Tag Archives: Spotless Starling

Birds are singing, frogs are croaking

At the beginning of the week it seemed as though the total local Tree Frog population had converged upon our pool. Endearing as they are in the daytime when spotted out sunbathing, stuck to the sides of the pool like bath toys,  as soon as the sun has set and they begin their croak-off contests, necessitating turning up the volume on your TV, you can go off them a bit. It wouldn’t be so bad if they got tired after an hour or two and quietened down, but the tiny creatures have enormous stamina and I’ve heard them still at it at 2am. The morning following a particularly noisy night session I discovered the reason for the increased volume; I counted no less than ten of them in a variety of sizes and shades of green in various spots around the pool.

Four of the ten tree frogs in the pool today. This image shows them at more or less their actual very tiny sizes. Males are smaller than females.

A grass-green individual

I probably would have put up with the din so I could indulge in a bit more frog-watching, but my long-suffering other half had reached his tolerance limit and decided at least some of them had to move on, or back to where they’d come from. So the pool was drained to leave about half a metre or so depth at the ‘deep end’. We found some interesting stuff in there, including tadpoles of various sizes and some large dragonfly larvae. I was worried then that the tadpoles would get eaten, so we put a bit more water in to give them more chance to escape. It’s a situation that reminded me of a quote I remember which simply says ‘Nature quietly finds her way back into places we think of as ours…’ which is sort of what has happened here, although in this case maybe not so quietly.

A Serin singing his heart out

My little dog is happy that the pleasanter weather has put more regular walks back on the agenda, although he gets a little bit frustrated with the frequent stops we make as I spot photo opportunities or something interesting to watch. This week there have been so many birds about that our normal 20 minutes ’round the block’ have been taking at least twice as long. I have seen more Robins than usual and think  perhaps some are migrants; there are Blue Tits everywhere and Serins singing their tinkling songs from tree perches almost within sight of one another. They become more visible than usual at this time as they make display flights, shooting up from their perches then spreading their wings wide and fluttering and falling back down while still singing. Although seeming to be fully occupied by the effort they put into singing, they are still quite wary and easily disturbed, hence my best photo to date being a back view; it does show the yellow rump though. There are still nothing like the full number of House Martins and Barn Swallows back yet, but it’s been good to see a few in our patch of sky again. No sign of any Swifts yet.

A Collared Dove keeping a wary eye on me and the dog

There are dozens of Collared Doves around and I often come across single ones, or at the moment pairs, walking about on the roads. I know they’re common, but I like them, they look soft and gentle, which of course I know they’re not particularly.

A large flock of Siskins pecking around on the road

One morning l spotted a little flock of twenty or so small birds pecking around on the road beneath a tree. The bright dappled sunlight made it difficult to see them well and I thought at first they may be Serins, but their reluctance to move until I was quite close brought to mind Siskins, which is what they turned out to be. They didn’t move far, the majority just going up into the tree above, but then a man got into the car that was parked just behind them and they all disappeared. I’ve looked for them several times since, but have only managed one or two; I would imagine they have moved on by now.

A Robin in a rubber tree- about to fly off

It still feels quite odd to see Robins here in Spain, especially this far south, and their strong association with our British Christmas traditions makes it even more odd to see them perched on ‘exotic’ plants such as cacti and as in this picture, a rubber tree. Their behaviour is quite different here too, they are much more wary of people and although they are present in our gardens, they are reserved and keep close to cover.

A White Wagtail strutted about on the road, oblivious to being watched with interest by a nearby cat

I’ve been trying to spot a Chaffinch singing with not much luck so far, but I got some lovely views of a beautiful male as he came down from his tree to feed on the nuts of a crushed pine cone on the road beneath.

Chaffinches are quick to take advantage of car-crushed cones and acorns etc

The male Chaffinch is a beautiful bird

He even looks handsome from the back

Birds spotted singing, displaying or otherwise expressing themselves this week:

Blue Tits and Great Tits, Blackbirds – I watched a female gathering leaves on Tuesday morning, Spotless Starlings, Chaffinches, Goldfinches and Greenfinches all singing, Serins singing and displaying, Wrens in several different locations, Robin, Blackcaps, House Sparrows, Collared Doves, Short-toed Treecreeper who doesn’t have much of a song but keeps up his soft whistle for longer lengths of time.

Balmy weather and bounty for birds

What a difference a week makes; following two weeks of rainy days and general wintry weather, this first week of February has been sunny and warm, with temperatures of 16ºC or more in sheltered spots, and there is a general sense that spring is on the way. The nights are still chilly, but the drier warmer mornings have coaxed the birds from their recent hiding places and they have been much more active and visible. Some have begun to sing regularly, in particular Wrens, Blue Tits and Serins. Thursday morning was quite magical, the first birds I heard were Jays squawking as they made their way through the cork oaks, and my first sighting was of 3 lovely Goldfinches feeding  on weed seeds and Blue Tits, one exploring the nooks, crannies and plants on the terrace, all the while keeping up contact with another nearby. The regular Blackbirds were about on the grass and a Short-toed Treecreeper arrived to scrutinize the trunks of some of the palm trees.

Goldfinch feeding on the seeds of groundsel

A Blue Tit in a sunny spot in a Cork Oak tree

A Short-toed Treecreeper exploring a palm tree trunk

I could hear Spotless Starlings whistling and calling tunefully from high up in the palm trees at the back of the house and watched a Wren, first singing from various spots along the top of the garden wall, then poking about in the foliage growing against it. A very colourful Greenfinch appeared briefly on the fig tree; I haven’t seen one for ages.

Spotless Starling - (this is a young one)

A Wren singing from a shrub growing against the garden wall

Short-toed Treecreeper taking a drink or perhaps looking for insects

From the kitchen window I saw a pair of Blackcaps after the berries on the dama de noche shrub, two Chiffchaffs flitting about, and two female Chaffinches and half a dozen Housesparrows all pecking around on the ground. The Robin was out and about too, again I hadn’t seen one for a while another Treecreeper came in, landed on a yucca tree trunk, then flew across to the birdbath, something I’d not seen one do before. I think it was drinking, but it may have been looking for insects. (My picture was a bit rushed, but the bird was only there for a few seconds and it took me by surprise).

Cultivated garden plant: Night-scented Jessamine– Cestrum nocturnum Spanish: Dama de Noche (Lady of the night)

Berries of Dama de noche

A tropical and semi-tropical member of the Cestrum family, this Mediterranean classic is grown for the amazing night-time perfume that on a hot August night permeates the air (and our house) with its almost-overpowering scent. This is why it is grown, certainly not for its beauty; it is generally a leggy, untidy shrub and the flowers are small, lime green and held in clusters that during the day have no perfume. The small white berries appear in the late-autumn winter, which is why I don’t cut my plant back sooner – I wait until the Blackcaps have enjoyed them.

Blackcap enjoying the berry bounty of the 'dama de noche' shrub