No Photoshop required.
The first video shows a male pheasant preening in a burst of sunshine – a post-peanut mellow moment. Two male pheasants arrived today, some time after the females had arrived, eaten, sat for a while with their feathers puffed up, and left. It had finally stopped raining and at mid-day the garden was bathed briefly in a thin silvery sunshine, which lasted for about an hour and a half before the rain resumed. The familiar harsh loud squawk announced their arrival so I threw down some peanuts and went down into the village, leaving them to it. When I returned they were pottering around in the garden, and one of them was enjoying an industrious preen, the bright feathers given a thorough going over.
The second video shows two views of Pen Y Bryn from my garden, one clip from yesterday in the pouring rain and the second in the today’s brief reprieve when the sun came out before the rain returned. Both are shades of grey, but the main difference between the two scenes is the sound. In the first clip, even in the downpour Pen Y Bryn looks atmospheric but the sound of the rain is unrelenting. In the second, with light glinting off the water, peace and quiet has been restored.
I should perhaps apologize for the completely gratuitous scrolling text. I’ve been messing around with new video editing software, as my previous prog was at all not user-friendly and it had the antisocial habit of freezing solid. Many of the features in the new application are very gimmicky, with shades of PowerPoint, but the ability to add text in various different forms is useful. This is the fourth piece of video editing software that I have tried, so I am seriously hoping that this one will be a keeper.
The peanut feeder was busy today with a couple of great tits, a coal tit and a riot of blue tits, all in the pouring rain. And it really did rain! At half four hail, lightning and thunder added to the fun and games. I’ve watched the tits and the pheasants, and they all seem to dispose very fastidiously of the brown outer layer to get to the peanut inside. In spite of taking video through the window, which was dripping with water, the videos came out surprisingly well.
The pheasants vanished from my garden for the summer, but have been slowly returning for the last month. At first there was just one, but now there are up to five – four females and an occasional male. Pheasants are quite mind-numbingly stupid, but of the five that panic and run away every time I open the door to throw down food for them, there’s one that knows that the unlocking of the door is a good sound. She bounces up a couple of steps in confident anticipation of a shower of peanuts. When they haven’t been fed (or when they come back later in the day in hope of more goodies) and she sees movement in the kitchen, she comes all the way up the steps and loiters by the door, sometimes just staring at me in a rather unnerving way. I’m a complete pushover and it works every time, and between the pheasants and the blue tits, my sack of peanuts is emptying rapidly. Here she is yesterday, looking for an evening peanut shower after the morning one had been demolished and they had gone elsewhere to forage or be fed.
I recall that this time last year most of the birds vanished from the garden in October and November, for the reasons explained in an earlier post, returning in force in December. This year more of them remained in the garden over that period, but it is noticeable how busy it is at the moment. The goldfinch feeder is particularly in demand and all day today the feathers were flying as they jockeyed for position and chased each other off, some of which is captured on the video below. A very beautiful display of bright colour on a dull day. There were nine of them at one stage.
Aberdovey’s Housebird Central has been a busy place in the New Year. I returned from Christmas in Chester to an absolute hive of avian activity. As well as the usual array of blue tits, coal tits, sparrows, the noisy pheasants, and a new small LBJ (Little Brown Job) that needed identification (a very pretty dunnock), a new community of birds had found the nyjer/niger (Guizotia abyssinica) seeds. I had been about to take the bird feeder down, because it really is the ugliest bird feeder of all time and was always ignored by every bird that visited the garden in favour of the mixed seed, mealworm and peanut feeders. The chaffinches and bullfinches that it was supposed to attract duly arrived but have been feeding happily on the mixed seed feeder. It has, however, been transformed by a small army of goldfinches from an eyesore into a thing of wonder. It’s difficult to count how many goldfinches there are, because there are so many, but there are never more than four on the feeder at a time, and that means that there is the occasional mad and multicoloured flurry of feathers as new arrivals displace incumbents. Unlike the blue tits, which are endlessly shifting gymnasts, the goldfinches fix themselves in one position and eat with small, minimalist movements, staying in one place for as long as they remain undisturbed. With beautiful red, yellow, black and white plumage they are remarkably exotic on a chilly grey January morning. Many goldfinch communities migrate as far south as Spain in the winter, so I am lucky that members of this particular colony have remained to face a Welsh winter.
