World CleanUp Day

Hi all! A little difference to this blog post as it is not a nature update from the garden but I wanted to share something important and close to my heart.

Like many many people I’m a big hater of litter and the pollution it creates. I often do a bit of litter picking as a way of doing my bit and helping out to keep our environment as clean as possible.

So I wanted to share with you all that this Saturday is World Cleanup day. A day dedicated to raising awareness of the problem and organising, and getting as many people as possible participating, in clean-up events across the world.

They have an excellent an easy to navigate website where you can find all the information and either register your own event or sign-up to one near to where you are.

I’ve signed up for a couple of hours on Saturday morning for a clean-up organised by a friend of mine, shout out to Mr Tim Black, on the banks of the seine.

The whole concept of world clean-up day is a really great initiative to get people thinking about and helping to solve this very serious problem. So if you have a little time on Saturday please to consider participating.

Chatou Nature Update – 08/09/20

I’ve not been blogging during the summer but I am still keeping up with the garden nature project, and also updating the website logs, records and information.

I’ve had a few Beech Marten sightings since the last blog  and I’ve gathered enough info to create a more detailed records page.  The conclusions of my initial, not very scientific analysis is that I think I can identify at least two different individuals visiting.

It all comes down to the tail tip, sometimes bushy and sometimes not.

For the full story check out the Beech Marten records and the analysis on the wesbite.

The summer has seen a bit of a drop off in hedgehog activity. Some nights I’ve not been getting any visits at all and the use of the hedgehog house stopped some weeks ago.

What I did see was a big increase in visits from the neighbourhood cats, to the point where it became impossible to leave any food out for the hedgehogs without the cats taking it. Therefore, a little bit of DIY later I’ve made up a hedgehog feeding which will hopefully keep the hedgehogs fully interested in the garden. For the DIY ambitious, the plans for the construction can be found here.

Apart from the regular visitors I do still keep finding nice surprises in the garden and the most recent is shown below.

Rather unfairly called the ‘Common’ frog this one was a rather nice example. There is no water in my garden, no pond, but these frogs actually spend most of their time away from water which they only really use for breeding. They hibernate in places such as garden undergrowth and woodpiles so keep an eye out if you see some leaves moving at the bottom of a hedge.

Chatou Nature Update – 27/07/20

Monday 27/07/20

Nearly a month since the last blog post. In this time only 1 more Beech Marten sighting has been added to the log and that on 29th June, so no recorded visits thus far in July.

The Hedgehogs have continued to be very active in the garden and the box was in quite regular use, including a couple of times when the hedgehog stayed in the box throughout the day.

However the last of these long stays was the 7th July and since then the house has not been used.

All of this has been recorded in the weekly hedgehog log.

Also included in the log is the information from the last week when I’ve participated in a citizen science project to record information across France on hedgehog activity. It’s called ‘Mission Herisson’ and you can find all the info via their website.

It’s a nice experiment which is done by recording footprints in a hedgehog tunnel, something that is really easy to make and set-up at home.

So even if you don’t want to participate in the Mission Herisson but would like to know if you have hedgehogs in your garden, it could be worth having a go.

Chatou Nature Update – 28/06/20

Weather : Very hot temperatures nearly all week, up to 35oC.

Notes : I didn’t send a post last week as I had no significant news but this week there is a definite update.

Firstly, specifically today, we have had the first all-day stay of a hedgehog in the new house. Obviously Hedgehogs are essentially nocturnal so they need somewhere to rest and sleep during the day. Up until now the hedgehogs have been using the house to feed and take nighttime naps.

The first daytime occupant, hopefully a significant development, is shown below.

For more information and all the pictures and videos on the hedgehog activity over the last 2 weeks check out the Hedgehog Log.

The second good news this week is a new sighting of the Beech Marten, the first since 3rd June.

It was only a brief visit for a drink from the water dish, but it was captured on video and can be found on the updated log of beech marten sightings.

