Monday, October 25, 2010

Coal Tits Behaviour | common garden birds of the UK

Yesterday I watched the Coal Tit and saw some behaviour that I do not think is usually seen in common garden birds of the UK.
Again it was sheer luck that I glanced out of the kitchen window whilst filling the kettle and saw a Coal Tit, I first saw it as it flew from the feeder and onto the drive. I considered it to be another chance sighting, but maybe these Coal tits are visiting the garden so often, or there are so many of them around, that the odds of seeing them are no longer so great. This time however I was to witness some behaviour that I had not seen before.

After catching sight of this Coal Tit extracting seed from the new feeder we had hung up only yesterday, the sprightly little bird flitted across to the rear of the drive then onto the breeze block wall at the base of the fence. It now proceeded to skitter about from place to place as though searching for food, eventually pausing where there was a noticeable gap in the cement mortar and poked about the hole with it's beak. I wondered initially if this little feathery friend was searching the cracks and crannies seeking out insects.

Quick as a flash, as these Coal tits tend to do everything at full speed, it flew back to the feeder, selected a sunflower seed and in an instant swooped across to a planter situated about a metre from the window where I stood watching. This clever little fellow then proceeded to hide the seed beneath the stalks and leaves lying on the surface of the soil.

When I first started to see the coal tits appearing regularly in the garden a few weeks back, I consulted the bird books to find out more about them, their colours, habitats and feeding preference etc. I had read that they invariably take food from feeders and bury or hide it away so that they can return to it later when food is scarce, exactly like squirrels do with nuts and acorns. I was now watching this behaviour first hand, this was exactly the task this delightful little Coal Tit had set about doing this morning. I continued to watch as it set about hiding the seeds first of all in various places throughout our garden, then carrying them further afield into the neighbouring gardens.

He (or indeed she, for as far as I know the sexes are identical)) obviously approved of the new Black Sunflower seeds that we had put into the new feeder. This food must have appealed so much that it was going to stash away as much as it could before the other birds could start to make a meal of it.

The Coal tits are a relatively new and very welcome addition to the list of regular birds that grace our garden.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Coal Tits

The Coal tits showed again this morning as I was looking through the kitchen window. The feeder pole had swung around and so as the first little fellow landed on the seed feeder I had a perfect view of it. I am getting quite fond of seeing these Coal Tits.

Of course I did not have a camera to hand as he or she put on a perfect display for me. "Should I fetch my camera?" I said to myself over and over as I watched, certain that if I did so, by the time I returned to the window it would be gone. And taking pictures through the window would not give the best results anyway. So I stayed and enjoyed the moment for myself.

This little bird I am sure knew that I was there watching as it put on a perfect performance for me. Today instead of flying off to the Holly bush or nearby tree to eat the seed it had extracted from the feeder, it would hop to the top of the pole or onto the front edge of the garage roof, eat, then return to the feeder, repeating the cycle time and time again. 

It demonstrated perfectly how it used one of its dainty little feet to hold down the food while it then worked away attacking the tasty morsel with the beak. From this distance and without binoculars or indeed my glasses I could not identify what food it was actually eating, whether it was seed of some sort or perhaps a nut. It could have been pecking off smaller pieces to eat or be pecking away the outer shell to get to the tender parts inside, I cannot say.

  As I continued to watch, still wondering if I should go upstairs to get my camera, a second Coal Tit came on the scene and deposited itself onto the cage feeder holding the fat block. This one stayed in situ chomping away merrily on the block that contains all sorts of goodies such as nuts, seeds, fruits and mealworms.

Suddenly some noise or nearby movement nearby spooked my little feathered friends and in an instant they were gone.

They will of course return, these delightful little Coal Tits

Friday, October 15, 2010

My Garden Birds | Update

I have not been spending much time consciously watching the birds in my garden recently, but the casual sitings from the window (usually in front of the kitchen sink) have been getting very interesting.

We have experienced the usual late summer lull of August and September when most of the birds seem to disappear but now as autumn kicks in, the garden takes on a whole new perspective.

The regular Woodpigeons and Collared Doves are here of course, they never really go away, living as they do in the large conifer tree about 2 metres away from our boundary fence. The Crows I wrote about earlier in the year are still around as are a few Magpies, but now I am beginning to see the Robins, Great Tits, Blue Tits, and Coal Tits.

The Coal Tits have been seen in the garden previously, but sightings were always few and far between. Now it seems that almost every day I am getting at least a glimpse of them as they visit the feeder in the garden. It is difficult to get any idea of how many there might be but I have seen two individuals present at the same time.

They are dainty little birds, being one of the smallest members of the tit family though less colourful than the Blue and Great tits. The male and female Coal tits both have the distinctive white markings on the black head and double white wing bars.

I have tried to get a photo of them but so far without success. They are quick and agile, darting to the feeder, extracting the seed they fancy then flying off to the nearby Holly bush. I did however manage to capture a short video the other day.


The House Sparrows are still here in abundance, I watched a group of them yesterday enjoying a bit of sunshine and dust bathing in a patch of dry sand. Starlings however are few in number at the moment despite the fact that we were overrun with brood after brood of youngsters earlier in the year. I am sure many of them will return as autumn progresses and the natural food sources become more scarce.

Friday, October 1, 2010

The October Blackbird Catches the Worm

As I stood on this first day of October, looking out onto the garden through the patio doors and watching the rain, I thought to myself, "Well there's no chance of any summer this year then." Part of the garden looks sodden and waterlogged, part of it looks sad and neglected, it all in fact looks rather a mess.

As I stood there contemplating the universe, how long a coalition government could possibly last, and if all this rain will lead to an increase in the price of chips, I noticed movement on the edge of what was once upon a time a lawn. Out from under the foliage of the spreading "Black Bamboo" - the one thing that seems to thrive on drought, flood, pestilence and neglect - popped a Blackbird.

The plumage of this seemingly water resistant bird was predominantly black but with brown wings and lacking the orange yellow bill and eye circle of an adult male, so I presumed it to be a juvenile male Blackbird. Maybe a youngster from one of the broods that we have watched in the garden earlier this year, but seem to have been absent for a while.

With little or no regard for the persistent rain, this little feathered bundle dashed directly for an obviously earmarked spot where he "quick as a flash" and with one swift peck of his beak, plucked a worm out from between the blades of wet grass. Down it went in one go like a thread of Spaghetti after which the happy chappie smacked his chops with delight.

I expected he would now dash back under the cover of the bamboo or fly away to some other place of shelter, but no, he had a taste for blood and there were more worms to catch. I watched for a while as he entertained me, brightening up my otherwise dismal and dreary afternoon. He would stand still and listen, cocking his head very slowly from side to side to get a fix, to mark an exact location for the next strike. He also did that pitter patter rain dance that Blackbirds are well known for. This little fellow seemed so precise and so successful, darting swiftly to a point where he would thrust forth his beak with pin point accuracy to secure another worm that had ventured to the surface because of the rain.

Thankyou young blackbird for the pleasure you gave me and for the perfect demonstration of how the October Blackbird catches the Worm.