Our garden adjoins the River Ver and the millstream and the backdrop is constantly changing. I decided to capture these changes by taking weekly photographs, generally at 10am every Friday.
I’ve seen the water levels rise dramatically and then fall. The skeletal trees are now green again and the flood plain has grassed over.
The river has proved to be an endless source of interest and entertainment. I’ve watched herons and kingfishers, an egret and often a swan. The mallards have nested and their ducklings have arrived. The coots and moorhens have been fighting for the best nesting spots, sometimes disturbed by a grazing muntjac and red kites can be seen hovering overhead.
There are photographs of the river and millstream on the website if you wish to see them.
I have continued to photograph the River Ver and the millstream from my garden during 2015. Last year, in June, we were lucky enough to have a family of swans at the end of the garden. They stayed for a week and then moved on. This year over the same period only one swan came to enjoy the wild duck and swan food that was on offer and clearly did not encourage others to join him.
Lack of rain during the winter of 2014 and spring of 2015 has caused the river level to drop considerably. Large areas of silt have built up, particularly along the millstream. A family of moorhens have built their nest on one of the large, muddy banks but have struggled to protect their eggs from the ever watchful heron. Sadly, no moorhen chicks emerged from this particular nest and I suspect that the heron was the culprit.
We have been visited by red legged partridges, green ringed parakeets, a green woodpecker, and a great spotted woodpecker, the latter a frequent visitor. The array of bird feeders frequented by the usual garden birds has also brought the sparrowhawk in the hopes of catching a tasty morsel. My neighbours have seen one boldly perched on the roof of their extension and I have seen one dive for the birds as they are feeding which caused a lot of ruffled feathers but no dinner for the sparrowhawk . We’ve seen fieldfare and redwing, both autumn visitors. In the front of the house there have been longtailed tits and goldcrests in the cedar tree. We’ve counted at least two dozen different birds over the years.
Blackcap March 2013
Reed bunting January 2013
Reed bunting March 2013
"We have been feeding birds in our Hill Street garden for many years and would like to highlight two rare(ish) birds that have appeared in our garden over the last winter.
A male blackcap appeared in the garden in December and was last seen in March. This bird has hidden himself in an ivy bush, growing against the fence line, and makes short forays out to the bird feeder every hour or so throughout the winter. Older bird books have the blackcap as a summer visitor and "our" birds continue to winter further south. Our winter visitors come from northern and Eastern Europe and take advantage of well stocked gardens to survive the winter. A female blackcap (like the male but with a brown head) appeared briefly, in late March, but has not been seen since.
Reed Buntings are occasional visitors to the feeder and bird table, the first visit (that we noticed) came on the day we chose for the RSPB's "Big Garden Birdwatch" which was very rewarding. These are resident birds, in the UK, maybe these birds will be nesting along the Ver valley?"
Christmas colour in Verulamium Park
Walking by the River Ver in the park over Christmas, a kingfisher was to be seen several days running entertaining all who passed by. The second time I watched it, several people were there with powerful camera lenses. One, Chris McIntyre, willingly agreed to supply me with some photos for this newsletter and website. Thank you very much to him and to the person who provided the paper and someone else the pen, to write down my email address and help it happen. We have been running a “Garden Visitors” slideshow on the website for a year now. So the Kingfisher can be included, it will henceforth be “Village Wildlife”! Please do send any photographs you have to be included via our website link. Some wildlife defies the camera, but is great just to watch. I have never managed to photograph the soaring red kites that are now so common and the urban foxes that leave traces everywhere. Flocks of parakeets were singing loudly, high in the Branch Road lime trees, as they were passing through again.
The kingfisher photographed is in fact a “she”. Female kingfishers have the same colouring as the males except for their bills: the male has an all black bill and the female a red base to the lower mandible. They feed on small fish. Their young need 12 – 18 fish each daily.
Hedgehog in Hill Street
After an absence of several years hedgehogs have again been sighted in our Hill Street garden through the summer & autumn of 2014. The attraction seemed to be the seed husks under our bird feeders, this was an irresistible draw to the hedgehogs, who dug for worms and grubs under the husks. Generally there was only one but there were two quite noisy hogs in the garden one evening. We weighed our main hog in September and were pleased to see that the weight, at around 500 grams, was about right for hibernation.
To assist their hibernation we converted our leaf mould composter into a hibernation site (see photo). This involved burying an old plant pot, complete with a timber tunnel, under the partly rotted leaves. This design is loosely based on a pdf from the internet, http://www.britishhedgehogs.org.uk/leaflets/L5-Hedgehog-Homes.pdf
This seems to be occupied, judging by the moving of strategically placed twigs around the entrance. We are hoping to see our hedgehog back in the spring – maybe even with young if the two being noisy were doing what we thought they were!
August 2015 update
I wrote a piece in the last newsletter about our garden, in Hill Street, and our Hedgehogs. We were really pleased to see the return of a hedgehog this year, which we managed to photograph on 30 May! We have seen him / her on several occasions, but hedgehogs can move remarkably quickly and there was nothing to be seen when we got back outside again with a camera.
We see regular signs of their presence – what my Collins Mammals book says are hedgehog droppings. Maybe they avoid the dog’s bedtime?