Monday, 28 December 2009

Winter garden dramas

Just when you think the first snowfall series could be ending… the curtains open to series two! Oh yes… and as you’d expect it builds on series one! One of the main characters of series one ‘Smiler Snowman’ has a more sinister look.

Clicking on images will enlarge them.


Yesterday morning, the winter wonderland stage set of last week now looked like the production team had a little too much Christmas cheer and painted the plants with thick wallpaper paste instead of snow. Note to Director: look into camera settings for capturing early morning snow!



The reality is that snowfall series one didn’t actually end… it just took time to break for Christmas Day and then returned to our window screens. Back to the drama of yesterday… softer lighting and a different camera angle and ‘Smiler Snowman’ doesn’t look as sinister anymore.



As you might expect ‘Smiler Snowman’ has a supporting cast in this winter garden drama. This cast requires a fully stocked outdoor canteen with a variety of foods to give them extra energy to survive the cold. They also need a clearly marked route to it…



Queues are likely at the canteen and disputes are a certainty… nobody has time to wait around in the cold. Some arrived before the canteen was open or set up properly. There was only junk food available (bread). Yesterday a record estimated twenty Blackbirds were in this queue… it seems we have some extras for snowfall series two.

Early morning footage, low light levels, deep snow.


The production team had their work cut out for them during snowfall series two. Wellies were required. The remaining snowfall from series one and piles gathered from then made navigation around the garden particularly tricky. Some creative stretching exercises were required to supply food at some canteen stations! A large pile of snow was on the left which was considerably higher than wellie height.



This winter garden drama just couldn’t be complete without this iconic Christmas card character which posed around the garden… until it spotted another of its kind!

Three robins have appeared during series two frequently chasing each other away. However, as could be spotted in the video above, despite their size they are willing to feed on the ground amongst the feuding Blackbirds.

Ah… but a new character may just mix things up with them :-)




Snowfall series two sees its first blue sky in what seems like forever this morning… whoopee!! Maybe we’ll get a break in the weather to get out and about before the predicted snowfall series three returns to our window screens. I have to confess we are getting a bit stir-crazy here.

We have had more snow this series than we’ve had for a few years however it must just be a dusting in comparison to snow in the Highlands of Scotland which also must be a comparative dusting to the snows of the USA, Canada and Alaska. Gosh… to have the ground covered for so long must make it a very long winter indeed. No wonder many bloggers from there enjoy the garden greens in other garden blogs so much.

The seasonal death of characters in dramas is quite real in our winter wonderlands. We can help prevent this by providing high energy foods for our garden birds during cold spells.

Foods like peanuts and fat balls/cakes do actually make a difference to the survival of some birds. Without eating enough energy rich foods during the day birds don’t have enough fat reserves to keep warm overnight and sadly some can die. It’s easy to see now why there are queues at the feeders.



During snowfall series two the snowfall has been so heavy that snowflakes were seen sitting on many backs, tails and heads of Blackbirds. I had never noticed this before. These are birds that don’t hang around much either!


The seasonal bringing back of characters in dramas is something we might wait in anticipation of. Winter garden drama series one saw the return of Long-tailed tits which I was thrilled to see. They only made a fleeting appearance but fingers crossed that they will return.




Series two had a lot to live up to then? Oh yes… but it didn’t disappoint. Series two saw a very special garden character return… Mrs Blackcap was spotted first returning to the apples in my obelisk yesterday around 3pm. It was like she had never left! She did appear very hungry. Perhaps she had travelled far... from Germany perhaps?




As the light brought the curtain down on snowfall series two yesterday Mrs Blackcap joined the Blackbirds feeding on apple quarters on the ground. She’s quite tiny but clearly of strong character! Taking a photo in focus was tricky at the speed she was eating. If I were a betting person I’d bet that this Blackcap was the same female that came alone to my garden last year. She instantly knew her way around.



One bully Blackbird did eventually bother her and every other bird that came near the food at this canteen station! She hung around though, not going far away and the minute its back was turned she was on the ground eating apple!



Snow piled under my window made watching her a bit tricky and she appeared aware I was doing so too. It didn’t stop her eating though, which she continued to do long after I had enough light to take photos.




