Birds in the rain

A great tit finds one of the coal tit's buried black sunflower seeds

A great tit finds one of the coal tit’s buried black sunflower seeds

The male woodpecker

The male woodpecker

It has been some spell of rain over much of the country, especially Perthshire.  While we’ve had no flooding in the Methven area it has rained almost continuously for three days. I suppose the main consolation is that it could have been snow! There are two further consolations: the world didn’t implode on Friday and we are now on the right side of the shortest day.

The birds are coping well, despite the fact that there is barely any daylight, and the feeders are still almost emptied by lunch time. Though there were dozens – maybe even hundreds – of birds at the feeders today, I think yesterday took the biscuit.  Just before the three-day torrent I had been raking the grass to get rid of some larch needles and some moss and this has sparked a feeding frenzy. The grass was absolutely covered with birds yesterday: chaffinches, bramblings, greenfinches, coal tits, blue tits and great tits. I suspect I had uncovered many of the thousands of black sunflower seeds that the coal tits had buried during October and November, and maybe even a few of the peanuts that the squirrels had been burying. The bird population were quick to spot this and to take advantage of the coal tit’s prudence.

Though bramblings were on the grass, there were even more under the feeders; in fact many more than I have ever seen here. The adult males are especially beautiful, sporting their deep orange breast and shoulder patches, contrasting with their black head and back. The female with the drooping wings, exposing much more than normal of the white rump, was there. I’d managed a photograph of sorts a few days earlier, but it was at a distance and in poor light.

The female great-spotted woodpecker visits the peanut feeder five or six times a day, but the male put in an appearance yesterday. He is a magnificent bird and of course he sports the crimson patch on the back of his head that the female lacks.  I’d an interesting call the other day from a nearby farmer, who wondered how he could prevent great-spotted woodpeckers accessing his feeders as they were eating too much of the expensive peanuts and keeping the other birds away. My advice? ‘Jim, you should get more feeders, so that all the species can feed at the same time. Maybe extend that to a couple of feeders that would dispense black sunflower seeds, which are much less appealing to woodpeckers.’ There were some rumblings about the addition cost, countered by my telling him, ‘Cut down on the steak and eat more bread and cheese.’ He went off the phone in good spirits intending to do what he could, but I’ll await confirmation.

A blue tit has taken a liking to roosting in the garage. The garage is where I have a sink in which I wash my ducks’ eggs in the morning. I’m not sure where exactly it is roosting but it initially fluttered back and forth when I was present, though seems to be getting used to me. I’ve now to ensure that I have the garage door open at least in late afternoon and, even though I’m not taking the car out, to open it again in the morning; just another one of the daily tasks. Not sure how I’ll manage all these when I start paid work with the National Wildlife Crime Unit on 7 January; there will need to be some of the tasks done with the torch in the evening.

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