There are now rarely more than about a dozen House Sparrows in the garden. On a few occasions the female Sparrowhawk has swooped into the garden and seized a House Sparrow - she's either getting better at it, or the House Sparrows had become complacent. Finches galore! There has been a flock of about 18 Greenfinches in the neighbourhood, though only 12 have been in the garden at one time. Up to 7 Goldfinches are in the garden and 3 Chaffinches (1 male, 2 females). Sunflower hearts and niger are being eaten by Goldfinches, and Sunflower hearts and seeds by the Greenfinches. A solitary male Siskin was in the garden, feeding on sunflower hearts, on the 17th - what a delight! A male Great Spotted Woodpecker has been regularly visiting the suet balls. The highlight of the month so far is the continued presence of a male and female Blackcap, though the male is more frequent. I was also surprised at how aggressive the male is towards Greenfinches. They are feeding on suet, sunflower hearts and niger. At least 3 Blue Tits and two Great Tits continue to visit the sunflower hearts. After a couple of week's absence, a Coal Tit has put in a brief appearance. The party of Long-tailed Tits has also reappeared, foraging for food among neighbours' trees but they've not yet entered our garden. Up to 3 Dunnocks are in the garden, two of them seem to get on fine, but chases ensue when the third one enters the garden. Typically, they are searching for insects or spilled food beneath the hanging feeders, bathing and preening. A single Robin visits regularly, but a second Robin appeared briefly one day - no aggression was displayed, so they may have paired up. There are a couple of Wrens are still about, often around the rockery, looking among the nooks and crannies for insects. Another small bird, a Goldcrest, has been seen gleaning insects off the branches of shrubs and trees in our garden and neighbouring gardens. Magpies are still around but do not enter the garden much. A Carrion Crow visited the garden briefly one day - maybe this is the same one that visited in mid-November. Up to 4 Jays continue to fetch peanuts, usually in the morning only. A party of 6 Mistle Thrushes and a flock of 80-100 Fieldfare have been in neighbours' trees. A couple of Song Thrushes are visiting the garden but rarely together - chases and fights usually ensue when they meet! Up to 4 Blackbirds are in the garden - usually chasing one another round and round. Up to 3 Starlings have descended on the garden a few times, but it is by no means a regular occurrence. The Collared Doves visit occasionally, usually heading for the spilled seed beneath the hanging feeders. Wood Pigeons are still in the neighbourhood, in significant numbers, but usually visit the garden for a drink only now - we stopped ground feeding because the pigeons were becoming a nuisance and a few Feral Pigeons were seen on a neighbour's roof. The Grey Heron dropped in one day, escorted by Magpies and Carrion Crows.
The month started quietly with few birds in the garden until the first cold, frosty mornings and then the bird feeders were like Clapham junction... While still a shadow of the sixty or more House Sparrows that were visiting the garden their numbers have increased to almost 20 at a time. At least 4 Blue Tits, two Great Tits and a couple of Coal Tits are regular visitors to the sunflowers seeds, hearts and suet balls. The Coal Tit, true to its character, is dashing back and forth, grabbing a seed and stashing it away somewhere. A party of Long-tailed Tits is still being seen and heard but have yet to venture in the garden again. Up to 3 Dunnocks are in the garden, two of them seem to get on fine, but chases ensue when the third one enters the garden. Typically, they are searching for insects or spilled food beneath the hanging feeders, bathing and preening. A single Robin visits regularly, but shows itself only very occasionally, usually when chasing the Dunnocks. A couple of Wrens are about, often around the rockery, looking among the nooks and crannies for insects. Up to 7 Goldfinches are visiting the sunflower hearts and a flock of half a dozen Greenfinches is about, but they visit the garden individually most of the time, though up to 3 have been in the garden at once. A few Chaffinches, one female and two males, have been seen and heard, but as yet only a female has been seen in the garden. Three Magpie are visiting, but has yet none have figured out how to get a peanut from the feeder - something any one of the 4 Jays remain masters at doing. A Carrion Crow landed in the garden one day, but stayed only a few seconds. Flocks of Redwings and the occasional Fieldfares are still seen (and heard) flying overhead both at night and at different times during the day. Seven or eight Blackbirds are in the neighbourhood, but usually only up to 3 birds are in the garden and not very often. A lovely Song Thrush is spending a lot of its time in the garden - often rummaging around the edges of the lawn and borders then, when it has found a snail, dashes off into the shrubs to crack it open on one of the strategically placed stone anvils. A Mistle Thrush has been in the garden, but as many as 7 are flying about the neighbourhood. A Nuthatch visited the sunflower seeds on the first really frost mornings. A couple of Blackcaps - a male and a female - have been feeding on sunflower hearts, niger and suet in the garden, and also bathing in the bird bath. There have been a couple of Collared Doves in the garden occasionally, and up to 4 Wood Pigeons. Both a male and female Sparrowhawk continue to patrol the skies. A large unidentified raptor has also been seen on a couple of occasions (but not by me). A solitary Waxwing was in the next door neighbour's garden for a few minutes one day at the beginning of the month. A Tawny Owl was heard calling one night, very close to the house.