Two robins watched her intently. The male Blackcaps are quite aggressive and do chase away robins but the females just seem to visit, eat, eat and leave. If she does return I do expect these main characters of any winter garden drama will be watching her!

Here’s hoping there have been no dramas in your winter wonderland like your central heating boiler ending its days or water from burst pipes damaging your property. Let’s hope your dramas have been fun to watch like the birds dashing about your garden feeders :-D


All photos above were taken in my garden on December 28th 2009. Most were taken through a window.

24 comments:

Lisa at Greenbow said...

Oh the weather outside is frightful... Your area really got hit with the snow. These photos are beautiful though. It is amazing how the snow cover forces the birds to the feeders. They are lucky to have your feeding station in their area. Try to stay warm.

Gail said...

Shirl, What a gorgeous winter wonderland you have! Your photos are wonderful and appreciated! I love the photo with the cheeky bird and apples~~That's a great way to feed them...I am going to try that here. happy New Year...Keep warm and cozy. gail

leavesnbloom said...

Shirl your part 2 was a great read - I like the way you place the apples on the obelisk. Do you take the core out first? Our car battery died on Saturday morning just as I was gonna head for the sales - then we got stuck at Matalan this evening in the snow and 3 of us had to push the car out of the snow - city centre roads are horrific and carparks too.

Ah you must be a good window cleaner Shirl because when I take pics through the window they don't appear as clear as yours do :) Keep safe and warm Rosie

shirl said...

Thanks, Rosie I had fun writing it today. Yep, I do take the cores out first and the birds generally eat it from the core out. I guess it’s softer there especially on a cold day.

Sorry to hear about your car probs and you missing out on the Next Sales. I can sympathise completely with you re Perth roads this afternoon. We took our first trip out today and went to Perth too. We couldn’t believe the condition they were in for a city centre. We went to the multi which had freezing slush on the ramps too! Guessing you got home safely too. We had tail backs after an accident on our road home. A lsow journey back.

LOL… no, the zoom lens helps through the window! On occasions I will adjust any exposures if necessary. Thanks, wishing you warmth and safety too. All the best to you and yours for 2010 :-D

The Early Birder said...

Hi Shirl. From where I'm sitting your outlook looks how a 'White Christmas' should be. We have been all prepared for shovelling & scraping but nothing has appeared. The forecast is now rain again!!
Stay warm and safe. FAB.

Joe said...

Hi Shirl,

Great photos, all of them. I was amazed to see so many Blackbirds in one place in that video, very well captured. We only really have one or two in the garden at any one time. It must be tricky for the birds to access the feeders with so much snow!?

Really good Blackcap photos, and nice video too, I haven't been able to get anywhere near close enough to take any photos of the Blackcaps in our garden. Its great that you have taken such a clear photo of a bird which isn't with us for much of the year.

We put an apple out in the garden today, and a Blackbird was feeding on it for quite a while. Its not really something I had thought about doing before. ;-)

Anna said...

What a great winter scene Shirl - especially enjoyable if you do not have to go anywhere. I was amazed to see that gathering of blackbirds. We sometimes get up to half a dozen but no more than that.

Robin's Nesting Place said...

Wow, that is a lot of snow! It's gorgeous! I need to put out some apples for my bird friends!

Happy New Year!

Shady Gardener said...

Shirl, Your Winter photos are Wonderful! I know... we get plenty of snow, too, sometimes. And it's not Always wonderful... But your photos are great! :-) Love the birds. Hope you enjoyed a very special Christmas celebration.

Midmarsh John said...

You have certainly had plenty of snow there Shirl. Most has gone here. Just the odd stretch of compacted snow and ice down the lane.

Loved the videos, especially the Blackcap. I keep hoping one will visit my garden but so far I have only seen the regulars.

shirl said...

Hi there Lisa, LOL… la la la ;-) Yes, we certainly have this time. Thank-you, I have to say these photos were very quickly taken as it was pretty cold.

Yep, we do get a lot more birds at the feeders on cold, windy and wet days but when the ground gets carpeted like this then the feeders are the main food stops for birds. I do try to vary the foods now too. Quite a bit of squabbling goes on too. You could lose lots of time watching from a warm window seat ;-)

shirl said...

