Just a quick post because I am excited by my new present, a telephoto lens. I bought the lens primarily because I wanted to take some shots for this blog, and so I finally bit the bullet and spent some money. As I finished early for Christmas today, I thought I would try it out, although the light is apalling and there were no birds in the garden (whenever I get a camera out they all do a bunk).
Imagine my surprise when, camera in hand, a jay flew into the garden (I had the camera, not the jay). I feel doubly lucky because I have never seen a jay in the garden before. The pictures aren’t great (a bit blurred), but, I was hand holding the camera and for some reason, I hadn’t turned the image stabiliser on!
I then had the opportunity to photograph a greenfinch (it looks a bit stripy so I think it may be one of this year’s). The results are shown below, OK, not perfect, but as you can see, it was quite dark, and I had to zoom in quite a bit. (This time the image stabiliser was turned on.)
There is a long way to go, but I am quite pleased with my new lens (although it is a little noisy – no chance of sneaking up on any unsuspecting birds with this lens), I am just hoping for some better light over the Christmas period.
A dry day in the garden gave us time to catch up with a few bits and pieces and take note of what was growing well (notably not the courgette which is now completely lacking leaves). The tomatoes (Gardener’s Delight and Beefeater) have now been planted into larger tubs, as has my remaining courgette. Sweet Peppers (Mini Bell and Sweet Nardello) as well as Chilli Peppers (Heatwave and Hungarian Hot Wax) were also put into larger pots, but, following a trip to Ryton Organic Gardens last year, in smaller pots than in past years in the hope that they may be more successful. These last may be transplanted to the front of the house once we have finished the front garden to try to ripen the fruit.
Also seemingly growing well were the families of both goldfinches and greenfinches which arrived in the garden this morning, presumably recently fledged (one young goldfinch and four young greenfinches). They were much quieter than the baby sparrows, and, generally quite well behaved.
The results of the big garden birdwatch were released this week and seem to reflect a lot of my own observations this Winter. Although the average number of birds counted has dropped since the first survey in 1979, there are some success stories. The most noticeable of these has been the rise of the goldfinch which sits in tenth position (replacing the greenfinch which drops down to eleventh – reflecting the low numbers that I was seeing earlier in the year). This is not surprising as I regularly have 4 of these(and up to 7) at any one time fighting over the sunflower hearts. Also of note was the increase in the numbers of other finches such as siskins (which enter the Top 20 for the first time) and bramblings seen in gardens. Although I didn’t see any on the actual day, this year marks my first ever sighting of a brambling (a female came in with some chaffinches for a couple of weeks) and the first time I had siskins in my garden (a male and female were there sporadically over a couple of months). This increase this year is thought to be due to a low yield of conifer seed in Scandinavia which has driven birds over here and into gardens. They apparently are attracted by the niger seed which more bird lovers are putting out in their gardens. I can safely say that this is not the case in my garden where sunflower hearts are the finches food of choice with the niger seed feeder being visited only when the goldfinches are chased off the other feeders (by almost anything else as they appear to be way down the pecking order!).
For those that are interested the top bird was the starling, followed by the house sparrow with blackbirds overtaking blue tits to take third place. More information can be found on the RSPB website where they also have the top ten listed for all the counties. The Northants list is as follows:
2. House Sparrow
4. Blue Tit
6. Collared Dove
10. Great Tit
I have to say that the numbers of sparrows in my garden has reduced this Winter, I am not sure though if this is because they are less keen on the sunflower hearts than they used to be on the mixed seed that I used to put out. I think I will get a better estimate when they start breeding and I put the mealworms out. As far as my list goes this Winter has definitely seen the rise of the chaffinch and the goldfinch which have by far outnumbered all the other species.
When I first moved to Daventry my back garden was a barren wasteland with respect to little feathered friends. Eventually, after putting out peanuts and other bird foods, rather than the expected starlings and sparrows, our first visitors were greenfinches. We have welcomed these back every year, including some youngsters, numbers increasing as I tempted them in with sunflower hearts.
However, this Winter, there seems to have been a dearth of the little fellows with chaffinches being this season’s greenfinch. Where I had regularly seen 6 or 8 of them fighting over the feeders this year there were just one or two. I mentioned this to someone at the Northamptonshire Bird Club who knows more about such things than I, and he also seemed to think that the numbers were down. He thought they may have succumbed to a disease that has hit finches over the last couple of years.
This morning, I opened the blinds to look at the windy world and immediately counted 8 greenfinches in the garden. I don’t know where they went especially when the weather was cold and the bird numbers in the garden increased, but I certainly welcome the greedy little chap and chapesses back to fight over the feeders once more.