Sunday, 31 January 2010

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch.

Taking a one hour snapshot of the bird visitors to the garden usually brings up some surprises. As I observe from day to day there is hardly a time when there isn't one or more of the tit families at the feeders. During the count I though there would be none right up to the last few minutes and no Coal Tits appeared though they had been frequent visitors for weeks. Normally I spot the odd Jackdaw from time to time so it was quite a surprise when four landed at the same time. Also there are usually quite a few Chaffinches but only three turned up in that hour.

The final results were:

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 2010

Of course I had the camera to hand, just in case.

Not now dear, I've got a headache ....
Can't Catch Me

I wonder what Blackbird tastes like ...

It had been a beautiful sunny day, though cold, and the sky stayed clear into the night which gave me a chance to try to capture the full Moon.

Moon 004

A few days ago I mentioned that the Wood Pigeon on the feeder looked as though it needed pince nez to focus on the food. Well, Glo from Porcelain Rose took that as a challenge and the result can be seen here:

A great piece of animation from Glo. Brilliant.

Saturday, 30 January 2010

A Bit More of the White Stuff and a Resident Pheasant

For once the weather forecasters got things correct. We did get one session of prolonged snow. It didn't stop the bird visitors from eating. In fact they became even more frantic to stock up.

Tree Sparrows and a Chaffinch
Tree Sparrows

The usual Starlings and House Sparrows
Snowing Again

Most unusual, in my garden, to see two male Blackbirds so close to each other.
Friendly for a Change

Just as the light was beginning to fade I noticed that the pheasant was sitting in a tree at the bottom of the garden. Even when Bobby went for a stroll round it stayed there with just its head following Bobby's every move.
Pheasant in a Tree

For the moment it seems to have adopted my garden for there it was at daybreak ignoring the squabbling Blackbirds on the snow covered lawn.

 It even strolled over to the ground feeder and helped itself to a free breakfast.

Friday, 29 January 2010

Friday at the Flicks (Early Pheasant, Wet Pigeons, Singing Robin)

It was too dark for the Canon but just about light enough for the camcorder when this pheasant visited early one morning.

The Wood Pigeon shown a couple of days ago feeding in the rain was joined by two more. I was fascinated by the way the one on top of the feeder kept trying to persuade the one below that it was time to change places.

One dull day, as the light was fading, a Robin stayed on one of his favourite perches while I sneaked the camcorder outside to capture a bit of his song.

Once the distant dog had finished barking I could also hear a Coal Tit in the background.

Big Garden Birdwatch
It was great to see the BBC have been promoting the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch this weekend. I have no doubt that many thousands of British gardens will be carefully watched and bird visitors counted, It only takes one hour on either Saturday or Sunday. Details can be found by following the link on the RSPB website HERE.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

I'm Eating in the Rain

Even when it is pouring with rain birds, like this Wood Pigeon, still have to eat.

Wood Pigeon

I always think they should be wearing pince nez as they look so short sighted.

Monday, 25 January 2010

More Nest Box Investigations

After missing for a couple of days there has been renewed interest in the Blue Tit nest box. Today there were four visits in just over an hour.

No idea whether it is the same bird or two or more giving it the once over.

Sound is from my usual outdoor microphone at the opposite end of the shed. Amongst others are a Collared Dove's monotonous call and the usual tut tutting of the Blackbirds. I hope to have another (baby monitor) microphone near the nest box by the weekend.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

A few Thoughts from the Regulars

"Look ma, I can levitate."
Leaping Blackbird

"Ah, that's why my toes are cold."

"Hey, Speedy Gonzales, where's the fire?"
Wood Pigeon Watches Starling

"I'm sure someone said there was free corn here."
Wood Pigeons

"Just look at that show off hanging down there."
Dunnock and Blue Tit

Seeing the Blue Tit reminded me - a Blue Tit made a brief visit to the nest box on Saturday afternoon so it is still under consideration.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Early Morning Visitors

Last night I was working on the computer when I heard the relay click in the video camera recorder as it registered movement. It was a mouse which had arrived about 8.30 pm and sat in the seed dish for about a quarter of an hour helping itself to the seed put out for the birds' breakfast. That was the first time I had seen a mouse since early December, and never that early in the evening - more usually around midnight or the early hours.

