Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Wednesday weird

Were chicks being fed in my garden this morning? At just 20 seconds between repeated visits to a ground feeder one bird actually had me considering this! Well, very briefly anyway. So what bird had me transfixed by its speed and efficiency in finding food… the Starling perhaps? Nope…

The Coal tit Parus ater shown in the video below is the smallest European tit. They eat insects, beech mast, seeds and nuts. What I was fascinated to see this morning was it being selective in the food it was taking from the feeders...




During our long spell of snow I had bought a seed mix. Argh… the snow is back again tonight!! We’ll just ignore it.

In this seed mix there were black sunflower hearts. I never usually buy the black ones and tonight browsing around for info on this very charismatic little bird I have discovered that they are one of its favs in gardens as are sunflower hearts and suet. It was only the black sunflower hearts it was removing today.

With such a brief time between visits to the feeder the Coal tit definitely didn’t have time to eat them. Was there more than Coal tit visiting then? Nope… think squirrel :-)

Yep… Coal tits hoard food for harder times… especially when food is plentiful at the feeders as it was today! However, this tiny bird isn’t quite as smart as it seems. Despite finding a variety of ingenious and odd (pushed into a lawn) places it is believed that the Coal tit doesn’t remember all the locations in which they hide food.

So, at 20 seconds between visits today’s Coal tit was hiding his cache quite close. I watched at the side of the window to see where it was heading. I then went out my front door, quietly opened my garden gate and stood to the side very still.

I watched in fascination (without cameras) as it made a few more trips into the ivy growing over my pergola. I was only able to see one location it was hiding the seeds but I’ve remembered where it is and will be fascinated to see if it returns there to retrieve them.

On browsing tonight, I discovered that although the present status of this bird’s population isn’t a problem sadly they do suffer when a winter is harsh. Fingers crossed that we don’t see a drop in population with this winter being the coldest winter we’ve had in many years.

Perhaps I’ll get myself/it a small bag of black sunflower hearts for its very own feeder. I’ll hang it a bit higher up too… there was a prowling cat today. Now, I wonder if this same bird will return again tomorrow. Oh yes... and I wonder if it will be able to find the 'feeder' it visited today…




Finally, I wonder if anyone else has been seeing this at the moment too. No, not the snow! I’m guessing I can’t be the only one. We’d all love to hear your stories. Oh, just one more thing... although Coal tits nest in holes in trees, rocks, roots or in the ground... they will also use nest-boxes! Now, wouldn't that be great to see :-)


The video and photo above were taken in my garden on February 3rd 2010.

15 comments:

Lisa at Greenbow said...

Your Coal tit is a lot like our Carolina Chickadee. None are acting like they are feeding anything but themselves right now. They are fun to watch. I wish one would nest in a box in our garden. Here is hoping we will be watching one in your garden.

Robin's Nesting Place said...

The coal tit is working awfully hard to store food! The blue jays are quit different and will cram nut after nut down their greedy little throats!

We've got more snow coming Friday. I'm looking forward to it just to see more bird action at the feeders.

Magic Cochin said...

I'm once again able to visit your blog and see the films! Hurray!

Coal Tits are regulars in our garden - I'll have to look out for them filling their store cupboards.

Celia

Midmarsh John said...

Hello Shirl. The Coal Tits here behave in exactly the same way, often with a pair taking it in turns.

Last year when I changed the seed I buy to the 'high energy, no mess' mixture I also bought a bag of black Sunflower seeds to add in just for the Coal Tits. When they are in 'stocking the larder' mode it is amazing how many black Sunflower seeds they can make off with in an hour.

I was pleased to see my local branch of Focus stocks the no mess mix as well as a general mix where the garden centres here only have the mix which is full of grain which most of my bird visitors ignore.

Kyna said...

I was thinking just like Lisa did, about that bird looking like a Carolina chickadee. :)

I laughed when you said they loved to hide food, but would forget where they put it. I guess I shouldn't laugh, but I always imagine what the soundtrack of an animal's thoughts are. 'Hm...I swear I put seeds in here yesterday, now where could they have gone?'

Shady Gardener said...

Hi Shirl, As I watched your cute video, my first thought was of a chickadee (we get the black-capped chickadee, here). However, the markings from the back also reminded me of the nuthatch. The nuthatch's body is a bit different, though.

I've never noticed the chickadee storing its food. It seems to flit to the feeder, head to a tree to eat its morsel, and flit back again. :-)

Jan (Thanks For Today) said...

