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Sunday, 15 February 2015

Garden birds and a surprise moth

Yesterday I heard the first bird song of the year - a chaffinch singing. I don't count robins as they sing all through the winter. Other birds are getting more noisy in their calls and it's a nice thought knowing that in about four weeks time, not only will we be hearing the dawn chorus of the all year round birds, but the summer residents will be returning and we'll be hearing the chiffchaffs, followed by the return of the swallows in about five weeks, and then the blackcaps towards the end of March, whose melodic song is my favourite.

I've been attempting some bird photography but trying to get close enough to the bird feeders to get shots is not easy, and only the tits would brave feeding with me anywhere nearby. So I managed to persuade my OH to move one of the feeding stations closer to the kitchen window, so I could watch the woodpeckers and hopefully get some better shots. He grumbled about the lawn being trashed and having to move it every couple of days to prevent this, but I won out!

A Dunnock which actually sat still in a willow tree and posed; unfortunately in willows
(and many other trees) there are always branches in the darn way!

Mostly shot through double glazing - clockwise from top left:
Blackbird, Nuthatch, Starling, and the Dunnock again which was shot outside.

A Jay.


Before moving this bird feeder this is best I could get at max zoom as it was miles away....

And now.... Great Spotted Woodpecker. There is room for improvement if I clean
the windows and better still when it's warm enough for me to open them,
though the birds might see me then.

Woody again, this time with a tripod, but still through double glazing.

No need the caption the following which are lots of blue tits. We have so many of these little cuties there must be eight of them for every great tit. They are the most abundant bird in the garden, and even outnumber the sparrows! What's interesting though is that since we moved the feeder, there seems to be even more birds attracted to it!








After moving the bird feeder, I can get the dogwood in the background which adds an interesting colour to the bokeh! The next two birds are great tits which I find much harder to capture.



Finally managed to get a decent one of a Blue Tit and a Great Tit together!


Since taking this photo my OH has fixed the wobbly metal holding up the feeders and we bought a new fatball holder, which is bigger. The old one has been hung up from an arch near where this home made feeding station originally was. I was feeling a bit worried that I'd moved the food further away from trees, and the birds were still flitting backwards and forwards to the trees for cover whilst eating their beakfuls, expending their precious energy, just so that I could see and photograph them better. But now that there's another lot of fatballs near the trees I feel better. We've also got another feeding station with a seed dispenser and a hanging table, elsewhere in the garden, not far from our boundary hedge and my wiggly hazel tree, which is the one the sparrows like as they like the hedge. I've also counted up to 15 tits on this feeding station at the same time, but six birds is the best I've managed so far in a photo!

The feeding station is basically a broom handle stuck into an outdoor
parasol base, with a piece of metal put through the hole
and bent to fit and to hold up the feeders. Voila!

Changing the subject completely, I had an unexpected surprise in the form of this pretty moth. I found it in the spare bedroom where I overwinter my geraniums. I can only guess the pupa came in with the pots and the relative warmth inside (even though they are in an unheated room) caused it to eclose? I believe it is a Plain Golden Y (Autographa jota) although the Y shape marking is more of a blob. These moths should be on the wing from about June to August, not in February!* It must have been thirsty because I had been watering the plants and had some water on my hands, and when I picked it up it started to drink the moisture, and I could feel its proboscis moving around over my hand, which was fun! So I tipped a little more water into my hand and it drunk deeply. As I didn't know what to do with it (putting it outside wasn't an option as it would have died from the cold) I made up some sugar water which I blobbed on a saucer, but I never did see it again. 

Thanks to Countryside Tales, who knows a LOT about moths, the correct ID of this moth is the Golden Twin-spot (Chrysodeixis chalcites), which flies as late as November. It is classed as a pest as the larvae eat a number of food crops as well as other plants. Thanks CT! 



