Arnos Vale’s Big Garden Birdwatch

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December 21, 2021
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It might be chilly outside and many of the trees are bare but hopefully your feeders are full. Right now its a great time to join in with the RSPB’s Great British Bird Watch. If you live locally to the cemetery then many of the birds visiting your garden, will also visiting the cemetery.

Wild birds spotted in the cemetery

Wildlife photographer Ian Coombes kindly sent this fantastic bird montage so you can use it as a guide to our birds. We would love to encourage you to spot them in your garden, or the cemetery.

Birds of Arnos Vale by Ian Coombes

What bird is it?

First lets start with the birds you might easily recognise as they are national favourites.

Robin – One of our best loved bird is the bold and bright robin. This fierce and brave little bird has a fabulous song and you will probably hear this little garden star before you see it. If you think you hear a robin but it hasn’t got a red breast, it might actually be a female robin which has a dark brown breast, not red. They are eat worms, seeds, fruits, insects and other invertebrates.

This brave little bird may well join you when you are gardening to clean up the creepy crawlies you unearth. They are only 14 cm’s long but with their cheery song and distinctive brown or red bib they are one of the easiest to identify.

Blackbird puffed up against the cold

Blackbird – this is another great singer and another well-known bird. However don’t be fooled by this birds name as only the male is black, the female is brown. The female also loves to sing and this might be a better way to identify her as they do look a bit like a starling or a sparrow.

Chaffinch – A little bird that won’t be spotted on your feeder but its great little helper who will be cleaning up under a bird table. Chaffinch’s love to hang around in flocks and can be identified by their distinctive song. Often the best way to see them is on the wing when they reveal a flash of white and white outer tail feathers.

Blue tit – This brightly blue, green, yellow and white bird loves to flock together and may swarm all over your feeders in large groups. They enjoying seeds and nuts but also Insects, caterpillars. They are easy to mix up with the Great Tit but the blue tit is smaller, about the same size as a robin.

Blue tit on a log

Wren – this teeny tiny little visitor has a big voice but blends into the background. They are also very speedy so this is one visitor that you are more likely to hear than see.

Long tailed tit – Yes its another tit but it has got a really long tail. In fact its tail is longer than its body. They mostly enjoy invertebrates but might come to your feeder for seeds or a drink. They also like to hang out chatting in groups with other tits, mainly in bushes and hedgerows.

Noisy but nice

Everyone knows the sound of a drumming woodpecker but do you know its call? Greater Spotted Woodpeckers don’t just drum in the spring, they also have a loud call all year round Another way to spot a woodpecker is by it’s bouncing flight and ability to run up trees. Look for a flash of red on the back of the head.

The starling used to incredibly common everywhere but are currently declining. They will happily feed in your garden, so they are one of the easiest birds to attract. Starlings are a chatty bird that hangs out in noisy flocks and you can spot them in the trees or on the ground.

Chiffchaff – This little bird is named after its distinctive call. Listening out for the chiff/chaff/chiff sound is the easiest way to spot it as it. It also has quite a distinctive wagging walk and quite dark legs.

Mistle Thrush at the top of a pine

Mistle Thrush – This thrush has a lovely spotty black and white chest. It likes to bound across the ground and is quite bold. It has a lovely sweet call when hanging out in the very top of trees. They are less likely to visit your feeder, but might be spotted on the lawn enjoying worms and slugs.

Crows, magpies and Jays

Some people love the clever corvid family, others are not so keen. However this time of year is great to spot one of the most colourful of the family that you’ll see in your garden – the Jay.

Jay’s are shaped like crows but you can notice them by their fancy colours and they also often hand out in pairs. They also enjoy a loud screech but are much more shy than their cousins. They love acorns but will eat all sorts of invertebrates, seeds and small mammals.

Crows – You probably already know what a crow looks like as they are handsome black birds. It is easy to distinguished from other black corvids by their lack of feathery ‘trousers’. If you see something that looks like a crow but smaller and a bit shabbier, its probably a jackdaw. Another way to tell a crow is by their distinctive caw which they usually do 3 times.

Magpies -It is an ancient folk tradition to say ‘good morning‘ to a magpie. This smartly dressed bird struts along the ground in its fancy suit, looking for anything to snack on. Magpies are highly intelligent and great tricksters. Some biologists have observed that they hold rituals for fallen brethren. They truly are a cemetery bird.

Golden

Goldfinch with yellow wing and red face
Female Goldcrest

Goldfinch – Another well named bird as the adult is a lovely yellow colour. They might visit your bird table to pick up tiny scraps with their delicate beaks. They hang out in brightly coloured groups chattering away, giving the bare trees a cheery colour display.

Goldcrest – This little bird is well named with a fancy black and yellow head stripe. It is the UK’s smallest bird and they have a very thin beak. They are mainly grey green so its worth a good look as they do look slightly similar to the Wren.

Masters of disguise

Now lets move on to birds are not quite so easy to spot. These masters of disguise are worth the wait and have been seen in the cemetery and might turn up in your garden.

Nuthatch holding a grub

Dunnock – This little sparrow sized garden visitor is shy and hard to spot. They creep around the garden looking for food along edges. Dunnock blend in well so they are harder to spot. They can be identified as they flick their wings as they walk.

Nuthatch – This bird will tend to stay in the cemetery more than your garden as they like to live in woodland. However you might spot one by listening for their rather piercing call.

Top predators

Sparrowhawk – As its name suggests the sparrowhawk will hunt smaller birds so if you attract small birds to your garden then this small bird of prey might pop by. The cemetery is home to at least one breeding pair and they do help keep the pigeon population under control

Tawny Owl – Another predator that resides in the cemetery is nocturnal. Its more likely you might hear a pair chatting than see them as they glide silently. They call to each other regularly at dawn and dusk. You won’t see them at your feeder as their food is mice and rats.

Greater Spotted Woodpecker clinging onto a tree

Share your sightings

Hopefully this has given you some ideas for what you might spot in your garden, or during a walk through the cemetery. We’d love you to tag us in any bird pictures on social media. Our twitter is @arnosvalecem, and instagram is arnosvalecemetery.

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