01. April 2013 · 1 comment · Categories: Birds

PheasantHead

David from Castle Douglas sent in these wonderful close up pictures of pheasants, demonstrating the exotic glories to be found in the UK. He was able to get such wonderfully detailed shots as these pheasants are relatively bold mixing it with the chickens to take advantage of their food.

PheasantHead2
You'll notice some variation in the look of these two males (and others) – for instance the white ring present only on the second. According to Wikipedia this is because there are various subspecies, as a result of interbreeding down the years.

More of David's wonderful pheasants in a subsequent post, including what happens when they get into a scrap.

RobinInLateMarchSnow
Here's a sign of our confused climate – a Xmassy image of a robin in the snow, as we near April. This lovely picture is courtesy of Jenny from a "very snowy Castle Douglas". Thanks Jenny.

There's also snow in the UKNB garden here in Hertfordshire, and it's been interesting to see so much bird life in the garden, grateful for the feeders, and much easier to see against a white backdrop and with no leaves on the trees. Mostly it has been chaffinches, goldfinches, great tits, blue tits and plenty of robins.

Magpie

Spring is trying to spring, and I've noticed plenty going on out there.

  • Magpies and rooks are particularly noticeable collecting material for their nests.
  • Tits are creeping along tree branches picking at the buds looking for insects.
  • Birds are singing lustily.
  • It remains extremely damp pretty much everywhere. I bet there's a hosepipe ban within a month!
  • Herons are nesting in the park.

CoalTit

This post isn't about Saturday night in the town centre! This article is contributed by Sarah Oxley, who thinks everyone should come and live in the city of Leeds because it has great birdlife and lots of green space, and also because she's an estate agent so it's in her professional interest. It's a lovely insight into one person's experience of watching birds in the garden.

Birds of Leeds

It was the 34th annual Big Garden Birdwatch of the RSPB this year, and while the results are being counted, I thought it might be interesting to share some of the sightings of my local area and invite everyone to share what they spotted in their gardens. 

I live in Leeds, and while I don’t have a garden, my grandparents do and have been putting out food for the birds for a very long time (I think it might be coming up to forty years now). They often have a lot of activity in the garden, and so every year we complete the Big Garden Birdwatch. 

This year we spotted the following:

Robin

Robins are frequent visitors of the garden, which always pleases me, as they are my favourite bird. This year we sighted two in the garden at the same time, which was quite a surprise since Robins are territorial and it’s the wrong time of year for pairs to share territory. 

House Sparrow

A small flock (about 5 I think) visited the garden. House Sparrows were quite widespread in urban and suburban areas in the early 90s, but have been in decline. The RSPB reports that London is especially affected by this decline. Leeds seems to still have a few sparrows about.  

Long Tailed Tit

In the past the main tit species in the garden were Blue Tits with the occasional Great and Coal Tit thrown in, but last year and this year in particular there have been Long Tailed Tits visiting. They often come around the same time of the day (mid-morning), so we tried to make sure our bird watching hour was set for when they were due. 

Coal Tits 

Coal Tits often come into the garden in groups with the Long Tailed Tits, but unlike the Long Tailed Tits who seem more interested in the bird seeds, the Coal Tits grab a peanut, fly off and then come back for another. 

Nuthatch

Another big fan of the peanut dispenser in the garden is a Nuthatch. This one is an unusual sight, as Nuthatches generally prefer mature woods or parklands. While my grandparents live in a more rural area of Leeds, it can’t be described as parkland or mature wood. There is a park nearby, so the Nuthatch must travel quite a way for his food. Also, we’ve only seen one at a time in the garden. 

Starling

A flock of starlings flew in for a good five minutes before they were off again. This flock appears in the garden every day, usually around the same time and never stays for long. Again, this is a different sight, as Starlings are generally more widespread in the south of England. 

Collared Dove

A pair of Collared Doves came to the garden, which was nice to see as Collared Doves have been suffering from low numbers, as according to the RSPB, but are now thriving in the UK. 

Blackbird

Probably Britain's most sighted bird, Blackbirds have been consistent visitors to the garden, and the temptation of raisins brought Mr and Mrs Blackbird into the garden once again. 

Great Spotted Woodpecker

Another visitor, who must travel from the local park, as the area doesn’t have enough woodland for it, is the Great Spotted Woodpecker. This woodpecker comes for the peanuts, as well the bird seed slab as it can comfortably hang on the cage and peck away without disturbance.

I found taking the time to actually identify which birds come into the garden quite enlightening, as it shows just how much wildlife activity is about, if you take the time to look. 

As a city Leeds seems to have quite a lot of different wildlife about. This is likely due to its proximity to the Yorkshire Dales, its wide greenbelt, and many parks. It does have more green space per child than any other city in the UK, according to The Children’s Society’s 2008 survey. 

