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Sunday, 14 February 2016

Snow! - on 17th January, 2016

In 2014 we had our record year for the number of bird species in our garden with 38 species putting a foot down (fly-overs don't count!). We hit exactly the same figure in 2015, although the mix was slightly different. Fieldfare, Redwing and Whitethroat from 2014 were replaced by Grey Heron, Mistle Thrush and Pied Wagtail in 2015. I was sad to have missed out on Fieldfare and Redwing for the whole year, but the Heron was a bit of a surprise as it must be four or five years since we've had a pond in the garden!

2016  has got off to a reasonable start, although the very mild winter has meant fewer birds visiting us in desperation  - an altogether 'good thing' really! 

You can find my 2015 garden list, and my 2016 list to-date, in the right hand column of this blog.

I originally intended to do a post on my garden birds in winter. However, on 17th January we had a fall of snow, although not nearly as much as they had just 10 km away! This change in weather brought plenty of birds to our garden, so this post will totally focus on that day, although not all species seen were photographed. It was a dull day, so photography was not good, although it would have been far worse without the new camera! Some of the images, below, are shown 'just for the record'. With the exception of the last image, they were all taken through the glass of my study window, and in the morning.

It seems that not too many people in this area get Redpoll to their garden feeders. We've been having them every winter for some years now, and if we get a day we don't see one, it's usually because we haven't been looking!

Lesser Redpoll (Carduelis flammea ssp. cabaret) (male) - our garden on 17th January
Chaffinch is a regular all-year-round visitor, although numbers build up in the winter. Sometimes they bring a Brambling or two in with them, but it hasn't happened so far this winter.

Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs) (male) - our garden on 17th January
At one time, many years ago, Greenfinch used to be the most common bird in our garden - then they all but disappeared. Now, I'm delighted to say, their numbers are building up again.

Greenfinch (Carduelis chloris) (male) - our garden on 17th January
Bullfinch is an occasional visitor, although we've been getting more sightings than usual over the past six months.

Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) (male) - our garden on 17th January
The real star sighting of the day was a Grey Wagtail that stayed around all morning. We used to get Grey Wagtail when we had a pond. For some reason, we've started seeing them again occasionally. It makes me wonder if there's some genetic imprint there that brings back subsequent generations?

Grey Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea) (male) - our garden on 17th January
Long-tailed Tit are an occasional visitor, and usually come in a small group. On this morning we had nine of them. Here's one:

Long-tailed Tit (Aegithalos caudatus) - our garden on 17th January
We see a Wren on most days in the winter, but relatively rarely in the summer. To me they're delightful little birds and always bring a smile to my face.

Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes) - our garden on 17th January
The ever-present Goldfinches add a splash of colour to the garden. They are particularly feisty, and will aggressively discourage other considerably larger birds that try and compete with them for the sunflower hearts.

Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis) - our garden on 17th January
As we'd been doing quite well for birds, I took my camera with me when we went into the conservatory for lunch. I'm glad that I did so as we had a rare visit from a Reed Bunting, at 13h10. It was, however, at a distance.

Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus) (male) - our garden on 17th January
We ended up with 21 species for the day (our best daily total so far this year) as follows (alphabetical list with maximum numbers in brackets):-

Blackbird (6); Bullfinch (2); Bunting, Reed (1); Chaffinch (9); Dove, Collared (11); Dunnock (1); Goldfinch (9); Greenfinch (1); Magpie (1); Redpoll, Lesser (3); Robin (1); Sparrow, House (5); Starling (5); Tit, Blue (1); Tit, Coal (1); Tit, Great (1); Tit, Long-tailed (9); Treecreeper (1); Wagtail, Grey (1); Woodpigeon (5); Wren (1). 

Finally, if you've not seen this video, please watch it. My thanks to Linda Yarrow for bringing it to my attention:

Thank you for dropping by. I suspect that my next post will feature owls again - but who knows!!


  1. The male Bullfinch does it for me. A stunning bird and nicely captured Richard.

    1. Thank you, Marc. I alaway think that the bullfinch is a very handsome bird (male and female). They always appear to be in pristine condition. However, the trick is to photograph them before they get to the feeders as they are extremely messy eaters and invariably end up with beaks covered in bits of sunflower heart!

  2. Never had even a Redpoll never mind a Lesser, that's a great garden visitor. Despite my feeders being dominated by Finches I'm yet to attract a Bullfinch down, plenty flyover though, so one day.
    The video is poignant and spot on.