The lack of birds in September seems to be carrying over into October, though one or two more species have returned. One evening (28th), 300-400 Bramblings flew over. Social gatherings of sixty or more House Sparrows have dwindled to about 10 to 12 birds, but they still make quite noise with their constant chattering. A couple of Blue Tits are regular visitors to the sunflowers hearts and suet balls, as is a Coal Tit, which dashes into the garden, grabs a seed and then dashes away again. A solitary Great Tit is also starting to visit the garden occasionally. A party of Long-tailed Tits is seen regularly, but so far only a couple of birds have visited the suet balls. Most evenings, just when it is impossible to discern colours, the Robin is usually somewhere in the garden, either having one last feed or calling and flicking its wings from a vantage point and so declaring our garden its territory. A solitary Dunnock is in the garden daily, pottering about underneath the shrubs, looking for insects or underneath the hanging feeders eating spilled food. Three Goldfinches are visiting the sunflower hearts but more frequently the niger seed, where they will sit for what seems like hours; well, certainly more than half an hour. What has become quite a rare visitor in recent weeks is the Magpie, but one has ventured into the garden on a couple of occasions in the last week. A Jay has started collected peanuts and taking them to store somewhere else. A tiny Wren has shattered the early morning peace on a few mornings with its remarkable song. Flocks of Redwings have been flying overhead both at night and in the early morning. At night-time, they pass over, calling "tseep". Both a male and female Sparrowhawk have been seen patrolling the skies and once or twice chasing the sparrows in the garden.
After several weeks of frenzied feeding the garden is suddenly quite quiet, with only half a dozen species being seen. Up to 47 House Sparrows have been in the garden, somewhat down on the 63 last month. Some juveniles are just showing dark feathers at the throat, revealing them to be males. A fresh looking Robin has popped into the garden a couple of times; it could be here more often, but is keeping its head down. A Dunnock is seen and heard (calling and alarming) most days, from early morning until quite late on in the afternoon. A small party of Blue Tits is about, though not visiting the garden much. A Coal Tit has started the typical "snatch and grab" at the sunflower hearts. Goldfinches continue to visit the niger seed feeder perching there for up to 40 minutes or more; there are as many as 5 birds at a time, though more often only a singleton. A Grey Heron has been seen on a couple of mornings; usually lands on a neighbour's roof before descending into their garden, often escorted by Magpies and Crows.
The feeding frenzy of late July continued through much of August but started to quieten down towards the end of the month. The number of Swifts flying overhead dropped to typically a couple of birds, the last ones being seen on the 11th., but then on the 27th, a solitary screeching Swift flew over. Up to 6 Blue Tits, mostly juveniles, were visiting the sunflower hearts and peanuts, as were a couple of Great Tits. The House Sparrows that were visiting the garden - for food, water and shelter - numbered up to 63 birds, with more than half these being this year's young. A Robin was seen occasionally, though I believe there were two as one seemed to be moulting its head feathers and the other not. Two Blackbirds, a male and a juvenile, were seen in the garden. A couple of Dunnocks were about, though they were heard more than seen; one was a spotted juvenile. Finches continued to feed on the various seeds; up to 4 Greenfinches on the black sunflower seed and 5 Goldfinches on the sunflower hearts and niger seed. A solitary Long-tailed Tit stayed briefly in the garden, but a party of about a dozen was seen regularly flying about. The Sparrowhawk, a female, raided the sparrows favourite bush, a Photinia, and successfully caught one of them. A Wren appeared suddenly in the garden after several weeks' absence. An adult Grey Heron was visiting neighbouring gardens regularly in the mornings and evenings.
