January 11th, 2018
This is meant to be an ongoing ‘live’ page. It will be updated as and when we see, hear, film, draw, new birds, and more birds.
Plus updates to already familar birds experienced in surprising, and/or different ways.
Took a while for birds to arrive in Hazes back garden. They weren’t coming to the feeders. For a whole year nothing much happened.
She switched to trailing some nuts and seeds next to the low kitchen wall. Here came a Dunnock. Then a Blackcap. Then a Blackbird. Then 2 Dunnocks. Then 2 Blackbirds.
She bought a birdtable. Here came the Jackdaws and the Magpies and the Crows. Here came that clunky fat Wood Pigeon (Grrr! – Get off!)
She strung up fatballs and peanuts. Here came a Sparrow. Then 3 Sparrows. Then 5 Sparrows.
After a year (2017) of training and feeding these birds, she’s got a steady stream of back garden regulars now.
The Dunnocks have made themselves more or less permanently at ‘home’.
As have the Blackbirds (presently, both European and British Blackbirds are competing for dominance)
A Robin – “Stokesy” – has taken up residence this Winter, and is aggressively protective of his garden ‘gaffe’; puffs himself up, and chases off any bird – large or small – that tries to pinch his food, or steal his territory.
The Wood Pigeons that pigged out on the birdtable have been deterred and sent packing.
The Gang of Gangster Gulls don’t frequent the garden much either (now that there’s no big chunks of bread for them to gobble on)
The Sparrows of last year will be back by Spring.
Here is a brief summary of all the birds we’ve seen, or heard, or had some kind expereince of, in the last 3 years.
Lets lump all the Corvids together first.
Have been everywhere in this blog. They’re up on roofs next to chimney pots kissing and cuddling. They’re up in the silver birch. They’re doing en masse flyovers in pearly sunsets. They’re nicking food off the bird table. Jackdaws always cheer us up.
Many Crows keep cropping up. Not together. Mostly solitary. Just about every place we’ve gone to there’s been a crow lurking about somewhere. We respect and admire crows. Despite their somewhat dark and questionable attitudes.
We don’t admire. I made a funny vid of them Magpie Malarking about on the birdtable. But they are not intrinsically endearing or funny birds. Seeing too many, or any, of them in the garden is bad news. They steal eggs from nests and gobble out chicks. We say: a Malarkerious Magpie is OK. A Murderous Magpie can go away.
I was mistakenly – for ages, for years – calling the Jackdaws that fly around this town Rooks. Admittedly, Jackdaws and Rooks do roost together. Rooks are baggy-trousered shabby crows. They don’t appear to be in Haze’s, or my, locality. So I’m yet to see one nearly or clearly enough to film.
I’ve heard the heavy ‘kronk, kronk’ of a raven when we’ve been walking in woods. But not got a good look of them.
And now we come on to the more typical Back Garden visitors
A quite specific, and quite ‘singular’ robin: Mr Stokesy. He’s made Haze’s back garden his Manor this winter. Initially, he was attacking himself in the corner window, giving his reflection a good old pasting. Hopping back and forth across the shed roof like a demented, er, nutcase. Presently (Jan 2018) he wants to see off any bird that has the audacity to poach on his patch. He puffs himself up like the Big Boss bird he thinks he is (but isn’t) and chases off Dave Dunnock and Co. Even tries to have a go at the Blackbirds. Not on sonny jim. Calm down a bit. You’re funny.
Two kinds. The foreign one (minus yellow beak). And the British one (with yellow beak). The foreign (European) one turned up first. But appeared to be seen off by the British one. British Blackbird rightfully claimed his British soil. For the Missus and thems kids. Its all on film. He was up on that wisteria first thing every morning; and last thing at night. Singing himself away. Or chink-chinking off rivals. Blackbird Missus is seen on film digging up plantpots. What lovely black birds you are. With songs so sweet, so peaceful, so reassuringly familiar. Everything is still alright in the world if a Backbird can still find time to sing in a back garden. And of course, if you’ve still got the time, and the inclination, to listen to him.
