THE BIRDS

A school bird project began the identifying of garden birds here, Spring 2006, pre gardenwatch blog. Initially birds were slow to use feeders but when they came we were surprised by the variety. Very surprised. Where did they all come from? We had never seen some of these bird species, the goldfinch was the star then. It’s still a favourite yet, arriving in its charming groups in all weather conditions. It’s got a hardy character that’s for sure.

Hanging up a few bird feeders may be seen as the first stage in attracting birds to our gardens. In reality if a garden already has trees and shrubs, which we had, birds would be already be visiting. We had no idea which species were here, but when we began seeing more arrive, research followed to identify them and establish which foods was to their liking. Gosh, we could never have imagined how many species would be seen by providing a variety of foods and water.

Word certainly gets around in the bird world. The current total of bird species visiting this small garden, on the edge of a small town is a staggering 47. I’m saying staggering as there is no way on this earth that I could ever have imagined that number when I sat at my gardenwatch window with my daughter counting. I guess that’s the answer though, if we don’t take time to look more closely we really could be missing a lot of the natural world that is right in front of us. That is the one thing that I’ve truly realised through blogging.

So who has been visiting? For ease of viewing I’ve divided our visitors into two autoplay slideshows. Where there is a clear difference between male and female, I’ve shown both. The first group I will describe as the main cast. These are the birds that I could see sitting doing a birdcount at my gardenwatch window almost any time of the year. The usual suspects, the drop-ins and some occasionals that aren’t seasonal visitors.

All photos are taken through a window with a variety of daylighting and a fair bit of cropping. I’m not a photographer by any means, more someone who enjoys taking photos of birds and other wildlife that visits the garden. I like to have record images and some of them really are a bit grainy but they are all memories that still make me smile. So, here are the main cast.

So there are few notes to add to the main cast slideshow. Partial albino blackbirds, with a variety of white feather patterns, used to be quite a regular sighting in the garden. I don’t see them now. The leucistic siskin was a one off and really challenged an ID at the time. I got help online.

The tree sparrow is on the occasional list along with the collared dove and the sparrowhawk who most likely still visits but I haven’t seen in a while. The tree sparrow nearly moved up the list when it caused a bit of excitement in Spring 2020 when it inspected our camera nestbox on more of a few occasions. Houses Martins are seen at the front of our house almost every year since a nest was built back in 2011.

No images can be captured of the swifts that are seen feeding in circles high in the sky above the house martins. I guess the swift takes the species seen from the garden to 48. Herring gulls, black headed gulls, pink footed geese, canada geese and swans really boost the number to 53. Our garden is en route between a loch and foraging fields for water birds. We have seen and heard some spectacular skies of passing birds. What a speed they go too.

Crows always catch my eye by their size, when drawn to garden by the vocal smaller birds visiting in large groups. They have been quite entertaining to watch especially by the pond. They apprehensively walk in (caught on camera overlooking it) and once they decide they like it would go in and out. They can’t be seen in the blurry buzzard image but they were mobbing it. The winter starling group shows their change in plumage.

Some of the extras in this next autoplay slideshow really are quite special visitors to have had to the garden. We have been very, very fortunate to have been at home at the time to see them. The main wildlife pond camera has kicked up a few surprises too.

Winter 2013 brought the biggest variety of birds to the garden. Groups of mixed finches reached 60-80 alone. They were mesmerising as they circled above the garden before dropping down to everything they could land on. Yellowhammers, a peacock and the bossy pied wagtail were in the mix.

Winter 2018 finally delivered in terms of attracting winter passing birds with apples spiked through branches on garden feeder posts. Groups of thrushes and waxwings were the birds in mind for these and had been for a few years before. A previous blog tells of that story. Waxwings actually visited our garden!

Other notes to mention include the very grainy photo capture of the tiny goldcrest – it was alive! Prior to that I had the memory of a little body at the side of my house – guessing it had perished in the cold. The closer capture of a willow warbler passing through during the summer was a great opportunity as it really is in an out of the garden. We’ve seen it a few years now.

The treecreeper image was taken on a visit to SWT Loch of the Lowes. I’m pretty certain I saw it moving from the bottom of my coral barked acer but it moved so fast and I couldn’t get near my camera anyway. This sighting is a slight maybe but after watching it move at Lowes, I’m fairly confident I saw it. There were a lot of coal tits visiting that day and it seems it will follow them too.

The pond camera captures are revealing lots of interesting footage. A few videos will be uploaded soon. The biggest surprise came with huge feet walking in from the right edge – a heron was going fishing in my pond! I feared for newts, frogs and my pond liner. All appear to have survived.

Ending, on an editors note this was a huge undertaking locating and selecting images for these slideshows and I am delighted to have finally completed them. This is a garden record that I have thought about doing many times over the years but never in this format. I do hope it makes for an easier viewing and inspires others to gardenwatch too. I genuinely can’t believe we’ve had such a mix of garden bird sightings over the years and look forward to many more in the future. Maybe we will get a nuthatch at the feeders next and a tawny owl bathing in the pond. There’s always a maybe.