Saturday, 13 November 2010

Current garden birds and Waxwing sightings

Garden birds were featured on this week's BBC2 Autumnwatch programme. Regular blog visitors would be quite correct in thinking I found this a particularly interesting episode.

Quick update: If a search for Waxwing sightings has brought you here perhaps the lists and links via my next post may interest you. You’ll find brief Waxwing videos at the end of that post and this one too. Okay back to this posting…

Mm... perhaps you might like to pour yourself a cuppa. There's lots here tonight.
I have to say a few things caught my attention in Autumnwatch this week including an incredible Waxwing sighting on the Fair Isle.

You have to take a look at Tommy, his son Henry and their apple feeding visitors here. I'm guessing that the preview image below of Henry will have you clicking your mouse if you need any persuading. It's fantastic that they have shared these stunning images with us all. What a day that must have been!


The photo above is the property of Thomas Hyndman
who has very generously allowed me to include it in my posting.
It was originally published in
this posting on his blog.


I have a feeling Tommy's Blog, Fair Isle , will be one to watch over the winter. American visitors might be interested to hear that he is originally from Saratoga Springs, New York having moved to Fair Isle in November 2006 with his wife Liz and son Henry.

Feeding garden birds during winter was also included in this week's Autumnwatch. Info can be found on the Autumnwatch website here. I’m delighted to say that feeding garden birds in my garden has resumed after a three week break when Trichomonosis was spotted in a Greenfinch.

Interestingly enough, Chris Packham did mention Trichomonosis on the programme on Thursday. He said that although feeders do need to be cleaned when this disease is spotted in a garden it wasn’t necessary to keep them down. Chris said you should continue feeding the birds.

After seeing this disease in my garden I can’t agree with him on that one. My recommendation would be to keep feeders down and bird baths empty when there is a diseased bird visiting them to stop this awful disease spreading. How long they are down/empty is entirely at your own discretion.

For now, my garden bird cafĂ© is working on a supply and demand basis. I haven’t put up all my feeders yet. Once more birds return I will return more feeders and offer a more varied menu. I'll introduce things slowly. Peanuts are next.

At the moment I have fat balls in a caged feeder (I use this one as Starlings struggle to get in it), sunflower hearts in a feeder pole (great for cleaning), sunflower hearts in a clingers only feeder (I love watching the birds on this one especially when its windy) and three small mesh ground feeders with sunflower hearts. There is also a good number of halved apples on an open area of my lawn. You might guess now who they are for... you would be right too ;-)

Only one of my ground feeders is actually on the ground. You can see there is one in my small Acer tree in the larger picture in the montage below. You can also see that some black sunflower hearts have been added to it. They are especially for the Coal tits who seem to like them and take them from here.




This is a very popular feeding area with Blackbirds and Dunnocks too. From my window I can get a good clear view here. If you clicked on the image above I wonder if you spotted what was missing. Perhaps not, I was looking closely after an earlier sighting of this bird that day.

Carefully selected (so as not to upset anyone) the Blackbird male shown in the montage above has a missing eye. You can see this in the bottom, right image. I have never seen this before. I have other images that show this in more detail.

Perhaps this bird has a genetic problem or the eye has become diseased but more than likely it has been a fight with another bird. I’ve posted photos and asked about this one on the BirdForum. If I get any replies you'll see them here.

Coming back to Chris again, he mentioned on the programme that the regular garden birds that we see in our gardens (like the blackbird for example) are very likely to be different ones from season to season. He suggest that come Winter some will move South (mine perhaps to Europe) to the warmer climates that they would have had in the Spring/Summer when they were born.

That I did find interesting, especially when it is during the winter that I see many more partial albino Blackbirds in my garden. Perhaps they were born in Scandinavia and are here in my garden just for winter? I guess without ringing them we wouldn’t know the answer there.

