Tag Archives: Blue Tit

The Big Garden Birdwatch

That is what we have been doing today.

Every winter in the UK (since 1979) the RSPB asks the British public to take part in a survey of the birds in their garden. About half a million people take part and it has become the worlds largest wildlife survey.

So for one hour over this weekend we were asked to record the birds that visit our garden. They don’t want you to count how many times Blue Tits visit your feeder because that would be the same birds over and over, instead they want you just to watch and record the largest number of each species that you can see at any one time.

So during my allotted hour there was one point that I had four Blackbirds on the grass together, four is the answer, not how many Blackbirds I saw in the entire hour, get it?

This is my view of the garden from my kitchen window that will do. Most of the birds will be around the feeder, I have put plenty of food out on the grass to try and bring them into my field of vision and if I get three or four of one species on the feeders at the same time then I am scanning around to try and see more.

The GardenMy results were not very spectacular. Some birds that I could almost guarantee to show up, didn’t. So for Collared Doves the answer was none, there are a pair that live here and I see them every day but during my hour they didn’t show. I hope they don’t get the idea that Collared Doves are extinct in Gloucestershire.

Blue TitIt is quite a fun thing to do. It requires a lot of attention. We had ten species visit during our hour and it could have been quite a few more. They all visit at the same time so I am trying to keep track of three House Sparrows over there and two Blue Tits on one feeder and two Robins squabbling amongst the bushes and so on.

BlackbirdI couldn’t take pictures while I was counting, I was too busy and then I couldn’t take pictures afterwards because it was just so murky but I did my best to try and show you what it was like.

RobinThe results that I returned were..

6 House Sparrows
6 Blue Tits
4 Goldfinches
3 Great Tits
2 Robins
4 Blackbirds
3 Chaffinches
2 Dunnocks
4 Bumbarrels
1 Wren

My favourite was the Wren, I hardly ever see them in that part of the garden and didn’t expect it.

It doesn’t look like a lot of birds but there were quite a lot of birds, they just didn’t all appear together and I was just following the rules. Quite a few local species would appear to be extinct if they just looked at my results but I expect that other people will report seeing them and an hour isn’t very long.

Blue Tit

Blue TitI could easily have missed the Bumbarrels too (Long-tailed Tits). They are not regular visitors but they have been here for a few days and just at the right time for the survey.

Long-tailed Tit

Long-tailed Tit

Long-tailed Tit

Long-tailed TitSo that is the Big Garden Birdwatch. The RSPB will collate all of the results and tell us which species are in decline and which are doing well and they will use that information to focus their conservation efforts on the birds that need the most help.

Summer Birds

We are having a storm here but it is quite a nice storm with strong warm winds. Warm makes all the difference.  It has been blowing all night and so I found myself sitting outside at four o’clock this morning enjoying the wind buffeting the trees.

I am kicking off with birds today and perhaps the weather will brighten up in a bit. I have seen some beautiful birds this year.

RobinUnlike the butterflies I don’t have to say goodbye to the birds. A couple of lightweights have gone south, fair enough but winter is a wonderful time for watching birds.

Here are a few birds that have featured here this summer.

The Great Spotted Woodpecker.

Sizewise it is about as “great” as a starling. Quite a small bird but it has wonderful presence. The female turned up about a month before the male and made herself at home.

Great Spotted WoodpeckerShe was on the feeder every time that I looked out of the window.

Great Spotted WoodpeckerEventually the male started visiting us too.

Great Spotted WoodpeckerGreat Spotted Woodpeckers don’t really eat peanuts. As a species they are totally dependant on dead wood habitat and the insects that live therein.

The juveniles visited us for a few weeks but their arrival signalled the end of the visits. They have been missing from the garden for the last couple of months.

