January 23rd- sketching the spectacular nuthatch!

We find ourselves isolating still; fortunately nobody is ill but it is now 5 days of waiting for test results, so there has plenty of time to study garden birds. We are very fortunate to be close to Gilling woods and have a good selection of birds visiting. Daily maximums include 4-5 marsh tits, 2 nuthatch and a regular flock of 16 long- tailed tits stable at this number for weeks now. A pair of bramblings still visit, probably birds from a flock that feeds in a nearby maize field. Recently a goldcrest has started to visit the bird table to feed on crumbled fat balls- exquisite.

I spent some time making detailed studies of nuthatches this week. These are worked up studies, very much from life observation but made from the comfort of the studio. Each time one lands on the bird table I find myself struck by its beauty. Not just the colouration but its shape, so unique amongst garden birds. Their fast and bold arrival at the feeders often sees other small birds scatter. Earlier today the male nuthatch came out of nowhere and planted himself right in the middle of a flock of long-tailed tits on the peanut feeder; there was a ‘bomb burst’ of pink, white and black! What a contrast of two species just a few feet from where I stood. Nuthatches, long-tailed tits and our marsh tits are all very tame and allow very close approach when we are in the garden.

Nuthatches are becoming increasingly vocal now as they begin to establish territories. The male is looking pristine with rich terracotta flanks contrasting blue grey upperparts, the female is basically a toned down version of the male. At a time when so many species are in decline it is nice to report that the nuthatch is a species doing extremely well; expanding in range and population in the UK.

The variety of plumage colours on our bird table at the moment rival any selection in other habitats at anytime of year and I’m sure many of us have never been so grateful for the beauty of our garden birds.


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