Sunday, 21 November 2010

Armchair birding weekend

Well, a kitchen chair to be precise. But first of all to Friday; my car decided to break down on Thursday so, after a day working from home, I headed for work at Seaham on the train. Thus far this autumn, I had not heard Siskins, so I had a good start to my journey as my first sighting was of three flying north over Cramlington station.

The weekend was dominated by rain, so being car less was not as frustrating as it could have been. It also meant that I spent more time staring out of the kitchen window.

Coal Tits - "Oh no!" I hear you cry, "not his wretched Coal Tits again". Thus far it has been possible to prove that three have been visiting our feeders very frequently, because two have apparently pecked head feathers, one right peck and one left peck. The other one has perfect plumage. Today there were four in the garden at the same time, so there is a chance that four or more are visiting regularly. Before today, however, I have often seen right and left peck together, but never more than one with perfect plumage.

Last year at this time we had up to ten Blackbirds around the garden at once. From the near absence of aggression between like sexes, I judged them to be migrant birds. I say near absence, because one female, that I assumed to be the resident female, gave every other Blackbird a lot of stick when she was around. This autumn so far, we have no more than four at once and there is a fair amount of chasing when they all coincide.

I have been fascinated by the behaviour of Blue Tits investigating the new bird box in our ornamental copper cherry. Whether one, two or several birds are involved is difficult to say. They (it?) spend time circumnavigating the box, stopping at intervals to peck furiously as if wanting to customise it. Most time is spent around the hole. I have seen Blue Tits go in the hole, so it's not too small, so I must have a read up of the handbook to see if it reveals anything about this behaviour. I only hope that the strap and string with which the box is attached to the tree stands up to this regular assault.

Thus far, I have not seen any go to roost in the box. Only time will tell if anything takes up residence in the spring. The tree is used by most birds as the launching pad for the feeders, so there is a chance that this may put off would be residents, but, in my experience, Blue Tits are not put off by much.

The new niger seed feeder is so far attracting up to two Goldfinches. We have them breeding nearby, so perhaps these are the resident pair. I hope that the cost of the special feeder and the seed is justified by the appearance of Siskins. Redpolls would be magic, but I hear very few of these over the garden, or elsewhere on my travels for that matter.

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