Saturday, 26 January 2013

Snowy shelter and garden visitors

Taking the full garden tour last weekend was a male Pheasant, will he return to be counted this weekend? LOL... not likely, the birds usually take a garden break during my window break to record what bird species and how many can be seen at any one time during an hour, in my garden.

Living in a tightly packed housing estate near the edge of a small town this isn’t a regular garden visitor so he was watched with great interest. That’s the one positive side of snow - it brings with it unexpected winter visitors and larger numbers of the garden regulars!

The image above is a screen grab from the video below.


Pheasant video above, 2min 6sec compilation with background music, try HD quality.



High above the ground feeder that caught Mr Pheasant’s eye there was a buzz of activity with Long-tailed tits bouncing off three hanging peanut feeders. Grouping the feeders like this has definitely made them more popular than a single one in three locations.


Long-tailed tits video above, 2min 6sec compilation with background music, try HD quality.



High above the deliberate grouping of peanut feeders that caught the Long-tailed tits attention, way up in a neighbours overlooking tree, another winter visitor was spotted some time later. This winter visitor I was looking for and had fruit out to attract. It did come down to it too but as I moved to get my camera it flew off. However I was still delighted to capture, albeit dull, my first video of this visitor up in the tree. It looked like it was calling to others.


Fieldfare video above, 30sec single clip with background music, try HD quality.



Today (Friday) we’ve had a good covering of snow, the type that weighs down tree branches and requires a serious clearing to get a car back in the drive. Last Friday when snow was predicted overnight, I covered one of my small ground feeders with my original jelly box hedgehog feeding station (previously protecting a gunnera) to keep the seed visible and dry for the birds come morning. This idea worked well. However we only had a light dusting of snow then.





During the early morning filling of feeders I decided to scatter some seed under my very short legged large ground feeder that was sited on forest bark chippings beneath a seed feeder (to catch spill). I had noticed that a dip had developed underneath the tray and had seen small birds go under looking for food.

Today, with our heavier snowfall a Woodpigeon was trying to get under this table as you will see in the montage below. However, it was the Pheasant that had this idea first and he who gave me inspiration for the simple snowy shelter bird feeder shown below.




The original plan was to use two unused fence post ends sitting in my shed. Last weekend, my OH was tasked with cutting them in two to give me four table legs. I then requested a piece of exterior plywood (again spare) to be cut in a rectangle for the table top. Having such strong materials meant the table had weight and could take any bursts of wind from around the side of the house.

Once the table was sighted near the flowing water from my small pond, I could see I could use the top as a feeding area too. A fruit platter was laid out in the hope that a Fieldfare might pop by. Watching from my viewing window I could see my simple table needed some practical features. Blackbirds were slipping on the surface of the plywood when they tried to land.

I always recycle tree branch prunings in my garden and it was clear to me a couple of pieces nailed to the top would work as good landing spots. I set to work nailing them on with one tight to the surface and another a raised bar.

As you will see above, I also nailed a branch to a table leg to make a an upright spike for a couple of apples. This also acted as a perch for birds to land and a signpost to advertise the fruit for periods when snow was partially covering it on the table top.

A further addition of an extra small piece of branch tucked in to the larger gave a pocket that I could add peanut butter (natural) for the Blackbirds who have taken a liking to it. Would they find it under the snow though? Oh yes, very quickly too! Of course, not far behind them were the Starlings as you will see from the video below.

Oh yes… this snowy shelter bird table did it’s job even better than I expected. It was now a double decker of a feeding table and below the food stayed dry just as I hoped. With the table being heavy and solid the birds don’t move it as the use it and they’ve very quickly mastered the gaps when running/flying off/in. Take a look…


Snow shelter video above, 1min 29sec compilation with background music, try HD quality.



Further to the action above, a Mistle Thrush was spotted feeding on the fruit early this morning. I did capture video of this first garden feeding sighting but alas had a technical mishap when transferring from camera to PC and lost it. Aw well… should we still have snow over the weekend we could see it again but the forecast is for rain now.

We’ve been very lucky here, we’ve had snow but it hasn’t caused too much travel disruption until tonight. Tonight the garden is very heavy laden with snow but tomorrow morning the Blackbirds and other ground feeding birds will have easy acess to food via this new snowy shelter – it really is working a treat as is the bamboo landing bar too.


The image above was taken mid afternoon and much more snow came after this.



So this weekend the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch has finally arrived and if we have still have snow my count could be quite interesting. However, I might need a friend to help count the many Chaffinches who feed in all areas! If you are taking part with a count, have fun :-D

Wishing you a good weekend, stay safe and warm. Gosh, I kid you not… it’s almost midnight and I’ve just spotted something out of my window. There is movement out of the pockets in the snow around my little pond. Can you guess what it is?



This post was published by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in January 2013.

12 comments:

Sue Garrett said...

Love the split level bird 'table'.
A frog?

Lisa at Greenbow said...

Your feeding stations are a veritable bird buffet. The pheasant is such a handsome bird. Can't imagine one coming into your garden though. What fun. You have a wide variety of birds. The birds around here never eat fruit I set out so I don't do that any more. Have a great weekend.

L said...

