Thursday, 23 April 2009

Spring Flowers and the Secret Life of a Small Bird

The weather has cheered up this week and we have had the return of some glorious and very welcome sunshine. What a change it makes to one's well-being! I don't need it to be hot, indeed too much heat does me no good but sunshine makes such a difference to the spirit I feel.

I have been trying for some time to get a photo of the Dunnock, which rather like the Wren, seems to skulk around in the shadows in my garden, scuttling about under shrubs and bushes in a very secretive way and when it does show itself more clearly it is usually at the bottom of the garden which is around 100 feet from where I am. However on Saturday it obliged at last by coming to the bird bath for a drink.

A rather strange expression coming up next!

I am surprised and saddened to find that this unobtrusive but attractive little bird is, according to the RSPB, on the amber list of species under threat. So many of our beautiful birds which we probably take for granted seem to be in decline. You may or may not know that the Dunnock has a very . . . umm . . . shall we say, interesting, personal life!

The following information is taken from Wikipedia.

'This species makes up for its drab appearance with its breeding behaviour. Females are often polyandrous, breeding with two males at once, and thus giving rise to sperm competition. Males compete for mating access to the female, but DNA fingerprinting has shown that chicks within broods often have different fathers, depending on their success at monopolising access to the fertile female. Males try to ensure their paternity during courtship by pecking at the cloaca of the female to stimulate her to eject the sperm of other males with whom the female has recently mated.'

Goodness who would have thought it?!!

Next in line for an afternoon drink in the sunshine was a female Chaffinch.

Mr Chaffinch decided to be less genteel and drink in the pub instead of sitting outside!

Once the Wood Pigeon arrives for a drink there is no room for the smaller birds!

The garden is moving on apace now and there is a lot of weeding and tidying still to be done, a little less time spent on the computer and a lot more gardening would be a good idea I think! I know I will regret not doing it if the weather turns again.


I could have sworn this Lilac was nowhere near flowering yesterday, or did I just forget to look up!


I planted several minature Cyclamen in the Autumn of 2007, they were flowering when I put them in and continued to flower throughout the Winter and into the Spring but this time although they have all put on leaf only one has flowered and not until Spring. Strangely enough I thought if any failed it would be this one as the soil is very poor where I planted it under a Cupressus tree but it obviously likes it so I may move the others to join it.



Japanese Flowering Cherry


This minature Rhodedendron seems to have been in bud for months but at last they are starting to open now.

I wasn't the only one who enjoyed being in the garden with the camera!

Louis did too!

Well I think that's it for now, I really admire you bloggers who post almost daily, I would love to do that but it takes me all my time to get posts out as often as I do. Never mind, we can't all be the same can we? Have a wonderful sunny week.


  1. What great photos Shy!!! love your doggie too!! LOL

  2. What a lovely post as always Jan.

    I know what you mean about catching up in the garden - something I must continue to do and spend less time elsewhere!

    I'm sure plants, like your lilac, suddenly burst into bloom the minute we go indoors for 5 minutes. I've been noticing the same thing.

    I was aware of the Dunnocks' love life - the things birds get up to!

  3. An enjoyable read with a great set of photos. Thanks for the information about the Dunnock, something new I learned toady. In the 3rd photo it seems to be saying - is this smile OK?

    Lilac is something missing round here. I can't think of seeing one in the village.

    My cultivated Bluebells are just showing buds so I think they will be a week or two behind yours.

    I used to have a glorious red Rhododendron like yours but one year it just died. I was really sad to lose it.

    Bobby says hello to Louis and asks - how do you manage to stay awake in all that Sunshine?

  4. Great shots once again, I don't think the dunnocks activities would sit to well in this household LOL.
    Charley Boy says hello to Louis too "woof woof" what a lovely looking doggy you have there!!

  5. Ginny, Thank you very much and I know Louis would love you too, he thinks he is everyone's friend!

  6. Tricia, thank you for your kind comments.
    Since becoming addicted to the blogging world my domestic chores have become somewhat neglected, I must be more disciplined!
    Yes the Dunnock is certainly more colourful than it's appearance suggests!

