Saturday, 13 February 2010

Fieldfare feasting on garden Rose Hips

A brisk north-easterly wind has brought snow once again to Kent and a return visit of Fieldfares to the garden too. Whilst some birds are still feeding on Apples at the back of the garden, two are feeding close to the house on the Dog Rose berries (Rose hips in the garden hedge. The Rose hips, tough and and unmovable for most of the winter, have now softened and the Fieldfares have quickly devoured most of the fruit they can reach. What remaining Rose hips there are lie at the end of thin stems, a place from where this large Thrush struggles to collect, but now the Fieldfares fly-up, strike and knock the berries down to eat from the lawn.

Interestingly, our local garden Blackbird pair are very aggressive to the Fieldfares near the house, constantly chasing the them away. This is something of a surprise to me, as the much larger Fieldfare is usually the undisputed and (uninvited) garden king.

Apologies for yet another collection of Fieldfare close-ups. These were taken with much better light conditions, and you should find these are higher quality images than those on previous posts. Also, you simply never know when Fieldfares will arrive back in our winter gardens, the last time was 10 years ago.

This is 'our' Blackbird who has been busy chasing the Fieldfares away from it's garden territory. Frustratingly, it won't tolerate our garden Song Thrushes either. Our bird (we should have given it a name by now) is easily recognisable by its drooped left wing. It's been around the garden and fathered dozen of fledglings for at least four years.

Bullfinch feeding on snow covered Bramble

Just 20 feet down the garden we have left a thicket of Bramble and Dog Rose build-up over 10 years. After the pond I wonder if this is the most valuable and important wildlife resource in the garden?
In spring it is used as a nesting site for Blackbird and Song Thrush, in summer it is ofter visited by White Admiral Butterfly, Honey Bees and Hornets. In winter there is a roost of House Sparrows and Starlings, and the bramble fruit heads which we leave to go to seed - and admitidely looking rather scruffy, are an important food resource for the scarce Bullfinch. These once common and slightly docile looking finches seem to be scarcer than in my childhood memories. I once read a game-keeping article that considered the decline was caused by an increase number of Sparrowhawks. I guess Gamekeepers would say that, wouldn't they - but the round-headed, thick-necked and dumpy Bullfinch appear to offer a Sparrowhawk an easier catch than, perhaps, an agile Chaffinch?

Back to the garden: As with last winter, we presently have a party of 3 Bullfinches which forage for hours in the bramble stems. There are two striking crimson-breasted males and a demure and equally beautiful female bird. It may just be coincidence, but our Bullfinches seem to appear when the weather is particularly bad - for instance the middle of this snow storm. They're very shy birds making photography a real challenge. I like these pictures because they show the birds feeding naturally and not, for instance, at a bird feeder.

For some reason our Bullfinches will not take any interest in the sunflower or nyjer seed at out feeding stations and once they've depleted the bramble seeds, they'll probably be gone till next winter.