Tag Archive | garden birds

The difference between houses and trees (sparrows)

To expand my familys’ and friends’ basic knowledge of birds – a short summary of the main differences between tree sparrows (skovspurv) and house sparrow (gråspurv) – good luck!

Tree sparrow / skovspurv: Male and female are similar, and a tip to remember: both have been playing the the forest (think trees) and have “dirty cheeks”!

Tree Sparrow (male or female, both similar). Image: Wikipedia

Tree Sparrow (skovspurv) (male and female similar). Image: Wikipedia, labels me.

House Sparrow / Gråspurv: The male and female are different, but they have been playing indoors (in the house) and therefore have “clean cheeks”. (Det virker ikke så godt på Dansk!)

Male House Sparrow. Image: RSPB. Labels, mine.

Male House Sparrow. Image: RSPB. Labels, me.

Female House Sparrow. Image: Wikipedia. Labels, mine.

Female House Sparrow. Image: Wikipedia. Labels, me.

Further info: National Trust Ranger BlogBig Schools Bird Watch, Dansk Ornithologsk Forening – Gråspurv og Skovspurv, RSPB – House sparrow and Tree sparrow

Ready for the New Year

If somehow I fell asleep and woke not knowing what day, or month it was, it would be difficult to tell it is the start of January, according to the birds anyway! Over the last few days, I have witnessed some pre-breeding behavior  which I wouldn’t have expected for at least another month or two! Firstly, bird song! I had heard from a “bird guru”  that the birds start to sing, once the days begin to get longer, so after the winter solstice.  With this information in hand, I kept an ear out in December. Personally I hadn’t noticed anything before Christmas, but in the last 3-4 days, a few early starters have started making some noise.

A local robin, visiting our garden for food.

A local robin, visiting our garden for food.

On a few occasions I have heard the resident great tits (musvit) singing from the trees near by with the characteristic “teacher-teacher” song. Then this morning I heard my first robin (rødhals) singing sweetly too, a more melancholic varying tune.
Late winter or early spring is the perfect time of year for developing an interest in bird song. You won’t be bombarded by many different calls all at once, and with the bare winter trees and shrubs, there is a high chance you will get a good view of the feathered friend while he is singing. Also you will only be listening to our resident birds, as the migrants haven’t arrived from warmer countries yet.
This year I am planning on organizing an “introduction to bird song” walk at the local university (close to my home). It’s something I have wanted to do for a long time. It will force me to polish up my bird song ID skills and it will help refresh some of my teaching skills, which have been lying dormant for a few years now!
Egg-citing times last year in the nest box, lets hope for more breeding success this year too!

Egg-citing times last year in the nest box, lets hope for more breeding success this year too!

But apart from the singing, yesterday I spotted another promising sign. We have a bird box in our garden, which we were lucky enough to have not one, but two pairs of small birds nest in last year. Birds use boxes during the winter also, especially on colder night for shelter and to sleep in. Our box was cleared out in the autumn last year, and recently I noticed some droppings in it, so I am happy to know it’s still being used. But to my surprise, yesterday I spotted a blue tit (blåmejse) inspecting the nest box. Last year before any nest building began, the birds spent quite some time inspecting our box. This involved many trips in and out of the box and perching at the entrance, pecking endlessly at the sides. The responsible parents need to ensure they choose the right home for their nest, especially if they only produce one brood.
Although we are still in the middle of winter here in Denmark, it is refreshing to see some early signs of what the spring and summer will bring!
Let me know what you have spotted in your garden or elsewhere!

A new visitor to our garden!

A new visitor to our garden! 

Today as I was checking emails at home when I heard an unfamiliar tweet out in the garden. I took a careful look over my shoulder to reveal a small grayish white bird with a black head. This is the first time we have observed such a bird in our garden! I knew it could be one of two birds, which are very close to being identical. Both the marsh tit and the willow tit match this description, but thankfully there is an easy way to tell them apart – the noise they make. I did manage to grab the camera and get a few shots, but these flighty little birds are difficult!

The visitor investigates one of our feeders

A little later on Rasmus was out in the garden tending to my bike and this time two of these little balls of black and white feathers returned. They are surprisingly tame and in a very short time, made their presence known among the resident blue tits and great tits. Thankfully they made lots of noise, so I thought it would be easy to differentiate them. The BTO have produced a nice video to assist in identifying the two species (once they make some noise!).  I quickly went to the BTO site and listened to the clips they have on-line. I identified them as marsh tits – which are common in Denmark in broad leaf woodlands (which we have nearby), but I will listen again over the next few days to make sure. Fingers crossed they come back, and bring their friends!

Blue Tit blåmejse– The acrobat!

Later on we were also visited by a beautiful robin, but it was too late in the evening to get a good shot. Instead I will add more photos of blue tits – they are stunning little birds!

Blue tit in the frost, eyeing up the feeders

Seed in mouth, ready to go!