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Wildlife Garden blog

2 Posts tagged with the blackbirds tag
1

While some of us are head down searching for first flowers, others are alert to life higher up: Wildlife gardener, Daniel Osborne, who often spots some of the Wildlife Garden's less common sightings shares his winter observations:

 

“For those prepared to venture out in the cold, observing birds in winter has a charm all its own. While many of the enigmatic summer species will have migrated south, and none of the spring breeding displays or nesting behaviour will be in evidence, birds in winter are no less engaging.

 

There are still many species around. Blackbirds, robins, finches (including colourful flocks of goldfinches), tits, wrens, dunnocks and many corvids are common in gardens throughout winter. They are more or less non-migratory, but movement within these species does occur - from the colder north, and even from the countryside into cities.

 

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One of our resident robins (Erithacus rubecula)

© Mark Humphries

 

Some species, such as fieldfares and redwings, are encountered only in winter when they leave their summer breeding grounds in Scandinavia and Siberia. Redwings have been recorded in the Garden this year, as in previous years, and a pair of mistle thrush have chosen to make the Garden their home this winter, as reported in our December post.

 

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Redwing (Turdus iliacus) have been spotted in the Garden during the past month
© Phil Hurst

 

Due to the scarcity of food, many different species will flock together in winter feeding parties. Excellent viewing opportunities are afforded by the absence of foliage on the deciduous trees.

 

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A great tit (Parus major) in the Wildlife Garden

© Derek Adams

 

And birds are increasingly willing to visit garden bird feeders.

 

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European greenfinch (Carduelis chloris) and blue tit (Parus caeruleus) on our garden bird feeder

© Derek Adams

 

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Our resident moorhens (Gallinula chloropis) ensure nothing is left to waste below the feeders...

© Derek Adams

 

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... Though some can get left behind.

© Mark Humphries

 

 

The feeders in the Garden are usually in regular need of refilling during the winter months, although not too much this winter so far. The relatively mild temperatures appear to be offering a continued availability of natural food, and it is interesting to note that the blackbirds only recently started feeding on the rowan berries that they usually pluck in August with precise bursts of hummingbird-like hovering.

 

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Blackbirds (Turdus merula) feed off rowan berries most summers ... but not last summer

© Derek Adams

 

Blackbirds are seen frequently at all times of year in the Garden. They are common, and easily identified, the males a uniform black with a bright orange bill and eye, the females a diffuse brown as seen above and further below.

 

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Male blackbird in the Wildlife Garden
© Mark Humphries

 

They have the habit of cackling noisily when they take off and slowly bringing their tails up to the vertical when they land, making them identifiable even at distance.

 

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Female blackbird
© Derek Adams

 

The males are territorial and will often proclaim their territory from the same branch. It's my estimate that the Garden is the site of at least three different male blackbird territories. One male has a spot in the apple tree in the orchard area from which he can regularly be heard singing. At this time of year they will be re-establishing their territories and, like all birds, looking for enough food to survive.

 

Winter is undoubtedly a time of great hardship for birds. Severe or extended cold has disastrous effects on bird numbers. But it can also be a time of unrivaled avian spectacle. Starling murmurations are among the most celebrated natural phenomena and reach a peak during winter, when the birds roost most communally.

 

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Common starling (Sturnus vulgaris) - sadly uncommon in the Wildlife Garden - our last sighting was in 2009

© Tim Munsey

 

Some parts of Britain entertain huge influxes of swans and geese. Waders and wildfowl flock in huge numbers on the coastlines. And for me, in London, there is always the hope of seeing, in my opinion, the most beautiful of birds, waxwings.”

 

Thank you Daniel!

 

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A waxwing (Bombycilla garrulus) - one that is definitely on our Garden wish-list!

© Phil Hurst 

 

We'll be sharing more of our bird sightings with you later in the year

Caroline

0

On return from a week's absence, I was eager to see how our autumn pattern of colours had developed over the past few days in the Garden - ever hopeful that the leathery leaves of the London planes had been whisked away by the high winds last week - they hadn't. But the leaves of field maple had now turned a vibrant yellow and the beautiful honeyed glow of beech had faded. Several hazel have yet to turn colour and many berries and hips remain on trees and shrubs. Here is more, from Larissa who finds some striking comparisons with last year:

 

"This time last year I wrote about the autumnal work we were busy with in the Wildlife Garden. It was 27 November and autumn was well under way. This year, it all seems a bit late. News articles have appeared since October debating whether autumn is late, and by the Woodland Trust’s estimations from data collected in their citizen science project Nature’s Calendar, autumn did arrive around 14 days later than previous years.

 

So it got me wondering and digging around last year’s photos to compare them to this year and there are definitely some variations. The first noticeable difference on last year is the abundance of fruits and berries we have had in the Garden. In fact the rowan (Sorbus acuparia) is still holding on to some fruit not yet eaten by the blackbirds – who haven’t had a short supply of food this year!

 

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Rowan fruits are in abundance this year with large bunches such as this one covering the trees.

© Jonathan Jackson

 

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The rowan tree last year, on 14 November 2012.

© Jonathan Jackson

 

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The same rowan tree this year, on 21 November 2013.

© Jonathan Jackson

 

You can see from the above two pictures the branches of the rowan trees in 2012 were bare compared to 2013, where the leaves are hanging on and the fruits are abundant.

 

At the edge of the meadow, the beech (Fagus sylvatica) and hornbeam (Carpinus betulus) trees last year were already vibrant in mid-November, but the colours still hadn’t matched 2012 by late November this year.

 

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Our beech woodland in 2012.

© Jonathan Jackson

 

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And the beech this year, on 21 November 2013.

© Jonathan Jackson

 

Looking out from the bridge across the chalk pond, you can see from the pictures below the green leaves on the trees that had already turned two weeks earlier last year.

 

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The chalk pond in 2012.

© Jonathan Jackson

 

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And the chalk pond in 2013.

© Jonathan Jackson

 

Our other woodlands such as this coppice area in the centre of the Garden are strikingly different, and the mature lime tree (Tilia x europea) in the centre of the garden still had some leaves late November this year.

 

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Our coppice woodland in 2012.

© Jonathan Jackson

 

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And a similar view of the coppice woodland in 2013.

© Jonathan Jackson

 

Even now, in December things seem behind of last year. We are still raking falling plane tree (Plantanus x hispanica) leaves and looking up at the branches, some still rather full! I can’t help but view them by how many bags they will fill. The Hazels (Corylus avellana), oaks (Quercus robur) and silver birch (Betula pendula) also have many more leaves still attached compared to last year.

 

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Hazel, oak and birch trees still clinging on to some leaves this year ...

© Larissa Cooper

 

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... compared to last year

© Sue Snell

 

But there is a positive side to this. This time last year, the ground was frosty and cold...

 

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Leaves on the ground were covered in frost this time last year.

© Larissa Cooper

 

...which we are yet to experience this year, but when we do, we'll still be out there in the Wildlife Garden, preparing it for you all to come and enjoy when we re-open on a daily basis again in spring!

 

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No frost in the garden yet this year...

© Larissa Cooper

 

You can help the woodland trust monitor wildlife phenology by taking part in their citizen science projects at Nature’s Calendar.

 

Thank you Larissa!

 

And for more autumn delights from the Wildlife Garden you can watch Mark Spencer on his fungal foray in the Garden last month: