So suddenly winter has decided to be wet. The days of clean, frozen dog walks are over and now there is a lot of mud, hosing down, damp towels and smelly fur. Even the birds are looking like they’ve been hung out to dry, with their clumped, bedraggled feathers sticking close to their tiny bodies.
And that pretty much sums up the conditions for the 2017 Big Garden Birdwatch that took place at the weekend. From humble beginnings as a child-orientated activity to find our top 10 UK birds, the annual Big Garden Birdwatch (with 35 years of collected data) now allows organisations like the RSPB to monitor trends and understand exactly how birds are doing.
For instance, over that period of time the number of wood pigeons visiting gardens has increased by a huge 800%. Since we have a lot of damson trees, which still have dried fruit on the top most branches, we certainly see quite a few of those around. This year they were bolder than usual in frequenting the ‘mosh pit’ under the hanging feeders.
But their presence was not appreciated by the other birds, because they stomp around like giants amongst the small ground feeders, like dunnocks and blackbirds, snatching crumbs from under their beaks. They are bullies and their considerable size lets them get away with it. Mostly.
This rather smaller pigeon, a collared dove who lives in the adjacent conifer hedge, decided to play David to the wood pigeon’s Goliath. It chased after it, head down, routing it out away from the dropped nut zone and then started to herd it further away using aerial manoeuvres.
This carried on for nearly twenty minutes, the bemused wood pigeon was persistent, but the collared dove never gave up and in the end Goliath ambled off. After all that dramatically expended energy I hope that David managed to catch a few more seeds.
He would have had plenty to eat later in the day, because it became a free-for-all on the ground. One of the local black squirrels, who has been repeatedly (I chase him away each time I noticed him) visiting the feeders, had his revenge. Around dusk I looked out to see the round sunflower seed feeder on the ground and its contents stewn across the patio.
Amidst this mess the culpit was gorging himself on seeds and the blackbird probably couldn’t believe his luck! Grrrr.
I counted birds for an hour on both Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday there were a couple more species, but overall the numbers counted were lower. That leaves me with a small dilemma as to which day to submit.
The most numerous species on both days were blue tits. When the whole tit tribe shows up to eat it is hard to keep track of them. They tend to swirl around taking peanuts from the feeder and retreating to preferred perches on the wisteria, then back again. Continuously. Visually, the effect is like winged ants swarming up grass.
This time though I gradually registered that after finishing a nut they didn’t just return to the feeder but would fly on round the corner of the house to do something else for a short period. And this is what I discovered …. round that corner they were swapping peanuts for eating my neighbour’s mahonia flowers!
One bird that was surprisingly absent on Sunday was the robin. Funny that, because he is always around when I am outside. Last week he even followed me into the greenhouse.
And he was quite hard to oust!
Anyhow, it will be interesting to see the trends once this year’s numbers are in and analysed.
It’s the first Wednesday in February, so I am linking my Big Garden Birdwatch efforts to Tina’s Wildlife Wednesday meme. Her colourful feathered friends are just stunning, so do take a look at her observations.