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Friday, 24 March 2017

Garden Bird Update - to end of January, 2017

I've just come back from a week based at the eastern edge of Dartmoor, which is why I've been away from Bloggerland for some time. I had, I thought, scheduled this post to publish  on Wednesday, but I must have done something wrong! I'll try and figure it out.

Most of my photography, which usually takes place 'out in the wild' is what I describe as 'opportunistic' - i.e., it is not planned or staged with props, and I do not attract birds, or other wildlife, with any sort of lures. I do have a portable hide, but this only gets used once or twice a year.

However, matters in my garden are somewhat different. I do attract birds with numerous feeders, and I do set up basic photographic props (strategically placed branches) near the feeders in the hope of getting some reasonable photos - I don't like to take photos of birds on feeders, unless it's the only way I can get a record shot of an interesting bird. I also use my hide a little more frequently in the garden (2 or 3 times a year) than I do in the wild. I have 6 bird feeding stations in my garden, five of which are visible from my study window. The 6 stations have a total of 14 feeders. Consumption in the winter months is approximately one and a half kilogrammes per day. In addition to the feeding stations there are 4 watering points/bird baths and 2 hedgehog feeding stations.
In some ways, this winter in the garden has been a bit disappointing. In previous years we've had regular visits by winter specials such as Redpoll, Siskin, and Brambling, with last winter being a record year for Redpoll and Siskin, although not quite so good for Brambling. I see that, on 1st January 2016, we had 25 Redpoll and 13 Siskin - what a start to the year! However, our last sightings for these three species, to the end of February, were Redpoll (18th December, 2016), Siskin (2nd September, 2016), Brambling (14th October, 2016). I'm wondering if these early sightings mean that the birds passed through and ended up further south - in which case, I hope they visit on their way back north again. I take some consolation, however, in that we we have done slightly better this winter with the 'winter thrushes', and that we've had a garden 'lifer' in the form of Green Woodpecker (which paid us a second visit a couple of weeks later).

My last post on garden birds related to the week up until 11th December, 2016, so here are a few images of some of the birds between then and the end of January.

12th December, 2016

Amongst the visitors this dull cloudy day were one Mistle Thrush and one Fieldfare. The first two images were taken through the glass of my study window. The third was difficult as it was taken at an extremely acute angle (approximately 30 degrees) through the double glazing of our bedroom window. 

Fieldfare (Turdus pilaris) - our garden on 12th December, 2016
13th December, 2016

The following day (also cloudy dull), visitors included 3 Mistle Thrush, and a Redwing. I didn't manage any usable images of the Redwing. We also had a visit from a female Great Spotted Woodpecker - a species not often seen in our garden.

Mistle Thrush (Turdus viscivorus) - our garden on 13th December, 2016
Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major) (female) - our garden on 13th December, 2016
27th December, 2016

Although cloudy, the day was somewhat brighter than most we'd been experiencing. As well as the usual suspects, visitors included Grey Wagtail, Song Thrush, Stock Dove (2), and Long-tailed Tit (2).

We usually get Grey Wagtail for a few days each year, but this tends to be in spring or autumn. This one was with us from 26th December until 25th January.

Grey Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea) - our garden on 27th December, 2016
Out in the wild, I'm not usually too enthralled to see Stock Dove, as they pose a threat to nesting Little Owls. However, these extremely timid birds are very welcome on the relatively rare occasions that they visit our garden. Their iridescence neck markings are wonderful.

Stock Dove (Columba oenas) - our garden on 27th December, 2016
Bullfinch is usually a relatively uncommon visitor to our garden, but this winter they have been a daily feature with up to five birds at a time. They are extremely handsome birds, but difficult to photograph in the garden as they seem to frequent the darker places, and they are some of the messiest eaters imaginable - they accumulate debris round their beaks as they eat, as you can see below!

Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) (male) - our garden on 27th December, 2016
Here are a couple of the more common birds photographed that day.

Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes) - our garden on 27th December, 2016

Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) - our garden on 27th December, 2016
4th January, 2017

We didn't have any unusual visitors on this particular day, but I did take a few photos of the 'regulars'.

Blackbird (Turdus merula) (female) - our garden on 4th January, 2017
Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis) - our garden on 4th January, 2017
8th January, 2017

On this day I did take a few shots of a male Bullfinch. Yep, a messy bill again!

Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) (male) - our garden on 8th January, 2017
9th January, 2017

It was a wet day, and I couldn't resist this shot of a soaking squirrel outside my study window.

Grey Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) (male) - our garden on 8th January, 2017
13th January, 2017

We'd had a little snow during the night, and this hung around for a while. I managed to catch Mrs. B. before she'd made too much of a mess of herself.

Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) (female) - our garden on 13th January, 2017
It's very rarely that we see Reed Bunting in our garden. This was one of those days!

Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus) (male) - our garden on 13th January, 2017
Eventually, the sun started shining through, and I got a shot of the male Bullfinch.

Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) (male) - our garden on 13th January, 2017
We were still getting regular visits by the Grey Wagtail. Here it is with a remnant of snow.

Grey Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea) - our garden on 13th January, 2017
Some of you may know that I have a bit of a thing about water - splashes and light reflections. In these next two images I think it looks as if the bird is standing in pools of quicksilver.

Grey Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea) - our garden on 13th January, 2017
17th January, 2017

A star visitor this day was a Goldcrest - onother relatively rare visitor to our garden. This is the UK's smallest bird and it was difficult to photograph through my study window as it was in shade, and constantly on the move.

Goldcrest (Regulus regulus) - our garden on 17th January, 2017
20th January, 2017

I had another chance with the Goldcrest on this day.

Goldcrest (Regulus regulus) - our garden on 20th January, 2017
25th January, 2017

The Bullfinches were around again. Collared Dove are a daily visitor to the garden and, together with Woodpigeon, are responsible for probably around 60-70% of all the bird food consumed in our garden. It's tempting to try and find ways of making things inaccessible for them, but my wife will not allow discrimination!

Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) (male) - our garden on 25th January, 2017
Collared Dove (Streptopelia decaocto) - our garden on 25th January, 2017
27th January, 2017

No report on the subject of garden birds would be complete without a Robin!

Robin (Erithacus rubecula) - our garden on 27th January, 2017
29th January, 2017

A dull day brought a few common birds in front of the camera. Today we were also graced with another visit from a female Great Spotted Woodpecker.

Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs) (male) - our garden on 29th January, 2017
Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis) - our garden on 29th January, 2017
Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major) (female)- our garden on 29th January, 2017
I'd originally intended this post to cover the period up until the end of February, but I think that there's enough in this post already!

Thank you for dropping by. Maybe next time the post will cover February?


  1. It's an amazing array of birds, Richard. They all seem quite exotic viewed from this side of the ocean. Can you imagine if we could exchange species from our yards for a day? We'd be the toast of the town when we called our birding friends to see them, wouldn't we? Hope you had a great time during your week away. Maybe some pictures to come from that jaunt?

    1. That's an intriguing idea, David. I suspect that it would be an easier task to exchange observers, rather than subjects of obeservation - you'll both always be welcome back here!

      We had some pretty poor weather whilst away, but I hope I managed some usable images. My biggest excitement was Cirl Bunting.

      Love to you both - - - Richard

  2. Stunning images + a wonderful selection of birds to have in your garden.

    1. Thank you. Our garden birds give us a great deal of pleasure. Best wishes - - - Richard

  3. Super post Richard with a lovely back up of lovely photos. However the male Bullfinch steals the show again for me. Utterly beautiful birds.

    1. Thank you for thosae kind words, Marc. I was concerned that the Bullfinches might have deserted us whilst we were away, although I'd taken steps to ensure that the food supply didn't totally run out, but we've still got at least one pair visiting us on a daily basis.

  4. Hello Richard!:) What a wealth of birds visitors you get in your garden! So many lovely species, and all very beautifully photographed. The Reed Bunting is pretty, but I enjoyed looking at every one, as they all have their own particular beauty. Yes the Bullfinch is absolutely stunning, but when you look at the Fieldfare, the Starling, and the humble female Blackbird,...Wow, what lovely birds they all are! It was such a pleasure to visit with you today.:) Best Regards.

    1. Thank you, Sonjia, for your very kind words. They are much-appreciated.

      With my best wishes - - - Richard

  5. Oh what a great post, Richard!
    I really envy your thrushes I hardly ever get to see those species.
    I am amazed you get the Reed bunting in your garden, it means you must have wet lands and reeds close by.
    I wish you a lovely Sunday although we're loosing an hour!
    Warm hugs to both of you :)

    1. Thank you, Noushka. Those thrushes are a rather rare winter visitor to our garden, although we do regularly see them out in the countryside during the winter.

      Reed Bunting is also not common in our garden. The nearest significant body of water is roughly 1.5 km away, but we do have agricultural land only a few hundred metres away in one direction. However, Reed Buntings do get attracted to bird feeders in UK.

      The weathewr is beautiful today (Sunday) but I'm stuck indoors with admin duties this morning, and will be out trying to do some basic tidying-up in the garden this afternoon. Hopefully, Monday will still be fine and I'll manage to get out for a while.

