Friday, 30 January 2009

A Surprise Visitor to Barleycorn

On the weekend of the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch, my hubbie replenished the feeders with peanuts and wild-bird seed, hung several fat-balls from the birch trees and prepared the bird-table with a mountain of scraps, in order to attract as many of our feathered friends as possible.
There’s always great excitement when, on red-letter days, a buzzard, or a sparrowhawk, or a great-spotted woodpecker make an appearance in the garden…and, equally, disappointing when they are absent on the official Garden Birdwatch.
Imagine our great surprise then, when, during the hour in which we were ‘doing the count’, a huge pheasant flew over the stone-dyke wall into the garden. Suddenly, our focus shifted onto this large, hen-size bird.
There is open countryside adjacent to the back garden at Barleycorn and mixed woodland bordering the field, and in this area pheasants are common on game farms where they are reared for commercial shooting…hence two possible reasons for his appearance. Not that we haven’t seen one in the garden before, for we sometimes find one korkk-korkking on the wall when one of the cats is nearby.
Phasianus Colchicus, better known as the common pheasant, is not native to Britain.
Some sources claim pheasants were first introduced 2000 years ago when the Romans invaded Britain. Others claim they were brought here with the Normans in the 11th Century. One fact appears to be indisputable. They originated in western Asia.
This male probably came into the garden because it was attracted by the overspill of seeds from the feeders and the fat-balls, which hang from the birches bordering the adjacent field. Pheasants and other game-birds often keep to the margins of the field where the stone-dyke wall, which borders the entire field, affords them shelter and camouflage.
As you can see he is very colourful, with a dark-green face and red wattles, and a body and tail of rich chestnut, with golden-brown and black patterns. We were transfixed, for he looked as if he was wearing Joseph's technicolour-dreamcoat on this otherwise dull day in January with the garden looking somewhat drab in tone, while awaiting its Spring coat.

He wandered around with his long tail cocked up at an angle. At first, the smaller birds flew upwards but soon settled down again when they realised he was only interested in feeding on the seeds, and not on them.

After he’d had enough seeds he strutted across to the rockery and pecked at a few shoots on the lithospermum, pictured in one of the photographs below. It is a heather-like plant, which comes in beautiful Gentian-blue shades and has a lovely trailing habit, covering slopes in the scree bed.

On our bird count sheet, we had to note down the largest number - of each species - we saw together at any one time during the hour. Here are the totals.

Blackbird - 3; Blue tit – 8; Carrion crow – 1; Chaffinch – 17; Coal tit – 3; Collared dove – 4; Dunnock – 1; Feral pigeon – 20; Great tit – 1; Greenfinch – 1; House sparrow – 10; Jackdaw – 5; Robin – 1; Starling 14; and Pheasant - 1

It was interesting to see how easily a twiggy rhododendron shrub camouflaged his brightly-coloured plumage when he ran behind it. He felt safe enough to wander around, as I was filming, and taking photographs, indoors.

After taking a few photos, I set my camera to video mode, the results of which you can see below. There is no sound, for if I had opened the window, he, along with the rest of the birds, would have flown off.
Since then, we have seen him most days strutting about the garden picking up seeds. Taz has given him a wide berth, which is fortunate for both. There's no mistaking his presence when he starts his korkk-korkking to warn Taz, in no uncertain terms, to keep away. He is the first of three surprise visitors we have had during the past week. I shall reveal the identities of the others in the next post.


Green thumb said...

Beautifully shot!
That was a lovely post dear W.G. Watching these wondrous specimens of nature helps you put life in a lighter, more fun filled perspective.
The Pheasant seems to be enjoying every bit of his stay at Barleycorn. I am sure it must be thanking its ancestors for having migrated from West Asia:-)

Sally said...

Seed/suet balls AND peanuts! I take it you don't have a squirrel problem. I can only feed safflower seeds most of the time because of the dang squirrels and grackles. It's very annoying. The sunflower seeds go into the self-closing feeder (i.e. anything bigger than a finch automatically closes the holes).

Our GBBC starts Feb. 13. I'm really hoping that the birds will return to the feeders soon. For some reason (the frigid temperatures maybe?) our feeders have been very quiet this month. It's very discouraging.

Oh, and the pheasants are really pretty, aren't they? We call them Chinese Pheasants around here and the hunters come from all over during pheasant hunting season. Driving down the roads you can see 20 or 30 of them feeding in the field at once. That's quite a sight!

swallowtail said...

Oh how cool! It seems the birds are making suprise appearances these days... come over and see who came inside! my house! I love your post. It is giving me ideas about counting who-all shows up at my feeders. Seems that it would be a wonder filled way to spend an hour! I can't wait to see who else shows up! xoxoLC

Bimbimbie said...

