When you see something every day, it’s easy to become blasé about the beauty that’s right in front of you. With Big Garden Birdwatch just around the corner, we’ll all be looking more closely at the fabulous species that frequent our gardens, so we thought it was the perfect time to celebrate some of the best in the build up to the late January extravaganza.
What better way to do it than with a little help from my friends – well, the brilliant readers of Nature’s Home magazine who over the last 12 months have provided some absolutely stunning images of garden birds. Thank you! Take a look at these shots, and hopefully learn something you might not know about these familiar faces. You’ll never be taking these birds for granted again.
Bullfinch by Dr Mike BurgeThe bullfinch is a red-breasted beauty wrapped in a dapper grey coat and topped off with a neat black cap. I’d be glad to see one in my garden on any day, but to see one foraging for seeds shoulder deep in crisp snow would definitely make my Birdwatch. Any ideas how it got its name? Some think it is because of its bull neck, but others think it may be a variation on the name “budfinch”. These finches absolutely love to nibble on young springtime buds...
Sparrowhawk by Richard CollierMany of your views of sparrowhawks will probably be of a fact-moving bird gliding over a fence or hedgerow or slipping agilely between trees. However, from time to time, you might be treated to a very special view like this, allowing you to admire the beautiful plumage tones. Males and females look quite different in terms of size (the female is much bigger and heavier) and plumage. This bird is probably a young male, starting to show the orange feathers below.
Chaffinch by Stan DarlingDid you know that even the same individual garden bird can look completely different from month to month? Take a closer look at the plumage of your garden chaffinches and you’ll see them looking a little bit worn and dull in the breeding season, but super smart in winter and spring. The weather also plays a part in this cycle of ever changing looks. On cold days birds, like this chaffinch, puff themselves right up to make the most of their insulating feathers to keep themselves warm.
House sparrow by Vernon BarkerHouse sparrow are brown and a bit dull, right? This splendid photograph proves otherwise! Male house sparrows are a very smart colour combination of grey, black and chestnut. As winter wears on, their plumage improves too. Watch them closely and you’ll see them develop into super smart breeding plumage by the end of winter with the blacks becoming more solid.
Starling by Dave HoldenWe don’t get purple and green birds in the UK... do we? We certainly do! Keep an eye on your starlings on sunny days and watch as they jump around your feeders or strut across your lawn. The green and purple tones to their plumage, including some gorgeously spiky feathers, will inject a welcome burst of colour.
Great spotted woodpecker by John BeazleyDid you know that woodpeckers have two toes pointing forwards and two pointing back? This gives them a rock solid grip on tree trunks, as demonstrated by this bird. Combine these with a stiff tail that it presses against the tree and you can see why it is so at home in the treetops – and now at bird feeders in gardens.
Fieldfare by Jim MeikleDid you know that you could quite easily get five different species of thrush in your garden, including the Scandinavian fieldfare? Look at that chestnut and blue-grey colour combination. This winter there have already been three species of ultra-rare Asian thrushes found among the regular thrushes in UK gardens and parks, including a dusky thrush in Derbyshire, an eye-browed thrush in Northumberland and a handful of black-throated thrushes. Keep your eyes peeled - you never know...
Goldfinch by Anna WilsonThe goldfinch would not look out of place among Africa or South America’s finest, yet it is a regular and widespread visitor to all sorts of UK gardens. They can even hang upside down from their feet to extract the seeds from teasel seedheads. This photo shows brilliantly the shape of the beak, just like a pair of tweezers. Just the job.
Count the wildlife that's counting on you28-30 January is Big Garden Birdwatch. Last year, more than 519,000 people all over the UK counted an incredible 8,262,662 birds! Will you be part of Big Garden Birdwatch 2017?
I've received so many superb photographs this year from readers of Nature's Home that I wanted to end the year by sharing some more of them here on the blog. We love photos of anything from anywhere, including your gardens, local parks, local reserves and especially when they are taken on RSPB reserves! Thank you so much. I've even had several real rarities, from Oriental turtle dove to hoopoes, so please keep them coming. I love not knowing what's going to pop up on screen when I open your emails!
Here are some of my favourite shots that were all taken by Nature's Home readers on RSPB reserves - enjoy. And if you're inspired, please send your shots to firstname.lastname@example.org
This gorgeous shot of lapwings coming in to roost over Saltholme was taken by reader John Stephenson
A brilliantly-captured great white egret at Conwy by reader Jon Young. Great white egrets are now resident in many parts of the UK, so see if you can track down one of these kinky-necked lovelies this winter.
Quite probably the UK's most spectacular butterfly, the swallowtail, taken at Strumpshaw Fen in The Broads by Ian and Sarah Shreeves.
Love this shot of wrens at Fowlsheugh by Lorna Beattie. Look at those flies!
Timing was everything in this shot of a superb breeding-plumaged black-headed gull balancing on reedmace at Leighton Moss by Paul Morrell.