Monday, 2 March 2009


We had a mystery visitor yesterday: Susanna tells me that while I still slept she saw a bird drinking at the famine pot in the Labyrinth garden which she did not recognise. "Black on the head, back and wings like a cape, with white at the side of the throat, and a dove-grey underside, definitely not a magpie, and big, almost like a turkey or a goose", so she described it. "A Hooded Crow?" say I - but no, "Definitely not that", she said, when we looked at the picture in Collins' Birds of Britain & Europe, and she has since poured through every picture in the book without finding what she saw.

I suppose I was mulling over black and white birds at the back of my mind, because later that afternoon I heard a rapid, low drumming, and immediately thought it might be a very distant Woodpecker. Now that would be really exciting. Until recently we have had no native woodpeckers in Ireland. But Birdwatch Ireland say that a good many Great Spotted Woodpeckers (Dendrocopus major) have been seen here in recent years. They speculate that this species, common in Britain and mainland Europe, is about to colonise Ireland.

This morning I went out in my dressingown to see if the first asparagus is ready for picking - it is, just two spears, to be poached in a little butter to garnish poached eggs for breakfast tomorrow! Then, I heard the drumming again, in the direction of the house, and discovered I was mistaken. It was not a Woodpecker, but a frog calling from the little overgrown pond on the patio! I hadn't realised our common frog (Rana temporaria) had a mating call, and it wasn't very loud, but that was what I was hearing. I am delighted to have heard it. There were at least three frogs in the pond, and a large mass of frog spawn had been laid overnight - no doubt there will be even more tomorrow!

Common frogs (Rana temporaria) in a pond

We have had other visitors too recently. For about three days we had a pair of Common Redpolls (Carduelis flammea) feeding on the peanuts, a species I've not identified before. Their diagnostic black beards distinguish them from Linnets. They have gone now, so perhaps they were only passing through on their spring migration. And we have also had a few Siskins recently (Carduelis spinus), the first of the winter.

Redpoll, Carduelis flammea, Male


Anonymous said...

I was just reading Ian's blog about comforting sounds and was thinking about the sounds of birds out in the garden. i then thought I'd pop over to yours to see if there was anything new and am sitting smiling thinking about the lovely wildlife we are so lucky to have about us and the comfort that it brings. Thanks for the lovely pics.

Joc Sanders said...

Thanks, Paula! The life I find in my garden makes me feel very comforted and secure too, in these dire times!
I only wish the pictures on my blog were my own (as Daniel Owen's are on his blog - do you know it?)
The sound which makes me think of my childhood is the gossiping of rooks - the Rectory I was brought up in was beside a large rookery, called the Crow Woods, now sadly gone with the demise of East Anglian elms - I wonder where the rooks moved to? The babies were always falling from their nests, and I remember one I succeeded in rearing to adulthood. It used to fly down the village after my mother when she went to the shop on her bike, perch on the roof, and then fly back after her! After a couple of years it made the mistake of resting on the local poacher's roof and he shot it - when he realised his mistake he came around to appologise. I'm not far from a rookery where I live now in Co Tipp, and of a summer evening when they return from foraging and I hear them exchanging all the gossip of the day, I am brought back to golden childhood times!