Saturday, 20 July 2013

It's been a while

It has been fairly quiet around the garden of late probably because I've stopped putting out so much food. This isn't deliberate cruelty but because the minute I put anything out it is devoured by rapacious jackdaws and I'm getting fed up of that.

There have been other reasons, as the photo to the right indicates. I was lucky to get this - I was washing some dishes and spotted this sparrowhawk sitting up on a neighbour's chimney stack quietly watching over the gardens. That would explain the almost complete silence that had fallen around the place as well. I took this from the back door at the far end of a zoom lens and have cropped it quite severely for posting here.

Not putting out food, especially set balls,seems to have been enough to stop visits from teh Great Spotted Woodpecker that had been coming around. That's a shame but, on the other hand, the jackdaws weren't leaving it any food anyway.

On the other hand, a couple of weeks ago I was out in the garden and heard a racket of gulls overhead. Like an idiot I didn't look up for a while to see what was going on. The photo to the left was a bit of a grab shot and has also been cropped quite severely for posting.

The noise was from seagulls mobbing a common buzzard which coasted around for a while before flying off in search of a quieter life.

It is nice that the buzzards are still around but they are nowhere near as frequent visitors as in the last couple of years.

Also noticeable has been an absence of wasps when I've been sitting out. This is due, I suppose, to a cold wet summer last year and a false spring followed by a late chill this year. I can't say I'm complaining but it has been noticeable enough to remark upon.

Thursday, 6 June 2013


Activity around the bird feeders outside my office window has been hectic and messy. I've had a lot of starling fledglings there and it has been interesting to see how, over just a few days, they go from being fed by their parents to gorging on the birdfeeders themselves. The woodpecker has also been a regular visitor both to our feeder and also to a couple of local telegraph poles. I noticed it taking quantities of suet away in its beak so I'm guessing their is a nest somewhere relatively nearby too.

I'm happy to say that a couple of greenfinches came through. Just three or four years ago greenfinches and chaffinches were never away from the feeders but their numbers noticeably dropped off to nil after a couple of cold winters. The birds didn't stay long but it was heartening that they appeared at all.

Finally, a familiar keening in the clear blue sky indicated not one but two buzzards wheeling overhead. This is great news.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013


I just looked up from a mug of tea to see a great spotted woodpecker at a bird feeder. I tried for a grab shot but the woodpecker was chased off by starlings. Hopefully it will be back now that it knows food is here.

updated - some photos of the woodpecker added below

Sunday, 26 May 2013


I said that I had some snaps of the starlings at the bird feeder and a couple are below. They don't half make a mess but the fledglings are cute.

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Buzzard again

Buzzard over Corstorphine Hill
OK, so it is at the far end of a zoom lens and magnified well beyond sharpness, however it is undoubtedly a buzzard soaring high over Corstorphine Hill this morning.

This time last year there were four or five of them displaying (and on one memorable occasion seven although a couple of those were visitors and only visible with binoculars looking high in the north east) but it is a start. 

I miss hearing their calls on the air, especially on days like today with blue skies and warm air.

I haven't seen any foxes around the garden recently but I know they are about because things move overnight. I replaced two coconut shells filled with fat and seeds yesterday and put the discarded ones on the ground for ground feeding birds to peck the remains from. This morning the one with most in had disappeared completely. Hopefully this warm weather will last and there'll be more visitors.

Friday, 24 May 2013


The birdfeeders were taken over by starlings today who made right gluttons of themselves. I'll put up some pics later but for now it is enough to say that I was quite pleased to see them. When I was growing up starlings were ubiquitous but of late their numbers have been dropping. Two of the starlings were fledglings so there was a lot of family squabbling going on.

I'm pretty sure that late this afternoon I spotted a buzzard quite high over Corstorphine Hill. I hpe so because I have neither seen nor heard them for several weeks and was fearing that they either hadn't survived the winter or had moved on or had been disturbed.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Rusty spring

The rain has rained relentlessly for the past few days and it is a pleasure to see the barometer, to my left as I write, slowly rising to the grand heights of "unsettled". Bird life in the garden remains at a consistent, if low, level with plenty of passing dunnock, house sparrows and tits. Blackbirds have been singing out too although at no time have I thought there to be an overabundance of bird life and I have seen no finches at all.

