February 2010

I went for a little walk at the nearby lake, 'Wylerbergmeer'. I noticed someone with a big camera taking pictures of some Goosanders which I'd also noticed. Turned out to be someone from the Bird Workgroup Nijmegen who I'd met before. He wasn't completely satisfied with the pictures he took, and neither am I, but they are very beautiful birds.
I tried to photographe some other birds as well. There must've been nearly a hundred of them, in Black Alders (Alnus glutinosa, Zwarte Els in Dutch) of course. Their favorite food by far. They go through all kinds of acrobatic moves to get to the seeds in the somewhat pineaple-like female catkins. I took several photo's and below are the best ones. Not perfect... The one showing the back of one of the Siskins (Carduelis spinus, Sijs in Dutch) is probably the best when it comes to sharpness, focus... Handy... Oh well. Nice to have seen them so well for so long. :)


I'm so happy with three plants in our bedroom. They're 'Miracle trees' (Leucaena leucocephala). Lisette's brother brought back some seeds from his vacation to Costa Rica two years ago. Not that this plant is a Costa Rican species, the seeds were just sold there. Anyway, the seeds grew into beautifully leaved mini-trees. Well, mini, the biggest is about 70 centimeters (wild guess) high now. And that biggest one is now showing a tiny (about 3 milimeters in diameter I guess)! I hope it'll actually flower...
No problem there with the peppers! I just took the seeds out of a fresh Hot Pepper (Capsicum annuum, Spaanse Peper in Dutch) that came in a vegetable-mix and planted them. All six germinated and several are now flowering and/or carrying fruit. Still haven't tried one though.


The snow melted, so I could finally take a look at the plants in our garden and see how far they'd come since my last look at them. The Crocusses look very good, but it'll be a little while before the flowers appear, nothing to see of them yet. The Snowdrops behind our garage (last picture below) look close to flowering though. It's clear they get more sunlight than the ones behind our shed (second picture below). No sign of small Oxlips (Primula elatior, Slanke Sleutelbloem in Dutch) yet. I hope some of the seeds I sowed January 1st have or will germinate, such nice flowers.


New snow... There were some beautiful Blackbird (Turdus merula, Merel in Dutch) tracks in the snow around the place where I regulary throw out breadcrumbs. A bit of a mess of tracks at that exact place as the Blackbird had clearly walked around a bit to eat most of the breadcrumbs, but some very nice neat one from that place to the terrace. Unfortunately, I realized too late it'd make for a nice picture. I was able to take a nice picture of Blackbird-tracks at another place though.

More fresh snow. So I tried again to photograph some bird tracks. There's a nice set in the back of our garden below the bird feeder. A lot of seeds are spilled but birds like Dunnocks (Prunella modularis, Heggenmus in Dutch) never sit on the feeder so they're very happy with that. So I'm guessing the tracks on the picture below are Dunnock's, but they might also very well be of Chaffinches (Fringilla coelebs, Vink in Dutch) as those are also very often feeding on the ground.
I cleared the pond of some snow as the submerged water plants need light in order to photosynthesize. I hope this helps to keep them alive and heTITLEhy.


A day off today to compensate for working past Saturday. The weather was nice, cold, but clear, so I went out for a nice bike tide/walk around the nearby lake Wylerbergmeer. I tried to photograph Long-tailed Tits (Aegithalos caudatus, Staartmees in Dutch), but without much luck. Such restless little birds. Nice to watch anyway though. :) I was also very glad to finally see some Smews (Mergellus albellus, Nonnetje in Dutch) again. It'd been quite a while and they're such beautiful birds. Bit far away and not a great picture, but I got a very nice look at them through my binoculars.
After passing over a small bridge I hear some very stressfull birds calls. I turned my bike around, cycled back about 50 meters and got off. I started filming with my photocamera right away. I thought it might be a Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis, Havik in Dutch) that had caught something and I'd hate to miss that of course. I slowly walked toward the place where the calls seemed to come from. Several birds (Jays (Garrulus glandarius, Gaaien in Dutch) and a male Blackbird (Turdus merula, Merel in Dutch) were alarming in the surrounding shrubs/trees. I had some difficulty finding the source of the calls, I didn't see anything on the ground or in the trees except the alarming birds. I carefully went into the shrubbery and found the source of the calls. A female Blackbirds was laying on the ground, calling very loudly. For a split second I thought she was stuck on something like barbed wire, but I quickly noticed it was being held by something from below. I just kept on filming, I was standing only a meter or so from the Blackbird. After about 30 seconds in the video below there's a short struggle in which a glimbse of the animal that was holding the Blackbird can be caught. Don't worry if you don't see what it is though, I didn't at first. But after a while it shows up.