Hi there Gail, thank-you! I guess we are taking it for granted now...secretly wishing it would all melt now :-o It’s great to share these seasonal images though :-)

Yes, I always smile when I see the birds eat from my obelisks. This was a feeding experiment a couple of years ago and throughout the cold days I try to keep apples up there. They are very popular with a few species and bring colour to the garden too! Good luck trying it with your birds… at this time of year I’d guess they’ll be popular in your garden too :-D

Thank-you, wishing you a very Happy New Year too. Oh… I do intend to keep very warm :-D

shirl said...

Hi there Frank, yep I guess it is… from where I’m sitting looking out (no humbug intended) its now time for it to melt away… fat chance though at present temps :-)

LOL… that’s the way it goes isn’t it… I had to go out and buy a lighter weighted shovel as we have had too much to move. Our probs are now that the piles and strips along road sides are getting so big that if we get more snowfall we’ll be struggling to find safe places to shovel it away too. LOL… I’d welcome rain right now… although it would turn to ice based on the very long icicles hanging from house roofs. They are quite pretty though :-D

I’ll wish you a sprinkling of seasonal snow but only enough that you can get out and about safely too. Thanks, I do intend keeping very warm. Wishing you all the best for 2010, guessing this will be a quite different one for you. Here’s hoping it will turn out as you’d like it to :-D

shirl said...

Hi there Joe, thanks, delighted you enjoyed seeing them :-D

LOL… these were the blackbirds you could see in the frame! From where I was sitting there were others on the top of my arch, obelisk, pine trees, shed roof, greenhouse roof, bird table roof and feeder arch… oh yes and a few on the ground that I could see move around but had no chance of counting. This was a record Blackbird visit but unfortunately with numbers and light levels I had absolutely no chance in accurately counting them. My guess would be between 20-26!!

Thanks, I was absolutely thrilled to get photos and video of this Blackcap female. I wasn’t at home at the same time last night to see if she was still around or has just passed through. That’s what makes these gardenwatching moments so special :-D

Close-ups were easy in this case. I was inside at my window … she was only a few metres away on the obelisk a max one metre from the camera when she was below the window. Fingers crossed get you’ll get some captures yourself… perhaps in Wales over New Year?

Apples have been a roaring success in my garden practically all year through. Stats wise it would be the Blackbirds that eat them the most. Enjoy watching yours tuck in. Blue tits have also been seen eating them and starlings are another fan. Have a great time in Wales :-D

shirl said...

Hi there Anna, thanks, you are completely right about this scene being great if you don’t have to go out. We did venture out yesterday and the roads aren’t too clever so we won’t be going far over the next few days now.

LOL… as I said in Joe’s reply above there were many more Blackbirds out of the video frame. A realistic guess would have been between 20-26 but they were very hard to count in the low light levels. I guess it just goes to show how cold the birds are overnight at the moment that so many are at a garden as it gets light!

Hope the weather doesn't hamper any New Year plans you have… wishing you all the best for 2010 :-D

shirl said...

Hi there Robin, it is for us, although not the most we have ever seen in this area :-)

I see you have lots of snow with you in Indiana… I just love seeing your red cardinals with snow. Yes, they might enjoy the apples too… I throw some quarters on the ground too which are also popular :-D

Thank-you, wishing you a great New Year too :-D

shirl said...

Hi there Shady, thanks, too true, we don’t get too much snow to bother us too much usually. Thank-fully :-)

I generally have an idea what to expect in more extreme cases as I grew up with more snowfall further North. We had snow gates a few miles away from us, roads closed and impassable, and drifting with many a blizzard. The school busses couldn’t get to us :-D

On the whole Scotland and the North of England is more equipped to deal with weather like this as the services and people have an idea what to expect as this is not new to us.

In the area I live in now we do seem to be in a weather pocket here and often a few miles South and North of us can be clear from snow/cold which it was the case in the beginning this time. Now the snow is pretty widespread around us and in many parts of the country with more cold and disruption predicated in the next few days.

When we see images in London we think ‘that’s no snowfall at all’ I’m guessing you think that of the whole of the UK. It’s just what we live with/without isn’t it? I see you have/have had snow with you in Iowa and more is predicated tomorrow. I hope it doesn’t cause too much disruption for your New Year plans.

Thanks, we had a special Christmas. Delighted that you’ve enjoyed seeing my photos and birds. See you in 2010… wishing you a good one :-D

shirl said...

