Saturday, 21 December 2013

Christmas Crackers

I hope all our followers and Garden Bird Surveyors have a great, bird filled Christmas and New Year.

19 plus Goldfinches on Nyjer feeder ( Ita Martin)
Not everybody might be as lucky as Ita Martin who captured this wonderful picture of Goldfinches back in September in her County Dublin garden.. Note the number of young birds taking to the feeder.

Down Wicklow way we still have the Great Spotted Woodpecker coming to the peanut feeder: it continues to be very shy, but if you don't move around inside, it will spend a good five minutes on the feeder, unbroken, before towering away high into the trees and back to the oak forest.  The BTO reckon that the decline in Starlings means less competition for nest holes, benefitting Woodpeckers and supplementary feeding also increases their survival through winter.. What a great recent addition to our avifauna, in any 
GSW : currently a daily visitor (OOS)
Other notable visitors are the hordes of Coal Tits: just as well we have Pheasants to hoover up the spoil below the seed feeder.

Male Pheasant cleans up! (OOS)

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Great Spotted Start to GBS

Female Great spotted Woodpecker ( c. OOS)

Last weekend, we fulfilled an ambition of 3 or 4 years: a garden visit from a woodpecker finally happened: Discovered on Saturday morning first thing, bleary eyed,  I watched it on the peanut feeder.  However the visit was fleeting as I reached for the camera downstairs it took off back across the garden, into a high Sycamore and on to the adjacent Birch wood.

The woodpeckers appearance was followed 15 minutes later by a buzz around the feeder by a Sparrowhawk: I hope that doesn't end in grief! 

All was well though and I managed to get a few photos around lunchtime and it appeared again on Sunday.

Because I leave and return to the garden in darkness, I wont get a chance to record it for the Garden Bird Survey until next Saturday, or so I thought: However my 10 year old daughter rang to confirm not one but 2 woodpeckers this Tuesday morning.  Roll on the weekend!


Monday, 25 November 2013

GBS: A week to go!

The Garden Bird Survey is starting up next week: A pleasant if sudden onset of song from the appropriately named Song Thrush, was a reminder that birds react to changes in temperature ( it was a relatively warm, bright morning ). 

Song Thrush in amongst Hawthorn and Ivy (c. OOS)

Apart from the singing ones, presumably local birds, we have a nice selection of visiting Blackbirds and Thrushes making their way through our berry stocks.  Its been a good winter so far for the visitors. 

 Ringing recoveries suggest that many Blackbirds travel to winter with us originating from Norway, Denmark, Germany, Belgium and the UK. Pity the ones that lost their bid to survive whilst helping our understanding of migration: they met their end via stalking cats, moving cars and clear glass windows, to name three.

Male blackbird in Firethorn, Pyracantha (c.OOS)

Our traditional bird feeder visitors are also building up nicely:  Coal Tits now in numbers, the sunflower seed feeder is filled and emptied daily.  Goldfinches are back too, along with Chaff and Greenfinches, the latter two happily working their way through peanuts.

Many predict a cold winter, all the more reason to keep the feeders topped up, make a difference and enjoy the spectacle!

Goldfinches, Redpolls and Linnets in more extreme conditions (c. Shay Connolly)
Read all about the garden bird survey in e wings or the traditional print version in Wings,our membership magazine.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Road Runners

Pied Wagtails occur in about 50% of Irish gardens, as monitored by the Garden Bird Survey.  This placed them at around 20th position, just below Blackcap, last winter.  Interestingly, they were more prominent in the first year of the Schools version of the GBS: perhaps the open paved spaces around schools are more to their liking.

They are often seen running across hard gravel and concrete surfaces, foraging for insects, definitely at home on the patio.  On cold mornings I notice them up around window ledges, home also to spiders and much more in our house!  Cars are also a fascination for Pieds: the grille area and windscreen, again for insects but they are also happy to attack their reflection on wing mirrors, in a fit of territorial pique.

Here's looking at you! (c. OOS)

As opportunist as any, they often accompany me on the run around the lawn, the garden equivalent of crows or gulls following the plough or mower.

Garden companion (c.OOS)

They were always a popular log call species at Cape Clear Bird Observatory: their dusk roost was just across the harbour and if you timed your teatime walk back to the late autumn,  you could amass an impressive tally by patrolling the ivy covered walls for the log call.  Large roosts have been identified for many years at urban sites such as O'Connell Street in Dublin city centre and also in Dun Laoghaire at the top of Marine Road/Georges St junction. 

