Winter bird watching.


As you are no doubt aware Winter can be  a great time for birdwatching.  Not only do you get the Winter visitors such as Redwings and Fieldfares, but the numbers of our ‘native birds’ are swollen by imports from the rest of Europe – coming for our supposedly milder climate – I guess they have had a bit of a surprise this year, but it is still probably warmer than back home.  In addition, they have fewer places to hide, unless they can find some evergreens.

Unfortunately I have found a couple of downsides to birdwatching in Winter – the weather is colder and, it is dark when I go to work and when I come home so ornithological opportunities are somewhat limited.  However, I have noticed a large influx of redwings and fieldfares onto the industrial estate in the last week – they have found the sea buckthorn berries that I walk past each morning – yesterday I saw about 20 fieldfares on my way into work, not a good view in the morning gloom, but, good enough.

An added bonus for me, if not the birds this week is that a grey wagtail was tempted into the warmth of the warehouse (joining the wren and robin already there) affording rather nice views, I think it has been coaxed outside now though.

Male Bullfinch
Male Bullfinch

Of course, come the weekend and the opportunities for staring into the snow covered garden increase – this morning was particularly good – well, once I had replenished the feeders.  As well as the usual suspects (i.e. blue tit, robin, chaffinch etc) I also spotted a total of 6 bullfinches – a record for my garden – three of each flavour and all there at the same time.  We had seen three last weekend, one pair and a lone male which was tolerated by the other two.  We had therefore assumed that it was one of the three chicks that had been about in the garden last summer, but to see 6 at the same time was sadly quite exciting after all, this is a bird that has just made it off the BTOs red list of conservation concern.  These handsome little birds that spend their time in pairs and make a sound like a squeeky bicycle pump tie with long-tailed tits as my favourite birds.  (They are edging into the lead at the moment as they are regulars in the garden so they earn extra points on the lovely birds register.)

None of these would be about if there were no food for them, so please make sure you feed the birds in winter, particularly when it is cold and the ground is covered and frozen – the ones in my garden are particularly fond of sunflower hearts.

Garden Birds

I spent a considerable amount of time today cleaning the bird feeders. This is my own fault as it is a task I have neglected for some time, but I have given the birds the last of the live mealworms, so it seemed a good time to clean them all out.

I have restocked the ground feeder with sunflower hearts, and, to soften the blow added some dried mealworms (as well as some sawfly larvae I found on the gooseberry, har di har). The sparrows ate the mealworms (and, I hope, the little green devil larvae), but are now turning their nose up at the sunflower hearts.

The main feeder though has been a site of much feathery activity, with goldfinches, a robin, chaffinches and a bullfinch all visiting this afternoon. Apart, that is, from when I had my camera with me trying to take their pictures.

Chaffinch on bird feederGoldfinches on birdfeeder

These are the best I managed whilst hiding in the washing that I was drying in an environmentally friendly way (which meant it doubled as a bird hide).

The bullfinch (of which I did not get a picture this time) has become a regular visitor this month, and even showed up with a lady bullfinch the other day, I am hoping they may decide to stay.

Early(ish) Morning Birdwatching.

A great morning’s birdwatching today – a large number of sparrows, young and adults, blackbirds a-plenty, chaffinches, greenfinches, bickering goldfinches, great tits, blue tits, a dunnock – the only thing missing was a robin and Walter the pigeon. Yes, these were all in my garden whilst I had my breakfast – I was so interested in the behaviour of the different birds, particularly the three young goldfinches, that I was nearly late for work (never mind).

One of the goldfinches was quite shy and was easily pushed out of the way, another sat inside the ground feeder quietly eating away at the sunflower hearts in there, ignoring the raucous sparrows, and the third, is the most aggressive of the lot, chased away nearly all the other birds that tried to evict him from the feeder. Most that is, apart from a male bullfinch, one of the highlights of the morning, looking beautiful against a rare blue sky, one of the prettiest birds, and one that hasn’t visited the garden for a couple of years.

Just in case anyone is wondering why I am constantly going on about the birds, firstly they really bring the garden to life, and, secondly, it stops me getting morose about all of the slug damage going down (they are picking on my beans and salad crops now that they have finished off the courgette, cosmos and sunflowers).