28 January 2013

Robin counted

I'm afraid the tennis (never mind Andy, there's always next year) put paid to our plans to listen to Desert Island Discs and do our Big Garden Birdwatch but nevertheless we counted our robin later on.  Yes, there was just the one. We did have an abundance of birds and as predicted we didn't do too well at finch counting - too many added to which we did get a little snow blinded but here's what we think we counted:
Goldfinch: 6, Chaffinch: 18, Greenfinch: 14, Siskin, 3, Brambling: 6, House Sparrow: 6, Coal Tit: 1, Great Tit: 2, Blue Tit: 3, Long Tails: 6, Starling: 3, Blackbird: 5, Wood Pigeon: 2.
Notable absentees are the nuthatches (arrived 15 minutes too late), tree sparrows (not seen all weekend but there today), dunnocks (this one is surprising, we have lots usually but since the snowfall a distinct shortage), collared doves (busy elsewhere, present before and after).  No thrushes either, we've had a resident song thrush this last year, he sits at the top of the big cypress tree and sings his heart out; for a few winters now we have been visited by redwings and mistle thrushes, fieldfare are seen in the field but as everything is white not green I'm assuming they've gone in search of pastures new. Occasional visitors we were hoping for but missed include a spotty woodpecker who visits for three o'clocks a few times each week and the willow tit which has not been seen for a few weeks.  Earlier this week there was a hen pheasant digging up the snow cleaning up under the feeders, so although she was welcome for that day we don't really want her to be a regular, neither do we want the grey squirrel who turned up today for the first time this year, nor the rat whose foot (and tail) prints were seen in the snow - but only for one day, the local feral cat is doing a good job of keeping the rodent population down (not much evidence of mice in the wood shed either).
One thing we did notice was plumage variations. Towards the end of the count there was a very pale female brambling, no pinky orange on her at all, she differed so much from the others we had to double check in the book but yes she was just a female brambling only in exceptionally pale winter plumage.  However, that got us looking more carefully not blindly counting numbers, about half are already in their full breeding finery, some of the bramblings were half and half, the male blackbird beaks are very yellow and the siskins definitely were having problems with their contrast settings being exceptionally bright, one of the great tits was looking very smart in his newly cleaned frock coat and the greenfinches varied from dull khaki to vibrant grass green.  The weather fluctuations have really caused confusion in the bird world, can't comment on the garden plants - they're still under a foot of sort-of-melting snowy-icey generally 'yucky stuff' which is lethal to try to walk through. Although the witch hazel is flowering beautifully and the willow has the first pussy willow buds showing. So we're ever hopeful that perhaps, just perhaps spring is just round the corner?