Big Garden Birdwatch 2016


Well it's that time of year again, so I filled up the bird feeders and settled myself down in the garden (well wrapped up, it was nice and sunny but with a very chilly breeze) for an hour to see who would pop by for a snack.  

All through the winter and definitely when it is very cold, I keep the bird feeders well stocked with seed, kibbled peanuts and sunflower hearts, as well as suet balls; as a result of this, there are quite a few regular visitors to my garden and very few leftovers!

The hour started with one of a pair of Collared Doves who often come in and perch on the nectarine tree together.

These usually go for the seed or whatever I have put in the little trays on the feeding pole, today it was sunflowers and chopped peanuts. The doves, together with the Woodpigeons, nearly always feed from there, although today, the pigeons were staying on the fence until I was indoors, when they came down and had a good peck about.  The feeding pole is always at a rather odd angle following the pigeons' rather heavy landings!

I next spotted one of the Dunnocks hopping about through the branches along the back fence.  They tend to forage amongst the ceanothus and honeysuckle branches, before the flitting across into the bay tree, occasionally looking to see if the coast is clear to have a peck about on the lawn.

 Of late, quite a few of the Dunnocks have appeared and courting seems to have started early this year.  I have seen 'wing flicking' displays, chasing and have heard quite a bit of singing.  When the Dunnocks are on the lookout, they often perch up on the honeysuckle branches and have a good look round over adjoining gardens for likely partners! In previous years, I have had a couple of pairs following each other around the garden, so no doubt the same will be soon be seen. 

Speaking of bird couples, after a brief spate of chasing another male out of the garden in early January, one of the local Robins is now visiting daily with his young lady and during my hour, they both appeared.  

 This pair arrive and follow each other around, one on lookout whilst the other goes to the feeders or down onto the lawn. They both seem to favour the suet balls or the peanut / sunflower feeder.  

The Robins have a 'set route' through the nectarine tree to the feeder as well as favoured perches around the garden.  I am still seeing the occasional singleton visiting as well.

 The bushes at the end of the garden are also favoured by visiting blackbirds, the females like to get right in amongst the branches, where it is quite sheltered; this one was enjoying some sunshine whilst keeping an eye on a nearby male.   

The male Blackbird came into the garden at speed with his usual fanfare and paused at his favourite perch, before scooting off on a tour of the neighbouring gardens.  He was also back and forth trying to attract the attention of the female.

The Blackbirds can often be watched pecking around on the lawn, but they are extremely skittish, so I often watch them feeding from the kitchen window. I have also been seeing one of the males chasing another off - early courting behaviour again.  There are quite a few Blackbirds in the neighbourhood and they seem to work together once there are youngsters, with a Blackbird alarm call going off if any kind of threat presents itself, from an opportunistic Magpie to one of the neighbourhood cats.  

All of a sudden, I heard a ringing 'Teechu! Teechu!' which heralded a brief glimpse of the Coal Tit.

This character is an 'off / on' regular visitor, particularly in the colder weather and through to spring.  He has only recently started to visit again, sometimes stopping to feed - he'll repeatedly take pieces of food from the nut feeder and flit to a branch to eat or as seemed the case today, come and check that there is food, let everyone know he's about and then flit off again.  

The local Mob of House Sparrows began to congregate, some at the top and some at the bottom of the garden, before they took turns at the feeders.  

These visit three or four times a day, the flock seems to be made up of anything between a dozen or two dozen birds who tour the local gardens having a good chatter (the discussion that comes from the bushes at the end of my garden always seems like 'well where next?' getting louder and louder before they all fly off) or if they are stopping for food, a semi-organised queue is formed through various perches, whilst they wait their turn at the feeders.   

A surprise visitor in the branches at the end with the Sparrows, was a handsome male Chaffinch; 

I have seen him and a female perched regularly in one of the trees in a neighbouring garden, we have also seen them occasionally at the feeders first thing in the mornings.  As a rule, I usually see Chaffinches in a big flock up on the patch of farmland where I walk, they have not visited the garden in previous years, however, I think this pair have been canny and found an easy food source - the female was mostly in 'their' tree next door, watching the goings on during my hour spent in the garden.  

 During the hour, alongside all the visitors so far mentioned, were a steady stream of Blue Tits.  These little characters congregate in the ceanothus at the end of the garden, as well as in the bay tree, before proceeding down to the suet ball or peanut feeders.   

Once down near the feeder, they have a looksee, to make sure it is safe,

before taking a morsel and diving undercover to eat.  

One bird, notable for it's abscence was the Great Tit, over the past few weeks I have been seeing quite a few of these visit the garden, however, apart from one who stopped by briefly, they were not popping in today!  (During an afternoon stroll on the local patch, there were plenty about however along the edge of the woods).  

I have rarely seen any birds of prey IN my garden (although traces of a Sparrowhawk's dinner have been found and I once had an eye to eye encounter with a Kestrel that flew in, sat across the table from me and then flew off, not sure who was more surprised, me or the Kestrel!) however, I do often see one or two of the local Buzzards floating overhead on occasion.  During my hour, there was a bit of a commotion going on overhead, with some of the local jackdaws making a lot of noise.  I looked up and the reason was clear, they were trying to harass one of the local Buzzards.

The Buzzard carried on circling quite unconcerned, whilst the Jackdaws kept swooping past it, before going their separate ways.   





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