisher at West Lydford

Kingfisher at Lydford

Banded Demoiselle Damselfly (Calopteryx splendens)


dragonfly

Diary of a Moorhen family

Last year (2009) we had a family of Mallards nesting in the garden. They hatched 8 young and the mother took them off to the river the day after they hatched. Shortly after this on the 17 May 2009, a pair of Moorhen built a nest and laid 8 eggs.  The chicks started to hatch on 4 June.
Moorhen nestmoorhen and chickmoorhen and chick

5 June - 3 chicks
8 June - 4 chicks
9 June - 8 chicks4 chicks
The male then left around 16 June. Regrettably, some chicks were caught by predators (cats, foxes....) and on 27 June we only had 5 left.  By 4 July we were down to 3 chicks and the mother.  The mother decided that the nest was too accessible by predators, and built a second nest further out into the pond.  The 3 chicks grew rapidly until on 4 August the mother left them.  The three chicks continued to live and feed in the garden and the pond, becoming quite adventurous, and walking round the patio.  By 9 August we could see that they had grown their wings and by 19 August they could all clearly fly.  The big wide world beckoned and on 21 August the first one left, numbers 2 and 3 leaving on 27 and 29 August.  We are pleased to have seen their progress and wish them well wherever they may be!