We had a shrew and later a hedgehog foraging under the bird feeders yesterday and this afternoon – on a day when it never stopped raining – a wood mouse was feeding on the spilt sunflower seeds and the crumbs of fat ball.
It ran off and vanished down a hole in the middle of the lawn. There must be hidden world beneath the turf; yesterday a shrew popped underground via another hole in its restless search for food.
We’ve guessed during the last month or two that a pair of bullfinches must have a nest nearby. We used to see them sitting opposite each other on the sunflower hearts feeder and I suspected that they were gathering seed to feed their young. Bullfinches feed their young on regurgitated seeds which they store in the bullfinch equivalent of a hamster’s cheek pouches.
Today a bullfinch fledgling was sitting on the washing line, begging for food. The adult male, on a perch on the feeder, appeared to be de-husking sunflower hearts and storing them in his pouches. He then flew over to the washing line and fed them to the fledgling.
The fledgling looked rather dull, perhaps a little duller than the female but it lacked her dark cap.
8.00 a.m.: A sparrowhawk flies over the rooftops followed by a loose flock of smaller birds, which appear to be mobbing it. The sparrowhawk swoops down on one of them, but misses out on its breakfast.
On the sunflower heart feeders, a pair of bullfinches are joined by a siskin.
8.45 a.m.: A buzzard circles over farmland beyond the houses. Buzzards are such regulars now but because I first got familiar with them in the Lake District and on Speyside, at a time when they were far less common than they are today, they still conjure up a feeling of wild places for me. It’s great to be able to sit on the sofa with a mug of tea after breakfast and see one soaring in the distance.
We had a single clump of frogspawn in the pond yesterday; today there are thirteen.
Dewsbury station, 9.45 a.m., 69°F, 20°C: As we wait for our train on platform 2, the south-east facing stone embankment is a sun trap this morning. A fresh looking peacock butterfly basks on the wall. Our first large whites, two of them, flutter over the blossoming shrubs. House sparrows chirrup and argue in the cover of the neatly trimmed laurel. A female blackbird disappears into a dense growth of ivy. She doesn’t seem to be plucking at berries so perhaps she has a nest hidden there. A wren sings lustily from the shrubs. Above, a grey squirrel climbs a eucalyptus, its grey green foliage contrasts with a clear, deep blue sky.
Scarborough train, Church Fenton, 10.25 a.m.: The floods have subsided but some of the fields in the Vale of York are still sodden; three lapwings stand at the edge of a pool in a ploughed field. I glimpse a llama as we pass a farm.
In woodlands near Malton wood anemone is still in flower; there are pale yellow patches of primroses on the embankment; a few bluebells are starting to show and there’s lots of dogs mercury.
A heron stands in a marshy field; a buzzard flies over the Vale of Pickering. Cloud is building as we head to the coast.
1.35 p.m., 45°F, 8°C, dropping cooler as it clouds over: Two bullfinches make a thorough job of nibbling the blossom buds on a small tree that overhangs the path in a quiet side valley in the woodland at Peasholm Park. I say quiet but a chaffinch sings an emphatically chirpy song, and a chiff-chaff is calling. Wood pigeon and great tit join in occasionally.
2.35 p.m., 50°F, 10°C, breeze from west north-west: A redshank sits out the high tide, perching on a boulder by the sea wall on Marine Drive, keeping its reddish bill tucked under its wing
THE BIRD FEEDERS have been so busy recently. Not only do we have the cock Pheasant strutting up the garden every morning, he’s also accompanied by a growing harem of hen Pheasants. Whether he leads them into the garden or whether he tags along with them is debatable.
He was the first bird that we’ve seen drinking from the new bird bath and apart from him we’ve spotted only one Goldfinch perching on the rim, although we didn’t actually see it drink.
For much of today there have been up to a dozen Goldfinches feeding, often joined by Bullfinches (2 males, 1 female) and more occasionally by Greenfinches (3).
A female Chaffinch skulks around below, picking up spilt grain but Barbara spotted it briefly visiting the feeder during a quiet spell at breakfast-time. I don’t remember ever having seen one on the hanging feeders but the type that we’re using now have accessible perches (plastic rings at each hole) and they’re very close to the hedge which the Chaffinch perches in so it’s surprising that we don’t see it going directly to the feeder more often.
It’s the RSPB garden bird-watch this weekend, so we’re hoping that all these colourful finches will turn up to be counted during the allotted hour.
Another bird that uses the feeders infrequently and with difficulty is the Robin. It returned several times to the fat-ball feeder.
There were two Robins in the hedge by the feeders this afternoon, one soon chasing off the other.
Note; My drawings today are from sketches I’ve made over the years, some going back to the early days of this diary, a decade ago. Screen resolutions and average bandwidths were so different then, so if I could get a sketch, like the little one of the Bullfinch down to 1 kilobyte, I thought I was doing well. Seeing these on my latest computer I’m surprised how flat and dotty those early GIF (graphic image files) are. They used to look just about acceptable but I’d do things differently today.