I've about given up with the gardening now as being active again has caused my tendonitis to flare up, in a new place (from lower back down into buttock! My bloody bum, I won't say it will be the death of me because that's chancing my luck but it's pissing me off!!!), as well as niggling in the old place (thigh). Dammit. It actually got better when I was unable to garden much through the late summer and autumn. I need to review the way I garden as I do far too much squatting and gardening low down as I like to see what's going on, like plants that have self seeded, but the enforced rest period after my op should at least mean it all eases before I attempt gardening again. With a hoe and/or my kneely pad thingy which reverses into a low stool! Though I've just discovered these really cool low garden stools on wheels which also hold your tools, which might be a great idea.....

http://www.amazon.com/Step2-Garden-Hopper-Mobile-Storage/dp/B00004W430 

30 comments:

  1. Great photographs. The Jays are so hard to get anywhere near.

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    1. Thanks Ian. Actually it's the first time I've got a photo of one. I see them, but more often late autumn when they are stocking up on acorns as we've lots of oaks here. But they don't sit around in trees much so I got lucky!

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  2. It's so fun to see the birds that come to your yard. They're very similar to birds here, but with different colouring. Your blue tits look like our chickadees fallen into the blue hair dye. Our downy woodpeckers are similar, but without the red bums. You got some great shots! I think your moth has probably found a nice woolen sweater to feast on ;) Wendy

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    1. Hi SV and lovely to see you again! Yes, your chickadees are cute and very similar. I love seeing other birds on blogs and facebook and I'm always really envious of those who have hummingbirds, although I don't know if you get them in Canada. But we should always treasure our own too. I don't think that moth is the kind that eats woollies, but mine are well wrapped in plastic as we've had holes here before..... :-)

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  3. Crikey! Another blog entry. You are putting me to shame Mandy. Looks like you enjoyed yourself photographing the garden birds though and certainly had a nice selection to choose from. That moth is very odd but reckon you could be right about how it suddenly appeared.

    I love that Jay photo- better than your tits for me ;-) Okay, let me re-phrase that...better than the photos of your tits!

    Enjoyed reading this and all the other entries. Keep up the good work.

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    1. Hi JJ - I'm making up for past and future lost time when I won't be blogging. I used to blog about twice a week anyway. It just depends if I've got anything to share or not!

      Now, how you can prefer that jay to my tits I don't know! ;-) Thanks very much my dear. :-)

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    2. Well that made me laugh out loud Mandy ;-)

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  4. Oh how we miss robins and blackbirds, such lovely songs. We very rarely see them or thrush, sometimes by the river.

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    1. I've yet to get a decent photo of a robin, as they don't tend to stand still here. I've read that European (continental) robins are not as friendly or tame as the UK ones! I'm surprised you don't have them, but I guess you are far enough east that you have some quite different birds - actually I remember you telling me about your birds and I wouldn't care less about blackbirds or robins if I had rollers, hoopoes and golden orioles around! :-)

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  5. Love! Being able to photograph from our windows is so wonderful! I know gardening won't be possible for a while after your surgery but I hope you're able to at least look out your windows and eventually feel like picking up your camera and taking some pictures while you're recovering!

    I feel your frustration re injury and gardening :-(... For me, it's my hands and wrists. When I experience OA flare ups, it prevents me from gardening for days. When I can go back to it, I always overdo it of course :-)

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    1. Thanks very much Marianne! That was partly my reason for wanting to move the bird feeder. I can photograph these birds standing, leaning my elbows on the windowsill which is quite high which is good for steadying the camera. So that's something I can do until I can get outside again - or even sit! :-)

      I know you overdo things as I remember the gardening with a broken toe.... :-) I'm gonna have to be sensible though when I am able to get back to it. Difficult though when you suddenly feel fighting fit and able ..... :-/

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    2. Here's hoping everything goes better than expected!!! I'll be thinking about you :-)

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    3. I hope so too - thanks so much Marianne. xx

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  6. A really superb set of images Mandy.

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    1. Thanks very much Roy, high praise indeed coming from you, given your professional quality bird images. :-)

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  7. I remember falling in love with those technicoloured little birds when I first saw them in Switzerland.

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    1. Hi Diana - even though you have some magnificent birds in SA, it's always exciting to see the colourful birds from other continents! I'm looking forward to seeing 'your' swallows back here soon, too. :-)

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  8. Well now my dear, I'm bothered about that moth being a plain golden y. It doesn't look right to me. I think what you've got there is a Golden Twin-spot (Chrysodeixis chalcites). I'm wondering whether it has over-wintered with you as an adult as they fly into November.

