A ‘Macnab’ of water birds in the garden?

The heron in the burn

The heron in the burn

Molly the hedgehog sniffer resting after a hard day

Molly the hedgehog sniffer resting after a hard day

Because of the feeders, the woodland, the burn and the general location our garden is full of wildlife.  Despite that, the variety during the last week surpassed normal expectations of what we might see. On Wednesday, in or beside the burn running through the garden, I had what might be the avian equivalent of a’ Macnab’.  A ‘Macnab’ is to stalk a red deer, shoot a brace of grouse and catch a salmon all within one day and is derived from the famous novel by John Buchan under the title ”John Macnab” Thankfully my birds were not shot, simply observed. The day started with a magnificent grey heron standing patiently at the edge of the deepest pool waiting its chance to take an unwary trout. I’ve no idea if it did catch its breakfast but it was gone an hour later when I went out to do some work in the garden.

Later in the morning, and in almost the same spot, a dipper popped up from where it had been searching for underwater invertebrates. It perched momentarily on a stone, bobbed a few times then flew off up the burn. These smart wee brown birds with their white bib fascinate me with their ability to literally walk under water. I just can’t figure out how they don’t just shoot up to the surface like a cork. Their waterproofing is amazing too, as not a drop of water came from its feathers.

The final sighting for the day was the most exciting. I was coming across the bridge over the burn, making back towards the house, when a flash of brilliant, electric, blue came towards me. The kingfisher shot past me under the bridge and continued on down the burn. This bird is a treat that I see no more than once a month. I have wedged a thin stick over the deepest pool to try to encourage it to perch there and fish but so far – at least to my knowledge – it has not taken advantage of my hospitality. So this sighting, in late afternoon, completed my version of a ‘Macnab.’ I could also have thrown in a grey wagtail but, even though they are special wee birds, I see them almost every day.

On the following night, Thursday, I let our dog, Molly, out for its last toilet around 9.30 pm. It immediately made for the area I throw out mealworms for the blackbirds, dunnocks and robin, and investigated a hedgehog munching on the few that the birds had missed. I gave the hedgehog its own wee pile of mealworms, which were gone by daylight. It now has a treat of mealworms left for it every night at dusk. This is the first hedgehog I have seen in the garden this year. It has probably been there, unseen, most nights so before it hibernates in October I hope it brings along all its pals to help clear up the slugs and millipedes.

The next night, around the same time, when I put on the outside lights and opened the conservatory door, a fox ran from the part of the larch wood where I keep my ducks, across a wooden bridge towards their shed, and jumped the fence on to the drive. This is the first fox I have seen here, and though they are lovely animals, they would kill all the ducks and hens almost in the blink of an eye. I put the hens and ducks in their respective sheds just as it is getting dark. The exception is the very few evenings when we might be home late, so thankfully it was not on one of those.

On Saturday morning I heard what I thought was a starling in the larch wood. We don’t have a lot of starlings and in any case it seemed out of context in the wood. I watched and listened for a while, then saw a bird disturbed by a carrion crow and fly from one tree to another. I just glimpsed the mystery bird but kept watching and the crow flew at it again. This time the mystery was solved as when the bird flew off I could see it was a magpie. This only the second magpie I have seen here. There are a few on the western side of Perth, six miles away, but I suspect the two that visited us were passing through as on each occasion I only had one sighting.

Later on Saturday – the weather being as close to a summer day as we have had here since April – I was in the garden when I heard a buzzard mewing overhead. I looked up and took a while to locate the source of the sound as it was so high up, but there was not just one buzzard: there were six. The birds were circling on the thermals as if they were thoroughly enjoying themselves. It was great to see so many of these magnificent birds. It is possible that it was one family, but it is unusual for a pair of buzzards to successfully fledge four chicks so it was maybe more likely for the group to have been made up of two families. In any case it was the finale of a great week of wildlife watching without ever having to leave the garden.


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