White feathers in the head, body or tail of any dark coloured birds really do make the partial albino's stand out when visiting the garden. However, as I get a few, it is the patterns on these birds that equally catch my eye. Over the last few years I have considered that this pattern isn’t always random and that it can follow a parent bird.

When I spotted the first partial albino male Blackbird (shown below) earlier this week, with its bent back right foot, I took my photo to see what was going on with this foot. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a clear view of it in the dull lighting. However its white feathered head markings looked very familiar.

I looked back my photos and was astonished to see that three years ago (on October 16th 2007) I had another partial albino Blackbird at roughly the same age. With the exception of the prominent white feather in the body just under the wing, it has a head a pattern of white feathers incredibly close to the one in my garden this week. Now, that is fascinating.





Tiny wrens start to reappear around my tiny rock pool pond at this time of year and this week one has been fluttering up and down shrubs. No… it wasn’t seen eating berries in the tree below but I guess between this small tree and a climbing rose on the arch beside it there were plenty insects around there for it to feast on. I do love to see the Wren visit.

A quick tidy up of fallen leaves in the garden late on Wednesday afternoon revealed another sight that delighted me! At just after 4:30pm, when it was just starting to get dark in my garden, I spotted a Blue tit going into my nestbox that has a colour camera in it. So we have a rooster then?

After getting my OH to reconnect an extra IR camera (we added to this nestbox earlier this year) to my switcher box I could see that we did. Brilliant! Wonderfully, this nestbox was successfully used this year. If you missed this story you can catch up here.




However, I did put up another nestbox (courtesy of Ian Daniels of the Dobbies Blog) that only has a black and white IR camera. I was very interested to compare the quality of images. I have to say I was impressed with the B&W.

OH also reconnected this one to my switcher box and wonderfully, for the first time, we have a rooster in this nest box too!! The image above, right is from the Gardman Camera Nest Box from Dobbies although on checking links for this it appears that they are not stocking it any more.

Now the big question next was, did we have two Blue tits roosting in our garden or was one a Great tit? The next night at around the same time I was able to watch and wait… we had Blue tits in both! Although I was secretly hoping one would be a Great tit I am still delighted.



One other interesting comparison we now have (not intended this time) is that there is no wood shavings on the floor of the B&W Nestbox. I have noticed that this bird moves around a lot more as you can see in the above images. I wonder if it is cold?

The bird in the other nestbox (shown in the bottom row of the montage above) that has wood shavings on the floor has generally stayed in the one corner. However, last night it was seen removing quite a few beakfuls of wood shavings out of this nestbox before settling down for the night. Interesting again.

Now, leaving the interesting and back to the Waxwing sightings… on Wednesday, with gloves just on and ready to pick up fallen leaves…

I heard a noise in the distance. Being completely honest, I thought it was a car or house alarm. I wasn’t sure though. I carried on lifting leaves.

I heard the noise again and stood up looking in the direction of a large mature tree about 60 metres from my garden. I don’t have a recent photo but below you can see the size of this tree (with my hedge in the foreground) shown all frosted back in a previous posting...




Now look at it more closely on Wednesday…



Let’s crop another image some more and get a better look…



Yep, for the first time ever I not only saw Waxwings… but from my own back garden! In actual fact the images above were taken though the same window where I have captured many of my garden visitors in photos and video. Wow :-)

Unfortunately, my video camera display screen has gone faulty so taking any video was difficult to say the least. However, try I did… although I only caught the tiniest of shaky capture (with no control over focusing) it still records this special moment…




The number of Waxwings on this tree is a bit approximate as just before I went inside to get my camera a good number left the tree. 40-50 Waxwings at least (based on my photos) had to have been there. Now… here’s the thing…

Don’t laugh now… but not only did I think that they sounded like a car/house alarm… when I first looked up at the tree my first thought was Woodpigeons!! I then stood considering that although Woodpigeons were regulars on this tree I had never seen such a big a group of them. These birds looked smaller too :-)

My ID for the Waxwings was through sound first. Before I went in for my camera I reached for my mobile phone. I have an iPhone and have Bird Apps on it. I knew one had a good collection of birds and calls… and Bingo I had my ID!!