    Gorgeous bird photos, but bloody hell If you think your windows are mucky you should see mine! Whenever I try and focus on birds through them the bloody camera picks up on blobs on the glass and focuses on that instead! I think it is trying to tell me something :o) xx

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  9. Have a look at this : http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=1279

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    1. CT - my mothy ID hero! Yup, that looks right. I don't have a proper moth ID book yet, just a section in my insect book, so the Ys looked the right shape and my shiny from flash shots made it hard to match exact markings. This poor moth is classed as a pest, and Wikipedia calls it a Tomato Looper, which isn't such a nice name. Do you think the adult could survive several months? I brought my geraniums inside during November. I'll amend my post when I'm back on my Mac rather than tapping this out on my Kindle! :-)

      Haha to the dirty windows - keep meaning to clean them, but they'll only stay good for a week max before they are covered in webs outside and rainsplatters again ..... :-) Thanks, my dear. xx

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    2. You do get these aberrations where moths live longer than they should/ eclose sooner or indeed later, so it's possible either way. My bet is on it having lived longer, poss in the warmth of the house? It seems awful early to be eclosing in Feb as the larva don't usually appear till mid summer. I could be wrong and will be happily corrected if someone else knows different!
      It's a lovely moth. I find myself getting increasingly grumpy when things are classed as pests, it's the same with wildflowers being called weeds xx

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  10. Good set of bird shots Mandy, what I do when using bird feeders for shots, is tape, tie, stick branches by the feeders, birds use them to perch off and on feeders, and means you can get a cleaner background to shot. I wanted shots of Goldfinches on teasels so stuck some next to niger feeder and worked well. I,ve been as close as 15ft photographing through a window, and put scrim up over window so as not to distract birds.

    Nice opener to your blog, I too have found birds are singing more, our snow now gone, we get Swallows here in Yorkshire around 10th - 20th April, but in 5 weeks today I will be on the ferry to Brittany, so hope to see them there first :-)

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    1. You are very well organised, Ian! I could try doing that with the sticks, but I'd need my OH's help and I don't think he'd be happy about putting sticks into the lawn (not that our lawn is a 'lawn' but more a messy weedy mix with grass, lol). Could try putting some in the flower bed nearby - they have been perching on lavender and sedum but I didn't get a chance to get a photo of them perching on those plants. Would make a difference though because it's so annoying all those messy branches when they are perching in the trees, not to mention the pain of trying to focus through it all.

      The sad thing here is that on the peanuts and fatballs we only really have the 4 species who visit - Blueys, Greaties, Nutties and GS Woodies. :-( There are a few ground feeders, but I've never lived anywhere where so few birds are interested in the food we put out. On the plus side it must mean there is plenty of natural food for them, which is a good thing!

      No sooner had I published this and I heard a Dunnock singing on top of the hedge! It's all kicking off here. Hopefully you'll see a few early Swallows in 5 weeks - we don't have them all over the garden at that point but usually see the first ones anywhere between mid to late March. Can't wait! :-) Enjoy your time in Brittany.

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  11. Amazing photos! The top one is my favorite, but it is hard to choose :-)
    Amalia
    xo

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    1. Thanks for visiting, Amalia. Happy you like my bird photos! :-)

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  12. Stunning photos Mandy, just love the photo of the Dunnock, one of my favourite birds, it has the most beautiful song. Have been listening out for a Chiffchaff at the park, no joy yet. As there are no young about at the moment I have been putting lose peanuts out, straight away the crows will come down and take them all in one go filling up their crop, they are quite happy for me to stand and watch, but as soon as the camera comes out they are off !! Fancy staging my feeder like Ian has said.
    Amanda xx

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    1. Thanks Amanda - I heard a Dunnock singing the following day. Seems like every day the birds are getting more noisy, but there are only so many songs I recognise. Peanuts are expensive here so I'm not giving them away like that, lol! :-) I'll have to ask my OH for bright ideas re. sticking a few branches around, as my DIY skills are nil. :-) xx

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