Cold warnings

With warnings of more cold weather on the way I’ve wanted to ensure I leave a supply of food out for the birds during this vital period. Currently birds will be building up reserves ready for the breeding season. Already I’ve seen a few birds investigating my nesting material. But with the temperature dropping they will be needing high energy, high fat sources of food.The ground is frozen making many natural food sources hard to get.

I have several seed feeders, but these get drained in two or three days. So if I have a busy week at work I don’t always get out on an evening to restock them. The suet feeders and fat balls usually take longer to get through ensuring even when the seed runs out the birds still have food supplies in my garden.

As I was low on suet I went on Haith’s website to see what they had going and found a good value suet starter pack for £14.82. Haith’s have previously given me freebies to review, but this was not. I use Haith’s as the quality I do believe is better and when buying in a reasonable quantity it isn’t badly priced. In this starter pack I received suet fat balls and feeder, pellets, suet block, a coconut feeder, and a bird cake.

Getting out to put it out though meant separating Alice from her new Gruffalo costume, courtesy of the charity shop for £1.50. She has also been spoilt by her granddad with a set of binoculars after a previous blog. Though she hasn’t quite got used to which end to look through.

 She had a few phone calls to make on her chocolate phone.

Now Alice was ready we got out to put out the new fat ball feeder and restock the feeders.

The coconut feeder has string on just to put up on a branch.

The cake, block and other pellets went up at the far end of the garden.

Alice was excited by a fir cone she found in the bug hotel.

My snowdrops seem to be running behind the schedule of other locally.

Blue bells and tulips are poking through further with each week.

Now I can sit back inside to do my school work watching the birds enjoy their feast.

Nest box week

A quick shout out for the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) National Nest Box week. My local area currently has a good supply of natural nest spots. But with new housing estates destroying many of these I’m aware the birds may be short of nest spots in years to come.

Traditional advice is to place between 1 and 3 metres. Some species do have specific height requirements, so check if you have your heart set on particular species.

Open fronted nest boxes should have a bit of cover around them. Mine has a lilac tree in front and honey suckle growing over the fence. These open fronted nest boxes are favoured by robins, pied wagtails and wrens.

Nest boxes shouldn’t be placed too close to feeders as these may make an area too busy putting off nesting birds. This is tricky in a small garden like mine, as I can’t put either too close to the house, so I’ve tried to place the feeders and nest boxes with what distance I can apart. Birds need clear flight paths into the nest, but it helps fledglings if there are branches they can get out onto near the nest box.

If you have predators in the area ensure cats can’t get to the boxes. Metal plates can be used around the holes to stop squirrels and some other birds attacking the eggs.

In addition to the nest boxes I have nest lining materials in the garden. Natural wool in a hanging store and straw are available to be claimed. As this is only my second year in the house I’m not relocating nest boxes yet, but if in another year none of have been used I may try different spots.

Follow on twitter to see if I have any nesting success.

Alice is eagerly waiting to see if anything comes, imitating my binoculars with her popoids. I can see I’ll need to get her set.

Alice binoculars

Rock hunting

Today saw my parents visiting. After a trip for lunch at the Floral Hall  we headed out for a walk along the seafront.It was a nice day for it. The sun was out and the day was was calm. No chilling Winter winds today.

Alice enjoyed walking with my mum along the sea wall. Increasingly she wants to run.

We got down onto the beach. Just a few months ago Alice was very reluctant to walk on the sand. Now she’s trying to throw herself into the water.

Each time we go along the seafront she finds a couple of stones she doesn’t want to part with. She is very particular over which she takes. I can’t see any particular reason she wants the ones she takes, but she clearly does. In each photo you will see her hands are tightly clutching a pile of stones.

Some other visitors had made a good rock circle.


A distant bird, possibly a dunlin.

A more accommodating photogenic gull. I think it’s a black headed gull, but with the gulls all being white with some black I still haven’t got my eye in on identification.

A nice stroll along the front and an ice cream on the way back. It’s good to see Alice becoming more adventurous. Then with parents gone I still had time to work in the garden to finish the seeding from yesterday.

Hawk Walk

Today saw me out with my dad and nephews at South Cave Falconry. We previously visited to see one of my nephews fly a hawk at the end of the Summer. For Christmas we booked a hawk walk for my dad with space for one other to share the experience. The hawk walk takes you from the centre through the woods with one the centres handlers.

As you go the hawk leaves your arm to explore the branches and returns to your arm for food. My dad had his turn on the way out.

The hawk explores the trees, stumps and the ground. On the way out we were heading uphill, so the hawk mainly stuck to short flights between branches and back.

Then on the return walk I took my turn with the glove and the hawk did slightly longer glides as we headed back down hill.