I was actually hearing Waxings from my garden… how cool was that? Passing by a bowl of apples in my kitchen I quickly halved them and scattered them on an open area of my lawn to tempt them into my garden... no luck yet though.

Regular visitors to my blog will not recognise the format of my video editing above either. Unfortunately, after removing a piece of software from my PC I have lost access to my video editing software that I have used for a very long time. That's a shame I have to say.

I am not familiar with Windows Movie Maker, but needs must and I really wanted to post and share my first Waxwing sighting. Fortunately changes are afoot with my PC and Christmas is coming for a replacement video camera perhaps ;-)

Now… I kid you not, this afternoon after taking a visit up to SWT Reserve Loch of the Lowes Waxings were the topic once again! I was chatting to Charlotte would had just written a blog post on them for the Centre in the morning. She was disappointed she had never seen one herself and was hearing from many visitors to the Centre of their sightings elsewhere. I didn't help her cause :-)

One Waxwing sighting in a garden in nearby Birnam had Centre Manager, Peter out with his video camera. Charlotte showed it to me and the other visitors in the Centre. What a wonderful capture Peter took of Waxings feeding on pink Rowan berries. I believe she said it took them an hour to completely strip the tree bare of fruit. If you ever visit the Centre do ask to see this piece of film :-)

Last night when I was waiting for my video uploads to complete (which they didn’t) I browsed other Waxwing videos and discovered the one below that I’m sure you’ll enjoy too. Funnily enough I had never seen pink Rowan berries until yesterday. There is music with this piece of film.


Watch out for background music volume. Video by I R Lavell. See Youtube page here.


Isn’t that just a wonderful capture? Now... this still isn’t the end of Waxwing sightings! Once again, I kid you not… on my drive home we were to see yet another group of Waxwings! Sh... don't tell Charlotte ;-)

I was driving into the City of Perth and coming out of a roundabout and this group were flying low back and forth across the road… there was a tree of berries on one side. This time I didn’t spot the colour of the berries… I was too busy watching I didn’t drive through the Waxwings!!

Wow… what a week this has been! I hope it’s been a good one for you too. Enjoy the rest of your weekend… and if you have any Waxwing stories/sightings please do share them in a comment :-D

Now... I wonder if any Waxwings will spot the feast of apples in my garden. Probably not... but it is fun thinking they might :-)


The Waxwings in the photos above were taken from my garden on November 10th 2010.

19 comments:

Alice Joyce said...

What an incredible post: I'm impressed by the bevy of birds and the scope of your sightings!
We went for a hike in the woods nearby today but had little luck. Only a few birds crossed our path, strangely, though there were a few butterflies as we exited. A monarch, perhaps making its way south.
Cheers!

Lisa at Greenbow said...

We have had a house sparrow visiting our feeders with a white head. It is the most unusual looking bird. It isn't here all the time. It makes me wonder how far the house sparrows roam. We have so many in the garden. Those waxwings are gorgeous. They look a lot like ours. I love to hear their zzzzzz zzzzzzeets in the garden. I hope you are having a wonderful weekend.

Midmarsh John said...

How brilliant Shirl. I guess you felt as I did last Winter when scores of Fieldfare visited a nearby orchard. You did very well with your poorly video camera.

Like you I have a rooster - a Great Tit which has spent the last week in the nestbox every night. There was one evening when a furious scrap took place as a second GT tried to take over the box.

I think it is a moot point about taking down all the feeders when disease is about. My thinking is that there are many other gardens nearby with feeders which the birds will visit anyway. What I did this year was to drastically reduce the number of feeders and reposition them so there was a reduced concentration of birds visiting.

shirl said...

