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Thursday, 2 January 2014

End of 2013 Garden Roundup

2013 has been quite a remarkable year for us in our suburban 'postage stamp' of a garden. Each year I record the birds which visit us. To count they have to actually set a foot down in our garden or on its boundaries. Until this year our record, set in 2012, was 32 species. This year we achieved 37 species!

The hard winter at the beginning of the year probably helped this total immensely, although I'd not wish the suffering it caused on any creature.

These aren't my best garden images for the year but are the ones that are most appropriate to each month. I've also limited myself to one per month!

January, 2013

By the end of 1st January we'd had a meagre 10 species - all common garden birds. 2nd January added only two more (common ) species to the list. However, on 3rd, Lesser Redpoll was added to the list and these stayed with us for a few months. Brambling (also long-stayers) arrived on 9th. A spell of particularly bad weather brought a Mistle Thrush (a garden 'lifer') and Redwing on 18th, followed by Blackcap (20th), Reed Bunting (21st) and Fieldfare (22nd). We ended the month with 26 species under our belt.

Lesser Redpoll - our garden on 16th January, 2013
February, 2013

On 7th February we added Treecreeper (another garden 'lifer'), and Nuthatch (not a rare bird, but uncommon in our garden), followed by Siskin on 8th. Only these three species were added to the list, bringing the total up to 29.

Good numbers of Brambling and Lesser Redpoll were visiting us on a frequent basis.

Brambling (female) - our garden on 22nd February, 2013
March, 2013

March added another three species to the list - Song Thrush on 9th (very rare in our garden), Rook on 23rd (another garden 'lifer') and Goldcrest on 29th (a real rarity for us, only seen once in the previous four years).

Siskins and Redpolls were visiting us in good numbers throughout the month, and Bramblings were still visiting on an occasional basis.

Siskin (male) - our garden on 25th March, 2013
April, 2013

Only two species were added to the list, but the first was a magnificent male Redstart which briefly settled on our garden fence on 13th. This was not only a garden 'lifer' but the first recorded sighting of the year for Leicestershire & Rutland! The second, a Willow Warbler, (on 15th) was also exciting for me but pretty insignificant in the wake of the Redstart.

I didn't realise the significance at the time, but we started to get occasional visits from a female Great-spotted Woodpecker, who was feeding from our giant fat balls.

Bramblings, Siskins, and Lesser Redpolls continued to visit. The last Brambling of the winter (a female) was seen on 17th April, and the last Siskin (a male) was seen on 29th.

Redstart (male) - our garden on 13th April, 2013
May, 2013

Only one species was added to the list in June, and this was the Carrion Crow. This used to be a common visitor but, although frequently seen from the garden, it's become a rare visitor. The last Lesser Redpoll of the winter was seen on 1st of the month. Throughout the month, both male and female GS Woodpeckers were visiting on a daily basis.

Great Spotted Woodpecker (female) - our garden on 5th May, 2013
June, 2013

The GS Woodpecker visits to the fat balls became even more frequent and frantic, with huge amounts being taken away, and we knew that it would not be long before the juveniles fledged. The first juvenile GS Woody appeared on our fat balls on 17th. We've no idea how many juveniles there were as they tended to come singly, and when two arrived at the same time there was trouble!

Stock Dove (another garden 'lifer') was added to the list on 12th June, bringing the total number of species to 36.

Bullfinch (male) - our garden on 8th June, 2013
July, 2013

The GS Woodpecker family continued to delight us with regular visits from juveniles and adults until 6th of the month. No new species this month, but the two Stock Doves visited regularly until 22nd. I was still engaged on the garden project for most of the month, which didn't help matters. So you get two GS Woody images in this roundup!

Great Spotted Woodpecker (juvenile) - our garden on 2nd July, 2013
August, 2013

No new species this month, and not a lot of activity in the garden either, the only highlight being a visit from a female GS Woodpecker. Feeling I have to put in something in the way of an image, this is the best I can manage from a month when I didn't use my camera in the garden much!

Coal Tit - our garden on 28th September, 2013
September, 2013

A Chiffchaff (only seen in one previous year), which visited on the first day of the month, and hung around for a few days, was the last (and welcome) addition to the garden year list. The most remarkable feature of the garden was the huge number of House Sparrows (by our standards - peaking at 32) which took up residence in the Clematis outside our back door, and the Honeysuckle on the adjacent fence.

Sparrowhawk (male) - our garden on 14th September, 2013
October, 2013

Birds in the garden thinned out a bit, possibly because there were plentiful alternative sources of food in the wild, but certainly not helped by frequent visits from a male Sparrowhawk. I'm totally struggling for garden bird images for October and November, so you'll have to put up with bug images!

