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.