Sadly, I have not heard or seen the buzzards either even on the days when the sun has shone and the skies have been blue. Nor have I noticed any obvious signs of fox lately and usually they are as common as cats.

Anyway, here are four pictures of regular visitors in the last few days.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Swiftly now...

Not a great deal happening in the garden beyond the norm and the usual rapid emptying of the peanut feeder by the local jackdaws.

I did notice, though, that we have swallows and swifts overflying. Hoorah!

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Spring at last

Something like warmth has returned to Edinburgh although even as I type this at 10.13 on a May morning I am wearing a fleece. There is blossom emerging on my Katy apple tree and beginning to show on its neighbouring Cox's Orange Red. The former should have fruit to eat in September and the latter in October. Our climbing hydrangea seems to have turned green overnight and the lawn has had its first cut.

Bird life remains disappointingly scant although as ever I can hear it around. A couple of substantial trees have been cut down in the gardens behind us and one of those trees used to hold a lot of nests. We do have a raven come round - one of the zoo colony I think and ringed. Also we have jackdaws and a magpie that have learned to use feeders designed for small birds.

More concerningly, I don't know what has happened to the Corstorphine Hill buzzards. Even when I cant see them I can usually hear them and I haven't heard them for 4 to 6 weeks now.

Monday, 8 April 2013

All your life, you were only waiting

Plenty of activity at the feeder although by a relatively small number of individual birds. Because of where it is though I do have opportunity to photograph it from time to time.

I rather like this one - a juvenile blackbird getting stuck into suet and mealworms. Click to enlarge

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Big softie

After my recent observations of the lonely robin I was pathetically pleased this morning to see a pair of robins flying around. Spring is in the air!

The half coconut with suet at the back has now had attention from
  • Robin
  • Blue Tit
  • Great Tit
  • Coal Tit
  • Longtailed Tit
Some more pics to follow soon

Friday, 5 April 2013

More Tits

I was delighted to see another occasional visitor back today. We sometimes get long-tailed tits flittering around the hedge at the back of the garden and I was pleased to see one hanging around today. Obligingly it stayed still long enough for some initial pics. and only flew away when a great tit came around and bullied it. Hopefully there are more visits to come.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Blue Tits

Word is obviously getting around the avian community that there is a chunk of fat in a coconut shell at the back of our garden. Coal Tits, Great Tits and Blue Tits were at it today. Of the three the great Tit was the most timid - a quick peck then a rapid getaway.

By contrast this blue tit was around for a while and seemed to feel fairly secure despite the neighbour's lawn mower being active for the first time this year.

It is nice to see some activity at last. Elsewhere there were several Dunnocks flittering around and the lonely robin was still singing its heart out looking for a mate.

Gulls and Jackdaws are still around as are magpies and blackbirds. I can't spend the whole day looking out the window of course but I didn't see anything else of interest flitting around.

Unfortunately we still have plenty of cats wandering around which doesn't help. 

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Taking the Rough With the Smooth.

Mixed fortunes in the garden today. First the downside - a magpie in the apple tree chewing on something sinewy which was either a new chick or possibly the contents of an unhatched egg. Either way it was raw and fresh.

More positively, I was pleased to see coal tits around again, taking advantage of the free food on offer. One of them obligingly held still long enough for the pics below.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013


The garden is a little odd at present - the snow has mostly gone, although it lingers on the Pentlands, but it remains chilly. Even so the climbing honeysuckle and the apple trees are all about to blossom.  I had hoped to be able to photograph some pink apple blossom in the snow but that looks unlikely now.

And the bird life, though still quiet, is picking up a little. Over breakfast this morning I watched a pair of coal tits whizzing around and took pleasure that it was a pair with the promise of a clutch of little coal tits later in the year. And throughout the day a bold robin was singing its heart out from the old telephone wires, obviously llooking for a mate.

