Thursday, December 30, 2010

Long Tailed Tits | My Garden Birds

I was so excited today to see a flock of Long Tailed Tits in my Garden.

I had glanced out of the window and spotted a Coal Tit on one of the feeders, then immediately noticed a second one fly over to it from the Pear Tree. As I was telling Mrs "W" that I could see Two Coal tits on the feeder, I noticed what I thought to be a third Coal Tit then realised I was looking at a Long tailed Tit.

Suddenly the garden became alive, how many of these Long tailed Tits were there I do not know, they seemed to move around so quickly. I would hazard a guess at six or more. They moved around between the feeder, the pear tree and the apple tree in the garden to the rear of ours. In amongst them all the time were at least two Coal Tits then we noticed a number of Blue Tits were also present. I have never before seen so many tits in the garden at any one time (no jokes please).

In just a short time the Long Tailed Tits had departed, leaving us as they worked their way along the gardens down the street. Hopefully they will come to visit again.
 

Friday, December 24, 2010

MERRY CHRISTMAS

To all my family, friends and readers of this blog:

MERRY CHRISTMAS

From The Woodpecker and my Garden Birds

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

More Snow and the birds must be fed

Once more we awoke to find that outside of the warmth and shelter of our house, everywhere was covered in a fresh fall of Snow and the birds must be fed.
They depend on us more and more in this weather and so we do what we can to help them out.






Here is a nice freshly made bird cake made with lard, currants, sultanas, mixed seed and grain. Mmm, delicious.


Some fresh water;

Snow cleared off the feeders and fat block and feeders replenished.


Finally, seed, suet and mealworms in this little hidden area for Robin, Wren and Blackbird.

That should see them through the day.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

De-Ice Water for Garden Birds

The last few days in our part of Staffordshire, England have started with cold and frosty mornings. One of the first jobs to be done by either Mrs Pecker or myself, is to de-ice the water for our Garden Birds.

It is essential in all weathers and throughout the year, that the birds have access to water both for drinking and for bathing. Dipping ourselves into a bath of cold water on these cold days may not be very appealing to we humans, but to birds it is an important part of the daily ritual whatever the weather.

Yesterday morning I happened to see a Wren in the garden, my first sighting of this species of bird this month if I remember correctly. The wrens are such tiny birds and move around very quickly, darting about from place to place, seldom staying out in the open where they can be observed. This time however I was fortunate enough to have spied this one as it was about to begin it's ablutions.

From the Pear tree it hopped across to the gutter on the garage and proceeded to bathe in a small pool of water that had collected amongst the moss growing in there (yes I know it needs cleaning out). Obviously this little bird preferred this more sheltered place to the open location of the bird bath. It splashed away for some time dipping head, wings and every part of it's body into the water. With the bathing complete - or so I thought - it flew back into the Pear tree and there set about preening it's feathers. Birds work hard to keep their feathers in good condition, essential to keeping warm. 

When it seemed that all was complete and much time had been spent straightening feathers by running them through that tiny little beak, this little Wren surprised me by hopping back to the gutter and back into the puddle of water. Here, it once again splashed away to it's hearts content repeating the whole process once more.

So please remember that whether in a bird bath, a garden pond, or any type of receptacle that will hold liquid, it is so very important that there is a supply of unfrozen water for the Garden Birds.

At the weekend I saw a pair of Black Swans with cygnets, you can can see them over at my other blog here >> Life with Woodpecker

Monday, November 8, 2010

Blackbird and the Grapes

10.00am and I am looking out through the kitchen window, watching the rain that has been falling steadily all  night. The tall Conifer moves with the wind as though alive, swaying to and fro while deep within the evergreen foliage, birds take shelter, keeping a firm grip as they are tossed about like sailors on a stormy sea. This heavy rain and blustery wind is forecast for the entire day.

