Winter Garden Birds - UK

In February 2012 Liz M put this interesting contribution in Forum. Looking at it recently I thought UK visitors to the website might be interested to see it again and to compare what they are seeing now with what was seen then. With the RSPB Garden Bird Survey being due this weekend (26/27th January 2013) the timing seems opportune.


This past week as a result of the extra cold and wintry weather I have seen a greater number and variety of birds in the garden than in all the previous months. This cold spell in winter always produces extra numbers and varieties but for some reason this year, maybe I have been looking harder, I have seen more than before.

There has been the usual influx of thrush species, Blackbirds, Song Thrushes, Redwings, Fieldfares. The Blackbird numbers have been creeping up, with a maximum of 13, and then the Redwings have been about for some weeks, they have been demolishing the berries on the holly. However, with the snow came a rush of them one day with a flock of 7 eating the apples I collect in Autumn then put out in the depths of winter. This was quickly followed by a lone Fieldfare then another 5, who squabbled over the apples then finally munched them all to extinction. The Fieldfares hung around for eating them at a fantastic rate, with half a dozen going out each day.

One day a male Blackcap arrived eating the fat and peanuts that I put out. A couple of days later he was replaced by a very aggressive female Blackcap, who drove off all the other birds and ate the fat and peanuts whenever she had time. Then one day I looked out at the Niger seed and thought ’Strange looking Goldfinches!’ A closer examination showed they were two Redpolls, which apart from a single one last year, I had not seen for years. A few days later I noticed an extraordinarily bright one, with a pink head and a mass of bright pink on its chest, this was a total delight.

The one species I have not seen this year has been Siskin, I have seen it locally but not in the garden, there is still time for it, as I have seen it up until March, if the weather is cold enough. The other bird I have not seen for a number of years has been the Brambling, there are always plenty of Chaffinches and sometimes in late winter a Brambling turns up. As for other birds, there are regular Blue tits, Great tits, Coal tits and Long-tailed tits, also Wren, Robin and Dunnock. Goldfinch numbers seem to go up most years, though Greenfinches are still scarce, and there are always quite a few Bullfinches.

There have been plenty of Wood- pigeons, Black-headed Gulls and members of the Crow family. A Great- spotted Woodpecker was a regular visitor to the fat every day last year, this year my neighbour seems to be getting it instead. There are, also the oddities, like the pair of Mallards who turn up every Spring, in the pond for a bit, then decide they don’t like the disturbance of my daily inspections round the garden and thankfully wander off to nest elsewhere.

It won’t be long before the first Willow Warbler is heard singing in the garden, things are already starting to move, with the Hellebores and Snowdrops flowering. Then Winter will be over, Spring has arrived and the whole thing starts again.


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