First visitor to our new sparrow nest box: a blue tit. It checks out hole number three first; no, that’s not quite right; then hole number two and it’s just about to investigate hole number one when a second blue tit appears, there’s a skirmish and off they fly.
It’s likely that, as this RSPB box was made specifically for sparrows, the blue tits will find the entrance hole a little too wide for their liking but the old box, single-holed variety, attracted blue tits one year, sparrows the next (and finally bumblebees), so we’ll have to wait until springtime to find out who finally takes possession.
4.25 p.m., 40ºF, 5ºC: I find peonies more interesting to draw when the buds are opening up than when they open up into frothy flower-heads, which in our garden often get battered down by summer rain.
There was a dispute over the patio nest box this afternoon: two blue tits looked on anxiously from the clothes line as a female sparrow perched on the front of the box taking a good look in the nest-hole. Sparrows and blue tits took an interest in the box last year but it was finally occupied by red-tailed bumblebees. These birds had better stake their claim soon.
We’ve seen blue tits and sparrows taking an interest in the nestbox on the wall just outside the back door but it looks as if this year bumblebees have taken possession.
The rosettes of leaves of ribwort plantain and dandelion are spreading like a colony of green starfishes over the corner of the lawn that gets the most trampling by the shed. The rosettes are ground-hugging so that they escape the blades of the mower, so I try taking some of them out using a tool called a grubber which I push in and rotate to lift out the whole plant, taproot and all.
There’s then a small hole that needs filling with soil. It might be a good idea to spread a bit of grass seed on the bare patch too, but I’m sure that at this time of year the surrounding grass will soon spread to fill the gap.
We found a fresh hedgehog dropping this morning, on the end slab of the top of the low retaining wall of herb bed, nearest to the house. Less welcome, but seemingly inevitable, Barbara says she’s also spotted rat droppings as she edged the lawn. Yesterday our next door neighbours found a dead one at the end of their garden.
Biscuit, the pony with attitude, hasn’t made an appearance in my sketchbook recently. Apparently he has been sold. If Biscuit had been a player on my team, he would definitely have been up for free transfer. But I’ll miss him.
Latest from the blue tit box on the patio; blue tits were in and out of it a couple of weeks ago. A house sparrow briefly investigated it but all we’ve seen in the last week is an occasional bumble bee hovering by the entrance hole and going inside.
For the first time in forty years as a freelance I got my accounts started, finished and even submitted my tax return online in just one day. They’re simple enough – working out the proportion of printing costs against book sales is as complicated as it gets – but in previous years there always seemed to be one mystery item that would hold me up.
Now I haven’t got that hanging over me, perhaps I’ll feel more freedom to get off and draw.
WE’RE A BIT concerned about the great spotted woodpecker that we’ve seen a couple of times by the nestbox by the back door. The blue tits have been busy but as far as we know there are no chicks in the box so far.
This morning the woodpecker perched briefly on the front of the box. It’s not that I want it to go hungry but we did invite the blue tits to nest here by erecting the box so I feel as if we have a duty of care.
We can’t keep an eye on it from dawn to dusk but if we see peck marks appearing around the entrance hole I’ll try getting a strip of metal cut to protect it. Just hope it doesn’t succeed in breaking in at a first attempt.
FOR A WEEK or two we’ve noticed the Blue Tits been flying back and forth to the nest box near our back door but we’re concerned today because bumblebees have been flying in and out and flying around the box investigating it closely and we haven’t seen the birds. On one occasion a wasp went in but soon came out again.
We’re relieved in the early evening when one of the birds appears again, making several trips in and out with food from the bird feeders. It could be that the female is sitting on eggs and the male feeding her at intervals throughout the day.
We’ve been making the most of what might be the last of a spell of dry settled weather which seems to have lasted for the best part of two months. There could even be a bit of snow coming so today I’m finishing painting the edges of the raised beds. It’s never a job that would be top of your list of essential tasks in the vegetable garden but there’s never going to be a better time to do it as not only is it so dry but there are almost no crops in the bed, so I can push back the soil to paint the timber.
It’s like clearing your desk before you start a new project.