On a different scale I’ve been trying to pay more attention to the insects in the garden as essentially the summer months are the peak time. I know very little about the vast majority of insects so it will be a very good way of boosting my knowledge. I’ve started to try and log some information on the bees and butterflies but this week I found a fantastic stag beetle. I really can’t remember every having picked up one of these before.

I didn’t get a photo of THE beetle so this library picture will have to do. They are not my fingers but it really is that big.

They need dead wood to thrive so hopefully the log pile I installed in January to attract more insects is part of the reason that I’ve now found one in the garden. I will keep my eyes open for more.

Chatou Nature Update – 14/06/20

Weather : Cool and overcast for most of the week with some heavy rain showers.

Notes : I repeated the Jam sandwich trick this week but no further sightings of the Beech Marten. It may be several weeks before it is seen again.

I’ve been watching the hedghog house closely which has been getting regular visits. The hedgehogs are now using it as a nice location for a midnight nap in between feeding. I’ve got lots of footage from the week and all the updates can be found in the hedgehog log.

The mice are still active and have even been using the inside of the hedgehog house.

Although they are still active I would say they have been less visible during the day and are only rarely showing up on the cameras. I’m not sure if this is because of their nesting activity. If so, and if this is successful, at some point I may start to see lots more mice!

The bird sighting of the week was definitely a marsh tit. I didn’t get a picture of the actual visitor so I’ll cheat and use a library picture.

I spotted it in the garden on the 10th June, feeding on the fat balls. I remember seeing this bird quite often when we first moved in 4 years ago but I haven’t seen one for a couple of years.

For this and all the notes on the activity last week take a look at the Bird log.

Chatou Nature Update – 07/06/20

Weather : Very warm and sunny for the first half of the week followed by a dramatic change to cooler weather with some heavy rain showers.

Notes : A very busy week in the garden with the clear highlight being some new sightings of my all-time favourite garden visitor, the Beech Marten. A big event as my last sighting was the attack on the great tit nest box back in April.

The beech marten first showed up this week with a fleeting visit during the night of the 1st June. I then thought I would try and entice it back by leaving out some suitable food on a couple of nights, I opted for a cut up jam sandwich.

Excellent news arrived on the night of the 3rd June when I had a very long visit from a marten during which I recorded all of the videos below, starting with this one.

Actually by this stage most of the food had already been eaten by the hedgehogs but the marten is finding something to eat and also takes a drink from the water dish. It bounced around for a little longer before deciding to go up the tree.

Although the beech marten spends more time on the ground than it’s near relative the pine marten, the video shows what fantastic climbers they are.

A few minutes later the marten appeared again, spent a little longer hunting around before finally leaving the garden through the small hole I have made in the fence for the hedgehogs.

In total the marten was present for around 30 minutes which represents by far my longest ever recorded visit.

Apparently the way to identify martens is via the white/cream bib that they have on their front. Different individuals can have slightly different markings and spots. I took a couple of snapshots from the videos to try and see if I could make out any distinguishing features.

The image quality is pretty low but I can’t make out any markings on these photos. Perhaps the distinguishing feature in this case is a total absence of markings!

As I’m now building quite a record of beech marten sightings I’ve made a page on the website to record them as they happen and also to provide some general information on these fantastic animals. All of this can be found at the following link.

Beech Marten

I will keep it updated with any new sightings and any individuals I may be able to identify.

The Jam sandwich food I left out for the marten was also much appreciated by the hedgehogs, provoking some interesting courtship behaviour between a pair. I also had my first real visit to the box this week where one of the hedgehogs seemed to be measuring it up for size.

I’ve added all the info, videos and pictures from the week to the hedgehog Log so please have a look for all the news.

Hedgehog Log – 2020

Finally I can confirm that the mice are still in the garden and therefore successfully evading the cats and other predators. They seem to have permanently set themselves up under the hedgehog house.

So that is all for the week. A mammal heavy update after all the weeks of bird activity.

As always thanks for following and the next blog post will be next Sunday.

Chatou Nature Update – 31/05/20

Weather : Consistent warm sunny weather all week. Slightly warmer than normal for the season and no rain.

