A Big Garden Birdwatch And a Catch up on My Local Patch.


There’s a Dunnock singing outside…   They’ve been flicking and flirting around the front and back garden for the past week or so, Robins have also been chasing about in the garden for territory rights and I’ve watched Blue Tits flying ‘tag’ in the garden as well as hearing Great Tits beginning to declare… 

The weather since November has mostly been on the mild side, a bit damp with (for here) a smattering of snow and a couple of frosts.  In the local woods, the Bluebells are a couple of inches through the soil, the Elderberries are all bursting into leaf and there is a carpet of young Stinging Nettles and hopeful Ground Ivy.  Here and there on old wood, toadstools and brackets have appeared as well as a few slime moulds.

There have been plenty of Jays about in the woods and I have seen them on their regular winter commute across the back garden as they go back and forth prospecting for food.  We have even had one stop by the garden feeders on several occasions, having a fine meal on the fatballs. He (?) has not got brave enough to try the peanut feeder which is closer to the house. 

There have also been several Nuthatches ‘pinging’ their way through the woodland.  I have seen a couple near the nest I watched last year 

as well as another exploring a nearby tree and possible nest hole close to the top of an Ash tree.  We also have one who is becoming a regular garden visitor and availing itself of the fatballs and peanuts, the other birds certainly know the pecking order and  allow him as much time on the feeders as he likes! 

Throughout the woods, there have been little flocks of Long Tailed Tits foraging through the branches. From time to time now I am seeing pairs instead of flocks as they begin to bond for spring and raising a family.  These too are garden visitors, sometimes in pairs and sometimes enmasse! 

On one recent wander in the woods, I came across a sizeable flock of Long Tailed Tits, working their way through an area of ‘new’ but well established planting. Watching carefully, I realised that not only were there Long Tailed Tits but a few Goldcrests foraging and swirling through the branches with them! 

I followed a couple at a respectful distance for my usual exercise in frustration at trying to take a reasonable photo (a couple were ‘keepers’ out of many), however I think I counted five in all and thoroughly enjoyed watching their acrobatics. One appeared to be particularly cheeky and paused to look at me, almost checking to make sure I was watching! 

In the autumn months, as overseas visitors arrive, I often hear Fieldfare and Redwings as they pass overhead onto the farmland or further afield.  This past autumn was no different and in late January I began to look for the flock of Redwings that frequent a particular area of my local patch, I was not disappointed, getting nice views on a couple of occasions – part of the flock were low down in a thicket and one remained just long enough before flitting off to join it’s companions. 

 On another occasion, whilst propped against a tree watching Nuthatches and Great Spotted Woodpeckers high up in the trees, for moments at a time I could see them perched in the highest branches, wary and watching for a few moments, before, blink, and they’d flown again! 

Speaking of Great Spotted Woodpeckers, I have seen a lot of male birds about in the woodland, from foraging peacefully, to hearing squabbles 

or even at times watching a decision when two decide a tree only has room enough for one! 

I have yet to hear any drumming, although we do often hear their chatter from the garden, so I shall be keeping a lookout for courting and nesting activity.

 From time to time I have seen the local Buzzards begin to soar, but have not yet seen any of the real aerial courting behaviour I’ve witnessed in previous years, I have however seen them overhead near to last years nest site, so just maybe!

There have been a couple of other unexpected treats whilst out on my wanders as well.  The other week, a Kingfisher went scooting along the line of the brook in the meadow; I know that there are a few near where I work and also along the river in a nearby town, however this was a bit of a first for my little patch!  The brook isn’t really deep enough for fishing for a Kingfisher, so I guess it was following the course to find deeper waters.  The Little Egret has also been about – I’ve seen him flying in the usual area and also headed towards a corner of the brook favoured for occasional fishing.

 Whilst wandering back along the brook (I had followed to see on the off chance if the Kingfisher had settled at all) I saw a movement on the far bank. Standing quietly and watching I had a real treat, it was a Muntjac doe out grazing.  I spent quite some time watching her as she progressed along the far bank and she continued about her business undisturbed by me.  She was certainly making a good meal of the bramble leaves and whatever other greenery she could find.  

A couple of weeks later, as I entered one part of the woods I was again treated to the briefest of glimpses as she or another came out of a thicket of brambles, looked about a bit and then calmly went back undercover.

Outside of the wooded areas and along the brook, the birds have been finding sheltered and sunny spots to feed and bathe.  Onesuch area by the brook is frequented by Chaffinches who will stop by for a bathe and a preen, 

and the stand of Alder trees nearby are well used by Goldfinches 

and Blue and Great Tits for a good meal. 

Over the past few weeks, apart from a particularly cold snap, many of the smaller birds have been busy foraging in the woods as well as starting to chase and declare for partners.  Robins in particular have become a lot more vocal 

And have been commanding various favoured perches once more, 

as have the Wrens, although these are almost rehearsing from undercover still! 

The Blackbirds, whilst continuing to forage under bushes and amongst the leaf mould are also now starting to take note of the time of year, with some serenading 

whilst I am beginning to see quite a few more of the female Blackbirds than I have for a while. 

Over the last week I have also heard my first Song Thrushes of the year – both giving evening serenades in rehearsal for when spring proper arrives.  A beautiful sound to end the daylight with!

 During January, I also managed to do my Big Garden Birdwatch, so here are a few portraits of visitors from the local woodland to my garden bird cafĂ© during that hour:

Coal Tit:

Collared Dove (one of a pair):


Great Tit:

Blue Tit:


And finally one of the Starlings!  

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