Into Spring… then back to Winter

Ferris Bueller once said “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it”. That’s never been more apt than this week, where I started the week planning a ‘spring-has-sprung’ post before winter returned with a vengeance.

So there we were on Sunday of last week, strolling the banks of the river, albeit cold, but in sunshine and looking at all the spring colour appearing.

In our garden too the early spring flowers were starting to form a lovely colourful display, especially around our ‘woodland’ bed.

Spring has sprung…

But by Wednesday this was the scene in the same flower bed.

…into winter

Yes, the ‘Beast from the East’ had hit, although the two or three inches we had here in York was paltry next to areas that were really badly hit.

For the birds though it was no different in terms of the challenges they were now facing and this showed in the types and numbers of birds we saw.

On Wednesday in particular, the numbers of starlings jumped from the usual 10-15, to as many as 60 in a single flock.

The definition of patience

For me, this became about making sure there were scraps of bare ground, plenty of food, and fresh water. The waiting starlings have been a feature of the week as they line up first thing on a morning as I stagger out (before I feed or water myself) and ensure they have something to keep them going.

Oates made the supreme sacrifice…

One small hole in the snow, limitless starlings

The feeders need to be kept full too as all the winter finches that may have been moving off have now returned. In addition to the large numbers of goldfinch and greenfinch of course.

For all the ground feeding birds this is a challenge, and the efforts of the pigeons, robins, blackbirds, and dunnocks are evident in the tracks left behind. It can be a pitiful sight as they hang on in the adverse conditions.

By Thursday morning, all the efforts making space seemed futile as the garden was back to whiteout. Hints of my footsteps were still there, but the water bowl was nowhere to be seen and took me 5 minutes digging to find.

I cannot stress enough how important that water is, and as soon as it was freed we’d have birds on the edge for a drink.

As well as driving the winter finches back to us, the weather has brought some more unusual garden visitors, a pattern being reported across the country. On Wednesday night we had two such visitors.

A pied wagtail, and a fieldfare. Elsewhere people were seeing flocks of fieldfare and redwing, and real oddities for a garden such as common snipe.

The wagtail has been a resident since Wednesday night. He leaves for his roost overnight, but he’s back in the morning and barely leaves the boundary of the garden all day.

Part of the logic of the wagtail winter roosts is they will bring other birds to good food sources. This wagtail hasn’t had that altruistic memo. One other bird has been with him, but he tends to chase that off. In fact, cute as he looks, he is very aggressive and will chase anything smaller than him, including blue tits, dunnocks, and robins.

Avoiding trouble

The fieldfare has been more elusive, but happily did show up on Saturday.

Tomorrow we’ll have a few images of tracks in the snow, because I love to look at those. But for now, a few more images of cold birds.

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3 Responses to Into Spring… then back to Winter

  1. Emily Scott says:

    You mentioned about putting water out. I saw a blackbird eating some snow, presumably to get water. Is this a bad source of water for the birds?

  2. Pingback: Big Garden Birdwatch 2019 – Feast to famine | Why watch wildlife?

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