Thursday, 15 March 2018

Winter catch-up, some fantastic garden moments

Early February saw the male Bullfinch return to overlook the garden from a neighbour’s tree. From there, this fine sunny day, he dropped into the garden and explored the ground. He stayed a while, perching on trees and shrubs. What a delight to get such a close-up view of such a colourful bird. I've been waiting for this for a long time. This was just the start of some fantastic gardenwatching for 2018!

As always, during cold spells of winter, fat filled half coconuts get hung around the garden. They are well received by a variety of birds. Blue, Great, Coal and Long-tailed tits, Blackbirds, Starlings, Magpies and Carrion crows were all seen feeding on them as was the Robin.


A grumpy looking Blue tit caught my camera eye, it was a bit scruffy but a closer look showed that its beak was not as it should be, being longer with the top overlapping the bottom. No wonder it was grumpy. It seemed to feed ok so that was good to see.

A Woodpigeon (or two) discovered how to get the peanuts in the squirrel feeder. Snow came and went and I was pleased I didn’t cut down the sedum stems last autumn. Apples continued to be offered to tempt possible passing Fieldfares and Waxwings, the Blackbirds and Starlings enjoyed them.

As everyone here in the UK will remember, February ended with some serious snow flurries and extensive drifting where we were advised not to travel unless an emergency. We were used to snow conditions here in Scotland but this was a new level. Our area was issued with a red alert weather warning by the Met Office – a first for Scotland. There was major disruption throughout the UK with areas in the far South getting high levels of snow too.



Out in the garden, snow being blown about in all directions covered low bird feeding areas and prompted the building of a snow igloo-esk structure. Birds were nervous out in the snow for fear of predation but some discovered this food source like Blackbirds and a Song Thrush.

A jumbo, 12 port seed feeder with sunflower hearts didn’t see much business with the smaller finches. Winter conditions usually brought them in large mixed flocks but they were nowhere to be seen. This was unusual, I was worried for them. I was delighted to see them reappear in this last week, with good numbers of Goldfinches and high numbers of Siskins. More apples were put out, just in case…



Yay… Fieldfares arrived on March 3rd, the snow was still with us and the colourful apples must have caught their attention. I was thrilled! A large group landed on my neighbour’s tree overlooking the apples. In previous Winters, we had seen an odd single Fieldfare come in to feed on apples but this was a group of at least 20. They bounced excitedly around the branches of this tree before beginning their descent down to the garden. However, all didn’t go to plan.

The apples already had a regular diner, apart from the Blackbirds and Starlings and this bird was becoming very possessive of the 20+ apples on offer, chasing others away. I originally thought it was a Song Thrush until I saw this behaviour and the size difference with other birds. A Mistle Thrush, one bird, was to stop the Fieldfares feasting on the apples I put out to attract and feed them.

The Fieldfares began their descent, running along the top of my hedge, dropping down to my homemade feeder tree structure, the branches of the Pine trees beside it and other trees and shrubs in the garden nearby. The Mistle Thrush wasted some considerable energy chasing them, it was hard to believe that this one bird stopped a group of birds feed. It did and successfully too.



The main group of Fieldfares finally gave up and flew away. Aww… it was still fantastic to see them all. A few more determined ones stayed and landed around the garden watching and waiting but the bossy ‘King of the Apple Castle’ spotted them and the chase was on again. The Mistle Thrush continued to patrol this area of the garden with almost Sparrowhawk like body language and fed like a King. I did see odd Fieldfares get to feed when the Mistle Thrush briefly moved away but what a wasted food opportunity for the group.

On my, deep snow, walk to the Supermarket to get more apples I had spotted Fieldfares bouncing through gardens in search of berries. They were fun to watch as they travelled down the street alongside me. So I knew they were in the area before they arrived in my garden.

Now that the snow is as good as all gone, as I said above, large groups of Finches (especially Siskins) have been attracting my attention at the feeder tree. They have been seen squabbling with each other and the seed is running down fast. It has been great to finally see the larger nyjer seed feeder get used too. The bossy Mistle Thrush seems to have moved on too, a good number of species are visiting just now and the garden is getting very busy again. I was delighted to see this and not looking for any new visitors...



Well, what a shock it was to wander into the kitchen to fill the kettle on a dull Tuesday morning to look out the window to see three brownish birds I didn’t recognise as regulars feeding on the apples. Then I spotted what looked like a prominent crest!! Never, ever, expecting to actually see Waxwings feeding in my garden… there they were! Wow, just wow.

