Thursday 26th January
A cold spell when the temperature in day-time has rarely risen above 0oC has brought hard pressed birds to the garden. Nyger and goldfinch seem to go together like a horse and carriage. When the golfinch are disturbed, the flock fflits like dry leaves picked up by a gust. They return fast, though, to hang out for the day. Golfinch used to be popular as pets, kept in cages. Why bother putting them behind bars when putting out feed turns the garden into an aviary?
The RSPB's Big Garden Bird Watch is a crowd sourcing of data about bird population. The RSPB asks you to sit where you can see some land (your gardenmaybe?) and record how many birds land in one hour. Then they want to know your results. Simple. Click the button below to take part.
Thursday 19th January 2017
Spilling feed on the lawn causes a ripple of excitement. Immediately the back door closes again, birds, which must have an eye on me each morning, turn up to gobble up what’s on the floor. In my view through the window is a squirrel, a pheasant, a dunnock and a pair of robins. The robins are fighting so by the time they’ve decided who gets it, the food will be gone.
Thursday 5th January
The RSPB coordinates and collates data from the UK's largest nature survey annually. The Big Garden Bird Watch is coming at the end of January and it's a brilliant thing to take part in. It takes 10 minutes of reading and one hour watching your garden and recording what you see. Then you send in your results to the RSPB online. Find out more by clicking on the button below.
Thursday 29th December
I blame my other neighbours for the drop in bird numbers this holiday season. The working couple are at home for a whole fortnight (must be teachers or something) and they’re not shooting them or anything sinister, but putting out food for them and thus luring them away. The local winter bird population is established now so extras from other territories don't turn up. The neighbours' new conservatory blocks my view of their garden although the guttering is a popular bathing spot. Neighbours! Who needs ‘em?
Thursday 22nd December
Colder weather and the woods providing fewer berries now, is bringing birds in. Greenfinch haven’t featured on the spot list for weeks and readers of long standing may remember a plague of trichomonosis which cut a swathe through the greenfinch population. Very pleasingly, today one turned up and had a go at one of the remaining rose hips. A scan of the spot list will also reveal the arrival of redwing – a member of the thrush family which has bright red armpits. Oh frabjous day!
Thursday 15th December
I despair of my neighbour’s row of tall conifers but watching with binoculars the other day I noticed the branches were teeming with coal-tits which flitted about and probed between the needles with their fine beaks. They find tiny insects which thought they were safe there. Also to my surprisinge I’ve watched them take peanuts from the feeders. These, they store for later. Smart little monochrome birds with white cheeks and nape, they co-exist with the blue and great tits quite happily and cheer up the whole garden.
Thursday 8th December
The builders have left and nature returns. As I write, the family of roe deer file past and a pheasant clucks in, checking out the droppings from the nyger feeder. Pheasant are an introduced species but the evidence points to them being common in the 15th century. They don’t appear in most bird guides as a non-native, but I’m pleased such a spectacular bird survives in the woods, un-pestered by shooters. Is opposition to introduced species a form of nationalism?
Thursday 1st December
Men have been working on a wall in the garden this week and although the birds have possibly been visiting, I have averted my gaze to let them get on. I have instead, been out to check on a pair of spiders who live on the south side of a silver birch trunk near here. The male began losing legs in September, but he is still with us. Drapetesca socialis, about 8mm long. Beaut!
Thursday 24th November
The nyger seed is popular with goldfinches and I’m refilling a 500ml feeder every third day. Rain seeping in has made the bottom a soggy mess so I’ve cleaned it out. Cleaning feeders is easy enough. Dismantle the feeder and clean everything in hot water. Don’t use anything abrasive on plastic. Then dry all the parts thoroughly. Any screws and screw holes or parts where metal meets metal need a dab of petroleum jelly to protect from oxidisation. Then reassemble, fill and hang them out again.
Thursday 17th November The increasing number of birds in the garden could be down to a dwindling stock of berries on the trees, colder weather and more demand on the birds’ energy to keep warm or it could be that I’m at home watching more. Certainly birds that prefer to stay away are popping in for lunch and last week's snow revealed signs of mammals visiting in the night as well. Here are Mr Fox's prints at pace.
Thursday 10th November Cold weather is bringing more birds into the garden to feed, but fat balls are strangely unpopular.
As well as concern that the balls have a fairly short shelf life and I’ve stored mine for too long, there is the plausible theory that the balls have frozen and are too hard to peck. Time for fat pellets.
An additional problem is that there is a lot of spilled grain on the ground. A pair of dunnocks are health and safety ground feeding. This means that while one is picking, the other sits above on a twig, on watch. They swap places every few seconds. When will someone produce a Dunnock calender?
Thu 3rd November 2016
Migrating birds are squabbling over territory and on Saturday, a neighbour reported a pair of robins ‘having a right go at each other.’ The following day I found a dead robin on my lawn. Male robins will fight to the point of catastrophic injury for a place to call their own. I left the little carcass and it had disappeared by Tuesday morning. Maybe Mr Fox got him. He knows that the secret to a long life is knowing when it’s time to go but robins will continue to be stubborn.
Thu 27th October 2016 The weather is nice, with an abundance of berries around. With very few visitors I am still filling the feeders every other day. The count remains low and includes birds seen afar, not actually in the garden. My rules: a sighting counts if I saw a bird from within my garden boundaries. Hearing doesn’t count: it has to be a visual. The RSPB’s Big Garden Bird Watch rules are that the bird has to alight in your patch but if I were to follow that line for this purpose, it would be a poor list indeed.
October 20th 2016
With warm, fairly sunny and dry weather, the birds and mammals seem to need the feeders less. The evidence is that I’ve only had to refill them every second day. It’s in the colder weather that pressure builds up: on the feeders and on the little creatures for whom they are a life-line.
Checking last year's data, there was a similar drop in demand. One additional factor is that the summer birds have left and the winter visitors from the north haven't arrived yet. Interestingly, the Great Tits you see in the winter may not be the same family that have been around for the summer. Many birds migrate, maybe moving south only a few miles.
With fewer birds around, it's nice to see what else is visible. Here's Marasmiellus Ramiaris or Tree parachute which is growing at about head height in the crook of a beech tree. Books agree that at 15mm tall, it may be edible at least once, but there is little point finding out.
October 13th 2016
Berries are still in abundance and the birds are doing well. There has been quite a lot of interest in the bird feeders in my garden and it's interesting, but on reflection, not surprising, that we've seen quite a few juvenile birds using the facilities. Less expert, they need easier pickings.
The same old feeder full of nyger seed has been hanging around all summer. Much neglected by both myself and the goldfinch. This morning I cleaned it out and put some fresh seed in and within an hour, three goldfinch discovered it and a greenfinch had a go too. One of the goldfinch helped itself to a fat-ball too.
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