That Was The Year That Was – 2012

What a year at The Lilac Grove. Hedgehogs, Birds, Bio-blitzing and Autumnwatch!

We started with some lovely views of a Bittern at Slimbridge

A new family member arrived in the shape of Button the Miniature Schnauzer

We discovered we had foxes, who now visit regularly

Hedgehogs got released back to the wild after spending the winter in the spare room
Soft Release

The Bug Hotel gets an overhaul
Bug Hotel

The Blue Tits nest again although not entirely successful, only 2 chicks fledge
Blue Tits

We learn how to monitor the river for Riverflies to check the health of the river
Riverfly Monitoring

A released hedgehog returned with Hoglets

The Garden Bio-Blitz – 24 hours to find as many species as possible in your garden, we recorded 172 species!
Part 1
Part 2

The DIY moth trap goes to work and gets some great results
DIY Moth Trap

Then it all kicked off with the filming and appearance on Autumnwatch 🙂 Wow!
Filming Autumnwatch

In all we had 28 different hedgehogs visit the garden and there are now 7 in the spare room overwintering!
Little Chris

Then to top it all of we had an amazing visitor to the garden, Waxwings!

When we were in Scotland we also managed to pick up a few lifers, including this Crested Tit

All in all an amazing year, here’s to 2013 and let’s hope its even better. I just need to get better at keeping notes, there’s so much here it’s hard to keep track!

Get out and look, it’s incredible what you can find 🙂

Happy New Year Everyone

That’s Not A Goldfinch!

The goldfinch numbers have been building in the garden this week, up to 35 today. The camera was out on Tuesday trying to get shots of them remotely when I was looking in the trees waiting for them to come down. Something looked odd

That's not a goldfinch it's a WAXWING! Oh, not 1 but 4! The camera was on the tripod outside and the door was shut, could I get to it and the waxwings stay? As you can tell from the above, yes 🙂

These amazing birds stayed for about 20 minutes before flying off, an amazing garden tick!

After that excitement we also had some other great birds this week. A small party of long tailed tits have become quite regular now

They really are sweet little birds, like little lollipops !

The other regulars have been in too


And a lot of blackbirds all of a sudden

I've also set up a cam on the feeders and got some initial footage. Lucky enough to catch a female bullfinch and a filleting glimpse of anger long tailed tit.


Nest Building

Zoe the Hedgehog was busy overnight taking loads of leaves into her box. She has been in one box in the garden for about a month, this last week she decided to move to a different one. Thankfully this box also has a camera in it. Hopefully she will now settle down and hibernate. Zoe is the hedgehog Martin Hughes-Games was holding explaining about their spines on Autumnwatch. She is the last of the hedgehogs to go into hibernation, haven't seen another hog for a week now.

Here's a picture from inside the box of the finished article, she is in there honest. Looks nice and snug.


Hedgehog Noises

As Zoe the hedgehog has been using the hedgehog box I took the opportunity to sneak a microphone in there to see what noises she made. Apart from the expected munching, scratching and generally fidgeting she seems to make little snoring noises when she is asleep. This was recorded at  about midnight. Click and you should hear it.

Hedgehog Noises

Is it snoring I wonder? Also near the end is what sound like birds but I’m pretty certain it’s not, could it be Zoe? The experiment has raised more questions than answers so I think some more recording is required.

A Trip To Unsprung

We were lucky enough to be invited to the audience of Unsprung after Autumnwatch. The problem, it’s at Aigas Field Centre near Inverness! Never mind, haven’t had a break since June last year so a good excuse for a long weekend. A day there and a day back, but absolutely stunning  and totally worth it.

We assumed we would just turn up and be in the audience, but they sorted out an itinerary for our visit!

We were given a tour of Aigas and of the BBC set up, the production suites and the studio. As we walked up to the studio we saw our first Red Squirrel, but it was too dark for a photo.

View from the studio in the light

The Studio

It was very small and compact with a lot of kit. How would they get any audience in?

The Settee!

There were miles and miles of cables. I thought mine were bad, but this is on a whole new level

These are the Live Cameras with the teams monitoring them, what a set up!

We then went back to the production suite to watch the rehearsals. Even though everyone was very busy, they were all really friendly making sure we were ok. They are under a lot of pressure, they were still editing the show with 5 minutes to go. Even though it looked like chaos they all knew what they had to do and did it. Not a raise voice was heard (very different from offices I’ve worked in!). People were checking the website, making boards for Unsprung, changing running order, editing, it was all going on! Then it was back to the main house at Aigas for a meal with the production team.

Lovely food in a stunning location.

After that it was back to the production suite to wait for the live show. Anyone remember this?

Before the main show started we were given a briefing on what to do for Unsprung. Basically smile and do what Royston says! We watched the live show from the production suite, and there I was on telly. Everyone cheered, much to my embarassment! They all seemed to enjoy it, so did I, even if my heart was racing!

Ten minutes before the show ended we moved to just outside the studio, being very quiet of course. The credits rolled, Royston shouted GO! There was one and a half minutes between the end of the show and the start of Unsprung. In that time the audience has to get in and the set changed! It was chaos! As Martin started talking to camera, things were still being sorted! We were positioned right behind Martin so knew we were on screen most of the time. It was chaotic but great, really enjoyed the show. After the show ended we left, the BBC were then basically packing up to leave as soon as they could.

The Loch with the lights on

We went back to the production suite and met everyone, Chris, Michaela and of course Martin, he really is a lovely bloke. Chris appreciated the nail varnish marking, top bloke!

Then it was all over and we went back to the hotel, exhausted and elated, plus a full twitter timeline 🙂

I would like to thank all the staff of BBC Autumnwatch for such a great day and being so nice. Special thanks go to Victoria Bromley, for organising the day, Anna Place for doing all the website stuff and Natasha Hayes for doing my bit! Also to Martin Hughes-Games for making it so easy.

Introducing Little Chris – The Little Autumnwatch Hedgehog

Whilst we were filming for BBC Autumnwatch we discovered a little Autumn Juvenile.

Although it wasn’t mentioned on the show Martin Hughes-Games had the honour of naming him – Little Chris!

He is progressing quite nicely but will be spending the winter in the spare room (along with the other hoglets) as he won’t be heavy enough to survive hibernation. It is important that autumn juveniles are given correct care so please contact a carer if you find one.

I will be keeping you all up to date on his progress throughout the winter and if you go to the live cams page you can watch him!