Friday, June 16, 2006

The Garden in June

June is seen as a quiet time for birding (I gather) as all of the spring migrants have arrived and the autumn migrants have yet to leave. The adult birds' colours are fading as the summer progresses, as you can see on this Great Tit:

However some birds retain strong colours even at this time of year, as this Goldfinch shows:

More interesting for me is the proliferation of young birds in the garden, including this young Goldfinch (note the absence of facial markings):

The greediest bird on the feeders is without doubt the Greenfinch:

So far in the garden (in six weeks) we have counted 20 species including:

4 Dunnock, including 1 youngster
20+ House Sparrows, of which 10 young birds
2 Swifts flew low - they count!
2 Blue Tits (nesting 2 gardens away)
3 Great Tits, including one youngster
3 Goldfinch, again one youngster
6 Greenfinch
4 Wood Pigeons
4 Collared Dovers
3 Carrion Crows
1 lone male Reed Bunting
1 Sparrowhawk
1 Chaffinch male
4 Robins including 2 youngsters, we think from 2 clutches
30+ starlings, about half are youngsters
4 Magpies
6 Blackbirds
1 Kestrel
1 Bullfinch
1 Wren
1 Feral Pigeon
2 Sand Martins (low passage again)
and a Song Thrush.

We have heard a cuckoo in the garden but scared it off trying to sight it, and also have a nesting pair of Whitethroats in the hedge beyond our garden. There was a green warbler briefly on the fence but the binoculars were outside so I didn't get an ID, probably a Willow Warbler but I can't count it... :(

Last snap today is of a male House Sparrow, he's just filling up before going back into the nest box we put up, to feed the family :)

Monday, June 05, 2006

The Hedgerow Project - part 1

We have recently (May 2005) moved to Kingsthorpe towards the North-West edge of Northampton. The house was built in 1985 but the garden has mainly been left to lawn. Within the bounday of the property are 3 of a long line of mature Lime Trees. The rear of the garden has a low fence with views over the Nene River towards Duston.

We want to develop the garden to be both attractive to view and wildlife friendly (in particular birds). So far we have decided on four features for our garden:

  • A Wild Area with tall grasses, some nettles and decaying wood, etc. This should encourage insects, snails, butterflies, etc.
  • Some fruit trees with a wildflower meadow
  • A vegetable patch to grow some basic vegetables for our own consumption
  • A natural hedgerow, which will extend for around 26 metres along the rear boundary of the garden.

You can see here the existing fence and some of the depth of view:

In addition, in the middle of the back fence was this decking 'feature' which was very old and contained a lot of wood and concrete:

Our first job therefore was to remove this decking so it's not in the way for digging the soil, come the autumn:

You can also see the growth of the base plants and weeds in just 6 weeks, between the top and bottom pictures.

This series of posts will focus on the progress of The Hedge Project over the coming years, until we have we hope a significant source of habitat and food to support more birds locally.


We are planning a natural hedgerow but utilising some of the existing plants including the Buddliea (which is the 'gateway' into the garden feeding area for the smaller birds). Based on a 2-deep, 26 metre long hedegrow we calculated (see this planting layout: we will need approximately 130 plants. Based on the suggested distribution ( this breaks down to:

100 Hawthorns
3 Rowans
5 Hazels
2 Crab Apples
4 Roses
3 Blackthorn
4 Holly
3 Guilder Rose
2 Honeysuckle
1 Old Man's Beard
1 Damson
plus the existing Buddliea.

For the fruit trees we looked at the polination patterns (check this link for the trees and the pollination guides: and decided upon:

Invincible and Beth Pears, Russett and Scrupmtious Apples and Opal plum.

More useful links:

This link appears to be a reference tool for schools planting hedgerows but has some valuable advice: and was our first point of reference for this project.

More updates to follow in the autumn when it's time for digging and planting!

Pitsford again

It's good to be back birding again. We had limited time and wanted to do something close to home, so fifteen minutes later we were at the Fishing Lodge, at Pitsford Reservoir ( It turns out you can get a 12 month family pass to the reserve for just £17 so we invested as it so close to where we now live. Halfway around we were updating our bird list when we noticed the date of our last walk was mid-April, which shows how much time moving house consumes!

Pitsford is transformed from our last visit in early Spring, to a place buzzing with insects, alive with birdsong but just as devoid of humans! The walk itself, a little over 7 miles, took 3 and a half hours in glorious sunshine, but insect repellent is a must if like me you wear shorts, I'm still scratching one of the bites...

We know we missed a number of birds, because we were both short of time and the foliage is very deep in places, but we heard some very distinctive bird song that we'd never heard before, which can be very frustrating when you know the bird is less than 3 metres away but you have no chance of seeing it! Next time we plan to give ourselves a day to get round, which should prove more fruitful.

We did however see our first (and second!) Treecreepers. The way they hop about, upside down, without appearing to experience gravity is quite remarkable. I did manage a snap, but the tree was very gloomy versus the bright light outside so this is the best I could get:

On the home stretch and mindful of the closing gates at the Lodge we heard singing in the rape field to our right, and spotted this male Reed Bunting singing with his head and neck extended as he called:

It was great to get out again so fingers crossed we can spend some time birding this summer, having missed the Spring migration.