The Fieldfares have finally moved away, but the Blackcaps and Long-tailed Tits are still around. As well as the pair of Yellowhammers coming in to feed, to my delight I now have a pair of Bullfinches feeding also. There has never been Bullfinches at the feeders before although I have seen one on the apple tree. They were still coming in at the end of the month. There were two Treecreepers came in one day together. That is the first time there have been two.
When on a walk around Brodie Pond there were lots of Mallards, Tufted Ducks, Moorhens, Mute Swans and Little Grebes. There was also a Hybrid Mallard which is often there but I am not sure if it is always the same one.
On a walk up at the Enterprise Park there were lots of Common Gulls pairing up and preparing for nesting. The roofs of the buildings there are very popular breeding grounds. There were also many Magpies in and around the park.
Quite a few interesting moths in the trap this month, three of which are pictured above.
There had been some really frosty days and quite a bit of snow in February. It has been quite a few years since we have had frost patterns on both inside and out the windows. They are always so pretty that taking a photograph of them does not really do justice to their beauty.
The cold weather has kept the Fieldfares, the Blackcaps and the Long-tailed Tits coming back into the garden looking for food. The Song Thrush also came back and there was a daily ongoing battle between it and the Fieldfares over any of the apples, No matter which one went to a particular apple it was chased away despite the fact that there were other apples scattered around. I began putting out grapes and pears as well as apples and the Fieldfares were eating those too.
The first Yellowhammers of the year appeared when two came into the garden regularly this month. Their colours stood out brilliantly against the white snow. Another first visitor this year was a little Goldcrest which was seeking shelter and food in the cold weather. Even the regular small birds are fighting with each other to survive over the food and water. A House Sparrow and a Blue Tit had a standing battle at the bird bath. The House Sparrow eventually saw off the Blue Tit.
On a visit to Sanquhar Pond there were two Goldeneye and a rare Scaup.
Our moth trap went out one night and this lovely Chestnut moth was in it. This was the first time it had been out this year. We had some lovely moths in the trap last year and are hoping to get the same again this year. We are finding it difficult to name them without help.
January started again with another lockdown which meant we could not go far out and about, so most of the bird observations had to done in the garden.
Most of the usual winter garden visitors had returned. The ones that remain in the garden are the Blackbirds, of which we have many, Siskins and Chaffinches. However, on New Year’s Day a Fieldfare came in. At this time last winter we had one Fieldfare which hung around on its own well into February and it used to chase all the Blackbirds away from all the apples on the ground. I did wonder if this was the same one. This one however, was not so keen to eat the apples in the garden but rather eat apples that had landed in the grassy area over the fence. It was later joined by another Fieldfare and both of them hung around all month. A large group of about sixteen Fieldfares came in on a few occasions, but once the stock of apples diminished they were off leaving just the two. A Song Thrush sometimes came in with the Fieldfares and then there would be a squabble over the apples.
A group of eight Long-tailed tits came in regularly all month at different times to feed on the suet balls. They tended to come in either first thing in the morning or just as it was getting dark at night. Towards the end of the month a pair of Blackcaps came in and were still around at the end of the month.
Some birds came in fleetingly and then disappeared just as quickly. I got a glimpse of a Brambling but never saw it again. A male Bullfinch landed on the apple tree and disappeared and a Great Spotted Woodpecker was feeding for a short while on the suet balls. Also a Lesser Redpoll appeared with some Siskins but again it too fled quickly, It was disappointing that they did not linger but it was lovely to even get a glimpse of them.
I have had Wrens in the garden sometimes and one came in occasionally this month. I worry about the little Wrens because two neighbouring cats come in daily to catch birds and the Wrens would be easy prey for them.
We had one trip this month down to the coast where there were Eiders , Long-tailed Ducks and Golden Eye off the coast at Burghead and unusually in the harbour there was a Great Northern Diver. A good one to tick off the bird list at the beginning of the year.
On a trip along the coast to Cullen we saw very little at the coastal towns except quite a few Ringed Plovers and Turnstones as Cullen. It was a lovely sunny day and the Ringed Plovers stood out in the sunshine.
Previous winters at the Enterprise Park there have been Waxwings, Fieldfares and Redwings feasting on the abundance of berries there. This winter although there were some Fieldfares and Redwings the trees were stripped very quickly of berries and they all moved on. I did not see any Waxwings. Indeed I have not been fortunate to see any at all this winter. When we go up to the Enterprise now we have only seen one Fieldfare and that too has disappeared. However, at the end of December, one appeared in my garden and has continued to appear every day since then. It spends all its time eating the apples on the ground and chasing the blackbirds away. I wonder if it is the one that had been at the Enterprise Park.
On a walk around Sanquhar Pond I saw a Little Grebe. That was the first time I had seen one there.
