We've been inundated with enquiries about unusual birds venturing into gardens since the snow hit. Here is a quick picture guide (illustrations by Mike Langman (rspb-images.com) ) to some of the birds that are likely to have been causing some of the confusion. Before diving into it I wanted to point out that anyone spotting any of these birds would be helping out the monitoring work by ourselves, the BTO and our other partners by adding the sightings to Birdtrack as well as the Big Garden Birdwatch this weekend.
Fieldfare - just a bit bigger than a blackbird, likely to be seen near any apples or berry bushes, quite belligerent at times and often seen along with redwings. A winter visitor to our shores and will seek shelter and food in gardens when the weather is harsh.
Redwing - a winter visitor like the fieldfare but smaller, about the size of a song thrush, makes a high pitch call and like it's bigger cousin often seen in gardens during harsh weather taking apples, berries or sifting through leaf litter for invertebrates.
Blackcap - this warbler is feisty and will try to take over the feeding station, best to spread your food around the garden in order to keep the peace. The blackcaps wintering here will breed in Eastern Europe leaving in the spring when our breeding population of blackcaps arrive from the warmer south. The female has a brown cap. Fond of fruit, fat snacks, cheese and mealworms.
Grey Wagtail - this river dweller often turns up in cold snaps and even ventures on to garden bird feeding stations. Most likely to be seen walking around in the snow picking up bits of fat or cheese or mealworms.
Woodcock - this shy wader of the woodland often ventures into gardens where it seeks areas that are not frozen so it can search for worms in the soil, occasionally seen out in the day time but most active during the night.
Long-tailed tit - likely to be seen in a group jostling for space on nut feeders. These tiny birds are very busy and rarely stay put for long but in winter they can be regulars to garden feeders.
Reed bunting - often described as 'like a sparrow but not' to us, these birds venture into gardens when it's cold from their farmland and wetland homes.
There are plenty more birds that are causing confusion out there including bramblings, waxwings and even a sanderling turned up on a driveway in Newmarket. Hopefully this helps and don't forget to record your sightings on Birdtrack!
I get long-tailed tits in my garden but they didn't put in a show for my count unfortunately :(
We had four fieldfares in the holly bush outside our kitchen window. After a day munching away, they all left except one who stayed for about a week during the snow. He perched on a nearby fence and resolutely guarded the bush against all-comers. He did leave a vast amount of interesting-looking droppings! Sadly, once the weather warmed up a bit he moved on.
Have had a female blackcap around for the past week - no sign of 'hubby' yet.
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