Some less common birds from my garden

The heron waiting on a passing fish in the burn in the front garden

The heron waiting on a passing fish in the burn in the front garden

The female grey wagtail at (hopefully) her chosen nesting site above the burn

The female grey wagtail at (hopefully) her chosen nesting site above the burn

The male grey wagtail on guard above the burn

The male grey wagtail on guard above the burn

The smart and photogenic dipper awakened from his snooze

The smart and photogenic dipper awakened from his snooze

The bullfinch pair on the drive, probably eating seeds from the spruce tree overhead

The bullfinch pair on the drive, probably eating seeds from the spruce tree overhead

The tree creeper under a seed feeder at the front of the house

The tree creeper under a seed feeder at the front of the house

Two male house sparrows at the back of the house

Two male house sparrows at the back of the house

And a trio of tree sparrows (with an interested female siskin) at the front of the house

And a trio of tree sparrows (with an interested female siskin) at the front of the house

With the better weather last week I was a bit more active in the garden, (mostly) remembering to carry my pocket digital camera in my trouser pocket. Unfortunately I have lost count of the more unusual photos – including a brown jackdaw that I only saw once – I could have had over the years  so I have learnt my lesson at last.

We are lucky having as part of the property a wooded bank with a mix of about 200 larch, fir, alder, rowan, gean and ash trees. They cut out some of the light to the garden but that is more than compensated by the wildlife that frequent the trees. We also have two burns running through the garden, bringing an added dimension to the variety of fauna.

The first visitor of interest last week was a heron. It was standing in the burn on three or four successive mornings when I got up, and from the whitewash on the drive had earlier been pondering its coming day from there.  Herons are regular visitors to the garden, especially young ones slightly later in the year. There are a couple of pools in the larger burn that have a good stock of small trout and the fishing for them seems to be relatively easy.  They are just amazing birds as they fly off, almost pterodactyl-like, with slow wing beats which nevertheless propel them forward and upwards at a fair speed.

I have stuck a branch in the wall so that it overhangs the best fishing pool in the hope of tempting a kingfisher to start to use it. They are fairly uncommon visitors, mostly just flying either up or down the burn, and I would love to encourage them to dally a while. Maybe they do, of course, when I’m not looking, rather like the elusive dancing pandas in the Kit-Kat advert of the late 1980s. I suspect that with the wee camera I have it will be a while before I get a photo of a kingfisher.

Still on the burn theme there is a pair of grey wagtails prospecting for a nest site in the dyke at the side of the burn. They have nested there in the past and several times a day they now have homed into a particular spot which I think they have settled on. The female regularly sits on top of the dyke, while her mate often watches from an adjacent tree or even the telephone wire directly above. I’ll watch with interest, though maybe it’s just a bit early yet for them to nest.

There are dippers daily in the burn. There were plenty there when we moved to the house in the early 1990s but they became quite scarce as my flock of mallard increased and usurped their food supply of small crustaceans from the bed of the burn. Now that most of the 70 or so mallard have moved on the dippers have returned. I have been trying to get a photo but they never seem to stay still long enough!  However on Sunday I spotted one, standing in shallow water, that seemed to be snoozing. No camera in pocket on that occasion but I went back to the house, retrieved the camera and unbelievably the dipper was still there. It obligingly posed for a few frontal, side and back photos before heading off down the burn. Such a smart wee chap! I always hope to hear their song but I suspect its high pitch might just be outwith the range of my aging ears. Just downstream from where the photogenic dipper sat there is an overhanging root of a tree and that is the area where I suspect their nest may be. They can be early nesters so I might just take a chair down to the area and sit in the sun for a while and watch.

I was pleased to see a pair of bullfinches feeding on the drive on Sunday. Initially I wondered what was taking their fancy there but realised they were under a spruce tree and with the overnight wind it was likely to be seeds blown from the tree.  I had no cover and moved forward a step at a time, taking ever closer (or rather less distant) photos. A camera with a decent lens would be a boon but the advantage of mine is that it can fit my pocket and be ready for action quickly. Compromise is everything.

I’m not sure how many tree creepers we have but it seems difficult to look out the window these days without seeing one either at the back or front of the house. I see them (or it) regularly on fat ball feeders, peanut feeders, among seeds under feeders as well as in their usual niche of running up the bark of the larch trees. I can only conclude that their diet is just a wee bit more varied than simply insects. A couple of years ago a pair successfully nested up between some trellis panels I had stored at the back of the garage.

I am really pleased at the onward march of the sparrows. House sparrows were once so common wee birds and I really missed them when their numbers crashed. I now have a healthy population in the garden. They seem to have increased from the west end of the village, where an old farm steading was taken down about 3 years ago and the sparrow population has recolonised other suitable habitats. It’s great now to hear them chirping, often unseen, in the garden hedges and bushes.  I have collections of nest boxes up for the house sparrows and also for their cousins the tree sparrows. The tree sparrows generally number between four and half a dozen, coming to the seed feeders daily. None of the nest boxes has been used yet but maybe this year ……

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