Tuesday, November 16, 2010

De-Ice Water for Garden Birds

The last few days in our part of Staffordshire, England have started with cold and frosty mornings. One of the first jobs to be done by either Mrs Pecker or myself, is to de-ice the water for our Garden Birds.

It is essential in all weathers and throughout the year, that the birds have access to water both for drinking and for bathing. Dipping ourselves into a bath of cold water on these cold days may not be very appealing to we humans, but to birds it is an important part of the daily ritual whatever the weather.

Yesterday morning I happened to see a Wren in the garden, my first sighting of this species of bird this month if I remember correctly. The wrens are such tiny birds and move around very quickly, darting about from place to place, seldom staying out in the open where they can be observed. This time however I was fortunate enough to have spied this one as it was about to begin it's ablutions.

From the Pear tree it hopped across to the gutter on the garage and proceeded to bathe in a small pool of water that had collected amongst the moss growing in there (yes I know it needs cleaning out). Obviously this little bird preferred this more sheltered place to the open location of the bird bath. It splashed away for some time dipping head, wings and every part of it's body into the water. With the bathing complete - or so I thought - it flew back into the Pear tree and there set about preening it's feathers. Birds work hard to keep their feathers in good condition, essential to keeping warm. 

When it seemed that all was complete and much time had been spent straightening feathers by running them through that tiny little beak, this little Wren surprised me by hopping back to the gutter and back into the puddle of water. Here, it once again splashed away to it's hearts content repeating the whole process once more.

So please remember that whether in a bird bath, a garden pond, or any type of receptacle that will hold liquid, it is so very important that there is a supply of unfrozen water for the Garden Birds.

At the weekend I saw a pair of Black Swans with cygnets, you can can see them over at my other blog here >> Life with Woodpecker

Monday, November 8, 2010

Blackbird and the Grapes

10.00am and I am looking out through the kitchen window, watching the rain that has been falling steadily all  night. The tall Conifer moves with the wind as though alive, swaying to and fro while deep within the evergreen foliage, birds take shelter, keeping a firm grip as they are tossed about like sailors on a stormy sea. This heavy rain and blustery wind is forecast for the entire day.

A male Blackbird suddenly appears on top of the fence at the end of the garden. He is eager and alert, looking carefully around for any signs of danger before making his next move. This is not a foraging trip, for I will see shortly that this bird knows exactly where he is going, he has already planned this mission to collect food.

He swoops down to the herb garden at the side of the garage, obscured from my view but I am aware now that he has gone to what remains of my grape vine. Though all the leaves have gone and the plant looks dead, a few small bunches of black grapes still remain, left intentionally for the birds to feed on.

We also leave fallen apples and pears beneath those small fruit trees and all the leaves stay on the ground, creating a great habitat for insects and worms. Instead of spending time keeping the garden neat and tidy we let nature create a wonderful source of food that is relished by our garden birds.

There are not many grapes remaining now, but they have been there and regularly eaten since September. As far as I am aware, it is only the Blackbird that has taken advantage of these fruits, though the Starlings and on occasion a Crow are seen to eat the apples. Last year we were visited by Fieldfares and Redwings but that was well into winter before they put in an appearance in our little garden,

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Autumn A Great Time for Garden Bird Watching

The number and variety of birds visiting our small housing estate garden is quite amazing and I think Autumn heralds the start of a great time for Garden Bird Watching.

The hours of daylight are reducing more and more and so the birds must concentrate all their feeding into a much shorter time period than they did in the summer. They also require plenty of food for their fragile bodies to process and keep them warm through these colder nights. This of course is good news for us, providing the opportunity to see an increased level of bird activity.

As dawn breaks the birds will be hungry and eager to feed, but they do not seem to venture into the garden until the full daylight has been established. This may be a precaution against predator attack, perhaps they are more vulnerable in conditions of low light. They may also need to take some time for preening before starting to search for food, it is essential for the birds to keep their feathers in good order.

Soon however the feeding will begin and this is the time of day when I see most of the bird activity through the kitchen window. The garden starts to buzz with bird life, Starlings and  House Sparrows begin to swarm over the feeders while Coal Tits, repeatedly dart in and out amongst them grabbing seeds then flying off (see Coal Tits Behaviour). Sparrows, Blue Tits and Great Tits will be busy on the seed feeders and the fat balls, hanging upside down or stretching from the branch of the pear tree in which they are situated.

 Robin, Wren, Blackbird and Dunnock will often be seen during this assembly, taking a part in a wonderful display of nature. They do however tend to hop in and out of the garden with a more leisurely pace throughout the day as do the Woodpigeons. The Collared Doves are gentle, timid birds and tend to put in their first appearance when other birds have left. They seem to be easily intimidated and bullied out of the way by the other species

After maybe an hour, this initial early morning feasting will be over and sightings of the birds in the garden will be less frequent, though most species will continue to be seen throughout the day. Late afternoon can see another sharp rise in activity before the light begins to fade and the birds head for their roosts.

So for me, with the advantage of being at home most days of the week, Autumn is indeed a great time for My Garden Bird Watching.