Monday, 5 January 2009

What goes with white?

I’m thinking red – especially apples. How about orange – but not an orange? Ah… I’m on a roll now. How about a chestnut brown but… yep you’ve guessed it – not a chestnut!

Just as light came up this morning our overnight frost got a gentle dusting of snow on top. It transformed the garden very quickly into a winter scene complete with this little chap below who was making his presence known around my small pond this morning.


Three robins are regularly being seen around the garden at the moment. One does get chased off so I am guessing seeing as the other two seem at ease with each others presence they may be a pair. I wonder if anyone can tell me why the Robin is said to have a red breast – it looks pretty orange to me. But hey… it really does look well with the white snow and I think he knows it too!

The red apples on my obelisks really do add a bit of colour to the garden as well as a great food source for the birds. They are especially popular on cold days like today. In fact the whole garden was going like a fair today! You could be fooled into thinking there was a special offer out there. Everyone came by, including a small flock of Starlings and a Jackdaw.

Numbers of Chaffinches have seen a big increase and the Siskins were about today too. I also believe my mystery guest flew by my window but still no photos to confirm this one. Like Trisha, I had a job walking away from my window this morning!

I have been scanning (not literally) the birds that I see buzzing about the garden since the middle of December looking for a chestnut colour. This morning I was thrilled to spot it! She was clearly waiting until the snow arrived to make her entrance - knowing full well her chestnut cap goes so well with both the white of snow and the red of apples – she being the female Blackcap. Welcome back my dear...



The male does have a ‘black cap’ and is a bit more aggressive than the female. Two years ago we had a male and female and then I suspect a Sparrowhawk got the female by some feathers left behind. Last year we had two females but no male and they stayed much longer and fitted in much better with the other birds feeding alongside them happily. I was hoping a female would return – I have mixed feelings about the male though. Perhaps they aren’t always aggressive with other birds.

So, as you can see it was the apples that drew in the Blackcap today - just as they did last year. You can also imagine that, with their red colour against a white garden, they would be easily spotted by any birds flying over it. The first year it was a fatcake that caught the eye of a male Blackcap and they both enjoyed that – there were no apples up then.



Today the female Blackcap even discovered the little tray feeder inside my small Acer with sunflower hearts and crushed peanuts in it. If I were to make a guess – she might one of the females from last year. She certainly went straight to it and it is quite hidden. Mm… maybe I’m joining the dots too far with that! However, she ran around the ground just below my window – attracted to a quarter slice of apple I’d thrown there early this morning. You can see in these darker photos how tricky her chestnut brown cap is to see in lower light levels. This is a bird, from previous sightings, that is out early with the Robins, Dunnocks and Blackbirds.

Oh yes… I wasn’t the only on to see a female Blackcap this morning either – Trisha saw one too! Amazing… we are at different ends of the country and there we were watching exactly the same visitors arrive on the same morning. Both thrilled about it too! This really is a fun time to be watching the garden. Yes… it is covered in snow I grant you, but the activity on top of it is quite magical too.

Finally, I am aware of how the voting is going in my poll regarding frequency of postings and here’s me going against it. It is only the current activity that has me posting daily at the moment – don’t worry I won’t be keeping this up on a regular basis. I completely understand that some postings can be missed this way. Just in case you haven’t been by in a few days you might want to see some Wren photos and some Long-tailed tit photos taken over the last few days. I’ll get the video camera out when I can. I wonder now what tomorrow will bring to my garden.

All photos above were taken in my garden on January 5th 2009.

13 comments:

Lisa at Greenbow said...

Your avian activity is increasing Shirl. It must mean that spring isn't too far way.

We too have had some bird activity. We saw a HUGE flock of 1200+ American Robins this weekend. I have never seen such a large flock of Robins. Usually when large flocks are seen in the country it will be some type of black birds. It was fun to see and hear.

That Black cap is a beauty. As is your pretty Robin.

I love seeing your posts any time you want to post them.

Cheers...

Karen - An Artist's Garden said...

Lovely little black-cap - this is a visitor we don't see here :(
Again lovely shots - I do like all these little birds.
K

Natural Moments said...

Your robins are so pretty. I think the colour is more orangy than red too. Your birds must be happy. So many cool and yummy treats to try and invigorate themselves with.

Mel said...

Hola Shirl,

I wish I could see as many as you in your garden!!

I've never seen a Robin, but I saw a few beautiful Amazilia Amazilia Hummingbirds last weekend :)

Love,

Mel

Little Brown Job said...

Lovely shots of the Blackcap on the apples. I've never tried apples in the garden, I'll have to try that one.

Paul.

Jan (Thanks For 2 Day) said...

Hi Shirl,
After seeing your apples I am going to HAVE to try that out. I think I have a place where the squirrels can't get them, or the other creatures, such as opossoms! When I've put fruit out it has attracted visitors other than birds. I'm going to try the nut feeder way on top of a pole in the middle of my yard.
I checked around on Google and found that the Robin got it's name 'RedBreast' based on various folktails and legends. Here are just 2 of them
(an old Irish tale):
http://www.h-net.org/~nilas/seasons/robin.html
"Many years ago, late in the year, a cruel wind brought biting cold weather; making the night more bitter for a father and son who had traveled far, and still had farther to go. They had sought a cottage, a barn, or even a tree - anyplace they could seek shelter. But there was nothing to be seen or found, except for a bush, and at last the father built a fire and told his son to try and sleep a little.
And when the father's eyes began to droop he woke his son,and bid him watch the fire.
Oh how the boy tried to stay awake! But he hadn't really slept while lying on the frozen ground and he was still exhausted from the walk. His eyes got lower. His head got lower.
The fire got lower.
So low in fact that a starving wolf began to inch nearer the sleeping pair.
But there was one who was awake. There was one who saw everything from amidst the barren bush; a little bird who was as gray as the brambly wood.
The bird hopped down and began fanning the flickering embers until the flames began to lick out hungrily; nor did the little bird stop, despite the pain on his breast, until the flames were dancing with strength.
And from that day on the Robin has proudly worn a red breast."