Lisette's mother brought me some apples today. Not perfect ones but apples still suitable for making apple sauce. But that's not why I asked for some, I wanted to put them in the garden hoping to attract Fieldfares (Turdus pilaris, Kramsvogel in Dutch). I placed them carefully in a such a way that I thought passing Fieldfares could easily spot them (one turned with a beautiful red patch pointing upwards, others with clear yellow patches, etc.). And in a place easy to see from in the living room of course. :)
During a short bike ride I noticed two Fieldfares not far from home. I hope I'll be able to add it to my gardenbird-list sometime soon...
Oh, and about the video in the previous entry. I was uncertain if the hunter was a Weasel (Mustela nivalis, Wezel in Dutch) or a Stoat (Mustela erminea, Hermelijn in Dutch) at first. I posted two screenshots of the video (see one of them below) on a forum and received a reaction today that confirmed my suspicion that it was a Weasel.


When I got home from work today I noticed something has been eating from the apples! I found my birdguide on the desk in the living room, opened at the page that shows the Fieldfare (Turdus pilaris, Kramsvogel in Dutch). So Lisette had seen Fieldfares eating the apples! Too bad I hadn't, but I was glad they found the apples and enjoyed them. But a mere 15 minutes later I noticed one eating! It stayed all afternoon, eating, retreating into the Climbing Hydrangea, eating again, retreating, etc. I took some pictures through the window, but as always those aren't all that great. Nice to be able to add this species to my garden-list though!
Also, early this morning while brushing my teeth I noticed the leaves of the White Leadtree (or Miracle Tree, Leucaena leucocephala) had opened while it was still dark. Appearantly they open and close triggered by something other than light. Some kind of internal clock I suppose?

I tried some different Fieldfare-photography today. Lisette had a great idea: to use an inflatable bed to lay down on the terrace. And so I did. Not all that cold, mainly thanks to the inflatable bed. But it took a while of laying absolutely motionless before the Fieldfare had the confidence to start eating again. I was able to take some very nice photo's though (in my own 'humble' opinion).


Sitting behind my desk/computer I noticed something entering the 'marsh' (a dug in cement tub filed with sand, saturated with water). It was a Robin (Erithacus rubecula, Roodborst in Dutch) that went in to take a bath in the shallow water. There were a couple of Blue Tits (Parus caeruleus, Pimpelmees in Dutch) flying/hovering around and it looked like they were watching the Robin. A Great Tit (Parus major, Koolmees in Dutch) showed up and went into the marsh as well. The Robin left and both Blue Tits entered as well. Then one of the Blue Tits left and the Robin came back again. So at that time there were three species of birds in the marsh at the same time!


