Wednesday, 10 March 2021

Garden birds: winter 2020-21

It has been a very poor winter for birds in my garden, except for the Moorhen which stayed around until mid December, and it has not been for the lack of food on offer. The number of Goldfinches using the feeders has been low and only in single figures throughout. Perhaps the lockdowns have encouraged more people to feed birds in their gardens and this has provided species like Goldfinch with more options than in previous winters. It could also be because there is more natural food available this winter or a combination of the two. Siskins had been totally absent until recently with the first and only sighting of the winter being a fine adult male that visited the feeders yesterday. Use of garden feeders by Siskins is closely linked to availability of natural food supplies so it suggests there has been an abundance of natural food for that species, at least.

Adult male Siskin
Adult male Siskin 09/03/2021

The rounded tail shape and uniform greater coverts and tertials make this Siskin easy to age as an adult (2CY+)

Blackbirds appear to have used the garden in slightly larger numbers with 26 being ringed over the course of the winter but that may be a consequence of the lockdowns and increased time spent catching and ringing Blackbirds rather than any real increase. 
One species that has seen a real increase in numbers is House Sparrow with up to a dozen visiting the feeders every day and a nice roost gathering in a neighbours conifer hedge. They had become very scarce in recent years so it is nice to see that they have made a bit of a comeback.

Also on a positive note it has been good to have a Blackcap visiting the feeders since the start of the year. It was an occasional visitor at first but has become a regular visitor over the past month or so. I assumed it was the same individual each time until 2 males were on the same feeder on 22nd February. I caught and colour-ringed one of them on 6th March and that bird has been seen in the garden numerous times each day since then but an unringed male was also present yesterday so perhaps there have been 2 birds all along.

Ringed male Blackcap 08/03/2021

Ringed male Blackcap 08/03/2021

Ringed male Blackcap 08/03/2021

Unringed male Blackcap 09/03/2021

Both Blackcaps are likely to stay around until late March by which time they will have fattened up and be ready to migrate to breeding areas in Europe or possibly elsewhere in the UK.


Sunday, 22 November 2020

Conifer loving Moorhen

The Moorhen has been a regular in the garden all week and its favourite hiding spot is high up in a fairly tall, dense conifer (highlighted by the red box and arrow in the image below). It sits up there for long periods in between bouts of feeding. 



It is not easy to see when it keeps still.


Every now and again it decides to come down for a feed.

Moorhen in conifer, © P J Alker

Getting ready to launch.


And then it goes for it.




It seems quite at home strutting across the lawn and it happily stands its ground against the feral pigeons that visit the garden.


It does appear to be resident in the garden as there haven't been any sightings to suggest that it commutes between the garden and the lakes in the park across the road. It has adapted to the garden habitat and happily struts about on the privet hedge and drinks drops of water from their leaves when it is raining. It occasionally takes cover in the dense yew hedge but its favourite resting spot is up in the conifer or Lawson Cypress to be precise.

Monday, 16 November 2020

Garden Gallinula and Orrell Water Park Dipper

I had an unexpected first for the garden earlier in the week when I spotted a juvenile Moorhen feeding under one of the bird feeders. It has been quite a long time since I recorded a new species in the garden, when I say garden I mean small front garden, and Moorhen isn't one that ever seemed likely. Moorhens breed on the small lakes in Orrell Water Park across the road from where I live so don't have to wander far but there is a mature and quite dense belt of trees that surrounds the park along with the park's perimeter wall, and then there is a fairly busy road to negotiate to reach my front garden and the garden itself is surrounded by dense evergreen hedging. Those features have successfully prevented Moorhens from reaching my garden in the 20 plus years I have lived here, not to mention the local cat population and general levels of human activity.