Another tale can be found at this link: http://www.lonympics.co.uk/smallbirdy.htm
(An old English folk tale):
Legend has it that when Jesus was dying on the cross, the Robin, then simply brown in colour, flew to his side and sang into his ear in order to comfort him in his pain. The blood from his wounds stained the Robin's breast, and thereafter all Robins got the mark of Christ's blood upon them."

So..there you have it. There are other tales out there as well, but I didn't want to take up several pages with a comment!!

Jan(ThanksFor2Day)

easygardener said...

Apples on an obelisk - what a good idea. I might give that a go - perhaps the squirrels won't notice them (lol)

shirl said...

Hi again Lisa, Karen, Bernie, Mel, Paul, Jan and Denise :-)

Lisa – Yes, you may well be right :-) Wow…. that must have been a surprise sighting! I can imagine you enjoying that :-D Yes, the female Blackcap is although we haven’t seen her since – hope she returns. Yes, our Robin is quite pretty and is full of character and many vocal sounds with a wonderful singing voice come Spring. Thanks, I appreciate that :-D

Karen – She was, but as I said above no sightings since. I wonder if this one is just passing through. This is the only time of year we have seen the Blackcap here (and only in the last two years). The first year a male stayed a week, went away for four and returned again for another few days. The females last year stayed a couple of months. I’m keeping an eye out when I can. Thank-you, yes the little birds are always special aren’t they :-D

Bernie – Yes, they are and I suppose they must be quite delighted to get a variety of foods too. Today they got the end of a piece of sultana cake – the robin loved that :-D

Mel – Hola! Yes, we are lucky but hopefully more birds will find their way to your garden in Peru. Your birds sound so exotic to me. It’s great that we can share what is in our gardens in completely different parts of the world :-D

Paul – Thank-you, hope the colours were okay. I’m adjusting to the new colours on my monitor. The apples on obelisks were an experiment. The thought came to me as I was about to put them away in to my shed for winter. Within a week the blackbirds were eating from them. They are fun to watch – I’ve a video I will post soon to let you see :-D

Jan – Yes, the apples are a fun experiment. I core them so there is a space for the beak to get at the fruit inside. I caught some video footage with a blackbird eating one today which I’ll post soon. So far I have never seen a squirrel go to mine although I couldn’t guarantee that they would be squirrel proof ;-) I would recommend trying it though :-D Wow… thanks so much for your research on the robin – how interesting. I had no idea at all that was folklore about it. Interesting stories, thank-you :-D

Denise – Yes, it was one of these ideas that came from nowhere as I went to put them away in my shed. I’m so glad I gave it a try. It works a treat on very cold days as I’m sure the apples must quench the bird’s thirst too. Again, no idea what the squirrels would make of the apples. But the ones in your garden well, that’s anyones guess ;-)

Lindab said...

How nice to find another Scottish gardener! Love your bird photos. We had a fieldfare visit my Dad's garden when we were up in Moray for the holidays - I'll see if we have any photos.

Tricia said...

Hi Jackie. Your pictures of the Blackcap with the apples is wonderful.

I must remember to put some apples out. The blackbirds really like them too.

Layanee said...

Those birds have a wise look in their eyes! I just added a birdbath heater to the garden but have yet to see a bird actually drink from it!

Anna said...

I have recently discovered your blog and have really enjoyed looking at your beautiful photos of birds. You must have a lot of patience. Robins definitely seem to be more orange than red to me, but I don't think that robin orange breast rolls off the tongue quite the same.

shirl said...

Hi again Tricia & Layanee and hello Linda & Anna :-)

Linda – Yes, nice to meet you too! Looking through your blog I am taking a guess that you perhaps have an allotment in a city. I also wonder if there are more than one too as I do believe I perhaps passed this one last year sometime. I had absolutely no idea that it was there. It looked huge and what a refreshing change to have such a large green space in a large city. Thank-you, yes I’d love to see the fieldfare pics. Moray – you did have a long drive then. I wonder if you have ever seen the dolphins along the coast on any visits there. All the best for a successful allotment year :-D

Tricia – Thank-you, yes the apples are popular with the blackbirds in my garden. They are the usual and regular birds eating them. I sometimes throw quarters on the ground for them too :-D

Layanee – They do – I think all the early birds do though don’t you? Wow… a birdbath heater – excellent! I am taking a guess that your garden in Northwestern Rhode Island, USA, gets way, way colder than mine here in my part of Scotland. Your most recent photos of plants encased in ice were amazing! I can imagine it will be fun watching birds use it. I wonder how they will take to their new spa :-D

Anna – Thank-you, nice to me you also! I see you are also in the UK. It’s interesting that I am getting more UK visitors now. Great to see your excitement over a few pkts of seeds and the gardening year to come ;-) Your blogger profile pic caught my eye too – what an amazing garden to visit. I see you have similar plant tastes to me by your last photo for 2008! I have the heuchera in other plantings and I have the brunnera and fern in my small silver border. Some of my favourite plants :-D Glad you enjoyed seeing my bird photos, although I am a gardener my blog is more associated with birds and wildlife. I agree completely about the existing description of the robin rolling more off the tongue ;-)