Updated: Feb 18
I hope you're continuing to keep well at this challenging time! I'm happy to say I'm doing fine if a little fed up with this whole thing! I know I shouldn't complain though as we are all well and that is what matters!
My dad and I set ourselves a challenge to see just how many different species we could see during the lock-down in the garden. It's been like doing our own Springwatch! As I'm sure you've guessed, if you didn't know already, I'm pretty keen on watching wildlife especially birds. The current tally is 133 species overall which I think is pretty impressive for a suburban garden! We've seen something like 44 birds and it must be around 50 plus insects including several other creatures. It will be interesting to see how many we get by the end! Having the time to observe all the small and subtle changes as the weeks and months go by is truly fascinating and I find it very reassuring that nature is business as usual. Mum has now set us the challenge of getting to 150 and I think that's beginning to look well possible.
Amongst the birds we've seen there have been some real highlights including Raven, Red Kite (which are pretty scarce round here still, but are becoming more regular}, Peregrine Falcon and Stock Dove which is a pretty common bird but very much sticks to woodlands so we don't see them very often. We even had one day when we saw all four on the same day which was probably one of the best birding days we've ever had at home! Just being here more often has really allowed us to see so much more than we would normally. We've now seen both Red Kites and Ravens on quite a regular basis to the point where we think both might have a nests relatively near by. We've also suspected that Peregrines might have nested in Redhill in recent years, but I've never managed to spot any proof unfortunately. Talking of Peregrines the one we saw gave us quite a dramatic display as it was actually attacking an adult Herring Gull which is a fair bit bigger. It was probably trying to get some food it had or even trying to see it away from it's nest. It's unlikely it was trying to catch the gull itself but it's possible as they are certainly capable. We've had few wildlife dramas over the weeks including a Carrion Crow catching a frog from our pond and fly off with the legs sticking out it's mouth! There's also been quite a feud going on between the Magpies and the Carrion Crows that yet again seem to have nested right next to each other. Last year was worse though and the Crow actually pinned down one of the Magpies I think might have killed it if mum hadn't broken it up and scared them off!
It's not all like that though and we've found a Robin and a Blackbird nest in the garden. The Blackbirds have nested right outside my bedroom which is on the ground-floor in a sheltered area between the fence and a climbing Hydrangea. If you look closely you can see the female sitting on the nest, but we don't want to do that too much and risk disturbing them. Both parents have been going in and out quite regularly now so I think the eggs have hatched which is exciting! The Robin nest was at the other end of the garden, but dad can't hear the chicks anymore unfortunately. That isn't necessarily bad news though because they may have fledged, but either way it's still nice to know. Like most Robins ours are really friendly and often follow us around which is apparently a very ancient relationship dating back to early farming. I love their song too it always makes me smile although it's hard to beat a Blackbird singing!
It's not just about the birds though, as I said before we have also been seeing lots of other creatures too. Amongst my favourite's was the Chocolate Mining Bee which I have never heard of before. Apparently it's really quite common particularly in the south, but has been seen as far north as Scotland. Overall we have seen 11 species of bee and seeing as there are over 200 species in the UK we could see several more. I only got into bees quite recently and although they can be quite tricky to identify I'm learning so much. I think learning about bees is especially important now as they are in decline. With my dad's moth-trapping (which does no harm to the moths) we have seen plenty of them too with around 27 species. My personal favourite was the Hummingbird Hawkmoth, which really does look like a hummingbird. Amazingly they migrate across the channel! We have also had lots of tadpoles in the pond this year and they have been great fun to watch. We did some pond dipping and managed to find a leech of some kind and a Water Hog Louse which is an aquatic relative of the Woodlouse. The resident foxes as ever are pretty easy to spot and don't seem at all afraid of people. They are still very much wild creatures though and should be treated with respect. I really like them personally even though they can be a pain when they dig up the flowerbeds.
As another way of seeing what creatures were visiting we put out a trail camera and I'm really pleased with the footage it captured. I will put a few of the best videos at the end for you to see. The camera is pretty simple to set up and has infrared for shooting at night too. There are a lot of different models out there which are generally pretty reasonably priced. Mine allows you to either shoot stills, videos or both that gives you a lot of versatility. Personally I prefer to use just the video mode because it gives least chance of missing any action. After we set up the camera setting we strapped it to a pot by the pond and left it to do it's thing. In one of the videos below with the fox we captured clearly shows she's a vixen who may well have cubs. I'm really hoping we get to see them if that is the case! I hope you enjoy the clips and this encourages you to see what is in your area! Do let me know if you see anything interesting I would love to know!
For those of you finding this time difficult here's a verse that I turn to a lot when things are tough! "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29: 11 reminds us that God is with us and loves us unconditionally. Even though we can't understand what's going on God does and he is fully in control even when it doesn't feel like it. He is working everything out for our good in a bad situation.