Sunday, 26 January 2014

Common as Coal Tits

A little over half way through the Garden Bird Survey: time to take stock of this seasons highs and lows..
Coals in pole position (c. OOS)

Finches are a bit thin on the ground: the Goldfinches have tapered off to just a few, Chaffinches steady and nothing as exotic as a Brambling this winter: not many, or indeed any reported around the country: there must be plenty of Beech Mast for them on mainland Europe.

The procession of three tit species keeps the view out to the peanut feeder pretty animated: there are six to eight of Coal, Blue and Great Tits daily.  The nearby coniferous forestry and broad leaved, surely harbour big populations of these birds and the offer of easy pickings on the peanut feeder in our garden, is too good to miss. In the case of Coal Tits: the seed of pine and spruce cones is harder to extract in wet weather, when the cones close up, so a good reason for them to forage in nearby gardens.

The only competitor that the Tits move over for is the daily Great Spot, a female.  Hopefully, it wont be long now til we hear the resonant drumming of displaying Woodpeckers punctuate the air.  

Making its way to the peanut feeder (c.OOS)

The Song Thrushes have stepped up their singing, Robins and Great Tits also chip in and there's a full half hour of extra daylight in the evening.  Still no room for complacency.. February can be pretty icy, but the birds seem to have survived well over the current winter, wet and windy but no really low temperatures so far.

Retreat to the big Sycamore (c.OOS)

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Down to the coast

With lots of free time in early January, it was nice to head down to the Wicklow coast to view the hordes of wildfowl enjoying the watery, mild winter.

Not just willdfowl, the birds of prey are not slow to pick up and patrol the ranks of fowl: Hen harriers, Buzzards and Sparrowhawks all in evidence.

Female Kes, 6 mile point (OOS)

A particularly engaging Kestrel chose the statuesque wooden skeleton of the Windsock at Six Mile Point as its lookout.. The airfield itself was a bit surreal: it had a swimming Kittiwake and Mediterranean Gull on its flooded apron.. no sign of Michael O'Leary offering cheap flights to Dublin ( Newcastle ), just yet!                                          
On up along the railway line to look for Snow Buntings,: it was No Buntings for us!

A lovely Stonechat was the standout bird, offering great views in the still, bright winter conditions: its a real pleasure to be out observing wildlife in this weather.  The birds too seemed to be relaxing in the benign conditions, I've never seen so many sleeping ducks! The action was provided by an Otter, pretending to be a dolphin, in on the coastal marshes.

Back on the coast: female Stonechat (c. OOS)

The Stonechats are definitely enjoying the mild winter: they made great increases in the period since the last Atlas, only to fall over the exceptionally hard winters of 2009/10, 2010/11. Just as well they have a sure fire recovery mechanism with multi broods in good summers: they were actually absent from regular coastal haunts in County Wicklow in the last few winters, but have recovered since: I have only once seen one here in Rathdrrum, perhaps a migrant in autumn, on its way to an Irish coast or one further south..

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

A Happy, bird filled New Year!

The Christmas holiday period represents a great chance to catch up with the birds in the garden: We usually stock up on garden bird supplies to cover us into the New Year.   Despite the often foul weather, the flow of birds to the feeders is fairly constant and gives pleasure and delight to armchair bird watching.
Star Quality: the first visitors to the Nyjer feeder (c. OOS)

I haven't used a Nyjer feeder in the garden for a year or two now: not that I  don't want to attract a few exotic looking finch species: I think our last Nyjer feeder took off in a storm: I have a garden shed with quite a few retired feeders hanging motionless from a hook: all missing parts and testament to our windy site.

Being Christmas I thought a present to self was in order, to benefit the birds of course.  A heavy duty, quick release,Ring Pull Nyjer feeder from the Jacobi Jayne range looked perfect for our situation. The fine, oily Nyjer Seed was purchased, adding to the peanuts ( minimum of 5kg back up needed to keep the Woodpeckers on board), Fat balls and a supply of Sunflower seeds for the squadron of Coal Tits. 


The return on the investment has been fantastic:  Goldfinches were attracted to the new feeder within 2 days, and numbers built up nicely to at least 11 birds, from an initial pair.  It is fascinating to watch them queue for the four port feeder: unruly and chattering, often tangling in mid air, flashing the band of gold across the wings before returning to the feeder.  This sharing of information amongst their number benefits the flock but brings competition and displays of territoriality and aggression.  

The species list for the garden rises to 27 since early December, with Siskin just added and still some 'easy ones' to come: no Jackdaw, Starling or House Sparrow yet, though the latter two are breeders here.

Sharing with the Greenfinches (c.OOS)