A male Blackbird suddenly appears on top of the fence at the end of the garden. He is eager and alert, looking carefully around for any signs of danger before making his next move. This is not a foraging trip, for I will see shortly that this bird knows exactly where he is going, he has already planned this mission to collect food.

He swoops down to the herb garden at the side of the garage, obscured from my view but I am aware now that he has gone to what remains of my grape vine. Though all the leaves have gone and the plant looks dead, a few small bunches of black grapes still remain, left intentionally for the birds to feed on.

We also leave fallen apples and pears beneath those small fruit trees and all the leaves stay on the ground, creating a great habitat for insects and worms. Instead of spending time keeping the garden neat and tidy we let nature create a wonderful source of food that is relished by our garden birds.

There are not many grapes remaining now, but they have been there and regularly eaten since September. As far as I am aware, it is only the Blackbird that has taken advantage of these fruits, though the Starlings and on occasion a Crow are seen to eat the apples. Last year we were visited by Fieldfares and Redwings but that was well into winter before they put in an appearance in our little garden,

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Autumn A Great Time for Garden Bird Watching

The number and variety of birds visiting our small housing estate garden is quite amazing and I think Autumn heralds the start of a great time for Garden Bird Watching.

The hours of daylight are reducing more and more and so the birds must concentrate all their feeding into a much shorter time period than they did in the summer. They also require plenty of food for their fragile bodies to process and keep them warm through these colder nights. This of course is good news for us, providing the opportunity to see an increased level of bird activity.

As dawn breaks the birds will be hungry and eager to feed, but they do not seem to venture into the garden until the full daylight has been established. This may be a precaution against predator attack, perhaps they are more vulnerable in conditions of low light. They may also need to take some time for preening before starting to search for food, it is essential for the birds to keep their feathers in good order.

Soon however the feeding will begin and this is the time of day when I see most of the bird activity through the kitchen window. The garden starts to buzz with bird life, Starlings and  House Sparrows begin to swarm over the feeders while Coal Tits, repeatedly dart in and out amongst them grabbing seeds then flying off (see Coal Tits Behaviour). Sparrows, Blue Tits and Great Tits will be busy on the seed feeders and the fat balls, hanging upside down or stretching from the branch of the pear tree in which they are situated.

 Robin, Wren, Blackbird and Dunnock will often be seen during this assembly, taking a part in a wonderful display of nature. They do however tend to hop in and out of the garden with a more leisurely pace throughout the day as do the Woodpigeons. The Collared Doves are gentle, timid birds and tend to put in their first appearance when other birds have left. They seem to be easily intimidated and bullied out of the way by the other species

After maybe an hour, this initial early morning feasting will be over and sightings of the birds in the garden will be less frequent, though most species will continue to be seen throughout the day. Late afternoon can see another sharp rise in activity before the light begins to fade and the birds head for their roosts.

So for me, with the advantage of being at home most days of the week, Autumn is indeed a great time for My Garden Bird Watching.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Coal Tits Behaviour | common garden birds of the UK

Yesterday I watched the Coal Tit and saw some behaviour that I do not think is usually seen in common garden birds of the UK.
Again it was sheer luck that I glanced out of the kitchen window whilst filling the kettle and saw a Coal Tit, I first saw it as it flew from the feeder and onto the drive. I considered it to be another chance sighting, but maybe these Coal tits are visiting the garden so often, or there are so many of them around, that the odds of seeing them are no longer so great. This time however I was to witness some behaviour that I had not seen before.

After catching sight of this Coal Tit extracting seed from the new feeder we had hung up only yesterday, the sprightly little bird flitted across to the rear of the drive then onto the breeze block wall at the base of the fence. It now proceeded to skitter about from place to place as though searching for food, eventually pausing where there was a noticeable gap in the cement mortar and poked about the hole with it's beak. I wondered initially if this little feathery friend was searching the cracks and crannies seeking out insects.