Great tailor-made feeding stations. You should patent the design! Although I regularly provide for the birds in my garden and get a good number daily, when doing the RSPB count for the last couple of years the number has been low in that hour. Perhaps my neighbours have decided to put out food for this weekend!

Angie said...

What an array of birds, Shriley!
Those images are great - well captured! I find that fruit I put out just lies for ages then I clear it away before it rots!
I would never have guessed from your pictures that you live on a housing estate - in my mind's eye it was a large perthshire country garden, funny how we imagine!!
That bird table/cover is rather clever, another that would cost a fortune if you had to buy!
I hope you had a good count!

patientgardener said...

Its funny how the birds seem to know when the bird count is happening and disappear isnt it.
We have a male pheasant visiting, he seemed to disappear when the snow arrived but with the thaw there he was back again this morning, hunched under the Fatsia

Midmarsh John said...

Brilliant Shirt. Lovely to see the pheasant and the LTTs visiting. The pheasant would love some peanuts.
Great feeding table / shelter idea. Should attract a lot of visitors for the RSPB bird count.

Joe said...

Some really nice video footage there, well done. Especially good to see the Fieldfare (and pheasant). Hopefully they turned up for the Big Garden Birdwatch for you :)

David Marsden said...

I get loads of pheasants where I work, Shirley. They do a little plant damage but not much as to upset me. It is shooting season at the moment so I'm happy that they stay put - where they are safe. Were they to fly outside the garden fencing they would most likely be shot! You may envy me my goldcrest but I have yet to see a fieldfare at the Priory. Dave

Pauline said...

Your garden is a bird haven, no wonder you have so many visitors. We usually have a male pheasant, but of course it didn't show for the Birdwatch weekend, however today we saw a white one in the field next door, why couldn't it have come on Saturday!

ShySongbird said...

Hi Shirley :-) What a very enjoyable post! I just love your new feeding table and I too think you should patent it. How very resourceful and imaginative you are.

Lovely photos and videos. I can't ever imagine having a Pheasant in my garden. I did have Fieldfare, Redwing, Blackcap, Brambling and Pied Wagtail during the snow but of course by Sunday, when I did my count, the snow had gone....along with most of the 'snow visitors' ;-)

Shirley said...

email comment from joules:

Really enjoyed the videos and pics, Shirls - thank you. Love all the birdfeeding detail.

Shirley said...

Hello everyone, thanks for your kind comments :-)

Sue, yes I’m delighted with how successful the levels worked in this location. No, not a frog – it was a mouse! I felt cold looking at it.

Lisa, it’s definitely a lot of fun experimenting with feeding stations and foods. Yes, it was handsome wasn’t it? My fruit does get eaten but this weekend I was over generous and there is still some out. I should chop it into bits and the birds run away with it under my hedge. I had a fun weekend and count :-D

L, Thanks, it’s just a table design and I doubt anyone would be interested but it would fun designing something for the bird feeding market and seeing images of it being used in gardens. Yep, I think we should just expect low counts and then we aren’t disappointed. Yes, I do think more food goes out this weekend from our neighbours.

Angie, thanks! I find the rotting food will get eaten unless I have too much out (like now). Yes, it is funny how we imagine bloggers gardens – the power of photo editing. I was very happy with the table and my count – you’ll really not believe I am in a small town when you see who visited during my count ;-)

Helen, yep it certainly is! Of course a blue sky and some sunshine doesn’t help either. Oh… I didn’t remember reading you had a regular Pheasant – you have to get a photo with your Fatsia. Love it… The Pheasant and the Fatsia… sounds like a title for something ;-)

John, glad you caught this. The table was quite quiet for the count. Now… I’d put peanuts out but I have a grey squirrel that is almost a regular that comes in eating everything (including my peanut butter in the log!). He’d find the peanuts too. I’d be very surprised if I see a Pheasant anytime soon. They just appear once every few years so I was delighted to get so much footage (it was hard knocking the clips down).

Joe, thanks! Nope neither turned up but something else rather special did ;-)

David, ah I suspect you might. Ours really are one visit every few years. I never thought on the plant damage. I don’t suspect I’ll have a problem there but glad yours isn’t too bad. Ah… I never thought on shooting season… hope some with you do stay safe. Ah yes (swoon)… the goldcrest. It sounds like you have the location that field fares would come to – maybe one year :-)

Pauline, thanks… it has been fun attracting the birds in. Aw… shame about your regular not turning up to be counted. Ohhh… I white one guess it was leusistic I’ve seen Peacocks like that but never a Pheasant – I’d be trying to get photos. Hope you see it again :-)

Jan, thank-you! Lol… still on the long side. Thanks, I doubt at that size my table would be a goer. I do let my imagination go a bit at times. Thanks, it’s really hard to imagine that a Pheasant spent so long examining all my borders. I loved capturing video as a reminder. Oh… envious of your list there, what a shame you lost them all after. Maybe the Brambling and Blackcap are still around and you’ve not seen them :-)

Joules, Thank-you for taking the time to email me with your comment. Delighted to hear I’m not boring everyone with the birdfeeding detail. I’m not an expert, I just observe behaviour etc and go from there :-)