Last night as I came in from the office quite late I'm fairly sure that I heard at least one and probably two owls but they weren't visible in the darkness.

Friday, 29 March 2013

Chattering Jenny

Although I have been bemoaning the absence of birds in the garden I also know that they are around. I work in a home-office in the garden and though I haven't see many birds lately I can hear them well enough, singing from the hedges.

Yesterday evening as I came out of the office door I heard a rustle and a chattering behind me and slowly turned to see a wren chittering around deep in the hedge, visible mainly in silhouette but audible enough. I was pleased to see it - despite their common-ness they only show themselves rarely in the garden and I haven't seen one here for a while.

Hopefully the wren will be first of many more. A garden behind us had a large leylandi cut down last week and I think that was where some of the local magpies had their nest. Perhaps fewer magpies will mean more garden birds will show themselves.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Tapping fingers

I'm starting to think the the general absence of birds from the garden is of more interest than those that are there. We are getting the occasional dunnock and blackbird and more pigeons, jackdaws, magpies and gulls, but in nothing like the numbers I would normally expect.

I know that they are around because I can hear them and the bird feeders are being visited because I can see peck marks on the new suet balls, but they are staying out of sight for most of the day. Whether the ongoing wintry weather is causing a problem or the number of predators I don't know. But it isn't what I expected to be writing about when I started up this blog and I'm wondering what has happened.

Friday, 22 February 2013

Back to reality

After three weeks in China I am now back home. Normal service will be resumed here as soon as possible...

Thursday, 31 January 2013

Go East Young Man

This blog will be quite for three weeks while my wife and I travel to China to visit our daughter. See you on the other side and, with luck, there'll be some garden activity to write about by then.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Finger twiddling

Silence has reigned here because there has been so little to write about. Magpies, jackdaws and pigeons have been the main visitors. There have been some blackbirds around, the odd dunnock and the occasional blue tit.

It would be classic British understatement I suppose to say that this is disappointing but there we are.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Snow Show

We had a couple of inches of snow last night with an attempt at fresh powder this morning.

I always like fresh snow because in the early morning it shows the tracks of whatever has been wandering around in the night - in our case usually fox trails.

The birdlife remains quiet, although when I went into the back-garden this morning I could hear plenty of small bird activity from a couple of gardens along. I had a temporary flush of bird-feeder rage then just enjoyed the chirruping and cleared snow of the bird feeders.

I have one bird feeder up at the back of the garden which the birds have largely ignored since I put it there and I have been thinking of moving it. This morning it was discovered by a solitary blue tit and a dunnock, though, so maybe it will finally be established. 

Friday, 18 January 2013

Night Visiting

There was something making a noise in one of the gardens in our street last night so I went out just after midnight to check it wasn't in ours. For some reason, habit possibly, I glanced at one of the nut feeders and spotted this mouse feasting away.

I went back inside quickly and grabbed the Leica D-Lux 5 and expected that the mouse would have scarpered but it hadn't and it sat obligingly quietly whicle I snapped a couple of pics. I knew that something was eating the peanuts overnight and I suspected a mouse but it was a surprise to get up close and personal.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Still Quiet

The garden has been quiet these past few days. This could be for a number of reasons - sparrowhawks, cats, magpies... In any event the main visitors have been pigeons and multiple magpies.

Small birds have been noticeable by their absence - the odd blackbird in the hedge at the back, the dunnock in the picture, and a squabbling flock of house sparrows at the feeder briefly.

I'm a little surprised as the weather has been a bit bracing for the past couple of days and I would have expected them to be looking out every food source that they can.

We'll see.

In the meantime as the picture on the right shows, January is definitely here. I snapped this shot of the Pentlands from our front door around lunchtime today. We had snow flurries and a quick blast of hail at one point and over by the hills a pressure inversion.