Quick as a flash, as these Coal tits tend to do everything at full speed, it flew back to the feeder, selected a sunflower seed and in an instant swooped across to a planter situated about a metre from the window where I stood watching. This clever little fellow then proceeded to hide the seed beneath the stalks and leaves lying on the surface of the soil.

When I first started to see the coal tits appearing regularly in the garden a few weeks back, I consulted the bird books to find out more about them, their colours, habitats and feeding preference etc. I had read that they invariably take food from feeders and bury or hide it away so that they can return to it later when food is scarce, exactly like squirrels do with nuts and acorns. I was now watching this behaviour first hand, this was exactly the task this delightful little Coal Tit had set about doing this morning. I continued to watch as it set about hiding the seeds first of all in various places throughout our garden, then carrying them further afield into the neighbouring gardens.

He (or indeed she, for as far as I know the sexes are identical)) obviously approved of the new Black Sunflower seeds that we had put into the new feeder. This food must have appealed so much that it was going to stash away as much as it could before the other birds could start to make a meal of it.

The Coal tits are a relatively new and very welcome addition to the list of regular birds that grace our garden.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Coal Tits

The Coal tits showed again this morning as I was looking through the kitchen window. The feeder pole had swung around and so as the first little fellow landed on the seed feeder I had a perfect view of it. I am getting quite fond of seeing these Coal Tits.

Of course I did not have a camera to hand as he or she put on a perfect display for me. "Should I fetch my camera?" I said to myself over and over as I watched, certain that if I did so, by the time I returned to the window it would be gone. And taking pictures through the window would not give the best results anyway. So I stayed and enjoyed the moment for myself.

This little bird I am sure knew that I was there watching as it put on a perfect performance for me. Today instead of flying off to the Holly bush or nearby tree to eat the seed it had extracted from the feeder, it would hop to the top of the pole or onto the front edge of the garage roof, eat, then return to the feeder, repeating the cycle time and time again. 

It demonstrated perfectly how it used one of its dainty little feet to hold down the food while it then worked away attacking the tasty morsel with the beak. From this distance and without binoculars or indeed my glasses I could not identify what food it was actually eating, whether it was seed of some sort or perhaps a nut. It could have been pecking off smaller pieces to eat or be pecking away the outer shell to get to the tender parts inside, I cannot say.

  As I continued to watch, still wondering if I should go upstairs to get my camera, a second Coal Tit came on the scene and deposited itself onto the cage feeder holding the fat block. This one stayed in situ chomping away merrily on the block that contains all sorts of goodies such as nuts, seeds, fruits and mealworms.

Suddenly some noise or nearby movement nearby spooked my little feathered friends and in an instant they were gone.

They will of course return, these delightful little Coal Tits

Friday, October 15, 2010

My Garden Birds | Update

I have not been spending much time consciously watching the birds in my garden recently, but the casual sitings from the window (usually in front of the kitchen sink) have been getting very interesting.

We have experienced the usual late summer lull of August and September when most of the birds seem to disappear but now as autumn kicks in, the garden takes on a whole new perspective.

The regular Woodpigeons and Collared Doves are here of course, they never really go away, living as they do in the large conifer tree about 2 metres away from our boundary fence. The Crows I wrote about earlier in the year are still around as are a few Magpies, but now I am beginning to see the Robins, Great Tits, Blue Tits, and Coal Tits.

The Coal Tits have been seen in the garden previously, but sightings were always few and far between. Now it seems that almost every day I am getting at least a glimpse of them as they visit the feeder in the garden. It is difficult to get any idea of how many there might be but I have seen two individuals present at the same time.

They are dainty little birds, being one of the smallest members of the tit family though less colourful than the Blue and Great tits. The male and female Coal tits both have the distinctive white markings on the black head and double white wing bars.

I have tried to get a photo of them but so far without success. They are quick and agile, darting to the feeder, extracting the seed they fancy then flying off to the nearby Holly bush. I did however manage to capture a short video the other day.


