RAUK - Archived Forum - 2006 is comino to life!

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2006 is comino to life!:

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Mick
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Posted: 19 Jan 2006

For anyone who might be interested in simply divulging the latest on their gardens herp' activities & how 2006 is gradually getting underway for them in different parts of Britain.

It suddenly occured to me last night we're already into the third week of january & so i'd best get outside with my torch (which has an amber lens on that doesn't startle anything to hide from) & see whatever might be going on. I live on a housing estate in the north-west part of Banbury, north Oxfordshire, & here, although we're shortly due a chilly spell, it's lately been rather mild & damp. As i stepped outside last night it was around 9c, damp & calm,..so, fairly ideal for some early in the year amphibian activity. As amphibians get all over the place in my garden i always need to tread very carefully, & sure enough, halfway up the garden path, there was an adult male Smooth newt taking a breather. Nearby, on a weedy, vast sprawling, rocky mound (dug out years ago for a bigger pond i've still not made) i spotted at least half a dozen adult newts along with about half a dozen youngsters. (They seemed all Smooths, but i've got long introduced Palmates about as well.) They all appeared to be out for a bite to eat, although i suppose one or two of the adults might've actually been gradually meandering their way with reaching the pond more in mind. Anyway, i spotted a couple more adults in places before i reached the pond, situated at the top end of my almost 80f't garden. First newts into my pond (only 5'x3',x2'deep) always seem to be Palmates & this year was to be no different as i found several already in there, along with at least a handful of Smooths. I usually get at least one, or two, Cresteds as well, but there didn't seem any yet, although it's usually difficult to clearly see what might be lurking deeper, especially with there also being bits of pond weed impeding my scrutiny. Any frogs or toads are rarely out'n'about on land in my garden before march but in the pond there's nearly always several alert eyed male frogs (which will have hibernated in there) surfaced around the reeds in the corner, as was the case last night. Without fail, newts are always the ones to get the show started in my garden, well in advance of any amorous frog & toad activity. There'll be lots more newts (peaking at possibly 100 adults) to arrive into my pond yet between further cold snaps & practically all adult newts will be back & long re-established in the pond by the time toads & land based frogs get on the march to it.  

So anyway, that's me & what's already going on in my neck of the woods,..what about elsewhere in the country, guys'n'gals?

   


Suzi
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Posted: 19 Jan 2006
Keep meaning to go look at my pond with a torch so I did tonight at 10pm but nothing stirring. It is only 4 months old but I am fairly certain there is at least one frog hibernating in there but no sign of any newts or anything tonight. It is very mild. I'm in East Devon btw.
Suz
GemmaJF
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Posted: 20 Jan 2006

Hi Mick, I caught today's temperature and weather on the radio this morning.. needless to say we'll be doing our first spawn spotting around the local ponds today and the garden pond will be torched tonight.. I let  you know if we get anything 


Gemma Fairchild, Independent Ecological Consultant
Alan Hyde
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Posted: 20 Jan 2006
Ah, this is such good news . My S.A.D get progressively worse with each winter, and the first sighting of frogs in my pond is a sign that things are looking up

I have tried my best to fight off the gloom by getting involved in Bird Photography but, this just doesn't touch the spot for me.


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GemmaJF
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Posted: 20 Jan 2006

They are fantastic Al, Clap you know I had plans to hide in our shed this winter and get some shots of the bird table... guess what S.A.D beat me and I've done practically nothing since I stopped working in November

Still springs here now (OK I KNOW it isn't official, but one newt or a frog will do it for me!! )


Gemma Fairchild, Independent Ecological Consultant
Alan Hyde
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Posted: 20 Jan 2006
Morning Gemma ! Thanks!

I bought a bird hide and put it up in our garden near the feeders, it's just a shame that we don't get more bird variety where we are. I've seen Blackcaps, Long tailed tits, Blue and Great tits, A jay , Starlings ,Blackbirds, Robins and one Great Woodpecker.

I've given up Smoking so we can afford to go away to the sun every Christmas . I swore that I'd never spend another one here and quitting my 70 a week habit will certainly help towards getting there .
It was funny as, I just didn't know what to do with myself so i'd spend hours just sitting in this hide looking through the lens and chewing gum franticly

I thought you'd be feeling the gloom too It's nice to know we're not alone.
And Aside from the bird photos i've been the same as you doing very little but sitting inside my own bubble of thought .I'm Supposed to be decorating but can't find the motivation , and have also been doing just the very basic housework that needs to be done.