Having said that, although the skies were threatening it didn't really amount to much. I'm going up to Inverness on Thursday though and I expect the train journey up to be spectacular.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

All a bit quiet

I was away for a few days this week and hence no posts here. If those days were like today, though, there wouldn't have been much to post - magpies and wood pigeons mainly. I know there are plenty of small birds around but they aren't coming here at the moment.

Two of the magpies were squabbling in mid-air though, handbags at dawn style, which was entertaining for a short while. There was also an increasingly uncommon grey squirrel trying to climb the harled walls of the flats opposite, the same flats which have jackdaws preparing a nest site in a chimney pot.

It is worth noting, perhaps, that even though it is only 12th January, there are buds appearing on my Katy and Cox's Orange Red apple trees. Colder weather is threatened though.

Monday, 7 January 2013


I mentioned the other day that recent sparrowhawk activity had happened when I didn't have a camera handy. That changed this morning as I was sorting breakfast for myself and caught movement out of the corner of my eye.

This sparrowhawk sat for about a minute on the roof of our neighbour's garden shed which is over the hedge just outside our kitchen window. Most of the time it was looking the other way but I managed to get a couple of decent shots of which this is one.

It looks well fed which, as I've mentioned before, is a good sign of the health of the general prey population albeit that they made themselves scare this morning. 

Nikon D7000 with AF-S Nikkor 18-200 zoom at 200mm

Sunday, 6 January 2013

When The Levee Breaks

I'm cross-posting this here and on Riding the Waves to Eternity. When the Levee Breaks is a project in which one of my on-line chums Ollie Hulme is involved. They plan to record a version of the old blues classic When The Levee Breaks as a charity single for flood relief in the West Country. Take a look at the page or the associated Facebook page

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Some more old pics.

Another through the kitchen window at the long end of a digital zoom - this fieldfare was one of a flock that hung around one of our apple trees for a while in 2009. Panasonic FZ7
A Devil's Coach Horse beetle (thanks to Jim King for identification). This specimen was out on our front driveway and was lucky not to get trodden on as we walked past. Leica D-Lux5, 2012

This young fox was another that hung around our garden in the sunshine for many days in 2010. Panasonic FZ7

This fox cub was in 2012 on the site where my new shed now stands. I had walked out into the garden to pick up some rubbish and hadn't noticed it lying there chewing a windfall apple. We sat and looked at each other for a while before it wandered off through the gap in the hedge behind it. Shot on my mobile phone at the time - HTC Desire HD.
Another frog, this one from 2010. I took this on an earlier mobile phone - a T-Mobile G1 - which I had down pretty much on the ground in front of its face. This one gave me a fright at the time - I thought it was a random piece of dog dirt until it started moving...

Walk on the Hill

I took a walk on Corstorphine Hill today. It is something that I like doing but today I also wanted to take a new camera for a walk. It was an afternoon of mixed fortunes - the walk was lovely but it will take me a while to get used to the camera. Also, have you ever deleted the SD card without checking that all of the files have actually transfered to the computer? I have never done that before - until this afternoon. Luckily there weren't many shots lost but one or two of them I wanted to keep.

The hill was relatively quiet in terms of wildlife, possibly because of the number of people about. The highlight for me was four bullfinches, three male and one female, flittering around in the higher branches. Several jays were about I believe but I didn't see them. The buzzards spent a lot of time being mobbed by crows and unfortunately I couldn't get any clean pics of them - although if I had I would probably have inadvertently deleted them :-(

I have a number of cameras though all of my SLRs have been film cameras - three Canons (AT1, A1, T90) and three Contax (139Q, 137MA, RTS). All have their charms. My first digital was a Panasonic Lumix FZ7 which my daughter currently has with her in China. Until now my main digital has been a Leica D-Lux 5 but I have just bought a DSLR - a Nikon D7000 - which I think I'm going to enjoy once I get the hang of it. I know pretty much what to do to get what I want out of the Leica but haven't yet worked it out with the Nikon which, in my defence, I've only had for 24 hours.

Anyway, I've posted below some snaps from the garden. Most were shot through the kitchen window and I've had to play with them a bit in Lightroom. So it goes.

