Saturday, 16 January 2010

Winter Visitors

There has been lots of activity in the garden during the dreadful weather we have all been experiencing here in the UK. The poor birds have been desperate for food and have been eating it as fast as I put it out. The Collared Doves (above) along with all the other regulars have been eating me out of house and home!

The Redwing which I showed on my last post continued to visit until all the berries were gone but I haven't seen it since. Again, all of the photos on this post were taken through glass.


'Around the house the flakes fly faster,
And all the berries now are gone
From holly and cotoneaster.'
(Thomas Hardy)

I have been putting apples out for the Blackbirds and any other birds which might like them and was very much hoping to attract the Blackbird's foreign cousin, the Fieldfare, a bird I have never seen at all. I noticed lots of fellow bloggers were seeing them but really didn't expect they would visit me. However, on Tuesday, the day before we had yet more snow, I was thrilled, in the late afternoon to see at least eight eating the apples I had put out. I wasn't able to get any, even half decent, photos as it was getting dark but the next day just one appeared and my goodness, what an aggressive character it was! The Blackbirds, who themselves have been very aggressive during this weather, weren't allowed a look in although there was plenty of fruit for all.


It spent so much time chasing away any Blackbirds that got anywhere near any of the apple that there wasn't much eating going on at all, such a waste of energy! I spotted one enterprising soul trying the 'back door method', it slithered into the flower border and crept along the back, under several shrubs and emerged at the other end only to be ambushed by the patrolling Fieldfare the moment it emerged. I felt so sorry for it as I thought it was a very cleverly worked out tactic :)

I do think they are handsome birds. A member of the thrush family (Turdidae), just a little larger than a Blackbird and with a similar stance to the Mistle Thrush, they are often seen in flocks with another cousin, the aforementioned Redwing. The photo below shows how they fan their tail feathers when seeing off other birds, they do look very imposing!

It really did waste an awful lot of eating time by constantly watching for any other birds which might try to share the apples.

'I have remembered when the winter came,
And where the fieldfare followed in the rear,
When all the fields around lay bound and hoar,
Beneath a thick integument of snow.'
{Robert Frost}

'Snow and sleet, and sleet and snow.
Will the Winter never go?'
(Katherine Mansfield)

Another bird which only visits the garden when there is snow is the Pied Wagtail and on Tuesday there were two. Usually they get a very hard time from the Blackbirds but this time they had the Fieldfare to contend with as well! As well as the apples, I had scattered mixed seed, dried mealworms, sultanas, mild grated cheese and suet pellets on the ground and despite the wagtail being predominantly insectivorous it was definitely eating apple, I suppose, desperate times call for desperate measures!

Pied Wagtail

It was very successful at dodging the Fieldfare and most of the time just bobbed out of the way with great agility but every now and again it was scared away to a further part of the garden.

'And the snow lies drifted white
In the bower of our delight,
Where the beech threw gracious shade
On the cheek of boy and maid:
And the bitter blasts make roar
Through the fleshless sycamore.'
(Willa Cather)

Once, it was frightened onto the back of a garden chair, right outside the window.

Of course, as I said at the beginning, the more usual garden visitors have been visiting regularly as well and this Starling looked like it was wondering, in the (slightly amended) words of Travis, 'Why does it always snow on me?'!


While these two decided that, despite the weather, it was bath time.

A drink was enough for this Collared Dove.

Collared Dove

The Greenfinch is one of the most common visitors to my garden all year round.


The other visitor I have been awaiting the return of is the Blackcap, a delightful little bird which I have seen in my Winter garden for the last few years. So far, this time, I have not been able to get a photo of the female but I have seen glimpses of her with her beautiful chestnut coloured cap. They particularly enjoy the fat treats but as I mentioned on my last post, the fatballs have not been very popular this year. However I did manage to capture the male Blackcap investigating them. This enchanting little bird has a beautiful fluting song which has earned it the well deserved name 'northern nightingale', it is also said to be a very good mimic.

'Thou speak'st the truth thou grave black-cap,
I've heard thee with delight,
When thou wert free from care, thou sat'st,
And chanted'st all thy might.

Thy blended notes are most complete,
Yet varied all the while,
Thy symphonies display the grace
of nature's complex style.
Methought at times, that all the birds
Which sing were perched with thee,
Thou did'st so exquisitely send
Their sev'ral tones to me.'
(James Lawson}

Here, with a Blue Tit

Blackcap and Blue Tit

and here, he seems to have spotted me!

'Under the twigs the blackcap hangs in vain
With snowwhite patch streaked over either eye
This way and that he turns and peeps again'
(John Clare)

Well, thankfully, overnight, most of the snow has been washed away by rain and today we have returned to relatively milder temperatures accompanied, this early evening, as the light fades, by fog. I hope the weather where you are is improving and that you enjoy the rest of the weekend and the week to come.