Thursday, 28 March 2013

Nesting on hold..

I haven't noticed too much interest, so far, in the five nestboxes scattered around the house and garden: two are for tit species, two aimed at Robins or Wren, and one Sparrow terrace, recently acquired from BirdWatch Ireland and sporting a slate roof.

The garden is of course stuffed with birds: alll the winter flocks and variety are still present, not surprising really given the winter showers of sleet and snow that are persisting for the last week and forecast into next..  

Great Tits in a snowstorm (c.OOS)

Haven't yet heard a spring migrant up this way, though I was fortunate enough to meet with a spring 'fall' of Chiffchaffs on Cape Clear Island, earlier this week.  We counted about 70 or more in our walk around the western end of the island, there may have been hundreds present if the whole island is taken into account. Their behaviour was most interesting: foraging along the ground and in the grass or field layer, despite the presence of a fairly rich shrub and tree layer on west Corks famous bird island.  

Other migrants present included about 20 Wheatears, 2 Ring Ouzels and a half dozen Blackcaps.  One wonders how many of these birds are in fact destined for an Irish summer, or staging en route to other northern European destinations.  A Black Redstsrt was an interesting passage bird, undoubtedly staging and there were a couple of reports elsewhere this week: at BirdWatch Irelands HQ in Kilcoole and another one logged in Redcross, Co Wicklow.   This is after a winter when you couldn't find one for love nor money!

Black Redstart, Redcross (c.R. Heaney)

Friday, 15 March 2013

Sound birds

I had noticed how 'scarce' Wrens are with us through recent winters and was keen to make sure we weren't coming to a hasty conclusion without reflecting on circumstances:  They are not really bird feeder regulars anyway.. much less so than other insectivorous species such as Robin and Dunnock, which pitch in to avail of scraps, peanuts, fat balls and seed, especially Robins.  However, the perception and proof after a few hard winters and indifferent springs, is that they suffered.

Wren in the flower pots (c.OOS)

I only recorded a single Wren on last winters Garden Bird Survey on three separate weeks out of a possible 13.. So, how pleased I was to meet with one, first thing this morning, shuffling around the plant pots, not three feet from where I sipped an early morning coffee. No doubt the attraction was the fall off from the peanut feeder mounted on the patio door directly above the pots.. Sometimes it pays to be a little untidy and let nature take care of the scraps!

No sooner than I grabbed a hasty pic than I heard a second Wren give a blast of that fast, loud, arresting song, no mistaking that!

Wren in song (c. John Fox)

Wrens are recorded as one of our most widespread species on the Countryside Bird Survey, which monitors the fortunes of our breeding birds.. Present in over 95% of  the 1km. survey squares and at a reasonably high density averaging 15 birds per square. My best count on the CBS was of 33  birds, no doubt all singing ( I probably didn't see more than one or two), recorded on my Avoca 1 km square which has lots of lush village gardens and woodland. 

So what appears to be a shy and retiring, small brown bird really comes to the fore once that song blasts out.. a most effective communication tool , and don't dare write Wrens off until you listen for them!  In another month  I will be recording Wrens on my Avoca CBS square.. it will be interesting to compare counts from previous years.

(c. John Fox)

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Review of the Garden Bird Survey

The 13 week survey period certainly rocked along: It was a pretty average out turn for us , not without its highlights though and it brought a total of 30 species to the garden since last December.

Most abundant, and consistent visitor was Chaffinch, up to 29 of them, but no Brambling, which we half expected to record in the flock. The next most abundant bird was Coal Tit, with a peak of 16 in week two - the highest numbers were at the beginning of the season in December.  Blackbirds  are always fun to watch, patrolling the open areas: a peak of 12 was recorded in week one and we never recorded less than 6 in a week.

Male Blackbird: cold weather brought them close to the feeding station (c.OOS)
We missed Redpoll, so far this season, though we are hopeful of March movements and Siskins only visited on one week so far.  So, the Nyjer seed was left for Goldfinches to look after: peak count of 6, last week.

Long tailed Tits were perhaps the cutest visitor, appearing in the last five weeks of the survey, just when it got cold!
Long tailed Tit (c.OOS)
What a difference a tail makes! (c.OOS)
Jay and Pheasant put in full 13 week shifts in our garden, but the one woodlander that has eluded us so far is the Great spotted Woodpecker.. something to look forward to next time out!
Jay (c.OOS)