Wednesday, 30 March 2016

"Pigeon Love"

Many times as I have moved slowly through the woodland enjoying the peace and quiet, have I been startled by an unseen Woodpigeon exploding out of a tree close by with much wing clapping and leaf rustling, the white bars on its wings giving its identification away.

I am sure that I read somewhere that was the purpose of the wing clapping was to confuse a would be predator,as it makes its getaway, certainly gets my attention when I'm not expecting it.

I have often seen the male Wood Pigeon rising up into the air on its display flight where it claps its wings and gently glides down with its tail spread.

Today I witnessed a more gentler side to the Woodpigeon and I have never witnessed this next stage, that it is until today, on my garden fence.

So the male Wood Pigeon has impressed the female with its 'wing clapping' display flight, they are beginning to pair up.

My first thought was that they were involved in some mutual preening, but no, this was 'courtship feeding'  the female had inserted her beak into the corner of the male's beak  and appeared to be feeding her, with I believe, regurgitated pigeon milk. apparently this happens several times before copulation.

I have witnessed this courtship feeding once before with last years Robins, but he was feeding her with tidbits from  his foraging activities.

Robin - 'courtship feeding'

Saturday, 26 March 2016

Armchair bird watching !

March has been a relatively good time around the garden feeding station this year, a few absentees, like the Great Spotted Woodpecker not seen all month, even the local Sparrowhawk has not made an appearance lately , or none that I have witnessed any way, and thankfully the Grey Heron has kept away this year.

One new appearance and one that I have not witnessed in the garden since I moved into this house, a welcome visitor in the form of a Mistle Thrush, in fact not one but a pair.

I managed over the last few days to grab a few record photographs, always seem to be facing away from me. a few sightings on the pear tree, a few on the rooftops. They have been around now for at least a week which makes me wonder if they have nested close by.

Mistle Thrush on the Pear Tree

The Pair of Mistle Thrushes

Back to the regulars around the garden, early March there were up to three Blackcaps around the garden, two males and a female, The males appeared to have moved on, but the female is still being seen almost daily, still feeding occasionally on apple, but mainly on the fatball feeders.

The Wren has been seen on the odd occasion, usually moving around the ivy or skulking through the garden shrubs, I managed to catch a glimpse has it moved on to one of the garden fences.


Blue Tits and great Tits are seen almost every day a couple of Long Tailed Tits were seen on one day only.

Blue Tit.

Great tit

Long Tailed Tit.

Still good numbers of Finches coming to the garden feeders, Chaffinch numbers have increased with both male and female birds  being regular feeders.
Goldfinches come to the feeders every day, feeding only on the Niger seeds when the sunflower hearts have all but gone.
Greenfinch sightings have started to decrease has the month has moved on.

Three regular finches seen in the garden.



The Ring necked Parakeets still bringing that tropical feel to the garden, they have grown fond of the sunflower hearts and the apple halves.

Ring necked Parakeet

Robins seen daily, I noticed one of the Robins with some nesting material in its beak, I suspect nesting in my neighbours garden.


Starlings arrive on mass daily,  fatballs seems to be their tipple at the moment, although they appear rather partial to the occasional apple. This one appears to be a male, with the characteristic pale blue around the base of the bill

The House sparrow colony seems to be increasing, regularly visiting the garden feeders daily, love to know where they are nesting though.

House sparrows and Goldfinch

 Both male and female Blackbirds seen daily, although no nesting activity yet.

Male Blackbird
Collared doves have always been regular and extremely territorial , although it's difficult sometimes to recognise who are the resident birds and who are the intruders.

Collared Dove

Wood Pigeon
Finally a pair of Magpies have been seen daily around the Pear Tree, they did try and nest in the Pear tree last year, I must admit I did try and discourage them,

That's nearly seventeen species around the garden this month, which is quite good, I have seen Jackdaws and Carrion Crows on the rooftops but none have entered the garden this year.

Its amazing the number of bird species that do visit suburban gardens, if you take the time to look.

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Queens Awaken !

I have been reading reports of Bumblebee sightings with envy from various sites and blogs, but for me nothing, no sign in the garden, no sign in my local patch at Ashenbank Woods.
But with temperatures warming up, there re-emergence would surely be imminent.

