All the other garden birds…

In the last post I described the tits visiting my bird feeders. But of course they’re not the only species fattening up in the garden so this post is about the others. The berries and other food from the countryside are now becoming rather more scarce so greater numbers of more species are appearing.

One of the first to arrive, which has been around for a couple of months now, was my resident robin (Erithacus rubecula, Dansk: rødhals). Robins are fiercely territorial and this little guy being  no exception makes it clear that my garden is his manor, in fact it’s fair to say he’s a complete thug. He only picks on birds of a similar size or smaller and he won’t tolerate them for even a second. The two species he seems to dislike most are the dunnocks (Prunella modularis, Dansk jernspurv) and the coal tits (Periparus ater, Dansk: sortmejse) who have the temerity to enter his domain and he chases and beats them up remorselessly. Earlier this afternoon another robin turned up and I expected real fireworks as I’ve heard stories of rival robins fighting to the death and scalping each other! The fighting this time was restricted to a short chase and a bit of posturing and then it was all over, fortunately no injuries or fatalities were sustained.

A source of much concern this winter has been the absence of goldfinches (Carduelis carduelis, Dansk: stillits). I have a niger seed feeder for them which I keep full, but they ignored it until a few weeks ago, but even then there was only ever one or two making the occasional visit whereas previously they would be feeding there every day, often five or six at a time. And then a sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus, Dansk: spurvehøg) attacked a goldfinch on the feeder and I didn’t see another one until a few days ago. I don’t know if the memory of the sparrowhawk was enough to keep them away but they have been conspicuous by their absence.

A lone goldfinch feeding on niger seed

There is a tall old tree 10 metres from my garden which I often see flocks of 20+ goldfinches in but they just don’t seem to want to drop down onto the feeder. Maybe if the weather turns icy they’ll alter their behaviour as food gets even more difficult to find.

Greenfinch (Carduelis chloris, Dansk:  grønirisk)

I’m always pleased to see greenfinches because they’re one of my favourite small birds and also because their numbers have been under threat from a nasty parasitic infection called ‘trichomonosis‘ which I posted about last year. So this little chap was very welcome. I was surprised to see him sitting on the niger seed feeder, but he wasn’t eating the seed, he was waiting for an opportunity to descend onto the seed tray which was already occupied.

The small birds usually have free access to the seed tray but occasionally it’s fully occupied by a pair of collared doves:

Collared dove (Streptopelia decaocto, Dansk: tyrkedue)

This was one of a pair and its partner was just out of shot further along the fence. A lot of folk seem to be very unimpressed by collared doves but I like having them around and I particularly like this guy with his feathers ruffled by the wind.

Previously I’ve been taking my close ups with a Nikon D40x and a Nikon 70-300mm zoom lens. This has been a really good combination, it’s small and light and therefore easily portable and has performed really well. But last year I bought a Canon 7D because I wanted to upgrade my camera body to one which is more robust and with more capability. I chose Canon rather than Nikon because the lens I thought most appropriate for what I needed was the 80-400mm telephoto zoom, but every review I read of it was that it was no good at all for wildlife photography because the autofocussing speed was much too slow. So I reckon Nikon missed a trick there because Canon have the 100-400mm L series telephoto zoom for around the same price as the Nikon lens which I decided to go for because it is supposed to be good for wildlife.

Wood pigeon (Columba palumbus, Dansk: ringdue) keeping the small songbirds away from the seed tray all by himself

All the photographs in this post except for the greenfinch were taken in murky conditions using my new Canon lens and I’m very pleased with the image quality. So now I’m looking forward to experimenting with it further afield. I’ll post the results as soon as I can.

42 responses to “All the other garden birds…

  1. Pingback: New Year Ducks | The Naturephile

  2. I love the way the greenfinch is looking directly at the camera – with quite a dour look! We always take pleasure in having collar doves visit our garden; they are such elegant and graceful birds.