    1. I've found myself getting confused by the Redpoll situation, Doug. It's my understanding that the bird that we usually get in England is smaller (and darker) than (Common) Redpolls elsewhare, and is known as Lesser Redpoll or by its latin name of subspecies cabaret. Most of the birds we get are significantly smaller than the Goldfinches that they feed alongside. However, we do get quite a few of them, and occasionally one will show up that as big as (or bigger than) a Goldfinch, and sometimes considerably paler than our usual Redpolls, so I've had a suspicion that maybe we're getting a visitor of the nominate race, or even the Greenland race (rostrata). At least two of the Redpolls in the garden this year have been ringed but, frustratingly, I've only managed to get a very partial ID on the rings. I suspect it would be useless to report the 'partials'. It would be interesting to me, however, to know where they'd come from.

      Have a great weeek - - - - Richard

    2. It's interesting, Richard, that Lesser Redpoll is not even recognized as a species by North American taxonomists, and there is even talk that Arctic Redpoll may be once again grouped with Common Redpoll as a single species, with distinct subspecies.

    3. It could well be, David, that my Collins Guide is out of date on the subject of Redpolls. I think that I'll defer to simplicity and just refer to the birds as Redpolls in future! I'm pretty sure that I've not had an Arctic Redpoll, however.

  3. Wonderful collection of outstanding Garden Visitors Richard,fancy having Treecreeper and Lesser Redpoll among them.
    The snow really shows them of,I see the new camera works well,also enjoyed watching the Video.

    1. Thank you, John. It's on days like that that it's hard to find the incentive to go out - particularly as this was a Sunday and not the best of days to do a bit of quiet birdwatching uninterrupted by too many people being around.

      Treecreeper is quite a rare vistor to the garden, but when it does visit it tends to hang around for several days. On this occasion it was with us for an exceptional nine days, and we've seen it once since then too.

  4. Not only are you getting a good selection but you have some cracking shots. I ought to start taking bird pictures again but there always seems to be something else to do.

    1. Thank you, Adrian. I know that situation where there is always something else to do - I've got a huge mound of 'something elses' stacking up behind me. I suspect it's only a matter of time before Mrs. P. puts her foot down!

      Have a great week - - - Richard

  5. I think that's a fine selection by any standards, Richard.

  6. Incredibly fine birds!The grey wagtail! Lapland sometimes we see the grey wagtail in the summer.

    1. Thank you, Anne. I suspect that you find me commenting on our sprinkling of snow to be quite amusing, when compared to the snow that you get in Finland!

  7. Hello Richard,
    You are so lucky to have had snow this winter, I am still waiting for.... frost!!
    And so many more species are "setting foot" at you place than at mine.
    Brilliant post :)
    But more important is that video you are showing, thanks fro bringing it to our attention.
    There is a huge message in it and this is "Love".
    Love and respect are the only elements that can heal our planet for obvious reasons but also not so obvious ones.
    In short, Humanity - as a whole - has to wake up and bring the system down, not by civil wars but with love.
    The governing elites are playing us against each other like violins, killing us and nature as a game.
    Here is link that explains all this very well and in details and why it is done.

    This guy (and many more) has been working for 25 years at denouncing all of it and most of what he foretold has happened and is happening - I know since we went to his first international conference in Johannesburg. We, people - have to open our eyes and stop playing into the system.

    Do you know that in a number of countries (I know it for a fact in Australia with my grand children) kids can't attend school unless they have received at least 22 vaccines before the age of 2??!
    22 vaccines???? What on earth are they injecting into their bodies? No wonder all of a sudden many people get cancer and are infertile...
    It is difficult to talk about these things on blogs and especially in comments forms, but I am starting to feel very strongly about all of it.
    And this video shows that Jeremy Irons is quite aware of it too and his message is very accurate: "love" and refusing to play the social system's game.

    Keep well and share warm hugs with Lindsay :)

    1. Dearest Noushka. Thank you for your kind comments on my latest post. I'm sure you get a much larger variety of birds and wildlife on your property than I do on mine - it's just that yours are spread over a massively larger area!

      The older I get, the more cynical I become about what is going on in the world, and I can't help but feel that matters will come to a head soon - possibly in years or just a few decades. I had a look at the youtube link that you included. Please be very careful! David Icke has a very mixed reputation here in UK. He is clearly a very clever man, but is also a professional conspiracy theoryist. I'm not knowledgeable enough to know what is fact and what is supposition, and will probably never know the truth. I'm happy to be concerned, and to register my concerns at a high level, but I do not want to live in fear, and if I pay too much attention to what David Icke is saying I think I could find myself doing just that.