The winter visitors have started to come into the garden. Long -tailed Tits are starting to come in, in groups of eight or ten, and I saw my first Lesser Redpoll this winter in amongst a large group of Siskins. The occasional Blackcap and Treecreeper have also appeared but not lingered long. I fear the presence of the cats and the Sparrowhawk keep them away.
The weather had been quite mild until the middle of December and at the end of November a Hedgehog walked through the garden, After a short feed it moved on. It appeared quite healthy and it was possible it was taking advantage of the warm weather. We have a Hedgehog house in the garden but so far it has not been used.
What made this year particularly special in the garden was that we had a Badger visit. Living in the town I certainly did not expect this. We have a night time camera which we had not used for most of the year. After watching Autumn Watch one night we decided to put it on and that night a Badger came in. We have no idea how long it had been coming into the garden but over the next few weeks it appeared five times in total. It came in in one direction and went out in another. The camera has gone off again for a while so not sure if it is still around.
If that was not enough excitement for me this year , three days after Christmas a friend told us that there was a Grey Phalarope in Burghead harbour. We went along to see it. I was surprised how small it was as I was expecting it to be about the size of a Gull. It was definitely way off course. It was very tame and swam about the harbour unperturbed. I was glad we had gone out that afternoon to see it as it had gone by the following day and for me that was probably a once in a lifetime experience.
We are back into almost extreme Lockdown again so who knows what wonderful things will appear in my garden in 2021.
The easing of Lockdown allowed us to go a bit further than the garden although we did not go that far. Heading towards the Dava on a few occasions we really did not see that much. There was the usual Stonechats near Refouble and also Red-legged Partridges. On one occasion we stopped off at an old skating pond in the wood of Achnatone where there is usually an abundance of dragonflies. On this occasion I only saw a Four-spotted Chaser and a Large Red Damselfly.
A Red-throated Diver had appeared unusually in Burghead harbour. When I went to see it, not only was there the Diver, but also quite a few Guillemots and Razorbills in the harbour too. The weather had been quite stormy so this must have brought them in.
The moth trapping continued during these months. The trap did not go out every night but twice a week so that we were certain that we were not repeating the same moths. One night we had Bridled Green moth in the trap. This turned out to be a good find as it was quite a rare moth for this part of the country. At the same time when I was sitting in the garden, I spotted a Humming Bird Moth fluttering around the Buddleia. This was also quite rare as was the beautiful Comma Butterfly which appeared also on the Buddleia. Again these were lucky finds only because I was spending more time in the garden.
Lockdown has continued throughout the next three months. However, the weather has been surprisely good and I was able to spend a lot of time in the garden. One advantage of this was the fact that I was seeing things that I might have missed otherwise.
Every year for the last three years we have had a pair of Tree Sparrows which roost in one of our nest boxes over winter and nest in it during the Spring with three broods of young over Spring and Summer. As I was sitting out in the garden I watched a Blue Tit systematically pick out all the nesting material in the box for about twenty minutes. I thought it was perhaps planning using the box for its own nest. I had never seen this happen before. However, a few days later, the Tree Sparrows started to build up the nest again in the box and successfully had their first brood.
I have now two neighbouring young cats which persistently come into the garden despite my best efforts to dissuade them. They sit behind the bushes close to the feeders and have on lots of occasions caught some young birds. I was aware that the numbers of young birds in the garden was greatly reduced from previous years but this may have only been one reason. Another reason was a Sparrowhawk which frequently sat on the fence. There were quite a few young Starlings about they did not hang around for long.
Three early Butterflies came into the garden. I do not recall seeing them in the garden before : a Speckled Wood, a Meadow Brown and a Ringlet.
The highlight for me at this time was a first visit ever in the garden of a Jay. Had I not been in Lockdown I would possibly have missed it. It came in and fed on the ground below the feeders. We watched it out of the porch window but the slightest movement and it was away. Although it came in regularly for a few days I only got one distant shot. However, I was delighted that it had come into the garden if only for a short time.
Another good thing about lockdown is that it gave Frank and I the opportunity to take up a new hobby that we had been considering for a while. Frank had been speaking for a long time now about getting a moth trap. Less enthusiastically I agreed. We don’t see many moths on our windows here during the winter. Our first venture in moth trapping meant getting up at five thirty in the morning to see what was in the trap before they flew. There were about twelve moths on that occasion. The two most interesting and lovely ones that day were a Peppered Moth and a Poplar Hawk Moth. A few days later we had a beautiful White Ermine. As the days went on our repertoire of moths increased and there was a feeling of anticipation each morning as if we were opening a Christmas present each day. We could not have imagined there were so many different moths.They had all to be photographed as we would never have found out what they were. The joy of moth trapping is the expectation each time of what we are going to find. It was so easy to become hooked. On one occasion we had fifty moths in the trap. The hard bit is naming them all! There are about 2500 moths species in the UK, but of those 1600 are micro moths. We were spending many hours trying to identify them all. Thanks to the help of friends who were moth experts our confidence is growing but it can still take us both quite a while to identity them. With the darker mornings we don’t need to get out so early to the trap and there are no longer so many moths. I started out as a sceptic to moth trapping but am now looking forward to continuing this hobby. We are beginning to get more and more moths each time.