Actually, I just read somewhere yesterday...now I cannot remember where!!...that our chickadee's here in the US actually do the same thing...but that they are generally good at remembering the hiding places. But that's the Carolina Chickadee. Your little one sounds like our squirrels...always burying things and forgetting about them!!

shirl said...

Hi there Lisa, yes and that’s added bonus too when I watch it. They are definitely fun to watch :-D One piece of action I really do want to catch on film is the speedy and efficient way it can remove seeds from cones. But yes, to have one nest in my new camera nestbox would be fantastic!

shirl said...

Hi Robin, yes it really was. It made so many more trips than I’ve shown too. I stood transfixed for a while before I got my camera out. I didn’t expect it to keep on going so long.

I’m guessing your Jays have hidden stores too. We don’t get Jays in my garden but I saw one once at a wildlife reserve in it and it didn’t hang around the feeder long. It almost seemed quite timid. I couldn’t believe how big it was being as big as the red squirrel (smaller than the grey).

Enjoy your snow, bird watching and photography today (Fri). I know what you mean about the action. It is the action on the roads with snow I don’t like and I had to drive yesterday. Fortunately our snow didn’t get to lie on the roads. This morning it looks grey, dull and damp out… your snow almost sounds appealing :-D

shirl said...

Hi Celia, sorry I’m meant to leave a comment with you first… sounds like you are all set for a new year in your studio… new hair too! My… you are cutting loose this year ;-)

Great, to hear they are thriving in your garden. The problem is they are so much quicker than the blue tits and a lot of the time I don’t see their visits. They are definitely more fun to watch :-D

shirl said...

Hi John, very interesting. I have seen them hide odd sunflower hearts during other times of the year but never having the black hearts I had no idea at all they would be so popular. It really was strange to see it hide them in the ivy at the top of one of my pergola pillars. I can’t image they would stay there either.

Yes, the no mess is much better and is the one I’d choose to use too. Unfortunately when we couldn’t get out it with the weather we couldn’t get it and yes it is a pest when the grain is left. I don’t like the weeds either. Good that you’ve got a local source of mix now :-D

shirl said...

Hi Kyna, its fun to see birds that look the same or have the same name (like robins) from different parts of the world isn’t it?

LOL… yep, some sources say the Coal tits do remember whilst others say they remember some caches but you have to think they wouldn’t waste energy if it wasn’t a successful task.

LOL… I’ve many times wondered what the birds/animals think when they tilt their heads around… especially when they are in my nestbox that has a camera. I’ve a camera in a hedgehog house too but it doesn’t look like a huge amount of thinking goes on there… a nap, scratch, another nap, a stretch, another scratch and out into the night it goes again :-)

shirl said...

Hi Shady, I am delighted you popped by again to see this. I hoped you would. Once again, I do find it great to share similar birds in our gardens which are so different in climate. We have nuthatches here to but not in my area.

Ah… now your chickadee sounds very like our Blue tits here which look bigger than the coal tits but are also just 11-12cm (4½) in length. They have different body shapes, colouring and markings but they too do the flitting back and forth :-)

shirl said...

Hi Jan, thanks for passing that on. Others might be interested too. Perhaps some species of Chickadee are better at this than others too :-)

I have to say, until last year I had never seen the Coal tit do this either and even then it was only on a few occasions. To see so many visits in such a short space of time was almost tiring to watch!

Funnily enough, on researching this I read somewhere about the squirrel having a trick to find its store. Searched again for you and found: “A squirrel will break the shell of a nut with its teeth, then clean the nut by licking it or rubbing on its face before it is buried. This action applies a scent to the nut which helps the squirrel find it later, even under a foot of snow.” You’d think that would make sense.

Then again, I also read on a blog just the other day of someone having a row of tubs. A squirrel was seen hiding food in one of them. The tubs were moved around… not intended to fool the squirrel :-) The squirrel had remembered that it was the third pot in the row that it hid food. It went to collect it but after a delicate start ended up tossing everything out of this pot!! Of, course it went away empty handed with its cache safe in one of the other pots. Aw… now all that time at squirrel school was wasted… LOL ;-)

Catherine@AGardenerinProgress said...

I loved the video of that cute bird. I notice that the Chickadees here are extremely picky when there is a seed mix and throw everything but the sunflower seeds on the ground. I've been wondering in nesting season is going to start early here since it's been so mild.