Friday, January 22, 2016

Winter feeding frenzy.

For well over a week the weather conditions have truly reflected the harsh grip of winter. Low temperatures throughout, combined with short days,  has ensured the number of birds visiting this particular garden feeding station has been high.  The location is west of Inverness, Scotland  with a gradual emergence of higher hills inland , but with agricultural land and accompanying woodlands adjacent to the Beauly and Moray Firths stretching out from the house,  the area has a rich diversity of habitat and bird life.  However, a walk through any local woodland area at the height of winter shows it to be peculiarly quiet in many respects and many such areas must see their normal "residents" flooding out to take advantage of  food provided in the gardens of nearby villages.  Despite the weather conditions improving enormously today ( 22 nd ) good numbers of birds are about and still feeding frantically.

During the series of somewhat poor, past days a wide variety of species has been in evidence, as is shown below ( with the maximum number present at any one time being quoted ).

Blackbird  9
Mistle Thrush  1
Robin  7
Starling  10
Dunnock  6
House Sparrow  8
Tree Sparrow  12
Chaffinch  ca.15
Greenfinch  1
Bullfinch  2
Goldfinch  3
Yellowhammer  7
Siskin  4
Lesser Redpoll  5
Great Tit   6
Blue Tit  7
Coal Tit  8
Great Spotted Woodpecker  1  ( certainly two individuals involved )
Jackdaw  3
Carrion Crow  1

Not a bad haul and a mixture that has provided a never ending tapestry of fascination in what , otherwise, might have been rather dull days. More serious points arise of course. The extent to which garden feeding stations support our bird communities over periods of harsh weather must not be overlooked. It seems fairly obvious that birds "travel" to discovered sources of food and the sudden curtailment of these sources can obviously cause difficulties. Indeed watching various birds approach the garden from the nearby woodland in the morning was proof positive of their preferred "origin" and overnight roosting areas too. Continuity is the key and will repay you many times over with the variety and numbers in attendance improving through time. The simple activity of providing food for "your " birds ( everybody begins to think like that ) is therapeutic, satisfying and can actually add much to what we know about birds.  Please take a look at the BTO website and the details about Garden Birds Surveys to discover what you can contribute through your observations on birds in your own garden.

Simple facts that I've concluded during the last few days

  • Bullfinches are only ever present immediately after dawn
  • Blackbirds are both the first and last feeders to be present
  • Tree Sparrows exploit only the farthest feeders from the house
OK, not rocket science,  but facts that possibly deserve further exploration. I suspect that the improving weather conditions might actually see a reduction in birds after a couple of days as they exploit more convenient resources, but maybe not. Perhaps that's the next topic to explore ?