 The Dublin roost often attracted 1,000 birds and more up to the 1950s.  The relatively recent redesign of the main thoroughfare resulted in the removal of the mature Plane trees, replaced with more 'continental' looking pleached Limes.. I'm not sure how the roost has reacted to the changes and if it has redistributed itself or not to nearby locations such as Burgh Quay.. Well worth a look in winter, but inner city streets on dark evenings pose a threat and very significant risk to evening watchers.. 

A male Pied Wag. (c. J. Fox)

For the birds, the effect of warmer night time temperatures, up 2 or 3 degrees or more in winter, over rural roosting locations, is an attraction and the journey to roost is not a deterrent as they are quite likely to be feeding in urban situations by day.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Flying for Fun

Located as we are, on the edge of the uplands with classic mixed farming and mixed woodland, we are usually able to see nearly all the crow species in any one day (exception being the Chough).  

It is particularly good at the moment: with Barley harvested from nearby fields , the stubbles have great mixed flocks of crows and the most recent harvest of 15 acres of potatoes brought lots of interest from Hoodies and the odd Kite, eager to examine any spoil from the harvest.

Typical flight view: note long wedge shaped tail and large beak (c. K Mullarney) 

Ravens are the largest crow, indeed they are our largest passerine or perching bird.  We often see and hear 4 or 5 , their atmospheric calls echo all around us, but of most interest is their aerial antics..rolling along in dare devil chases they really do seem to fly for fun!

One summers day a Raven perched out in the open lawn area, a respectable distance but very unusual to see one perched  in the open without an obvious prey item nearby.  It was most probably a juvenile bird,  not long out of the nest: tameness was probably based on uncertainty of its surroundings.

More typical was the barking or croaking calls that I heard recently: delivered endlessly from an oak tree on our boundary.  I suspected a Fox or other competitor for carrion was also on the scene, hence the barrage of noisy scolding, so I went to investigate.  I brought the camera just in case, and manged to grab a shot as the bird exited in a hurry.  The beauty of digital photography is that you can always get a grab shot that might have interest. I wasn't let down on this occasion: though grainy and unsharp, I looked at the pic long enough to ascertain that the bird might be ringed: back on the computer I was able to blow it up to max and indeed it was colour ringed: AA,  black on yellow, as it turned out, from a ringing scheme operating locally.

AA Takes flight! (c. OOS)

A text to Damian, of NPWS brought a quick response: It was one of 200 Ravens ringed, this bird ringed three years ago and is the first resighting of this scheme.  The bird was marked in Clara Vale, so it hasn't travelled too far, about 10 kms as the Raven flies. I suspect resightings will continue to be  hard enough to come by, they are generally shy and wary of humans, which is not unsurprising: as carrion eaters they also have to run the risk of taking  poisoned bait. 

Worth looking out for Ravens, ringed or not, they never cease to entertain.  

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Hunter and Hunted

A great feature of the autumn is the now regular appearance of dragonflies such as the Autumn Hawkers down on our East Coast Nature Reserve.

They were only first recorded in Ireland in 2000, from the south east, near Carne, county Wexford, and have since spread north and west along the coastline, inhabiting suitable wetland habitats and woods. They are one of the latest dragonflies to appear, with records of insects right up to the end of October.  They are of course spectacular looking, with bright blue abdominal markings and the distinctive little yellow 'golf tee' on the thorax.

Autumn Hawker (c. OOS)
They patrol the rough grassland and trees around the pools of the reserve, often perching and giving nice views.  They are of course, spectacular hunters: the Latin Odonata stands for teeth.. So, midges and flies are fair game for these beasts. 

Over the last few days, this gregarious predator has become the hunted and have had to share the marshes with a far larger hunter: a Hobby.  This scarce falcon is a passage migrant that has taken to patrolling the open fields, superbly adapted to agile and precise hunting: they can take dragonflies on the wing and glide along as it brings its prey from claw to beak, with no need to stop and perch.  The recent balmy weather has really brought the Autumn Hawkers out in numbers, attracting the attentions of the passing Hobby, who is now feeding for extended periods on this source, before it continues its journey south to Africa for the winter. What a spectacular sight, hopefully this drama will continue for a few days yet.

Hobby (c. Tom Shevlin)

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Wine & Gold

There's a nice autumn feel to early mornings and evenings: dew on the slowing lawn, mushrooms and toadstools appear at random and the plants are taking on their autumn hues.

