Wildlife diary - winter 2011-12

13 May 2012: Last update
26 February 2012: Coupling up
09 January 2012: Species round-up
17 December 2011: The Long-tails arrive
05 November 2011: The usual suspects

Sunday, 13 May 2012: Last update

This is the final update for the 11/12 winter season. It's somewhat late, but I have not had the time to select and upload the photos until now. All the new pictures were taken in March and April.

As spring unfolded, the birds from the feeding area spread out into the woodland to build nests. I began bringing lumps of cat hair down to the feeding area, taken from the brush I use to groom my cats, and it was a big hit, especially with one little Blue Tit who was always eager to make improvements on a nest inside a tree trunk. I have had fun documenting its hard work. At the end of April, after scaling down for a few weeks, I stopped feeding the birds.

In nature, you learn something all the time. For instance, one afternoon mid-March I had an encounter with the "mouse" I have seen occasionally during the past year. It spent some time on the doorstep of its hole eating bird food, and I took lots of photos. When I asked my knowledgeable RSPB friends whether they could identify the rodent species, they informed me that it wasn't actually a mouse but a bank vole.

It doesn't take much waiting by the river before a Kingfisher flies by. One afternoon at the end of March, one flew by three times in the space of 10 minutes. I wasn't hiding (although standing very still), so it obviously saw me and continued flying, and they're impossible to photograph mid-air. I have yet to see one sitting still, so no impressive Kingfisher photos this season.

The weather has been very mild over the winter, which means animals have stayed hidden, so the number of species I've seen over the winter has been relatively low. No mink or otters, no hares or deer. But as you see below, plenty of birds!

Starlings Coal Tit Coal Tit Great Tit, not sure where the food is hiding in all this fur! Great Spotted Woodpecker (female) - most comfortable clinging to a tree Great Spotted Woodpecker (female) - "Will grab some food off the ground but I'm not leaving my tree!" Wren Robin Bank vole Bank vole Bank vole Goosander, female (left) and male (right) Goosanders, a female and two males Fieldfare Let it not be said that I didn't get a picture of a Kingfisher...(!) Springtime Teal (male) Male Teal and male Mallard Male Teal and male Mallard Teal (male) Mallard (male) Blue Tit, struggling with all the fur Blue Tit leaving its nest Blue Tit returning to its nest Long-tailed Tit pecking bits of straw for its nest Blue Tit again wrestling the cat hair Blue Tit with nesting material Wren

Sunday, 26 February 2012: Coupling up

I've seen some lovely stuff over the past weeks, and it's been hard to select the best pictures, so this is a somewhat chunky update. There's quite a few shots of Long-tailed Tits, as they're my favourite wee birds.

During my birdwatch hour for the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch, which takes place on the last weekend of January each year, the female Great Spotted Woodpecker came by a couple of times. I had a poor turnout of Chaffinches and Long-tailed Tits, but two days later saw plenty of both, as well as the Bullfinch couple and two Goldfinches (where were THEY hiding when I was counting birds?).

Since then, both a male and a female Great Spotted Woodpecker have visited several times, the female being the bolder of the two. They're the stars of the feeding area at the moment, so there's a lot of photos of them. The Bullfinches visit occasionally, and I sometimes spot a Goldfinch, but they never come close or stay for long enough to get a good photo. The Wren is getting used to me and now makes regular appearances, but usually remains concealed by brambles and is hard to photograph.

All the tit species in the feeding area are used to me and will take morsels from the bird table while I'm standing quite close to it. None is more bold than a little Coal Tit, who will take the opportunity to look through the offerings at leisure when I'm too close for the other birds. During my Big Garden Birdwatch hour, the three Robins were bickering and chasing each other as usual, but one decided to take a break and go for a snack. Unfortunately it had chosen the same moment as the Coal Tit, who engaged the much larger Robin in a mostly airborne fight and stood its ground! I suspect the freezing temperatures we were having here in Glasgow was part of the reason the Coal Tit was so desperate to ensure it got its share, but whatever the motivation, it was a fascinating wee spectacle.

