Jenny Wren

Shy
little brown
bird, hopping, creeping
around the rockery, Jenny
Wren.

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Bird Song

The day after Imbolc
how joyously the birds
sing for Spring.

Mystery Solved

When we came home from our autumn holiday I noticed that all along the back of our house, scattered over the tubs and flower-pots there were a quantity of little polystyrene balls. I could only think that they were packaging from something my son had bought while we were away but he said not. So where had they come from? Since no others appeared I soon put it down to one of those things you never find out and forgot all about it.

Then, last Tuesday as I was getting ready to go out, with a weather forecast of rain and possibly sleet, I glanced out of the kitchen window and noticed a few spots of white stuff floating down. I assumed it was the promised sleet. When I went out to the car however it was not raining, nor was it raining when I returned home at mid-day. Again glancing out of the kitchen window I noticed a few little puffs of the white spots floating down quite close to the window and realised it was more little polystyrene balls. I went outside to investigate.

Looking up at the back of the house I could see a hole in the wall just above the waste water pipe from the bathroom where it angles to join the soil downpipe. Every now and then a little puff of polystyrene balls came floating out of the hole. My husband came up from working at the bottom of the garden and asked what I was looking at so I pointed out the hole. Now, a few years ago we re-jigged the bathroom and this hole was where an overflow pipe had emerged. The pipe was no longer needed and had been removed. The hole had been mortared over, quite badly, and some mortar had fallen out! What was floating out was obviously our cavity wall insulation. Then we noticed a slight movement in the hole. “Must be a mouse or something,” said hubby and we wondered how a mouse had got up there. Something moved again. “No, it’s a bird.”

As it moved yet again, pushing out more polystyrene balls we could see a beak and a white head marking, but not much else. It had to be a small bird to fit through the hole so my first thought was that it was a Long-tailed Tit, being small birds with white head markings. We assumed it was nest-building there. I wasn’t quite sure about my identification as Long-tailed Tits are gregarious birds flying around in gaggles of half-a dozen or more and it seemed strange that one should choose to snuggle up for the winter and nest alone.

Hubby got the ladder and climbed up to enlarge the hole by removing some of the mortar and peer in, but he couldn’t see anything and nothing moved. He then decided to knock out the half-brick that was next to the hole. Still nothing flew out and nothing pecked him when he stuck his hand in. Quite clearly we were concerned about having the bird nest in our wall and tossing out our insulation. Having stood on watch for a while with nothing emerging we decided to go indoors for lunch. While sitting at the kitchen table, underneath the hole I suddenly caught a glimpse of a bird flying from the wall into our neighbour’s hedge so we immediately went outside again. Up the ladder once more, my husband began to fill in the cavity wall around the hole with glass-fibre insulation that he just happened to have spare and then, when we were as sure as we could be that there were no birds inside he found another brick, cut it to size and filled in the enlarged hole properly. I watched carefully over the course of the afternoon but no distressed bird returned trying to get back in so I assume it was the only occupant.

Not being sure of my identification I thought about it some more. The beak and bit of head that we did see seemed too sleek to my thinking to be a Tit so I looked in my bird books and I now think it more likely that it was a Pied Wagtail as these are known for being more independent and for nesting in walls. Whatever it was it had chosen a good spot – the angled waste water pipe provided a ‘doorstep’ in front of the hole and it was only a few short yards to a ready supply of food at the bird feeders. It had found itself a cosy bijou residence for the winter! We really could not leave it to nest in our cavity wall but I can’t help feeling a bit guilty about evicting it. I just hope it has found somewhere else cosy to build its nest.

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NB Pictures from Wikipedia and the RSPB

Woodpecker

great spotted woodpecker

Great Spotted Woodpecker

I love to see birds in my garden and especially at the feeders, which I can clearly see through my kitchen window, and since I do most of my computing at the kitchen table I do take frequent glances outside.