Here's to Spring and the happy rays that the sun brings
Alan Hyde38737.2284259259
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Alan Hyde
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Posted: 20 Jan 2006
Also, keeping to the Topic , my sister tells me that she has a pair of toads (seperate) in her garden pond this morning . She lives in Somerset.Alan Hyde38737.20875
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GemmaJF
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Posted: 20 Jan 2006

Hey, congrats on kicking the habit, Merv gave up after a dose of flu at Christmas, today is my big day strangely enough, 2 packs left, at the end of that no more chain smoking!!

Hey I better get outside and see if I can find some herps, else I'll be here all day nattering


Gemma Fairchild, Independent Ecological Consultant
Alan Hyde
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Posted: 20 Jan 2006
Oh Wow, well done Merv!! And good Luck Gemma , I hope you manage to crack it too
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Mick
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Posted: 20 Jan 2006

Don't forget more precise locations, guys'n'gals...I know this isn't a majorly serious topic but i just thought it would be interesting to hear about what herptile life is gradually starting to get back underway around the country.

Alan, i feel your pain about yearning for spring to hurry up & properly get hear,..i'm no winter person either. And as for smokin',..well,...frustratingly, i definately also feel yours & Gemma's pain there! But hey!, gotta agree with Gemma about them pic's. I might not be much of a tweeter but those really are crackin' shots! And even in Somerset, Alan, i would have thought that's still early for a couple of toads to yet be out'n'about...Interestin'.

Suzi. Early days for a pond that young, i suppose, but i'm sure things will very quickly pick up over the next few years. My present pond's about 12-13y'rs old & i was lucky it seemed to get occupied pretty well in just it's first 2-3y'rs. These days amphibian activity in my pond each spring is just mental & i love it! Keep optomistic about everything though, Suzi, as i remember that when i built my pond, although i expected frogs & newts to move in fairly soon, i read that a pond as small (about 5'x3', 2'deep) & newly built as mine might be unlikely to ever attract any toads, & yet in my ponds first year i had at least a couple of toads as well....Now i get plenty of everything & i'm desperate to finish building a much bigger pond i excavated the space for years ago.   Hmmmm,..maybe this year..   All good things come to those who wait, Suzi, & it'll be worth it.

Keep 'em peeled, guys'n'gals!


Suzi
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Posted: 20 Jan 2006

Mick, thanks for the encouraging words! My pond is the same size as the one you mention although a bit deeper. We have lots of frogs, toads and newts in the gardens round about here so I am hopeful.

I've just been sitting in my greenhouse which doubles as a hide. I have been watching 4 bullfinch, 4 siskin, a brambling (newly arrived this week), many goldfinch, various tits and chaffinch, greenfinch and the usual garden birds. I hang feeders in our large oak tree and they come to those as well as ones nearer the house. I am rather a bird nut! Nice pics by the way Alan. I notice we are all on the starting blocks waiting for the season to start again!


Suz
Alan Hyde
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Posted: 20 Jan 2006
Hey Mick thanks mate, i'm glad you liked the pics. So you're a smoker too?

Yeah I was quite shocked to here about the toads aswell, she lives in Burnham by the way.

Suzi, thanks to you also .Your list reminded me that we also have Chaffinch. I'd love to attract Goldfinch for photos but the thistle seed doesn't seem to be doing the trick, any tips?


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Mick
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Posted: 20 Jan 2006
[QUOTE=Suzi]

 We have lots of frogs, toads and newts in the gardens round about here so I am hopeful.

 

[/QUOTE]

Sounds fairly ideal to me then, Suzi! Just a matter of a bit of time, that's all!


GemmaJF
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Posted: 21 Jan 2006

Suzi, our pond really came to life in its second year. We had a couple of newts for the first season, joined by a few immature frogs towards the end of year one. Last year though the newts peaked at over 30, still a bit short of frogs as yet and no spawn so far but fingers crossed for this year for our frogs and your pond coming to life 

Al, we had a pair of Goldfinch eating our thistle seeds in the garden this Autumn.. can't give you any tips though, they were only around for about half an hour on just one afternoon. We were fortunate they chose a couple of thistles just outside our patio window so we had a good look at them.

