Hey everyone! I’ve been really busy over the last few weeks and have been getting up to lots of wildlife themed adventures along the way. I was thrilled to attend the AGM of the Fermanagh Red Squirrel Group and was so chuffed that they gave me, on loan, a trail camera! I’ve been testing it out in my garden and now I’m ready to set it up on my special red squirrel site – more to come on that, I hope. I also entered a video on bats for the RSPB Cairngorms Nature Competition, I wasn’t successful this time, but I really enjoyed making it and feel that there are lots of ways I can improve. It was a difficult decision to do the video as I’m completely terrified of such things! Having Asperger’s, facial expressions and eye contact are a big deal, I think these were two of the reasons I wasn’t chosen. I’ll keep trying! You can view the video here. I’ve also contributed an article for the A Focus On Nature’s Advent series, which will be coming soon. It was written on the theme of ‘The Gift Of Inspiration’, you’ll have to see who I’ve chosen! I’m also waiting on approval for my wildlife garden proposals at school, fingers crossed!
The weather has been absolutely beautiful here and as we start to put out home-made high energy food for our garden birds, I’ve been out with my camera to snap any visitors. We’ve had lots but for this blog, I really want to focus on the beautiful Dunnock (Prunella modularis) also known as the hedge sparrow,hedge accentor and hedge warbler – they are part of the Accentor family though. Dunnocks are really under-rated birds, often described as dull, brown or indistinguishable, seriously, I absolutely do not agree! If you are lucky to hear the beautiful song duet between birds, as I have been over the last few days; the song will lift your heart up and the freezing cold air will be completely forgotten, your numb fingers will warm and any discard you once felt, will melt away. I think its colours are beautiful, the grey on their breast and around their eyes are stunning and their bill, so finely sharp is perfect for eating insects in the winter.
We have about six individual dunnocks in our garden and we have seen them separately, hopping under the trees among the brambles and ivy. They are flighty movers, hopping nervously up and down the undergrowth highway. Leaving your garden a little overgrown under trees is really important for ground feeding birds like the Dunnock, Robin, Blackbird and Thrush, they are all quite shy and like the protection the undergrowth gives.
They are an Amber status bird (recent decline), this is perhaps due to destruction of hedgerows and manicured gardens – again, the importance of undergrowth in gardens is very important. We had nests in our garden this year and it’s lovely, as they tend to nest in groups of three-six. The song emanating during the summer air was glorious. We had lots of nesting birds this year, including a Bullfinch! Always check your hedges and large shrubs before you cut them, a little visitor may have decided to inhabit them! Dunnock lay around 4 eggs and are blue in colour. Cuckoos are notorious for hijacking the Dunnock nest; I’ve seen incredible footage of a tiny wee Dunnock feeding an almost fully grown Cuckoo, the poor female looked so bedraggled! Cuckoos have evolved eggs which are identical to their host, how sneakily cunning! However, it doesn’t even need to do this with the Dunnock, who can’t yet discriminate between the eggs. The poor thing, even though it may learn, the cuckoo is one step ahead!
It was just lovely to escape to the garden and watch these normally shy and secretive birds, hop around me with no fear at all. All the birds absolutely loved the mix my mum made, which consisted of suet, oats, chopped apricots and smashed up sunflower seeds – yep our birds are completely spoiled, and so they should be! The winter is really difficult for birds, with a reduction in berries, haws and grain (farming), our little feathery friends need all the help they can get to survive!
I really love watching the birds in my garden and I’ll hopefully do a little blog with photos on each species and experience I have. I found a really beautiful poem, which perfectly describes how I feel about birds.
Thank you very much for reading.