Tag Archives: bird-feeders

A Very Crazy Spring – Winter Returns with a Vengeance

Only last week the weather was improving so much, and the spring flowers all blooming so brilliantly, that it seemed spring was truly here and here to stay. I even saw my first hoverfly, which was, unusually for our spring, a Drone Fly (Eristalis species):

But this week everything went crazy, with the arrival of the so-called “Beast from the East”, a fierce cold weather system bringing snow and freezing temperatures to all of Europe from Siberia. Just as I was winding down using the bird-feeders in my garden they suddenly became vitally important to birds in the cold weather, and were also getting the attention of many rodents, including one particularly handsome and determined Wood Mouse (Apodemus sylvaticus).  Here it is climbing out of the leaf litter next to the tree holding the feeders, just at sunset:

One night I even managed to get a video of the mouse climbing on a peanut-feeder, a tiny creature with huge eyes and ears, and a long tail:

However, there were also some less welcome visitors, such as two young Brown Rats (Rattus norvegicus), which were not quite so cute, and a lot bigger than the mouse, but equally interesting in their cheekiness:

   The cold weather inspired some incredible behaviour in some of the wildlife. Probably the most amazing thing I have seen in some years was a flock of desperate crows, Rooks (Corvus frugilegus) to be exact, who were managing to take food off the carefully-designed “crow proof” small bird feeders. One of them was even hovering like a hummingbird! Watch and be amazed:

The bad weather doesn’t end there though – tonight a huge rain storm from the Bay of Biscay, Storm Emma, collides with the Beast from the East and we have a Red Weather Warning, the highest level, only used once before and, ironically, only a few months ago when Hurricane Ophelia made for the island of Ireland. This time, it’s for snow drifts. Hopefully the wildlife will not suffer too much.

Feeding Winter Birds

In the last few weeks it has become cold here in Wicklow, with daytime temperatures often not more than 8 degrees Celsius (about 46 degrees Fahrenheit) and often less than that.

A very beautiful male Greenfinch approaching a peanut-feeder. In 2007 and 2008 these birds looked like they were going extinct, due to a fungus that was being spread via contaminated perches and feeders. Always wash your feeders, soaking them in soapy water between each fill. And make sure to dry them properly too.
A very beautiful male Greenfinch approaching a peanut-feeder. In 2007 and 2008 these birds looked like they were going extinct, due to a fungus that was being spread via contaminated perches and feeders. Fortunately and amazingly, they are thriving again in Wicklow. Always wash your feeders, soaking them in soapy water between each fill. And make sure to dry them properly too.

Now that the berries have almost all gone from the trees, it’s a good time to put out food for the birds. Some people feed the birds all year round, with the active encouragement of the birdseed producing companies, but I don’t like to do this as it interferes with natural foraging behaviour and encourages wild birds to be dependent on human beings – which is never a good thing. Of course, helping them survive difficult times in an environment we have drastically altered by our very presence is another matter, and winter is just such a time.

An Irish Coal Tit on the left and a Blue Tit on the right  feeding on peanuts. Both species usually thrive on insects but will take what they can get when times are lean. The Irish Coal Tit is a unique subspecies of the Coal Tit. This species is also found in North America where it is known as the Black-capped Chickadee.
An Irish Coal Tit on the left and a Blue Tit on the right feeding on peanuts. Both species usually thrive on insects but will take what they can get when times are lean. The Irish Coal Tit is a unique subspecies of the Coal Tit. This species is also found in North America where it is known as the Black-capped Chickadee.

In many cases the best chances you have of photographing birds are in winter. This is also a great time to recognise the differences between species.

The Coal Tit and the Blue Tit again form a slightly different angle, so you can see the colours on their bodies better. Both are very handsome species. The Great Tit is very similar to the Coal Tit but far larger and it doesn't have the white stripe down the back of the head that the Coal Tit has, but which, unfortunately, you can't see in either photo due to the angles of observation.
The Coal Tit and the Blue Tit again form a slightly different angle, so you can see the colours on their bodies better. Both are very handsome species. The Great Tit is very similar to the Coal Tit but far larger and it doesn’t have the white stripe down the back of the head that the Coal Tit has, but which, unfortunately, you can only just about see in the first photo.