Walking swiftly through to my gardenwatch window and slowly towards my camera, I got to it in time which was brilliant as this often doesn’t happen. However, these birds weren’t in a hurry to move and I got some garden record shots of this fantastic moment of gardenwatching, like having red squirrels visit, I could never have imagined I’d see in my small town garden. I also had time with their visit to just quietly watch them. What a privilege and delight :-)

Was that the first day Waxwings had been feasting on the garden apples, that I didn’t know but I was so very lucky to be at home and look out the window at the right time to see these ones. I still can’t believe it. Did I see them yesterday morning as I filled the kettle, no I didn’t but I did spot another first for 2018…



So there we have it, the nesting season has officially begun in my area with the Blackbirds. This female Blackbird was collecting blades of dried out ornamental grasses. She’ll find a lot of them around too as I haven’t been tidying up. I need to get out in the garden to lift the flowering bittercress weeds and get some pruning done but I will leave dry prunnings in corners where the birds will be able to find them (like under my hedge).

Aware that today is also Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day, I nipped out to the garden last night to see what flowers I could spot with the help of outside lighting. Happy GBBD to everyone taking part! That’s the garden flowering season properly started here too with Spring bulbs, Crocus, Iris and the wonderful Snowdrops and Snowflakes (my preferred kind of snowflakes) and Hellebores.



Oh dear… I see I’ve forgotten to prune my wisteria! I will get to that over the weekend, pruning all healthy stems back to two sets of buds. After many years this pruning has reliably produced flowers which I never cease to get delighted to watch open. The bees are happy to see them too :-)

Also, Hedgehogs have been spotted out and about in March in previous years so I need to sweep out my hedgehog feeding station and put out regular food and fresh water in the evenings to help them put on weight after their winter hibernation.

Wow… it’s all go now for the gardenwatch year! Another job for the weekend is emptying the camera nestbox (after a deserted, part nest build last year) so that prospective tenants for 2018 can view it in earnest. The seasons of a garden have much to keep our interest that’s for sure. Enjoy yours!


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

12 comments:

Sue Garrett said...

How brilliant to have a waxwing - it’s a bird that I have never seen and we only very rarely have siskins or field fares visit our garden.

Lea said...

That's a lot of snow! Glad you could find a few plants for Bloom Day
Loved seeing all the birds, especially the Waxwings!
Happy Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day!

Lisa Greenbow said...

Oh Shirley, I am so happy you shared all your feathered sightings with us. What a thrill to get Waxwings in your garden. They are the most handsome birds. You did have a great variety of birds in your garden. That is the only thing that is good about such severe winters. More birds do seem to come to the feeders. It is amazing that some birds are beginning to nest in your area. The birds here are all setting up territories and doing some singing but it is still too cold for them to do much else. We are having a cooler than normal March so far. Your blooms are about like mine. I don't have much else to write about except a few hyacinths and daffodils are up. My earliest ones. I will look forward to reports on hedge hogs and other garden excitements. Cheers...

Lisa Greenbow said...

P.S. I love that picture of the pigeon cramming itself into the pnut feeder. ha... Where there is a will there is a way. It reminds me of how our red-winged blackbirds get on tube feeders they are too big for and contort themselves to try for seeds.

outlawgardener said...

Waxwings are such beautiful birds. How lucky that they visited your garden. Happy GBBD! Let's hope that's the last you see of old man winter this year!

Lee@A Guide to Northeastern Gardening said...

Your photographs are beautiful Shirley and such a variety of bird visitors. The Waxwings are stunning and not a species we get to see around here. We have had a crazy month here as well with three snow storms in two weeks, bulbs trying to emerge and more snow. It's nice to see you have some blooms fighting the elements!

Ali, The Mindful Gardener said...

We had fieldfares for the first time; we had to look them up because they were new to us. They looked almost menacing as they gathered on the trees around our garden. I think our cotoneaster brought them in. Thanks for sharing your knowledge - I am new to birdwatching, but it is bringing such joy.

Shirley said...

Hello everyone, thanks for all your comments they are very much appreciated :-)

Sue, I am honestly still in shock that I saw these Waxwings in my garden, I didn’t see the MIstle Thrush this time and have wondered if it would have chased the Waxwings as it did the Fieldfares. Sad to hear you rarely see siskins with you. Ours come in waves and it’s during harsh weather we can see high numbers and not seeing that this time I was concerned about their survival in the cold. I knew their numbers have been increasing in this last week but spookily as I write this, outside my window there were too many to count. They filled the 12-port feeder (along with a couple of Goldfinches and a few Greenfinches, they queued on my neighbours tree above (12 or so) they queued on my feeder branches, pine and acer trees (estimate 12 +) and they fed on the ground (a mixed group and hard to see but guessing another 20+ by the continuous movement on the ground). When they all flew away with a blast of wind, there was quite a mass! Our odd Fieldfare visits are rare too, that I see, but this was the first time a large group came and they were a serious treat to see.

