Friday, 2 February 2018

Surprise garden sightings

Last Sunday saw a fantastic colour splash from a bird that has never been counted from this garden during the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch! Last September saw sunshine through golden Acer leaves and a late garden nest build never seen either – any guesses there? I’ll leave you thinking on that for now.

The Bullfinch had been on my garden wishlist for some time now – the stunning male in particular. I can’t believe it flew in landing on my popular Acer tree along with some blue/great tits during my count. What luck! On odd occasions I had seen it eating berries from a distant neighbour’s tree – only a few times though. My OH and daughter had reported a couple of garden sightings to me before I saw two very brief ones myself. It has never been seen feeding as yet, perhaps one day I might be able to capture some video/photos but until then...

Bullfinch male, not my photograph, Wikipedia Creative Commons Licence

Bullfinch female, not my photograph, Wikipedia Creative Commons Licence

A flash of yellow from Siskins was spotted during my count (2x male, 1x female) and to encourage them and perhaps redpolls again a new larger nyjer seed feeder is hanging now. From past experience, this food takes time to be discovered (almost a week on and no takers) but when it does it will bring in a great variety of visitors.

Woodpigeons, closely followed by Blackbirds, should have topped my garden list last Sunday and they did appear, but only just (Woodpigeon x1, Blackbirds 1x male & 1x female). Although numbers weren’t high I was delighted to have a good species count of 13. It was great to be at my window again and be able to see what species are visiting just now.

The full birdcount species list was: Blackbird (2), Dunnock (2), Robin (2), Wren (1), Blue tit (2), Great tit (2), Coal tit (2), Goldfinch (1), Siskin (3), Bullfinch (1), Woodpigeon (1), Magpie (1) and top of the list for 2018 the Starling (4). That’s good news for the Starling as its status on the conservation list is Red. I should add here though that four is a small garden visiting group from what I’ve seen here.

Maybe the Starlings had been deliberately spreading their numbers around the gardens to show things are on the up for them now. They certainly had me looking up to the skies in the evenings over the weekend. They swooped around from side to side, shape shifting over the rooftops and around the mature trees I can see from the garden. Serious show-offs for the birdcount they were, as my count was over and there’s no way I could have counted a murmuration!

Starling murmurations are just fascinating to watch and I got a real feel for speed as they went low just above my window – wow what a delight that was! There were two groups that I saw swooping around but probably many more joined later in open spaces away from the houses. A real spectacle this behaviour is.

As mentioned above, currently it is the Woodpigeon that more regularly takes the highest number of visits to our garden. They’ve even discovered how to feed from the squirrel feeder. I’d say they were almost at the point of nuisance at times but OH and daughter love to watch them. In past summers this bird has built and added to a nest space hidden in the ivy above my pergola. Eggs have been laid too but I suspect magpies discovered where they were.

Why on earth then did a pair of woodpigeons decide to build a nest in the open, central garden location of a small Acer tree about to drop its leaves? Back on September 17th 2017 the bird feeders were in need of a top-up and when out filling them up I spotted this surprise late nest build and set up the video camera on a tripod and left it running. Below is the capture that caught my eye where the male gave the female some taps of encouragement. The focus was set to auto so moves out and in a couple of times.

Woodpigeon nest video, 1min 54sec sound from garden only, try HD quality.

Could Woodpigeons actually successfully raise chicks late September in Scotland? I had no idea, although fun to think they could, I had concerns. This late build was in far too open and busy an area of the garden and after much hurried activity over a few days it was deserted. This woodpigeon pair may have been successful elsewhere but I’m so glad they moved on as strong winds soon after this footage was taken shook the thin acer branches and broke-up the nest. Now, I really don’t want them returning to this vulnerable tree in 2018.

So what are the real top birds in your garden just now? Have you had any surprise sightings recently? It’s very clear by watching the garden just now that birds are pairing up. We’ve definitely got the blue/great/coal tits visiting in pairs. Three robins are around at the moment too and two are definitely ok feeding near each other suggesting a pair and there is a chase on with the other. Have you seen any nesting activity yet? What about nestbox viewings? We've seen Blue and Great tits viewing ours - they always compete for this one.

