Friday, November 26, 2010

Birds In An Urban/Suburban Garden

No matter how big or small or where your garden is located, you can still attract birds to your garden.  You might not get hundreds of species but there's still great pleasure to be had from watching your regular visitors and their habits.

Many urban birds that were a common sight are now in danger and the hundreds and thousands of people who regularly feed birds in their gardens are helping to preserve many of them.

Starling, house sparrow, song thrush, cuckoo and skylark - birds we're all familiar with are on the Red List.  Swallows, house martins and dunnock are on the Amber List.

Even if you live in a suburban area, birds don't distinguish between countryside and towns.  As long as there is food available and places to nest they'll be there.

Put out the feeders, have a little patience and see what turns up.

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Sunday, November 14, 2010

Waterlogged Inside And Out

Many thanks to the hardy few who turned out on a grey and drizzly Sunday for some light clearance of scrub regrowth up on the E-piece.

It started out looking as if, optimistically, it might be a reasonable day.  Although light rain/showers were forecast there was some blue sky and the clouds were lifting shortly before we all met up.  Inevitably, having decided to go ahead, the drizzle set in and became heavier and more persistent.

After a couple of hours and soaked to the skin - we decided to call it a day and headed back to warmth and to dry off.  We managed to clear an area at the top of the slope of small blackthorn, hawthorn seedlings and the more vigorous elder.  Hopefully the rabbits can take over and keep it down.

A great effort despite the weather and limited numbers.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

It's All Happening Today

Now the chiffchaff has turned up and is in it's favourite shrub picking insects off the leaves and branches and being quite acrobatic in the process.  It's so close that my binoculars won't even focus on it.  Lovely little bird and always nice to see such a delicate bird in the garden, which doesn't happen very often.

It's been joined by one of the blue tits and even the coal tit has now appeared in the ribes, pecking away on a sunflower heart before flying off to the woods.  None of them are taking much notice of the fat balls - at least not yet.

One of the pleasant distractions of being able to work from home.
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Wet And Windy Breakfast (And Another First!)

The birds are back in the garden.  After a lull last month when they're more likely to be making the most of the autumn harvest, with the drop in temperature they're back in the garden.

The fat wood pigeon is pecking at the fall-out on the ground.  The blue tit flits too and fro from feeder to bush - there appear to be two of them but they're hard to keep track of sometimes.

Coal Tit (Periparus ater) Princetown, Devon, E...Image via Wikipedia - photo by AvicedaOMG a coal tit just did the same! And b**gger me - I'm sure that was a nuthatch!  Only caught a glimpse of it's beak from the other side of the feeder.  Two more firsts for the garden!

You're getting the action as it happens, as I sit here eating breakfast, watching the feeders.  The house sparrows have also now flown in for their breakfast and a great tit is also out there with them.

The greenfinches tend to be more sedate - taking their time, pecking seed but also having challenging the other birds on the feeders - other greenfinches and sparrows.   There's also a dunnock moving around in the bushes.

The blackbirds are also back (not right at this moment) but they'll make regular visits until the berries are gone - both on the fence and in the front garden, so I can look out for them from the sitting room window - and anyone else who decides to turn up.

Final visitor for breakfast is the goldfinch - delicately picking at the niger seed, which he gets all to himself.  I've also counted four blue-tits now and a male chaffinch has also flown in to compete with the wood pigeon.

Well the coal tit is still around, so hopefully that will become a regular visitor.
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Sunday, November 07, 2010

Lullington Heath

A change of location for today's task - from Blackcap where we were a couple of weeks ago to Lullington Heath NNR, north of Friston Forest and a combined task with the Eastern group and Lou Parkinson from Natural England.

A much colder start to the day than the mild weather we've had for the past few days but not yet requiring the thermals.  Also an earlier start than normal as I'd agreed to meet the Eastern Group at Seven Sisters rather than drive over to Stanmer only to drive back this way.

And with an earlier start we were out on the hill and working just after 10.  The others didn't turn up until 11!  Clearing scrub around Old Winchester Pond but some discussion about just how much scrub we needed to clear.

Although the idea was to open up the view across the reserve - birds and wildlife in general need a bit of cover and walkers could also benefit from a few sheltered patches - especially on exposed areas of the Downs.

We focused on the gorse, bramble and regrowth of hawthorn and blackthorn, clearing it back from the pond and also clearing a path along the fence-line.

The fire took a while to get going but by lunch-time was roaring away.  We quickly cleared away everything that had been cut in the morning and also dragged out scrub that had been cut and left from an earlier task.

Finished off earlier than normal and headed off back to Seven Sisters - still stinking of smoke and with a few more scratches.  One knee resembling a pin-cushion but all aches and pains and odours washed away with a good soak and should sleep like a log.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Twitchers A Very British Obsession

Training spotting for birders?

Just watched BBC4's programme "Twitchers A Very British Obsession".  Now I love my birds, I enjoy spotting different species and yes, I do make lists of the birds I see when I'm out and about but I'm not that obsessed. 

I wouldn't class myself as being vaguely Twitcher-ish.  For me it's about what I see and observe it the natural environment.  You never know what might turn up and occasionally it's a rarity but you wouldn't get me jumping in the car and driving for 15 hours just to tick off a bird which is essentially in a totally alien environment and stands little chance of survival.

Yes, I enjoyed seeing the snow-geese and bar headed goose over at Pulborough last year - although they were highly unlikely to have flown in 'accidentally' - more likely escapees from a nearby collection.
Let's face it, I have enough trouble identifying some of the migrant waders and I'd get excited if I saw a long-tailed tit in the garden ... so perhaps the appeal of twitching isn't the same.

The idea of hordes, in fact often hundreds of 'twitchers' all directing their scopes at some poor bird in a bush,  just doesn't appeal.  It's a bit like watching animals in a zoo.  You get to see creatures you'd probably never see in real life but it's not really 'real'.

I did come across a horde of twitchers (what is the collective name for twitchers?) at Farlington Marshes.  It was years ago and there was a rare warbler in the said bush - I think it might even have been a Cetti's Warbler.

That said - some of these twitching rarities have now become commonplace.  Little Egrets were a rare sight not so very long ago and I remember getting excited seeing my first Egyptian goose (another escapee) up in Norfolk and that Cetti's Warbler is not as rare.

I've no idea how many birds I've seen so far.  I might get a little competitive and notice when I hit a personal best at Pulborough but that's about it ... maybe I ought to update my Life List ...
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