Friday, 24 February 2017

24th February - Though I Have Prayed For a Lifetime

The day after Doris struck, and it was all calm with sunshine, blue skies and a little colder.  We are yet to see the impact of Storm Doris bird wise, but I doubt there will be much change to the conditions here in Four Marks.  Once again the weather has kept me away from the patch, and the focus has been on the garden.

As I went out to feed the birds this morning above me I heard the familiar call of the Canada Goose and looked up into the vapour trail covered sky to see a pair of Canada Geese coming from the west and heading towards Alton.  A good start.

Working through the week away from home, you don't get to appreciate the garden, and to see the changes that have just recently occurred.  At the bottom of the garden the Daffodils have just suddenly burst into flower, the sunshine now high enough in the sky to light them up, bringing to life the wild area we have created at the bottom of the garden.

As well as the Daffodils there are a few Snowdrops still flowering and some small patches of Primroses.  Hopefully to come will be the Snake's Head Fritillaries and some Bluebells

The sunshine was very welcome, and it was too highlighting the Siskins superbly.  

 We now have at least four regular visitors to the feeders and they have also started to take a liking to the buds appearing on the trees.

Pretty and dainty little birds, the sun highlighting the lemon yellow breast.

The House Sparrows too have started to take a liking to the newly emerging buds, this female was merrily stripping the buds off.

 The Starlings are the last birds to appear in the garden, they seem to prefer to be in the sunshine early on.  This male, you can tell by the pale blue flush on the lower mandible, sat chattering away in the sunshine.  It highlights the petrol like blue and green colours in the plumage.

As always there was the continual comings and goings of the Goldfinches.  The numbers do not seem to have changed, they are now the dominant bird on the feeders.  They are lovely to watch, and you have also to take the time to appreciate the plumage too.

 We are still feeding mealworms and this has now extended beyond feeding the Blackbird.  The two Robins present through the winter now have paired up, so we see the two from the shed side arrive to meet the two from the hedge.  It is the Shed birds that are the more dominant and the Hedge pair wait until they have had their fill.  This is is one of the Hedge pair, through the approach I would say this was the male.

The other regular visitor is the Long-tailed Tit, two to be accurate, they also seem to be a committed pair, always arriving together.

They are much bolder than both the Blackbird and Robin, heading straight for the tray, and then back to the tree to hang from a branch by on leg while holding the mealworm and eating it with the other.  I have tried to photograph this on many occasions but this time I think you can see exactly what they do.

Once a regular and frequent visitor to the garden in good numbers, the appearance now of a Greenfinch seems to be something to celebrate.  This male turning up in amongst the Siskins that are far more common.

With the warm weather last week, and the passing of Storm Doris giving way to warm sunshine the House Sparrows have started to prospect for nest sites.  The House Martin nest opposite is always the first site they go to, taking over residency before the House Martins return.  This female was making a cautious approach clinging to the bricks.

The Blackbird is still with us, you can tell him by the fact when everyone else flies off when the door opens he sticks about to see what will happen.

He makes for a lovely subject at the bottom of the garden.

All the hustle and bustle first thing in the morning starts to give way around the middle of the morning.  While the females are searching for potential nest sites, the cock sparrows are quite content to sit in the sun, and quietly at this stage of the year chirp.

The weather will continue to go up and down over the next few weeks but hopefully soon we will start to see more signs of spring, and I can venture out into the woods and fields.  But for now the garden continues to deliver some lovely scenes.

Will be going away this weekend

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

14th February - Is It The Sound Of The Leaves

Following the gloom and cold of the weekend, yesterday was clear and bright with sunshine and an acceptable temperature, almost as if the worst was over and spring was just around the corner.  As I came home last night the Starlings were singing from the nest spots on the gutters, and away in the distance a Song Thrush was ploughing its trade from the top of a Silver Birch tree.