Hi John, it was! Yes I did think of you and your Fieldfare sighting when I saw the Waxwings like this. I’m completely surprised my camera caught anything – delighted though :-)

Yes, I saw you have a Rooster too. I see it arrives to roost around 30mins earlier than ours – interesting. It’s great to see them tucked in there on a cold night isn’t it.

Yes, I agree completely re birds visiting many gardens per day. From my experience, I can watch a diseased bird go round every single feeder in my garden and all sources of water too. Even when I take them down it still goes there. Leaving a few feeders still up lets other birds pick up this disease and so it goes.

I know feeders will be up in other gardens but I can’t watch it here. Relocating feeders I don’t feel works in my small garden either. When I tipped water away from my bird bath – the diseased bird went to the hosta leaves for the water. Another bird followed it :-(

I’ve read/received some awful stories where many birds have been found dead in a garden with this disease. I guess we all have to do what we are comfortable with. Thanks for your comments :-)

shirl said...

Hello again, Alice. Thank-you, it was a bit of a marathon!

I have to say I am impressed myself – a few years ago (pre blog) I would never imagine that I could possibly notice far less recognise so many birds in and from my garden.

Pity your hike didn’t have many birds but I bet that Monarch more than made up for it.

Thanks for stopping by with a comment. Enjoy your day :-D

shirl said...

Hi Lisa, interesting to hear about your house sparrow with a white head. Never seen or heard of that.

Trying to imagine it. Perhaps you could post a photo on your blog. I’m sure everyone would be interested in seeing it. I agree about wondering how far birds roam.

For some time, I have admired the cedar waxwings on American blogs but I never ever imagined I would be able to look out my window and see our Bohemian ones. Sounds like sightings of the cedar is quite common in your garden – how wonderful for you :-D

Thanks, I am having a good weekend – hope you are too :-D

ShySongbird said...

Hi Shirl, My skin has turned an awful shade of green and I have nearly expired with envy :) Oooh, you are so lucky! I have never seen a Waxwing and, with so many of the mature native trees having been cut down around here by neighbours, it isn't likely that I will :( Well done on getting the video!

I had my attention drawn to the Fair Isle Waxwings by several blogland friends earlier in the week and thought it was the most incredible spectacle. It was a shame, I thought, that Autumnwatch only gave the story a passing mention. I had been told beforehand that they would not only show the photos but also speak to Tommy and Henry by phone, I suppose being a live programme things didn't work out quite as planned.

Great news on the roosters which hopefully will bode well for the Spring again.

This has been an excellent post Shirl with many things I could comment on but this is in danger of being longer than your post so I will just say I have enjoyed it immensely and wish you a very happy and (maybe) Waxwing filled week :)

patientgardener said...

I am so jealous of you seeing Waxwings. I doubt they will come via us in Worcestershire. Last year I was thrilled to see a Brambling in the garden. The bird that is fascinating me at the moment is a Nuthatch which has been feeding on the feeders for about a month now. Of course there might be two of them but I only see one at a time!

Gardeningbren said...

Oh Shirl, that was such a good read...and I learned so much. The Faire Isle photos at the link were awesome,..thank you for pointing me in that direction. I loved your albino blackbird photos as well, and if it isn't the same bird, they must be related. Do you think the one without the white under the wing just has the white hidden in that photo. It almost looks to be peeking out.

Hope you have had a lovely weekend. Thanks for the exciting blog post.

Patsi said...

Congrats on the Waxwings visiting you. Can't believe the pick of the birds eating apples...that little boy must have loved it.
Sorry about your camera for videos.
I still have one that I haven't learned to use.:(

Orchids and Nature said...

A brilliant post,sorry about your poorly camera if you're like me it have to be fixed as soon as possible.

shirl said...

