Bird-watching in the garden

The female blackbird waiting beside the conservatory for its mealworms

The impatient (or hungry) male blackbird waiting for its mealworm breakfast

Chaffinches and bramblings under one of the feeders in the larch wood

The dejected mistle thrush that failed to find a single berry to eat

The dazed bullfinch under the conservatory window

Well there are some advantages of snowy weather, though not a lot. The day thus far for my wife and I has been bird watching without leaving the house – or at least the garden. The day started with one of the two pairs of blackbirds waiting for me just after 7.00am perched on the balcony rail of the veranda which is part of the conservatory. They get mealworms in the same places in the garden every morning and are always waiting there just after first light. This morning they were impatient and almost knocking on the window for their breakfast.

I filled the feeders at the three feeding stations first thing and by 7.30 there were birds galore. Most were chaffinches, and there have been between 30 and 50 in the garden all day. They surely can’t be the same birds; there must e some change around otherwise their wee bellies would burst with food. It would be great to know how many different chaffinches visit the feeders and the ground under the feeders over the course of a day.

The chaffinches were soon joined by bramblings, with their numbers building to a dozen or so. A few blue tits, three fat wood pigeons, four tree sparrows and about the same number of house sparrows made up most of the rest of the cast, though there was an occasional guest appearance by a wren, a tree creeper and a couple of dunnocks, the latter being more interested in stealing some of the blackbirds’ mealworms. These, of course, had to be topped up every couple of hours.

A mistle thrush appeared and searched every bush in the garden that had formerly held berries, though they had been scoffed earlier in the winter.  I could see one berry on a cotoneaster and the mistle thrush tried in vain to snatch it, but unfortunately it was at the end of a thin, wispy branch and tantalisingly out of reach.

Later in the day the same bushes were visited by a small flock of around half a dozen fieldfares, who also had to leave empty-handed. They’re the first to have visited the garden this winter and only ever come in snowy conditions.

Despite having their mealworm supplies, at one point a female blackbird clung on to one of the feeders, flapping wildly to retain its position. It seemed to spill more seed than it ate, a situation that the hens grasped immediately and scuttled over to pick up the best of the seed, scattering the ground squad of chaffinches and bramblings.

A flock of goldfinches visited the feeders yesterday but, though they were in the garden again today, they were more interested in the cones at the top of the larch trees and were able to feed without interruption. This must be a great source of food as, in addition to the goldfinches, I regularly see chaffinches, coal tits, blue tits and great tits feasting there.

The day almost included a disaster, as a male bullfinch crashed against the conservatory window. It nose-dived into the snow and lay there quivering as if dead. It must have been knocked out but a few seconds later it emerged from the snow and sat looking around, clearly still dazed. I was pretty sure by that time it would survive but it sat there for a good fifteen minutes before it eventually flew off. It would have been easy pickings for one of the sparrowhawks, though none have visited this past few days despite their bird table being full.

As I finish writing this at almost 3.00pm the feeders are just as busy as they have been all day, in fact two feeders of about 2 feet in length are nearly empty and will need refilled for the early morning invasion. I must say we get our money’s worth from the seed and mealworms.

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