When I woke up this morning it was to the grey and dampness that we had endured last week, but with one difference it was definitely milder.  Once again the garden was busy, the pair of Long-tailed Tits beat the Blackbird to the mealworms, and the three Robins continued their arguments over who actually does own which part of the garden.  On the Robins, it is interesting to watch the interactions.  Despite the fact that the hedge Robins seem now to be a pair, there does seem to be some recognition problems, with what I assume is the male looking to chase the female away, only for her to stand her ground until the male realises and then allows her to feed.  The Shed Robin though is mercilessly chased away by both birds, and it skulks off to sing from the tree to gardens down.

A notable return to the garden today was the female Blackcap, the first time she has been around for a few weeks.  A poor shot of her hiding in amongst the branches.

Even more notable was that she was then joined by not one, but two males, with them squabbling over the feeders along with the goldfinches.

Just as I thought to myself that the Siskins were becoming more common garden birds than the Greenfinch, a male Greenfinch appeared.  Over the last few years the numbers visiting the garden has definitely declined, and what was once an overlooked bird is now something special for all the wrong reasons.

We still have plenty of Woodpigeons about and at one stage I watched a Woodpigeon chased violently around the garden bu a Blackbird, I was not sure why, but the Blackbird was clearly annoyed by the pigeon, and wanted it gone.

A much more gentler alternative to the Woodpigeon appeared, a pair of Collared Doves that proceeded to feed on the rooftop of a neighbour's house.

At one stage through the morning the cloud lifted and we were treated to the slightest hint of blue sky and some sunshine.  It  didn't last though and the cloud became both thicker and darker through the afternoon.

Drifting over the trees at the back of the house, I was alerted to a Red Kite by the calls and grouping of jackdaws and Rooks.

It seems that the gardens must be a good source of scraps, as it would drop swiftly down and out of view as if checking out any possible item, then appear again to be mobbed by the Rooks.

these aren't the best shots, the gloom meaning that they were quite grainy and not well defined.  But they capture the jizz and grace of this supreme glider that controls everything with the twisting angles of the lovely red forked tail.

 Then slowly it drifted away as if grazing the tree tops as it passed.

hard to appreciate that when I started this blog in 2012 a sighting of a Red Kite was still a major event, through the years since then the sightings have been come more regular, and the behaviour of the Kites has changed, they are less wary, and more prepared to visit the gardens as a source of food.  This is the closest this one came though.

 Boycie and Louise arrived late afternoon so we went out for a walk.  It was quite dark though even accounting for the time, the cloud by now quite thick. As we walked along Lymington Bottom a Song Thrush sang again from the tree tops, hidden away in amongst the branches I could not find it, all I could hear was the repetitive notes that echo around on February days like this.

On the school playing fields there was a small group of Redwing feeding in amongst the turned over grass, probably left over from an impromptu football match.

At the top of Kitwood the bare branches reveal a monolith of a nest belonging to the magpie.  A pair have nested here every year.  The nest consists of a bowl in the traditional way but also with what looks like a bower above it to provide protection.  This one still looks to be in good condition, the lack of strong winter storms meaning that it has not been damaged.  The owners should be able to move back in quite quickly when the urge to breed arrives.

As we headed towards Swelling Hill more Song Thrushes were singing, and in the bare branches of the trees lining the side of the field more Redwing were sat before heading off to roost with the whispery calls.

A pair of Mallard could just be seen at the back of the pond, the light there much too dark for acceptable photography.

As we headed down Swelling Hill Lane the Snowdrops now in bloom, brightened the scene.

More Song Thrushes  sang as we walked on, and above us you could hear the calls of the Redwings as they headed into the bushes and trees to roost.  We turned up Court Lane, and passed by a single Buzzard sitting on a branch in the trees.

Out in the fields were at least five Red-legged Partridges.  any movement would blur the picture in this light, so I was fortunate to capture this one individual as it paused in its bid to get away from us.

