Sunday, January 25, 2009

Big Garden Birdwatch


It's that time of year again: the RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch. I did mine from 8.30-9.30 yesterday morning, when it was still frosty and cold. Today it's mild (the pond ice has melted), wet and windy. 

Here are the totals...
  • Chaffinch, 8
  • Jackdaw, 5
  • Blackbird, 3
  • Dunnock, 3
  • Great Tit, 3
  • Starling, 3
  • Blue Tit, 2
  • Greenfinch, 2
  • Coal Tit, 2
  • Robin, 1
  • Goldfinch, 1
  • Great Spotted Woodpecker, 1
  • Magpie, 1
That's quite different from last year and the year before, in some ways.

Where were all the Greenfinches? I counted a max of 12 last year. There have been mutterings on Cambirds about various theories, including alternative food sources and nasty illnesses (trichomoniasis).

Where were all the Blue Tits? Only two at once seems a bit pathetic, but we know from our New Year ringing session that there will have been lots more, but also that they had a bad breeding season in 2008.

Blackbird numbers were up, with a max count of 3 at once this year (1 in 2008 and none in 2007!). Annoyingly, I've counted 5 at once today. It was a similar story with Great Spotted Woodpeckers: only 1 male seen during my hour's count, but I saw two different females yesterday: 1 with a ring, and the other distinctively dirty.

It was good to see some Starlings, as they're not always around. One was the male I ringed on 3 January, so it'll be interesting to see whether he disappears in a few weeks or stays a while longer. No Marsh Tits, Sparrowhawks or sparrows of any description, though.

photo taken with Canon EOS 30D, EF 300mm f/4L IS USM

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Spring is on its way

Witch Hazel

OK, so my goal of posting something every day isn't going too well. I'd like to blame - in no particular order - the weather, having a cold and being busy.

Today I emerged from the office for a quick potter around at lunchtime. First thing I noticed was how warm it felt - about 6 degrees, I reckon. Compared to last week, when it barely got above zero, it felt positively pleasant.

I'm sure that the amount of bird noise has increased, too.

Blue Tits seem to be calling from every tree. There were several Great Tits singing already - they've clearly noticed that it's light for longer each day. Robins were also everywhere, but they sing all year so perhaps they don't count. Nuthatches are getting noisy. I'm going to have to read up to find out which of their varied noises is their actual song, but there was a lot of trilling going on today. It's good to hear.

I can't help but listen to birds wherever I am. In a meeting yesterday, we had a window open because it was so stuffy inside. I was paying attention, but I couldn't help but hear the raspberry noises from a flock of Long-tailed Tits from the birch just outside. I watched them flit past but tried not to make it obvious I was distracted. Later, I covertly listened to some Siskins - perhaps at the top of the tree? - and then a Goldfinch.

I felt a tiny bit smug and subversive that I was enjoying the birds while simultaneously in a meeting. Which was very interesting, obviously.

Monday, January 05, 2009

In the bleak midwinter

Tracks in the snow

In the south of the UK, we're at the stage where any snow at all causes problems. We don't know what to do anymore. Last night, a whole inch of snow fell. I felt pretty brave just going outside at lunchtime in search of sheep - it was literally freezing outside!

It took us a while to locate the flock - they'd sensibly headed for the sunniest, most sheltered, snow-free area. I suppose it should have been easy to follow the hoofprints to their hideaway, but it wasn't. On the way there were loads of rabbit prints and a few fox - rabbits were once an important commodity at Sandy. A few Redwings and Fieldfares were flying around, and a single Meadow Pipit. Times are hard for birds at the moment.

So, today's sound was of snow crunching as it compacted under my foot. Crunch, crunch, crunch. So much nicer to tread on fresh snow where nobody else has already. It's not much fun once it gets dirty and slushy.

photos taken with Canon Powershot A640

Sunday, January 04, 2009


Noise of the day?
Pix, the sound of a Hawfinch flying off before I could see it.
Or silence, the noise of a flock of Lapwings flying overhead.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Q: What's brown and goes 'pitchoo'?

A: Marsh Tit (OK, you already knew that).