Looking out to the garden borders now and spring bulbs. How are yours doing? Have you any surprise sightings of flowers? I must get out in the garden over the weekend to take a look. Oh dear, reading this over I see I've asked a lot of questions this time! Sorry :-) Wishing you a great garden and wildlife weekend!

This post was published by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in February 2018.

Thursday, 25 January 2018

Returning for the Big Garden Birdwatch

Okay, so I deserted my gardenwatch window space in favour of a small upstairs room with a view over the roofs of my neighbours’ houses shortly after seeing a red squirrel in the garden! Why on earth would I do that?

Well, believe it or not, I favoured a black and white Koala over a red squirrel. Ha-ha… no I haven’t discovered a new species of Koala or had a new garden visitor to add to our growing species count. You’d have heard about that in the news (even you, Lisa in Indiana) had that been the case – that secret would have got out!

However, the black and white Koala that was in my upstairs room was growing in secret. This very special Koala was a Christmas gift for my, garden visiting companion, daughter and required a fair bit of my attention. Cups of tea & coffee to keep me going and for the Koala, black ink in 0.7mm and 0.25mm technical pens ;-)

Understandably, as this is a gift to my daughter,
I haven't scanned her Koala but wanted to include it here :-)

Pen & ink line drawing is a creative medium I really enjoyed in my teens and what a refreshing revival this has been! I can’t believe that I have managed to just pick it up again. On leaving college I worked as a graphic designer, the job I hoped for, but sadly my drawing hand was dropped in favour of a design one.

My drawing revival began with a Scottish landscape (a gift again) before the red squirrel visitor of my last blog. Confidence growing after being surprisingly comfortable with my pens again, I moved on to the idea of family Christmas gifts. The Koala for my daughter was based on a phone capture taken during a visit to Edinburgh Zoo, a very special moment as my daughter and I silently watched these animals. She’s had that image as her phone background since then - she was thrilled with her picture and I was thrilled by her reaction!!

A group of baby penguins came next for my eldest daughter and finally last weekend I finished the set (belated birthday gift for OH) with the familiar, family favourite, landscape of Tentsmuir forest from Kilshandy beach as we would walk over the shells towards it.

The bedroom/new drawing space with beach picture in the making,
to create mood, light watercolour washes were added in this one.

The behind the camera view at the gardenwatch window back in November.

Returning for the Big Garden Birdwatch this weekend, I will be back at my gardenwatch window with my paper garden journal and note taking pen at the ready to record the garden visitors that decide to show! Tripod at the ready, I will also return to capturing images with my camera again. Perhaps I will have a drawing pad handy too for the quiet spells (rough fast pen sketching this time which I also enjoy). If you are taking part, wishing you many birds for your count :-)

Returning to the world of bloggers and blogging, for the first time in 2018, I’d like to wish everyone a great and healthy 2018 – HAPPY NEW YEAR!! Phew, got that in before the end of January ;-) Wishing you all a great garden, wildlife and blogging year too! Spring is just round the corner, before we know it birds will be collecting nesting material and spring bulbs will be bringing colour to our gardens. I do enjoy our changing seasons :-)

This post was published by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in January 2018.

Friday, 24 November 2017

Not Black, not Grey... it's Red Friday :-)

After the first ever Red squirrel garden visits spotted earlier last November, expecting them to return in 2017 was a very faint thought indeed. That really would be greedy to be so very privileged again… but one very alert and no nonsense one has!

For the past three, very different weather wise, lunchtimes I have been so very, very lucky to be at home, sipping homemade soup by my gardenwatch window to see a red squirrel feeding at our garden peanut feeder! What a delightful lunch companion it has been too :-)

NOV 22: Wednesday, a dark dreich day – the red squirrel brightened up.

NOV 23: Thursday, chilly with sunshine – the red squirrel is so comical to watch.

NOV 23: Thursday, the red squirrel stops feeding only very briefly to look around.
Little did it known that it had a queue of watchers, me, 2x magpies one on post very close by, Woodpigeons on fav garden perches plus other regular birds too.

NOV 24: Friday, heavy snow for a bit, how brilliant to get the chance to see and photograph this wonderful charismatic animal with snow – fantastic…

NOV 24: Friday, magpies didn’t come close to the red squirrel but smaller birds did.
Capture of today has to be the little wren standing its ground… just brilliant :-)

This post was published by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in November 2017.