A New Year – And Nailed Bittern Already!!!

An early start today saw us going to Slimbridge for the Birdwatch morning with the wardens Martin and James to get the year list off to a good start. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t great for photos but managed to get one or two nice ones, and we had some great sightings.

My bogey bird has definitely been put to bed now, we had amazing views of the Bittern again. It was stood right on the edge of the reeds, and then came out right in front of the hide.

Even on the edge of the reeds they are really well camouflaged

Where Is It?

Moving can help get a better view

In the Reeds

It started wobbling, I think it was going to the loo


Suddenly it rushed out into the open. It could only have been about 15 foot away – incredible views. As it came out, a volley of cameras went off, it sounded like a barrage of AK47s, very funny! Cue raucous laughter, luckily the Bittern didn’t seem concerned by the shutter noise.

Out In The Open


Then it went back into the reeds and melted away

Almost Gone

We finally found the Lesser Scaup on the pool by the Robbie Garnett Hide. It was closer than the one we saw last year, but all it did was sleep!

Lesser Scaup

Lesser Scaup

Waders were everywhere with Lapwing, Curlew, Dunlin, Golden Plover, Ruff and more ducks and geese than you could shake a stick at – Wigeon, Pochard, Pintail, Tufties, Teal, Gadwall, White Fronted Geese, Continental Greylags and of course Bewicks.

Loadsa Birds

Golden Plover

Golden Plover Flock

Dunlin and Lapwing

Lapwing and Dunlin

A nice juvenile Common Gull

Common Gull

Also we saw a wild Mandarin. This bird has paired with a captive female that forms part of the Slimbridge Collection


Also had great views of Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, Buzzard and Peregrine.

All in all a great start to the year and we totted up 65 species.

A Quick End Of Year Review

What a year, things didn’t go quite as planned due to operations going wrong and then taking a long time to recover, so trips were limited and the target for the number of birds in the year was out of reach. This year will be different! Blogs and Website updates have been thin on the ground so big apologies, lots more next year. My Patch is developing nicely and am going to expand it, lots of plans to implement.

This to one side it was still a fabulous year. Blue Tits nested again, and I’m inundated and obsessed with hedgehogs. The garden appears to have 14 hogs and we currently have 5 over-wintering with us.

My bogey bird was the bittern, and finally we saw one at Slimbridge (on the 3rd attempt).

Bittern Close Up

Slimbridge put a copy of my photo on their website 🙂

Henry the hedgehog was found in our garden and became our first rescue. He was an autumn juvenile and needed help

Henry Ball

We have also released some hedgehogs from Cardiff Hedgehog Rescue – This is Church being released

A Taste of Freedom

This is Horatio who is staying with us over-winter


Finally we had a garden first today!!!!

New Garden Bird

Lots of ideas for next year, I want to blog more and develop the website more. I’ve added more cameras to the garden and am streaming them to the website. Check my tweets as well @TheLilacGrove as I do a lot on there too. I now have a trail cam so am going to see what I get along the river and the allotment, I’m after Fox and Badger (and hopefully Otter, but more than likely Mink)

The Bird Year list is back on, I aim to clear 200 at least (only made 157 this year)

Have a Happy New Year and may your wildlife experiences be amazing!

Adventurous Hedgehogs

One of the hedgehogs we are overwintering doesn’t like his box. He keeps escaping and wrapping himself uo in one of the dog’s old blankets. I managed to get it on film, not very elegant!

Further attempts (you can tell he’s a boy!)

I then put him in a deeper box, which he escaped from! Although I missed it I got some nice footage of his attempts

Eventually I had to put wire mesh on top. This stopped him, but he still tried brute force and ignorance!

What a sweetie!