A few days into the new year there was a heavy storm, which knocked down several trees. One of the trees fell into Blacksey Burn, the small stream in the feeding area where the birds drink and bathe. The crown of the tree now provides the birds with a safe haven for preening and washing, and all the small bird species are enjoying the new "bathing area".

I have not spent a lot of time by the river, as the mild weather means there are a lot of dog walkers, joggers, cyclists and families on the path, which in turn means the wildlife hides away. No sign of Kingfishers at all. However, I have frequently seen a single female Goosander, and yesterday, to my delight, she was joined by a male. The big trees beside the river are a temporary home for the winter visitors from the north; I have spotted both Fieldfare and Redwing gathering there, joined by the resident Song Thrush.

That's all the news. Hope you enjoy the photos - sorry about all the Long-tails, but aren't they cute?!

Wren Robin Great Spotted Woodpecker (female) Great Spotted Woodpecker (female) Long-tailed Tit Great Tit Long-tailed Tit Robin Long-tailed Tit Coal Tit Wood Pigeon Chaffinch (male) Great Tit Lichen-covered trees with a Great Spotted Woodpecker Great Spotted Woodpecker (female) Great Spotted Woodpecker (female) Leucistic Carrion Crow Bullfinch (female) Fluffball Long-tail Long-tailed Tit Blackbird (male) Two of the Robins Long-tailed Tits Coal Tit Wren Song Thrush Long-tailed Tit Long-tailed Tit Great Spotted Woodpeckers - male and female Great Spotted Woodpecker (male) Chaffinch (male) Great Spotted Woodpecker (female) picking bird food from the ground Great Spotted Woodpecker (female) Great Spotted Woodpecker (male) Bullfinch (male) Redwing Redwing Fieldfare Fieldfare Goldfinch Goosander, male and female Goosander (male) Male and female Goosander in flight Portrait of a female Chaffinch Dunnock

Monday, 09 January 2012: Species round-up

It's been a decent birding winter so far, albeit much wetter and more windy than expected.

First, a summary of the birds I am feeding this winter: Lots of Great Tits, Blue Tits, and Coal Tits. Two resident Robins, who don't get along. Three to five Blackbirds and a couple of Dunnocks. A handful of somewhat shy Chaffinches and the occasional Wren. So far I have only seen one female Great Spotted Woodpecker, but last spring I saw a male as well. The family of Long-tailed Tits I mentioned in my last update have joined up with another group, so now there's at least 8 and possibly a dozen. The new year has also brought the beautiful Bullfinch couple from last winter back, and I have also spotted a male Siskin and a Goldfinch. There is also a Treecreeper in the area now, but I haven't seen it take food off the ground yet, so I can't claim to be feeding it at this point.

In the feeding area, I also have the usual "undesirables", namely Magpie, Carrion Crow and Wood Pigeon. As soon as I leave for 10 minutes to have a look along the river, they swoop in and fill up, scaring the small birds off. It's not that I don't like the big birds; they too have a place. However, the big birds can eat a multitude of foods and are better equipped to survive the winter, which is why I don't feel a need to feed them. The same can be said for the grey squirrels. Therefore, I "stand guard" in the area for an hour or two every time I put food out, whistling my usual call. The in-betweener of these two bird groups, the medium-sized Great Spotted Woodpecker, appears to be learning that I don't want to chase it away, but it also has the distinct advantage of not being as afraid of the large birds as the really small birds are, so it may join both groups.

With the weather being very windy and wet, the river has been a rather unwelcoming place. As a result, I haven't been down there much, and haven't seen other species than the lone Goosander. On the other side of the hill where I live, I've seen two Song Thrushes (at least that's what they look like to me, but they could be Mistle Thrushes). I also see the Long-tailed Tits there, perhaps a quarter of a mile from the feeding place, as they move from tree to tree endlessly during the day.

So that's the latest report. Nothing particularly unusual, but still a good turn-up, and fairly promising for the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch which is at the end of this month. Below are the latest pictures.