Checking the night's recordings I saw that it, or one of its relatives, had visited just as it was starting to get light.

The next visitors were a couple of early Starlings helping themselves to dried mealworms and being told off by a male Blackbird which wanted to get at the suet pellets, soon followed by a female Blackbird. Other Blackbirds were milling about on the lawn. There were about ten of them altogether.

Although the Blue Tits are still visiting the feeders I have had no more sighting from inside the nest box as yet.

Friday, 22 January 2010

Friday at the Flicks (Food Glorious Food)

I found a couple of apples I had stored in the greenhouse and threw them on the lawn to see if there would be any interest. It didn't take long for the Blackbirds to start demolishing them.

I had some more stale sponge cake which I fastened in a fat block feeder, mainly to keep it out of Bobby's reach or he would have wolfed the lot down.

The Greenfinches and Chaffinches are masters at stripping the shell from sunflower seeds as can be seen in this close up snippet of a male Chaffinch as he crushes and rolls them round in his beak until the shell is ejected.

For the first time since so many Blackbirds arrived I saw that the Robin managed to be first at the ground feeder this morning.

There have been no visits to the nest box that I have seen during the past two days. There are other boxes fairly close by so they are probably doing the rounds before making a choice.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Missed Action Photo Opportunities

A few days ago I noticed that the usual bird chatter had stopped except for a Blackbird and a Great Tit exchanging alarm calls. As they were taking it in turns to call I first thought they might have been having a go at each other. My second thought was that a cat may have been lurking under the bushes where the birds sit waiting their turn at the feeders. Looking out of the window all I could see was what at first glance appeared to be a Collared Dove sat on a branch above the bushes. Then I noticed the dark spots under the wing. That was no dove - sat patiently waiting about eight feet above the bushes was a female Sparrowhawk. No wonder I could hear alarm calls. Needless to say, as soon as I lifted the camera to take a shot the Sparrowhawk flew off.

Over the past few days I have seen two Dunnocks flying together. They seem to feed independently but when one takes off they both fly away together. I wonder where they will nest.

Yesterday for a brief time two Blue Tits were together in the nest box. They seemed friendly so I guess it was a pair giving the box the once over.

As we take our early morning constitution we are now serenaded by several Robins, each staking out its territory with a beautifully varied song. As the light was fading yesterday one was sat in the tree next door and the complexity of its song with so many trills was a real pleasure to hear. Too dark for a photo but it shouldn't be too long before I manage to get it on video.

All in all it may be Winter and cold as far as we are concerned but for our feathered friends Spring is round the corner and many are preparing for the breeding season.

I wonder whether Carrion Crows are spiteful or just playful. There were some crows sat on a roof top and a Wood Pigeon sat on top of a telegraph pole. Suddenly one of the crows flew across and dived on the pigeon knocking it off its perch. As the pigeon flew away the crow returned to its place on top of the roof.

Still plenty of Blackbirds visiting for breakfast as daylight begins the break. Numbers are down from the 20+ of a week or so ago to about 12 now. I think some are roosting in the large Leylandii which is also a popular place for birds to sit and bathe in any available sunshine.

Blackbird Sunbathing

Monday, 18 January 2010

Nest Box Investigations Becoming More Frequent

Yesterday a Blue Tit made three brief visits to the nest box. That makes visits on three days in the past seven.
No sound on this clip. I will have to see about wiring the microphone up.

Caught a bit of video of another inspection this morning.

Found out I hadn't put a cable in for the microphone and it's too late to be tinkering with the nest box now so I will have to think of some other way to capture any sound.

