Sunday 20 December 2015

So shaken are we, so wan with care, find we a time for frighted peace to pant... Wm. Shakespeare.

Anyone who knows me will be aware that I am rather tied up along with Elis in making Wader Quest, the charity that Elis and I founded to support wader conservation, a success. It has been all consuming in 2015 with lots happening, but I'm not going to bore you with that now, if you want to know more go to suffice to say that a lull in the charity's urgent needs has allowed me the luxury of cogitating upon the birds in and around our garden in the last year.

The year list for the garden for 2014 was 74 (from March onwards) and in 2015 it was 73. The funny thing is that we had some new birds with the garden list rising from that 74 to 83 by the end of 2015. Those additional 9 species mean we didn't see 10 that we had previously seen. The missed birds were; Gadwall, Great Egret, Common Sandpiper, Red-legged Partridge, Willow Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Whitethroat, Mistle Thrush, Bullfinch and Lesser Redpoll. Of these Great Egret is not a surprise as it is still a rarity and the Red-legged Partridge is the weirdest as there were actually seen in our garden but we have not seen one since, not even in the field where we often see Pheasants. The non appearance of the others disappointing to say the least.

'Garden' Bird of the Year for 2014 has to be the Great Egret.

Great Egret flying to roost.

Close runners up are the Red-legged Partridges, Lesser Redpoll, Sedge Warbler and Whitethroat.

One of the mysterious disappearing partridges in among the primroses.

Lesser Redpoll for just one day on the feeder.

Sedge Warbler in the field and often singing outside the kitchen window.

Whitethraot giving voice outside the lounge window.

The 9 new birds seen that make up for these are; Pink-footed Goose, Teal, Goldeneye, Green Sandpiper, Herring Gull, Barn Owl, Tawny Owl, Sand Martin and Redwing.

Of these the Pink-footed Goose would be the bird of the year except that it is probably an escape, the Barn Owl cold have been, but only Elis saw it, so, as a wader enthusiast I'm going for Green Sandpiper for 'Garden' Bird of the Year 2015.

Green Sandpiper on a puddle in the field.

Pink-footed Goose with Greylags and Canada Geese.

Until recently there has been just a trickle of stuff, nothing particularly exciting in terms of novelty although it is lovely to have the occasional visit by both Great Spotted Woodpecker...

Great Spotted Woodpecker taken earlier this year having a drink taken through the lounge window.

and Green Woodpeckers. The former on the nuts (or birdbath in this case) and the latter on the lawn.

Green Woodpecker on the lawn taken through the front door window.

I assume this paucity of birds is due to the unseasonably mild weather we're having this winter. But something has changed in the last few weeks, and it isn't the weather as it is 14°c outside as I write.

This week there have been dozens of Blue Tits coming to the feeders, I have not seen aggregations of these tiny jewels like this since I was a kid when they would appear in our garden in good numbers or at the feeders in Salcey Forest which I believe are sadly no longer there. At none of the addresses in which I have lived have I seen numbers like this, even here at the Cottage last year it was not so well attended by these birds. With them come many more Great Tits than I have seen together in a long time too.
Many more Blue Tits are visiting the garden now.
Every now and then the garden is decorated by a throng of Long-tailed Tits who constantly amuse us and leave us with a smile on our faces.

Like lollipops stuck to a post, always a joy; Long-tailed Tits.

I am particularly smitten by the way in which they will pluck a sunflower heart from the feeder, swing around under the perch, take the sunflower heart from their beak with one foot while holding on with the other and then eat the seed suspended in this way, much like a parrot would.

Such an excellent way to feed!

We get the occasional visit from a Marsh Tit and also from a Coal Tit. The latter was absent except for two one off visits until recently, on one occasion there were two of them.

Marsh Tit

These two don't often come at the same time but seem to arrive with Long-tailed Tits so maybe there are two groups of Long-taileds each carrying a different stranger with them.

Coal Tit.

We also recently had up to 6 Reed Buntings and a Goldcrest visit us.
Reed Bunting in the Ribes bush outside the lounge window.

Sparrowhawks continues to terrorise the garden from time to time, there are at least two and possibly three individuals that visit, one of them a stunning male although he is the least frequent.

Sparrowhawk having just missed its potential lunch by the log pile.

We are also treated to occasional flight views of Red Kites and Common Buzzards.

Red Kite from the bedroom skylight.

Common Buzzards from the garden.

Outside the garden too it has been quiet. The field isn't suitable for Lapwings this year so we have to content ourselves with flyovers, the max being 27 so far. This is particularly galling as it means my ever fervent hope of a Golden Plover with them is much diminished.

26 flying Lapwings over the field and lake.

The number of finches has also increased. The Goldfinches have been much the same in number as they have since the spring, around five or six, but recently they have been joined by the same number of Greenfinches at any given time and double figures of Chaffinches. This, unlike the situation with the plovers, gives me hope that they will drag in some Siskins this year, or even better a Brambling or two and we may even get a return visit from a Redpoll that stopped here just once before.

Part of the finch flock Goldfinch, four Chaffinches and a Greenfinch under the feeder outside the kitchen window..

We also find it hard to believe how few Bullfinches there are these days. Living on the edge of a field with a copse, a lake and plenty of hedgerows you'd have thought they'd be a given along with Yellowhammer perhaps, but these days neither lives here any more. Our garden has been graced by Bullfinches just twice and then only for a very short time. The chances of a Yellowhammer are close to nil, but if we ever get the hard winter they suggested we would get (so far nothing could be further from the truth) you never know.

Bullfinch from one of only two visits in nearly two years.

Thrushes though are few and far between. We haven't seen a Song Thrush since they stopped singing, not one since the 13th of July has put in an appearance in the garden although one was seen in both August and September nearby. We also noted a lack of Blackbirds, very few around since August however one or two are now appearing. We have seen one huge flock of Fieldfares over the field and a heard Redwings at night, Elis also saw some fly over one afternoon in November. The Mistle Thrushes that turned up between the 2nd and 9th of December last year have not returned since.

Blackbirds have been unusually scarce this autumn.

An occasional visitor is the Jay, it doesn't come very often, perhaps once a week n average, but it is always a delight to see when it does.


And finally some more shots starting with of one of my favourite birds.

Long-tailed Tit.

Green Woodpecker
Goldfinches outside the kitchen window.

Blue Tit outside the lounge window.

Greenfinches from the kitchen window.