Great Spotted WoodpeckerMeanwhile… out on the waters edge…

Mandarin Duck

Mandarin DuckMandarin ducks nest high in trees often in old woodpecker holes. Once hatched the chicks have to leap out of the nest and plummet thirty or forty feet to the ground because they are ducks not woodpeckers. They are very light and survive the fall. It is a spectacle that I would really like to video.

Mandarin DuckMeanwhile out on the farm….

Red Legged PartridgeThis is a Red Legged Partridge, an introduced species. Introduced for the shooting they are quite common here. My bedroom overlooks fields and I can actually lie in bed and watch these birds through my window but I still have to get out of bed to get decent pictures. No situation is perfect 🙂

Red Legged Partridge

Red Legged PartridgeGoldfinches played a major role in our summer. My new landlord’s favourite bird, he had never had them in the garden. They love sunflower hearts and I filled the garden with them.

Goldfinch

Goldfinch

GoldfinchThis is a juvenile Goldfinch.

GoldfinchGoldfinches were not the only birds breeding here. The one that got the most blog space was the Barn Swallow. There are lots of swallow nestling videos on this blog but for me the best bit was when they first arrived.

They are supposed to mate for life. Some of the birds are just finding their mate. Some of them are  reuniting. They fuss over each other so much. It is lovely to watch.

Barn SwallowIt would do no good telling me that birds are not capable of emotions. They greet each other with all the excitement of a puppy meeting it’s owner. I have also seen them mourn when they have lost a brood. These are very emotional birds.

Barn Swallow

Barn SwallowThroughout the summer we had all manner of new arrivals, too many to show them all here.

BlackbirdBlackbirds raised a brood in a tractor.

BlackbirdDespite a very wet start to the year the Blue Tits were also very successful.

Blue TitBlue Tits have a large brood and all of that feeding can leave mum feeling a little bit frazzled.

Blue Tit(This bird is actually just moulting, perfectly healthy and happy, or it might be a Zombie Blue Tit, they do happen, I think 🙂 )

The bird that had the greatest success was the House Sparrow. They can have several broods in a year and our birds had a constant supply of food this summer, they made the most of it.

House Sparrow

Blue TitThere are dozens of them and they have been moving around the farm in small flocks. So much so that I was beginning to worry that I was upsetting the balance of nature… Until today that is…

Blue TitI filled the feeders up three days ago and they haven’t been touched, something is wrong.

SparrowhawkThis Sparrowhawk has visited the garden a couple of times this year. He hasn’t stayed very long and hasn’t caused any big problems. It is nice to see him.

I saw him or another just like him this morning. Now he is in his full adult plumage and looks quite beautiful. (no photos yet)

SparrowhawkTo have had any impact on my Sparrow hordes he must have taken up residence or more likely his presence is just keeping the birds away from the feeders. Today I am on Sparrowhawk watch.

Sparrowhawkand looking forward to a great winter of wonderful birds.

Mystery Bird

I woke up this morning and there was a new bird on the feeder, one I haven’t seen before. It looked hungry.

“Where’s my worms?”

Robin Fledgling

Robin FledglingWe know what it is really, don’t we Darling?

RobinWe should do, it has cost enough money buying meal worms for mum and dad.

Unfortunately the light isn’t good enough this morning for photography purposes but it is good enough to show you what’s going on.

LightBirds are what’s going on, hundreds of them while I wait for another chance at the Robin.

Blue Tit Fledgling

Blue Tit Fledgeling

This one won’t bring her babies. Female Great Spotted Woodppecker

Female Great Spotted Woodppecker

Female Great Spotted Woodppecker

There he is! Quick , focus!Robin FledglingDamn, there is just not enough light. It’s a Robin but it is not a sharp one.

Oh look a fledged Chaffinch.

Chaffinch Fledgling

Chaffinch FledglingIt is all happening and the sky is just getting darker and darker.

Does anybody know what a Goldfinch fledgling looks like? We ought to have them here.

Goldfinch

Chaffinch

Female House SparrowWho ate all the worms?

BlackbirdYes actually, you are annoying me a bit. Do you have to gather every single one?