  7. John, thank you for the lovely comments. Nature really is a fascinating subject, I remembered reading that there was something unusual about the Dunnock so thought others might find the link interesting too.
    We used to have a beautiful deep purple Lilac in the front garden but sadly it had to be removed as the roots were too close to the house.
    I have some large Rhododendrons in big tubs (our garden soil is not acidic enough) but they too seem to have been in bud for months and some buds have, I fear, been frosted.
    Louis says hello back to Bobby and says that he stays awake in the sun with great difficulty and that he had strict instructions to do so during his very important photo call!!!

  8. brilliant photos Shysongbird.beautiful colour in your garden and the little don juan dunnock is more colourful in its love life than feathers lol

  9. Some beautiful pictures from your garden. You're making me very jealous. ;)
    I read about the Dunnocks personal life a while ago. What a character! Living like a real life soap opera. :)

  10. Those Dunnocks sure are interesting birds! I have a pair nesting in my garden. Keep up your feeding and watering, all the birds will appreciate it!

    PS I have left an explanation of migrant alley on todays post

  11. Lovely photos, very interesting to hear about the Dunnocks, not only their private lives but also that they are declining. Only this evening when I was sat outside I was thinking how many I have in this area and suspect I have at least 4 visiting my garden!

    I know what you mean about posting daily, I often have something to post but never get round to it!

    I really must try harder...

  12. Hi Jan
    You photography seems to get better and have some great shots there, and your right, that second Dunnock shot is comical. As for the Dunnock's behaviour. I have a great dvd of a pair of Dunnocks doing exactly what you say on your blog, pecking at the female's cloaca and ejecting sperm from another bird, making sure that the eggs
    that are laid are from his sperm.She certainly puts it about, doesn't she? still it keeps him on his toes.
    Wonderful garden you have Jan, and your dog looks like a right character.Great blog Jan.

  13. Hi Shysongbird,

    I loved those Dunnock shots. Whilst they are quiet birds, they are one of may favourite garden bird. Nice to see those spring colours too. I hope you don't mind me asking what camera you use.

  14. Great photos, Jan. I have a couple of dunnocks regularly in my garden, one often does the wing waving thing and also has a good old sing from the top of the hedge.

    They don't skulk about all that much though, often coming out into the open so I'm quite lucky.

  15. Jayne, thank you very much and I agree the Dunnock has a surprising life to say the least!
    Louis is very flattered by your comments and says a big woofy hello to Charley Boy!

  16. Sheila, thanks so much for the lovely comments and yes what a little character it is!!

  17. Keith, thank you very much. There is still a lot of tidying and weeding to be done, I am rather behind with everything this time due to too much time spent on the computer I fear. Time management skills are needed here I think!!
    As for the Dunnock, yes it's personal life sounds more colourful than we see in some of the more lurid soap operas!

  18. Warren, interesting birds indeed! I'm glad to see they are nesting in your garden, they obviously need all the help they can get habitat wise.
    Thanks for the info about Migrant Alley, I had wondered for a while.

  19. Liz, thank you for your kind comments. I was surprised and saddened to find the Dunnock on the amber list as they seem to have nested in our garden a lot in recent years. But I have been surprised at some of the other birds who are reported to be in decline too, such as the Starling which is on the red list!
    I suspect I might get more posting done if I could confine myself to shorter replies and comments!!

  20. Ken, thank you very much for your kind comments, I had the lens supported on cushions on a table when I photographed the birds which I think helped and hope to get a tripod soon.
    The Dunnock certainly behaves in a way which its appearance wouldn't suggest.
    Louis definitely is a character and likes to think he is the boss.

  21. Hi Jan. We regularly see Dunnock in the garden & even on the patio but I've never been able to get a decent photo (thro' the window)!
    It's sex life is intriguing & I posted a piece in Feb.

    Cyclamen grow best under trees & shrubs and cope well in dry conditions. Overwatering will usually rot the corms. The hardiest varieties are Hederifolium & Coum. Plus you get varied folige to enjoy as well.
    Regards, FAB

  22. Joe, thank you very much, I think the Dunnock is a lovely little bird too and always scurrying about so busily.
    I love seeing the colour appear in the garden again after the drabness of Winter.
    Of course I don't mind you asking about the camera, I seem to remember I asked you the same question last year as I was impressed with your photos.
    After much deliberation last summer I treated myself to the Canon 450D and have been trying to master the technicalities ever since!! I hope I may work it all out one day!