On the roof of the cow sheds at the bottom of Brislands was a Kestrel, peering down on to the ground in the hope that stray mouse or vole would come out of the barn.  As we headed own towards Lymington Bottom I could hear the first Blackbird in song for the year, maybe there is hope that spring is just around the corner.  The walk though did reinforce my belief that away from the gardens there is little to really see as everything strives to survive at this time of year.

Last post I promised some photographs from my travels away from the patch, go here to see the bird that I have been hoping for all winter.

Monday, 13 February 2017

12th February - Angels Have No Thought

February so far has been cold, dull and gloomy, with mists, drizzle, snow, sleet and frost.  Not the kind of weather that is conducive to long walks around Four Marks.  Once again the wildlife goes into itself, silence falls on the woods and fields, this week even the Song Thrush has curtailed its singing, while the robins bravely sing under the street lights in the morning.

It is too the gardens once again the attention falls, as the feeders provide a source of easy food.  The Goldfinches continue to swarm through out the garden, their tinkling calls continually heard as they fly down from the surrounding trees, and they back again after consuming the sunflower hearts as well as depositing many on the ground below.  This though suits the Blackbirds, Chaffinches and Woodpigeons who regularly patrol underneath the feeders to pick up the spent seed.

Today saw a smart male Bullfinch appear, the first for awhile, and of course at the time when I didn't have the camera ready.  I did though have access to the camera when another missing visitor returned, a male Blackcap.  I had only just said I hadn't seen the red headed female for awhile when this smart male appeared on the feeders.

It joined the male Siskin on the feeders, and unlike the female, was quite aggressive to the Goldfinches when they tried to move in.

Most of the time though it sat it the middle of the tree, and as I watched it seemed like it was trying to sing.

Our Blackbird still comes to the mealworm tray, although he is a lot more wary than he has been, which is probably due to the many other male Blackbirds that have arrived in the garden.  He, though is the only one that comes to the tray, the others keep back.  The Robins too come to the tray.  There are now three birds, the Hedge Robin now has a mate, and they both come to the tree together, and take it in turns to go to the tray.  The Robin on the shed side will look to feed from the tray, running the gauntlet of the other two.  If they see it it immediately is chased away.

This is I think the hedge female waiting her turn.

At this time of year the Robins start to pair up, and they will tolerate each other in the territory.  The male will still sing, but not as frequently or profusely as it has been doing prior to pairing.  Typically if you hear a Robin in full song at this time of year it is because it is still trying to attract a mate while still proclaiming its territory.

The Siskins are still regular visitors with at least two males and a female coming to the feeders.  Despite their smaller size they are still prepared to fight off the Goldfinches, the tactic being to lunge at them as they sit on the feeder perches, from the branches close to the feeders.

The one big surprise has been the behaviour of a pair of long-tailed Tits.  At this time of year, when its cold, they would normally still be in large flocks, but we now have regular visits from a pair of Long-tailed Tits, and what is more they appear to know when the mealworms are about.

Today I watched as Helen went out to top the tray up.  While all the other birds flew off, the Long-tailed Tits stayed close in the tree.

Once she had left they made their way through the branches, and almost imediately to the tray.

They both did this one after the other and went straight back into the safety of the branches with their prize.

A mealworm must be quite a substantial meal for a little bird, especially at this time of year when food is in short supply.  I also wonder if this pair are soon to start nest building, if so it would probably be near by, because they have quickly come to recognise that this is an excellent source of food.

Once in the tree they then hang from the branch on one leg, while clutching the mealworm by the other like a Sub to eat.  This isn't the best of photographs but you can see what is going on, and also you can see how tiny their legs are, like a piece of black cotton hanging from the branch.

Another bird missed was a Red Kite that drifted over, but it was an interesting hour watching the goings on.

Elsewhere in the county there was some good birding down on the shore around Keyhaven, further details can be found on the other "Away" blog later, and also earlier today I finally caught up with that enigmatic winter visitor, check the "Away" blog later in the week to see the results, absolutely stunning!