The House Sparrows are still here in abundance, I watched a group of them yesterday enjoying a bit of sunshine and dust bathing in a patch of dry sand. Starlings however are few in number at the moment despite the fact that we were overrun with brood after brood of youngsters earlier in the year. I am sure many of them will return as autumn progresses and the natural food sources become more scarce.

Friday, October 1, 2010

The October Blackbird Catches the Worm

As I stood on this first day of October, looking out onto the garden through the patio doors and watching the rain, I thought to myself, "Well there's no chance of any summer this year then." Part of the garden looks sodden and waterlogged, part of it looks sad and neglected, it all in fact looks rather a mess.

As I stood there contemplating the universe, how long a coalition government could possibly last, and if all this rain will lead to an increase in the price of chips, I noticed movement on the edge of what was once upon a time a lawn. Out from under the foliage of the spreading "Black Bamboo" - the one thing that seems to thrive on drought, flood, pestilence and neglect - popped a Blackbird.

The plumage of this seemingly water resistant bird was predominantly black but with brown wings and lacking the orange yellow bill and eye circle of an adult male, so I presumed it to be a juvenile male Blackbird. Maybe a youngster from one of the broods that we have watched in the garden earlier this year, but seem to have been absent for a while.

With little or no regard for the persistent rain, this little feathered bundle dashed directly for an obviously earmarked spot where he "quick as a flash" and with one swift peck of his beak, plucked a worm out from between the blades of wet grass. Down it went in one go like a thread of Spaghetti after which the happy chappie smacked his chops with delight.

I expected he would now dash back under the cover of the bamboo or fly away to some other place of shelter, but no, he had a taste for blood and there were more worms to catch. I watched for a while as he entertained me, brightening up my otherwise dismal and dreary afternoon. He would stand still and listen, cocking his head very slowly from side to side to get a fix, to mark an exact location for the next strike. He also did that pitter patter rain dance that Blackbirds are well known for. This little fellow seemed so precise and so successful, darting swiftly to a point where he would thrust forth his beak with pin point accuracy to secure another worm that had ventured to the surface because of the rain.

Thankyou young blackbird for the pleasure you gave me and for the perfect demonstration of how the October Blackbird catches the Worm.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Sparrowhawk

I stepped outside of the kitchen door and my eyes were immediately drawn to the sky, to the Sparrowhawk soaring on the wind, searching for prey. Although my eyes are not good and I found myself to be without my specs, the light seemed to shine in such a way as to make visible the light brown colours on the underside of the bird.

This airborne hunter, hungry for a meal, drew overlapping circles in the sky while scouring the gardens below using it's spectacular vision to seek out a target bird. For a short while it became hidden from view by the rooftops of the neighbouring houses, but soon it was back in sight and I stood watching it, quite simply enjoying the moment.

I suppose I was waiting to see the wings fold and the for the hawk to drop from the sky, to swoop down onto some unsuspecting bird be it young, old, sick or just unlucky to have become the victim, an item of food. On this occasion as I watched, the Sparrowhawk did not meet with any success and it continued to circle, moving further away until I could no longer see it in the sky.

Would it be successful in the hunt for a meal this evening I wondered. How often does a hunt conclude with a kill, I do not know. I have been fortunate in the past to witness Sparrowhawks attack and kill prey, to take birds on the wing and on one memorable occasion saw the hawk fly full speed into a hedge then reappear with a blackbird gripped firmly in its talons.

But therein lies the sadness, the harsh reality. While we glory in the kill of the bird of prey, it is the end of the life for the bird that became the victim maybe the very same birds that we feed and nurture.

This I guess is nature and an inescapable fact of life.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

A Cute Fledgling House Sparrow

His dad led him to the safety of the Holly bush, and told him to stay there where he would be safe. such a cute little fledgling House Sparrow.


He kept watching out for his dad in the hope that he would soon return.



You can see from the yellow at the base of it's beak that this youngster has not been long from the nest.


