The beginning of this year has been a busy one and I’ve been distracted and often frustrated by the myriad of mostly mundane issues involved in moving home, but it’s all done and dusted now and at last I can get back to more enjoyable activities. I haven’t moved far and I know my new location is going to be the perfect base from which to carry on discovering more about the rich and varied habitats and wildlife of this part of North Wales.
A good few of my posts have related to the nature reserve of Bryn Euryn, the big bulky hill around whose base much of Rhos on Sea is built and my new home, on its eastern slope couldn’t have put me into closer contact with it. The beginning of a public footpath leading up onto the Bryn’s Woodland Trail is within a few metres of the entrance to the apartment block I live in now.
The views from the living room of my top-floor flat, although partially screened by trees, are ones I have photographed many times, albeit from higher up on the hilltop and then from the kitchen window the steeply rising wooded hillside is just a few metres away. Thanks to residents on the ground floor who put food out for the birds, I have a wonderful eye-level view of an array of woodland birds making the most of the food on offer.
There are almost always wood pigeons somewhere close by, most often perched up high surveying the busy little birds flitting about below. Pigeons nest pretty much all year round and on several occasions in the past weeks I have seen birds carrying sticks, probably for running repairs.
Sometimes they descend from their lofty perches allowing a closer look at their lovely softly-shaded plumage.
Other larger birds I see on a regular basis are a pair of crows and a pair of magpies, who also strut around on the lawn and there have been a few glimpses of jays.
Where there is food on offer then there are bound to be opportunistic grey squirrels, there are several that scamper about amongst the trees here on the woodland edge. They generally get a bad press, but I love watching them, they are entertaining and clever and you have to admire their incredible agility. They are rather photogenic too.
There are always blackbirds of course and recently both males and females have become more territorial. Males are singing and there are many chases amongst those that arrive for food; first arrivals see off those that may follow. I have no idea which, if any, are regular visitors, particularly since I watched the piece on TV about the Holt Blackbird Project, where the blackbirds are fitted with different combinations of coloured leg tags and residents monitor their comings and goings. To quote from the published results: One of the really incredible outcomes of the project is an understanding of the sheer number of birds that use the garden during the breeding season. The greatest number of individuals recorded on one day was 74, and even then there were some unringed birds still present. So, next time you see ‘your’ pair of Blackbirds in the garden, remember that they may not be exactly who you think they are! Who knew? I always knew there were a good few of them around, but as you only really see them singly or in twos or threes when they’re establishing territory, those numbers seem incredible. I have given a link to the article about the project, which makes fascinating reading.
There are thrushes about too, or at least one anyway. Back in early January I heard one singing early one morning from a tree in the front grounds, when it was barely light. I thought it was most likely to be a mistle thrush as they are early nesters, but I am not at all sure and was even less sure when I heard more singing at 7.25am in the morning a week later, this time at the back of the building and looked out of the bedroom window to see him singing away illuminated by a nearby security light.
Robins have been singing for a few weeks now too and as with the blackbirds, there is no peace for those that venture in for food; as soon as one perches another is almost sure to swoop in and there are frequent chases through the vegetation.
So far, the finches I have seen here have been goldfinches and chaffinches, but on Tuesday a lovely female bullfinch was here for a while. I was expecting to see a male with her, but alas no sign of one, so perhaps it was a young one that hasn’t got a mate yet.
There are no house sparrows and I miss their noisy chirping and cheeping, and no starlings either, but I still have contact with both when I go back down the hill to visit my daughter. There are dunnocks though. Male dunnocks are singing now too.
Of the frequent visitors, Blue tits are the most numerous and there can be several here at any one time. They seem to have an orderly queuing system, each one taking food then taking leave or sometimes carrying it back to a nearby branch to eat it. There are more feeders in the garden next door and there is much commuting back and forth.
There are only ever two Great tits present at any one time, a male and a female. They have a more business-like approach to their feeding and although they make regular visits, they do not hang around once they have what they came for.
There are one, or perhaps two delightful little Coal tits too. Their approach in to the feeding site is more discreet than that of the Blue tits, made via the lower twiggy branches of the shrubby trees. They are also quick to leave once they have taken food.
A small flock of glorious Long-tailed tits flutter in intermittently as they make their rounds, but I haven’t managed to photograph them here yet.
One morning I looked out of the window and saw a bird that I didn’t immediately recognise, although it did look a bit thrush-like. I ran to get my camera and got just one image, through the glass, that I hoped would help with my identification. I had a feeling it was a redwing, but I hadn’t seen one for some years and couldn’t quite make the image I had fit with those in my books. I thought then maybe it was a sparrowhawk- right place, similar stance on the branch…? Anyway, I have been put right by fellow blogger Tony, who despite the not-so-brilliant quality of the image, immediately spotted it was indeed a redwing! I’m delighted – it’s another species to add to my list and to look out for again and I’m sure a sparrowhawk will be along any time soon.
Tuesday this week (the day I saw the bullfinch) was a glorious sunny day and a few of the birds took advantage of the warmth to take brief respite from their hectic feeding schedules to sit in the sunshine. I looked across to the laurel hedge and spotted a bird nestled into a small space framed by leaves. My eye was drawn by its pale-coloured breast, but it wasn’t until I looked through the camera lens that it occurred to me it was a blackcap, a female.
She stayed around for a good few minutes, then moved across to an evergreen shrub in the neighbouring garden for a while before flying off. I expected to see a male somewhere near her, but as with the bullfinch there was no sign of one. More about blackcaps here.
Thursday morning was again gloriously sunny and a much warmer day too and a few minutes spent watching the usual comings and goings brought forth two more additions to my list. Firstly a glimpse of a greater spotted woodpecker high up in a tree, half-hiding behind a branch, then even more excitingly a tiny goldcrest. I was fairly sure I’d seen one here flitting about in the vegetation on a couple of occasions previously, and I stopped to watch one on my walk on Tuesday, but this was a really good, though brief sighting that confirmed my previous sightings weren’t just wishful thinking. We have a good number of conifer trees close by, which they like to use as nest sites, so I’m hoping to see more.