With snow covering everything and temperatures still low come Saturday morning, the scene was set for a great Birdwatch. I opted out of a morning session because I know that there is a good flurry of feeding activity in my garden mid afternoon - a wise decision.
When we went to view our house and I saw that we backed onto a big field which is managed sympathetically for wildlife, overlooked the local river and gravel pits (a major migration flyway) and had an old scrubby reservoir bank just one hundred yards away, any problems with the interior just weren't an issue anymore - I wanted that house (and luckily we got it).
The reason I mention this is because there is so much habitat for birds that it feels as if they don't really need my garden and the offerings in it - my birds are spoiled for choice which meant Big Garden Birdwatch might not be as good as I thought. On Friday night, I went all out, pulling out all my big guns of half a dozen different foodstuffs and putting them in every feeder and position possible. This really did the trick.
Long-tailed tit - on my fruity nibbles and on my Big Garden Birdwatch list (photo by Nigel Blake)
Early highlights were a sparrowhawk pausing briefly and a goldcrest making a fleeting visit. A song thrush was a top "in the garden" bird - again, I can hear three different males from my garden in spring, but because of that abundance of habitat, they rarely have to drop in. The usuals of one pair of blue tits, one of great tits, one of dunnock and one of robin showed up and three magpies paid a visit. The best was saved until late on when four long-tailed tits came in to my fruity suet pellets and the fat cake I'd hung up on Friday. and five starlings couldn't resist either Then a great spotted woodpecker came to have a look and while I was eating lunch, a slightly odd looking small bird at the fat cake kept catching my eye until I excused myself to get the binoculars on it - a female blackcap! It had a good nibble on the cake before disappearing (but returned the next day). This is another bird that can be heard easily in spring from the garden, but this was a first at the feeders. Interesting to think this is a German blackcap rather than part of our breeding population that migrates south in autumn.
I was really pleased with my watch and although not countable on the Birdwatch, a half an hour session watching from the garden at dusk produced a short-eared owl flying over the field, viewed from my bottom hedge (completeing my set of five owls seen from the garden), a little owl flying past, two woodcocks flying out at dusk (one flew right over my head) and a covey of seven grey partridges just over the hedge right next to a covey of nine red-legged partridges completed a great day literally on my doorstep. Finally, hundreds of wigeon flew up the river valley - a sure sign that the thaw was setting in (which it did - by Sunday all the snow had gone).
So that's how it was for me. Let me know how you got on and don't forget to send in your results please!
Glad you made it along to The Lodge! Hope you can come again. I know what you mean about scarecrow head - it's been so windy this week.
Fantastic news about your red kite and glad the woodpecker posed for you.
I will thank the staff at The Lodge shop for you. I was down there yesterday in my lunch break buying bird food (mine are really getting through it at the moment) and am going back for more today. There have been bramblings under the feeders there yesterday, and lots of lesser redpolls and siskins so well worth a look next time you are here. You should get some good shots of birds on those feeders from the wooden "pagoda" by the lawn.
Forgot to say (I'm stalking by pen now) that's a great idea I am going to make one a log with holes in and I have now got a quick release mount adapted to my tripod so if Mr Kite comes again if i am lucky I will be ready to try and get some better examples
Just a note to bring you up to date doesn't things move fast in the bird world (ha ha) I have only been a member for a week I visited the Lodge in Sandy on Wednesday got there later than estimated but still managed 2.5 hours at the hide what a windy day had my scarecrow head on by time I got back to the car but what a great place and a lot of hard work has gone into the parts that I saw absolutely loved it it was great to get a picture of the woodpecker who visited the nuts 3 times and on the 3rd time with a few people in the hide a squirrel ran up the stalk and hung down to try and get the nuts and scared Mr woody off I also saw some rabbits but the important bit I got pics of the chaffinch lovely colorful bird I asked the couple sitting next to me what it was and they helped me with that one and the little yellow breasted birds that was having a splash (or bath) in the back pond got some photos of them too (see if any are good enough to keep when I sort them tomorrow hopefully) will put them up on my link so a really worthwhile trip lovely people in the shop really helpful especially taking time to explain about binoculars (my 4 pairs I took with me) so I tried those ones out too and decided which pair to keep and gave the other 3 pairs in to the lady in the shop who will send them off to the scheme you run as I can only use one pair and most of the time I use the camera then when I was in my office with camera set up on tripod(at Home) a great surprise for me was a red kite was flying around in the sky as I did not have a quick release on the tripod I literally fell over everything grabbed the tripod changed some setting (legs of tripod really get in the way) and thrusting my camera 45 degrees upward started shooting through the top of the window I was pleased to get a few OK shots (better than none) as I Wanted to share that with everyone as its the first time I have seen this bird in south Milton Keynes I only know these birds from when I worked in the Chilton district and they fascinated me I used to spend my breaks looking for them up to 6 birds at a time I used to take pics then of them but with a zoom point and shoot camera (now those were bad pics) where I was working the chap told me a lot about them and got me to listen for that loud call that's how I knew when they were around so I would pop out and take some more bad pictures, I posted my OK pics of the Milton Keynes one on the forum site and a few members wrote back to me which was great as I been looking at there pictures (2 hours time fly's by) and they have the same birds I have been shooting (with the camera) with the names on so this is what I call quick learning great site great people great birds well done RSPB
Rodney (Looking forward to my next scarecrow hair day)
PS thank all the staff in the lodge shop if you see them for me sorry this was going to be a short note RL
Another bit of excitement this morning with a reed bunting on my hanging seed feeder. The usual chaffinch looked a bit put out but they took it in turns! My girlfriend's parent have a big log hanging from their tree with holes drilled in. They squash fat balls in to the holes and the woodpecker is a regular. That said, they made me one and although the smaller birds come, the woodpecker hasn't yet landed. I think it's another one of thosen cases of my birds having too much choice!
Sounds like a great place you have there and a nice selection of birds in your area that's why I moved out to the country for some peace and quite and to get a bit nearer some wildlife love where I am at the moment but always dreaming of the ideal place I sent my count in was a bit of a mixture mainly dominated by the starlings which I think some of them were young ones as well as robins magpies pigeon and blackbirds and one lonely sparrow and the blackcap back again that's good there were plenty of gulls I think in the farmers field later on in the day not sure what they were feeding on as I did not have my scope set up I am still trying to attract a woodpecker there are a couple in my area that I have seen close by but not in my garden