    It’s interesting reading about your camera and lenses. I use a compact camera which serves me very well, but the reason I would invest in a DSLR would be for bird images such as these – and also better landscape shots.

    • Compacts are amazing cameras and getting better (and more affordable) all the time. But when I’m trying to get close to a creature and get good images in tricky light the lenses and sensors in a DSLR are the only way to go I reckon. And by swapping lenses they’re more versatile too. But they are bulky and alot more expensive. Horses for courses I reckon.

      They greenfinch is a beauty isn’t he? 🙂

  3. Now I’m really thinking of getting a better camera for bird shots, the compact just won’t do the job. How exciting, do you have any recommendations?
    A charm of goldfinches is very apt – apart from when they start squabbling!
    And thanks for the reminder about cleaning the feeders.
    The jackdaws were on the feeders this morning, they are only around first thing, but they are sorting out their nesting spots…we have an old dovecot on the side of the house which we restored, (I guess where they bred pigeons to eat) they like it in there, some of the holes we boarded with plywood and left holes in for tits and sparrows, so it’s a real bird hotel!

    • It depends how much you want to spend and which format you want. There are better and better amateur DSLR’s coming out on the market and some very good micro four thirds systems too.

      BTW what were your jackdaws feeding on?

      • The jackdaws were on the normal seed feeder – I’ve got them hung on a young ash sapling so there are some sturdier perches around.

        I just read the other comments and saw the one about Rich Hall – I totally agree, he is very very funny. I went to see him once and I was doubled up all evening!

      • We’ve been thinking of booking tickets to see him at the Cambridge Corn Echange and you’ve just reminded me I need to get on the case 🙂

        It must be amusing to watch jackdaws on a feeder, I occasionally see them on the ground here and very occasionally on a fat ball feeder, but not on the seeds. I put a bird cam on a fat ball feeder last year and so far the birds have fastidiously avoided it – I didn’t know they’re camera shy! But hopefully they’ll start using it now the cold weather is here.

      • Haha we’ve got a running joke that every time I reach for the binoculars the birds all disappear 🙂 – and you’d believe it if you looked at my latest post! Honestly, they were all there before…
        Actually I saw a jackdaw this morning on the fat ball feeder, very amusing as you say.
        I might look out and see if RH is coming this way, a good laugh is what’sneeded in these months!

  4. Beautiful pictures of lucky birds :). We have blue wrens breeding prolifically at the moment and they would give your robin a run for its money! They are the bossiest little 10g creatures known to man and if I forget to put out their tiny cubes of tasty cheese in the morning, the strikingly blue little male jumps at our bedroom window and bangs on the glass till I bring it! At first I thought that he was seeing his reflection in the window, but in between jumps he stops and peers into the window to see if anyone is moving about! We have developed a semi symbiotic relationship…I say “semi” because it would seem that the only benefit that I am getting is delight 🙂

    • Fair exchange, no robbery! Daily delight is worth an awful lot of cheese cubes!

      That’s interesting about his tapping on the window behaviour. My friend had a grey heron in his garden a couple of Christmases ago, it was in the midst of a long, fiercely cold, winter and this poor creature was trying to feed up on fish from my friends pond. So he took pity on it and fed it some fish fillets from the supermarket. Check this out:

      If you follow the link just above the third picture you can see similar behaviour to your blue wren 🙂

  5. Excellent photos! I really enjoy seeing the birds that you have there.

  6. Another charming post, Finn. You really should put more of your bird sightings on the BTO BirdTrack project. Alongside birds, they also let you add your odonata species. It can be a long process but just the odd list here and there is just as valuable in this citizen science movement. Good pictures right there, despite the gloomy skies. Something more seasonal and dare I say, wintry, is just around the corner, which will certainly bring the birds in.

    Best Wishes


    • Thanks Tony, I will try to look into posting my sightings on Birdtrack in the near future. I’m not sure about the Odanata though, I’m not so confident at identifying them, other than the really common ones.

