Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Tell-tale signs

Watching the behaviour of visiting garden birds can be quite entertaining – most of the time! It can also tell a story of what is going on if you look more closely. So let’s start with the male chaffinch below who seems to have adopted the top of my small pine tree, which is directly opposite the entrance to my camera nestbox approx six feet away, as a song post.

What is he singing about? Is he just happy or is he looking to impress the ladies? Mm… there are certainly a good number of male and female chaffinches visiting my garden at the moment. This chap has really caught my attention as he sings his little heart out even when I am out in the garden too.


Most birds visiting my garden will be already paired and I do believe that the collared dove, that has been visiting alone, is now bringing its mate. They usually feed on the ground but sometimes go to the tables too. Mm… I wonder if we will see juvenile collared doves visit at some point. Yes, once you start spotting some pairs you will see there are quite a few.


Once paired, the male birds do appear to always be on lookout when they feed together as you can see with the siskins above. I am guessing the male understands his role of protecting the female even before she lays eggs. I am also guessing that they have some sort of internal clock (probably related to weather temperature) to tell them when to mate.

It was certainly a bit warmer last weekend and as I brushed my daughter’s hair looking out the window we spotted the very quick 'moment' between this pair, or another pair of siskins, on this Acer tree. Let’s just say my daughter was quite vocal about it! So we could see juvenile siskins in the garden again this year.


Nest building is well underway with the blue tits using my camera Nestbox - I plan to post an update with video footage in a couple of days. However, I have been watching for blackbirds collecting material too in the hope that they might use the Nestbox I put up especially for them. I’ve seen no signs at all with blackbirds but I have seen starlings collecting short stems of dried grass around the base of my ornamental grasses. Of course today when I was out with my camera they were only to be seen refuelling with sultanas!


The blackbirds were also enjoying the sultanas today too. But wait a minute. If you look closely they aren’t just eating them… they are collecting them! They are collecting sunflower hearts too. I watched them fly off with mouthfuls of them.

After watching this last year I now know this is a classic tell-tale sign that there are chicks somewhere, perhaps close-by, waiting to be fed. Well… there’s a surprise! Okay, not all is lost for my Nestbox as Blackbirds do have more than one brood per year so perhaps a pair will find it for next time.

Blackbird chicks are great to see in the garden – but then again the blackbirds are one of my favourite garden visitors. I love to see the feathers of the chicks go through the colour changes from fluffy brown to smooth black. However, they won’t be the first chicks in my garden this year. The first chicks I have noticed in my garden for 2008 belong to the dunnocks.


For a few days now I have been watching three juvenile dunnocks play follow my leader round my plants. The one in the photos above was out on its own today. I hope the others are okay. Again, what a pretty little bird this is. I have to say that although I am absolutely amazed to see the variety of colours of the finches that visit my garden I am becoming a big fan of the less colourful birds.

Finally, I should perhaps point out that the birds in my garden are at different stages of nest building than those in other parts of the UK. We are approximately two weeks behind much of England. However, you may still find it interesting to watch out for the tell-tale signs in your garden. It is fascinating to see.

To see more photos of the blackbirds taken today without sultanas in their mouths go to this posting on my birdphotos blog.

All photos above were taken in my garden on April 29th 2008.

15 comments:

garden girl said...

There's just something really special about birds that seems to draw us humans to them. I'm looking forward to seeing what's going on in the camera nestbox!

Lisa at Greenbow said...

We have at least two Robins nests in the garden already. It is fun to watch them build. One had to remake her nest. I don'tknow what disturbed it but it definitely moved.

The House Wrens have put sticks into several nest boxes. I don't know which one it is using yet. I hope they use the one just outside my window again. They do go in and out of it a lot.

Miranda Bell said...

Lovely pictures Shirl - sorry that I've not had any joy with getting juvenile Thrush pics onto my site - they're just too quick - a bit like trying to take shots of the long tailed tits and goldfinch!
Hope you're weather is better than in Brittany! Miranda

Mo said...

I've noticed a hive of activity too in our garden this week. Our blackbirds are a bit behind. Just this morning I noticed the female nest building - flying into the ivy against the wall with beakfuls of moss etc.

Robins are at the egg fertilising stage!

And the wrens have a nest somewhere - not too sure where but it's nearby judging from the amount of singing the male is doing.

Lovely photos - espec. the blackbirds.

Kathleen said...

Fabulous bird photos ~ you have a lot of activity in your garden. We are so behind here because of the cold spring, the birds are barely thinking of nesting!

tina said...

These are such nice photos of the birds. Looking forward to some videos.

Border Reiver said...

Great photo's as ever Shirl... I need a better camera to compete :-)

I had problems yesterday with a male blackbird, as sitting in my shed I realised there must be a nest in the conifers...so as I now posed a threat to Mrs B, what a racket he set up.

If I'd only had some sultana's he may have kept quiet.

A wildlife gardener said...

The chaffinch photo is just superb....such great detail :)

The first photo of the blackbird had me foxed. I thought it was a bit like a bird of prey at first!

We have a pair nesting in one of our conifers...and until I looked closer I thought at first one was a thrush...till I saw its mate!

