What’s happening in the garden?

The red squirrel, Dark Tail, stops for a break from burying nuts

The red squirrel, Dark Tail, stops for a break from burying nuts

The wren doesn't need a bird table with so many spiders available

The wren doesn’t need a bird table with so many spiders available

On 1 September I put out my bird feeders again.  This is the first year I have stopped feeding the birds during July and August in an effort to prevent the birds congregating and spreading the respiratory disease Trichomonosis. Having found half a dozen either dead or dying greenfinches and chaffinches the previous two summers I decided that seed and insect-eaters would be well able to fend for themselves. I did, however, help out the blackbirds and thrushes by scattering mealworms on the grass. In this year’s dry summer worms and other grubs in very dry conditions would be hard to find, and this supplementary feeding has now paid off, with sometimes eight immature blackbirds often in the garden at any one time.

I’ve changed the feeder contents of some of the feeders this year. Formerly I had six feeders with black sunflower seeds, three with peanuts and three with fat balls. The black sunflower seeds have been swapped for wild bird seed as I found that coal tits in particular were emptying them in no time to bury them in the garden. There is a fine array of sunflowers growing in odd corners as a heritage from last year, but hopefully the wild bird seed may be slightly less expensive. I can see already some of the birds are being selective and jettisoning the seeds they don’t like to get their preference. This means more seed on the ground, which helps chaffinches, woodpigeons, collared doves and might also encourage pheasants, but the down side is that it might attract rats. In any case I’ll deal with that problem if it arises.

With less than a week gone, the feeders are already well patronised, and most emptied by the end of the day. Chaffinches, greenfinches, robins, blue tits, coal tits, great tits are the main visitors, with blackbirds and dunnocks feeding underneath. As I type this, I’ve just seen the first tree creeper of the summer hopping in a spiral up the trunk of a larch tree, but the great-spotted woodpeckers haven’t started visiting yet.

I’ve had the squirrel feeder filled all summer, and many of the tit family are now adept at squeezing in the very narrow space I have left open at the top and making off with a peanut. Some took a while to work this out, and I saw them gazing in through the Perspex at the nuts before they eventually figured out how to circumvent this invisible barrier.

I’m not sure whether we still have two red squirrels as lately I’ve never seen two together. The one that is there most days has an extremely dark tail. Of the two, this one only reaches halfway in to the feeder to get a nut, whereas the other one went right inside, managing to turn inside the feeder to come out head first again. ‘Dark Tail’ spent an hour burying nuts this morning, many of them in the lawn. This creates an opportunity for our dog, Molly, as she can clearly smell the buried peanuts and pushes in to the grass with her muzzle till she can get hold of the nut. Molly keeps the dangerous cats away; squirrel unknowingly rewards Molly with nuts – symbiosis with a difference!

I saw a red squirrel (probably ‘ours’) running across the main road through the village yesterday. Not the best idea but nothing I can do to prevent this suicidal behaviour. Others in the village now tell me they’ve seen this several times. Older readers may remember the Tufty Club where Tufty the red squirrel, son of Mrs Fluffytail, was the main road safety guru for schoolchildren. Dark Tail certainly never stopped and looked right, left and right again yesterday before he crossed.

Lastly, my eight new khaki Campbell ducks have settled in well and the growth on them in the last 10 days has been amazing. Need them now to hurry up and start laying…………….

POSTSCRIPT – Both red squirrels still here; both at the squirrel feeder on Sunday 8 September.

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