22 January 2010

Bramblings and Redpolls

This week has been notable in our garden, not only for some unusual species, but also for the huge numbers that have been visiting.

The most exciting visitors included 2 Bramblings which visited on 17th January and reappeared today. In the picture below, from left to right, are a female Siskin, a male Siskin, a male Redpoll and a female Brambling.

The picture below of the female Brambling shows the scaling pattern on the back and the strong stripes on the head.

The male Brambling (below) has a much darker head.

The other exciting visitors have been a large flock of Siskins and Redpolls which have been with us since the beginning of this week. Today I counted 46 Redpolls and 25 Siskins, though the actual totals were probably much larger as they retreat to a tree which is out of sight from the house. Below are some Redpolls on one of our nyger feeders.

There are more pictures and some videos on the Siskins and Redpolls page on our website.

These birds are a lot of work, as I need to clean all 4 nyger feeders and all the surfaces below them every day, preferably while it is dark so I don't disturb them, in order to minimise the risk of disease among such large numbers of birds. They have been eating about 1KG of nyger every day. Fortunately one of our local shops has it on special offer just now!

Our ducks, which returned more than 2 months earlier than usual, have also been turning up in large numbers. Two days ago there were 11 ducks outside, though we have had as many as 12.

Due to the water freezing in the cold weather, I have been scattering corn on the grass around the water tray. Yesterday the Wood Pigeons discovered it, and there were 13 Wood Pigeons gobbling it up.

Fortunately there is a simple solution. The ducks mostly come at night when the wood pigeons are asleep. It is also at night that the water is most likely to freeze, so I can leave corn on the grass at night, and put it in the water during the day.

There is more about our ducks on our website

19 January 2010

After the snow

Here in the west of Scotland, we didn't get as much snow as in some other parts of the UK, but it was very cold and the snow lay for longer - just one day short of 4 weeks.

I have been trying to think of a few pictures that sum up this winter period for me.

First, it has been a fantastic opportunity to get out on cross-country skis, day after day, in some beautiful sunny weather.

Not everything was so easy. There was a national shortage of salt and you could spot where it should have been in the supermarket by the empty shelf. One local retailer managed to get a supply, and advertised it at this roundabout.

The cold weather was not so good for wildlife, and this tiny wren was a victim.

Other birds managed to survive by moving into gardens. Our ducks, normally only with us between April and July, returned in large numbers, mostly at night. Here there are 12 of them on their way to us.

The Lake of Menteith, like many other areas of water, froze to a considerable depth. It was hoped that a "Grand match" or "Bonspiel" could take place. This is a huge curling contest which has not been held for 30 years due to milder weather. Unfortunately logistic problems and a sudden rise in temperature meant that it was cancelled at the last minute. Here a couple are going for a walk on the lake, now covered in a thin layer of water. In the foreground the ice has been marked out for curling. Some matches on a smaller scale were played during the previous weekend.

At the end of the day, the sun caught the Campsies as it set, and turned them gold and red.