He must have heard about the count and decided to surprise you on the day, his little appearance isn't playing for me so I'll pop back later

how do your figures from the count compare to recent years?

Yolanda Elizabet said...

That was certainly an unusual but very welcome guest and how fortunate he came during the bird count hour.

There are quite a lot of them around here too. Not so long ago I saw one walking down the street where I live.

Have a lovely weekend!

Cheryl said...

A good bird count wildlife gardener....

Lovely to see a male pheasant. We have one that pops in sometimes but I have never been able to get a photograph. Well done you.

I also did the is a lovely way to spend an hour and know that you are helping the RSPB with their bird studies......

Have a lovely weekend at Barleycorn.......

Duxbury Ramblers said...

That was a nice surprise for your bird count, we had nothing unusual, although there are plenty of pheasant and other game birds about we have never seen one in the garden.

linda may said...

We only see pheasants in wildlife parks here, but they are spectacularly beautiful looking birds. Cool that you have wild ones strutting about your area. There are some Australian native birds of similar size range. We have brush Turkeys and Lyre birds. Lyre birds in particular are amazing birdies, maybe a bit bigger than the pheasants.

Anonymous said...

We used to hunt these in season here in Ohio. Especially during the War when food was scarce and meat rationed. I enjoyed your fascination with this visitor.

Thanks too for visiting my blog. I also have a birds blog. I have too many blogs but find I am always messing with them.

Jeanne said...

I love all your photographs
especially the pheasant.

I love you
Big hugs
Keep the wonderful posts coming

Kathleen said...

I'd love a surprise visitor like your pheasant Wildlife Gardener. His bright colors would brighten up any day just like you say. I wonder how long he'll stick around? Barleycorn seems like such a nice place, he may not leave...
Some of the birds you mentioned in your bird count I am not familiar with ~ I'm going to look them up and see if we have them here or if we are outside their range. There are plenty of sparrows, starlings and blackbirds. They must live around the globe? Have a great weekend.

joey said...

Your ringneck pheasant is a handsome fella' and one of my favorites, plentiful here in Michigan especially where I grew on Saginaw Bay. I've prepared many in my kitchen, loving the flavor. Because of its beauty, we also have one stuffed in our library, honoring him with a teeny-tiny hat that adorns the top of his head during the holidays. As always, enjoyed my visit on your bird watch day :)

Barbara said...

I can imagine your surprise when seeing this wonderful pheasant in your garden. Lucky you! He probably came to you because he wanted to be counted too;-) ! Up to now I didn't see one in free nature here.

Sandy said...

Love seeing your pheasants... I gotta remember you are updating the blog again!!

G3T Films said...

I know I shouldn't say so but 'Yum!' Luckily he's not here as I'm not sure he'd survive in my garden very long. Well, that might be true if I wasn't such a softy.

Excellent photographs Wildlife G.

Naturegirl said...

Birdwatching is a wonderful way to stay in touch with nature and every once in awhile we are blessed with surprises as you show with the handsome pheasant!Happy birding!

A wildlife gardener said...

A warm welcome to you all to our little corner of paradise on this chilly day, 1st February :)

* He was very obliging, dear Green Thumb, and came up close towards the end of my filming, puffing out his silky chestnut feathers :)

* Luckily we do not have a squirrel problem, Sally, though we do have occasional visits as they live and breed in the adjacent wood.

You are right about the freezing Winter temperatures because that's when the birds are most susceptible to all kinds of problems :)

* I'm going to pop right over to Larabee to find out who surprised you with their, Swallowtail... :)

* I think you are correct, Bimbimbie..he did want to be in the picture :)

Our bird-count was similar to previous years, though we notice our sparrows have been less in number recently.

* He was a surprise, Yolanda, and made his appearance at the right moment :)

* If I had been in the garden, he would have flown off, Cheryl. His timing was all a matter of good luck, really. I certainly could not have planned it :)

* I think we are fortunate to have the open expanse of the field and the adjacent wood behind us, Duxbury Ramblers...otherwise he would probably have given us a wide berth :)

* I think your brush turkeys and lyre birds are fabulous, Linda May. I have a friend in Cairns, who often has visits from brush turkeys in her garden in the rainforest...though they seem to destroy a lot of they are not very welcome :)

* Lovely to hear from you, Abe. Yes, my parents and grandparents used to have lots of pheasants for dinner...and my grandma used their tail feathers to make dusters :)

* Glad you liked the pheasant, dear Jeanne. He was perfectly harmless in our garden...and I'm sure he would have eaten lots of grubs too :)

* I have learned so much about the different wildlife from visiting the various blogs I follow, Kathleen..and that includes yours, dear friend :)

* They really are handsome fellows, Joey. I am not surprised you have one in your library. Stuffed birds under glass were common ornaments when I was a child and I learned all about them from observing them at close hand :)

* He was a lovely surprise, as you say, Barbara, and I enjoy his visits. It is difficult to count how many tones he has in his feathers...very colourful indeed :)

* Thanks for popping over to see him, Sandy. I am still adding my regular visitors to my list :)

* Glad you came, G3T Films. I can understand people wanting to eat them...but, being a nature lover, I prefer to 'shoot' them with my camera...and let them fly off :)

* You are right, Nature Girl, we do love birdwatching...and nature watching...and I am blessed with surprises every time I am in the garden :)

Libby said...

