Tag Archives: Greenfinch

January, outgoing

So we’ve finally reached the end of a January which was slightly wetter than most Januarys, but much more typical than December was. However, all the heavy rain of December provoked a remarkable response from the plantlife of Wicklow. Here, for example, are two photos from the 4th January, and they are quite incredible because this one is a tuft of natural Bluebells:

Yes, genuine Bluebells in early January.
Yes, genuine Bluebells in early January.

And these are the leaves of the Arum Lily, also known as Lords-andLadies or Cuckoo Pint, Arum maculatum:

Borad fleshy leaves of the Arum Lily.
Borad fleshy leaves of the Arum Lily.

Both are spring plants, but usually they don’t begin to appear until much later in the year, in March or April. However, the weather became more cold towards mid-January, and their growth slowed. Birds began showing up in gardens looking for food, as usually happens in December, January and February. Here are a few which came to feeders in my garden:

A spectacular little Blue Tit, one of our more common species.
A spectacular little Blue Tit, one of our more common species.
A Blue Tit and a much larger Greenfinch at a peanut feeder.
A Blue Tit and a much larger Greenfinch at a peanut feeder.
Two male House Sparrows at a seed feeder. These birds have become very rare in some parts of Europe, but are an invasive species in North America. In Ireland they are perfectly at home and still doing well.
Two male House Sparrows at a seed feeder. These birds have become very rare in some parts of Europe, but are an invasive species in North America. In Ireland they are perfectly at home and still doing well.
A Robin. The European Robin is a species of Chat, whereas the American Robin is much larger and a species of Thrush. Our Robins are starting to make territorial calls and to fight - breeding season is coming.
A Robin. The European Robin is a species of Chat, whereas the American Robin is much larger and a species of Thrush. Our Robins are starting to make territorial calls and to fight – breeding season is coming.
A male Blackbird basking in the weak January sun. Blackbirds have begun to sing their territorial songs and squabbling over territories just like the Robins. This year breeding season will be early for them too.
A male Blackbird basking in the weak January sun. Blackbirds have begun to sing their territorial songs and squabbling over territories just like the Robins. This year breeding season will be early for them too.

It is definitely one of the best times of the year to birdwatch, because birds need the food we provide and the shelter or our gardens, but it is important to remember that when the weather improves that they will become lazier and more likely to be killed by both cats and Sparrowhawks if they keep attending the feeders, and they will lose some of their foraging skills. So it’s best to help them when they need help in winter, but don’t make them dependant on bird feeders.

This week spring has made a serious declaration of intent – here are three photographs I took in the last few days which prove spring has properly begun:

Proper, wild Snowdrops, Galanthus nivalis, blooming brightly right now.
Proper, wild Snowdrops, Galanthus nivalis, blooming brightly right now.
The first Crocus bloom I've spotted this year, but it was eaten by a slug yesterday, before it could open.
The first Crocus bloom I’ve spotted this year, but it was eaten by a slug yesterday, before it could open.

And finally, here is one of my favourite spring sights of all:

24584088241_3ff70c7479A female Early Thorn moth, usually appearing in mid-February, but this one seems happy enough to join the spring bandwagon. Keep an eye out for these moths when they come to windows at night. They are like a butterfly in size and pose. Absolutely beautiful. This Monday is 1 February, which means St. Brigid’s Day, the first day of the Celtic spring. This year spring wouldn’t even wait for the saint.

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.