As I write this, other than a trip to the pharmacy to pick up our monthly supply of medication, a visit to our local medical practice to get our first Covid vaccine shots, and a click-and collect visit to Aldi last night I have not left the premises since 22nd January. However, things have to change and I reckon that, unless it is raining continually, this week I will get out for a walk in the countryside.
In view of the above, you will not be surprised to hear that this post will totally feature sightings in the Pegler garden. So here we go . . . . . . . .
Tuesday, 2nd February
The highlight of this day was a visit by a Song Thrush, as it is very rarely that we get a visit from this species. Sadly, it did not stop long and my attempts at photography failed. I did, however, get a few shots of a female Bullfinch that was now visiting us regularly, and one just about usable shot of a Coal Tit, which also visits us regularly at the moment.
|Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) (female) - garden on 2nd February, 2021|
|Coal Tit (Periparus ater) - garden on 2nd February, 2021|
I was surprised to find that the trail cams showed that a Hedgehog had come out of hibernation that night (actually in the early hours of the morning of the next day). This resulted in me quickly checking that all was in tip-top condition in the one remaining Hedgehog feeding station set up in the garden.
Thursday, 4th February
|Hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus)|
We had been having a female Blackcap visiting relatively regularly, although she was a little camera-shy. However, on this day, we were delighted to have two male Blackcaps visit together. My attempts to get both in the same shot didn't come to much, but I did get some shots of single birds.
Just as exciting was the return of the male Siskin, this time accompanied by his lady. Sadly my attempts at photography failed.
|Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) (male) - garden on 4th February, 2021|
I did, however, manage a couple of shots of the male Bullfinch that arrived. We are getting frequent visits by one lone female Bullfinch with a bad right leg, but infrequent visits by a male/female pair. Here's a shot of the male.
The Hedgehog was still visiting and feeding well.
|Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) (male) - garden on 4th February, 2021|
We had a quite interesting day, with 18 species of bird visiting, including the male Siskin and the female Blackcap.
The Hedghog was still visiting, and we know for certain that this was one of our Hedghogs from last year as it went straight for the feeding station on its first visit on 3rd February, and we had total confirmation when it was also seen 'mountaineering' on subsequent visits. Last year, one of the hogs (this one!) found that I tended to leave a dish of mealworms out on a ledge that a 'stone' pelican sits on above what we jovially refer to as 'the duck pond'. As mealworms are seriously detrimental to the health of a Hedghog if consumed in any significant quantity, I had to ensure that the mealworm dish was empty each night. This one had obviously not forgotten the mealworms and went looking for them - it was disappointed!
Another interesting day with 19 species visitng, and the arrival of a Reed Bunting in the garden. However, the only bird that I managed to photograph was a male Blackcap.
Sunday, 7th February
|Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) (male) - garden on 6th February, 2021|
It had turned very cold overnight, and the only birds photographed that day were a pair of Magpie that had taken to scoffing the mealworms left by Pippin (the 'stone' pelican).
Disappointingly, one of the trail cams revealed our first visit by a Brown Rat in several months, just as snow was starting to fall. This is one creature that fills me with dread!
|Magpie (Pica pica) - garden on 7th February, 2021|
We awoke to a light covering of snow, and our trail cams were still running when the Blackbirds started their day. Blackbirds and Robins are always the first up in the mornings and the last to bed at night.
To my delight, the cold weather brought us another visit by Song Thrush, and this time I did manage a record shot.
The the snow had gone by the evening and trail cams showed that the Hedgehog was still around, feeding well, and had not given up looking for the mealworms. Note that the camera shows a temperature of -7°c (20°f) as it starts mountaineering but that soon rises by a couple of degrees. This seems to be a phenomenon caused by the camera warming as it operates, with the batteries giving out heat.
|Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos) - garden on 8th February, 2021|
Tuesday, 9th February
We had more snow during the night and temperatures stayed low. This brought in the birds. I was continually having to go to 'the duck pond' at the top of the garden with a kettle of boiling water to melt some ice so that the birds could drink. There was an outstanding tally of 22 species of bird visit our garden that day.
Our most notable visit was by three Reed Bunting. We rarely get this species in the garden, but had been having one visit occasionally since 6th February. I don't believe that we have ever had a pair before, let alone three! There were two females and a male. The females came down and fed on the spillage under the feeders.
The male kept a watchful position on top of the fence, looking down at his ladies.
|Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus) (female) - garden on 9th February, 2021|
A male siskin also visited.
|Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus) (male) - garden on 9th February, 2021|
A female Blackcap managed to get to the remains of the mealworms after the Starlings had raided them.
|Siskin (Spinus spinus) (male) - garden on 9th February, 2021|
The Pied Wagtail was still visiting and, momentarily, we had two in the garden.
|Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) (female) - garden on 9th February, 2021|
Currently, we are getting more sightings of this species in our garden each day than we have had in total over the past 35 years that we have lived here! However, this looks as if it may be the first winter in about 20 years that we have not had a sighting of Grey Wagtail in the garden.
|Pied Wagtail (Motacilla alba yarrellii) (male) - garden on 9th February, 2021|
The two Fieldfare (our first of the winter) were, unfortunately, not photographed.
I couldn't resist some shots of a Starling standing on Pippin's head.
Wednesday, 10th February
|Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) - garden on 9th February, 2021|
The cold spell was still with us, and we had plenty of snow in the early part of the day. Again the tally of birds visiting was 22 species, although of a slightly different mix to the previous day.
If you are not familiar with wagtails, and wondered how they got their name, I offer the following as evidence!
Only our second observation of a visiting female Siskin this winter resulted in just a record shot.
Our resident Wren spent some time looking for food in the moss on the wall surrounding the bit of garden that used to be a large koi pond.
|Siskin (Spinus spinus) (female) - garden on 10th February, 2021|
The pathfinder Long-tailed Tit briefly visited, but forgot to bring his friends along later.
|Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes) - garden on 10th February, 2021|
|Long-tailed Tit (Aegithalos caudatus) - garden on 10th February, 2021|
|Pied Wagtail (Motacilla alba yarrellii) (male) - garden on 10th February, 2021|
As you can see in this next clip, most of the snow had gone by late afternoon.
Sightings for the day were down a little, but we still had some 'foul weather friends' visiting us. It was especially gratifying to see Song Thrush again, albeit briefly.
Although the female Blackcap was still visiting several times a day, sightings of a male have continued to be sparse. It seems that this winter has been an absolute bumper winter for Blackcap sightings, especially in gardens, and this is reckoned to be due to a large influx from mainland Europe.
|Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos) - garden on 11th February, 2021|
Friday, 12th February
|Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) (male) - garden on 11th February, 2021|
I'm not sure that 'making hay while the sun shines' is an appropriate expression here, considering the weather (!), but I have found myself concentrating on trying to get shots of special visitors, notably the Pied Wagtails and Blackcaps, and these seem to be particularly difficult to achieve to an adequate level of satisfaction. Here are two of the female Blackcap from this day, and probably some of my better ones of this bird.
Saturday, 13th February
|Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) (female) - garden on 12th February, 2021|
A trail cam caught a Robin trying to get a drink at 'the duck pond' before I'd had time to defrost it. You can see from the data on the following clip that the temperature was still quite low.
Wren was busy fishing grubs from the moss on the walls again.
The usual Pied Wagtail, recognisable by an isolated black spot on its left breast (but not in this shot), was still with us and spending much time at the Duck Pond, fishing mealworms out of the water after they'd been scattered there by the Starlings.
|Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes) - garden on 13th February, 2021|
Sunday, 14th February
|Pied Wagtail (Motacilla alba yarrellii) (male) - garden on 13th February, 2021|
We had another good tally of species this day, with 20 species visiting. However, in deference to Lindsay and the significance of this date, I did not pay much attention to garden photography. However, I did take some more shots of that irresistable character - the Wren!
|Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes) - garden on 14th February, 2021|
This was the last day with any snow. The following day, the snow had all gone and all that was left was a thick covering of ice on the pond.
Thus ended what I believe to be another record-breaking week for us, with a total of 26 species stopping off in the garden - so many that they would not fit in the spaces on the recording sheet and I had to put 'Wagtail, Pied' at the bottom of the sheet!
Thus ends my report on the first half of February. I take this opportunity to apologise to Diane, and anyone else who does not have the benefit of high-speed internet, as I have included rather a lot of video clips. I have, however, tried to keep them short, and hope that they will not give you too many headaches!
I guess it will be another fortnight until my next blog post, and hopefully there will be a little more variety included in it.
In the meantime, take great care and stay safe!
Since writing the above, I did get out today (16th February). I had a two hour walk, saw very little, and was disappointed at the lack of social distancing observed by the majority of people I crossed paths with. No wonder that we in England have one of the worst Covid records on the planet! I will not let it put me off, however, but just continue to be ultra-cautious!