 Robin ( c. Michael Finn)

The still misty mornings right now are perfect for listening to that September stalwart: the Robin.  That slow drizzle of notes is repeated around the garden as we get used to the idea that one of our most common birds is setting up territories for the winter ahead.  Many of these birds are only hatched this summer and not long out of their mottled juvenile plumage.  However there's no time to waste with birds in the garden: Wood Pigeons are coming to the Elder trees for black berry juice, no doubt thirsty after a day in the stubbles picking up spilt barley grains.

Wood Pigeon in the Elders (c. OOS)

Best autumn colour this week is with an established Rowan Tree, russet and red, still with berries which add to the display. 

Rowan tree (c.OOS)

 The willow trees are green leaved with an insipid pale yellow coming through.  Best of all and with the best still to come are the Dogwoods: the leaves are showing  great accents of reds and yellows and once the leaves part company, there's bright red stalks and icy white berries to look forward to.  

Dogwood , Cornus alba (c.OOS)

Monday, 9 September 2013

A Late Flourish

3 Small Tortoiseshells and a Peacock (c.OOS)

You can definitely notice a change in temperatures: it is still very pleasant by day, but there's a noticeable dip in temps after dark: I wonder how the late rush of butterflies are faring?   There are still plenty of flowering plants in the garden, and larval plants such as nettles are at their peak.  I found the Teasel plants that scatter about at random to be a great attractant at this time, but not a Goldfinch in sight!

There are lots of other flying insects (though Wasps have dropped off, thankfully).  This Willow Warbler, having inspected the seed feeders from a  few feet, reverted to type and retrieved a blue bottle from the willow tree.

Willow Warbler with insect prey  (c.OOS)
There's a few birds passing through: a Spotted Flycatcher was my first in the garden, this year.. I would love to have them breeding: open fronted nestboxes await you!
Blackcaps and Blue Tits are testing the fast ripening Elder berries; all are enjoying this time of plenty.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Butterfly bliss

Late August, and we have a good selection of nectar bearing plants at their peak:  Sedums, Russian Sage, Verbena and Catmint are all excellent for hoverflies, bees and butterflies.

Silver Washed Frit. ( with matching food plant!) (c.OOS)

We had our first Silver washed Fritillary last week, a lovely insect that remained with us for a half hour or more. 

Constantly present are the Small and Large White butterflies, easier to admire these when you dont have a crop of brassicas to protect!

Green Veined White (?) (OOS)

Large White on Verbena (c.OOS)

A Small Copper out on the lawn made it a nice weekend for watching and photographing insects, though birds are beginning to come back to us in numbers: 
Small Copper (c.OOS)
Chaffinches are flocking around here since excess grain from the harvest spills over on every corner.  We still have late nesters: a Wood Pigeon has a nest with well grown young located in a Cypress tree, demonstrating a use for a much maligned tree species.

Young Wood Pigeon, sitting tight (c.OOS)

 Swallows are doing well everywhere with first and second broods gathering in noisy mixed flocks:  the ones in the photos below are well advanced and are located inside the Pat Walsh hide on the Wexford Wildfowl Reserve..

How could you refuse! (c.OOS)

Swallow nest (c.OOS)

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Fruit to Go

Mid August, time to look back and assess the growing season.. Soft and Hard fruit showed a big improvement on last years disastrous outturn.  Raspberries, Strawberries and Blackcurrants were all good, though only the last mentioned made it into the kitchen and safely preserved into clear glass jars, a treat to spread on cold mornings ahead.

Rowan blossom, late May (c.OOS)

Because I neglected to cover the ripening soft fruit from eager Blackbirds and others, we never really got to see or feel the ripe Strawberries and invariably a Blackbird was in attendance around the Raspberry bushes.. I will cover most of them with netting, next year, though the very hot spell meant that Blackbirds and Thrushes found it hard to access insect prey from parched ground, so fruit was a useful alternative for them, at least!

Our remaining cultivated fruit to harvest is a good crop of Apples from 2 trees that are only 15 months or so in the ground but in a warm sheltered position in the garden and free from damage from deer or others.

Juvenile Blackbird gets down to business (c. OOS)

Right now, the birds attention, especially Blackbirds, is with wild fruit.  The autumn procession has started with Rowan, progressing from creamy white blossom in late May to scarlet red berries, colour deepening by the day.  The crop is already being picked by a gingery coloured juvenile Blackbird: their favourite August food apparently; I doubt if there will be a berry left come September!  I am always amazed how long the berry crop lasts on Rowans grown in more urban situations: they are a favourite food of Waxwings in late winter, indeed a failure of the rowan drop in northern Europe triggers nomadic wanderings and irruptions for a number of northern European species.