This wee fellow was hopping around on the decking outside of the patio window. We don't see them often - I can only remember three over the years, but I suspect that there are many more around which sensibly stay out of sight.
From 2009. This fox was often to be found lazing in this spot for quite a lot of the day so it obviously felt safe. We've had some work done in the garden recently but I'm sure they'll get used to it. They are a feature of life around here and are quite unconcerned by human presence or activity.
This wee chap was one of brood born and raised under our old greenhouse, now demolished, in 2007. I enjoy having fox cubs around but am not so happy with them living in the garden. The shed behind which it is hiding here is also history.
The most frequent visitors are currently jackdaws which have worked out how to get food from most of the feeders around the garden, although there is one that they haven't spotted yet. They are quite a pest because they wolf down food and leave none for the rest. They are particularly adept at emptying the peanut feeder in the foreground. Interestingly pigeons have until recently looked forlornly at the birdfeeders and simply strutted around below pecking up seeds which fall. In summer 2012 one juvenile started copying the jackdaws. I haven't seen it lately but I'll be watching for it.
This female sparrowhawk was photographed at the long end of a digital zoom through the kitchen window during the hard winter in November 2010. Our most recent sparrowhawk has been male but so far has escaped being photographed.
And finally another eater of peanuts. This mouse was often found in the climbing honeysuckle which is taking over the wall at the back of the house and sat there very still to avoid being seen.

Friday, 4 January 2013


The list that I published yesterday (to which I have gone back and added starling which I inadvertently omitted) does not actually say anything about the incidence of those birds or patterns in their appearance. For example song thrushes used to be common and we had some nesting a few years back, but the one I saw the other day on the apple tree at the back of the garden came as a pleasant surprise as they have been scarce here in recent times.

Similarly greenfinches and chaffinches were at the feeder all of the time until the hard winters of a couple of years ago took their toll. 2011 was notable for seeing mainly dunnocks in the garden whereas 2012 saw surprisingly large flocks of house sparrows.

The winters of 09-10 and 10-11 definitely had a massive impact and in terms of diversity of species we haven't recovered, at least within the four corners of our garden. On the other hand the prevalence of sparrowhawks suggests the opposite - the numbers of apex predators is a decent indicator of the quantity of prey available and, all things being equal, this is a self-regulating relationship. Perhaps the correlation is with the numbers of particular prey species, such as sparrows.

In any event I'm hoping that the relatively benign winter we are currently enjoying will mean plenty of surviving insects and therefore plenty of fledglings come spring.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Day 1

Inspired by a brief Twitter exchange with the owner of What Birds I've Seen Today who lives quite close to me, I've created this as a place to record the assorted wildlife that finds its way into or overflies our garden.My "main" blog - Riding the Waves to Eternity - will remain as my online diary.

At some point over the next few days I'll also sort out the formatting of this blog - I've adopted a standard template for now to get things going.

We've been in this house on the side of Corstorphine Hill in Edinburgh for sixteen years now I think. We get a lot of foxes and the inevitable cats coming through the garden (and a couple of badgers in the street) and the occasional frog. Squirrels are less common since the arrival of the buzzards on Corstorphine Hill and we also see mice from time to time at one of the birdfeeders. The main visitors are birds and over the years I have kept a running list of them. The full list to date is:

House Sparrow
Tree Sparrow
Blue Tit
Great Tit
Coal Tit
Long Tailed Tit
Song Thrush
Mistle Thrush
Wood Pigeon
Collared Dove
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Herring Gull

and overflying:

Common Buzzard
Grey Heron.

We've had Waxwings nearby though not in our garden and a neighbour reports Goldfinch and Tawny Owl.

So that's the first post done! More as we get it and as I remember. It will probably not be a daily update but I hope it will be regular and also include photographs. I'm particularly interested in the Corstorphine Hill Buzzards which have been resident and breeding for three years now I think. At one point last year there were seven of them in the skies, a couple of them so high that I couldn't see them except through binoculars. I'm hoping to spend more time watching them this year.