Sunday, January 28, 2007

Results for the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch

Today's tally - all the species seen this morning:

Blue Tit
Great Tit
Collared Dove
Carrion Crow

Started early and my first tick was a wren singing from the top of the climbing rose, quickly followed by ticks for a sparrow (house), robin and blue tit flitting to and from the feeders. Three more blue tits later appeared flying between the bare branches of the shrubs, picking off small insects and the seed feeder and one even settled briefly on the nut feeder. The wren disappeared into the shrubbery - appearing every now and then to sit and sing from a fence or higher point. They usually spend most of their time skulking around in the undergrowth - singing their loud, warbling song.

A very smart male blackbird spent most of the hour flying from one fence to the other and then sidling up to a browner female blackbird when she appeared. When another female appeared on the lawn he was beside himself, moving from one to the other - trying to get one of them interested in his advances. A bit too earlier in the year for anything serious. Another robin flew in. Obviously a pair as both of them were together either on the bird table, at the feeder or in one of the bushes. A pair of great tits also made an appearance a couple of times, with their bold black strip down their front. Flitting around the buddleia and on the feeders.

Four house sparrows all appeared at once, taking it in turns to visit the seed feeder - two males and two females. Once thought of as common, they're rapidly declining and seen less and less in fields and gardens. A small flock of starlings descended on the bird table at one point in a noisy gaggle - hardly enough of them to be classed as a murmuration but noisy and squabbling as usual.

A large woodpigeon almost had me smiling as I watched it trying to work out how to get the seed on the bird table. It flew from the ground to the roof of the table and back again. Almost hanging off the edge of the roof and peering intently round while plucking up the courage or working out just how to get to it. It did eventually succeed and barely managed to squeeze itself under the roof. If it had to take off too quickly it would probably have knocked it's head on the roof. I just sat quietly watching until it had eaten it's fill and went off for a drink and then flew off. A pair of them later returned but weren't inclined to repeat the attempt to get on the table.

Just towards the end of the hour a collared dove flew in but didn't stay long and a mapgie and carrion crow were also spotted on the periphery of the garden so they got added to the list bringing the total to 11 species in all. I missed out on seeing a greenfinch, chaffinch or even a goldfinch but they're rarer visitors to the garden at the best of times.

Friday, January 26, 2007

RSPB - Big Garden Birdwatch

This weekend is the RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch. The one weekend in the year when they ask you to spend an hour making a note of all the different types of bird that come into your garden.

It's very easy to do as you can record your results online and they even give you images of the top 20 most popular garden birds if you're not totally up on who's what. All the information you need is on the RSPB's website.

Take an hour out of your day this weekend, either Saturday or Sunday, gaze out of the window, sit in the garden with a cup of coffee and the paper, spend some time with the kids and see how many different species you can see.

Early morning is best as there will be lots of birds visiting gardens for food. I'll see if I can get more than starling, blackbird and a robin.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Snow In Sussex

The first snow this year. This is what I woke up to this morning. Well, when I first woke at 5am it hadn't snowed yet but it did a couple of hours later.

A heavy covering - not just the usual dusting that makes it this far south occasionally. It will probably be gone by lunchtime but for the moment it looks lovely.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

First Signs Of Spring

I know it's still early days but someone has already mentioned they have frogspawn in their pond.

The species to watch out for are:

Frogspawn - from early February
Seven-spot ladybird - February/March
Red-tailed bumblebee - March
Peacock butterfly - late March, early April
Hawthorn flowering - end of April/May
Swift - late April, early May

Keep your eyes open and record your sightings on the BBC Springwatch site which runs through to 2007.

New Seed Feeder

The birds have finally found my new pigeon proof feeder. It's been out for several days but the seed level hadn't changed, so they may have been confused by it's appearance. The pigeons certainly would have been. I've also started using a husk-free mix of seeds, so there will be less debris below the feeders.

There haven't been many birds around anyway, what with the gusting winds this week. This morning there is a small blue tit - flitting to and fro from the buddleia to pick a seed out and the robin has been around - singing from the bushes. They sing all year - maintaining their territory even through the winter.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Mud Tracks

Out for my run today and please do see that someone has been up and finally cleared the pile of mud, manure and debris that was dumped up by the Tye. There's still a quagmire to negotiate going over the cattlegrid, where the mud's been distributed over much of the track as cars, vans and four-wheel drives have churned up the track still further as they tried to get round it. The burnt out car has also gone so I can only assume the council has been up there.

Several fence panels are down on the route up the track - not surprisingly after the last couple of days of wind, but no tree damage - not even a broken branch. Not that there are many trees once you reach the Tye and most of them are already growing at right angles to the wind. The hedgerows and areas of scrub have opened up now that the leaves have been blown off and branches are bare.

The cows are back on the Tye and of course with all the recent rain, it's pretty soft and muddy underfoot now - especially where they've been moving around and tyre tracks on the grass are further churning up the mud. At least the dewpond has filled up - although if the money being spent on re-doing Rottingdean Pond had been used to repair some of the Downland dewponds, it would be a lot fuller and probably a lot more benefit to wildlife.

It's still ridiculously mild. The thrushes, blackbirds, robins and skylarks are singing as though it's Spring. Not much around today - except for the few birds above and the usual crows.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Blackcap And A Thrush

Two treats this morning in the garden. First a female blackcap having a bath while being watched by a pair of blue tits waiting their turn and then a song thrush on the lawn.

At least yesterday's gale force wind has lessened and no more damage has been done to what's left of the fences.