Hello Jan, oops sorry – hope you’ve got your colour back now ;-)

Although, I am guessing you’re hearing of a few others with sightings of Waxwings by now. Dare I say it… but ours were still here yesterday. Sounds like groups of Waxwings will hang around a little while. On saying that ours could be on their way South towards you as I type this as I’ve no idea when they arrived here. Fun when it lasted though :-D

Yes, I noticed your comment on the Fair Isle Waxwing posting when I left mine. I was slow on that one only stumbling over in a forum link. Yes, shame I heard about the interview too. I hope they try again or get someone up there with a camera – maybe that’s their plan ;-)

Thanks, fingers crossed for successful nesting next year although I don’t know if I could handle the stress of watching two nestbox families!

Glad you enjoyed this, I hear what you’re saying… that is the danger of updates they do go on a bit. However, as a garden diary for myself they are valuable and I often enjoy referring back to previous postings.

Thanks again, I really am hoping for a Waxwing filled week… truthfully I hoping for a Waxwing filled garden :-D

shirl said...

Hi there Helen, I hope you are well. I see you will need to keep quite fit now… for all that bending at you new allotment ;-) Good luck with your new veggie grower adventure. Will we be seeing Joe Swift come to visit perhaps ;-)

Oops again, I really do feel quite thrilled that our area has been lucky enough to see such good sized groups of Waxwings. I believe there is more than one group too. I don’t know where the others go. Perhaps I should ask around. When I try counting the groups I see (from my video or photos) there are always more flying off so this group could be closer to 80-100. Fingers crossed they do pop by you. If there as many as they say they are this year there’s an increased chance :-)

Now, I am jealous of your Brambling! There is always a slight chance I may get to see them but alas not yet. However, the Nuthatch isn’t likely to appear here. It is getting further North into Scotland now but I don’t think I need to provide any extra facilities for it. Enjoy your bird feeder visits of the nuthatches… you never know there maybe more than two!

shirl said...

Hi Brenda, I’m so glad you enjoyed it. I know it was a bit packed with different stuff and links :-)

To be honest I could probably have posted every day all week with smaller snippet postings. I never start out to make my posts so long either :-)

Glad you followed that link as it is just too good not to be shared. Incredible sighting wasn’t it?

Ah… I’ll look closely at other photos of that blackbird. I love to see these birds in the garden. I always think of them as quite special. Delighted you liked them too :-D

shirl said...

Hi there Patsi, thanks :-) Yes, I agree it was incredible that the Waxwings came to eat as closely as this. Yes, I have a feeling Henry won’t forget that childhood experience :-D

Thanks, technology is great when its working okay isn’t it. Perhaps you will enjoy using your camera one day. As my PC is getting replaced in the next week or so its all change for everything that I have been familiar with for taking and making the videos on my blog. Can’t believe the timing of all this and there is one other thing too :-D

shirl said...

Hello again, David. Delighted you enjoyed this. I know there was a bit too much in here this time :-)

Thanks, as this was a cheap and cheerful video camera we won’t be replacing it. I’ll need to wait for another too as my PC is getting replaced first. That’s good though, as I will be able to support newer software which will be good. Not exactly the best timing for Waxwings to descend on trees visible from my garden though :-D

Anonymous said...

Hi...very new to all this chat stuff, just wanted to tell you of our sighting of waxwings at the Tesco's carpark in coventry next to the Ricoh Arena. Very beautiful birds and very comfortable with us watching them from only 3 feet away. for us this was an amazing experience...much better than shopping!

Elvera said...

I have just seen my first waxwing not just one but 25 I was thrilled and I Live on an large estate in Leeds Yorks.

shirl said...

Thanks for your comments. I'm delighted to hear of your sightings :-)

Sorry, your comments didn't appear straight away. I know that can be dissappointing. Spam can be a problem especially in older, popular postings so I used the setting option to moderate comments on posts over 14 days old.

Anonymous, welcome, the chat can be fun. I see your sightings were in Coventry. Perhaps you were lucky and the Waxwings stayed in your area for a while. I hope so :-D

Elvera, I'm thrilled for you too. I think it's great when they appear on our doorsteps :-D