I had to tidy my garden list up recently so I could enter a lockdown garden birding competition organised by Steve Gale over at North Downs & Beyond , and I can tell you that up until today I have recorded 69 species of birds from my garden. So that could include birds foraging or nesting in the garden, flying over, or even just heard calling at night. In fact, I have listed all the birds I have recorded below:
|Lesser Black-backed Gull|
|Great Black-backed Gull|
|Great Spotted Woodpecker|
Why are you telling us all this, I can hear you say? Well, it's by way of an introduction to yesterday's garden mega!
During the lockdown period, and indeed whenever I am working in my home office, I stop every thirty minutes or so and spend five minutes in the garden looking skywards.
I was already pleased with a Raven over earlier in the morning, but at 10:00 a.m. when I walked to the end of the garden (a short walk) and looked back at my house, I could see a passerine perched on top of my roof. It was silhouetted against the bright blue sky, so I couldn't see with the naked eye what it was. I thought it looked 'odd', so I lifted my bins to check it out, and I was amazed to see that it was a female Wheatear! A female Wheatear perched on the roof of my house - mega!!!
Now Wheatears are not rare by any means, and are a very common migrant in spring and autumn on the coast close to home. But what on earth was a Wheatear doing on my roof in crystal clear conditions at that. You might understand it if it had been a dreich sort of day, and the weather had grounded it, but it was glorious.
Needless to say, this was a first record for the garden, taking me to 70 species. I took a few shots of the Wheatear from both the front and back of my house, and the shots were better from the front as the sun was slightly behind me in this position.
By this time, I had given Gail a shout, and she came out to enjoy the Wheatear. Even Gail was a bit excited! Whilst we were watching it, it flew down towards the ground towards my next-door neighbour's front garden. I looked along the lane from my gateway and it was attempting to feed on the pavement by picking up berries.
This gave me a clue as to why it was perched on top of my house. I suspect that it had been migrating most of the night in clear conditions with a light south-easterly wind, and when the day dawned it carried on in the clear conditions, probably until it was out of fuel (fat reserves), and then it just pitched down where it was. This to me explains why it was investigating unsuitable food types like berries. It also looked a tad miserable, if a bird can look miserable.
It then moved on to my neighbour's drive, and that was where I left it. I checked again half an hour later, and it was gone. So, I hope it found some food, and moved at least to a more suitable foraging area. It's funny how such a common bird, out of context, can cause so much excitement!
I don't think I'll be able to beat yesterday's Wheatear, but I will be looking!