Birdy Benefits of the Beast from the East

Well if February was freezing, March so far has been all about the snow. The so called Beast from the East weather front certainly dumped a whole lot of snow on us in Malvern. I couldn’t get to work on Thursday or Friday due to the drifting snow, so have spent much of the last few days birdwatching in the garden. The upside of all this snow is that it has brought lots of birds in from the fields looking for food. In particular, the Beast from the East has brought us fieldfares and redwings – lots of them!

But first surprise was to find a very large gull on the bird table. We see them flying overhead quite a bit, but this was the first time I’d seen one actually land in the garden. I’ve nothing against gulls, but I don’t think I can afford the seed bill if they start regularly hoovering up the bird food!

When the snow arrived at the end of last week, I was hopeful we might get a fieldfare or two, but there was a whole flock of them. Of course being wilful, they seemed to sense that I was the one on the street desperate for a photo, so stayed mainly just out of photo range in the neighbours’ gardens. But eventually a couple graciously honoured our garden. This first one looked distinctly unimpressed by the weather though and sat hunched in the bush with snow settling on him.

He did however discover some berries we’d got left so I could get a few more attractive photos, although unfortunately these had to be taken through our grubby windows so aren’t as sharp as I would have liked, but better than nothing.

Having bagged a few fieldfare photos, I then started to wish there were some redwings around as well. Right on cue a small flock of these turned up too. (Maybe I should have wished for a Golden Eagle or a hummingbird?) Again it took me and Chris a few attempts stalking around the garden to get some half decent shots, but persistence paid off in the end.

Chris took my favourite photo of the whole weekend – this grumpy, fluffed up redwing on the fence.

Not to be outshone by his bigger and showier cousins, our resident song thrush was a frequent visitor this weekend too. Counting the blackbirds too, that’s 4 members of the thrush family in one weekend. Not bad.

I would have been quite happy with all of the above, but the goldfinches decided finally that they would like to spend some quality time in our garden. There were 4 in total, although I never managed to get more than 2 in one shot. Absolutely beautiful birds, I’ve always loved goldfinches.

I read on Twitter that goldcrests sometimes come into gardens when it’s snowy and again much to my amazement one appeared in the buddleia bush. Only the second time we’ve seen one on our garden. Sadly I was too slow to get a shot of it, he was just too quick. But Chris came back from a walk in the local wood with this beautiful photo of a goldcrest in the snow – a perfect Christmas card shot!

So March has come in like a lion, let’s hope it goes out like a lamb. All this snow and birdlife has been lovely, but I’m starting to long for butterflies and bees and moths – roll on spring!

30 Days Wild – Day 6 – A Bracing Day

It’s day 6 of 30 Days Wild and a wet and windy one it is too. The car is in for its MOT so I can’t really head off to find anywhere drier either! By the time I’d trudged home from the garage I was well and truly braced! There didn’t initially seem much scope for wildness today, until I considered that the weather itself was more than wild enough to be the focus of today’s activities.

I don’t have an anemometer to measure wind speed, but the BBC weather app (an app I do actually use regularly) reckoned there were gusts of up to 48mph in our area. Our weather vane thingy was certainly going like the clappers. After our photographer friend Anna stayed last week, Chris had been having a go with different settings on the camera. So in an unusually bold move for me, I thought I’d have a go off the auto setting and copied his idea of taking a photo of the weather vane on a  really slow shutter speed to capture the movement. (Of course I could have just made a short video!) Anyway I was quite pleased by the blurring effect as the wheels whirred round.

By mistake I then tried taking a photo of raindrops in a dish with the same shutter speed – the effect in this case was to make the water look sort of lumpy. (It reminded me of that shot in one of the Jurassic films where you see water in a cup shake as the T. rex approaches).

It intermittently chucked it down then drizzled for much of the morning. The thermometer said it was 12C, but it felt much colder so I retreated inside for a bit. I’m still working through the photos from the bioblitz, so it was a good excuse to sit on the sofa and carry on with them.

By the afternoon the sun had come out but it was still helluva windy. So much so that our recycling bin blew over – surprising since it was heavily weighted down with wine bottles, which were now rolling about the drive! (can’t fool the neighbours that I’m a teetotaller now)

The sky had gradually brightened during the day; by the afternoon the blanket of grey had been replaced by blue skies with picture perfect fluffy white clouds.

The buddleias in our garden were still thrashing about in wind though.

Bumblebees that had come out now the sun was shining were valiantly clinging to the red valerian. How something so small doesn’t just get battered to death in winds this strong amazes me.

The bird feeders were all bobbing about like mad, but it didn’t stop the sparrows who hung on for dear life, as if they were on a crazy roller coaster ride.


In the meantime from the relative calm of the sofa, I’ve now managed to ID (with a lot of help from people on Facebook, Twitter and iSpot) about 70 species from the bioblitz and loaded up 56 of them onto iRecord. Still loads of photos to go through, so final tally a way off yet. This little beauty of a hoverfly was one of the highlights so far – Eupeodes luniger.

The wind and rain may be frustrating in some ways, but like most things, you can’t appreciate the good without the bad.  It will make the next sunny calm June day all the more enjoyable.