These visits are becoming quite frequent so fingers, etc. crossed that it may get used this year.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Plenty of Garden Visitors

Nothing out of the ordinary but plenty of bird visitors to the garden today. Maybe the early sunshine has brought them out. It doesn't take much to get the Collared Doves in the mood for raising a family. This male, on the left, spent a while billing and cooing with much head bobbing but the female wasn't having any of that nonsence at this time of year.

Amorous Collared Dove

An easily recognised regular amongst the dozen or more Blackbirds which start visiting just as day breaks is this one which has minimal or maybe no tail feathers. I remember one last year without a tail but I don't think this is the same character.

Tailless Blackbird

It isn't just the Rooks which are attracted to the fat balls. This Jackdaw was doing an equally good job of feeding itself and the ground feeders milling around underneath.


During most of the really bad weather the Greenfinches spent most of the time feeding from a seed feeder near the bottom of the garden but today there were more of them about so some came to the feeders near the kitchen.


I tried for ages to get some film of a Dunnock which kept visiting the bird table, and failed. All I managed was a shot of it near the bottom of the garden searching round a plant pot which had cracked during frozen weather.


Also in larger numbers than recently were the Chaffinches.


One short piece of action I would loved to have got on film was when a male Chaffinch attacked a Starling. The Starling was sat on a branch minding its own business when the Chaffinch flew straight at it and chased after it as it flew away. Also missed about a week ago was a stranger which visited the fat balls. By the shape it was something like a Nuthatch or Goldcrest but it disappeared almost as soon as I spotted it so identification was impossible. I have seen a Goldcrest visit once in the past.

Another piece of action I failed to get on record was a further visit to the nest box yesterday by a Blue Tit which spent a while investigating every corner. They really are fussy house hunters - everything has to be just right.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Friday at the Flicks - Finding Food in the Snow

Different birds use different techniques to find the seeds which had become buried under recent snow falls. The Starlings tend to poke a closed beak deep in the snow and then open it wide to make a small hole. The final part of the video has been slowed down to one quarter speed. This gives some unusual 'bird sounds' as the sound is also slowed down by the same rate.

Blackbirds use beak and legs to make larger indentations in the snow. In the slowed down end section it can be seen to use one leg at a time to scrape the snow away. (This also has slowed down sound)

Although Rooks will also dig with their beaks it is a lot easier to hammer away at a fat ball. As bits fly off in all directions other birds gather underneath to tuck in to the easy meal showering down on them. This Rook must have one of the largest beaks, compared with the body size, that I have seen.

Nice as it was to see snow when it first arrived I am mightily relieved that it has now gone from the village to be replaced with a more normal Winter scene of dull, sunless days with plenty of fine rain to keep everything soaked. Oh well, can't have it perfect all the time.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010


It has just dawned on me that it is now a year since I started this blog. How time flies when you are having fun. It took me a few years to pluck up the courage to get started, mainly as I had no idea what I was going to write about and whether I would have much to say, let alone whether it would be of passing interest.

The year has been fun. It has given me an outlet for my photography, concentrated my observations on the wildlife which visits the garden and led me to find others with similar interests. I certainly look forward to another year of observing and photographing so I hope you can stand another year of me waffling on, and on, and .... I will certainly look forward to following all the interesting blogs I have discovered.

I have often mentioned the large Leylandii in the bottom corner of my garden. This is as it was three years ago - getting on for 100 ft high - the day before it was cut back. It had been growing there for at least 35 years and gave no sign of having reached its maximum height. In fact a few years before it had lost about 20 ft from the top lead when it was stripped out by what I think was a mini whirlwind during a storm as the bark was unwound from the wood.


It had often worried me. It was firm enough in the ground but any branches falling from the top could have done some real damage to life, limb and property. I didn't particularly want to have it removed completely as it harbours a lot of bird visitors, providing both shelter and food in the form of the amount of insect life. In the end, after consulting our local experienced tree feller, I decided to have the top third taken off. Not a cheap option as it could not be scaled. £300 a day to hire a mobile platform was the only option.