Dunnocks would not register much in most peoples consciousness. Some think Dunnocks drab. We think Dunnocks delightful. They’re peripheral, creep-around-the-edges kind of birds. But they’ve definitely taken very kindly to Hazes back garden. Been more-or-less everpresent for the whole of 2017. Dave Dunnock (Alpha-Male) Doreen Dunnock (Female) and Dennis Dunnock (Beta-Male) can stay as long as them likes. This garden is your Home my friend (s) (And take no notice of that Stokesy Robin; him just being spiteful)
One Summer day last year a Sparrow turned up. He was soon onto the feeders picking out the peanuts. He was quickly onto the trail of nuts and seeds left on the wall. Looked like he was mouth-rolling the peanuts to unpeel their skins. Before too long, more Sparrows were arriving, which was heartening to see (given that there’s been a chronic drop in Sparrow numbers in that last 20 years or so) We’re expecting them to be back any time soon.
Haze was seeing Goldfinches flitting about in the garden last Spring. But not consistently enough, or near enough, to get good vid.
I’m hearing a chaffinch soloing away out of my bedroom window every early morning in the summer. Goes on and on it does. And probably carries on and on after I’ve left for work.
We hear Chiff Chaffs chiffchaffing whenever we go walking in woods.
Last winter a Blackcap tried to muscle in on the seeds, nuts, and fatball left on the little wall next to the kitchen. The stationary camera picked up a bit of argy bargy going on between the Blackcap and a Dunnock. Blackcap was seen off, and never seen again. Mr (Dave) Dunnock you is the winner!
Wood Pigeons & Collared Doves
We don’t really want to know Wood Pigeons thank you very much. They’re not birds, they’re pigs. Hoovering every morsel of food up off the birdtable if you let them. So Haze had to put a stop to that (tied string around to prevent the clumsy clots from clogging on) Nearly as bad are Collared Doves with their repetitive “Coo-coo-coo, Coo-coo-coo” (“U-nit-ed, U-nit-ed”) Actually that’s all they do, is coo-coo-coo all early morning long. Mind you, the Wood Pigs, “My-Name-Is-Freddi-Ee” dirge is equally as monotonous and ubiquitous. Drives you barmy it do – on a lovely Spring day. (Its obvious I don’t like them)
These can vamoosh too. Far too unweildy and ungainly to be invading a little back garden. Like the Wood Pigs they hoover up any sight of food they can see and grab at with their big awkward beaks. Like clumsy delinquents they are. Hey! See! There’s no chips here guvs. Go and pester grockels down on the Harbour!
Long Tailed Tits
A little family of them turned up in the garden this week (Jan 18) Jumping about so flipperty gibberty, Haze didn’t know where to point the camera next. They easily get the Cutest Little Fluffkins Ever Award. So round. So twee. So cuddly. So chatty.
The UK’s smallest bird. It turned up this week (9th Jan 2018) Possibly following the long tailed tits around. Haze got a ?? sec vid of him/her. A sort of Wren with a gold streak (Wrens have not featured on this blog – Yet! But I am forever hopeful)
Not sure if I’ve really see these. Haze has. But not long enough to commit to film.
Haze recorded a Song Thrush singing away up in Moreton. Then I had one turn up outside my bedroom window last summer. He kept turning up, and sing songing away, for the next couple of months. He was just within range for me to hear and see him clearly enough on camera. His singing was relentlessly intense; woke me up in the morning; then sung me off all evening. Could have been at it all day. I hate to admit this; but after about 3 weeks, I was getting everso slightly irritated by his relentless tunefulness. Oh dear! I’m going to be shot for saying that!
Frequent winter visitors to the silver birch outside my kitchen window. I’ve made several vids of them chattery sparkling about together. Remarkable birds. Especially when 100,000 of them get together and start murmurating their atavistic gyres into the sky. Goes without saying, we’d love to see this one day (actually, Haze already has; a mini-murmuration up at The Precinct 3 years ago)
See Swifts and hear Swifts just about every night in Summer. Tearing strips out of the sky with their high pitched screeching. Being up so high, and racing around so fast, the Swifts calling doesn’t get to be as painful as it could sound if you were right up close. Hearing them chase around feels quixotically exotic; as if you’re up there in the sky with them.
Saw these flitting about the rooftops in Moreton. Also seen them darting about Buckfast Abbey. Like all small racy ‘air’ birds its almost impossible to get useable film off them.
