Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Not all Wednesday, Winter woes

Two blackbird snatches in less than 5 minutes suggests there had to be a least two male Sparrowhawks hunting over the garden yesterday morning. There have been regular, flight path practising by Sparrowhawks recently too explaining the quiet bird feeders on cold, snowy days.

I guess it comes as no surprise that a black bird running along white snow is going to attract the attention of a bird of prey scouting gardens. A Blackbird would also provide and bigger meal than many of the smaller, faster birds like coal tits that bravely make quick snatches of peanuts and sunflower hearts to eat them in a safe, sheltered spot.

Video screen grab, one of yesterday's Sparrowhawks with Blackbird meal.
He was high up, on snow topped hedge, not bothered by me getting close.


Although very unpleasant to see the messy table manners of the Sparrowhawk (feathers everywhere) I do understand that this bird needs to eat for winter survival too. Over nine years of blogging, I’ve tried to come to terms with this sight. That’s the reality of nature for you – there is an animal food chain and that includes the worms that we gardeners need to aerate our soil so the roots of our plants grow well.

When (carefully) driving, I’ve see Buzzards (a bigger bird of prey) pull large worms out of the grassy, motorway verges. Back in the garden, it’s the Thrushes that I've seen take worms. Blackbirds are part of that species group which include our tiny Robins too. I saw quite a few worms going into our Robin nest last year - those four chicks were well fed!

It’s not all winter woes today, winter is a great time to see birds in the garden that you may never see at any other time of year. Last week we had a garden first with a female Bullfinch that came in with a good sized group of regular Chaffinches. I couldn’t reach for a camera in time then, or when I had a suspected sighting of a Goldcrest in my pine tree a few days before.


Shy, Song Thrush blends well with plant stems keeping it safe (video grab).


Monday’s surprise return visitor - tricky to follow with video camera.


It’s always a delight to see the Song Thrush in the garden. It never hangs around out in the open for very long so I was very happy to capture a tiny bit of video. A few minutes later, coat on, walking out the door and something catches my eye out of the window – the Song Thrush was perched on top of my bird table seeing me away! I guess I should have expected that.

What I didn’t expect, blog browsing late last night, was a quite different winter, snow related surprise. One bulb of the snowdrop, galanthus 'Wendy's Gold' to be precise! Last week fellow blogger Anna at greentapestry had a draw for everyone who commented on her post about this special snowdrop (that she has been nurturing for several years) and my name was picked out. So that’s properly blown away any Wednesday woes :-)



This post was published by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in January 2016.

11 comments:

Sue Garrett said...

We rarely see a song thrush in our garden nowadays and the goldfinches seem to have disappeared this winter when normally we have a whole flock of them. However on my blog today I have another member of the sparrowhawk food chain. We do get sparrowhawks quite a bit in the garden often sitting in the tree or on top of the greenhouse but then one day we looked out of the window to see a young sparrowhawk only feet away on a empy plant pot plucking its latest meal.

Shirley said...

Sue, I guess the problem with the Song Thrush is that its tricky to see. The Goldfinches on the other hand are easy to hear and spot flying in - I've been missing them too.

Nice to see your images of the Blackbird today, that was the meal of choice for the Sparrowhawk in my garden yesterday. The Song Thrush kept safe - from what I saw. The Sparrowhawk will sit on my neighbour's more mature tree to oversee my garden but it has the luxury of our leylandii hedge which serves the purpose of a look-out spot, a map to find mine and neighbouring gardens with our Leylandii and Privet hedges all joining up providing one long strip and also as yesterday showed - a dining table. It's good to see close-up views but the detail of plucking and eating not so.

Lisa Greenbow said...

You have a lovely garden and the birds know it. Lucky you having a song thrush and a sparrow hawk in the garden. Great shots.
I haven't seen my snowdrops yet. Maybe after the snow melts they will pop up.

Sue Garrett said...

Song thrushes are just on the rarely seen list in our parts, Shirley.
I have two admit at intervening in a sparrowhawk versus blackbird drama at one point.A sparrowhawk flew over the garden with a blackbird screaming in its talons. It landed on one of our borders and I just had to frighten it away so that the blackbird could run away and escape under a hedge. Not very David Attenborough I'm afraid. I know that they have to hunt to eat but I just couldn't stand to let a screaming blackbird perish.

