Tag Archives: Goldfinch

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.



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.

Why are Goldfinches so gaudy?

Answer: So that they can hide in gaudy places.

Goldfinch Goldfinch Goldfinch Goldfinch Goldfinch Goldfinch GoldfinchThe Goldfinch is perfectly adapted for life in the flower bed.

They are a bit more obvious when they visit the feeder. If you want Goldfinches in your garden then I recommend feeding sunflower hearts, they do love them.

Goldfinch Goldfinch

The bird above is a male. Sometimes it is easy to tell the sexes apart. It is the red mask. On the male bird it continues behind the eye and on the female it stops short. So in the picture below the female is at the front. In practice though some male birds masks only just go beyond the eye and you can hardly see it and in some females the mask goes almost right to the end of the eye. It isn’t always easy to tell them apart.

GoldfinchSo, does anybody know what a Goldfinch fledgling looks like?

Goldfinch Fledgling Goldfinch Fledgling Goldfinch Fledgling Goldfinch Fledgling Goldfinch Fledgling Goldfinch Fledgling Goldfinch FledglingYou do now.

All of these little birds make me happy.

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.



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


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

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.


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.


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


Pretty soon the garden was as charming as could be.


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.



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

Everything has gone back to normal.