BlackbirdFizz! Fetch me my Blackbird gun. What do you mean, we’ve run out of bullets?

I am going to take Fizz to the fields and play ball with her for an hour or two. When I get back it would be nice if the sunshine and the birds would play ball with me.

You are not annoying me, you take what you need.

House SparrowsI like the little brown ones.

Robin Fledgling

Haircut

Ha Ha HA! You look like a sheep!

FizzOkay, yes Let’s compare haircuts…

HaircutYes well let’s talk about something else then.

FizzThere was not much Woodpecker action in the garden today and I am afraid that I have lost them. The female was here a few times but not all the time like she was before. I am pretty sure she was coming for food for the nestlings and now they are feeding themselves. They will probably disappear into the woods and be Woodpeckers now. I am still hoping for some decent shots of the juveniles before they go.

There were plenty of other birds in the garden including quite a few new Great Tits (yellow cheeks again)

Juvenile Great Tit

Juvenile Great TitCome on then, let’s compare cheeks….

Yellow Cheeks..and there is a clear winner

Juvenile Blue Tit

Juvenile Blue Tit

Juvenile Blue TitThere was another new visitor to the garden today and this visit probably had something to do with Fizz being absent at the hairdressers.

This is a Squirrel fledgling, it’s a young one that has just left the nest.

Squirrel Fledgling

Squirrel Fledgling

Squirrel FledglingNormally problems arise when a Squirrel finds a peanut feeder but I think Fizz can handle this one. She will chase it but she will never get anywhere near it. She is a farm dog, she is not allowed in the house, sleeps in the back porch and spends most of her time in the garden. (Even though she is only just a toy dog)

Speaking of toys. earlier today I accidentally miss-threw her ball into a hedge and being so useless she was unable to retrieve it. I had to walk all the way to the nearest village to buy her a new one and when I got there they didn’t have any balls so now she has got one of these…

Toy Dog ToyAs toys go this is a fail.

She loves it but if she gets hold of it the walk is over. All she wants to do is beat it up, “This is what I’ll do to the Squirrel when I catch him.”

Toy Dog ToyShe will never catch a Squirrel (her legs are too little)

Give me my toy back!

Toy Dog Toy

Yellow Cheeks

Before I start this post let me just explain the significance of the yellow cheeks to everybody who doesn’t know or have the Eurasian Blue Tit locally (most of the world really)

In the UK the Blue Tit is a common garden bird. Very neat and tidy it is a pretty little thing much loved for it’s acrobatics on the bird feeder.

It looks like this.

Blue Tit moultingNo it doesn’t really (not all the time) I’m just joking with you.

This is an adult blue tit.

Blue TitNewly fledged birds have yellow cheeks.

Blue Tit fledglingBlue Tits have a large brood, it can be as many as fifteen but eight to ten is more common. They take a lot of feeding, each little bird needs about a hundred caterpillars a day, so the parents are kept very busy. They have to find all that food on top of looking after themselves. A wet Spring can be devastating for Blue Tits, they only have one brood and if it rains at the wrong time they can’t find enough insect food and the chicks die.

We have had a very wet Spring this year and so I have been watching the feeder for a couple of weeks now looking out for those little yellow cheeks.

Fed up with fetching home an extra thousand caterpillars a day the parent birds are very keen to bring their young to the feeder and teach them how to get their own dinner.

Blue Tit feeding fledgling

Blue Tit feeding fledgling

Blue Tit feeding fledglingYou have to get it through to them that this isn’t just a place where you come to be fed now that you are an adult. This is a place where you come to feed yourself!

There are no more free lunches.

Blue Tit feeding fledgling Blue Tit feeding fledgling Blue Tit feeding fledgling Blue Tit feeding fledgling Blue Tit feeding fledgling Blue Tit feeding fledglingSo this is what you do. You pick the food up… Wait……Then you put it in your mouth and you swallow it!

