Sunday, August 30, 2009

My Garden Birds Disappear

During the late summer it seems that the majority of the birds disappear from the garden.

I only see an occasional House Sparrow or Starling instead of the large numbers we had visiting earlier in the year.

No Blue Tits or Great Tits visit the feeders or hang upside down on the fat balls. I do now recall however, having been reminded by writing that last sentence, that I saw two Blue Tits last week, flitting around the pear tree, hopping on and off the feeder but were soon gone.

The faithful pair of Woodpigeons still visit everyday along with one or two collared Doves. These seem to stay close by throughout the year, having I am sure adopted us as their extended family.

Soon the daylight hours will start to get less, the temperatures will drop and the beginnings of Autumn will see the trees and shrubs begin to shed their leaves. This is the period when the birds will start to return.

The pair of Woodpigeons along with one or two collared Doves are the only regular garden visitors we have right now.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Sparrowhawk

I have just seen a Sparrowhawk from the kitchen window, circling high overhead, but travelling swiftly away due to the very windy conditions. Obviously it was checking out the gardens looking for suitable prey.

The Sparrowhawk became scarce in Britain during the 20th century because it was badly affected by the liberal use of pesticides. Indeed though I grew up in a rural area, I cannot remember seeing one in my younger days.

Now it has recovered it's numbers as a result of changes in agricultural practice and is regularly seen in it's natural habitat of woods, but also is a quite common site in suburban gardens.

In recent years I have observed many Sparrowhawks in their low darting, predatory flight, as they fly directly into trees and shrubs to attack small birds. I have also seen them soar high overhead in wooded areas but also around our home in the city outskirts, then diving suddenly with closed wings and at incredible speed.

I have been fortunate to observe juvenile "Spags" on a couple of occasions in our garden. The first maybe two years ago when one youngster attempted to fly into a neighbours shrub. I am afraid I do not recall the name of the shrub but it had many sharp pointed thorns all over it. A number of Sparrows sheltered inside while the Sparrowhawk attempted to gain an entry into the bush but to no avail.

In the Autumn of last year after the leaves had fallen from the Lilac and Forsythia in our front garden, it was again a juvenile that attacked a flock of Sparrows. I watched as it flew directly into the branches but made a clumsy attack allowing the small birds to flee. It then hopped from branch to branch as though searching for the birds that it knew had been there. Eventually realising that the trees were indeed empty it flew onto a flat roof across the road and sat in wait hoping that they would return. I guess it was rather inexperienced in hunting for it sat in full view and as a result no birds returned until after it had given up and departed.

I often wonder how it fared, did it learn to hunt successfully for itself, did it survive the winter. I guess I will never know.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Woodpigeon in the Rain

From Saturday 1st August 2009

The heavily laden branches of the Pear tree are bending under the sheer weight of unripe fruit and the downward curvature imparted thus lends a look of sadness to the tree. This mournful expression is all the more apparent by the greyness of the sky and the incessant falling of the rain.

One bunch of the pears accidentally forms a natural cover over a platform on the bird feeder and this is providing some shelter to the Woodpigeon feeding there. He or she as the case may be, shakes away a drop of water that has run down one of the fruits and splashed onto it's head, then resumes feeding on the grain.

What ever the weather the birds must continue to feed. Food provides the energy essential to their survival, providing the internal heat to warm the blood and keep their fragile bodies alive. The last few weeks seem to have been filled with rain and despite the weather forecasts of a bright summer, there is no evidence of any real change happening.

In addition to Woody, now taking a pause from feeding to look around for any signs of danger, the regular birds are making fleeting visits throughout the day. The difference now seems to be that they do not stay around for any longer than is neccessary to feed before flying off again, probably to shelter from the endless rain. They must also spend time attending to their feathers, preening, so as to keep them in perfect condition and waterproof.

The Starlings were here earlier, squabbling and fighting, as they always do, over food on the roof of the garage. Throughout the day a succession of Woodpigeons, Collared doves and the occasional Sparrow have called briefly to feed, but for most of the time the garden is deserted.

The Pigeon now having had his or her fill for the time being, stands briefly on the feeder then with a flap of it's wings is gone. Nothing to watch now but the rain.