 And so it was, March 21st, as I glanced out of the window watching the birds on the feeders, my first sighting of the year, a Bumblebee of sorts,  flying around the flowering Blackcurrant which has been in flower for a few days now. always attractive to the Bees.

Perfect timing for the local Buff Tailed Bumblebee queens which have overwintered in last years nests, their time has come to start a new colony, known as the "Initiation phase of the colony"

These large queens are quite visible now as they search out sources of pollen and nectar to feed the  larvae that have emerged from the first small batch of eggs that she has laid,  these pupate and  emerge as "workers" a few weeks later.

These workers, smaller than the queens, will then undertake the foraging duties. and life in the colony is underway.

Strangely these initial sightings coincided with my first sighting at my local patch Ashenbank woods.

Buff Tailed Bumblebee gathering pollen from willow catkins at Ashenbank  Woods

The Buff tailed Queens were not the only Bees on view the Western Honeybee were also competing for the limited pollen and nectar sources.

Western Honeybee

These willow catkins seem to be a much better food source for the Honeybees in the woods.

The surprise sighting back in the garden, all in the same day, was a single female Hairy footed flower bee, these usually emerge several weeks after the brown coloured males, but this is the first I have seen, nice to see them back.

Female Hairy footed flower Bee

Thats a good start to the Bee watching season

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Winter Warbler !

As the last few days of the 'Official' winter draws to an end, not one but three Blackcaps have made an appearance in and around the pear tree feeders, one female and two males. This is the third year running that I have recorded this feisty little Warbler in the garden, I was beginning to think they were not going to show this year.

The female was the first to be noticed feeding around the pear tree, always a bit wary, certainly not as aggressive as the males.

female Blackcap

From previous experience I know that Blackcaps are rather partial to apple, so I placed a couple of halved apples exposing the inner flesh on the feeders close to the pond, and sure enough not long after I got some good views of the female enjoying some winter fruit.

The following day the female was still feeding around the garden but I noticed a male Blackcap had now joined her, although this one was not displaying any of the aggressive tendencies I have observed before with the male Blackcap. 

And then there were two

Sharing the fat balls for a change.

As I look out of the window now the male Blackcap is still around the pond feeders although the female has not been seen for a few days. 

Thailand Sunbird !

Bit of a late posting this one, a report from the last part of our Thailand winter holiday, and one of my birding highlights from Krabi.

Like a child with a new toy I still get very excited when a new bird comes my way, and so it was as I sat in our balcony amidst the coconut palms that surrounded our hotel in Krabi,

 Some of the palms were in flower and directly level with our balcony, a small bird suddenly flew in to the palms, lost to view for a moment, but soon relocated feeding on the flowers of the palm.
 I recognized it as some sort of Sunbird, a genre that I am not really familiar with, although saying that this mystery sunbird is the third species I have now seen, the first was the Variable Sunbird seen in Kilimanjaro, the second was a Scarlet Chested Sunbird seen in Zanzibar, all fairly common Sunbirds as no doubt this one would turn out to be.

This first sighting appeared to be a female, or possibly a juvenile, olive green above and a yellow green below and a long decurved bill, it appeared to be drinking  the nectar from the flower spikes.

These birds were coming to the flower spikes all through the day, but it was not until the following day I caught sight of  the male and female, moving through the flower spikes, obviously a good source of nectar.

The male was brightly coloured with that iridescent sheen, so many colours, definitely a Sunbird of some sorts, but the view was short, luckily more views were to follow the next day.

The bird below is a probable juvenile male, it looks like its moulting into its iridescent male plumage.

On my return to a cold wintery England, I dusted off my trusty old Helm identification book, titled  Sunbirds: A Guide to the Sunbirds, Spiderhunters, Sugarbirds and Flowerpeckers of the World, a reference book which I must admit has had very little use,

It wasn't long until I found the Sunbird in question, the 'Brown Throated Sunbird' also known as the 'Plain throated Sunbird' a very understated name for such stunning looking Sunbird.

The Brown throated Sunbird (Anthreptes malacensis)  described as a large member of the Nectariniidae family, and as I thought relatively common resident bird of South East asia, also sometimes referred to as the Plain throated Sunbird. As its names suggest it does feed almost exclusively on nectar sometimes small berries.

What a stunner. Oh for a common bird like this in our country.

Brown Throated Sunbird. male