Goldfinches

View from Charlotte's
View from Charlotte’s Ice Cream Parlour, Whitley, on Monday.

We’ve recently started feeding the birds again after taking a break over the summer. This was partly to reseed the bare patch in the lawn trampled by the pheasants that had spent so long pacing about in tight circles below the feeders, pecking at the spilt sunflower hearts but also because two or three small mounds of earth had appeared at the edge of the lawn.

We thought that this might be a sign that brown rats were moving in but a neighbour has since told me that at that time there was a lot of mole activity in his garden, which is the most likely explanation as there were only piles of soil but no sign of any entrance holes.

Today the feeders were visited by coal tits, blue tits, great tits, nuthatch and greenfinch but outnumbering all of them were goldfinches. At one stage all eight perches on the feeders were occupied by them, with another ten on the ground below and six or seven waiting their turn in the branches of the crab apple.

Pigeon Food Pyramid

At breakfast time, a loose flock of wood pigeons flew over the house, followed later by a grey heron, which appeared to be struggling to clear our roof.

Top Predator

Calder & Hebble Navigation at the Strands, Horbury Bridge.

sparrowhawkThis evening down by the canal, a sparrowhawk perched briefly in a tree then flew off on its rounds. I suspect that a sparrowhawk killed the pigeon that we found on our back lawn a few days ago. It’s not going to be short of prey with so many wood pigeons about.

The Chocolate Brown Sketchbook

AFTER THE appropriately aubergine-coloured sketchbook that I used for our week in Greece, I’m starting a new pocket-sized sketchbook for urban excursions. At A6, about 4 x 6 inches, it’s no bigger than a chunky bar of chocolate and it has a chocolate-coloured banana paper cover.

A6 Pink Pig sketchbook

It’s literally a pocket-sized sketchbook and I’m trying to decide what would be the most portable form of colour to go with it.

This morning I took an ArtPen tin loaded with a selection of a dozen watercolour crayons but, for a subject like this anyway, they don’t work as well as watercolours. I try to mix an approximation for the grey of the sky by shading it with the lightest blue and ochre that my small selection of crayons allow.

I don’t find crayons anywhere near as versatile as watercolours. With watercolours you can add the smallest speck of ochre, crimson or blue to a grey mix to get the colour you’re after. You can then add water to get the tone or gradation of tones that you need.

Birdstrike

‘PTOMPH!

It’s happened again; a Goldfinch hits the patio windows and lies senseless on the patio. Luckily by the time we’ve had breakfast it has gradually recovered, looked around and, though we didn’t see it go, flown off.

In the afternoon it’s a Wood Pigeon that hits the window, leaving a dusty outline of its wingspan and a powder puff impression of it’s breast. The Wood Pigeons do this fairly regularly but never seem to come to any harm.

The photograph is the impression of a bird that hit the patio windows 6 weeks ago. You can even see an eye-ring in this picture. It might have been another pigeon but the eye-ring reminds me of a Sparrowhawk.

On the morning that this appeared a smaller impression, perhaps a Goldfinch appeared on the other window.

When you see the two impressions together it looks to me as if both birds hit the window together, the hawk chasing the finch.

In this over-enhanced version you can speculate that the Goldfinch had been on the feeder and the Sparrowhawk had swooped over the hedge. A moment of drama captured in feather impressions.

Four Finches

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.

Goldfinch

8 a.m.: ‘TOCK! Tock!’

Two knocks on the windows and one goldfinch is lying stunned on the patio. I guess that a sparrowhawk has just raided the garden. A small flock of goldfinches is flying off with buoyant, bouncy flight over the rooftops.

At first it seems as if it has been killed instantly by the impact but I start wondering whether it is still breathing. Perhaps its just that its tail is moving in the squally wind.

I slide back the patio doors and reach out and put it upright so that its wing isn’t splayed out. It keeps its position but still with no obvious signs of life.

As a shower of sleety rain starts, I reach out again to put it in a dry spot beneath the patio table. Now it’s looking like a stunned sportsman, hunched with head down at the edge of the playing field in recovery position.

Twenty or thirty minutes later it is sitting on the spot, looking stunned and turning its head, as if looking at the patio windows and wondering what hit it. No sign of a broken neck or wing and its sitting symmetrically, suggesting that it hasn’t broken a leg either.

Forty minutes later it has gone but Barbara sees a single goldfinch on the nut feeder. It appears to have made a full recovery.