  23. Steve, thank you very much. You are lucky that your Dunnock shows itself more readily than mine. You are not the only person who finds they can be quite bold, Joe at

    reports that they feed at his seed feeders where they never do at mine.

  24. Frank, I was really very pleased to get photos of the Dunnock as they do behave in quite a secretive way in my garden.
    I used to grow indoor Cyclamen a lot and keep them from year to year, they are lovely plants.
    Thanks for the info, from memory I think mine are Hederifolium. I think I will definitely move the ones which didn't flower to join the one under the tree in the hope they too will flower next time.

  25. I love your pictures.. I can't wait for our lilacs
    to bloom.. they smell sooooo good.

    smiles, Deena

  26. Deena, thanks so much. Lilac is a lovely plant, so old fashioned somehow and as you say smells so nice.

  27. Hi Jan....lovely post. The dunnock is another bird of which I am very fond. I love their song, for me it is quite magical. Like you I find them illusive, but have managed to capture them a few times.....

    I love the photograph of the female chaffinch....they are such a soft looking bird....

    Your garden blooms are Rhodi is ahead of mine, that is for sure....

    Have a lovely weekend......

  28. Me your dog by the way, he looks a very handsome chap......

  29. Hi, another beautiful post as always, if you could do a post every night for me so I can have a read before I go to bed that would be lovely, as I always feel so relaxed looking at your beautiful pictures and reading your lovely words.
    And Louis is sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo cute, even poppy has had a look at the picture!
    Love to you and Louis from me and Poppy xxxxxxx

  30. jan,
    such great birds to look at. i don't recognize many. the dunnock has an interesting way of bringing new life on. i have a lavendar lilac and love the blooms in the house...their scent is heavenly.
    is louis a standard poodle? he looks happy to be out there with you and in the sunshine.

  31. Cheryl, thank you so much. The Dunnock certainly does have a lovely song.
    We don't seem to have had as many Chaffinches this year as last although they seem to be more in evidence this last few weeks.
    I have some large Rhododendrons in big tubs in a different part of the garden and most of their buds seem to have been frosted which is a shame as they are usually so colourful.

    Thanks for your extra comment about Louis, he is very flattered that you think him handsome!
    I hope you are enjoying your weekend.

  32. Lou, thanks so much for your lovely comments. I always look forward to hearing from you and if I could do a post for you every night I certainly would BUT then you would have to do one every night for me and then we would both be so busy posting we would never get any sleep!!!! Seriously though I wish I knew how people manage to post so often.
    Louis is everyone's friend and talks to everyone he meets on his walks, I have told him about Poppy and he thinks she sounds lovely!
    Lots of love and XXXX from me and Louis to you and Poppy.

  33. Marmee, thanks so much for visiting again. I never cease to be surprised by how many birds you see in your part of the world that we don't see here and vice versa.
    Lilac is such a lovely, old fashioned flower and as you say so beautifully scented.
    Louis is, indeed, a Standard Poodle, and was quite a 'culture shock' after owning a series of Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and before them a Labrador. Anyone who talks about someone being someone else's poodle has obviously never owned one (or more accurately, been owned by one!!) he is a very strong minded and forceful dog, a real character, everyone's friend and so gentle with children.

  34. Enjoyed reading about your dunnocks - they are one of my favourite garden birds because they are always there and the closer you watch them the more you realise what little charchters they are.

  35. Chris, thank you for visiting again. I too think they are interesting little birds to watch, they always seem so busy although I do find them difficult to spot as they scuttle around under bushes and in the borders.

  36. Some lovely photos there! Enjoying seeing the dunnock... we have them here in New Zealand also, apparently, but I don't think I have ever seen one. Wonderful big apple tree too :)

  37. Gilly, thanks for the kind comments and for visiting again.
    The Dunnock can be easily missed I find, it does seem to creep around the garden quite furtively.

    The apple tree is a lovely old tree and the garden wouldn't seem the same without it.


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