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.