Tag: Bullfinch

Big Garden Birdwatch

by on Feb.01, 2010, under Birdwatching, Surveys

We had a leisurely hour of birdwatching yesterday morning.  With all of the feeders stocked with top class bird food from Poltross, and a bacon and egg butty and a mug of coffee in hand, we settled down into our respective positions on either side of the kitchen.  With commentary on the dismantling of Andy Murray in the background, binoculars were trained on the feeders, the ground, the shrubbery and the Ash tree.  After a slow start, things began to gather pace and we finished with 76 birds of 20 species;

Collared Dove 4

Wood Pigeon 2

Jackdaw 1

Carrion Crow 1

House Sparrow 1

Starling 7

Blue Tit 2

Great Tit 3

Coal Tit 7

Willow Tit 2

Long-tailed Tit 3

Chaffinch 14

Greenfinch 5

Goldfinch 2

Bullfinch 4

Goldcrest 1

Robin 6

Dunnock 2

Blackbird 5

Redwing 4

There were a few absentees as well, all seen regularly in the days leading up to the Big Garden Birdwatch;


Great Spotted Woodpecker



Maybe 25 species in 1hr is a target to aim for in our garden next year.

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All is quiet

by on Jan.01, 2010, under Choppington Woods, Photography

The world around us was cloaked in white as we walked home from The Swan early this morning.  A Tawny Owl was calling from the woods, but there was little other sound – muffled as it was by the snow.  By the time we woke up, there was a lot more snow than there had been when we finally fell into bed.  To shake off the lingering after-effects of Old Year’s Night we decided to take a walk around Choppington Woods, wrapped up warm and armed with a camera.  Photography, rather than birdwatching was our main aim, and that was fortunate as there were a lot more birds in our garden than we encountered on the walk; Great, Blue, Coal and Willow Tits, Greenfinch, Chaffinch and Bullfinch, Robin, Wren, Dunnock and Blackbird were around the feeders and, bird of the day, a Common Buzzard flying north over our allotment.  Snow can make a relatively mundane landscape into a photogenic delight, but exposure calculations can be tricky and we spent a lot of time checking compositions and looking for obvious ‘lead-in’ lines.  As we made our way back towards home 350 Pink-footed Geese flew south overhead.  Moving ahead of more wintry weather maybe?

The view from our patio 01/01/2010

The view from our patio 01/01/2010

Willowburn Pasture and a frozen flood

Willowburn Pasture and a frozen flood

Following in a Moorhen's footsteps

Following in a Moorhen's footsteps

Choppington Woods pond from the new boardwalk

Choppington Woods pond from the new boardwalk

Sarah scanning the trees

Sarah scanning the trees

Footpath and fence along the Willow Water

Footpath and fence along the Willow Water

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A change in the weather

by on Dec.29, 2009, under Birdwatching, Choppington Woods, Family and friends

The feeders in our garden have been busier in the last couple of days than at any time during this winter.  No less than 6 Blackbirds have taken up residence, 3 or 4 Robins are posturing and defending territories, a steady stream of Blue, Great and Coal Tits, along with our 2 regular Willow Tits, are emptying the feeders rapidly and a flock of 8 Long-tailed Tits are putting in daily appearances.  Chaffinch numbers are way down on previous winters, but Greenfinches are now almost ever-present during daylight hours and three pairs of Bullfinches are never far away.  It’s interesting that, even on a very short-distance scale, there’s such a noticeable movement of birds from their ‘normal’ habitat (Choppington Woods) to the gardens around the edge of the woods whenever the weather turns colder.  Birdwatching doesn’t get any easier than sitting in the kitchen, glass of port in one hand and a slice of Christmas cake in the other 🙂

First thing this morning everything was frozen solid again.  However, by lunchtime when Martin took Dad to the railway station there was a noticeable thaw – even though the thermometer was showing the temperature having only just crept above freezing.  Then it started to rain and most of the remaining patches of ice and snow vanished.  The birds were still around in the numbers of recent days though and, if the weather forecasts are anything to go by, we’re in for some more very hard winter weather at the end of this year and the start of the new one.  Wrap up warm.