      My simplistic view of the plight of the planet and its occupants is that the main destructive force is selfishness (in many forms), and that universal love and respect of the planet and its occupants would leave no place for selfishness to exist.

      I'll share those warm hugs with Lindsay on her return - Thank you!

  8. Hi Richard, again some wonderful images of your garden birds, the Redpoll i such a lovely bird. The video is most certainly soul searching and so very true, we will have nothing left for future generations.

    1. Thank you, John. It currently looks as if the weather is not going to be too bad for Thursday! See you soon - - Richard

  9. Beautiful photos, so many birds we never see here, maybe we should put in a pond, but we have not got room for one worth having. Too many fruit trees and a large vegetable patch.

    As for the video I think Noushka has answered it perfectly. We live in the country and basically live off the land, so much more healthy than buying food we have no idea what it had on it or what it has grown in. People certainly need to learn respect for our world and for our animals that are diminishing at a frightening rate. As for love, if only the politicians had a little more instead of destroying, people, land and history. One tyrant can kill a country as we see looking at various parts of the world.
    Take care and enjoy life, Diane

    1. Thank you, Diane. Please be aware that one of the reasons we scrapped our pond was because of the huge amount of time it took maintaining it.

      I hope you're having a good week - - Richard

    2. My folks had a fish pond in Rhodesia and yes I know about maintenance! They also had a problem with a hamerkop that kept eating their fish, somehow the pond is not the same with a grill over it!

  10. You are very lucky Richard with the variety of species that you are able to attract to your garden, or maybe not lucky but just rewards for your continued feeding? A great set of images mate, especially the Grey Wagtail......

    1. It's taken a while to build up the garden birds to this level, Paul, and I suspect that the more birds you get, the more birds they attract. My DAILY bird food outlay is between 1 and 1.5 KG !

      Thanks for your kind words - - Richard

  11. Hello Richard, sorry for my late reaction but sometimes there are other matters that ask my attention. I am impressed with the long list of birds that come and vissit your garden. What do you offer in the restaurant that they enjoy so much? The snow gives your photos extra dimension and I love it. Thank you for the video and the message.
    Take care,

    1. Hi Roos. Sorry to take so long to reply to your comment. It's been one of those weeks!!

      The main food attraction for the birds is sunflower hearts. These are offered in mesh trays on poles and also in trays on the ground. I get throu a kilogram or more of these each day! In addition to this I offer a mixed seed mixture in a tubular feeder - mainly for the House Sparrows. I also use giant fat balls from a German company (Erdtmanns). I offer peanuts in suspended feeders, but the take up of these is very slow and they usually start to go mouldy before they are all eaten. More recently, I bought a 'Flutter Butter De Luxe Feeder' when there was an introductory offer on from The refills for these feeder are quite expensive and so popular with the birds that they were going in less than 24 hours!!, so I've found some glass jars of the same size, and make my own refills. I melt lard in a saucepan and add peanuts that I've blitzed in a food processor so that the peanuts are almost down to a powder. I then spoon it into jars and keep it in the fridge until I want to use it. It's not so popular as the commercial stuff, so it works out very much cheaper! It's also important to offer water, particularly when 'natural water' is frozen. I have three 'water stations' in my small garden and they are all used by the birds for drinking and bathing.

    2. Thank you for your answer Richard. Such dedication for the birds. No wonder it is Paradise for them. I have mostly House Sparrows on my terras I feed them mixed seeds and also lard and peanuts or meal worms. As I live in a little town two stores high it is amazing the birds know to find it.

  12. Hi Richard, I have got behind looking at the blogs this week, I have been without the internet for a week, had to get the BT engineer to sort out the problem with the broadband. Thankyou for liking the video and posting it on your blog. As I was looking at your wonderful pictures of the wonderful birds in your garden I was turning green, green with envy, you are lucky to have so many different species of birds. I imagine your garden is an open garden judging by the number of Collared doves and Woodpigeons and that you had a Magpie. My garden is more woodland, my doing, I planted a few trees with the assumption that it would be years before they become mature, as you may guess, they have matured and we are having to trim them each year, the birds I get tend to be those that prefer woodland.

    1. Sorry to hear of your internet problems, Linda. It's an absolute pain whenever something like that happens.

      Yes, ours is a fairly small garden with the house on one side, relatively immature trees on two sides, and shrubs on the fourth, so it is fairly open in the garden, and its surrounds. We've had 21 species so far today, including Siskin, Redpoll, Blackcap, and Goldcrest - one of the better days!


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