Did you spot similar or very different birds in your garden during the Big Garden Birdwatch? 

It would be great to compare North and South wildlife activity, so leave your list in the comment section below.

 

This article was written by Sarah Oxley on behalf of LS1, providers of flats in Leeds and the Yorkshire area. Sarah has been living in Leeds for two years, and highly recommends you come have a look at the city.

AngelicRobin
Regular correspondent Jenny, from Scotland ,sent in this wonderful picture of a tame Robin that eats from her hand and poses beautifully for pictures. I think it's a great shot.

PheasantStubble

Thanks to my own dear father for this nice picture of a pheasant strutting through the stubble of a farmer's field. It's easy to forget that we have such a colourful and exotic bird in the UK.

NaturesFeastFeeder1
A few months ago the folks at Nature's Feast kindly sent me a bird feeder to review, along with some food to put in it. A couple of my existing feeders had become quite damaged so this was timely and meant I had a good comparison to make. Would this new feeder fare better than the old ones?

Those old feeders were cheap and plasticky 'value for money' purchases from a garden centre, so perhaps I shouldn't be surprised that they fell foul of the elements, squirrels and next door's cat. The biggest problem occurs when they get knocked down by the wind or animals and break on hitting the floor. I was hopeful that this Nature's Feast feeder's more robust construction would prove more successful, and indeed it has proved to be so far. It has solid metal fittings on the main plastic tube, with the perches for each hole being metal pegs that screw in. These shouldn't break off nearly as easily as moulded plastic perches.

Those metal perches are also part of a rather neat design where the base of the feeder can be removed by unscrewing the three around the bottom, which makes it very much easier to clean. I have always struggled in the past to get at the crevices at the bottom of my feeders, poking at them with a bottle brush from above or through the feeding holes, but here there are no crevices once the base is removed. Cleaning feeders is very important to get rid of rotting food and prevent spread of disease and I'm often remiss because it's usually such a chore.

BirdFeederSquirrelAttack

The tube itself is in this case split internally into three twisting chambers, so you can fill it with three different foods to attract a greater variety of wildlife. Or just for the novelty effect, which is actually rather pleasing. It probably also adds to the overall robustness of the tube. Alas I avoid bird food containing peanuts owing to an allergy and this means I struggle to find 3 different things to go in it (most mixes have peanut granules in them). I originally stocked it with sunflower hearts and black sunflower seeds, also kindly supplied by Nature's Feast and it was regularly festooned with finches, as per my picture below.

Overall I'm very pleased with this feeder and would recommend it for its solid, easy to clean construction. The triple twist is a nice feature too.

NaturesFeastFeeder2

16. October 2012 · 1 comment · Categories: Birds

RedKitesFeedingStation
Subsequent to my very tatty example, Jenny sent in some wonderful picture of Red kites at the feeding station near her at Bellymack Farm in Laurieston, Kirkcudbrightshire. I imagine it's quite something! I wonder if it's the same one they featured on Springwatch a couple of years back?

You can just see the green tag on the wings of the bird in flight below. Thanks for sharing the great pictures Jenny.

RedKiteTaggedWings

Jay

It seems as if autumn swept in over just a few days and now the country is transformed. Here are a few things I've noticed recently.

  • The feeders are smothered in Goldfinches and Greenfinches.
  • Magpies and Jays are much in evidence. Jays in particular always seem to suddenly appear at this time of year, though you had hardly seen them at all for the other months. I've blogged about this before. Twice.
  • The trees are showing their autumn colours – some of them are golden yellow already, but the full display is yet to be seen.
  • It's raining. A lot.
  • Fruit and veg crops didn't fare well with the topsy turvy weather over the year. I read that a famous English vineyard has had to ditch the entire year's grape harvest as it's just no good.
  • The garden spiders have mostly had their fun and there aren't quite so many webs to walk into of a morning.

RaggedKite

This is easily the best shot of a Red kite that I've ever managed to get, with a backlit glow and reasonably sharp eyes (click the photo for a larger version).

It's a shame this bird is only just recognisable as a kite though. It's so tatty! The distinctive V tail needs a little bit of imagination to see, and the wing feathers aren't much better. I even had to think twice about whether it really was a kite or just a buzzard, but the length of the tail and those distinctive white patches on the wings make it clear. If I was better at this game I'd also be confidently talking about the wing shape I expect.

It spent a long time flying low and slow over Butterfly World near St Albans, giving me ample opportunity to snap away, albeit with only a 18-200mm lens at the long end (the photo is fairly severely cropped and not as sharp as I'd like). I wish I'd had my 400mm lens that day!