Common Green Shieldbug - our garden on 13th October, 2013
November, 2013
November was a relatively quiet month in our garden, not helped by the next door neighbours having extensive building work done adjacent to our garden, plus continuing visits from the Sprawk when the builders weren't around. Bird food consumption dropped to about a third of the norm.

Harlequin Ladybird? - our garden on 27th November, 2013
December, 2013

It's been a great end to the year with garden birds, with Fieldfare, Redwing (in unprecedented numbers), Mistle Thrush (2 - and a garden 'lifer' in January - visiting on an occasional basis), Lesser Redpoll (2, but only twice on same day), Goldcrest, and Reed Bunting visiting. We've also seen GS Woodpecker returning occasionally, after a long absence.

Due to a combination of bad weather, bad light, and bad positioning, I've not yet managed any images of these winter visitors that I'm happy with. This is the best of a bad bunch.

Mistle Thrush - our garden on 11th December, 2013.
To sum up:

For me it's been an exciting year for garden birds with the greatest variety ever, and in greater numbers, in many cases, than we're used to.

Two highlights stick out for me. for totally different reasons. The first is the April Redstart. This was mega-excitement for me, and we're unlikely to get such a comparative rarity ever again. The second was the GS Woody family which supplied us with utter delight for many days.

If there were any disappointments, it would have to be the absence of Willow Tit, that we used to have sightings of every year, and also the absence of Grey and Pied Wagtails, that we could rely on in Spring and Autumn, when we had a pond in the garden. 

I'll take this opportunity to wish all of my readers a very healthy, happy, and prosperous 2014. May all your wishes come true.


  1. Absolutely stunning images and a wonderful summary of your garden's treasures. I think that the next time I visit England I will park myself there!

    1. Thank you David! I'm looking forward to you and Miriam visiting. There's plenty to show you in these parts, so you'll need a week or so!

  2. Lovely post Richard, so many highlights however you summed up your delight with the Redstart, almost unbelievable.... thank god for the digital age. Seriously good images of the GSWs. You made me smile with the Carrion Crow eventually turning up half way through the year..

    I too love my garden birding, I sit here n the conservatory watching the mundane to the sublime, I cant get enough of it.

    PS - I had 2 x Little Owls this morning on my patch.... happy days

    1. Thank you Dave. There are days when I find it difficult to tear myself away from the conservatory, of from my study (which also looks out over the back garden).

      You must be getting better weather today than we are. We've had a mixture of sun and showers, but with a continual strong wind - not good owling weather. I did start the year off quite well yesterday, however, with six Little Owls seen over four different sites, the last of which was a new one!

  3. You see many birds there that I have never seen here though I am sure many of them are around. Beautiful photos, love the little redstart of which we have many in the garden. I seldom see them stay still long enough to get a photo! All the best Diane

    1. Thank you, Diane. If you've got Redstarts in your garden, you might find me knocking at your door!

      My best wishes to you for 2014.


  4. Superb collection Richard,amazing rich colouring in all images,love the sharpness.
    Love the Bullfinch and Siskin,looking forward to seeing more of your brilliant photography in 2014.
    Happy New Year.

    1. Thank you, John.

      A Happy New Year to you and Sue too!

  5. A very impressive garden list mate, accompanied by some superb images. All the best to you for 2014.....

    1. Thank you, Paul.

      All the best to you and the family too for 2014.

      2014 seems to have got off to a good start for me as I found a new LO site yesterday - my first 6-owl day for a long while!

  6. I think out of all the birds to visit your garden I'm torn between the GSW and the Redstart as my favourite, though the Lesser Redpoll is a real treat too. So far my garden this winter has been quiet though I have a lot of Blackbirds at the moment all the smaller birds and the Jays are over at the park busy hoovering up acorns etc. Have a great 2014 I look forward to reading about it.

    1. Sorry, Doug. Don't know how I missed your comment til now! The more unusual of the winter birds have now left us as the berries are all gone. We're now getting a build-up of Chaffinches (hopefully a Brambling soon), Greenfinches (quite rare in our garden until now), Goldfinches - and I've just looked out of my window as I was writing this to see a Lesser Redpoll (only the second of this year!).

  7. Bit late catching up with you here Richard but....

    An excellent 2013 garden roundup, great collection of records and excellent illustrations, well done.


    1. Hi Pete. Like the previous comment, somehow I managed to miss yours until now. Sorry!

      Thanks for your kind words.

      All the best for 2014 to you too!


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