After being away on holiday for a week at the beginning of the month, during which time only water and peanuts have been provided for the birds, things were started rather slowly, but after 2 or 3 days the garden sprang into life again and is now a frenzy bird activity. Up to three dozen House Sparrows, mostly juveniles, have been gathering in the shrubs, where they seem to snooze, preen and socialise, between eating sunflower hearts, niger, peanuts and suet balls and bathing in the water. Ooh, it's a hard life! The House Sparrows nesting in our eave are now feeding their third brood, the chicks begging calls can just be heard. A rather bedraggled Robin is skulking about the garden - looks like it is starting to moult. A couple of Blackbirds have been visiting the garden, a male and a juvenile. At least 2 Blue Tits have been in the garden but there are more because there have been two adults and two juveniles at different times. One juvenile Great Tit and two Coal Tits - a juvenile and an adult - have been seen a few times sneaking away with a sunflower heart and feeding on the fat balls. A juvenile Starling has visited a few times. A Dunnock has been seen pottering around the garden and often sits outside the bedroom window singing its heart out. After an initial lull in the number of finches visiting, we now have up to 8 Greenfinches and 4 Goldfinches visiting sunflower seeds and hearts respectively. A pair of Bullfinches have started to visit, feeding on black sunflower seeds and sunflower hearts. A party of about 9 Long-tailed Tits are seen daily and occasionally up to 3 have been in the garden. I wonder if they are the "privet" family that nested next door? A Sparrowhawk has been seen several times in the neighbourhood, but no pursuits have taken place. A Cuckoo flew over the garden on the thirtieth.
Two or three Blue Tits - including fluffy, yellow fledglings - have been seen in and around the garden. A Coal Tit is seen occasionally, darting into the garden for a black sunflower seed before dashing away again. There are two adult Robins and one spotty fledgling visiting the garden daily in search of insects on the lawn and among plants. A dozen or more fledgling House Sparrows are in the garden some days, quivering their wings begging food from their parents and other passers by. A couple of Starlings have been visiting the garden, including a drab brown youngster. Up to 5 Greenfinches, including fledglings are in the garden at any one time, feeding on sunflower hearts and black sunflower seed. There are also up to 2 pairs of Bullfinches - feeding on sunflower hearts both from the hanging feeders and spilled seed on the ground. A couple of families of Goldfinches are visiting the niger and sunflower hearts, with up to 5 birds at a time squabbling for a perch. The Song Thrush continues to sing, but is rarely seen in the garden. A female Sparrowhawk visited the garden for a drink from the bird bath, which was a most unusual sight, and has flown through a couple of times.
The number of Swifts steadily increased to about 7 flying overhead. The Long-tailed Tits continued to be very busy feeding their young then, one afternoon, the fledglings left the nest. One was seized by a Magpie, and another stumbled about the bottom of the hedge. Their contact calls could be heard throughout the hedge. The adult Long-tailed Tits were seen a couple of times the following day, but none have been seen since. Around the middle of the month we discovered that the Song Thrushes had built a nest in one of our shrubs, but had abandoned it before laying any eggs. Were they deterred by the Magpies nesting next door? The Song Thrush has not been seen for a while, but is often heard singing in the evening. A couple of Blue Tits still visited the garden, but showed no interest in the nest boxes. A couple of Robins made regular sorties into the garden, hawking for insects on the lawn and among the shrubs. Scuffles continued between the Blackbirds, and between the Blackbirds and Magpies. The Magpies were seen to seize at least 2 House Sparrows, 1 Long-tailed Tit and a Blackbird for their hungry youngsters. About a dozen House Sparrows continue to use the garden. Excitingly, a pair had nested under the eaves outside my bedroom window. Not so exciting was being woken up before 5 AM. A couple of Starlings visit occasionally. My fears seem to be becoming true, it seems as though the Starling population has plummeted over the last couple of years. A single Great Tit has been seen in the garden a few times. A couple of Coal Tits visited briefly for sunflower hearts. A solitary male Dunnock is seen in the garden most days, quietly searching for insects among the plants and leaf litter. Lots of finches continued to visit the garden for food: up to 5 Greenfinches and 4 Goldfinches, feeding on black sunflower seeds, sunflower hearts and niger seed. One Jay visits most mornings, but is usually chased away by the Magpies. A Mistle Thrush has dropped into the garden on a couple of occasions. Wood Pigeons and Collared Doves continue to visit occasionally. A single Willow Warbler was seen and heard briefly at the beginning of the month.