Blue Tit Dunnock Blue Tit Great Tit Song Thrush Chaffinch (male) Ferns and moss on a tree by the river Siskin (male) Bullfinch (female) Bullfinch (male) Great Spotted Woodpecker (female) Two Robins - the one at the bottom left is the dominant one, about to chase the other one off Long-tailed Tits Coal Tit Great Spotted Woodpecker (female) The birds can't wait for me to put out the food so decide to help themselves A Great Tit tucks into the coconut treats while I'm scattering food on the ground Chaffinch (female) Treecreeper Grey Squirrel Long-tailed Tits

Saturday, 17 December 2011: The Long-tails arrive

Yes, the first frost came at the beginning of November, but then the weather turned very mild. I still fed the birds on occasion, but I save the large portions for sub-zero temperatures, which have only returned recently.

The latest photo selection features several Robin pictures. They're not my favourite bird, as they're quite aggressive towards each other and other small birds, but they are very bold and sometimes come very close to me.

Today's feeding was a particularly good experience. When I put out the food and whistled, only a Robin and a couple of Blackbirds seemed to notice, which is highly unusual. I waited, watching the squirrels feast on the food on the ground, but eventually moved to chase them off (half an hour is enough!). After that, and another whistle, all the small birds came, and eventually also - to my great delight - Long-tailed Tits. They were only there for a few minutes; they tend to continually move from tree to tree, and might pay several short visits during the course of the day. Five of them swooped in and headed straight for the coconut shells.

Different birds have different preferences - the wee Coal Tits seem to prefer the bird table, whereas the Great Tits are quite happy to use both table, ground and coconuts. Because some birds prefer eating on the ground, today I made two different bird food mixes. The mix I scatter on the ground contains mealworms (for the Blackbirds) and nyjer seed (in the hope of attracting Goldfinches) as well as an extra dose of sunflower hearts for the Chaffinches. And speaking of which, there *are* Chaffinches in the feeding area, but as they arrived late last season, they're not quite sure of me... yet.

Great Tit Blackbird (female) Leucistic Carrion Crow Robin Robin Robin Squirrels, munching Coal Tit Long-tailed Tits Lichen

Saturday, 05 November 2011: The usual suspects

The first frost had appeared this morning, which was my cue to start this season's bird feeding. It coincides with Bonfire Night, which is celebrated mainly with fireworks rather than bonfires, thus causing immense stress to wildlife, so I reckoned the birds could do with a little extra energy before nightfall.

The birds had not forgotten the whistle I used last winter to inform the area about fresh food. As soon as I called, Great Tits and Robins lined up by the bird table. There are still two Robins, so it looks like their territorial dispute was never entirely resolved. Perhaps they have simply learned to live with each other. I also saw two male Blackbirds; I think they were fighting on the ground (slightly out of my sight, but rustling quite a bit in the fallen leaves!). There were also a few Blue Tits, a Coal Tit and a Dunnock, but nothing out of the ordinary and at this point no finches (but they will come when they realise there are plenty of sunflower hearts on offer). In the treetops above were Magpies, a Carrion Crow and a Wood Pigeon, and of course one of the Grey Squirrels immediately appeared to fill up on the seeds scattered on the ground. I took a walk along the river and spotted a Goosander, which I followed for about half a mile as she lazily drifted upstream while diving for food.

So, in a nutshell, there were no surprises, but a good start to the season. Over the course of the winter I hope to spot Long-tailed Tits, Chaffinches, Bullfinches, Goldfinches, Treecreepers, Siskins, Wrens and Great Spotted Woodpeckers in the feeding area, as well as Fieldfares, Goldeneyes, Kingfishers, Coots and Grey Herons by the river. Last winter I also saw a Grey Wagtail, a Dipper and a couple of Teals. For a busy, dirty, semi-urban area, the amount of wildlife on the White Cart is pretty amazing.

I'll kick off this diary with a dozen pictures from today. The quality is a bit mixed but generally not very good. Since last winter I have begun wearing glasses, and I have yet to learn how to negotiate this obstruction when I focus the camera. I hope you'll enjoy them nonetheless.

Blackbird (male) Robin Robin Autumnal foliage against a blue sky Thieving squirrel thinks I haven't noticed him Great Tit (male) Carrion Crow Goosander (female) Goosander (female) Goosander (female) - with itchy head! Great Tit (male) Dunnock

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