The blue tits and coal tits are as enchanting as usual, and are having a major peanut fest at the moment:
Don’t forget that the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch is taking place between 26th and 28th January this year (2019), now in its 40th year. You can find out more on the RSPB website here: https://www.rspb.org.uk/get-involved/activities/birdwatch/everything-you-need-to-know-about-big-garden-birdwatch/
That’s blue tits to most of us. After a visit to the dentist in Machynlleth today for two fillings (with thanks to Tim Moody and nurse Sarah at Llys Einion Dental Surgery for overcoming the worst of my terrors), what I really needed to lift my spirits was the crazy antics of the blue tits on the bird feeders. In the tree any attempt to track their constant comings and goings on the seed feeder, swapping of positions and astounding acrobatics is absolutely eye-watering. It’s like a fractal in motion, pure chaos theory. My dentist was talking about the failure of physics to align General Relativity with the Standard Model of Quantum Mechanics. Perhaps the answer lies in the insanely complex interactions and dizzying gymnastics of the blue tits in my garden.
The blue tits have recently become very confident on the fat ball and mealworm bird feeders on the decking by my kitchen door. They were put there for the robin and a couple of sparrows, but the blue tits in particular have become addicts in recent weeks, and watching their antics so closely is remarkable, a sort of pared-down version of their performance in the cherry tree, as the following short video demonstrates:
When the blue tits are on the decking, the sparrows that are there much of the time are undeterred, but the robin takes off as soon as the lively gymnasts arrive. Everything, however, vanishes when the doves or pheasants arrive. In the bird world, size matters.
In his book How to be a bad birdwatcher Simon Barnes talks about the hierarchy of tits on bird feeders: “as you watch, you will notice that the big chaps can chase off the little chaps whenever they want to. If a blue tit wants a peanut, it has to wait for a great-tit-free minute, and then fly in and be quick and skilful. And by good fortune, or good evolution, quick and skilful is exactly what blue tits are.” That interplay between the tits is observable every day. The great tits take precedence over the blue tits and the blue tits take precedence over the coal tits. But the blue tits seem to win by sheer force of numbers. There are so many of them! Barnes points out that this highly competitive behaviour is restricted to the bird feeder – such competition does not take place elsewhere in their lives because in nature each has its own preferred niche, away from these challengers. I particularly love the symbiosis between those in the tree and those on the ground. As the tits chuck half of their food on the floor in amongst the roses, the pheasants and doves form a collection posse, scooping up all the rejects. Everyone wins.
The bird seed in the tree was empty and had to be refilled on my return. I will be in serious trouble with Housebird Central if I let my standards slip in this shocking way!
Last week I noticed a splash of colour in motion out of the corner of my eye, a dash of dusky red on the bird feeder in the cherry tree. It turned out to be a male chaffinch. In spite of trying to attract them with a special feeder stuffed with nyger seeds, it is the blue tits who have used that feeder, and the chaffinch was on the all-purpose feeder. He have visited a couple of times since, but unlike the blue tits, which form a semi-permanent cloud of activity, he’s only an occasional visitor to the tree, although he may well be hoovering up fallen seeds on the floor, which the pheasants and the doves also eat. The tits, particularly the great tits and coal tits, are really messy eaters, and throw seeds everywhere, so there is always plenty on the ground.
Another new visitor is a female blackbird. She hops around the decking, and when the tits are on the decking at the same time, as shown in this video below, she looks absolutely huge! She is a very occasional visitor, but when she arrives she is like a cat amongst pigeons. The blue tits are completely put out by her presence and don’t quite know what to do about her. The robin puts in a brief appearance, but takes off as usual when the blue tits arrive in force. The video was taken through the glass of the window, so it’s a tad murky, but still fun.