Archive for the ‘updates’ Category


It’s been a while since we updated this blog.  In autumn of 2011, we moved from the house, where over several years we turned a garden that when we first arrived had been overgrown with raspberries into a paradise for birds, bugs and other wildlife to come and venture.  It was a hard decision to move on, but thankfully the new owner of the house is a lady who liked the house because of the garden birds, a fellow garden bird fan.

So we moved to town. To a house with a big new challenge ahead of us.  The courtyard ‘garden’ at the back is a big slab of tarmac and the tiny bit at the front was full of conifers and weeds.  I can’t deny I miss and still do miss my old garden friends.  I miss their calls, their quirky habits and personalities and just the joy that being close to birds can bring.  Spring is now coming and we’ve just started on transforming the sterile tarmac space into a new garden which we hope will have an abundance of hoverflies and visiting birds and other delights before too long.

Although without a proper garden to feed birds, one of the main new places is the nearby park, a traditional Victorian park right opposite the station here in Newton Abbot has an abundance of birds.  The park isn’t too ‘wild’, mainly short grass with paths, even has a traditional bandstand with a few planted up areas and also plans to have more areas to encourage wildlife and it’s well used by the community.  There are a few areas along the edges with shrubs and planting, and some fine big old trees too.  Over the past few months, we’ve been putting out the odd bit of bird seed for the birds there and in some other communal spaces in the town too.

Lending a hand to birds in public spaces is a little different to feeding in the privacy of a garden.  But it also has had many benefits too, with lots of comment from others in the park, curious to see what I’m doing and enjoying what it brings.  Also it gives a wonderful point for discussion as people do love to talk about birds and nature and also ask on how to feed them in their own gardens and share their stories too.

So how do we feed birds responsibly in public spaces?  First it took some observation to see which birds go where in the parks and spaces.  The goldcrests and tits for example have a particular tree that they favour, and luckily there’s an old knarled branch that has a perfect area along it to place little bits of suet and the odd sunflower heart safely without them having to feed from the ground.  Also in an area I call  ‘dunnock corner’ there are some bushes that the dunnocks and blackbirds favour, so a handful of suet, dried mealworms and sunflower seeds go under there.  Then there’s the magnolia tree.  Currently this has a fatball feeder, and some ground food is carefully placed amongst the shrubs there too for the thrush, chaffinches, robin and more who enjoy feeding from there.  All these locations and more involve a more careful approach than when in a garden to enable the birds to feel safe to come to feed, and also away from the main routes that dogs may be running along and where people are too much, they are wild birds after all.  As we walk the dog in the park several times a day, it’s easy to monitor the feeding areas regularly and check that any old uneaten food or apple skins are  tidied away.

We even did the Big Garden Birdwatch from the park earlier in the year with a total of 18 different species being recorded.

One part of feeding birds in a more public arena is that by chatting to people and how they would like to get started with feeding birds in their own gardens, I’ve begun to make some plans on doing some talks and connecting with local community groups, and local projects and find some ways to help get them started in encouraging local diversity and wildlife which I hope to work towards during this year.

Back in May, we won the May heat of Britains Best Birdgarden, a celebration of gardens that encourage birds and wildlife organised by Birdwatching Magazine.

The ‘finals’ are currently open now, so if you wanted to vote, please do.  Obviously if we won, it’s very unlikely that in the courtyard garden in the coming months we’ll have as many birds as we did previously in our last garden to feed.  Not only that, I’ve really enjoyed sharing my love for birds with others in the community, and aim for this to continue.  If we were to win – much of the prize winnings would be distributed to local schools and community groups, projects and I’d happily help them get started with giving a helping hand to our feathered friends.

If you are interested in finding more about voting for us (or any of the other entrants, there’s some great ones to choose from that are much more deserving than us!) in Britains Best Bird Garden – you can vote here – (voting closes on 21st March and you can vote for upto 3 gardens)

Anyway – back to the birds…
Once we get going with setting up the new garden space, we’ll be back to this blog and sharing the stories here of the comings and goings of our new visitors.
And possibly a few posts in between of about our park birds too.

