Hope you all had a great Christmas and Happy New Year to you all.
Over the festive break I’ve been watching the birds in my garden. There was nothing out of the ordinary; apart from a Greenfinch spotted two days running, which is a rare sight these days. There was also a mixture of Tits, Blackbirds, Robins, Dunnocks and a charm of Chaffinches on a daily basis. A Fieldfare was another unusual visitor.
I also saw a female Blackcap, alone on the fat ball feeder. These rather plain looking warblers can often be seen in the winter months, as birds from Northern Europe migrate to the UK to over winter in the milder conditions, rather than migrating south to the Mediterranean. While our native birds head south for winter, these winter migrants can often be seen on feeders in gardens. They are known for not sharing the feeders and will chase other birds away while they are trying to feed. They will even defend feeders if they think the regular food is worth fighting for. As their name would suggest, the male has a black cap and the female has a chestnut-brown cap, but otherwise they look the same. They are about the size of a Chaffinch, but have a slender, dark beak. Juveniles have a chestnut-brown cap, which can make them hard to distinguish from the females. They can sometimes become regular visitors, especially in colder weather, so it’s worth keeping an eye on your feeders.
So far, the winter has been a bit strange weather wise, from snow and haw frosts to mild sunny days, but we are now going through another unsettled period with winter storms crossing the country with a vengeance! Whatever the weather, enjoy the wildlife around you.
Male Blackcap - Paul Chesterfield (rspb-images.com)
You may or may not be aware that our Big Garden Bird Watch is taking place at the end of January on the 24th and 25th, and you can register on our web site now to take part. Don’t worry if you don’t have time to register before the event, you can still do your count and then summit your results on our web site afterwards (see link below). Keep your feeders topped up as natural food will be diminishing by now. Also try to keep your birdbaths topped up, or defrosted depending on the weather, and take a look at our on line shop for food, feeders and birdbaths to encourage the bird life into your garden.
A rescue operation greeted the wildlife team at 9 am this morning. Lorna from our trading team was alarmed to hear shrill whistled calls coming from the grille in the front of her car as she arrived at work. The bird in question was a beautiful kingfisher that had gone gotten himself stuck near the radiator.
The poor chap would not budge as he was gripping his perch inside the grille very tightly. But after a few attempts we were able to free the bird. Although the RSPB is not welfare organisation we endeavor to help all wildlife in need on our doorstep. Well Done Claire and Chris!
The Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) is a beautifully striking bird. Poet Frederick William Faber descries seeing it in flight as “Swift as a meteor’s shining flame” and the ancient Greeks gruesomely believed that the birds’ body dried and hung up would keep away Zeus’ lightning.
The bird is usually found among waterways and will fish from an overhanging perch, but when no perch is available the kingfisher will make a series of short hovering flights over the water. Come May-July Kingfishers will nest in deep tubular tunnels lined with fish bones in a bank over water where they lay 5-7 eggs and usually have 2 broods. They are widespread, especially in central and southern England, becoming less common further north but following some declines last century, they are currently increasing in their range in Scotland.
Images: Naomi Rose and John Bridges