Tuesday, 5 February 2013

A Yellowhammer in the garden!

'unless something exciting visits the garden’ I said last time in relation to having a break from nature posts. Well, I’d say a Yellowhammer foraging for food right under my window just a metre away was an exciting sighting ;-)

We had a return to snow and cold temps overnight and this brought large groups of Chaffinches to the feeders this morning. Often other birds will join/follow the Chaffinches like the Bramblings who were also seen today and the Reed Bunting visiting during this year’s Birdwatch count.

No ID books were required for the Yellowhammer today as this is a bird I look out for on our visits to the Visitor Centre observation window at SWT Loch of the Lowes. I’ve captured video and photos of it there although I don’t think I’ve posted them yet.




After foraging under my window the Yellowhammer flew up to my neighbours overlooking tree where a number of Chaffinches were sitting already (cropped image showing small area of tree). This further added to my theory that the Yellowhammer followed the Chaffinches here.

Above you can see the distinctive yellow head of the Yellowhammer but being truthful with so many Chaffinches I captured my grainy photo only because I saw it fly up there I could easily have missed it completely. Notice how much smaller its beak is to the Chaffinches.




Above you can see that at first glance (from behind) the Yellowhammer could be mistaken for a male House Sparrow until you look a little more closely at the yellow markings on its head.

Below you can see the strong contrast between the yellow head and brown back of the Yellowhammer. The brown stripes on a yellow head are quite strong too. I wonder how long it wandered around under my window. There were Chaffinches feeding under my recently built snow shelter table – I wonder if the Yellowhammer fed with the Chaffinches there too?




It’s not until you get such a close, front facing view that you see what a lovely sunshine yellow the Yellowhammer brought to my garden for a short while this morning. Wonderfully, a nearby white patch of snow reflected light and made the Yellowhammer shine even more. You can easily see why it was hard not to miss when I looked out my window.





The ground photos shown above are all screen grabs from a small piece of video I managed to capture. Being truthful, I had no idea Yellowhammers could be seen in my area until I saw one on top of a wall near a Woodland a couple of years ago.

I never thought for one minute that a Yellowhammer would find its way my garden. On seeing them visit the feeders at Loch of the Lowes, I knew they were only seen on brief visits which makes my garden sighting all the more special. I'd like to share the video highlights...



Yellowhammer video, 31sec compilation with background music, try HD quality.


I really am gobsmacked at the number of bird species I have seen in my small urban garden since I’ve been gardenwatching. Long may my garden surprise me… to date we have spotted 35 species! I wonder how many more we have missed :-)



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

15 comments:

Lisa at Greenbow said...

How exciting!!! I am so glad you posted this for us to see. I have never even heard of such a bird. It is gorgeous. Lucky you. I am happy for you. Keep watching those birds.

Gardeningbren said...

What a sweet little bird, with such a tiny beak. I love when you introduce me to new species I am not familiar with here in Canada.

Wonder where the name Yellowhammer came from? Must research.

Shirley said...

Hello again to you both, thanks for your comments :-)

Lisa, I’m delighted you’ve enjoyed seeing this bird too! It really is quite pretty. Emberiza citronella is the full species name for the Yellowhammer. Oh yes… I’m always watching ;-) I have to be missing some sightings though. I’d like to see Bullfinches visit (I'm really surprised I've never seen them here) and a return of the Treecreeper so I can get photos and video would be good. A Nuthatch visit would be brilliant and would make an entry to their stats as they are slowly moving North here in the UK. What fun :-D

Bren, it is isn’t it :-) I love it when I discover new species, especially in my garden, and I’m able to share them. I’ve just taken a look behind the name in my most referred to book which says that the Yellowhammer gets its name from ‘Ammer’, an Old English word for bunting. Thanks for querying that – I’ve learnt something here now too :-D

Orchids and Nature said...

Wonderful I haven't seen or heard a Yellowhammer for years. Back in the 1950's they where common over here in Lancashire and we could always find their nests in the Gorse bushes.

Celia Hart said...

What lovely close ups of the Yellowhammer. They are fairly common hedgerow birds around here - I love seeing them on our local walks, and hearing their song "Little bit of bread and no cheeeee-eeeeeese".

buonaforchetta said...

Great capture. I was worried when you said you might not post for a while, but that was silly, you always have such interesting birds visiting you! Christina

Sue Garrett said...

Lovely little bird another one that has never graced us with its presence.

Scotkat said...

I am delighted to say we had a pair of them arrive in our garden 2weeks again and again the following day we had 4.

They are stunning but they have not been back again .

Well captured on camera Shirl.

ShySongbird said...

