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Sunday, March 17, 2013

Siskins in the garden bring back memories & a nap hand of goodies at Askham Bog

As a young lad I remember my parents allowing me to camp overnight in the garden for the very first time. I'd just got into birdwatching and so thrilled because I'd rigged up a homemade bird table, loaded it with food I thought birds might like to eat (I have a memory of old xmas cake!), and located it just outside the tent in the hope of attracting all manner of things. In my 11yr old mind this meant anything from Eagles to Hoopoes of course ..... and of course I was to be disappointed .... but I was rewarded at first light by some birds I didn't recognise at my bird table, and that was the day I begged my parents to buy me a bird identification field guide!

Some time and much begging later I was pleased to identify my mystery birds as Siskins. That was more than 40 years ago and although I've seen many Siskins since, I've never actually had another one in my garden ... until the other day that is, when I had a pair on the feeders and then in next door's tree. You rarely get such good views of these terrific little finches, normally they're flying over in flocks from tree to tree and I was just as thrilled to see these as I was the ones spyed from my tent all those years ago!

Here's a couple of shots of the male in next door's tree ....

Nice when things like that come full circle.

Pretty awful weather this weekend and glad I'm on holiday and not working Askham Bog as it would have been rubbish with most folk staying put indoors, but last Sunday was ok down on the bog - plenty of visitors and a healthy number signed up plus a nap hand of good bird pics in the sun!

Chaffinches all over the place and this one was looking particularly splendid .....

I normally shy away from taking pictures of birds at feeding stations because of that 'staged' look but had to make an exception with these exquisite Long Tailed Tits.

Here's a common but often overlooked bird, always one or two skulking around in UK gardens and nice see them slightly out of context perched in a tree ... its a Hedge Sparrow or Dunnock. Not actually a sparrow at all, this understated wee bird is an accentor - a family of birds that normally inhabit mountainous areas with the Alpine Accentor being its nearest relative .. never going to get one of those at Askham Bog!

Ok folks, ready to enter the 'Is it a Willow or a Marsh Tit' debate? Well I have to confess to being not as good as I should be on separating these two similar birds and I wouldn't wish the vagaries of identification and splitting the two on anyone but at the risk of being publicly humiliated by the birding world I'm sticking my neck out and saying this is a Willow Tit ... light wing panels, clean cheeks, unglossy cap ... please tell me I'm right expert birders! (actually I heard this one call so know darn well its a Willow!). Anyone interested in what is a bit of hot topic in the birding world, so much so that the distribution of both species is now really muddled, here's Richard Broughton's bible on separating the two - 'separation of marsh and willow tit in britain, a review' 

Last but by no means least, I've been trying to get even a half decent picture of a Wren for months at Askham Bog .... they tend to creep around under the boardwalks a lot but occasionally pose for a few seconds before flitting away, so I was reasonably pleased to get this one. Would have been better perched on a mossy tree stump or something but the wire fence just about works for me!


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