The rather mixed weather had the birds as confused as the rest of us. The first Swift was seen overhead just before noon on 30 April - at least a week earlier than usual. A couple of Blue Tits were still visiting the garden for food and inspecting the nest box (with camera). Early in the month, after about a week's absence, they reappeared and after a short spell pecking around the hole, they both dropped inside and had a good look around. A short "hissing" exchange occurred between the pair before they left; this "hissing" is not a sound I'd heard before. A few minutes later they were back, this time the female had some animal hair, which she tried placing on the floor, but got tangled around here claws. The male entered the box and after a few seconds of dancing around the box, pulled the hair from around here claws. There was then another "hissing" exchange. The male left, only to return a few seconds later with some more animal hair - perhaps this was some that had got snagged outside? The male loitered around the box, occasionally displaying, but the female did not go back inside, and was essentially the last time we saw the pair around the box. A Robin made fleeting visits to the ground table for some food and later in the month two adult Robins were seen frequently. There were two pairs of Blackbirds nesting nearby and, like last year, our garden seemed to be on the border of their territories, so we got a lot of visits from males and females, but also saw a lot of fights between the males. The Magpies that were resident next door were constantly chasing the Blackbirds when they saw them. About a dozen House Sparrows were seen in the garden. For a couple of weeks, they gathered lots of nest material from around the garden, and tugged and pulled at hanging basket liners. A couple of Starlings visited occasionally; my fears seem to be becoming true, it seems as though the Starling population has plummeted over the last couple of years. A pair of Great Tits were seen around the garden quite often, but much less actually in the garden. One Coal Tit visited briefly. Lots of finches were visiting the garden for food. Up to 5 Greenfinches and 4 Goldfinches were feeding on black sunflower seeds and niger seed respectively - the Goldfinches had switched from eating mostly sunflower hearts a few weeks ago to niger seed. Up to 2 Bullfinches (sometimes a male and female and sometimes two males) visited a few times, sometimes feeding on sunflower hearts, black sunflower seeds and on spilled seed beneath the feeders. The Jays continued to make feeding forays into the garden, but the visits were often cut short by the Magpies chasing them away. A Song Thrush sat on the next door neighbour's hut's roof most days and dropped into our garden a few times, usually making a bee-line for the ground table or rummaging underneath the shrubs - hopefully getting rid of some of the snails! Wood Pigeons and Collared Doves continued to visit occasionally. A single Willow Warbler was seen briefly a couple of times. The Grey Heron flew out of the garden one morning when the curtains were drawn back - thankfully, the garden pond and fish are protected by a net. The Long-tailed Tits became extremely busy late in the month feeding their young. The first Swift was seen overhead just before noon on 30 April - at least a week earlier than usual.
The number of House Sparrows fell to less than 15 birds, though they continued to preen, bathe, eat and chirrup in the photinia and berbberis shrubs. A pair of Blue Tits still seemed interested in the nest box with the camera inside - but only as far as the male pecking around the hole most days around noon. Great fun was had watching a pair of Long-tailed Tits build a nest in a neighbours hedge; they were finding feathers that were snagged on plants and fences, and tugging and pulling at cobwebs from among the plants and around outbuildings. These adorable little birds also started to feed on a suet ball in the garden. When a third Long-tailed Tit appeared on the scene, however, they were not quite so adorable; suddenly, the intruder and one of the pair were locked together and spiralling downwards, like a sycamore seed, in a death defying plunge, breaking apart only a few feet from the ground, but then the intruder was pursued by the other two. The pair of Dunnocks were still about, but they were rather quiet compared with a week or two ago when a couple of males were chasing one another. Up to 8 Blackbirds were still feeding in the garden, including the piebald male, as was a pair of Song Thrushes. At least 4 Goldfinches fed on sunflower hearts and niger seed, but the number of Greenfinches increased to a consistent threesome. A pair of Bullfinches visited the garden frequently during the last fortnight of the month. A pair of Magpies continued to build their nest in a neighbour's tree - transporting and manoeuvring twigs and branches in something akin to Tommy Cooper's and Eric Sykes' "The Plank". A Nuthatch paid a brief visit one day. Two Wrens were regular visitors, and an even a smaller Goldcrest was seen once or twice a week.
