Friday, 23 December 2016

23rd December - The Beds Were Small, But We Felt So Young

It has been a while, I must admit, and I can only apologise, however events such as an almost complete house refurbishment (if you live local you may have noticed), extensive work commitments, and some appalling weather at the times when I was available to get out.  I must admit though to not having the enthusiasm at this time of year, and when I could get out, I ventured further afield with some great results which you can find out about here.

Even now as I sit here writing this it is dreary day, the temperature getting warmer, it isn't like Christmas at all, and this has a profound affect on the wildlife around Four Marks.  Basically the countryside goes to sleep.  The woods are quiet, all for maybe the song of a Robin, or the alarm call of a Wren.  If you are really lucky then there may be  the call of a Great Spotted Woodpecker, but for most of the time everything is on hold, put away for the winter.

The most productive areas for birds at this time of year is around the houses and gardens.  The popularity of feeding birds has increased the number coming to the gardens, while at the same time we have seen significant changes in the fortunes of the these birds.  Goldfinches now outnumber all, in my garden I have had flocks of over 20 birds recently gorging on the sunflower seeds. 

We still have signs of the disease Trichomonosis in the garden, recently I found a dead Chaffinch, with all the signs of dying from this disease, and the feeders were covered with some blood, another sign.  Fortunately there doesn't seem to be any sign of the disease in the Goldfinches, and they look superb with their deep red face and bright yellow wing bars.  

So down came the feeders yet again, and the bird bath was drained.  However even if I do this, there is the chance that nearby other garden feeders still carry the disease, and the birds catch it there.  Unfortunately there is little I can do about this.

The Tits though seem to be alright, we get a consistent number of Blue and Great Tits and early morning, and late at night a flock of about a dozen Long-tailed Tits come through, calling constantly as the flit from suet balls to seed feeders, then down to the waterfall in the pond for a drink.

The local flock of starlings has increased this year, at dusk they circle around the trees at the top of Reads Field, while in the morning they gather on the TV aerials, but not in huge numbers.

One of our newest "garden" bird is the Red Kite, there are regular sightings of this wonderful bird of prey as it lazily drifts over the gardens constantly scanning for any sign of scraps to eat.

This year's success story though has to be about Scruffy the Blackbird.  In the summer this male blackbird appeared in the garden with a totally bedraggled set of feathers, at times in rain he looked a terrible mess hence the name.  He did though manage to raise three broods through the summer, but by the time the summer was over you could see flesh where the feathers had dropped out around the neck and belly.

The moult came and went, and he returned to the garden in a better condition, but we still feared for him.  It was at this time that Helen started to feed him mealworms.  These had been intended for the Robins in the garden, but Scruffy was more adventurous and started to come to take them on a regular basis.

Gradually his plumage got better, to the point where today he looks superb.  We still feed him every day on the mealworms, just before dawn Helen calls him and he comes to the tree, clucks at her as she puts the meal worms out, then drops to the basket to feed.  On cold frosty morning he is very impatient coming immediately to the basket.  He never eats thema ll, returning to the tree to guard them, he allows a Robin to feed, but woe betide another Blackbird should approach.  He can though be scared off if more than one Starling arrives, but Helen usually scares them away!

Here is this morning coming to feed from the basket.

And here he is being chased by the starlings. 

From well before dawn, and well after sunset there is the song of the two garden Robins singing out, they constantly sing all day long.  We have two Robin territories in the garden, one at either end, Scruffy quite happily allows the Robin on the right hand side near the shed feed on the mealworms, but the Robin will not allow the hedge Robin anywhere near them.

So to end here is the Hedge Robin singing away once more in the tree across the road.

Hopefully the weather will behave and I will be able to get out over the Christmas period, I am quite excited about seeing what might be about, we shall have to see if that feeling is warranted.

In the meantime I wish you all a very Merry Christmas 

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