Hi there John, yes we have… and its still with us. Our temps are too cold for it to move anywhere fast. We were out yesterday afternoon (not a pleasant journey on the roads) and the car temp was reading -7 deg C at 3.30pm! Needless to say there was an accident on the road and we queued all the way home. We got there safely though :-D

Our lanes, gardens, streets and main roads are lined with walls of snow… goodness knows where any new snowfall will be shovelled to. At least I’m getting exercise clearing paths to offset the extra choc intake at this time of year ;-)

Thanks, I was delighted to capture the blackcap. I especially like to see the female. She is such a plucky little thing feeding among the larger birds. She was clearly very hungry or stocking up for a longer flight ahead. I didn’t see her yesterday but here she is more likely to be seen first thing in the morning and in the evening.

Fingers crossed you’ll get a glimpse of one. Now the male (with his black cap) is another matter, you’ll know when he visits. He is an aggressive bird (from the few times I’ve seen him) and the robins and other birds are chased away from the food… hence they were watching the female intently I’d guess. No sign of a male here yet though. We didn’t see one last year either… only a female then too.

Happy garden bird watching for 2010 :-D

Layanee said...

It looks so beautiful and makes the birds so grateful for your help. Happy Holidays.

Mike said...

WOW definitely had more snow than we have, ive always wanted to catch a Robin with snow like yours its a stunning pic and a blackcap too very nice. Best wishes for the new year.

HappyMouffetard said...

A belated merry christmas and a happy and healthy new year to you, Shirl. Mrs Blackcap is a real looker - my father has a couple of males that visit his garden but hasn't seen a female there yet.

ShySongbird said...

Wishing You and Yours a Very Happy and Healthy New Year Shirl :)

My goodness you have a lot of snow there, ours was just a dusting in comparison and is all gone now but we are expecting more!

Lovely to see the Blackcap, I briefly spotted a male in our garden a couple of weeks ago so am hoping they visit as they did last Winter, we had three or four.

The Blackbirds in my garden have been very aggressive during the icy weather both towards each other and towards other species.

Lovely photos and videos Shirl, do take care in the bad weather and keep warm!

Miranda Bell said...

Dear Shirl - a very Happy New Year for 2010 - look at all your snow - this is of no surprise having spoken to hubbies family not far from you over Christmas - we were in Cornwall this year... probably just as well - we might still be there if we'd gone to Scotland! Love the pics of your blackcaps - infact I noticed a pair in the crab apple tree yesterday - having not seen them very much here was lovely to see but too far away for a decent picture! Hope you had a good Christmas break and that 2010 has all sorts of good things in store.... take care Miranda x

shirl said...

Hi there Layanee, Mike, Happy, Jan and Miranda :-)

Layanee, it has been! Time to move on now… though although on saying that with our ‘snow blanket’ perhaps my plants now have a higher rate of survival against our continual low temps. Thanks we did have good hols and hope you did too :-D

Mike, I’m guessing by now you may just be getting your own snow blanket with you… on the positive lots of good photo opportunities with birds in the garden. You may get that robin shot soon! Glad you like the pics. Thank-you, wishing you all the best for 2010 too :-D

Happy, thank-you (blush) with a belated reply! Hope you had a great Christmas and all the best for 2010. I agree completely about the female blackcap… sadly, I’ve only seen her the once. With our low temps perhaps she just passed through this time. I’m delighted I had a varied buffet for her to help her on her journey. Hope you get a chance to see one with you. The female is so much more bird community friendly too :-D

Jan, Thank-you, wishing you above all good health for 2010! Yep, this snow is still with us yet. I no longer open curtains looking for signs that the freezing temps overnight will allow it to begin melting away. We had a blue sky today and some sun :-) Glad you were able to enjoy the photos and video. Thanks, not going far with the weather. C. heating on for long periods. Wishing you many special nature moments for 2010 :-D

Miranda, yep… I see the snow is blanketing your garden in Brittany now too! I’m trying to see the positive like the snow blanket may help plants to survive the very low temps (minus 10 deg C at 6pm tonight… guess it will be a cold one night tonight! Brilliant to hear you are seeing Blackcaps too, I’ll look forward to seeing your pics. Thanks, we did have a good break and wishing you a great 2010 too :-D