Over the past years there has always been lots of pigeons monopolizing the feeders and keeping all but the bravest of small birds at bay. But over recent months I have noticed something of a change. There seems to be far fewer pigeons about. Instead of the usual 8 or 10 at a time we seem to be down to only one or two, maybe three, at less frequent intervals. Pigeons are a bit of a nuisance and, yes, I have often said that we have far too many; but I don’t dislike the birds and would not like them to disappear altogether. I can’t help wondering if the steady increase in birds of prey in the area is to blame. I often see buzzards circling around and have also seen peregrine falcons on occasions, which are known to catch pigeons and other birds in flight. I have also come across complete bundles of feathers on the ground which could not possibly have been left by a cat for example. We no longer have a cat, but even when we did there was no way she would tackle a pigeon!

Nuthatch

Nuthatch

On the plus side, the reduction in the pigeon population has allowed far more of our small garden birds to visit the feeders. As well as the usual blue-tits, coal-tits, great-tits, long-tailed-tits, robins, sparrows and various finches that have ventured in when the pigeons are around, we have been visited this year, since the pigeon’s decline, by several nuthatches – the first time that I have ever noticed them in our garden. They are a joy to watch. Blackbirds are also regulars but there seems to be an increase in thrushes as well, and particularly I have noticed redwing thrushes feasting on the Pyracantha berries against the fence this year, having been noticeably absent for a couple of years.

Starlings had been gradually increasing too, a nuisance in some areas and considered pests where I grew up, I hardly ever saw them here until a few years ago and gradually we saw a few more, but never more than half a dozen or so. Now they have now disappeared again and I wonder why.

However there is one bird I have never seen in my garden before, though I know other people outside my immediate area who do have them regularly, and that is a Great Spotted Woodpecker. What a wonderful surprise to see one, a female, fly in to our feeders. Just the one, just the once – so far; at least when I have been looking. Perhaps with this spell of cold weather we have been having she will become a more frequent visitor, then perhaps I may get my own photo instead of sharing the one above which, along with the picture of the Nuthatch, I found on the Internet!

Cherries

Tree full of cherries
stripped bare while I was away —
birds opportune feast!

Rowdy Crew

Robin waits
while blackbird feeds.
Blue-tit follows on behind.
Then long-tailed tits, a rowdy crew,
scurry in to join the queue.

Scuttle and Swirl

Residue of Autumn’s fallen leaves
scuttle like rats along the road
at the behest of the gusting wind,
or swirl up in the air
like flocks of small birds
taking flight.

Winter Birds

Holly with berry
Hungry winter birds
feasting on nature’s bounty:
red holly berries.

Public Spirit!

Tree on grass triangleAs I have mentioned before, our house is on a corner plot. On the corner itself is a triangle of grass, separated from our plot by a footpath which runs diagonally across the corner. On the triangle of grass there grows a tree. Actually it could well be a tall shrub as it has multiple trunks and the foliage starts low down, plus it isn’t all that tall by tree standards! I don’t know what species it is.

Because the corner is north facing the tree/shrub grows at an angle leaning out towards the road in order to grab what afternoon sunlight it can. This means that the branches, which at this time of year are laden with bright red berries, dangle over the road, not only obstructing the view round the corner for traffic trying to turn out of our road but also very nearly touching cars, cyclist and other road users as they turn in.

The triangle of grass with the tree belongs to the council and they mow the grass several times a year but they never touch the tree, so each year I go out and do my public-spirited bit by pruning the tree. Over the last few weeks I have been looking at the tree and, noticing that it had once more stretched out over the road, I had been thinking it was time to do something again.

So, yesterday afternoon (in the morning we had been out for a ride on our tandem – this is irrelevant but I add it so you know that the tandem hasn’t been abandoned in the shed!) I took my wheel-barrow and tree pruning tools and lopped off the offending branches. I try to prune only just enough to alleviate the problem. I took the picture at the top of this post after pruning, showing the that the turning is now clear. I’m sorry I forgot to take a ‘before’ picture to show the difference.

Tree branch and berriesThis second picture is a close up of a berry laden branch from a tree of the same species which grows in our garden. Our tree is growing up beside the remains of a stump of another tree that had already been chopped down when we moved here. I believe this one to be self-set, possibly from a berry dropped by a bird from the tree on the grass triangle just over the hedge. There are several such trees in the neighbourhood at varying stages of growth so I think it probably self-sets very readily. If any one can tell me what it is I would be very grateful.

Encouragement

Overcast and humid.
A weak and watery sun
tries to break through.
Birds sing encouragement.

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