The winter birds that come into the garden in January are usually the ones that I have seen in the garden in November and December of the previous year. As long as there is food on the ground they hang around. I did not have many apples on the apple tree the year before so there was not a surplus of apples to feed any passing Fieldfares or Redwings.
A male and female Blackcap visited the garden regularly right through until March. In winter they enjoy the suet balls as do any visiting Goldcrests and Long-tailed Tits. I had the occasional visit of a Treecreeper and on one occasion, surprisely, it was feeding on the seeds on the ground. The first Yellowhammer came in at the beginning of February and from then they regularly came in. At one point there were eight in the garden at one time.
On a short walk up at the Enterprise Park I saw a small group of Bullfinches feeding on the ground and the bare trees allowed me to get a decent glimpse of Great Spotted Woodpecker. One of the buildings there had a large group of Feral Pigeons huddling together for shelter from the cold. There must have been well over a hundred.
The usual winter ducks were to be found at Burghead also – Eider and Long-tailed Ducks – but not in particularly large numbers.
Signs of Spring were beginning to appear in the garden when the Tree Sparrows and the House Sparrows were checking out the same nest box and deciding which of them could use it. In the end neither of them used it.
It was March before I made the first trip of the year up the Dava. There were lots of Pink-footed Geese near Little Aitnoch flying overhead and in the fields. There was also the usual Stonechats that can be seen all year round near there.
Little did I know then that this would my last trip away from home for a while as Lockdown started.
I have never known a time at the end of a year when there have been so few birds in my garden and so few to be seen even when I have been out and about. Other people have been commenting about this happening in their gardens also. We have had a reasonably mild winter so I expect they don’t need to feed in the garden. Hopefully, at the start of next year, I might see some of these winter visitors again before they fly off for good.
A walk around Brodie Pond gave me a chance to see these Little Grebes and the Moorhens. There were a few Mute Swans there and many Mallards.
The female Blackcap continues to visit the garden regularly and the male occasionally. The number of Tree Sparrows continue to grow. At one point I had over twenty. So I am hopeful of them nesting in the nesting box once again. There has been up to nine Long-tailed Tits coming in fleetingly.
I got a gift of a small birdbath for Christmas and I positioned it quite close to the window so if anything went on it I might have a chance of getting a photograph. So far nothing has been near it, except to my dismay, a Herring Gull. it is probably situated too close to the window but the Gull was definitely unperturbed!
Three different Blackcaps came into my garden this month. The last time one appeared in the garden was at the beginning of the year. A Male Blackcap came in and was feeding on the peanut butter jar. It was only around for a few days but then a female Blackcap came in. It was around for what I thought was ten days but when I looked at my photos I found that the first female had a ring on its leg and later there was one without a ring. So I think it was only a few days that the first female came in and then another one came in later. I was able to get some information from the ring by looking at the photos but not completely. However, it was enough to find out that this Blackcap had been ringed earlier this year in France and now it was in my garden! These little birds continue to amaze me and it is wonderful to find out something about their journey here.
There were hundreds of Fieldfares and Redwings in the area this month. At the Enterprise Park, there were hundreds on the trees and it was difficult to get a sense of how many there were in a photograph but I did manage to get a photo of a small group on a tree at the same time. I also had some in my garden too eating the apples. I was happy to see the Goldcrest, the Wren and the Long-tailed Tits still coming back in. Unfortunately, a Sparrowhawk was also making an appearance. It was hard to photograph but I did manage a shot through the window. I was not aware at any point of it being successful chasing the birds.
At Hopeman, on one of the days, I saw a small group of Sanderlings at the water’s edge. Inland there was a group of Red-legged Partridges in a field near Dulsie Bridge.
The winter birds have started to arrive. The first Waxwings that I saw this year were not in my garden, unfortunately, but quite close by in town. There were nine of them initially, but their numbers increased quite quickly elsewhere in town. I quickly put out apples but I still hoping some will come into the garden. During the month, a Treecreeper, a Wren, a Goldcrest. a Redwing and some Long-tailed Tits came in. I also had a multi-coloured Feral Pigeon that came in regularly. The numbers of Tree Sparrows are beginning to increase again.
Bird watching has been very quiet this month with just some Stonechats, Meadow Pipits and Pheasants seen when I was out and about. I have also seen very little at the coast but I can always depend on seeing a seal at Burghead harbour.