December Wildlife Roundup: Watching the Watchers

I know that at this time of year I spend a lot of ‘indoors’ time peering out: at the garden, the moon, the weather and the wildlife, but recently I feel like nature is turning the tables. I am being watched. The wood pigeon is definitely giving me the eye whenever he sits on the archway to the patio:

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Wood pigeon on archway … watching

There seems to be something distinctly odd about his eye and I think that it is because the pupil is egg-shaped, not round.

eye

Up in the ash trees by the alley, the brotherhood of the Rooks is looking pretty sinister and is definitely watching the proceedings at ground level. They are also probably eyeing up nesting spots too. In fact, these trees hosted several nests a couple of years ago, until the new residents of the house had the trees lopped and topped. The branches now have plenty of new growth and the rooks are back. Let’s hope they don’t harbour any resentment!

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Rooks in ash … watching

On our driveway the birds waiting for a chance at the crab apple tree are ever alert for movement, but they have become quite complacent about my comings and goings, so long as they are facing me. I am still observed very closely, but they don’t shift or fly away as much.

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Fieldfare watching from the birch on the driveway

December’s weather has been exceedingly changeable, with snow, ice, rain and sunshine. Temperatures have changed by almost 20 degrees day to day, swinging between -6 and 13 degrees Centrigrade here in Cambs. The penultimate day of 2017 was very mild and I was out doing a spot of late bulb planting (don’t judge!) when I heard a loud, deep buzzing. I tracked the sound back to this rather magnificent, pollen-laden buff-tailed bumblebee on some winter honeysuckle.

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Buff-tailed bumblebee on winter honeysuckle

Happily, she has obviously found a good few flowers around. Buff-tailed bumblebees (Bombus terrestris) are often the earliest to be seen in the year. Did you also know that Bombus terrestris is one of the main species used in greenhouse pollination, so it is a species found around the globe, even where it is non-native?

I was tidying up soggy fallen leaves the week before Christmas when I found this curled, ginger-haired caterpillar in the pile. I don’t know what kind of moth it would turn into (possibly a Buff Ermine – but that is a guess) and I am not sure what it’s chances of survival are now that I have disturbed it.   😦

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Disturbed caterpillar

The fight for the crab apple crop continues, but a pair of mistle thrushes are dominating its branches.

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Mistle thrush: King of the crab apple tree

I’ve watched them chase off all kinds of competitors, even meak and small birds like chaffinches and blue tits.

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Close-up of mistle thrush

Squirrels are becoming more of a nuisance on the feeders, because their numbers are growing. This fat grey is responsible for chewing through all my solar lights around the pergola.

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OK, I may have put on a bit of weight over Christmas, but this is my best side

But he now has competition from a pair of black squirrels. The three of them regularly crawl all over the wisteria, birch and pergola looking for opportunities. This last month we’ve been forced to change the final peanut feeder to a squirrel-proof version, due to the number of times they have thrown it on the ground and damaged it … beyond repair now.

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Zut alors, this lid seems to be heavy and twisted on firmly!

Even so they still seem to systematically try each feeder every day looking for weaknesses. Today I watched the grey one attempt to pull off the new feeder’s lid several times.

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Maybe I can approach those delicious fat balls from this angle?’

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Clever black squirrel climbing the wisteria (which winds its way all over the pergola and to each feeder)

Although the squirrels scare off the birds when they are checking around the feeders, the regulars are back on the nuts in no time. Here’s a selection longtailed tits, blue tits, great tits and a chaffinch shortly after a squirrel patrol:

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Assorted birds on feeders

Birds seem to spend long intervals eating at the peanut feeders, but they only visit the sunflower feeders to grab a seed and then fly off to eat it on the wisteria. The sunflower seed levels drop very quickly as a result.

I was interested to see a dunnock (below) up on the sunflower dispenser, because they are usually ground dwellers, eating the dropped pieces. I’ve never seen one brave the cage before. He seems to be crowing about it too!

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Dunnock on the sunflower feeder

Goldfinches aren’t as plentiful now as in the autumn, but they continue to visit the garden. Especially when the sunflower feeders are full. They are a favourite of mine. (Shame all these birds look like convicts as a result of us squirrel proofing the nuts).

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Goldfinch eating sunflower seeds

I’ll finish with a shot of our resident robin.

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Happy New Year

After all, it wouldn’t be December without a robin!

This is my contribution to Wildlife Wednesday, a monthly meme hosted by Tina at mygardenersays. There is a good selection of possums to see this month if you head over to her blog.

 

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About Frogend_dweller

Living in the damp middle of nowhere
This entry was posted in birds, Nature, Wildlife and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

31 Responses to December Wildlife Roundup: Watching the Watchers

  1. thomashort says:

    Love the pictures! Stunning fieldfares

  2. Tina says:

    Your birds are all so beautiful! I guess squirrels are the bane of many of us, but I sure do like that black squirrel–gorgeous! Occaisionally in my neighborhood, I see an individual, or two, of our Eastern fox squirrel, but with a creamy coat. Not albinos, just a varient of color–so nice. Thanks for joining in!

  3. Tina says:

    I totally forgot to gush about the bumble bee! How absolutely lovely. My honeybees are venturing out this (finally!) sunny day–they’ve been cooped up (or would it be hived up??) and are ready to spread their wings and poop to their little bee-hearts’ contentment!

  4. Pete Hillman says:

    A wonderful collection of images! I love the Fieldfare. I have only ever seen one around here, and that was a very brief visit back in 2010.

  5. Eliza Waters says:

    That must be quite the investment in new feeders – those pesky squirrels! Do you curse the fool who introduced them to the UK? I know I would. I don’t mind them feeding on the ground, but when they go after the feeders, as you noted, they chase the birds off.
    I love your all your thrushes – such pretty birds!

  6. Sue says:

    That robin in the last photo looks so cute! I love seeing the pictures of the squirrels, especially those awesome looking black ones, but I realise they can be a bit of a nuisance sometimes. They seem pretty clever animals, hope they don’t figure out how to unscrew a lid on the feeders!

  7. Love this post. I’m keeping my feeders topped up too, because of the unusually bitter weather…availability of high calorie suet and oily seeds helps birds keep warm.

  8. Shirley F. says:

    Your winter birds are very pretty, especially the fieldfare and mistle thrush with their spotted chests. Squirrels make a lot of mischief with our feeders too.

  9. nexi says:

    Love the shot of the goldfinch. Weathers an odd mix at the moment, isn’t it?

    • Definitely, it is the rapid changes which are most disconcerting. I am never wearing the right clothes for dog walking! I love it cold and bright though and we could do with a bit more cold to kill the pests.

  10. David says:

    Great post! I’m from the UK currently living in the US so I really enjoyed a peep at British wildlife with you. Thank you! I’ve not seen the black squirrel morph in the UK before. They are very common over here in the NE USA and Southern Canada. Beautiful Fieldfare, too. I have a wonderful childhood memory of the year that a fieldfare and a Redwing spend the winter living under a bush in our garden. They used to fight over the berries like cats and dogs!

    • Thanks for taking a look and I am very happy to share a slice of Cambridgeshire wildlife. In fact, this is the first year we’ve seen more than a passing visit from the migrant thrushes, so it has been fun to watch. 🙂

  11. Brian Skeys says:

    I enjoy watching the birds feeding in the garden, thanks for sharing your lovely pictures.

  12. bectography says:

    Lovely photos

  13. Great post and amazing photographs, really like the story 🙂
    Troy

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