Tawny & Little Owls
We haven’t seen Tawny Owls; we’ve heard them. Camped down on the Teign Eastuary we heard them. Camped up on Dartmoor we heard them; hooting away right above out tent. But by the time I’d got the camera out to record the hoots, they’d gone. A couple of hours later Little Owls started up further down in the woods (by the river Ashburn) Probably never going to see Owls well enough to film them. Too nocturnal. But their hooting is more than good enough.
Away from the garden we are always looking for, and finding, birds on the coast and estuaries
Cormorants & Shags
We’re always looking for Shags and Cormorants. Sometimes we’re seeing Shags when we should be calling them Cormorants. And vice versa. Cormorants like to be sat on rocks hanging their wings out to dry in the form of a cross or crucifix. Made 2 or 3 vids of them (Cormorants or Shags?) popping up and down in The Bay while diving for fish. They never pop up in the place they popped down. So you have to be scrutinizing the horizon very intently.
Seen prancing about on the Teign Estuary, Institute Beach. Even seen stalking up the little river Lemon in Newton Abbot. And to think they weren’t seen in the UK until 20 years ago. A most photogenically pleasing bird.
Only seen once. On Institute beach. Stood around like an inanimate object, hardly moving. I’m guessing you’ve got to have a couple of hours of spare patience to get ‘active’ vid out of herons.
This bird starts wagging about in Meadfoot beach car park every time you throw crumbs out the window. Pump that pied boddum little Waggy.
Got some good looks of these on Institute beach.
Tried to film skylarks on Dawlish Warren out on the back bit (called The Spit) They were too soon shot up in the air, alarmed we might be treading on their nests. The shaky clips of them weren’t distinctive enough to make a film of to post on the blog. But maybe you don’t need to see them. Just need your earholes open, so as to be tuning in to them larking about up there in the wide open sky.
Not a totally positive identification. Could have been Dunlins. At least 30 or 40 of them flittering in and out of the tide on Dawlish Warren.
Black Headed Gull
This gull had raspberry coloured legs and beak. And a neat chocolate coloured head. For some reason it made me think of Neapolitian ice cream.
We heard curlews while wild camping on the Teign Estuary. Captivating. Enchanting.
A flock of these came scootling over the Hide on Dawlish Warren. Too quick to get a camera on them. And anyway, we was busy. Munching on bacon baps, sausage, and suchlike.
Been seeing these pippit about rocks on beaches. Which means, sort of like, everywhere. Perhaps a little too drab to do a whole film of. Which is why I haven’t. But maybe I should.
Buzzards (& possibly Kestrels)
We see a lot of buzzardy buzzarding. Soaring high up above the cliffs usually. Just a bit too far away up the sky to get a steady zoom on.
In Dawlish these are. Filmed the protective parents with 3 little 2 week old fluffy cygnets back in November 2017.
Dawlish is good for oriental ducks. There was a Chinese Goose with a flappy dewlap. And Indian Crested Runner Ducks doing their cartoonish road runnery running.
Out at Newton Abbot quay are Greylag Geese and sundry other ducks. Some swans here too. I heard what sounded like warbling going on in the marshy estuary reeds. With a good pair of bins and a couple of hours of quiet waiting you might be putting birds to all the warbling going on. Lined up in a row across the bridge numerous small gulls and pigeons wait for walkers to toss out bags of crumbs for them to all squabble over.
Seeing birds trapped behind nets doesn’t really count does it? Well, OK, we’ll include for the sake of completion. An amusing vid (I thought) of the Tufted Puffins tufting about.
There were numerous Inca Terns, Redshanks, and a Banked Cormorant. Plus a bird that sat there on a post, on one leg, sounding terribly distressed for about half an hour. God knows what it was upset about. Dumped by gelfriend possibly?
Birds still to see, Films still to make
Crow Close up; really get into their eyes. Try and fathom their glassy thoughts.
Cormorants and Shags on their sea skimming race over.
Get some visuals to match audibles of calling Curlews
Buzzards doing that drop dead dive they do.
Starling Murmuration; goes without saying that this would be the No 1 bird event to experience. A phenomena. Phenomenal. Extraordinary. Any number would do. Doesn’t have to be half a million. Could be a few hundred having a bit of whirl over Dartmoor one winter evening.
A little Wren belting out its Big Song