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Not quite what I had in mind

by on Dec.17, 2009, under Birdwatching, Choppington Woods, Northumberland

The hoped-for wintry weather did make an appearance this morning.  As I sat in a school governor’s meeting, reviewing all of the school’s policy documents (you have no idea…), a series of snow showers passed over – each one depositing a thin white layer on the ground outside.  Almost as soon as it had settled it thawed, so the picturesque landscape didn’t materialise.  Back at home just after lunchtime and the sky was getting darker.  As the birds attempted to consume eight feeders worth of food in a day (they fell just short) they were joined by two birds that often pause briefly in our garden, as they work their way along the edge of Choppington Woods, but rarely stay.  That all changed today though as two Jays decided to assault the feeders and then start tucking into the windfall apples that are still lying beneath the tree.  They were joined by a couple of stunning male Bullfinches as well.  Sadly, photography wasn’t an option.  Partly because it was incredibly dark for early afternoon, but also because having hailstones the size of garden peas bouncing off your head isn’t much fun 🙁

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The little fir tree

by on Dec.14, 2009, under Birdwatching, Choppington Woods, Northumberland

As Chair of Governors at our local First School, I had an invitation to attend the Christmas production this afternoon.  It was a heartwarming tale of a little fir tree who was teased for being so small but eventually found his place as a Christmas tree in a children’s hospital.  The characters included several fir trees, angels, snowflakes, raindrops, sunbeams, doctors, nurses, foxes, owls, rabbits and a woodcutter…as well as kings, shepherds, Mary and Joseph.

Which brings us nicely to the little fir tree on our patio.  I haven’t had as much time to work on my bonsai display as I would have liked this year (one of the perils of running your own business…) so most of the trees have developed dense, lush foliage.  I have been regularly trimming any over long shoots so they’re all still quite compact.  The display sits midway between six feeders in the apple tree and two feeders on the garden wall, so it’s a regular perch for many of the birds that are visiting.  As the weather has turned towards wintry, the number of birds in the garden has increased to the point where it’s almost impossible to watch everything that’s going on.  Sarah was at home this morning and we spent a little while just watching the comings and goings.  The highlight was two Willow Tits together but there were 15+ Coal Tits, 5 or 6 Bullfinches, 10 Chaffinches, 4 House Sparrows, 4 Greenfinches, a couple of Goldfinches and little groups of Blue and Great Tits.  Birdwatching begins at home…and once we get some cold, frosty or snowy weather, my bonsai display should produce some excellent photo opportunities as well.

A cold, wet mid-December night might not seem that promising in terms of wildlife but we had something new for the garden about an hour ago when a Winter Moth Operophtera brumata landed on the outside of the kitchen window.  Our little southeast Northumberland garden now has records of about 250 different species of moth.  It helps that there’s a 76ha woodland behind us though.

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Out with the old…

by on Dec.01, 2009, under Birdwatching, Northumberland

OK, it isn’t 2010 just yet but the NEWT website has been replaced by a new(er) one.

The only big cosmetic change is the blog.  We’ve opted for a contemporary look, and it adds a lot of functionality that we didn’t have access to previously.  Embedding images and video clips is just one of those functions, so we’re going to make the most of that whenever the opportunity arises.

Much of the last few weeks has been spent at my desk, writing content for the website and checking links etc whenever Daniel has uploaded a new set of changes. 

The NEWT office window bird

The NEWT office window bird

This means that most of my birdwatching has been focussed on one small section of southeast Northumberland; our back garden with it’s apple and ash trees, tangles of bramble, ‘wild’ allotment and ever-growing selection of bird feeders.  Jays, Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Bullfinches, Willow Tits, Redwings and Fieldfares have all visited in the last few days and the cold spell we’re in currently is accelerating the bird visits to the garden.  I still keep having this dream about Siberian Accentor

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