Speaking of wanderings, we often notice a 'fall' of Willow Warblers on damp or misty mornings, the migration is on, and its always nice to follow the activity in the willows trees, the warblers show great agility in picking off insects  from under leaves, always on the move, calling each other along from tree to tree.

Willow in the Willows (C.OOS)

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Starlings: birds for all seasons

I was down at the coast last weekend and heard the clear mewing call of a Buzzard, or more likely, what sounded like a Buzzard..

A quick check of a nearby TV aerial, and there was the imposter: a juvenile Starling amongst a flock of youngsters, ever busy and giving off a mischevious air.  They remind me of a teeneagers out for an afternoon: only happy with their own kind, no adults in sight, lots of noise and chatter and always on the move.  I suppose if they were really like teenagers they would  sleep late and frequently require lifts.. but we wont go there!

Juvenile Starling: Plumage is subtle by adult standards (c.OOS)

The juvenile Starlings are quite subtle in plumage, compared to the showy, sparkling adults, who themselves sport two outfits a year.. Early season juveniles have a a plain sandy olive appearance , with pale creamy chin .

The juveniles in autumn begin to take on an adult appearance, their drab cloak reduced to a plain looking neck-warmer with the winter adults spotty body plumage beneath.  Flocks get bigger at this time too, particularly at evening roosts: look out for them in hedgerows: they are adept at stripping ripe black Elder berries or Blackberries from the trees; they're just a few weeks off ripening now.

Motley Crew: autumn juvs and winter adults (c. Shay Connolly)

Adults in winter are striking, particularly if seen in good light when the iridescent plumage is sprayed by pale chevrons sprinkled over dark base feathers.  These chevrons remain until the spring when they are gradually worn off but the bill then takes on a deep yellow colouration.

Sparkling winter adult (c. Shay Connolly)

There's also the winter murmurations to look forward to, the massive swirling waves of birds massing pre-roost.  Numbers are swollen at this time because we normally receive quite a large immigration of Starlings for the winter months with birds arriving from as far away as Russia.  These often arrive by day, the East Coast is the place to spot the Starlings, making steady progress, flying low and direct over the sea, to make landfall and immediately replenishing spent energy by feeding in coastal pastures.. 

Breeding plumage: less spots, pale bill (c. Shay Connolly)
Truly a remarkable species, I'm not surprised they mimic at all: they seem like the kind of bird that would have a good sense of humour!

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Off with their heads?

Pale pink Scabious in full flower (Knautia sp.), with cat mint (Nepata)

The great garden writer and plants woman, Helen Dillon, is the author of one of my favourite gardening books.  No great surprise there, except that the book is a bog standard black and white paperback, devoid of any illustration , except for a few basic vignettes at the end of chapters, it relies solely on the written word to enthuse the reader, unusual enough for the genre, but it doesn't fail.  The book is titled ' Helen Dillon on Gardening' and is based on weekly articles from the newspaper, The Sunday Tribune, 1992-1995, and was published as a collection in 1998 by Town House, Dublin.  

It is laid out in chronological order, so is ideal for dipping into, bedside perhaps, to check your progress through the months and seasons.  August 1993, brings a short but typical, straight talking serving: 'So its off with their Heads', more aimed at firing out an under performer, than merely pruning back plants that have flowered and then set seed.  Of course the latter action is widely recommended to prolong a show of fresh colour in traditional gardening circles.

Greenfinch enjoys feeding on the same Scabious plant, now gone to seed (c.OOS)

As a wildlife gardener I am happy to substitute extended flowering periods for bright birds, attracted to the 'duller' seed heads.. A win win situation!  

So Greenfinches to the fore again, what a great bird species..champions of the perennial in seed, not just a peanut nibbler.. they were joined on the Scabious (Knautia sp.) by a  Bullfinch, but the latter sloped away before the camera was in position.. shrinking violets and all that!

Thursday, 4 July 2013

A Woody tale

Ray O'Hanlon, a birding accomplice from the distant past ( late 1960s/1970s), was in touch recently from New York where he now lives and works. His letter brought back a stream of memories from the days of black and white TVs, cine cameras and the IWC, Dublin central branch, meeting once a month in the then Carrolls Theatre on Grand Canal Parade. 

He is missing the old sod: far away fields appear greener and all that.  It was great to get his perspective on the Irish birding scene, then and now and his thoughts on Woodpeckers.

