Tag Archives: sidensvans

The Birds

Over the last couple of days there’ve been large numbers of birds in the garden making me think of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, although there have been fortunately no casualties as far as I know. I try to limit the amount of bird food I put out (as its production isn’t good for birds) and it’s good to see that most species are still eating natural food. 
This winter there’ve been reports from all over the county of unusual numbers of overwintering bramblings (bjørkefink) with flocks up to 300 birds recorded. I’ve had smaller flocks of 20-30 for some time, but yesterday they were everywhere in the garden and at least 140 birds were present, a new winter record for Malvik kommune! The films below show them both at the bird feeder, feeding on rowan berries (eating the seed and discarding the flesh) and also on the ground perhaps feeding on birch seed? 
Apart from that there was a sizeable flock of some 60 waxwings (sidensvans) on guelder rose / krossved (Viburnum opulus) and hawthorn (hagtorn) , 11 bullfinches (dompap), 50 house sparrows (gråspurv), 6 goldfinches (stillits) still mostly on burdock seed, 16 siskins (on birch seed), 6 greenfinches (grønnfink), 2 hawfinches (kjernebiter) seen on plum stones and rowan berries, a single robin (rødstrupe), a couple of fieldfares (gråtrost) on apples and hawthorn, a great spotted woodpecker (flaggspett) and great and blue tits both establishing territories now. In addition, a flock of 500-600 jackdaws (kaie) fly over to the roost every evening.

Bramblings with a hawfinch:

Bramblings with a hawfinch feeding on rowan seed (at the end, both birds are seen to discard the flesh). A greenfinch was also feeding on rowan.

Bramblings on the ground (feeding on birch seed?)

Large flock of bramblings at the bird feeder:

Natural bird food is best

I garden for the birds and other wildlife as well as myself and believe that bought bird food (sunflower seeds) is not necessarily a good thing as it’s imported and largely grown inorganically to the detrement of birds and other wildlife in the country of origin. My observations are that most bird species in our area prefer natural food (including grain in local fields) and several species never or seldom come to bird feeders. Others such as blackcap (munk) are reliant to a large extent on garden berries and fruit.  
For these reasons, I put out purchased birdfood including homegrown grain and apples only when the whether is severe. Even here in the north where we have largely had subzero temperatures day and night since November, most birds seem to be finding plentiful natural food this winter. Today, greenfinches (grønnfink) and bramblings (bjørkefink) were feeding on rowan (rogn) berries, I noticed a blue tit (blåmeis) eating nettle seed, waxwings (sidensvans) were taking guelder rose (krossved), hawthorn (hagtorn) and rowan berries (films below), a blackcap was spotted eating one of the last apples still hanging on a tree, fieldfares (gråtrost) were eating hawthorn berries and, for only the second time I noticed goldfinches feeding on chicory (sikkori) seed before switching back to burdock (borre) seed. I grow both burdock and chicory for food and a bi-product of seed saving is that the birds get a share. There are also flocks of siskins (grønnsisik), crossbills (korsnebber) and pine grosbeaks (konglebit) feeding on spruce and pine seed, often in large flocks. Every evening there are maybe a thousand crows (hooded crows / kråke and jackdaws / kaie) that fly into the roost at Vikhammer, still finding grain during our short day in the snow-covered fields. There’s also a local flock of over 90 Canada Geese (Kanadagås) that are overwintering and still able to forage in the fields. There are thousands of wildfowl also on the fjord and I today noted a flock of 250 mallard (stokkand) duck resting in the bay below the house.
Bird feeders can also have negative impact on birds as disease can spread rapidly, such as salmonellosis in greenfinch and house sparrow.
Growing plants in our gardens to supply a greater proportion of winter food for our birds is something many of us can do, but it does mean leaving seed heads to deadhead until spring and encouraging wild plants such as nettles which have multiple uses for us and wildlife. It’s also not as easy as buying a bag of bird seed from the supermarket. Bird friendly plants can be planted in good view of the house. For example, I have a yew tree right next to my kitchen window which allows me to observe berry-eating species such as blackcap, waxwing, robin, fieldfare, redwing and blackbird to within 1m! 
I think we should also consider delaying putting out commercial bird food until weather really is severe. 

1. Waxwings in slow motion – notice what happens with the rowan berry in the second sequence in the first video:

2. Only the second time I’ve seen goldfinches on chicory:

3. Waxwings on guelder rose berries with bramblings



March Waxwing

I’ve only twice before recorded waxwing (sidensvans) in March here. They arrive in large numbers in October and November and are usually gone again by the end of January. However, this year small numbers have stayed on. Nice then to be able to film this one in bright sunshine this morning. It had been eating from an apple I’d put out.

Waxwings are still here

Although not as many as before Xmas there are still flocks of waxwings (sidensvans) around, more than normal at this time of year. Usually, most have left by now! Yesterday, they were eating hawthorn (hagtorn) berries, their last choice.

Waxwings: soon on the way south?

I also grow Viburnum opulus (krossved) near to the house. This is an uncommon wild species around here. The berries aren’t the first choice for waxwings (sidensvans), but keep the birds around later in the year as they start on them as soon as other berries they prefer are gone. These berries are now gone (a flock of 300 birds doesn’t take long).

Here the waxwings join a large flock of bramblings (bjørkefink) and a few other species at the feeding station.

Maximum waxwings

I never weary of watching waxwings (sidensvans). Here are 3 videos from snowy Monday this week when one of the biggest flocks this winter descended on the garden with some 330 birds estimated from the first video below, many of which fed on the last elderberries (second and third videos below)!
NB! The windows are now clean :)

Heavy snow and mother of pearls

Woke up this morning to a beautiful sight of deep snow on the balcony and mother of pearl clouds (perlemorskyer) in the sky.  Added to the garden full of birds all day (still over 200 waxwings / sidensvans), a white-tailed eagle soaring over the bay and herons (gråhegre) flying past, it doesn’t get much better. I even enjoyed the hour shoveling snow!
Apparently there hasn’t been so much snow in Trondheim for 93 years so early in December (much less snow here than higher up though).
However, the forecast tomorrow is +8C and 30mm of rain…with the soil below frozen, this could become quite a mess!

Snow birds

Two days of snow has attracted a large flock of birds to my bird feeder with some 30 bramblings (bjørkefink) and, nice to see, around 25 house sparrows (gråspurv), largely missing in recent years.
Even waxwings (sidensvans) are attracted although they don’t stay for long.

Synchronised waxwings

Some things happen just too fast for us to notice. Yesterday I made this video of a flock of waxwings:

I stopped the film and took the following screen grab and noticed that a couple of the birds were in gliding flight, looking like bullets:

I took another screen grab one second on and to my astonishment almost all the birds had synchronised into gliding flight:

Apparently, this synchronisation of waxwing flocks is well known ( similar to starlings). Have a look in slow motion: