Coal tit parade

Coal tit feeding on peanut butter

Considering the wet and miserable ‘summer’ we’ve had, I’m amazed at how many coal tits are in my garden. At any given time there must be somewhere between 50 and 70, and their appetite is enormous. I have four feeders with black sunflower seeds, three with a mix of bird seed, two with peanuts, three with fat balls and four cracks in the bark of larch trees filled with peanut butter (the type without either salt or sugar).  In addition there is the red squirrel feeder filled with a mix of peanuts and pine nuts, and a small cache of this nut mix I put at the bottom of a copper beech tree at the front of the house as the pair of red squirrels like to feed there first thing in the morning. The black sunflower seeds are the first to go, with the two feeders at the front of the house empty well before lunch time, at which time the birds from there join the team at the back of the house.

I suspect few of the sunflower seeds are getting eaten: most are being stashed away for winter. There is a constant stream of coal tits ferrying the seeds to all points in the garden. They carefully push the seed into the grass, bare earth or into flower pots before returning to the feeders to restock.  I can hardly imagine that they have the energy to do this for a whole day and probably work in relays. I’d love to know the total number of coal tits that visit the feeders in a day. Greenfinches used to be the most common birds at the feeders until now, with a slightly lesser number of chaffinches feeding on the overspill below. I’ve just watched a male chaffinch taking advantage of the coal tits’ hidden sunflower seeds. It was hopping around on the grass under the office window and picked up three sunflower seeds that must have been at least partly showing above ground. When it moved off it was replaced by a great tit with the same initiative.

Two tree creepers have been visiting one of my peanut butter ‘restaurants’, which surprised me as they are primarily insectivorous. I’ve tried in vain over the past year to photograph a tree creeper but by the time I get the camera ready to press the button they’ve hopped round to the other side of the trunk. Frustrating, but maybe the peanut butter will increase my chances.

I worry about the two wee red squirrels (I’ve not seen the third one for some weeks) as they spend a lot of time in the open burying nuts. A buzzard flew at low level through the garden yesterday afternoon but thankfully there were no squirrels around. I really wish it would go elsewhere! I can easily tell the squirrels apart now, with one having a light tip to its tail. It is a slightly smaller squirrel and its whole coat seems lighter than that of its sibling. They tolerate each other much more now and regularly feed together. I’m not in favour of giving wild animals names, but for the purpose of identification, rather than the ‘darker tail’ and ‘lighter tail’ I’d used earlier, I’ll refer to them as ‘dark squirrel’ and ‘white tip’.

Finishing up on a different subject, I noticed a post on a blog this morning echoing what I said in my previous post about referring to animals and birds as vermin. It is less common now for anyone to apply this term to birds of prey (at least in public), but this is the tag regularly given to foxes, stoats and weasels. They may be pests, to a greater or lesser degree, to game management, and foxes in some cases to sheep farmers at lambing time, but with the number of rats, mice and field voles they kill, must surely be benefactors to most farmers and foresters. If the otter I wrote about earlier returns and takes another of my ducks it will certainly be a pest, but I could never consider it as vermin. In the meantime I have taken the sensible step of shutting my ducks in before its gets dark and not letting them out the following day until it becomes light. I’ve never yet seen a fox or otter with a key to get into a henhouse or shed.

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