      I don’t know if the birds can sense the impending changes in the weather but just in the last week more have been coming in, especially goldfinch, I’ve seen more of them in the last five days than I have in the last five months!

      • Good for you, Finn. Yes, I would suspect many bird species will be moving from the continent over the coming days and weeks. It is simply going to get a whole lot colder and potentially snowier. First places affected by these changes, will of course be your neck of the woods. I would suggest looking out for an increase in Thrush species, including many foreign black-billed Blackbirds, also more Goldcrests, Finches like the ones you aforementioned and Skylarks and Pipits. Pretty much everything covered there, ha ha.

      • Thanks Tony, I’ll keep my eyes peeled and the lens cap off in anticipation of some less common visitors.

  7. I think you chose the right camera, your pictures are marvellous. You get a good variety of birdlife in your garden. Do you ever get firecrests or goldcrests?

    • Hello Lorna, I do get a pretty good selection on a day to day basis, and occasionally I get something a little more unusual like jay, great spotted woodpecker, yellowhammer, blackcap. I’ve never seen a firecrest but a couple of months ago there was a goldcrest amongst a flock of long tailed tits in the crab apple tree in my front garden. I was very pleased with that!

      There’s a few more species which I get daily which I haven’t yet got good pictures of, but I’ll put some effort into that in the next few weeks and post them as and when. So far my garden list is:

      Blackbird, blackcap, black headed gull, blue tit, carrion crow, chaffinch, coal tit, collared dove, dunnock, goldcrest, goldfinch, great spotted woodpecker, great tit, greenfinch, house sparrow, jay, jackdaw, long tailed tit, magpie, mallard, pied wagtail, redwing, robin, rook, song thrush, sparrowhawk, starling, wood pigeon, wren, yellowhammer. There are another 37 species which I have seen on my side of the village. Blimey, that’s the first time I’ve actually counted and it’s quite a tally! My friend has been keeping records of sightings in the parish for a good few years now and has over 100 species on that list.

      • What a wonderful list, you inspire me to do something similar. Perhaps the bird that surprised me most was the mallard – do you have a pond in your garden?

      • Oh yes, we regularly have flocks of mallard on the lake. If only 😉

        We don’t have any water, but one day last year I came home from work and there were a pair settled on the front lawn where they were based for several days, seemingly oblivious to our comings and goings. They do that sometimes at the start of the mating season when they’re pairing off, presumably to escape the attentions of other mallards. Have you ever seen them when 3 or 4 males chase one female? It’s pretty violent, and I believe the female can sometimes end up drowning as a result. Survival of the fittest at its most brutal!

      • Oh dear, that sounds a bit grim! I haven’t seen it, thankfully, but I’d be cock-a-hoop to see a mallard in the garden.

      • It’s hard to believe that those lovely ducks can behave in that fashion isn’t it? But I was very pleased to have them take up residence chez nous, albeit for just a few days!

  8. I enjoyed your comments on the camera and lens. The telephoto shots are excellent–did you use a tripod?

    • Hello Sue, some of the shots were on a tripod. I try to keep the shutter speed faster than 1/200s for bird shots and at that speed I can generally get away with hand-held, depending on which lens I’m using.

  9. A charm of goldfinches! I love it!

  10. So many nice birds. I am a bit surprised because in my garden there are so few this winter. Hardly use any food at all. So I wonder a lot, but I can look at yours of course.

    • You’re always welcome to enjoy my birds Bente. Are you having a very harsh winter in Norway this year? Alot of your waxwings have appeared in the UK this winter which is usually due to very cold conditions in Scandinavia.

  11. So wonderful to see your birds… We don’t have them here. So tiny and bright! I love their markings…

  12. A lone goldfinch is a lonely goldfinch! I hope it found its friends again soon. I’m sure you know that this beautiful species has what I think is the most beautiful name for a group: a charm of goldfinches.

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