RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch Survey

My RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch survey completed today. Birds in garden 3 great tits, 1 robin, 10 sparrows, 1 chaffinch (female), 1 magpie, 1 blackbird (male).  Others seen beyond garden : 2 seagulls, 4 wood pigeons, 2 kites, 3 jackdaws, 3 starlings.  Quite busy!


Paying attention to the birds in your garden

Disappointed I didn’t take part in the RSPB’s Garden Birdwatch today leaving it too late in the day.  Fingers crossed, I can take part today.   The garden birdwatch is a chance to spend an hour paying attention to the birds in your garden.  It’s relaxing, challenging, and you’ll be surprised what birds visit your garden.  

On a walk with the dogs, I noticed two magpies, a robin singing boldly in the branches a foot or so in front of me (see video) …

.. a crew of garrulous sparrows … 

It was a windy day with ice cold winds.   I noticed the creaky sounds one tree made in the wind… Listen to the first few seconds of the following video.  I couldn’t get any more ‘creaks’ from the tree, perhaps it sense I was recording it.

Variable weather for the day including bright sunshines and the dullest of dismal grey skies.   We had sleet, fine snow, hail and rain.  The weather couldn’t decide what it wanted to be today… it had an identity crisis.

Later in the afternoon I heard a loud noise from above, I looked outside thinking it was a large skein of Canada geese, but it was a squabble of seagulls.  Noisy buggers

A useful page here on collective nouns for birds.

Great Tit and Wren

Noticed a Great Tit (Parus major) high in the tree canopy whilst on my walk with the dogs this morning.  Then in the afternoon spotted a fast-moving wren (Troglodytes troglodytes) at the foot of the privet hedge in front of the patio, searching for bugs in the plant pots.

Tip : the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) publish a really useful guide to UK birds here.

Birds of a Feather

There is an old English-language saying ‘birds of a feather flock together‘.  But today in the Rhondda I briefly witnessed a small flock of black coloured birds, I presume were crows, flying amongst a flock of pigeons.  It looked like a ‘V’ flying within a larger ‘V’.  I noticed the contrast in colour of the two types of birds.  Were the crows attacking the pigeons, or vice versa?  I’ve no idea, as I’ve never noticed anything like this previously.

Another theory : two flocks were flying and collided.  These Rhondda birds perhaps need an air-traffic controller!  Some interesting research here from Cambridge University on mixed bird flocks :

The researchers discovered that birds prefer to fly close to members of their own species, and that the larger and more dominant rooks take the lead by flying near the front of flocks.

Birds fly as a collective ‘flock’ for a number of reasons : safety in numbers, to conserve energy as there is less wind resistance.



Walking the dogs this morning I stopped to listen to the birdsong.  It was very lively and at first I thought there were several birds chatting to each other… but it was a thrush, a song thrush.  

I was unable to see the song thrush but identified it because of its repetition of phrases… two, three times, then a new musical phrase and that repeated.  And so on.  



Kingfishers Catch Fire

KingfisherA walk along the Aberdare Canal this morning I noticed my impatience.  Nothing ‘interesting’ seemed to catch my attention.  Yet I was walking along a dis-used canal that was slowly being overtaken by nature… it was teeming with life if only I paid more attention to it.

I noticed the decomposing leaves and other material around me, feeding the next season’s growth.

I noticed the snowberry (symphoricarpos albus) white berries on a bare tree (see photograph). They looked like artificial decorations against a dull, monotone background.

A few ducks on the canal, the only wildlife I could see on the canal itself.  As Basil Fawlty would say “if you don’t like duck.. you’re out of luck”.

Then on the way home, I saw a kingfisher.  What a beautiful sight to behold, the bird swooped over the canal, resting on a branch for a while, then resuming flight.  The flash of blue and orange like a flame. 

This is only the fourth kingfisher I’ve ever seen.  It’s been the best sighting as the bird flew and settled on several branches giving me time to appreciate.  All the other sightings have been in the Cynon Valley… two near the River Cynon and one near the lake at Dare Valley Country Park.

This spectacle today fired my imagination.  I was reminded of poet Gerard Manley Hopkins’s opening line in his 1877 sonnet 

As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame; 
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells 
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell’s 
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name; 
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same: 
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells; 
Selves — goes itself; myself it speaks and spells, 
Crying Whát I dó is me: for that I came. 
I say móre: the just man justices; 
Keeps grace: thát keeps all his goings graces; 
Acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is — 
Chríst — for Christ plays in ten thousand places, 
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his 
To the Father through the features of men’s faces. 
As well as his sonnet God’s Grandeur (also written 1877)
The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
    It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
    It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
    And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
    And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
    There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
    Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
    World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.
My camera was not sophisticated enough to capture an image of this bird in flight.  It’s something to be experienced first hand.

Birds and the Bees

Noticing today…

  1. My stoic braves – teasel seed heads – surviving the winter.   Teasel feed the bees when in flower and the birds when in seed.  For us humans, they provide architectural beauty in the garden throughout winter.
  2. Achillea still in flower.  The winter has been so mild thus far.
  3. Tree Peony
  4. Pyracantha berries
  5. Hydrangea bud opening
  6. Catkins – two different kinds, I’ve not been able to identify the trees yet!

I am noticing so much growth coming through at this time of year and the colour that exists in small pockets.

Photos today.