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!