Sunday, 31 January 2010

Big Garden Birdwatch

Here in the UK, each January, the RSPB run their Big Garden Birdwatch. This is a massive survey of garden birds over the whole of the UK. Supporters are asked to identify and count the birds they see during a one hour period this weekend. The results are submitted online and provide a picture of bird numbers in each region. It is also a lot of fun.

I did my Garden Birdwatch early on Sunday morning and here are the results:
  • Blackbirds - 2
  • Blue Tits - 2
  • Carrion Crows - 5
  • Chaffinch - 1
  • Coal Tit - 1
  • Dunnock - 1
  • Great Tits - 2
  • Great Spotted Woodpecker - 1
  • Jays - 2
  • Long-tailed Tits - 6
  • Magpie - 1
  • Marsh Tits - 2
  • Mistle Thrush - 1
  • Nuthatches - 2
  • Red Kite - 1
  • Robins - 2
  • Wood Pigeons - 8

That is 17 different species in the period of an hour - and some of the regulars did not turn up during that time!

You can read more about the Big Garden Birdwatch at

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Long-tailed Tits and Roe Deer

Long-tailed tits - Aegithalos caudatusProbably my favourite small bird is the Long-tailed Tit (Aegithalos caudatus). They are small and fluffy, never keep still and are very sociable. You never see them alone. They usually appear in groups of 6 to 10.

Sadly, they are not constant visitors to the garden. They appear for a few days then disappear for weeks, but they are a joy to watch. After the bad weather recently, I think they were very happy to get an easy meal on my bird feeders.

This was the first time that I managed to get a reasonably good photo of them.

There also seem to be a lot of deer around at the moment. This Roe Deer buck appeared with 2 females just before dark tonight. You can see his beautiful velvet antlers.

Roe Deer Buck in Velvet - Capreolus capreolus

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Badger Prints in the Snow

Badger printLast weekend the snow gradually disappeared, just to return again a couple of days later. Luckily not so much this time and it did not stay long. There was enough, however, to find some excellent badger prints across the back lawn.

It is not a brilliant picture, but you can quite clearly see four of the five toes with the long claws and the kidney-shaped palm print.

Two roe deer have been hanging round the garden this week, but no photo opportunities, unfortunately. I also saw a fox today but they are rather elusive. I have yet to get a good photo of a fox.

Snowdrop - Galanthus nivalisFinally, after being buried by 8 inches (20 cms) of snow for two weeks, these rather brave snowdrops emerged unscathed. They had just started to flower when the snow first fell, but their built-in anti-freeze protected them from the freezing cold temperatures.

I hope this is a sign that spring is on its way.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Watching Me Watching Him

Muntjac fawn - Muntiacus reevesiThere are some benefits to this bad weather. The muntjacs have been hanging round the house again today and it makes for some great photo opportunities.

They were rooting around in the flower beds next to the house and I was watching through the window waiting for them to emerge. The little one froze when he saw me, just long enough for me to take this photo before he ran off.

It has been slightly warmer today. No new snow has fallen, but there are still several inches left on the ground.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Not Yet Weaned!

Muntjac mother and fawn - Muntiacus reevesiI mentioned seeing a new baby muntjac deer a couple of weeks ago. Well, I was in for a real treat today. Mother and Junior were both on my back lawn and I was lucky enough to capture a picture of the little one suckling. What a wonderful sight!

Sadly the photo is not these best, but it was late afternoon and starting to get dark.

The snow is still deep and it is still very cold, so the fawn must be a tough little thing to survive.

The next picture shows the fawn when it ran across the lawn before disappearing into the flower bed next to the house. It looks as if it is sitting down, but actually the snow is so deep that it was sinking up to the top of its legs. I think it is probably about 8 weeks old and should be weaned very soon.Muntjac fawn in the snow - Muntiacus reevesi

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Bird on a Wire

Buzzard in the snowThe temperature dropped to
-11 degrees C (12 F) last night, so the snow is not going to disappear quickly.

I was watching a buzzard (Buteo buteo) this morning. He was sitting on the electricity cable that feeds power to our house. Not a very good photo, but he flew off when I tried to get closer.

The wildlife is finding it difficult in the snow. There were lots of animal tracks leading to sheltered spots underneath the shrubs in the flower beds next to the house. This weather cannot be easy for them.

Glorious blue skies and sunshine today, but it did little to melt the snow.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Worst Winter for 25 Years

Winter in the gardenWhat an amazing winter this is turning out to be. Some say it is the worst winter for 25 years. Last night eight and a half inches (21cms) of snow fell. I went out and measured it on the patio table this morning.

This may not seem noteworthy to those who regularly have hard winters. However, most years we get a maximum of one fall of snow which usually disappears the next day. Some years we get no snow at all.

The birds are not happy. I went out and sprinkled more food for them this morning and I was surprised by how many turned up for the feast. Not just the usuals, but also goldfinches and long-tailed tits. I did not get any photos of them or of the 2 roe deer that made a brief appearance.

The forecast is to be colder tonight, so although the snow has stopped falling, it will freeze overnight. I guess it is here to stay for the next few days.

Friday, 1 January 2010

Marsh Tit or Willow Tit?

Marsh tit - Parus palustrisThe new year dawned with sun and bright blue skies, but very cold. As usual the birds were very busy on the feeders and I managed to take a few photos.

This little guy (or gal) always has me puzzled - it is a Marsh Tit or Willow Tit? They are both very similar. My book says that the Willow Tit is more scruffy looking, but this one is very neat and tidy. The Marsh Tit has a smaller black bib and the Willow Tit has a heavier head and neck. I think it is probably a Marsh Tit (Parus palustris) but I would value any opinions.

This Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopus Major) was also enjoying a good feed today.

Great Spotted Woodpecker - Dendrocopus Major