Before we went out for a walk in the forest this morning we looked around in the garden a bit. I looked around for emerging plants and plants starting to grow again and photographed a small plant that's very likely White Campion (Silene latifolia, Avondkoekoeksbloem in Dutch). It's growing at the exact same place where one spontaniously popped up last year and the old flower stem is still there. Nice that it's coming back, it was a nice flowering plant and thankfully used by a moth called The Lychnis (Hadena bicruris, Silene-uil in Dutch, see the July diary of last year).
The walk in the forest was very short, it started to rain about ten minutes after we'd left and the paths were a muddy mess as it was... Back home we had lunch and after that it was dry again. So we used our new ladder to put up two bat boxes! Ordered at Vivara.nl and recieved some months ago, Lisette painted the back and roofs to make them more moist-proof. The best time to put up these kind of boxes is in early spring. Ok, so we're a bit early. Anyway, one of them is a bat box 'Maxi', just a big bat box for a lot of bats to spend the day in. The other one's a breeding colony box. The inside is divided into sections, not sure why, but bats prefer sections in their breeding colony places? We put up the boxes on the back of our house, as that has a Southern orientation. It's nice and warm, which is just what bats like. They like ventilation as well though, which is why there are ventilation opening in both boxes. You can see some light comes from the side of the Maxi-box on the fourth picture below. Same goes for the colony box, there's an opening in the side of that box as well. Boxes like the Maxi are nearly guaranteed to 'work'. Up to 99% is occupied within 5 years according to Vivara's research (24% within a month, 70% in 1-6 months, 85% in 1 year and 96% in 2 years). I regulary see bats flying around here in the summer, so I'm confident some will use our boxes very soon! :)
While out in a very, very short burst of sunlight I also took a picture of the now practically flowering Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis, Sneeuwklokjes in Dutch). Well, ok, not very convincing flowers yet, but it's very close...


More signs of spring... :) Of course the first flowering plants in the shape of Crocusses are nice, but the first signs of Willow catkins make me feel much more excited... And there will be a lot of those! :) I've said it before, but I'm still very much so hoping these will be male flowers... No way to tell yet though, so I'm just going to have to be patient.
By the way, that Thyme on the third picture is a plant that spontaneously popped up in our front garden. :)
A plant that didn't just appear is Wild chervil (Anthriscus sylvestris, Fluitenkruid in Dutch). I sawed that beside our pond (I think...) and it's looking very strong. Wouldn't it be nice to have it flowering beside the pond? It's also called 'Dutch lace' (Hollands kant), as it's white flowers often 'lace' Dutch waterways.


Things are moving in our pond. There are several snails in there, small and bigger, as far as I've been able to see all of the same species; Great ramshorn (Planorbarius corneus, Posthoornslak in Dutch). I didn't put them in there, but I did put in waterplants from a nearby pool, so they or their eggs probably lifted along.
In the back of our back garden, behind the shed, the Lesser Celandine (Ranunculus ficaria, Speenkruid in Dutch) is growing well. The picture below shows the small kidney-shaped leaves among leaves of Common Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea, Vingerhoedskruid in Dutch). Some of the small bulbils can also be seen (see also the January 23rd diary entry).
Our garden is very rich in mosses. There are several liverworts and mosses. I love Common Liverwort (Marchantia polymorpha, Parapluutjesmos in Dutch), but this 'real' moss Hair Moss (a Polytrichum species) is a real beauty as well. It's very common in the forest here and grows spontaniously in our garden.
I did some work on the loam wall intended for Hairy-footed Flowerbees (Anthophora plumipes, Gewone Sachembij in Dutch). I've put small pieces of wood under the base to lift it up from the tile a bit. The botom part of the loam wall was staying moist, I'm hoping this small lift will prevent moisture from being sucked into the loam from below. Also, I drilled holes into the loam. 10 mm across, as suggested by bee-expert Ivo Raemakers. He also told me Anthophora plumipes likes the holes to be clean, so I used a bendable straw to blow out the dust. Despite the fact the straw was bendable, I still got some of that fine powdery soil in my face of course... I'm very curious and of course hoping to see these big bumblebee-like bees use this loam wall. Ivo Raemakers told me his loam wall was used by 2 females in the first year and 6 or 7 in the second. The growth of his populations was slowed down because the parasitic bee species Spotted Melecta (Melecta albifrons, Bruine Rouwbij in Dutch) also appeared. Well, I'll just have to wait and see what happens in our garden. As I was going around the garden, looking for emerging plants, I came across several Common Lungwort (Pulmonaria officinalis, Gevlekt Longkruid in Dutch) plants. As this is a early spring flower, strong shoots are popping up everywhere. One particulary big plant even had a single flower already! Bring on Anthophora plumipes, as this is one of their favorite plants in our garden.