Friday, 2 February 2018

Surprise garden sightings

Last Sunday saw a fantastic colour splash from a bird that has never been counted from this garden during the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch! Last September saw sunshine through golden Acer leaves and a late garden nest build never seen either – any guesses there? I’ll leave you thinking on that for now.

The Bullfinch had been on my garden wishlist for some time now – the stunning male in particular. I can’t believe it flew in landing on my popular Acer tree along with some blue/great tits during my count. What luck! On odd occasions I had seen it eating berries from a distant neighbour’s tree – only a few times though. My OH and daughter had reported a couple of garden sightings to me before I saw two very brief ones myself. It has never been seen feeding as yet, perhaps one day I might be able to capture some video/photos but until then...

Bullfinch male, not my photograph, Wikipedia Creative Commons Licence


Bullfinch female, not my photograph, Wikipedia Creative Commons Licence


A flash of yellow from Siskins was spotted during my count (2x male, 1x female) and to encourage them and perhaps redpolls again a new larger nyjer seed feeder is hanging now. From past experience, this food takes time to be discovered (almost a week on and no takers) but when it does it will bring in a great variety of visitors.

Woodpigeons, closely followed by Blackbirds, should have topped my garden list last Sunday and they did appear, but only just (Woodpigeon x1, Blackbirds 1x male & 1x female). Although numbers weren’t high I was delighted to have a good species count of 13. It was great to be at my window again and be able to see what species are visiting just now.

The full birdcount species list was: Blackbird (2), Dunnock (2), Robin (2), Wren (1), Blue tit (2), Great tit (2), Coal tit (2), Goldfinch (1), Siskin (3), Bullfinch (1), Woodpigeon (1), Magpie (1) and top of the list for 2018 the Starling (4). That’s good news for the Starling as its status on the conservation list is Red. I should add here though that four is a small garden visiting group from what I’ve seen here.

Maybe the Starlings had been deliberately spreading their numbers around the gardens to show things are on the up for them now. They certainly had me looking up to the skies in the evenings over the weekend. They swooped around from side to side, shape shifting over the rooftops and around the mature trees I can see from the garden. Serious show-offs for the birdcount they were, as my count was over and there’s no way I could have counted a murmuration!

Starling murmurations are just fascinating to watch and I got a real feel for speed as they went low just above my window – wow what a delight that was! There were two groups that I saw swooping around but probably many more joined later in open spaces away from the houses. A real spectacle this behaviour is.

As mentioned above, currently it is the Woodpigeon that more regularly takes the highest number of visits to our garden. They’ve even discovered how to feed from the squirrel feeder. I’d say they were almost at the point of nuisance at times but OH and daughter love to watch them. In past summers this bird has built and added to a nest space hidden in the ivy above my pergola. Eggs have been laid too but I suspect magpies discovered where they were.

Why on earth then did a pair of woodpigeons decide to build a nest in the open, central garden location of a small Acer tree about to drop its leaves? Back on September 17th 2017 the bird feeders were in need of a top-up and when out filling them up I spotted this surprise late nest build and set up the video camera on a tripod and left it running. Below is the capture that caught my eye where the male gave the female some taps of encouragement. The focus was set to auto so moves out and in a couple of times.


Woodpigeon nest video, 1min 54sec sound from garden only, try HD quality.


Could Woodpigeons actually successfully raise chicks late September in Scotland? I had no idea, although fun to think they could, I had concerns. This late build was in far too open and busy an area of the garden and after much hurried activity over a few days it was deserted. This woodpigeon pair may have been successful elsewhere but I’m so glad they moved on as strong winds soon after this footage was taken shook the thin acer branches and broke-up the nest. Now, I really don’t want them returning to this vulnerable tree in 2018.

So what are the real top birds in your garden just now? Have you had any surprise sightings recently? It’s very clear by watching the garden just now that birds are pairing up. We’ve definitely got the blue/great/coal tits visiting in pairs. Three robins are around at the moment too and two are definitely ok feeding near each other suggesting a pair and there is a chase on with the other. Have you seen any nesting activity yet? What about nestbox viewings? We've seen Blue and Great tits viewing ours - they always compete for this one.

Looking out to the garden borders now and spring bulbs. How are yours doing? Have you any surprise sightings of flowers? I must get out in the garden over the weekend to take a look. Oh dear, reading this over I see I've asked a lot of questions this time! Sorry :-) Wishing you a great garden and wildlife weekend!


This post was published by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in February 2018.

5 comments:

Growing with Mer said...

Lovely article, I really like the Bullfinch, they are a delightful addition to any garden. My friends have a large window in their kitchen, so I gave them some bird feed to put out so they can watch the birds. Apparently they love it, wish I had a garden :)

Sue Garrett said...

We occasionally get a pair of bullfinches on our sunflower hearts. We have also had siskins on the same feeder in the past but not for a couple of years. As for redpolls just one once.

The Wessex Reiver said...

Bullfinches are on the rise - albeit slowly. More interestingly much like jays, they seem to be becoming more tolerant of human activity. For years I either saw a white flash of a bullfinch disappearing into a shrub, or a white flash of a jay as it angrily called whilst disappearing into a woodland. Jays I now see perched in trees regularly, and I'm seeing bullfinches in places they never were before (or at least not in my time). Lovely birds indeed, though not in my garden yet. On Christmas Eve we visited the WWT Washington reserve - surrounded by Wearside industry this oasis is home to a large population of "bullies" 6 males on three feeders - a magical way to kick off the festive season. Fingers crossed they come to your feeders soon (sunflower hearts a favourite}

Brian Skeys said...

I had my first quick glimpse of a Bullfinch a couple of weeks ago. Our most common birds are goldfinch, house sparrow and starling.

Shirley said...

Hello again to you all, thanks for leaving your comments especially when it’s been a while between posts :-)

Mer, thanks for popping by. It’s great you are able to feed the birds without having a garden. I’m sure your friends appreciate your help too :-)

Sue, that’s great you are seeing the Bullfinch too. I’ve yet to see it at the feeders but it has been back exploring the garden. I have been delighted to see our siskins return after the cold spell and with them not visiting in large mixed flocks we’ve seen no redpoles this time.

Andrew, that’s good to hear. This one has visited longer after this but as yet isn’t joining the rest of the birds at the feeders (not that I’ve seen anyway). It’s certainly good to know their numbers are on the rise (Jays too). There are always sunflower hearts here so hopefully it will take advantage of them sometime and become a regular visitor. Your sighting does sound a great start to the year :-)

Brian, that’s interesting timing with you seeing them too. Our goldfinches are back and Starlings always pop by too but house sparrows are around but not much at my feeders.