Blue Tit feeding fledgling Blue Tit feeding fledgling Blue Tit feeding fledglingOkay?

Blue Tit feeding fledglingOne more time. How hard can it be? Pick it up and eat it!

Blue Tit feeding fledgling Blue Tit feeding fledglingYou’re on your own.

What are we supposed to do? Did you follow any of that?

Blue Tit fledglingsHello Baby. I am so glad to see that you made it. It is going to be a long hot summer now and you will soon get the hang of it.

Blue Tit fledgling Blue Tit fledgling Blue Tit fledgling Blue Tit fledgling

A Bird In The Hand

I have been watching the back garden birds closely for the last week anxious to see the little yellow faces of Blue Tit fledglings. Just because it has been such a wet spring. It’s hard for the parents to find enough food to raise a brood. So I really wanted to see a Blue Tit fledgling, just not like this….

I got home from walking Fizz and doing nature observation stuff and my landlord called me, he had something for me. A neighbour had found this fledgling on his lawn and brought it round here so that the Bird Man could look after it. He can’t.

I know that it is with the very best intentions that somebody will see a little bird like this and think that it is in trouble but it is not. Fully feathered and capable of flying several feet this little bird is supposed to be on the ground it is a natural part of leaving the nest. The parents will be close by and will continue to feed it and look after it. The only thing that I could do was take it back to where it was found and let it go and hope that it will be all right.

I am pretty sure that it will be fine it had a healthy pair of lungs and made a lot of noise and the parent birds will obviously still be around. Birds have a really poor sense of smell and so it doesn’t matter that people handled it, they won’t reject it like a mammal might.

Blue Tit Fledgling

Blue Tit Fledgling

Blue Tit FledglingLovely to see the little bird and to know that they are finally leaving the nest. I shall double my watch on the back garden feeder.

 

Blue Tit Fledgling

Blue Tit Fledgling

Blue Tit Fledgling

Blue Tit FledglingI am going now. Come and have breakfast with me some time. bye. Take care  and good luck.

…..Learn to fly.

Blue Tit Fledgling

Blue Tit Fledgling

Blue Tit FledglingI am sure it’s parents will find it, I put it back exactly where it had been found.

Tuppence

Feeding the birds provides me with a lot of entertainment and interest and I think that it is very good value for what it costs.

I won’t be long.

Hungry BirdsIt seems like a funny time of year to be moulting.

Moulting Blue TitMy coconut went down well and now I am improvising another one.

Coconut CoconutOkay. Dinners ready!

Great TitGreat Spotted WoodpeckerRobinHouse SparrowPied WagtailRobinChaffinchGoldfinchGreat TitBlackbirdBlue TitCollared DoveGreat Spotted Woodpecker

Horrible May!

Yes. Horrible May and the very serious consequences of horrible Mays. This is also going to be a post about what you can do about it (Positivity).

1What’s going on? This is the one month of the year that I really look forward to. Also this is the month that nature has decided is the best time to be born into the wild.

Wrong!

2So Blue Tits. (Yes and blue toes, it’s freezing, raining and there is a gale blowing)

Blue Tits

Blue Tits

Blue TitsIf you feed the birds regularly then you may have noticed a change in their behaviour in the last couple of weeks. My landlord mentioned it to me, he was talking about the Goldfinches, he is very fond of them, he said, “They don’t seem to come around much now.” In fact they are still here and food is disappearing from the feeders faster than ever but the bird’s visits are much shorter.

They are feeding their newly hatched chicks. They can’t feed them peanuts or sunflower hearts. They need high protein insect food and much of the adult bird’s day is going to be spent feeding it’s young. Putting food out in the garden means that the parents can feed themselves quickly and gives them more time to spend on more important things.

Blue Tits

Blue TitsSadly bad weather in May can have a devastating impact on our song birds. Caterpillars get washed off the trees. There just isn’t enough food around at the very time when it is most needed.

