Sunday, 14 December 2008

Weekend bird counts

The feeders are full but the food isn’t going down. Just where have all the birds gone? Well, many in my garden have been hiding in my hedge over the weekend. You can see the brave species that have appeared out in the open in my bird count table below. Mm... it is eerily quiet out there at the moment.

The species listed above have all been seen in my garden. Click on table to enlarge. Key: A= Partial Albino, M= Male, F= Female, X=1

Six minutes into my birds counts on both days saw a Sparrowhawk fly through quite low in and out closely past the feeders using the same route. On Saturday it came back just seven minutes later and as a result it was a further 40 minutes before I saw any bird even peeping through my hedge! So if you have an absence of birds in your garden at the moment I would consider what predators are likely to be scaring them off.

Today after the first visit I decided to put out my video camera out on a tripod to see if I could catch the Sparrowhawk fly by. Win, win I thought. With the camera out the Sparrowhawk probably wouldn’t come and the birds would be safe. If it did return there was a high chance I’d catch it on film. This was interesting. No, I didn’t get it on film but it did eventually make a return visit.

Sparrowhawk heard birds chattering nervously in hedge during January this year. I wonder if visits are more frequent in winter months.

After I was outside putting my camera out it appeared that the birds felt safer and more came to the feeders albeit still a very small number. Yesterday they would come out one at a time to the feeders and take the smallest amount of food before returning quickly to the safety of the hedge once more. As numbers slowly increased this morning I thought my presence out in the garden must have deterred the plan of the Sparrowhawk. Perhaps it did but 40 minutes after its first visit today the birds went quickly for cover yet again.

I didn’t see where it was but watched curiously as a blue tit stayed so still on a tree branch near a feeder. Very slowly it moved its head to look around and then quick as a flash it flew into the hedge too. No birds returned for the rest of my count which told me that although I hadn’t seen it there had been a Sparrowhawk somewhere close by. I then considered that I had filled up the feeders on Friday morning so it is likely that there were visits then too.

So, no more sightings of the Long-tailed tit at the moment! I wonder if they are still around my area. Siskins too had returned to my garden and goldfinch numbers were increasing too. I wonder where they have all gone - another garden close by? Hopefully, as the numbers have birds have dramatically decreased in my garden then the chance of catching any will be reduced too and the Sparrowhawks will go looking elsewhere! I do hope so as I was hoping we would see the return of Blackcaps at the end of the month.

The photo of the female chaffinch hiding in the hedge was taken in August 2007.

7 comments:

Lisa at Greenbow said...

Hi Shirl, it sounds like you have lots of action in your garden. We haven't had a hawk in our garden in awhile. We have hordes of House Sparrows; a few Tufted Titmouse; Carolina Chickadees and Northern Cardinals. I think the diversity of birds are down due to our mature pine trees that were destroyed during the storms this past winter. Sigh~~

Susan Tomlinson said...

Well that picture of the sparrow hawk explains everything!

I'll get Cooper's and sharp-shinned hawks hanging out by my feeders sometimes. It sure does quiet down the neighborhood when they're around.

urbanextension said...

Hi Shirl. We have a resident sparrow hawk - I saw it just the other day zooming past the window (no doubt after one of our unsuspecting green finches!). I did notice the other day that our birds take a bit longer to get going when it's very cold. Even though it's light they don't come to the feeder until about 10am (and then they devour everything). It's like they are in the bushes jumping up and down trying to get warm, before chancing it in the open. I know how they feel! Jane

urbanextension said...

I was wondering Shirl. What software do you use to edit your video? Mine doesn't slow film down... Thanks. Jane

shirl said...

Hi there Lisa, Susan & Jane :-)

Lisa – Well, yes and no :-) I would take a guess that the hawk will return as winter gets a hold. Yes… that is a shame that you have lost more than just your pine tree. It was very tall too. Maybe different species will find there way to you this winter :-D

Susan – It does although at the moment the visiting one/ones aren’t even stopping off. Perhaps they are practising their route but this is as effective in scaring the birds as being perched on the shed roof! Yep, it does get quiet out there :-(

Jane – Yes… zoom they go don’t they? Ah… I’ve heard that before and quiet feeders when it rains too. However interestingly, it is the cold, the wet and the windy days that our feeders and my garden is at its busiest! LOL and you and the birds jumping up and down to keep warm ;-) Oh… the dreaded software! I have been using Pinnacle Studio Version 7 for an eternity. I have briefly tried others as this is quite ‘buggy’. Newer versions have had bad reviews too. The thing is though, it is easy to use and this version has background music too and that is why I have stuck with it!

Jane said...

Someone suggested that I try Adobe Premier Elements. Less buggy than Pinnacle and better than Windows Movie Maker (which is what I've been using for the last year). Not sure whether to go for it... but might take the plunge. Jane x

shirl said...

Hi again Jane :-D

Certainly worth a try. My OH has tried to get me to look at that. It has powerful features if you can get the hang of it. I didn't persue it at the time as Pinnacle was simpler to use. Perhaps, if I had more time I'd dabble more with it. Good luck in your search to find better software - I look at that from time to time too. I then stick with what I know :-D