There has been a small amount of rain today (12th July) at the end of an exceptionally long dry spell of weather. The weather has been too good for being indoors writing blogs and I have made much progress in the garden. With a garden of 1.5 acres it is quite difficult to keep up with tasks but I’m not too far behind now.
The dry spell has made life very difficult for creatures that depend on worms, slugs and other invertebrates for food. I’ve been feeding mealworms to the two pairs of blackbirds four or five times a day. Between feeds they have been hopping about on the parched grass in search of worms, which are currently far too deep for them to access. The pair with the tame female that has been here for at least five years reared two broods this year. I only ever saw one fledgling from the first brood at the stage when they develop their full-length tails and it unfortunately flew into the conservatory window and was killed. The second brood has been more successful and there are at least three still being fed by mum and dad.
There has been a pair of song thrushes regularly searching the garden for food. They are much shyer birds and more reluctant to come to food that is on offer by humans. I have not seen any fledgling song thrushes and I suspect they will have died of starvation either in the nest or soon after fledging.
Of the other birds that have successfully nested there are plenty of young blue tits, great tits, robins, dunnocks, chaffinches, siskins, house sparrows and wrens. Young coal tits and spotted flycatchers are absent this year (no spotted flycatchers arrived, though house sparrows renovated and adapted their last yea’s nest in wisteria against the west gable of the house), Because the level of the burn running through the garden is so low dippers and grey wagtails, here earlier in the year, have disappeared.
Hedgehogs, like some of the birds, are also having a hard time finding food. I leave the gates open from the hens’ enclosure at night once the hens are to bed and at least one hedgehog appears round about 10.30 pm toddling through the hens’ run, across the blue bridge over the burn and straight for a pile of sunflower hearts and mealworms I leave out (with a bowl of water) under one of the bird feeding stations. It does not deviate from its regular route and, once on the grass, glides across like it is a wee spiky toy on wheels.
We have red squirrels on and off, sometimes up to three at a time. After a few squirrel-less months there is presently one coming almost daily to two of the peanut feeders. Unlike earlier squirrels this one seems not to have learned to use the squirrel feeder, though sits on top of it regularly. I have the lid partly open to encourage it but so far the only takers are coal tits, which squeeze in through the gap and fly off with a peanut.
I was surprised the other day to find a full-grown toad hopping through the hen run. The hen run and the wood above it are almost as dry as a desert just now, with a real dearth of foxgloves this year. The toad seemed to know where it was heading and made straight for the burn, passing our black rock hens that were looking on in amazement at this strange intruder in their midst. The toad jumped in to the water with a splash and immediately looked far more at home. Even with the scarcity of water in the burn it is a far better environment than parched woodland.
Postscript: Two hedgehogs at the late-night banquet now. The one that appears from the wood is slightly smaller and darker than the other. No antagonism towards each other and they clearly know each other. Would be nice is one is a female with wee bristly hedgehogs somewhere in the garden.