Blue Tits have a large brood, it can be as many as fifteen but eight to ten is more common. Each chick requires about a hundred caterpillars a day. Ten chicks equals a thousand caterpillars a day. They don’t need rain.

Seriously I have seen this weather pattern before and there has been a massive decline in song bird numbers come the summer.

The only thing that we can do to help them is to put out food for the adult birds. Please don’t think that winter is over and they don’t need it any more, they need you now more than ever.

Numbers go up and numbers go down, nature is cruel and whatever happens they will recover but ..

IT WOULD BE NICE TO HAVE BIRDS IN THE GARDEN THIS SUMMER!

Poxy weather.

Blue Tits

Blue Tits

Blue Tits

Feed the birds. They will love you for it.

Blue Tits

Blue Tits

Blue Tits

EEEK! Sparrowhawk

P1170134What do you like to eat?

I live on a farm. I rent a flat there which is really just a part of the farmer’s house, so we live on top of each other and we get along okay. Apart from paying the rent, I help him out with his computer and I walk his dog and in turn he shows me around and introduces me to people. We both have a fondness for birds and he has a bird feeder just below my kitchen window, which I help him with.

P1040491

He had a peanut feeder and a seed feeder and he had a little empty tray at the bottom and almost as soon as I moved here I noticed the Robins, so I started to put meal worms out for them.

AER0052

The Robins were a great success but adding sunflower hearts into the mix brought us Goldfinches.

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Pretty soon the garden was as charming as could be.

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All of this activity inevitably caught the eye of a predator.

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We have no shortage of predators around here. Buzzards circle above us and Peregrines are often seen here too. This is a young Sparrowhawk. One of last years chicks it has yet to develop it’s adult plumage. We can’t tell if it is male or female yet but I am advised from the size of the bird that it is probably male.

It is lovely to see such a beautiful bird up close but it’s presence in the garden did raise a bit of a problem. Fortunately it’s hunting technique wasn’t very successful.

P1170199

The song birds recognised the hawk and understood it’s intention. I knew when the hawk was around even if I couldn’t see it because the garden was empty of any other birds.

Excuse the quality of this next picture, I took it because I had just seen the Sparrowhawk fly into that bush beside the feeder. He is waiting in ambush and I am up above watching the drama unfold.

P1170557

The hawk waited there for about twenty minutes and no birds came down so he emerged from his hideout and flew up into a tree. Shortly after I saw him fly off. Another forty minutes passed before a Robin lit down and I knew then that the drama was over.

I am writing this in retrospect, all of this happened a couple of weeks ago now. The hawk stayed with us for two days and he didn’t make a kill. A bird can only spend so much time on a hunt and this one moved on to easier hunting grounds.

So why is our garden Sparrowhawk proof? I think it is because it is so open. the garden is backed by pasture with a fairly open orchard on one side.

P1200503

The Sparrowhawk is a woodland bird and an exceptionally good ambush predator. It likes confined, tight spaces with plenty of cover and few escape routes. Our garden just didn’t work for him because everyone knew the moment he arrived on the scene, they took cover and they stayed hidden until they were sure he had gone.

P1170160

Typically town gardens do a very good job of mimicking his woodland habitat. They are generally quite small with plenty of cover and bird feeders to attract the food items and Sparrowhawks get a lot of their prey there, we are just lucky that conditions were not right for him here.

P1170176

Since his visit I have been hunting the local woodlands and hedgerows for signs of sparrowhawk kills. They are messy eaters, they have to pluck their prey before they can get to the flesh. When an animal with teeth kills, a Fox for instance, it rips it’s prey apart breaking the feathers in the process. So you can recognise a hawks kill by looking at the ends of the feathers that are left.

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Smooth tips like this indicate that the feathers were carefully plucked and that would be by a Sparrowhawk. I am not finding many kills around here.

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A lovely bird but I am glad that it has gone.

Everything has gone back to normal.

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