Sunday 29 March 2020

Garden Birdwatching

Red Kite Milvus milvus
29 March 2020

Unable to get out and about?  Restricted to birding from your back yard?  Well, in the first place to have the opportunity of either would be better than my situation in Spain; no back garden, just a small terrace at the front overlooking a pathway, and no dog to walk so unable to leave the house and a dog would have at least given me the opportunity to exercise for an hundred metres or so, including a walk along the paseo at Algarrobo Costa. But not to worry as I can still enjoy the experiences of others.

Late morning today I received a lovely email from my daughter-in-law back in the UK.  Caroline lives in a large, recently completed, large house down a narrow lane with large trees to the back and open fields to the front in relatively nearby Thatcham, Berkshire.  having set the scene now read Caroline's informative and illuminating birding experience below as seen from the back window.  If Caroline can enthuse and share her experience then I am more than sure that the must be many others still able to experience the changing seasons watching our feathered neighbours.  And I notice no mention in Caroline's latest experience of the visiting Pheasants and occasional deer.  (The added photos are from my personal collection.)

A View from the Garden

I hope you are staying well in Spain. I thought that you might be interested in some vicarious bird watching so this is what I’ve seen from Ashdown Cottage windows.

The Red Kite, which Chris and I saw land by the bonfire site in the front garden, returned and collected a large twig, so that is what it was after, not prey.  After the stormy weather there are a lot of dry twigs scattered everywhere.  Red kites do look very impressive close up!

Red Kite Milvus milvus
A few days later there was another commotion in the bushes in the front garden and a Magpie emerged, struggling with a twig which must have been two feet long.  I then discovered where it was building its nest.  It is in the back garden, at the top what I think is a birch tree, in a clump of ivy.  I now see the Magpies going backwards and forwards regularly, working on improvements to their nest.  I’m not sure that having Magpies in the garden is particularly good news though because they predate other birds’ nests don’t they?  I did also see a Jay in the garden, another predator, but this was chased off by one of the Magpies!  Jays, Magpies and an abundance of (Grey) Squirrels, our garden might not be the best place for nesting!

Magpie Pica pica
There are various members of the tit family flitting about in the higher branches but I haven’t seen any Long-tailed Tits, sadly.  I have seen two species of woodpecker though.  Great Spotted (another predator!) on the ancient apple tree in the back garden and a Green Woodpecker on an ash tree in the front.  I have heard the Green Woodpecker regularly but only seen it once.

Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocpos major
At dusk we have seen flocks of black birds, possibly Rooks? They circle the house in large groups very rapidly. We call them the teenagers because they seem just like a big gang getting a last flight in before bedtime!  There is a large rookery about half a mile away so perhaps they come from there. Is this typical rook behaviour?

Rook Corvus frugilegus
Are there birds to observe from your place in Spain? I hope you and Jenny are keeping well in these strange times. 

Jay Garrulus glandarius

Thank you very much Caroline and in answer to your questions,yes, this is very much typical Rook behaviour and once your feeder is up and established I would expect you to be regularly recording all the tit family bar Bearded, which is in reality a "Reedling." and Crested, which in the UK only found up in Scotland. As far as birds in Spain are concerned, without leaving the house we have regular views of a lone male Blackbirds, a handful of House Sparrows, the occasional male Sardinian Warbler (I think the female is probably on nest nearby) and, with good luck and a following wind as they say, the distant sight of gulls overhead, often Mediterranean but also both Black-headed and Lesser Black-backed Gulls.  A walk to the supermarket for food, now twice in the past twelve days,walking via the coastal paseo, is guaranteed to produce hordes of screaming, marauding Monk Parakeets along with a few Collared Doves and Feral Pigeons and, last week I even recorded single Gannet, Cormorant and Little Egret.  So not all bad news then - unless compared with your sightings!

Check out the accompanying website at for the latest sightings, photographs and additional information

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