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!
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 café 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.
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.