Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Bags of birds

The first bit of news is that the goldfinches are back in our garden. We hadn't seen any all year and guessed that our next door neighbour must have been providing a superior quality of niger seed. But two days ago, I looked out and was thrilled to see one on the feeder. Welcome back!

We have sparrows galore, apart from last Sunday when there weren't any around at all and the feeder stayed well stocked all day. We think that perhaps they were all scared of being hunted for dinner by this fine specimen, a female sparrowhawk who sits in a neighbour's tree and every so often makes a low dive over the hedge to try and snatch an unwary sparrow or blue tit. Here she is, sitting on top of the hedge that you can see in the background of the goldfinch photo. What a magnificent bird.

We're also very lucky to have a jay family in the garden. I have hung up a new peanut feeder about twenty feet from the window, and my zoom lens has captured several half decent shots. This one, showing mum, dad and junior, was taken from at least sixty feet away, down by the apple trees. 

The lower photo shows the colours in a more natural light.

Now that the peanuts are closer to the kitchen window, we get frequent sightings of the great spotted woodpecker, another magnificent garden bird. This female is much more adept at hanging from the feeder than the rather clumsy jay is.

But for sheer agility and amusing cuteness, nothing beats the ring necked parakeet...

... though this pigeon had a jolly good try.


Monday, 17 November 2014

A fine fox

Now that 'our' vixen is no longer around, we haven't got to know the current set of foxes individually yet, but this fine, thick-furred specimen is a frequent visitor. It's a male, I think, perhaps one of our friendly vixen's last lot of cubs.

Incidentally, noisy foxes woke me up four times the night before last, screaming and yipping outside the window. I think it's getting near the mating season.

The Magpie and the Rat

Last night, Charlie, our big ginger cat, killed a rat and kindly left it on the kitchen floor for us to find at breakfast time. (Thanks, Charlie. All contributions to the larder are most welcome. Now, would you prefer it fried or fricassee'd?)

My partner threw the stiff rodent into the garden. Twenty minutes or so later, a magpie descended, gave the rat a few mighty stabs with its beak - you'd have thought it was a green woodpecker raiding an ants' nest, the way it attacked it - then hauled it into some long grass. It then started picking up leaves and laying them over the rat, to disguise it and keep it for later, I suppose.

I never knew magpies stockpiled food. I didn't think they would eat a rat corpse. The way it stabbed it makes me wonder if magpies ever stalk and kill live rodents. Has anyone else witnessed this type of magpie behaviour before?

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Jay family

The other day, I was lucky enough to see three jays all feeding from the peanut feeder. From the way they got on with each other, I feel sure they were parents and offspring.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Albino sparrows

I haven't added anything to my wildlife blog for a while for one simple reason: nothing particularly interesting has been happening in the garden. Until a few weeks ago, that is.

"What on earth's that?" I asked my boyfriend, having spotted an unusual-looking bird on the feeder.

Whipping out the binoculars (as one does), I saw it was a sparrow with white feathers on its tail. And it's not alone. There seem to be three semi albino sparrows, with differing amounts of white on their plumage. Here's one I managed to photograph yesterday.

Monday, 14 July 2014

Friendly cub

Now that 'our' vixen has departed, either driven off or dead, we thought we would never again encounter such a clever, tame fox, who learned that the best way of getting a meal was to come right up onto the decking, gaze through the patio doors and look cute.

I think this cub must be related to her - the offspring of one of her previous cubs, perhaps - because it is already exhibiting some of the old vixen's traits, such as ... well, coming up on the deck, gazing through the patio doors and looking cute!

Acrobatic pigeon

We deliberately hung the seed feeder away from any twigs the pigeons could use as perches, because they don't give the small birds a look-in. However, we have been outwitted by this particular pigeon, which spent several days studying the feeder from all angles, then worked out that the only way to get to the seed was to land on the top, swivel round to an upside-down position, hang on with its claws and flap like mad whilst gobbling as much seed as possible. What a genius! We have christened it Einstein.

Thursday, 29 May 2014

This year's cubs

'Our' vixen no longer comes visiting. Maybe she's been driven off by a younger fox, or perhaps she's dead. She was at least five. I so miss the way she used to sit gazing at us through the patio doors as if waiting for a welcome in. I miss the way she used to introduce her litter of cubs to us each year, sitting proudly in the centre of the lawn while they played around her.

But there is a new fox family this year. The mother is much wilder and more nervous and the cubs have so far not ventured far out of the bushes. But it's nice to know there are some not far away. Apologies for the poor quality of these snaps but they were taken from a distance of about 100 feet!

Tuesday, 6 May 2014


Saw my first swift of 2014 today. Looking back, I can see that the period between May 6 and 15 is when they tend to arrive in my area. Earlier when the weather is good, like now, and later when it's bad. But there was only one. Was is a scout? Will the rest of the group arrive soon? A couple of years ago, I was lucky enough to look up into the sky just as they were arriving in a wheeling, shrieking crowd of two dozen or more. I saw them last year as they were preparing to leave. I love the way their calls graze and scratch the air like beaks on a blackboard. I thrill to the miraculous dart and wheel and flick and turn and speed of their flight. They truly are the acrobats of the air.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Pigeon and squirrel

The pigeons are at it big time. Look at this puffed up pouter, while his mate sunbathes (or prepares herself?) on the grass. As to who the third party is, well, I have no knowledge of the sexual preferences of pigeons!

Then a squirrel appeared on the scene and the group broke up. The female pigeon ignored the squirrel's foraging antics at first...

... but this was getting too close for comfort, and she flew away to join the others.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Record your butterflies!

Butterfly Conservation have launched a phone app so you can record butterfly sitings as you go, wherever you may be. It's available for both iPhones and Android phones and even though I am hopeless with my smart phone, I am going to have a go at downloading and using it.

Here's the link:

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Spring Butterflies

Today's glorious sunshine woke the hibernating butterflies and lured them out to warm themselves up. The first one I spotted was a Peacock that lingered for a while on my purple pansies, but didn't stay long enough for me to fetch the camera. Then a Brimstone flew swiftly over the hedge into next door's garden.

Two Commas appeared next and were much more obliging, allowing me to take this shot.

Monday, 13 January 2014

More cubs on the way!

I can't believe that 'our' five-year-old vixen is pregnant again and is in such brilliant condition. Here she is up the side of the house, finishing off Charlie's food. We feed him outside to stop him scrapping with Flad at mealtimes. Whatever is leftover is taken by robins, blackbirds, magpies and the fox! Nothing goes to waste in this house. I've just thrown out a heap of boiled rice and tomorrow, the pigeons will be in for a treat. The squirrels prefer pasta!