Sunday, 28 December 2014

Post-Christmas birding

(From the comfort of the kitchen window).

Well, that's Christmas over in a flash. All that preparation, and now the days of nibbling on leftovers! 

The weather here for the past few days has avoided giving us the snow-falls reserved for the northern counties, and aside from heavy rain overnight on Boxing Day, the sky has been kept clear by boisterous, disgruntled winds. 

Standing at the kitchen window (bowl of cold roasties in hand of course), I look out onto our tiny, mid-terrace garden that squeezes between the back wall of the house and the carport, bordered by standard board fencing. Beyond the garden and the rooftop of the carports, rise a pair of old oak trees, pre-dating the house by many a year! They are the haunt of wood pigeon and woodpecker, visited by acorn-gathering jays in the autumn, and a playground for arguing gangs of crows and magpies. The finches and the tits use them, the starlings sit a-top and sing from them. And through each storm and each sunny day, they stand tall and proud and constant, and ever-changing to mark the passing of each season. 

The garden is our little haven, our own patch of land to tend, and we are well aware that we share it with a wide variety of wildlife too. As this kitchen-window-view is about as 'local' as part of a local patch can get, you will find that I will probably blog often about the wildlife that visits; being so accessible and within the boundaries of my Home creates a strong connection with all of the birds and the bees and the bugs and such. I have put a bit of effort into making it as comfortable for these wild visitors and residents as possible. Well, as far as space and practicalities allow at least.  

We have a small pond, and a bird-bath (a homemade affair of an old seed tray, with broken terracotta flower pots as perches, snuggled in at the edge of the flower border). Most of the plants are 'cottage garden' or wild flowers, some of which happily self-seed themselves profusely where ever they choose, and almost all are bee-&-butterfly-&-other-pollinator-friendly varieties. 
In one sunny corner is a solitary bee nesting box; a little wooden 'house' filled with tubes where the solitary bees lay their precious eggs, in the other corner is a collection of bird nest-boxes, of different styles and hung at different heights, in the hope that one will be successful (but every year the birds use the nest-box of my neighbour on the other side of the fence!). 
And I feed the birds. 

What do we get from all this? Satisfaction, and endless entertainment. 

The bird-feeders have been busy the last few mornings, as the birds need to top up their dwindling energy levels after the long cold night, and natural food is trickier to find and access when all is frozen and frosty. 

I have tried to capture a few photos of our recent visitors to share with you.
(They are taken through the window so as not to spook the birds away, so please excuse the slight drop in quality!)

This masked bandit is a Nuthatch. he dashes in and out and steals seeds away to stash in crevices in the bark of the old oak tree. A very smart looking bird; slender and pointed, with a blue-grey cap and back and an apricot waistcoat!

 A mob of starlings descended a few times over the last two days. I refer to them as a 'mob' as they do tend to come in on mass and be a little heavy-handed, but I do love their 'pearly-king' plumage and cheeky, intelligent personality.  

The blackbirds spend most of their time on the ground, and, at the moment at least, seem rather shy.
This is a female, the male is glossy black with a fiery orange bill. 

The robin. Who doesn't love a robin? This little fella (or girl, it's not really possible to tell) is a real character in our garden. He spends most of his time in the gardens along this terrace, flitting from fence to fence, stamping his feet, flicking his tail and scolding me in no uncertain terms when there isn't enough food for his liking, or the neighbour's cat is on patrol, or other birds are on HIS feeders, or indeed it would seem for no reason at all! Grumpy little robin!    

Other birds that visit include both blue and great tits, and the tiny coal tit too. Goldfinches, chaffinch, and greenfinch pop in from time to time, with dunnock, house sparrow, wood pigeons, and my favourite, the tiny scurrying wren. In previous hard winters, when snow has fallen, pied wagtail and grey wagtail have staged feirce battles over grated cheese, and a shy song thrush has visited for his or her share of mealworms and suet. A few weeks ago we had a first (and so far last!) sighting of a marsh tit on the feeders. I hope it returns. 

I seem to have eaten all those cold roast potatoes. I suppose I had better go and tidy up the kitchen, and stop staring out the window...for now. 

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Hello! Thank you for viewing my blogs and profile. I am passionate about the countryside and british wildlife and I hope that this comes through in my blog. I am a nature writer and have been pursuing photography since early teenage years, whilst building a career in conservation. Helping people to reconnect with the natural world is very important to me, whether through direct hands on interaction, education or literature. Please also visit my website, for more information, my current CV, and further examples of writing and photography. You can contact me or keep up to date with new blog posts via Twitter @SophiEcoWild and/or Feedback, comments and audience participation are always welcome! Sophie May Lewis