Sadly I was unable to join in the Birdwatch, but never mind, maybe next time!
I enjoyed sharing yours though!!

shirl said...

Hi there Wildlife Gardener:-)

Sorry, I’ve been slow to pop over. Ah… what a surprise that must have been to see the pheasant during the hour of your count and weird to have this bird as a regular visitor now. Great stuff to see a video as well as photos from your garden.

I got a surprise too when one landed on my lawn back in December. I don’t have fields but houses surrounding my garden although a few streets away countryside and fields can be found. It was weird to see. I didn’t get photos as it walked on through my garden missing the food on the ground at the edges of my lawn. Perhaps it would have returned if it had!

Ah… good count for the birdwatch – quite a few jackdaws I see too. We only ever get one in the garden and it’s usually at nesting time when it helps itself to the soft material I put out for the blue tits! It doesn’t leave much as it keeps coming back for more.

Now… you do have me wondering what your other surprise visitors were. Could another cat be one?

A wildlife gardener said...

* Lovely to have your company, Libby :)

There's always next year to do the bird count, Libby. Thanks for stopping by :)

* He was a lovely surprise, Shirl, and, dare I say it, made the bird count even more exciting.

We have three chimneys in the barn where the jackdaw nest every year, so they are more or less resident with us. I love their pale-blue bead-like eyes. There are all sorts of stories about jackdaws, but they don't frighten off any of our smaller birds.

Not another cat, Shirl... :)

G3T Films said...

We have koalas at our place now... yeah, OK, not really. But they are real pictures of Koalas... sort of...

Sheila said...

Great pictures of the pheasant, and the other birds. What a treat to have a visitor like that. They are so colourful. I see you had a wide variety of other birds too.
I think the most exotic bird this winter for us is the cardinal and his mate, a nice splash of red against the snow.

Q said...

Such a pleasant surprise!
Beautiful pheasant.
You had a nice bird count.
Spring will come soon and our birds will begin nesting....
the cycle continues.
I have enjoyed catching up with you.

Monica the Garden Faerie said...

Hi Wildie. Bananas! I was sure I left a comment on this post, but I guess I didn't. It's really cool you saw the pheasant--I've never seen one. Our bird count is this weekend, so I better get ready! (Well, I guess there's not much to get ready; the big issue is remembering!).

Marie said...

Very nice post!

I lve birds!

Happy weekend :)

Chandramouli S said...

How exciting to have Pheasants! Wonderful post! Lucky you to have so many birds around your garden.

A wildlife gardener said...

Good morning to you all on this wet Friday in February, where there are the first signs of Spring in the Barleycorn garden :)

* A warm welcome, G3T films to our little corner of paradise. I shall pop over to see your koalas :)

* Lovely to see you, dear Sheila:) I love the vibrancy of your red cardinals :)

* Great to have your company, sherry. I am enjoying catching up with you, too :)

* Glad you are joining in with the Great bird count, Monica. the birds bring our gardens to life :)

* A warm welcome to you in snowy Norway, Marie. Our snow is all but gone now...only a few patches bordering the edges of the fields :)

* Lovely to meet you, Chandramouli S. a warm welcome to our little corner of paradise :)

Dawn said...

Wow! What a wonderful surprise in your garden. He is a gorgeous bird! It would be tempting to watch him all day long. You've taken some wonderful photos & video. Thanks so much for sharing these. Can't wait to see your other surprises. :-)

A wildlife gardener said...

A warm welcome to you, Dawn, on this, the last day of February :)

We've not seen so much of Mr Pheasant these past few days, nor of the two other visitors which I shall write about soon... :)

Conn said...

Aloha from Hawaii.
I was looking around the web for pheasant posts and came across yours. How lucky you are to have a creature like this. We actually have one that we found abandoned in our yard a year ago this month. We raised him from about a week old and then after a very careful weening process released him 4 months later. He still visits us almost daily and we love it. He brings a great smile to our face each and every time. The females are almost never seen outside of the brush or nest, except for mating season and when their eggs hatch. then they come out for food. I just saw our little guys mother today and we see his father almost daily. You can check him out on our blog

just search his name - Kekoa - to see all his posts.

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