Lots of lovely rhodos in your garden too, Shirl, from your photo blog

I think nobody bothers to look at second/third/fourth blogs as they probably have too many blogs to visit. I have three more blogs but they are not often visited...and I have to admit I have so many people who come to visit me, that when I pay a return visit to theirs, I only visit their main blog as I run out of time.

I wonder how many pairs of birds you will have nesting in your garden this year, Shirl? :)

Layanee said...

I know you must have a great lens for that camera to get those bird expressions. Doves always make me laugh with their funny walk.

shirl said...

Hi there garden girl, Lisa, Miranda, Mo, Kathleen, Tina, Border, Wildlife Gardener and hello again Layanee :-)

garden girl – I think the fact the birds discover and explore our gardens makes us enjoy seeing them more. I’ve just posted an update on the Nestbox with six videos – I hope you enjoy them. Have a great weekend :-D

Lisa – Great to hear stories of nesting birds in your nestboxes! I thought the wren wasn’t interested in your Nestbox – I’ll have to pop by over the weekend to see what’s being going on in your garden. Sorry my visits have been less frequent lately. Have a great weekend :-D

Miranda – Thank-you. Ah… I did wonder if you would be quick enough with your camera. It is very tricky! I would love to get some photos of our nest building female outside to show how tiny she is but like the song thrush she is too quick! Our weather has been a mixed bag – today we have sunshine with breaks for very heavy showers including hail stones again. Have a great weekend :-D

Mo – Great to hear about birds in another Scottish Garden! It is fascinating watching all this activity isn’t it? Your garden sounds great at the moment – I should pop by your blog over the weekend. I don’t plan any more posting until I’ve done some visiting! I have so many blogs to catch up on. Thanks – I love taking photos of the blackbirds. Looking forward to seeing more of your photos! Have a great weekend – I expect you will be out and about. Have a great time :-D

Kathleen – Thank-you! Yes, sometimes it is hard to choose what to post on. Yes, I think a lot of garden plants and birds nesting are behind this year. I am sure they will catch up and hopefully there will plenty of insects etc for the chicks then. Have a great weekend :-D

Tina – Thank-you! The Nestbox videos are posted now – hope you enjoy them. Have a great weekend :-D

Border – Thank-you, I don’t know about that. My zoom lens helps a lot – not much real skill on my part. Lol – I have a picture of you in your shed with coffee in one hand and a sticky bun in the other - getting grief from a blackbird! There has to be a painting or at the very least a cartoon in that – go on I’d love to see the results. Have a great weekend - in your shed or out and about :-D

Wildlife Gardener – Thank-you, he is becoming a garden fixture perched up there singing. Yes, I deliberately cropped that photo for a bit of fun too. Great to hear you have blackbirds nesting too – although I am certain you will have at least ten times the nests in your wildlife garden. The rhodos were taken at Dawyck as my ones are yet to flower. I have a dwarf with one cluster of purple flowers and I am wondering if this will be a good year for them. Thanks for your comment re links and other blogs. Yes, I suspected as much. I am trying to keep a mixed balance and always worry if a birder/gardener sees too long or too many posts of the other they will be put off visiting. I don’t want to do separate blogs the others are just for extras. However I have another in the pipeline. Have a great weekend :-D

Layanee – How lovely to have you visit again. I must pop over and see what’s going on in your garden. I love my zoom lens and in many cases I really should change it for the wide angle but I like the out of focus parts in photos too. Yes, it is funny to watch all the different walks the birds have. Have a great weekend :-D

Trisha said...

Hi Shirl,
What lovely photographs you have. You must have a good camera - and a lot of patience. I like to watch their antics too. They all seem to mingle together so well don't they?

We have blackbirds and chaffinches as well. It's good to see such good photos of them.

Thanks for putting up such good photos.
Trisha

tina said...

I will check it out. It is so cool how you can do all this!

Mike - Fenphotography said...

Great post Shirl, stunning shots of the blackbird feeding and the young Dunnock. The Chaffinch also looks stunning sat on the pine needles a great perch to keep an eye on.
I'm only going up to Dumfries and over towards the Mull of Galloway so not too far up, but its surrounded by RSPB sites, hoping to get some nice shots of sea birds, finger crossed.

Crafty Green Poet said...

I love dunnocks too, they have a surprisingly sweet song too. These photos of your blackbirds reminds me of a pair that visit my parent's garden regularly to fill up on raisins...

shirl said...

Hi there Trisha, Tina, Mike and Juliet. Sorry I have taken so long to reply :-)

Trisha – Thank-you, the lens in the camera does help greatly and yes patience is required. I have just been reading your post today on the great tits and seeing more action when you don’t have your camera – this is so true! You always have so much information on birds and your observations thank-you for sharing this with us. Have a great weekend :-D

Tina – Thank-you for visiting! I have just popped over to your blog and see you have made the globemaster allium your plant of the month. That’s great to know as I recently planted some in my garden for the first time and am really looking forward to seeing their buds opening. The photo in this post is of one of mine. Have a great weekend :-D

Mike – Thank-you! You are so kind with your comments on my bird photos - yours are just fantastic! I hope you got good weather and lots of good photo opportunities on your visit. I look forward to seeing your photos :-D

Juliet – I agree I love to hear the dunnock sing in the garden too. They have a big voice for a small bird! Thank-you, I love taking photos of the blackbirds but they love the raisins and sultanas even more! Have a great weekend :-D