Lea, hello and thanks for stopping by :-) Our snow will be low in levels I expect you get and actually low for us but it was the fine quality way this snow drifted together with low that caused major travel disruption throughout the UK. I love your cedar waxwings, I have admired them many times in blogs from the US :-)

Lisa, I am especially delighted to share all these sightings with you with you have visited for so long and having heard about all the new species of wildlife that have discovered my garden. I could never have guessed what would come to small garden when I began this blog. It shows what can happen if you provide food, water and shelter. I loved that pigeon cramming in too – I considered posting that image on Valentine ’s Day but with the wings being heart-shaped. It is funny seeing the acrobats of birds to get at food. I was surprised by the Blackbird collecting material too. Wishing you warmer tempt for your plants and working in the garden :-)

outlaw, hello and thanks for stopping by :-) They are and your cedars are quite special looking birds to me. I was just thrilled to see ours as they don’t visit gardens often here. I don’t think the temps of old man winter are done yet but fingers crossed that’s the last of the snow at our height levels :-)

Lee, hello and thanks for stopping by :-) thank-you, I enjoy taking photos through my window. I never thought of your cedar waxwings not being seen throughout the US. I guess now the area is too large. We’ve been hearing in the news about your storms – it really has been a full on winter. I enjoyed seeing your GBBD blooms – I see more trying to come through here in the last few days.

Ali, enjoy the delights of being new to bird watching. It’s great entertainment too. I was new to birds and wildlife when I began this blog over 11 years ago and have been staggered with what has found me garden with just a few tweaks from me. Yes, I would guess too that your cotoneaster berries would attract them. I think they would choose berries over apples every time. I know what you mean about the menacing feel of a large group of birds. I have learned to love looking at how the groups works and moves and found it fascinating. Enjoy the joy birdwatching and all wildlife watching can bring :-)

Midmarsh John said...

What a lovely varied selection of feathered visitors Shirl. The bird feeding 'igloo' was a brilliant idea.
With all the felling of old and dangerous trees and trimming of greenery in my and surrounding gardens I get less visitors and a drastic reduction in varieties at the moment. My apples are always visited by blackbirds and occasionally by Wood Pigeons. The Starlings tried one once but I don't think they liked them.

rusty duck said...

Waxwings! I have never seen one. They look far too exotic for here don't they? I feed the birds as much as I can but living in the middle of a wood we struggle endlessly with squirrels. I've tried every 'squirrel proof' feeder on the market and some. The latest one has defeated them so far but you can see them trying to work out how to get at it. And I'm sure they will sooner or later. Our first was a pair of red-legged partridges one morning last week. And now we have snow back again!

Brian Skeys said...

A wonderful range of winter visitors you have there Shirley, I am envious of your Bullfinch and waxwings. We have the snow returned this weekend so plenty of bird food out.

Shirley said...

Hello to you all, thanks for all your comments they are very much appreciated :-)

John, it was and it kept going too throughout the weekend. Thanks, the igloo would have worked better without the drifting snow clearance required but some birds did use it which was great. Ah Starlings will take apples here when it’s really cold. So sorry to hear about the felling of trees with you, guessing it was necessary, and fully understand the impact of bird visitors to your garden. I had a friend that this happened to. Fingers crossed you’ve enough cover for them to return to your garden :-)

Rusty, Yes, Waxwings – I still truly am in shock. They were on a very ambitious wishlist too. Yes, I agree, very exotic especially in good light. That dull morning, they just looked like another brown bird initially although I didn’t recognise their shape. Ah… I’d imagine you’ve a completely different experience with visiting birds than I have hear in my small, small town garden. Aw to your squirrel problems, I can easily imagine your frustration. I have to admit to putting up a feeder for squirrels – after seeing red ones (3 different ones spotted). Yes, I know how very lucky I am there too. Good luck with the greys. Red-legged partridges I’ve seen in fields – what a treat that must have been. They are beauties :-)

Brian, We have been very lucky, the Bullfinch hasn’t become a regular which is a shame but no complaints after getting to see him closer-up. The Waxwings were just amazing to see. Hope you got interesting visitors with the snow!