A new house in a new town means new birds. I've been particularly looking forward to doing the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch this year for this very reason. It's given me an opportunity to get a really good idea of what birds we have visiting our new garden as, up until now, I've only really managed fleeting glances through the windows, although this technique has yielded some great spots already! I've been adding to a new patch list as each species has revealed itself and recently bullfinch, goldcrest and nuthatch have all been included.
When I woke up yesterday, the muted grey light told me that it wasn't the sunniest of mornings. It was drizzly, cloudy and typically British. I was already lacking in hope for many feathered visitors as our feeders have hardly been descended upon since moving here and I've had to change the food on more than one occasion because untouched peanuts have gone mouldy in the persistent rain. I just think that the mild temperatures have meant that there are still plenty of natural food sources out there, so the birds haven't found the need to visit the feeders as often as I'm used to. With that in mind, I wasn't expecting to see much.
The first quarter of an hour lived up to my expectations. The only activity going on came from three feisty robins bullying a lone blue tit, while three woodpigeons watched from the branches of the oak tree. I found it fascinating to see the robins using the feeders with ease as this behaviour is relatively new for this usually ground-feeding species.
Without a doubt, the highlight of the hour for me was a visit from a brambling! I watched Friday's episode of Winterwatch which mentioned the possibility of seeing bramblings hidden in flocks of chaffinches and I couldn't believe it when I spotted one during my watch. It was an extremely fleeting visit, but it perched on a bush long enough for me to get a positive I.D. before flitting off over the fence. Actually the same thing happened with a bullfinch later in the hour so I was able to add those both to my list.
Image: John Harding/BTO
I rode the brambling high for the rest of the hour and actually quite a few of my favourite species made appearances, including a nuthatch, long-tailed tit and a great-spotted woodpecker. Whether the latter was the same one I'd hear drumming earlier in the morning, I don't know. I was also serenaded by a particularly enthusiastic song thrush on the top of the fence. Both of these would suggest we have an early Spring heading our way!
There was quite a lot going on in the area of trees behind the garden (of course). There is one I call the "starling tree" because it's usually bustling with them. However, they were replaced yesterday by a flock of 30 or so bullfinches and goldfinches. I could just about make out the bold, black heads and flashed of red although I could really have done with a scope at that point! One day, one day... I saw the brambling again, this time hanging upside down at the top of bare tree, pecking at the tiny branches. There were also a number of carrion crows fighting above me and a mix of gulls lazily circling the trees.
My total tally for the hour was as follows:
1 Blackbird (m)
2 Blue tits
1 Coal tit
1 Song thrush
1 Great-spotted woodpecker
1 Long-tailed tit
I've put together a little table comparing my results from the past three years. Obviously two of the three counts were in Southwater but it will be interesting to see how the results vary at this new house over the next few years.