Here Owen, the tree feller, and the owner of the platform are gradually working their way down the tree.


The idea being to reduce it to the same height as the younger Leylandii just behind it in a neighbour's garden. When they had finished cutting it down to size I was given the opportunity to go up on the platform with my camera, a FujiPix at that time. Now my legs start wobbling a few rungs up a ladder so I cannot say I enjoyed the feeling when we achieved just over 60 feet up but the views were great. This looking down on my back garden as it was then.


Here a view looking across to the cricket field Bobby and I walk most afternoons


and here the view in the opposite direction across arable fields towards the Lincolnshire Wolds.

Finally a rare view of the roof of the village church - about the only place you can get a view of so much of the church at once.

St Edith's Church

I had enjoyed the views. A once in a lifetime opportunity. All the photographs were taken one handed as there was no way I was going to let go of the hand rail with the other. My, was I grateful to get back to solid ground as even in a gentle breeze the platform moved slightly with every gust.

Well, that's it. A year's worth of waffling on finished and thoughts must now turn to what to write about during the next twelve months. Many thanks to all those who have visited, from 90 different countries, and to the many who have left comments. They always help to spur me on along with the fabulous photos which other people put on their blogs - gives me a standard to aim for.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Grey Days

Quite a change in the weather. Most of the snow around the village has now disappeared except for the occasional place where the Sun can't reach this time of year. At least the temperature has remained above zero but the sky has been covered in thick cloud. We are back to typical dreary Winter weather. I was hearing this morning how some parts of Australia have had night temperatures in the 30s C but I think I will keep what I have. I find those sorts of conditions harder to cope with than out low temperatures.

A few photographs from the past week. Along with the constant hordes of Blackbirds there has been the occasional visit from a Rook - sometimes digging in the snow

Rook in the Snow

more often giving the fat balls a good bashing much to the enjoyment of the smaller birds which gather underneath to catch the spillage.

Rook at the Fat Ball Feeder

Surprisingly I have rarely seen the Goldfinches at the feeders. At one stage I was getting worried that they had succumed to the cold weather but every now and then a few appear to reassure me that they are still around.

Goldfinches 5

The weeks of snow we suffered were early for this part of the country so I wonder whether we will get more in mid February, when it usually arrives around the time the schools have their half term break.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Bobby Gets a Sled and Birds eat Cake

Some while ago I mention to Glo, who writes the blog Porcelain Rose, that in these icy conditions I could do with a dog sled so Bobby could pull me to the shops. Yesterday Glo wrote a poem about the Birdy Bistro and made a great composite picture of Bobby pulling a sled down the lane here.

Bobby Sled

You can see and read the original HERE on Glo's blog. Thank you Glo. A lovely poem and a great picture.

When I had a grocery delivery just before Chritmas the company had substituted a couple of large sponge cakes for some items which were out of stock. I am not a great lover of sponge cake so after I had eaten as much as I wanted I chopped up the remainder and put it out for the birds. It didn't take more than a couple of minutes for the regulars to find it.

Blackbird with Cake 1

Blackbird with Cake 2

Starling With Cake

It was a relief to look at the outside temperature this morning and see +2C. The forecast is for sleet and rain so it should help to get rid of some of the snow. In fact it has been slowly melting all night but it will take a few days for it all to clear providing we don't get some more to take its place.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Those Fieldfare and their Apples

We seem to be getting a new layer of snow each night. It actually makes walking round the village easier for the early morning walk. It's only after many feet have compacted it that it gets a bit more difficult. In spite of the snow the birds continue to devour everything they can find.

The flock of Fieldfare has partly dispersed as they finish off the windfall apples but there were at least 20 in the old orchard yesterday. In fact first thing yesterday morning they were sat on the branches overhanging my garden. They just sat there in the gloom watching the ever growing number of Blackbirds rioting over what scattered seed they could find. I counted over 20 Blackbirds.

