It seems that I spoke too soon. In my last diary entry, I spoke about how mild it was and how loud the birds were singing. Indeed, since I last wrote, Snowdrops have made an appearance in the garden although the daffs have still to show. But in my last diary entry I did mention that, from experience, February is often one of the coldest months
Is this the start of Spring??
So many people like to view Feb 1st as the first day of spring. But of course, from a scientific point of view (and the Met Office agrees here), spring does not arrive until March 1st. And as I write on this, the last day of Jan, there is a biting, cold easterly wind that has its origins in Siberia. Forecasters are unsure what is going to happen over the next few days with some predicting a right battle between two weather systems. Apparently there is mild wet weather approaching from the west while the current cold air from the east is dominant. What might happen is that, as the wet weather hits the cold, it may turn into sleet or even snow and the cold system will win out.
Whatever the result, one thing is certain. It’s bloody cold out! From a birdwatching perspective, such cold easterly winds can really have an impact on the birds we see. Many species will move westward to avoid bitterly cold weather on the continent. In previous winters, the onset of freezing winds originating in Siberia, have resulted in an increase in the number of birds arriving into Ireland.
Classic arrivals along the east coast in such weather conditions include winter thrushes like Redwings and Fieldfares while in people’s gardens, the first sign of such late winter arrivals is shown by the appearance of Siskins and Redpolls. This afternoon, Hazel and myself were discussing this very subject and I found myself commenting:
With these easterly winds, I expect we’ll have Siskins on the feeders over the next day or two.
Within a few minutes, a beautiful male Siskin was feeding on the window nut feeder.
We do have Siskins flying around most days but few have taken the time to stop off at the feeders. This male might be one of the local gang but he might just be the first of an arrival of Siskins in from Britain and Europe. It even seems that the overall finch numbers has increased this week. I have counted over 70 Goldfinches, up to 60 Chaffinches, 30+ Greenfinches along with a few House Sparrows. This week has also seen two beautiful Yellowhammers…the same glowing, canary-yellow male and a slightly duller but equally gorgeous female. I have never seen so many birds around the place. They are eating us out of house and home.
But while the birds were keeping us entertained enough, we had three totally unexpected visitors to the feeders yesterday. I was upstairs and got a text from Hazel who was downstairs. ‘Look out the window!’. I looked out, expecting to see the Yellowhammer or perhaps the male Pheasant beneath the feeder. I really did not expect to see what I saw! There, right around our feeding stations, were three large and very lovely deer…all does. They were eating spilt nuts from below the feeders and were only two metres from the downstairs window.
We had put out apples for the local Blackbirds and they had disappeared overnight. Perhaps it was these that had brought them in? They then nosed around the other feeding stations. A few days ago, I had puzzled about finding a feeder taken off the hook, broken and all the nuts taken. I had blamed crows. But here were the culprits. One was trying to remove a feeder…she failed. I managed a few very poor shots through the window. They casually hung around for 15 mins before moving off up the hill and into the nearby woodland. I have always said that having a bird feeding station was so rewarding and that, when feeding birds, always expect the unexpected. But deer at your bird feeders? What next?
I have been feeding birds since I was a kid and I have to admit that the activity of feathers of every hue here at Sycamore Hill is something to behold. If the weather does turn to snowy conditions, then we should all expect to see an increase in bird activity in our gardens. It’s always worth remembering that the food we put out might just be the difference between life and death for many birds.
So, as I write, I know that our feeders are full and that our birds will enjoy a hearty breakfast in the morning. As for the deer…well, a bag of carrots has been acquired, cut into deer bite-sized pieces and spread around the top of the garden. Our feathered and furred friends will eat well on the first day of the new month!