Thursday 30 January 2020

New Garden Visitor

We have been delighted this last week by the arrival of a new garden visitor: meet the Blackcap!

In fact, we have two for the price of one as a female (see below, 3rd and 4th pictures) has joined the male who features in the top two photos. If, like us, you spot these birds in the UK over the winter months, your sightings can be logged here. Since the 1960s more and more Blackcaps have been staying here all year round.

These photos were taken through glass on a dull day, but I think you can easily see that the male has a black cap. Well, no surprises there. The female, on the other hand, has a rich chestnut top to her head, so it is easy to distinguish between the sexes. 

Blackcaps are not rare: they have been awarded Green Conservation Status. However, it is always a thrill when a new species of bird is spotted in our home patch. As you can see below, the Blackcap is 'our' 27th bird to date. It is also our 1st new species for 2020. Blackcaps are members of the Warbler family. The RSPB site describes their song as 'fluting'.

The male Blackcap in our garden bides his time in the ivy around the coconut feeder, then when he feels the moment has come, he moves in and asserts his position in the pecking order. The female seems less feisty: she oftens waits to appear until the Great tits and Robin have stepped back. 

Avian sightings in our home patch: unlike the rules for the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch, a bird seen clearly from the house or garden counts for my purposes. We have, for example, yet to see a Grey Heron landing in our home patch, but I have had good sightings of these birds flying over in the direction of the local nature reserve, one road away, and perching on a neighbour's roof. We have often heard the local Tawny Owl, but I am not counting 'birds heard' (unless they are also seen) at present. [R] indicates a regular visitor and [O] an occasional one.  
  • HPb1   Great Spotted Woodpecker [O] [2019]
  • HPb2   Great tit [R] 
  • HPb3   Long-tailed tit [R] 
  • HPb4   Blackbird [R]
  • HPb5   Song Thrush  [27 April 2019 - a pair]  
  • HPb6   Blue tit [R]
  • HPb7   Robin  [R] 
  • HPb8   Magpie [R] 
  • HPb9   Wood Pigeon  [R] 
  • HPb10 Dunnock [R] 
  • HPb11 Starling [R] 
  • HPb12 Carrion Crow [R] 
  • HPb13 Goldfinch  [R]
  • HPb14 Jay [O]
  • HPb15 Green Woodpecker [O]
  • HPb16 Wren [O]
  • HPb17 Bullfinch [19 January 2017]  
  • HPb18 Sparrowhawk
  • HPb19 Mallard 
  • HPb20 House Sparrow [1 June 2019] 
  • HPb21 Chaffinch 
  • HPb22 Grey Heron
  • HPb23 Collared Dove [R]
  • HPb24 Coal tit  
  • HPb25 Redwing [20 January 2017] 
  • HPb26 Kestrel  [8 June 2017]  
  • HPb27 Blackcap  [30 January 2020 - a pair]  

Wednesday 29 January 2020

Early Signs of Spring in St Mary's Churchyard, Martlesham

A few years ago a couple of local friends suggested that we should go and see the spring flowers in the churchyard of St Mary's church above the river Deben in Suffolk. On that occasion the carpet of crocuses was so spectacular that we have returned once or twice each spring. We paid a first 2020 visit last weekend, and were particularly heartened by the plentiful drifts of snowdrops.

We were a bit early for the crocuses, but there were a few purple, white and orange ones here and there.

I grew up in East Anglia, and have loved the flintstone facings one encounters ever since. 

The snowdrops and crocus...

...were joined by a clump of primroses.

The next photo, taken just below the church and gravestones in the photo above, is a sign of things to come. 

More snowdrops...

...and hidden among the leaves, a single Daisy.

'The snowdrops first—the dawning gray;
Then out the roses burn!
They speak their word, grow dim—away
To holy dust return.'

From: The Flower-Angels
by George MacDonald (1824-1905)

Saturday 25 January 2020

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch, 2020

As you can see, we took part in the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch this morning. Do see if you can take part and do a count, too: Monday 27 January is the last day for this.

We spotted ten species of birds in one hour in our suburban Suffolk garden (showing the maximum number of any one species seen at a time)...

  1. Wood pigeon: 4
  2. Blue tit: 6
  3. Great tit: 1
  4. Robin: 1
  5. Starling: 2
  6. Magpies: 2
  7. Jay: 1
  8. Blackbird: 2
  9. Blackcap: 1
  10. Dunnock: 1
Sadly some of the 'usual suspects' failed to show up, notably the colony of Long-tailed tits and threcharm of Goldfinches. These were both included in my 2019 count.

Saturday 25 January 2020 at 12.50...

Our 'other garden wildlife' included Common Frog (sightings up significantly since we added a tiny pond to the garden), Grey Squirrel and Hedgehog. 

If you have taken part, I wonder what you saw. This was my count for 2019...

Thursday 23 January 2020

First Snowdrop

I posted a picture of frost in my previous post on a day when our tiny wildlife pond was a sheet of ice. This morning I caught a spell of sunshine and went outside, only to find this single Snowdrop. It was such a cheering sight, even if the photo, taken on my phone, barely shows off its 'singular' beauty.

Tuesday 21 January 2020

Frosty morning (and the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch)


Apologies for the photo quality, but these were taken through double-glazing. Both Robin and Bluetit were making the most of our coconut feeders this morning.

It may not have been the coldest night of the year, but it was certainly the hardest frost we have had so far. Do spare a thought for the birds, and don't forget to take part in the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch this coming weekend. You can find the details here.

Our ('say no to the mow' wild) garden this morning

P.S. You might be interested in this story about the plan for a wildlife meadow at King's College, Cambridge.