If you want to see some of our sparrowhawk photographs you can see them on our website here http://ossettweather.com/glallotments.co.uk/sparrowhawks.html

It seems from the comments on my post this morning that the blackbird is not universally loved. But we love them.

Shirley said...

Lisa, thank-you… I feel I have been the lucky one being able to see so many bird species in the garden. Pre blog, I would never have imagined this. I’ve got another Song Thrush capture that I must share soon. I didn’t want to share the Sparrowhawk video capture.

Enjoy your snowdrops when they come, ours were peeking out the ground pre cold snap. Our snow has been melting but I think the cold temps are to return in the next few days. Ah well… more garden bird watching at the window then ;-)

Shirley said...

Hello again, Sue ah… I didn’t realise that about Song Thrushes in your area. That is sad. I’ve got a treat to share I must share with you now – some garden footage taken back in 2012. I’ll get to some editing soon :-)

I had to come back to say I too have intervened regarding a screaming Blackbird too – it also got away. I agree, I wasn’t very David Attenborough either. I was surprised to see all the negative comments on your Blackbird post today. Yes, they can be a bit messy and bossy at times but I love seeing them too and the garden just wouldn’t be the same without them.

I’ll go and take a look at your Sparrowhawk photos now. For anyone else reading, here's a direct link to your images of the Sparrowhawk. I’ve an old post with Sparrowhawk footage by Dave Culley with images of Sparrowhawk chicks being fed which always puts a different perspective on birds of prey hunting.

Brian Skeys said...

We occasionally see a Sparrow Hark fly through the garden, it clipped the bird feeder one year sending it spinning. The song thrush is a rare sight in this part of the world as well. I saw the first Red Poll on the feeders before the cold weather arrived, I took it too mean cold weather was already 'Up North'.

SeagullSuzie said...

I find I'm delighted no matter what turns up in the garden, even after a sparrow hawk or a peregrine killed my beautiful visiting rock doves-they used to come to see me every day (that was in my old garden). I too have had more visitors now that winter is here. Down at the woods near the beach we have lots of birds including a number of song thrushes high up in the tree tops. Always a pleasure to see and hear these wonderful birds.

Sue Garrett said...

I was surprised too as I always think of blackbirds as a gardeners' friend not a pest. There again we don't keep pristine beds.

Off to view the link you posted now. I didn't do a direct link to mine as some people don't like visitors to do that.

Shirley said...

Hello everyone, thanks for popping by and leaving your comments. :-)

Brian, I can imagine quite a few bird feeders get clipped by Sparrowhawks. I was reading a bit about them last night describing how they regularly come to grief themselves when they are on the last stage of trying to catch their prey as they have almost tunnel vision at the end of the chase. Our first garden sighting ever was after a female had met our window with such a thump that it fell to the ground completely dazed with wings spread out. After a few minutes it got up and left. Shame to hear, like Sue, you see few Song thrushes. Good guess on our colder temps up this way although they are getting a bit warmer for the weekend so that should lift the last of our snow. Ah… I love to see the Redpolls too, no recent sightings here that I’ve noticed. Enjoy yours.

Suzie, I know that’s the way we should look at visiting birds although it is hard. You have been very forgiving. Enjoy your extra winter visitors. How wonderful to be hearing Song Thrushes in woodlands near you. I can’t imagine seeing them near a beach but I guess there will be plenty of molluscs for them to feed on there.

Sue, Ha-ha… to the pristine beds. Yep, I see Blackbirds as a gardeners’ friend too. Although… I am now remembering them behaving quite badly in my wildlife pond last year. It was nesting time so I can see why it happened, but I spotted Blackbirds ripping into a pond basket for the muddy earth for nest building. It was a fairly young pond plant too and it struggled to come back from the beak attack. However, it was the only basket without a gravel mulch so lesson learnt there! Maybe I could add a random basket of just aquatic compost for muddy nest builders this year :-) Dave Cully has a lot of great footage from his garden including Tawny Owl nest footage. Thanks, I appreciate you not leaving a direct link. Being truthful, I like to have the option of doing that myself.

myhesperidesgarden said...

Fabulous images as always from you Shirley. Here there seem to be more birds of prey than than food for them; but it is wonderful to watch the skill with which they stalk their prey.