Big Garden Birdwatch January 2020


One of the first things I do when I get my new calendar every year is to add a reminder for the Big Garden Birdwatch; as well as it being a little bit of Citizen Science (which snowballs into LOT of Citizen Science with so many folk across the country taking part) it is also a perfectly reasonable ‘timeout’ to just sit, wrapped up warm and with a big mug of something hot, watch and be entertained by our garden visitors. 

The first arrival was one of the Robins, appearing in the remains of an elderly Ceanothus before darting across the garden into the depths of the Bay Tree.   

A familiar bubbling chatter was heard and a pair of Long Tailed Tits appeared next to the feeders in the middle recently we have had a pair visit as well as a little family group.

Within the ivy along the fence and the branches of the Field Maple, as well as from the depths of the Bay Tree, the local flock of Sparrows could be heard discussing whether to approach the feeders…

Gradually they appeared, perching in favourite spots whilst they waited their turn.

There is one feeder with a suet pellet and sunflower heart mix, another with peanuts and three with a good quality seed mix (a no waste one – I find more gets eaten than thrown on the ground).  There are also two fat ball feeders and a suet block holder.  Across the garden stretches a nectarine tree (lovely blossom, but it has never fruited) and four of the feeders are hanging from the branches; the peanuts and another seed feeder are suspended at a ‘pole’ feeding station.

This set up seems to work well – there is a local Sparrowhawk who, on more than one occasion has swept through the garden when I have been sitting out watching, however apart from the occasional pigeon, the smaller birds, afforded the cover of the tree branches feel secure enough to feed with someone always on lookout and raising the alarm – sometimes by a silent signal, every bird in the garden will suddenly dive for cover, before returning to feed again after a few moments.  I was interested in watching the #Winterwatch experiment this week as to who would use the more exposed feeders. 

Whilst the Sparrows fed, a serenade was coming from the tangle of woodbine and jasmine along the fence next to me, after a while the singer appeared – one of the Dunnocks who have been flirting their way around the garden for the past few weeks.

These little brown birds have the sweetest song but are somewhat shy, often singing from the depths of a hedge or thick vegetation… that is until they get into courting mode when one male may have several ladies! 

Here and there amongst the Philadelphus and Hazel branches at the end of the garden, Blue Tits began to arrive from the local woods – chattering amongst themselves,

before gradually moving from perch to perch to grab titbits from the feeders before scooting back into the branches again. 

Gradually the metallic calls of Great Tits were heard as well with several arriving to dine.  Some of the Great Tits were very brightly coloured

however many of those that visit regularly are much more subtle in colouring – youngsters – the difference in male and female being determined by the black stripe down the breast and belly. 

All of a sudden ‘ping ping’ was heard and with a flourish one of the Nuthatches arrived. After a bit of a look around and a brief posing session, a decision was taken for suet pellets and sunflower hearts, with a later visit to the peanuts.

Now other watchers have said that these can be bullies, hogging the feeders, however, the two that visit have been seen sharing a feeder with other birds (they favour the fatballs, suet block and peanuts mostly) and have also been watched waiting their turn nearby a particularly busy feeder! 

Around said feeder, there was also a mix of House Sparrows, Great and Blue Tits, all gradually taking their turn. 

Some of the Sparrows tend to perch in the Hazel and Ceanothus at the back of the garden, occasionally getting a little put out with their fidgety companions!

However, generally things were quite orderly by the feeders with the small birds sharing.

 A female Blackbird, who regularly visits, made a grand entrance, settling on one of the nectarine branches, before disappearing into the flower bed below, where I could hear her turning the fallen Bay leaves over. IFrame

A short while later, a smart male Blackbird also arrived. He pecked for a while at the lawn, before also disappearing under cover. 

In previous years they have nested in both the front and back garden, so we shall see how they fare in 2020!

Around this time a couple of the local Collared Doves made a grand entrance – this paler one, whom I believe to be a female took a moment on the fence,

before one of her followers arrived, gave her a head start and they were off again. This paler bird has been around the garden over the past few weeks with two or three males in gentle pursuit. 

The Collared Doves tend to join the Wood Pigeons in pecking around the lawn when the garden is empty of ‘umanbeans – the Wood Pigeons also favour the seed feeder on the pole, emptying it faster than I can refill it at times!

At this point, whilst the smaller birds were all busy chatting and dining, a familiar whistle and chatter was heard – one of the local Starlings had arrived.

After a bit of posing and making his presence known, he then barged his way onto one of the feeders and dined royally!

The Robin popping back for Sunday lunch, however was not too impressed at bouncing branches or how busy it was!

A small group of Long Tailed Tits arrived and concentrated on the fatballs

whilst with a melodious sneeze or two, (pitchoo, pitchoo) the Coal Tit also arrived to dine,

seizing tasty morsels and then retreating to the cover of the Hazel to consume them.

The counting finished and big mug of something hot now well and truly empty, indoors I went to warm up…


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