I have reproduced his letter in full, it will surely appeal to all those who joined the cause back in the 70s, on the back of the old IWC (BirdWatch Ireland) talks and outings, spurred on by the clever animations of Amuigh Faoin Speir on our fledgling TV station.

Juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker, Wicklow ( Dick Coombes)

Diary of an ornithological exile

 Ray O'Hanlon

      I remember it like it was yesterday. Actually better because life these days in New York is, as you can imagine, a little on the mad side, so yesterday slips fast into the hazy wake.

      1968 was rather less mad, especially if you were a 12-year-old kid living in the still calm and quiet suburbs of South County Dublin.

      It is a morning in May. Very early, just about dawn. I slip out of bed, quietly so as not to disturb sleeping parents and siblings. For the very first time I am going bird watching at dawn.

      The expedition doesn't require much as its limit is the back garden with its hedges, evergreen trees at the far end and ranks of Sweet Williams in my dad's fussed over flower beds.

      And what wonders are to be found in this familiar piece of walled-in sod. The dawn chorus is going full belt and the place is alive with flapping wings and darting colours. And it being the late 1960s, absolutely nobody else is up. Ireland used to get its eight hours then, and then some.

      I am clutching a copy of "The Observer's Book of Birds." It is a volume of wonders and endless promise, from the frame showing Passer Domesticus to the Hoopoe, to which I have already extended an open-ended invitation to visit my little sanctuary.

      And sure what bird wouldn't want to be in this place, the very center of the known universe? My known bit at any rate.

      I am, of course, standing in a time long before the power to observe just about everything down a thread-thin wire. Books were reliable windows to the world and "Observer's" was my wide open one that morning, and subsequent mornings when I wandered in ever widening circles in search of the conspicuously common, and relatively rare.

      One thing I quickly understood about bird watching is that you could easily end up seeing what you weren't in fact watching. The imagination could run riot, especially in the early morning half light.

      I still lacked binoculars, so that brown blob twenty yards away was a Corn Bunting, even if the Observer's, and common sense, said otherwise. And wasn't that Sparrowhawk a little on the large size. An eagle perhaps, lost and looking for the way back to Scotland.

      "The Observer's Book of Birds" was, of course, a British publication, though Ireland did get mentions throughout its alternately colour and black and white pages.

      So what was available to me as a budding Irish birder was wondrous indeed; what were even better were those birds that didn't make their home in our back garden, or Ireland in its then vast entirety.

      No Woodpeckers then. Ah Jaysus!

      And there were a few more absentees, not least the aforementioned Hoopoe. That didn't shut down the imagination though and forays to the local golf course would always require sharp ears as well as eyes just in case a Green or Greater Spotted Woodpecker had hitched a ride from Holyhead, a place which, after all, was closer than Galway.

      Hoopoes being exotic and far away I could understand. But why Woodpeckers? The Observer's waxed poetic over the Green Woodpecker and stated it could be seen in woods, parks and gardens and in trees "everywhere."

      But that was everywhere over there, not here.

      In the years that followed, I became firmly attached to my new hobby, joined the Irish Wildbird Conservancy and learned, grudgingly, to accept the absence of Woodpeckers from Ireland in general, and our back garden in particular.

      Fast forward 45 years. I am sitting in my new back garden, or "yard" as the natives call it. It's early on a weekend morning and I'm gazing at a tall and very dead tree in the next door neighour's.

      Dead trees are drive-through eateries for Woodpeckers and in my new universe, about an hour north of New York City and overlooking that avian interstate, the Hudson River, I am thinking back to that morning in 1968 when feathered songsters were only rivaled by the Beatles letting loose with "Lady Madonna."

      It's high summer and the trees are fully leafed out. So Woodpeckers can come and go with relative privacy, only not on the great dead Maple with its peeling bark. Downy, Hairy and Red-Bellied Woodpeckers are up, down and across the blighted arbor as are their Nuthatch cousins. Even a Flicker, a Woodpecker that more often feeds at ground level, has been dropping by.

      And there's always the chance of that local king of bark peckers (no, not Woody) the Pileated Woodpecker, a species that can grow to the size of a crow - and may a few years back have set in motion that great hunt for the most likely (and sadly) extinct Ivory Billed Woodpecker in the swamps of the American Southeast.

      Woodpeckers then, once imagined, and now so frequently seen, are a particular favourite of mine. They are agile, industrious and seem especially aware of their world.

      So you can imagine my joy when, over the last couple of years, I have been reading of increased sightings of Great Spotted Woodpeckers in Ireland, and the likelihood that there is now a viable breeding population as close to the old homestead as County Wicklow.