– Laura


Blackbird youngster (no.6), originally uploaded by Laura Whitehead.

This youngster has a great personality, quite feisty and independent already. He/she is already doing a great job weeding out my flower beds and gaps in the path in search of tasty worms.

The other five youngsters all appeared within a close batch of time, and this one a while after. (…and this week we already have the second broods starting to appear already).

Busy parents

Blackbird in the grass

The warm spring has brought out a few butterflies and bees and hoverflies and lots of new spiders creating webs too. The birds are mostly paired up and busy rearing their young (especially with the blackbirds neatly stacking up mealworms in their beaks to take back to the nest).

The Crow has begun to appear more regularly in the garden, he’s frightfully shy, as the garden isn’t too large and quite sheltered with trees and bushes inside, and he has to navigate carefully to make it down onto the grass. Thankfully the other birds are not to fearful of his presence, and can often be seen alongside the blackbirds and starlings feeding from the path.

'Bird Heaven in Devon'Our garden birds have helped to win this months (May) heat of Best Bird Garden 2011 which can be seen in Mays edition of Bird Watching Magazine on pages 44 – 45 with some pictures of our feathered friends along with an article of how we manage the garden and all the winged visitors too.

The prize is a variety of sacks of special seed mixes for feeders and ground feeding birds from Wild About Birds which they have welcomed and already started to munch on!

You can enter your bird and wildlife garden over at –

The garden has had a different tempo this last couple of weeks, with the birds still feeding, but to a lesser extent. They have been very busy working in their pairs together to gather nesting material ready for the spring and summer season ahead of them. Goldcrest has been gone for a few weeks now, and has hopefully travelled safely back home. The Blackcaps (2 males and a rather shy female) have been away from the garden for four days now, and we think that they headed back to their summer home too. Most of the Brambling have left also, apart from a male and female that still visit daily and although we’ll miss them hope that they set off on their travels soon too. The little wren has become a fun character in the garden, very visible and not so shy, and can often be seen hopping along the flower pots and in and out the bushes looking for food.

Today, was the first sign that one of the pairs of blackbirds has hatched its first chicks. Instead of the usual coming down to eat the mealworms from the path, the male blackbird came down and didn’t feed himself, but instead managed to scoop and stack up neatly over 10 mealworms in his beak neatly in an orderly row, before flying off back to his nest. After a few minutes returned again and did the same. It’s always an exciting time of year, and we’re looking forward to seeing the first youngsters out and about in the garden in the coming weeks ahead.

Siskin (male)

Siskin (male), originally uploaded by Laura Whitehead.

Such a treat, female siskin has been around for the past couple of months, and finally has a new friend, a male siskin. A new first for the garden bird list!

Great tit

Great tit, originally uploaded by Laura Whitehead.


handsome, originally uploaded by Laura Whitehead.

What they ate

Three months feeding birds…

67.5kg sunflower hearts, 1.2kg mealworms, 6.6kg suet pellets, 16 fat balls, 3kg peanuts, 180 apples and quite a few hanging suet blocks.

Blackcap returns

We’d been missing seeing this little chap visiting the garden this season, and today Blackcap has returned.
Blackcap 1.JPG
Blackcap 2.JPG
Blackcap 3.JPG

  • About

    In this blog we'll describe the day to day comings and goings of the birds in our Devon garden.
  • About us

    Tony is a naturalist and environmental artist. Laura is a free range creative web and print designer. We've recently moved from the village of Ipplepen to the town of Newton Abbot with our two children Ralph and Oli, our dog Henry, and numerous cats (none of whom would ever dream of eating birds).
  • Species List

    List of species, including only those birds that land in the garden:
    Blue tit
    Carrion Crow
    Chiff chaff
    Coal tit
    Collared dove
    Great spotted woodpecker
    Great tit
    House Sparrow
    Long tailed tit
    Mistle thrush
    Pied wagtail
    Song thrush
    Wood pigeon