At the end of February going into the beginning of March, many parts of the UK were experiencing a big freeze as “The Beast from the East” paid a visit. Whilst most of the country was gripped by the snow and ice, here in mid-Sussex we barely had a dusting of snow despite the temperatures getting to -9 at times. This cold snap however did encourage a few new visitors to our little Sussex garden which helped to lift my disappointment at the lack of snow.
Some people get excited about wetland birds, some birds of prey, some those rare species that only arrive for brief visits to the UK, but to me our woodland and garden species are some of the most beautiful and fascinating. Perhaps it is because of the thrill of being able to watch them in the garden, or the fact that they become accustomed to having me around and allow me to get close to observe them, whatever the reason, getting to watch them go about their daily business is something that I will never tire of.
Now that the cold snap has passed (although another possible blast is forecast for this coming weekend) many of those new visitors have chosen to stay with us. My most notable and exciting is the family of 6 Long-tailed tits that have made our garden feeders their local cafe and have been visiting on a daily basis.
The Long-tailed tit, Aegithalos caudatus, is one of my favourite UK bird species, there is just something about these endearing little creatures. Sometimes nicknamed the flying teaspoon because of their tiny bodies and extra long tail, they also have many old folk names such as “Hedge Mumruffin”, “Jack-in-a-bottle” and “Long-tailed Chittering”.
Another garden ‘tick’ is the Great Spotted Woodpecker, Dendrocopos major. We have had one male visiting us for a long time now but this week I had the pleasure of watching two on the feeders at one time. It seems that we now also have a female who is using our feeders too which is great news. The adult male Great Spotted Woodpecker has a bright red patch on the nape behind the head, whereas the female has no red on her head at all. Juvenile’s have a red forehead or cap which will change to black as they moult their adult plumage in the autumn.
With all the extra bird food that has been around over the last couple of weeks in the bid to keep the Long-tailed tits in residence, we have also attracted the attentions of a couple of voles, one Field Vole and one Bank Vole. Unfortunately I have been unable to catch them properly with the camera so far but I have a few tricks up my sleeve for getting photos of them which I will be sharing on my next blog post as I try out some technology!
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