More days of snow are challenging the birds in our garden once again- this Magpie hopped across the ‘grass’ looking for food crumbs, while the Stock Doves got stuck in, burying their heads to find food. The Parakeets just looked as though they wondered why they didn’t still live in the tropical paradise of their ancestors. Conditions: More snow overnight- 4 or 5 inches all together. Temperature: -1C most of the time.
This Moorhen is the first we have ever seen on our garden pond- no wonder the RSPB calls it ubiquitous, wherever there is fresh water. They are omnivores, which explains why it even found something to eat, weed mostly, in our little pond. Spending time in and out of the water, these are birds which are frequently seen standing on one leg, to conserve heat. Their population was greatly reduced in the very cold winters of the 1960’s but have largely recovered since. Look out for their mating behaviours and joint nest building in parks near you any time now. Conditions: Cloud and some sun. Temperature: Max 9 Min 2C.
Birds will be glad of the thaw, especially smaller ones, and the insect eaters, like Wrens and Goldcrests, which have more surface area to weight and therefore use more energy keeping warm, as do Shrews and other small mammals. Here is an example from a Collared Dove this week, of how birds keep warm by fluffing up their feathers, to trap layers of air which they warm up through their body heat. They also stand one one leg to conserve heat! Conditions: Still, grey day. Snow completely gone here now. Temperature: Max 7 Min 3C.
In freezing conditions, birds need fresh water but if the can’t get it, they will eat snow, like this Great Spotted Woodpecker I have been watching in the garden. This Mistle Thrush, during a blizzard, managed to stand ankle deep in melting ice on the pond, and sip water from a more melted spot!
If you can, put out water for them. Conditions: Still, grey with early snow showers. Temperature: Max 1 Min -1C.
On the first day of spring, birds are having to feed-up in blizzard conditions and minus temperatures, like these Long-tailed Tits, which huddle together in large groups to get through freezing nights and then benefit from high-energy fats during daylight hours. Conditions: freezing snow showers and gusty winds. Temperature: -2 c day and night.
Fieldfares, named from the Anglo-Saxon ‘fieldware’ or ‘traveller of the fields’ may come in from the fields and woods in this weather, as 13 did today, sweeping into our garden during a blizzard (hence the indistinct photo’s!). Breeding in Scandinavia, Fieldfares, about the size of Mistle Thrushes, migrate to the UK to overwinter. They are sometimes in mixed flocks with our other over-wintering Thrush, the smaller Redwing- the Fieldfare is the larger bird in this drawing, to scale alongside the Redwing, which we get more frequently in our winter garden. Condition: Heavy snow showers, driving breezes and sunny intervals. Temperature: Max -4 Min -5 C.
Having recently posted a drawn Treecreeper as they seldom
come near enough in our garden to photograph, this one turned up briefly on our Rowan trunk. Treecreepers can suffer in cold winters if wet conditions are followed by freezing temperatures as tree trunks, where they forage for insects, get ice-bound, which means those in sheltered woodland fare better. Tree creepers move rapidly in spirals round a tree, and only move up the trunks, unlike Nuthatches. They move fast, which is why the photo’s aren’t that sharp! Conditions: Sunny intervals. Temperature: Max 4 Min -1C.