We had a Harris’s Hawk for our experience. These are beautiful birds found through South Western United States to Chile, Argentina and Brazil. They are sometimes found in Britain, where they have in all likelihood escaped from falconry centres. They live in woodland habitats as well as semi-desert. So the woods around the centre are not a million miles away from their natural habitat. They exist on a diet of small birds, mammals and lizards. Within the woods today the hawk found the remnants of a few unidentified mammals distracting him from the walk. Harris’s hawk is unusual in that it will hunt in packs, where as most raptors are fairly solitary. They will hunt in family groups giving them the chance to catch larger prey than they otherwise could on their own.  They are popular amongst falconry centres for the comparative ease to train in comparison to something like owls, which take much longer if they can be trained at all. Harry Potter has a lot to answer for with people thinking owls will make god pets.

Truly a magnificent bird. A wonderful shared experience I would recommend treating someone to.

Daunder

Today’s word for the day from Robert Macfarlane: “daunder” – to walk without fixed purpose, to wander aimlessly, to stroll, saunter & idle about, in city or in country (Scots). Cf another fine Scots verb for this, “to stravaig”.

This morning I had an appointment, but following that I decided to take a daunder back through the park. Of late, I haven’t had much chance to go through what it a lovely local space for me. The avenue of trees, the wide expanse of grass, the surrounding gardens all make for a pleasant stroll. Squirrels enjoy a number of confirs in the surrounding gardens. The park provides a rich variety of habitats with wet areas, woodland, ground cover, short and long grass.

During Winter one of the areas of trees becomes bogged down and for a few months becomes a temporary duck pond. Today the mallards were resting by the side, while the crows hopped back and forth around the edge.

Many of the surrounding stone walls are covered in ivy. This wonderful Autumn rich pollen source has now gone to seed. Once dropped the ivy can continue it’s creeping domination of the southern corner of the park only to have it’s efforts thwarted later in the year by the groundsmen.

Signs of Spring are poking through with snowdrops in flower and daffodils preparing for their colour burst.

One of my favourite areas of the park takes a path through trees into a short holloway to nowhere in particular. The chaffinches were out in number today hopping around the ivy encrusted trees.

Throughout the park I could hear the sound of great tits chattering back and forth.

The blackbirds were accomodating for photos.

Just a quick wander round the park shows life is starting to emerge again. The Spring flowers are showing their heads. The birds are finding their voices again. The sun is almost warming. Good to be out.

Edging the lawn

Today saw me braving the cold to make a start on my plans to edge the lawn. Our next door neighbours have knocked out a chimney breast and we claimed lots of vintage Edwardian red bricks for my garden. They were heading for the skip, but were upcycling them. The bricks are getting dug into the lawn edge to hopefully give me a neater edge when mowing.

I’ve previously edged the bench area with stone bricks, so it won’t all match. But I don’t want to see these lovely bricks go to waste.

Alice watched on.

Before enjoying her Christmas present.

Then abandoning me to play on her push along.

The blackbirds have been watching me from next door but one while enjoying the apples left on the trees. Hornsea is full of fruit trees where the fruit are never harvested giving the birds a good Winter food source.

I’ve got through half today and hopefully finish the job later in the week.

The garden is looking set for Spring. The daffodils are coming up strong now. Soon be flowering. I’m seeing a few tulips peeking through. I’ve even got one allium making an early break for it.

Big Garden Birdwatch

Last weekend saw the Big Garden Birdwatch. The RSPB is survey has been going since 1979 and provides useful information on the rise and fall of garden birds. I have been putting out a variety of food across Winter attracting in a good variety of birds. However the weekend before didn’t bode well.

The snow started to come down. At first slow, then in proper flurries.

Thick enough to settle.

Come the day of the birdwatch the snow had gone, but it was still a cold, grey day. Not ideal conditions, but I’m pleased to say I still had good numbers in. The way the survey works is you count the greatest number you see at once, so you don’t count the same bird again and again.
So my results as follows:

4 Blackbirds
5 Starlings
14 Sparrows
3 Wood pigeons
2 Great tits
1 Crow
1 Wren
1 Blue tut
2 Jackdaws
10+ common gulls

So I just managed to break double figures. This was a quiet day as my garden goes, so several regular visitors didn’t show. No robins or goldfinches, which are out there now as I write. But still a respectable variety of species for a small garden.

A mass of gulls made up one of my highest counts. Though only in briefly they swoop in, quickly, and in large numbers.

The missing birds.

A little disappointed that a few birds didn’t show, but I’m still happy that my garden is helping support a decent variety of garden birds. The initial results nationally seem to be showing the sparrow as top, followed by starling, then blue tit. Being by the sea my results differ from the norm. Hopefully over next year as the cover in the garden builds at a variety of heights I will see further wildlife visiting.