Garden bird action during last two weeks of December 2007 (1 Viewer)

I confirmed the presence of about a dozen redwings in our garden on 7th December but today, 18th December, I saw the first redwings since 10th December – a great treat! For some reason they did not visit our garden last year but have made up for their absence by being very active this year!


Highlights of the Day
2.45 p.m. – I was surprised to see a magpie having a thorough bathe in our pond, ducking under the water just like…a duck! I don’t recall ever having seen a magpie bathing before. Within seconds it hopped out of the pond and flew off to get dry in the cover of the bushes, out of reach of predators (birds are very vulnerable when they are still wet from a bathe and like to go into cover away from the eyes of predators until they have dried out).


At about this time we noticed a large bird in one of the birch trees which turned out to be a mistle thrush! We have had a pair of mistle thrushes in previous years but had not seen one for ages, so this was a great treat! (The thrush visited us for the next few days - see those entries).


19th December


Weather Conditions
Sunny, breeze, 4°C.


Highlight of the Day
2.20 p.m. – three blackbirds, two males and a female, were busily foraging on the lawn near some an old ivy-covered tree stump and eating lots of haws which had fallen to the ground. During the last week or so I had seen blackbirds eating lots and lots of haws every day – they really seem to like them! Today the three blackbirds were having a lovely meal. A fourth blackbird, another female, flew down from the nearby trees to join in the feast but just as she had picked up a haw in her beak a much larger bird landed near her. It was the mistle thrush!

Seeing the two species together, I could see how much bigger the mistle thrush was than the blackbirds and as often happens, being bigger meant that the thrush was dominant over the blackbirds. It suddenly darted at the poor female blackbird who had been about to eat her haw and drove her away aggressively – she did not attempt to defend her meal and seemed frightened of the larger thrush. The thrush then stole the blackbird’s meal and ate the whole haw eagerly in one go!


20th December


Weather Conditions
A heavy frost was still covering most of our lawn by the late morning and bird activity was very high because of the cold (max. temperature today was 4°C). As well as all the birds, two very active squirrels made frequent appearances throughout the day.


Highlight of the Day
The highlight of the day was at about 1.00 p.m. when I saw a tiny bird fly into one of the two large flower pots which are on the edge of our terrace, next to the lawn. It disappeared into the vegetation in the post and for a few minutes I only had brief glimpses of something small and dark brown moving around in there. Its size, colour and rather secretive nature made me think it was a wren, and I turned out to be correct! Finally it came out onto the edge of the pot and I saw the characteristic white stripe over the eye of a wren! To my delight it flew down onto the terrace and hopped around there looking for food. It was so tiny! Then it went to the second flower pot, a little way along the terrace, and seemed to be finding a lot to eat, because it kept pecking at the leaves of the plants as if getting off insects. I hadn’t seen a wren for a long time so this was a great treat!


General Bird Activity
Throughout the day blackbirds kept finding a great deal of insect food in the lawn, tits of various species were swinging around in the trees and a group of about five woodpigeons wandered around together. I kept seeing little birds in the cedar tree and thought they were goldcrests but they always turned out to be blue tits! Later in the afternoon I DID spot a lovely little goldcrest foraging in the cedar, so I was very happy!


At 3.10 p.m. there was a sudden flurry of bird activity in the vicinity of the feeders. These flurries are very common in the winter months as well as the spring, and happen very abruptly – suddenly there seem to be birds everywhere! On this occasion, a male blackbird, dunnock and robin foraging on the terrace by the cotoneaster bush were joined by a pair of enormous woodpigeons. I was sitting right in front of the window but as long as I kept still the birds did not really mind me being there. Soon the robin began to get impatient. It wanted to visit the window feeder but was a bit wary of me being so close. It flew onto the arm of the white bench which is near the window and I quickly took a photo of it with my digital camera, which I luckily had with me!


Birds Seen
Blackbird, robin, wren, blue tit, great tit, coal tit, woodpigeon, collared dove, dunnock, redwing, mistle thrush, goldcrest, jackdaw, magpie; greenfinch (heard singing but not seen).


21st December



Unusual Sightings
10.55 a.m. – dunnock and robin foraging on terrace near feeders near a male blackbird which was eating a haw. The robin soon flew off onto the lawn but as it did so a second robin flew down onto the terrace from the magnolia tree and then joined the first bird on the lawn! I was delighted to see a third robin already on the lawn and all three foraged near one another on the grass and in the nearby flower border. All three were adults and I was sure a fourth must be around too – we’ve had two pairs of robins frequently in the past few years, which is quite unusual as robins are well known for being very territorial birds. In the next hour or so there continued to be a lot of action on the bird feeders with blue tits and great tits having a good meal.


12.45 noon: the movement of a tiny bird in the cedar tree caught my eye and to my delight it was a goldcrest!


Highlight of the Day
The highlight of the day was at around this time when I saw a little bird fly into the ivy near the birch trees. I expected it to be a tit but when I looked at it through binoculars I was thrilled to see that it was a beautiful male blackcap!


Birds Seen
Blackbird, robin, dunnock, woodpigeon, redwing, mistle thrush, goldcrest, blackcap, blue tit, great tit, coal tit, long-tailed tit


23rd to 25th December


Weather Conditions
Very sunny and cold on 23rd December (4 or 5°C) and still 0°C that night but it had risen greatly by the morning of 24th December. The temperature on 24th December reached an amazing 10°C! A huge jump! As is often the case in winter, the mild weather brought cloudy skies but there was no rain until 25th December. The whole of Christmas Day was cloudy, with steady rain for much of the time, and it remained at 10°C because there was no sun to make the temperature any different!


Highlight of these Few Days
The highlight of these few days was the cooking apples (Bromley’s) which we put out for them on the lawn on 23rd December. By 25th December almost all the apples had been eaten and we therefore put some more out specially for Christmas Day! The activity was amazing and after a great deal of counting and recounting I confirmed 13 blackbirds in our garden at one time (the previous record, a few years ago, was 10 at one time). Amazing! Out of these 13, there were 8 males (2 adults and 6 young males hatched in the spring which still have dark bills) and 4 females. An interesting difference in the male/female ratio – I’m not sure why this would be!


They all squabbled with one another over the apples regardless of their age. Young males chased off adult males and females; females chased off other females; adult males saw off adult males; and young males attacked one another! Unfortunately a blackbird was often dissatisfied with the apple which it had begun eating and decided that one of the nearby apples looked much nicer – hence all the fighting!
 

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