The mild weather continued in the first half of the month but the supply of natural foods in nearby woodlands was dwindling, which meant that more species were visiting the garden. The numbers increased further in the latter part of the month as the weather became much colder and with quite heavy snowfalls. Throughout the month, increasing bird song hinted at spring being just around the corner. Waxwings were still around, but in much smaller numbers, typically 30 to 40 birds, usually flying over with their bouncy flight and trilling calls. A pair - male and female - of Bullfinches visited the garden, feeding on spilt seeds beneath the hanging feeders, the male could be heard calling softly to his mate. Up to about 30 House Sparrows were in the garden - preening, bathing, eating and socialising. A pair of Great Tits visited occasionally, but were often heard singing "teacher teacher teacher". Several Blue Tits fed on the sunflower hearts regularly; one pair seemed to set their hearts on one of our nest boxes, with the male displaying around it at the beginning of the month with his "moth like" display, chasing away other Blue Tits and Great Tits, and later pecking around the hole, both from the outside and inside. A small party of Long-tailed Tits were seen most days, but only one bird very occasionally dropped into the garden. A Coal Tit reappeared briefly shortly after the heaviest snow. There were two Robins and they seemed tolerant of one another so I suspect they had paired up; one could be heard singing most days from before dawn until after dusk. There were three Dunnocks in the garden, two were always squabbling and chasing one another, which suggests one was trying to defend both his territory and his mate. Up to 7 Blackbirds, including the piebald male, were visiting the ground table for dried fruit, seeds and scraps. Two Mistle Thrushes and two Song Thrushes also visited this table. A couple of Starlings visited most days, feeding on the suet feeder or ground table, but during the snow, up to 18 Starlings visited the ground feeder table in a feeding frenzy. At least three Goldfinches remained in the area, visiting the niger and sunflower heart feeders, and occasionally one started to sing its wonderful song. There were also at least three Greenfinches, a male was often seen (and heard) singing in a neighbours tree. Three Jays were taking crop's full of peanuts, sometimes hiding them in the lawn and neighbouring gardens, and squabbles broke out between them. A couple of Magpies started to build a nest in a neighbour's tree. Wood Pigeons continued with their display flights, two Stock Doves were still visiting the garden daily and a pair of Collared Doves returned during the snow. Two Wrens were regular visitors, and an even smaller Goldcrest was seen once or twice a week. A female Sparrowhawk spent almost an hour one day chasing House Sparrows in and out of the shrubbery and around the garden, but to no avail and left empty-clawed! On 12th day, both a male and female Sparrowhawk unsuccessfully pursued small birds. At the end of the month a Chiffchaff appeared in the garden, looking for insects among the shrubs.
The year was off to a good start with a flock of 100+ Waxwings flying over the garden several times. The mild weather and plentiful supply of natural foods in nearby woodlands meant that most species were not visiting the garden in great numbers. Twenty or more House Sparrows remained almost a fixture in the shrubbery where they preened and sunbathed between eating sunflower hearts, peanuts and suet, and either water or dust bathing. Three Blue Tits visited the sunflower hearts regularly, but more were about. A couple of Great Tits were making increasingly frequent visits - perhaps a sign that natural foods were dwindling. A single Coal Tit was feeding on the peanut butter suet block. A Robin, five Blackbirds and two Dunnocks were seen daily about the garden, rummaging among the leaf litter, etc. The Blackbirds usually ended up chasing one another around the garden. A couple of Starlings visited the suet feeder and ground table for kitchen scraps, such as stale cheese. At least two Goldfinches remained in the area, visiting the niger and sunflower heart feeders daily. Four Jays were taking crop's full of peanuts, sometimes hiding them in the lawn and neighbouring gardens. A couple of Magpies started to visit the garden, sometimes finding peanuts that the Jays had hidden. Wood Pigeons started their display flights - clapping their wings as they rise into the sky. As many as 3 Collared Doves and 2 Stock Doves were visiting the garden. A pair of Mistle Thrushes were seen most days, one was heard singing most mornings from just before sunrise. A solitary Song Thrush started visiting the ground feeder table several times each day towards the end of the month. A small flock of Redwings rested in a neighbour's tree one day, but flocks of Redwings and Fieldfares were flying over the garden most days. The Wrens were rarely seen early in the month, but not so towards the end. A gorgeous Goldcrest was spotted in the garden once or twice.
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