Very, very well done Shirley, congratulations, a really wonderful visitor to the garden! I see them quite regularly on my walks but never in the garden. I have friends who live nearby though and although their garden is smaller than mine they have some super birds which don't visit mine such as Nuthatch, Treecreeper and yes, from time to time Yellowhammer. They do have a good amount of native trees near their garden which sadly we don't any more which makes a big difference. Having said that I do see the odd Bullfinch in my garden though :-)

Well done again, it was lovely to see this unexpected post!

Pauline said...

Quite a few yellowhammers here in Devon, but not in my garden unfortunately, we have to enjoy them when we go for a walk. We are lucky to have lots of varieties of birds that visit the garden, with farmland one side and a woodland on the other, always something interesting visiting the feeders.

ShySongbird said...

Hi Shirley, I should of course have said well done for capturing it on video and I love the screen grabs, great stuff!

Angie said...

I was excited for you as I was reading Shirley :)
A little cracker and it's no wonder you want to show us all!
So pleased you were able to find something to share with us.
Here's to your next surprise visitor!!!!

Joe said...

Wow, well done for spotting that, you really are seeing lots of interesting stuff in your garden at the moment. Nice photos and videos too. We've never seen one in our garden but I have seen them at feeding stations before. And I completely agree about the similarities with sparrows, it really can be hard at to tell them apart at a distance if you don't get a good view

Shirley said...

Hello again everyone, thanks for all your comments :-)

David, it would be quite wonderful to hear the Yellowhammer sing from my garden. That’s interesting to hear that numbers are down in your area. I hope you see them return. I’ll keep an eye out in gorse bushes when out and about :-)

Celia, I can’t believe the Yellowhammer came so close to my window. We saw a large group on a Reserve visit in Dumfries area of Scotland (Caerlaverock) where they would jump out a hedge and on to path to forage on the ground just like house sparrows are often seeing doing in supermarket car parks. I can imagine them quite easily with you now – what fun. I was reading about their fun song too :-)

Christina, thanks, I wasn’t planning an absence but for one reason or another it has worked out that way. I’ve spent some time sorting through video stuff that has become a problem on my older blogs which has been time consuming and a real pain :-(

Sue, it is a pretty one isn’t it? I never expected this bird to grace us with its presence either. I’ve never seen such a close view of the Yellowhammer and it was in my own garden making it a double whammy ;-)

Kath, that’s great news to hear they are in your area. It’s easy to guess that we just get these lucky views when the weather stuffs up their usual feeding areas but it’s great for us – congrats on your sightings, that must have been fun to watch as numbers increased :-)

Shirley said...

Hello again everyone, thanks for all your comments :-)

Jan, I really couldn’t believe what I was seeing just a few feet away – if I had stretched out my arm and was able to go through glass I could have touched the Yellowhammer!! I guess congratulations really goes to my timing in walking to my window – I got seriously lucky :-) Yes, native and perhaps more mature trees have to help. We don’t have a large mature tree here but our neighbours do on two sides which helps. Just the other day there was another special sighting on my neighbour's (smaller garden again) large Rowan tree and I doubt they spotted it. A large group of Fieldfares swooped down and landed on the tree. I’m guessing it was all the activity in my garden (due to the snow) that had them considering it as a food source – of course on this occasion there weren’t any visible apples and they all flew off again. Nice to know there are still groups around though :-) Thanks, not knowing which way the Yellowhammer would go made it tricky following it to get non jumpy video footage but it’s always fun editing the clips together. Although I love the challenge of capturing photos the video is always that bit more special and being able to take screen grabs after makes it a win win. I really, really never expected to have this record for my garden :-D

Pauline, great to hear the Yellowhammer is in your area, perhaps it visits when you’re not looking ;-) Ah… I can absolutely imagine the variety of birds you must get in the situation you have. I have seen other blogs with that too and there has to be many surprises for you. For me, having houses and minimal gardens around me I have to take a guess that my planting and cover (including leylandii hedge along two sides) bring bird groups in. I might also guess that having woodland and a loch not too far away must also help. Enjoy your feeder watching :-D

Angie, I was absolutely thrilled, I can tell you! I’m delighted to hear others enjoyed the excitement of a Yellowhammer in the garden too. A little cracker indeed! Lol… I never struggle in having stuff to share (I’ve got some great salmon leaping stuff still at the video editing stage) my struggle is more in time to sort/prep images and in writing my blog stories. Since thyroid issues, I get too tried some evenings and never like to post when it is an effort as I believe that shines through. I’ve got video probs in old blogs just now that are taking time to sort and this isn’t fun at all :-(

Joe, absolutely – I really can’t believe my luck!! It’s the cold and snow that are bringing the interesting stuff in. If I don’t have to drive I look forward to snowy days. From memory, your garden has railway line nearby and I guess that will give a landmark for birds that are attracted to that environment (I bet there are more that you think) and perhaps that brings surprise visitors too – you just have to be looking out of the window at the time which is hard when you’re not at home just now. Looks like you are seeing plenty around Uni Campus though – nice Robin captures on your latest post btw :-D