Moorhen

I didn't manage to get any photographs on that first day but the Moorhen has been seen numerous times since and I managed to get some record shots yesterday (15/11/2020). These regular appearances in the garden beg the question - is it commuting between the garden and the ponds in the park or has it taken up temporary residence in the garden. As I detailed earlier there is no easy route for for a bird like a Moorhen to get between the garden and the ponds in the park even if a mixture of walking and flight is used. Temporary residence seems just as unlikely given the size of the garden and the nature of the neighbouring properties but it has been seen in a tall conifer hedge at the back of a neighbours property and in a tall conifer in the front garden so it knows how to get out of the way when people are around. Either way anyone who knows my garden will find this record just as unexpected and exceptional as I have.

Moorhen

The House Sparrows don't seem too impressed with this new visitor.

Moorhen

The Moorhen wasn't the only first I had in the past week as on Friday the 13th no less I saw a Dipper on Orrell Water Park which was my first record for the site. I had heard a second hand report of one being seen there last winter but I didn't know how reliable that sighting was and I didn't connect with it on my regular walks back then. There is very little suitable habitat for Dippers within the park boundary and the site is heavily disturbed with walkers and dog walkers, with me being one of them, so this is going to be a difficult species to see for anyone who keeps a tick list for Orrell Water Park. I didn't expect to see one despite the report of one being seen last winter so two good firsts for me in the same week. 

Wednesday, 28 October 2020

Many happy returns

Last Friday, 23/10/2020, I was really pleased to find the German ringed Black-headed Gull (IA141745) had returned to Orrell Water Park. This bird has featured on the blog many times and its return always cheers me up. It was first sighted at Orrell Water Park on 27/10/2012 and has been recorded numerous times each winter since then, usually between late October and late February or early March. It was ringed as an adult on 29/04/2012 in northern Germany, not far from the Baltic coast and the border with Poland, and presumably breeds in that area.


IA141745 photographed 23/10/2020




A well worn and photographed ring.

Saturday, 24 October 2020

Sunflower reaches new heights

  • Where do you start when you haven't posted anything on your blog for the best part of six months and the simple answer for me was when I noticed a sunflower growing out of a neighbours chimney stack (14/10/2020). It was just one of those moments where I thought I need to photograph this and share it at some point.
  • I had been walking home from Orrell Water Park, where I had been looking for returning ringed Black-headed Gulls, when I noticed the sunflower. My attention had not only been drawn by its cheerful, bright yellow colour but also by a Woodpigeon that was strutting about on the chimney before settling down to take in a few rays.






  • It wasn't just its cheerful appearance that interested me but it also begged the question of how did it get there. The answer for me was quite simple with the most likely culprit being a Coal Tit. Coal Tits cache huge numbers of seeds and they seek out all manner of nook and cranny with my hanging baskets being testimony to that. However, most seeds are placed in locations that don't give them the opportunity to germinate and grow but this chimney pot location takes the ones that do to a new height.

Friday, 1 May 2020

Starling stuff

Well I am still here, for the time being at least, and my study Starlings seem too be doing particularly well. My RAS season started on 21st April and I have recorded 103 colour ringed Starlings visiting the feeders so far. This is an exceptionally good start to my RAS season and it looks like it will prove to be an earlier than average breeding season too.

DO6 is a regular visitor to the garden and has been recorded on numerous occasions during the breeding season since being ringed in February 2016. The photos are a bit crappy but my excuse is they were taken through a window in harsh light.

D06 again left and A59 right. Both are males and A59 has been recorded on numerous occasions each year since being ringed in May 2015.


Sunday, 1 December 2019

Rig Recovery

I haven't had any overseas recoveries for a while but I received a recovery report the other day which was literally over the sea. The report was of a Redwing that had been found dead on an oil rig in the North Sea off Norway.



RY31120 Redwing
First Year      19/11/2018  Billinge Hill, Billinge, Merseyside.
Found dead  17/11/2019  Oil Rig Snorre B, Tampen, North Sea. 938km NNE

It wasn't freshly dead when found but is still likely to have reached the rig the same autumn as I wouldn't have thought a the body of a small thrush like a Redwing would last long on an exposed rig or remain unfound for very long either.