After sitting in the sun and preening ones self, there is nothing quite like a good scratch.





Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Crows are a Threat to My Garden Birds

I have been deliberating lately as to whether the Crows (see recent posts) are actually a significant threat to my garden birds, especially the youngsters.

The trio of Crows (The Crows Around my Garden) became four and have then been joined off and on by other itinerant individuals. I mentioned before how I found them amusing and enjoyed watching their antics and comic displays but began to be worried by the lack of baby birds appearing in the garden.

 I did think it possible that the Crows were posing some kind of threat to the other birds as I know they will raid nests to steal eggs and chicks but many of our local birds nest deep within an extremely large conifer tree. I am now becoming more and more concerned that they are indeed having a major impact on the lives of our local birds.

The true extent of the power and danger to young birds posed by the Crows was shown last night on Springwatch. A single Carrion Crow took a Cygnet from between the 2 fully grown parent swans. This young chick though only a few days old was alive and well and in size was larger that our fully grown Blackbirds.

This I think emphasised to me the fact that our young Blackbirds, Starlings, Sparrows and Tits will be very vulnerable to attacks by the crows that have taken up residence in our neighbourhood.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Babies in the Garden

Following my last post about the Crows, I did begin to wonder if their prescence did actually have some sinister consequences, namely the lack of young birds. Very few babies of the feathered variety had been seen in my garden.

There was the flurry of young House Sparrows, but no sign of fledgling Starlings, Blackbirds or Robins which we would normally have seen by now. But fear not, things have changed for the better this past week.

Lots more young House Sparrows have been flying in and out, playing hide and seek in the Pear tree, the Apple tree and the Bamboo. But also we have seen just a few recently fledged Starlings, no where near as many as last year, when there was a Starling population explosion here. There have also been a few brief sightings of a young Blackbird, always good to see.

To round off the week, Mrs Pecker saw this morning, a brood of Great Tits, newly fledged and feeding with the help of their parents in our garden. Unfortunately I was not around at the time and so missed getting a look at them. Hopefully they will soon return.


Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Crows Around my Garden

A trio of Crows have recently decided to make a home of our neighbourhood. For some weeks now I have seen them every day, usually on the rooftops of the surrounding houses but also coming down to our garage roof to feed on the soaked bread we put there. Despite being large powerful birds they always seem to be rather skittish and nervous, flying off at the slightest noise or movement.

Why these three characters have decided to stay here, I have no idea. Perhaps they are siblings who have been driven away from the area where they were raised, young birds having to find new territories to occupy. Crows do not live in large social groups so the youngsters will spread their wings, whether forced to go by the parents or following an instinct to search out new habitat.

At times these local Crows of ours are rather comical and I must admit that I enjoy watching them. They hop about across the roof tops and appear to be simply clowning around, having fun. The other evening I watched one of these black comics as it mimicked a Pigeon courting display. The crow was making all the moves of a male pigeon displaying to a female including fanning it's tail, bowing it's head and dancing around, all this in front of a Wood Pigeon. Was it having an identity crisis? or was it just having fun.

Although I have enjoyed these Crows being around here I do wonder if they are here because of the local nesting birds, egg and chicks go down very nicely for a Crow type snack. I prefer to think though that they hang around because they like the chips from the chippie 'round the corner.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Baby Birds in My Garden | House Sparrows

Seems like it's Baby Bird time in the garden again, there have been quite a number of fledgling House Sparrows around during the weekend. Male and Females of the species were very conscientiously feeding individuals amongst the foliage of the Pear tree.

Monday seemed to be play school day, the youngsters were having fun like they were in the kindergarten, flying together in groups and I'm sure they were playing games. Tick, hide and seek, Simon Sparrow says, they all joined in and were having fun.

Today has seen rather a lot of rain and I have not seen much evidence of them. Having said that, I have not spent much time looking out over the garden at the rear, so they may have been around.

Although the House Sparrows may not be bright colourful birds, I still love to see them in my garden, the youngster are a particular pleasure to watch and can be so entertaining.