Notes : We’ve had fantastic warm sunny weather all week. More like mid-summer than late May and whilst not wishing to seem begrudging, nature could really do with some rain. Everything is dry and the ground is very hard.

I have been following the hedgehogs all week and you can read the latest news  on the updated Hedgehog Log – 2020.

Unfortunately there has been no sign of a hedgehog settling into the new house. The weekly update does contain a little information on distinguishing between males and females and for those of a curious mind there is even a zoom on a Hedgehogs genitalia. Maybe not everybodies thing!

The highlight of the week though has been a big increase in activity of the wood mice. They have been out during the day gathering seeds from beneath the bird feeders and I managed to localise them to a hole in one of the walls where I believe they were nesting.

These mice, also called field mice, are different from house mice and are usually active during the night.

They are pretty mobile with several nesting sites around the garden. A few days after taking the above video the mice seemed to move to a new nesting site under the hedgehog house. So it is getting used, kind of.

Their daytime activity to gather food is a good indication that they are provisioning for some imminent arrivals. Apparently they normally breed several times a year with each litter containing up to five mice. However they need a lot of young as they have many predators and the rate of attrition is pretty high.

In our suburban setting the number one mouse predator is surely the domestic cat. Although I don’t have any cats myself, a couple from the neighbourhood are regular nightime visitors. And night can be a great time to catch mice.

A couple of days after the mice decamped to their new location under the hedgehog house I managed to capture the video below. On the bottom right of the hedgehog box you can see the eyes of the mouse. The cat has clearly heard something move and is ready to pounce.

I think that the mice got away this time but they’ll need to keep alert as the cat will certainly be back.

Thanks for reading. Next blog update will be next Sunday. Bye for now.

Updated Chatou Nature Website

Hi All.

Following the departure of the great tits I’ve been updating the Chatou Nature Blog website so that I can keep following and documenting more of the nature in my garden. If you are interested please do check out the new website. The link is the same but to be sure it can be found at.

Chatou Nature Home

I intend to try and follow the activity of some of the different garden visitors throughout the year. I will not be blogging daily but I will be updating the various nature logs within the site. I will then post any interesting news as and when it happens.

One of my new projects since the departure of the great tits is that I have installed a hedgehog box with a video camera. We have several hedgehogs regularly visiting the garden and it would be fantastic if I could get them using the box. I’ll be keeping a weekly log of my efforts and you can find the first weekly log update at the following link.

Hedgehog Log – 2020

As a preview a video of the first Hedgehog visitor is shown below.

If you have and comments or suggestions on the new site please don’t hesitate to let me know. Thanks to you all.

Great Tit Nest – 2020 – ‘THE LAST POST’

As promised just one final post, obviously ‘The Last Post’, to conclude the Great Tit Nest blog for 2020.

The nest remains empty and the adults and chicks are now out and about. I have seen them, and more often heard them, during the day in the garden. At one point the adult was feeding one of the chicks from a fat ball on the bird feeder. All good signs that things are progressing well. The weather promises to be nice for the next week so I think that they will have every chance.

With the fledging I have been able to complete my table below, the first year for which I have all the info. A scientific upside to staying at home.

In the end the chicks fledged 22 days after the first, and 20 days after the last chicks hatched. I will make sure to clean out the box over the winter and now hopefully it will be in regular annual use.

I had a look at the inside of the box today, pictured below.

I removed the nest material and had a prod around just to see if there were any traces of the two unhatched eggs. I confirm that they were nowhere to be seen. I last saw one of the eggs intact on Day 46 so I assume that since then they must have been crushed and the contents eaten. It happens.

So that is the end of the Great Tit Nest Blog 2020. I do have some other nature projects under preparation, one of which is a Hedgehog box with a nesting compartment. So if you are interested stay subscribed to the blog and I may post some news as and when it arrives.

Many thanks to you all for following and for your always lovely comments. It’s been a real pleasure for me to be able to share the story with you.

To go back and relive everything from day 1 check out the full daily Nesting Log at Great Tit Nesting Log – 2020.

I’ll finish with a slideshow of the nest Box photos from Day 1 to 56, the full story in under 2 minutes.