Later in the day I noticed the Fieldfare had returned to the old orchard across the lane so I took the camera across to see if I could get some photos of them. Fortunately there is a wall just high enough to hide most of me and some bushes to screen the camera. Where there used to be dozens of whole rosy apples on the ground it is now a scattering of apple peel and cores with just the odd nearly whole one to attract a few  Fieldfare for a while longer.

Fieldfare and Apples 1

Fieldfare and Apples 3

Fieldfare and Apples 2

Occasionally there would be a short squabble over ownership .....

Fieldfare Squabble 4

Fieldfare Squabble 5

.... but it didn't take long to get back to the serious business of eating.

Fieldfare and Apple 6

I would be very surprised if there are many of this flock left today as most will have moved on to pastures new by now.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Friday at the Flicks: Fieldfare, Feeding in the Snow

As the large flock of Fieldfare stayed around all yesterday devouring the windfall apples just across the lane from me I managed to take some video of them. Although the camera was outside it didn't pick up much of the constant chatter of so many birds in one place.

Apart from one day of clear roads and paths we have had snow around for about three weeks now. We haven't had the large falls seen by many but every time it starts to thaw we get another inch or so to top up the levels.

Noise levels in the garden can be very loud with Sparrows constantly chattering, Starlings squabbling and now Blackbirds constantly tutting and clucking at each other.

Snow or no snow, freeze or baking Sun the job of finding enough food has to go on for the visiting birds. Here a Blue Tit seems to have to work really hard to chip off pieces from a frozen fat ball. It is not speeded up - the poor bird was really working at this speed.

A Blackbird seemed to be leaping in the air to get more power to its beak as it struggled to pick up seed frozen in the grass.

Nothing stops Starlings in their quest for food, not even a heavy downfall of snow.

I am beginning to wonder how much longer my stock of seed will last and when it will be an easy drive to pick up some more as there seems to be less salt being used on the main street through the village. At least temperatures have been around zero or just above so the water I put out each morning doesn't freeze over very quickly.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

An Orchard full of Fieldfare

Normally I concentrate observing through the kitchen window at the back of the building. Something made me look out of the front room window this morning and I was greeted by the sight of scores of small birds on the remaining apple trees in what used to be an orchard. I tried many photos through the window but recent snow had brought down so much dust and dirt the results were useless. In the end I crept outside and up to the front gate and managed to get some decent shots. Now I could identify what I was looking at - a flock of anything up to a hundred Fieldfare. What a fantastic sight. In this tree I counted just over three dozen.


There was another tree with just as many and scores more on the ground amongst the windfall apples. Every time someone walked or drove down the lane they would all take to the air only to return a short while later.


This was a rare sight for me and an opportunity not to be missed especially with a bird I had not seen before.


 What an incredible sight it was, especially when they took off like a cloud rising from the ground there were so many. Unfortunately a hedge was in the way for photographing those on the ground.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Blue Tit Investigates Nest Box

I was really thrilled this morning to spot that a Blue Tit made two visits to the nest box. The first time it took some of the old grass stems out of the box but I was too slow starting the recorder. I was ready after that and managed to record the second, brief, visit. It was so brief I slowed down the recording a bit.

 This is a photograph of the nest box taken last year.

Blue Tit Nest Box

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

A Bit of Snow

A few times today we had some brief periods of snow. Each time the activity at the feeders increased and tempers flared. Most of the squabbling was within the groups of Blackbirds and Starlings.

Starlings Squabbling

This Blackbird seemed to be trying to decide between shelter or food.

Blackbird in the Snowfall

While this one braved the snow flakes landing on it.

Blackbird in the Snow

These two male Chaffinches reminded me of Eric Morecamb's catch phrase...

What do you think of the Winter so far?  .........  Rubbish!

The last time I went to the local garden centre I treated myself to a small orchid plant which sits on the kitchen windowsill and cheers up dreary Winter days.

Dendrobium Winter Beauty
Dendrobium  Winter  Beauty
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