Not an exhaustive list but so far we have had passing through:

Barn owl

Hen Harrier

Sparrow Hawk (never quite in the garden but the occasional explosion of feathers at the end of the garden marks that he is about

Kestrels

Crows

Magpies

Jays

I think a Jackdaw but don't trust my ID

Great spotted woodpecker

Green woodpecker

An egret (I almost fell over when I saw it but they can be seen in large numbers at a local reserve, it better not get ideas about eating our newts grrrrrr )

and for the little 'uns

Wrens

Robins

Blue tits (breeding pair last year)

Great tits

Greenfinch

Goldfinch

Bullfinch

Pied wagtail (one of my favourites)

and the usual blackbirds, house sparrows (the little groups of baby sparrows each year have to be the most entertaining of all the birds that visit) and a thrush

The odd wood pigeon and  a pair of collard doves

Oh and 3 red legged partridges that seem to live here along with a cock pheasant

I've probably missed quite a few off and I'm no expert at bird ID so there are a few visitors I haven't identified as yet.

Guess who can't wait to retire


Gemma Fairchild, Independent Ecological Consultant
Alan Hyde
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Posted: 21 Jan 2006
Wow Gemma What a list!
You're very lucky indeed. Our Sparrowhawk hasn't been seen since the Autumn and i'm becoming concerned.

Funny that you say about wagtails, I phoptographed one yesterday by the pond at Pirbright. It's not that good a pic as I wasn't expecting it and just did point and shoot at 400mm. I agree, they're gorgeous birds and i'd love to see them in our garden.

Alan Hyde38738.2566435185
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GemmaJF
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Posted: 21 Jan 2006

Wagtails seem quite common around here, we often see them in town and around the local villages.

They are lovely but nothing beats the baby sparrows. It appears from my observations (pretending to be serious) that the ability to fly comes somewhat instinctively to the sparrow.. the ability to land is however something of an acquired skill   

Last year we had a group of three that Merv called the 'terrible trio' they were so funny to watch as they attempted their first few landings after leaving mum.


Gemma Fairchild, Independent Ecological Consultant
Alan Hyde
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Posted: 21 Jan 2006
Hehe, oh yes that first landing is rather amusing. Most noisey has to go to Blackbirds though. We have Blackbirds nesting in our pyracanther every year and the day when the young leave The parents call constantly .

Wagtails are common here too but, i've never seen them in our garden . They walk up and down the pavement out the front of the house.

Anyway, here's a visitor to our garden that I forgot to mention.

Pic is rather close up as my lens was set to take bird pictures on the branch behind when he lept up on to the feeder.

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GemmaJF
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Posted: 21 Jan 2006

Aaaaww that is a really lovely study Al

I see wagtails mostly around pavements too, the only place we really see them in the garden is on the shed roof come to think of it. I wonder why that is? I can imagine the blackbirds must make quite a noise, it's enough when the ones we have give a warning call occasionally!

Now for my first herps of the year

No signs of any frog or toad activity in 3 Essex ponds checked today.. but first torch of our garden pond tonight here in Mundon Essex and..

3 female smooths (nice and plump) and one skinny little male not yet in breeding dress.

As my underwater photography leaves a little to be desired, thought I better net one of the girls for a piccy.. Merv's caption goes along the lines of.. "there I was minding my own business having a little swim around... would you mind putting me back now?"


Gemma Fairchild, Independent Ecological Consultant
Suzi
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Posted: 21 Jan 2006

Within weeks of getting my pond last September I had 2 grey wagtails dancing round the edge picking something off the water surface. My neighbours had them as well. They put in a much larger pond than mine in July/August so we are both hoping for great things this spring. Interestingly they ceased to have frogs breed in their two small ponds where previously they had bred successfully for over ten years. This happened several years ago although plenty of frogs are often in these small  ponds.

Wagtails come for food on my paved area. They won't feed on grass or soil. They pick up little bits of something from the bird food. I get grey and pieds come to feed but not all the time.


Suz
Alan Hyde
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Posted: 21 Jan 2006
Yes! The first 2006 herp pic, Nice one Gemma! I'm going to check my pond with the torch now.

Suzi, good luck with your pond this Spring


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