      My very best wishes - - - Richard

  6. Oh, how lovely birds! A truly stunning images. Have a nice weekend Richard;-)

    1. Thank you, Anne. I think my week may be more enjoyable than my weekend!

      With best wishes - - - Richard

  7. Hi Richard and welcome back. Super post of your garden birds with some wonderful images. The Goldcrest is a delight.Just had a call, the bird I was not sure about is a Rough Legged Buzzard. See you soon, John

    1. If it was a Rough-legged Buzzard, John, you should send details of the sighting and a copy of your photo to LROS and/or the County Recorder, as it's an important sighting (more than 10 records ever, but less than annual). However, I should point you at the LROS bird sightings record (on the website) for 5th January.

  8. Hi Richard, Well done for getting pictures of the Goldcrest, we had a Goldcrest throughout the winter in our garden, not seen it for a few days now. I know what you mean about the Bullfinch, they are messy eaters, I have taken pictures of them with food plastered around their beaks. I have Siskins! they started to appear in my garden about February, which is the usual pattern, lovely little birds, always a pleasure to see them :)

    1. Thank you, Linda.

      It seems that the winter birds are heading north again. In the past 24 hours I've had Siskin (a pair), Redpoll, and Brambling in the garden - nearly as many as I've had all the rest of the winter!

      With my best wishes - - - Richard

  9. Wow,fine collection of Garden birds Richard,I would be delighted to get this many,however we do have two Cats,so,in a way I'm happy,not to have many visitors.
    I do place feeders out,but they are fitted with guards.

    1. Thank you, John. We only ramped up our bird-feeding activities when our cats got too old to bother with the birds, but they continued to keep other, more predatory, cats out of the garden. We still miss our cats!

      My best wishes to you both, and the cats - - - Richard

  10. Those excellent photos are superb. I love the Goldcrest, and I love also, the Bullfinch. Thanks Richard.

    1. Thank you, Bob. The Bullfinch has to be one of my favourite garden birds, but the Goldcrest is always a delight to see on those rare occasions that one graces us with its presence.

      Best wishes - - Richard

  11. Cracking images Richard, love the Goldcrest as well as I know how much they flit about. Garden favourites at the moment in Northants seem to be Redpolls

    1. Thanks, Doug. We had a Redpoll yesterday, and I think we had one again this morning but, before I could raise my bins to check it, a Sprawk came through and saw it off.

      Best wishes - - Richard

  12. Nice collection of birds (and pictures) - we actually have two garden birds in common.

    Thanks for the comment on my Blog.

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

    1. Thank you, Stewart. I guess that one of the garden birds we have in common is Collared Dove. What the other one might be, I'm a bit stuck for - Starling?

      Best wishes - - Richard

  13. Hi Richard,
    it was nice to read that you have so many feeding stations in your garden. It is best to photograph the bird without food and then you have to strategically work. The bird in your garden should feel at his / her convenience. I read that you have a lot of species in your garden seen and that is very beautiful.

    The photos in your blog are again great class. Great to see so many variances and that all in your own garden. How big is the garden of yours ???? Great for many different types so close to shoot :-)

    Sincerely, Helma

    1. Thank you, Helma. We are lucky to have a lot of species in our garden, but we work hard to get them! The garden is quite small. The main piece is approximately 13 metres wide by 8 metres deep, and I have an additional piece outside my study window about 3 metres wide by 4 metres deep - so approximately 120 sq. metres in area total.

      Best wishes - - - Richard

  14. Hello Richard, what a lot of birds you get in your garden. The Bullfinch is a bird I still have to see and you have and male and female in your garden. Goldcrest in also not so Obvious to see in a garden. Amazing little birds and they are so fast. The only birds I have on my terras are House sparrows comming to my feeder. But I am glad with that also because they are in decline. Thank you for your reaction on my latest blog and you are welcome to visit and see the Treefrogs. They are to be seen all summer.
    Take care,

    1. Thank you, Roos. I consider myself to be very lucky to have such a wide selection of birds in the garden. It must be difficult to attract birds in you live up in an apartment! I think my international travelling days may be over, so I probably will not make it to see your Treefrogs. I used to regularly drive to Antwerpen from my home, but I've not driven on the continent now for more than 10 years and suspect I might now find it difficult driving on the right at my age!

      Have a great weekend, and take care of yourself - - - Richard

  15. What an excellent collection of birds. You know when we first moved from S.Africa I thought the English birds were quite dull but you have certainly proved me wrong here. We never see a thrush - I understand that they are a French delicacy :-(
    Re driving on the right, I had driven on the left for more than 60 years before I started driving on the right, I think it is in fact so much easier!!
    Have a great weekend. Cheers Diane

    1. Hi Diane. We do have some wonderful birds in England (and the rest of the UK!).

      For many years, until I retired some eleven years ago, I drove many more miles on the right in mainland Europe than I did driving on the left in UK. I used to find it far more difficult (and dangerous) adapting to driving on the left when I returned home. Sadly, however, my brain is a bit slower these days, and I'm not sure that I trust myself to try driving on the left again.

      Have a great week ahead - - - Richard


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