      That house and garden of so long ago is still in the family and peanut feeders dangle from the mature apple trees at the garden's end. All in the house are under instruction to keep an eye out for possible Woodpecker sightings, especially in winter.

      Nothing as yet. But perhaps the Great Spotteds, which look like Eurasian versions of the Hairy, are holding back, waiting for a visit from yours truly, an ornithological exile living just over the wall, and three thousand miles away, in Picidae Central.

      I wouldn't put it past them.

      Ray O'Hanlon is a journalist, author, and member emeritus of the IWC.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

New Broods

After a late and often faltering spring, its great to see young birds around the garden feeders and,naturally, around the perennial plants.  We have plenty of bee and butterfly activity around the latter.

The peanut feeder is maintained full or nearly so, all summer, to catch the passing woodpeckers that are within a few hundred meters of the garden.. but so far, no closer!  However we had a family party of  7 Great Tits, some of the young feeding themselves, but others holding back in the Willow tree and fed morsels by the attentive adult. 

 Blue Tits are showing similar behaviour but noisy Greenfinches are less shy: 3 or 4 compete for space on the feeder, young and adults and lots of threat displays are employed to gain possession of the feeder. 

The Greenfinches are great foragers in the hardy geraniums,(Cranesbill), seeking out the seeds after the showy flowering season.  As garden plants go, they are great weed suppressors, have brilliant showy flowers over a long season and also provide food for bees and birds with pollen and seed.

Monday, 27 May 2013

Food for Young

Song Thrush with food for young (c.OOS)

There's an urgency about the garden now: Blackbirds, Robins, Dunnocks and Song Thrushes are feeding with intent, usually retiring quickly once a beak full of worms or similar is amassed.  The brood of Robins in our open fronted nest box have departed, and I have had  a few juvenile Song thrushes around the house: one unfortunately collided with a window, same thing happened last year too.  No Swallows returned to nest, so far anyway, though two or three occasionally fly by.  The word in the office here is that numbers of migrant birds appear to be down, though there's time yet.  I hope to cover a couple of CBS squares this week, late visits, a chance to test the theories, first hand. Early visits done five weeks ago, when it was, well, cold and quiet!

Red Kite patrols after the plough (c.OOS)

Its great to report that while watching all those garden birds raiding the worms and invertebrates from the lawn and borders, out just beyond in the field currently being ploughed for late crop potatoes.. a Red Kite, at least three times the body size of a Song Thrush, and a wing span off that scale, it is basically pursuing the same prey with great agility and presents a few close views.. this bird is 'labelled' 12, 12 on blue and white wing tags..

Just clears the garden shed ! (c.OOS)

We still have activity around the bird feeders: Amazingly, after a winter when I couldn't attract a Redpoll to the feeders,  a couple turned up in early May.. very welcome visitors, along with Goldfinches and Siskins, they are from the more nomadic end of the spectrum and I suspect the natural food supply in the birch and conifer woods is late in coming, though they undoubtedly will breed there.  The nice bonus of late Redpolls is that they are in bright summer dress: rosy pink fronts and rump, to complement the red 'poll' or crown!

Redpoll (c.OOS)

Friday, 10 May 2013

Blackbirds and White Blossoms

After such a slow start to spring, we finally have a spurt of growth and some flowers in the garden.  The first screaming Swifts were back in Rathdrum a week ago, 5 birds careering low over the main street.  Nesting is in earnest now with a Robin sitting tight in an open fronted nestbox on an ivy covered Hawthorn tree and Blue Tits building in a new box, replacing one that literally fell apart.

Snowy Mespilus: before the wind got it! (c.OOS)
After a lawn mowing session, (an unfortunate side effect of fresh growth in the garden) I watched two male Blackbirds forage for worms, in relatively close proximity.  This went fine for a short while. I reckon the ready availability of prey after mowing allows the Blackbirds territorial guard to drop somewhat, despite the likelihood of both birds having females on nests nearby.

Keeping an eye on prey and a competitor (c.OOS)

However the bird with the tail up is agitated and comes closer to investigate, retaining its alert posture before loosing patience and chasing off the unwelcome 'intruder'.

Getting closer! (c.OOS)
Its not surprising that the Blackbirds cross each others paths: we had up to 15 birds through winter and many of these seemed to remain around the garden to breed: the afternoon and evening song of Blackbirds echos around, surely one of the most pleasant experiences at this time of the year.

That's close enough, be off! (c.OOS)