Looking at a post from 20th May last year - Starlings and House Sparrows - I wrote that we had a multitude of young House Sparrows and newly fledged Starlings in the garden. Although I have witnessed Starlings going in and out of Ron's roof space (a favourite nest site) I have yet to see any young Starlings around.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Big Garden Birdwatch 2010 (continued)

I have just submitted my results for the Big Garden Birdwatch for 2010.

I had been planning on doing the count yesterday but Ron was working on the roof of his garage which is located at the rear of our garden. Too much disturbance was going to have an affect on the birds, plus the fact that I did not fancy sitting behind the patio doors with my pen, paper and cup of tea, staring up the garden while Ron was there. It would I presumed appear to him as though I was watching his DIY antics and taking notes. I therefore decided to postpone the count until today.

During the night we had a few falls of snow plus freezing temperatures, so first thing this morning it was a case of thawing out the bird bath then topping up the food supplies for our feathered friends. I then settled down to watch the bird activity for the stated period of one hour.

The severity of the cold weather conditions I am certain were a major factor in the numbers of birds that suddenly appeared enmasse. Remember, the aim of this birdwatch count is to record the highest number of each bird species seen at any one time, not a total of all the birds you see in the hour long period.

My record:
House Sparrow = 15
Starling = 20
Blackbird = 3
Collared Doves = 2
Woodpigeon = 4
Robin = 1
Dunnock = 1
Wren = 1

It is not every day that we see 20 Starlings or 15 House Sparrows converge on the garden at the same time, but I guess that is just the way things happen. No species of tits were seen during the count, they spend much less time in the garden. You have to be there watching out just at the right time to see them. Most tit species have a daily route that they follow in their search for food.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Big Garden Birdwatch 2010

Do not forget, for those of you living in the UK, that the Big Garden Birdwatch takes place this weekend, that is 30th and 31st January. It is organised by the RSPB but you do not have to be a member to take part.

All you need to do is to record the highest number of each species of bird seen in your garden, or local park (but not flying over) at any one time, during a one hour period on either Saturday 30 or Sunday 31 January 2010. It can be any one hour period, when you decide to do it is entirely your choice.

It really is that easy. You can download a recording sheet to help you identify and record your birds as you see them, don't send this in, it is just for your own use, or simply record your tally on a scrap of paper. When your survey is complete submit your results on the website.

For full details, tips, to download a recording sheet and /or summit your results go to:
http://www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch/

I have taken part in this count for the last two years and will be doing my count tomorrow, it is surprising how quickly the hour goes.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Fieldfare | a bird new to my Garden

It is always exciting to spot a bird that you have not seen before. Today I saw a Fieldfare, a species of bird new to my Garden. And not just one, but upwards of 25 in total, they have been around for most of the day. I did not identify them as being Fieldfares when first seen this morning, I merely thought they were Starlings that appeared different because of the way the sun was shining brightly upon them, I only gave them a cursory glance. This afternoon I took notice of them when I could see that these birds still hanging around in the trees were definitely not starlings. I quickly fetched the binoculars and guessed that they were Fieldfares, this was confirmed by looking in the bird book.















Unfortunately they did not actually come into our garden but stayed in and around the neighbouring trees. We spied a few of them looking for berries in Rons Holly bush but there is little left for the Fieldfare, the other birds have eaten them all.

The Fieldfare is a very attractive bird with it's rich chestnut back and wings, grey head and rump, heavily spotted yellow orange breast and black tail and wings. They also have black or dark streaks on the head, with the bins these birds appeared to have a dark streak that went through the eye. when in flight the Fieldfare is also noticeable by the very light underside of the wings and lower part of the breast.

The pictures I am afraid are not of very good quality because I was too far away and at the limit of my zoom.
I say however that I was very pleased indeed to have seen these winter visitors, The Fieldfare, a new bird to my garden.