Today we finally got some more ringing done in the garden (the first session was back in November 2007). We plied Derek with curry and Top Trumps and with the aid of a single mist net and some sunflower hearts, he caught a total of 47 birds this morning:
  • Blue Tit, 16 ringed, of which only 5 had hatched last year - indicative of the poor breeding season this species had. Also 2 retrapped (ringed Nov 07)
  • Great Tit, 8 ringed (of which 4 hatched last year); 1 retrap
  • Chaffinch, 6 males ringed (though 3 females also around this afternoon - draw your own conclusions)
  • Marsh Tit, 3 (one adult, two birds hatched in '08)
  • Dunnock, 3
  • Coal Tit, 2 ringed; 1 retrap
  • Wren, 1
  • Great Spotted Woodpecker, 1 female hatched last year
  • Greenfinch, 1
  • Starling, 1 relatively long-winged bird
  • Robin, 1 retrap
The Great Spotted Woodpecker and Starling were spectacular to look at, but the Marsh Tits were the biggest surprise of the day. For a while we've been watching 'a' Marsh Tit coming to the birdfeeder, but then on Christmas Day we finally saw two at once. Today, we were pleased to catch one at the start, and then we found two in the net at the same time! 

Not sure what the sound of the day was. Maybe the 'tap, tap, tap' of the woodpecker on my index finger, or the horrible screeching it made to start with (no harm came to the birds - woodpeckers are noisy and tend to make a fuss). Or was it me going 'ow!' (and worse) as the Blue Tits nipped and hung onto the skin next to my fingernails?

Easier on the ear were the hooting Tawny Owls I heard when I [quickly] opened the window before going to bed. I did try that just after midnight on New Year's Day, but all I could hear were distant volleys of fireworks. And it was flipping cold outside, so I retreated.

Everyone knows that Tawny Owls go 'tuwhit, tuwhoo' (or words to that effect). The hooting ('tuwhoo') is the male owl, and the 'tuwhit' or 'kewick' is the female responding (what came first, the tuwhit or the tuwhoo?). 

Tawny Owls will be starting to breed anytime now; in fact, we heard a young Tawny calling at Swiss Gardens just after Christmas. 

photos taken with Canon Powershot A640

Friday, January 02, 2009

So, er, sounds...

OK, I nearly forgot to write about any sounds, immediately after saying that's what I'd do. 

The sounds I've heard today have been limited by staying indoors nearly all day. The weather here is cold, grey and rather unpleasant, and I've been feeling under the weather so (wisely) stayed inside. 

I went out into the garden today. I was carrying a metal tube and chased after the Grey Squirrel that had jumped up onto the birdfeeder. Don't worry - I didn't batter it into submission - the tube was an extension for the pole the feeder sits on. It's about 6 feet up now, but it didn't stop the squiggle from climbing up it, unfortunately. Need a Plan B. It could involve chilli powder.

Though I was only outside briefly, it's surprising what you can pick up in a few minutes. A Green Woodpecker called from somewhere down the road, Jackdaws chacked away from the Ash tree, and I heard one of our regular Marsh Tits 'pitchoo'ing from the garden next door. Nothing momentous, but there's not much singing going on at this time of year. It won't be long, though.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

New Year

Woken up at 5.30 am by Darren getting up to go out birdracing for the day around Bedfordshire, I opted to stay put. Then, when I did get up, at a more civilised hour, it looked like this outside.


I was rather hoping for a nice bright, frosty day, good for a walk and some photos. So that's 2009 off to a good start.

Now I'm into my sixth calendar year of blogging, I'm looking for new angles to help keep Bogbumper off the buffers (I've considered abandoning it, as seems to be fashionable these days, and sticking to Flickr).

So what I'm planning is writing about sounds and how they reflect the year's progression. I'm aiming to write something every day (or maybe just post a photo). I'd quite like one of those Remembird thingies so I could post some recordings, but they're a bit pricey. Maybe later in the year. But I hope sounds will be the main thing - then it won't matter if I haven't got any photos :o)

What else to look forward to this year?
  • Return of migrants, and their accompanying songs. Only two months to go!
  • Spring, and what appears in the pond this year. Will the Great Crested Newts return? Will there be any dragonflies emerging after only one year? Will we get more frogs?
  • Getting out more
  • Maybe, if I'm feeling not too poverty-struck, getting another lens for my camera so I don't have to stand at least five feet away from everything. Proper macro would be fun...
  • Sorting out the garden properly, so we have proper flower beds, more vegetables and more wildlife habitats
  • The return of moth-trapping to our garden
photos taken with Canon EOS 30D, EF 300mm f/4L IS USM