Bittern, Snipe and Flocks

We had a great trip to Slimbridge on Saturday. The aim was to see the Bittern, my bogey bird. We have tried loads of times, including last weekend. I was determined not to leave the Zeiss hide until we had seen it, it had been showing all week. When we got there it hadn’t been seen yet, typical. Never mind let’s try anyway. 50 minutes passed… then there it was, emerging from the reeds and crossing the open patch they had cut for it. As if by some divine providence the sun came out. 1 minute of viewing pleasure! What a bird.

Our first view

1st Bittern

The sun came out

Bittern in Full View

It then posed

Posing Again

It then came even closer

Bittern Close Up

No wonder they are hard to see

In the Reeds

And then it was off

Right, I'm Off

I sent some photos to Slimbridge and to my delight they put one on their website http://www.wwt.org.uk/visit-us/slimbridge/sightings/2011/12/04/todays-sightings/

We then headed off to the Martin Smith Hide to try and spot the Snipe, instead of having them pointed out to us. We picked the hard birds yesterday! We found 2 , and then a 3rd, discover the 3rd was in fact 2 together, and a 5th.

There’s three in here, honest

3 Snipes

Who says brown is boring, the markings are exquisite

Snipe 1

Great Little bird


There were loads of over birds around too. 1000s of Lapwing, Golden Plover, Graylags, White Fronted geese, Bewick’s and all the ducks you could shake a stick at. They were very flighty and there were some amazing flock take off. A gorgeous sight

Flock 2

Flock 1

Sammi’s Release

We collected Sammi the Hedgehog from Cardiff Hedgehog Rescue today. She has been in soft release and needs to be released into the wild. She has a mild case of ringworm so looks a bit bald, this was probably exacerbated by being in captivity. She weighed in at 842 grams

Sammi the Hedgehog

This morning I built a new box for her, packed it with straw and camouflaged it. Obviously she ignored it when she was released!

New hedgehog box

This is the moment of truth when we opened the box. We pointed it straight at the box and the food we put out for her.


I set the trail cam up in front of the box and food to see what happened when she finally left her cardboard box. As soon as we went in she was off. This video shows her first few moments of freedom and went straight for the food and then ignored the box. I next saw her behind the bins! She is now pottering around the garden exploring.

Good luck Sammi!

Bug Hotel

Having seen a post from Buglife I decided to add a Bug Hotel to the insect house part of the garden for them to hibernate in. I used 2 old bird feeder guardians I wasn’t using and filled them with leaves.

Bug Hotel

I then left them for a couple of days for the leaves to dry out

Leaves Drying

Then I moved them into position and put some stones on top to stop water getting in. Clearing the space I found a caterpillar which moved straight in after I put him back!

Bug Hotel

Bug Hotel

Bug Hotel

Here’s the caterpillar, but I’m not sure what it is.


Hedgehogs Galore

Busy week with hedgehogs this week. I have been weighing them to make sure they are over the 600g it is suggested they need to be to survive hibernation. We also took delivery of Church the hedgehog from Cardiff Hedgehog Ruscue who needed a release site.

Here she is being weighed

The Weigh-In

And her first moments in the wild

A Taste of Freedom

Cardiff Hedgehog Rescue marked her with red nail varnish (true hi-tech tracking) so they can be identified, so I have been weighing and marking them now too. This has lead to quite a surprise! I thought we had 3 hedgehogs, now it appears we have 7! The biggest weighed in at 1028g

Hedgehog Pie

Whilst out in the garden I came across a little one, it only weighed 172g, so I rang Cardiff Rescue. He is a 5 week old orphan and we have named him Henry (he will be Henry The Eighth!). We took him down their and Amy showed us what they do, worming, hydrating etc, it was very interesting. She are going to look after him for a while and then we will have him back to look after overwinter.

Henry Ball

Henry the Orphan

Henry's Face

Henry Awake

The hedgehogs make an appearance on the live cams from about 15 mins after dusk until just before sunrise. They nap in our boxes but don’t stay there, hopefully they will overwinter. I suspect they sleep in the wood behind us, I may set up a cam to see if I can find where they come from.