My feathered friends
Can you hear me love?
It may be a far cry from the exotic worlds so readily available today via High Definition TV, with the soft sound track of David Attenborough, but our garden is full of life, and some of it is very colourful.
It's not a big garden, and it is a little dark, with a huge laurel hedge on one side, opposite the house, and two ivy covered fences on the sides. Some birds don't trust it, and so where we used to have jackdaws and magpies, there's now more food for the others.
Robins are very territorial, and this one has claimed our garden for his own. He is quite fussy, and sometimes gives other species a bit of hassle, but most of the time he is pretty accommodating.
I was surprised therefore when I saw this the other day:
Which led to this:
Which could have been nasty, except that I had forgotten that sunshine means spring, and spring means making eggs, while the sun shines. It must have been a bit of a shock when the next day it snowed!
I would love to say we get all sorts in our garden, and we do occasionally get visitors - I recently saw a female Blackcap here, who must be overwintering, but I didn't manage to get her photo, and I saw four Long-tailed tits fly over before Christmas, and we often get Coal tits in the summer - but in general the population is as you see in these pictures, all taken in the last week:
Blue tits are quite common, and they have nested here in some years, though as they are so little, I don't think their survival rate is that high....
Handsome Great tits also pop in to grab some seeds, but they are quicker to flit in and out than the little Blues.
I won't admit to having favourites, but I am very fond of the House Sparrows that are regulars at our feeders. They may not be very tuneful, but they are sociable birds, and though perhaps a little scruffy, they can be very smart when they make the effort:
The males have fetching grey caps, and fashionable stubble:
The Hedge Sparrow, or Dunnock, is no relation, and prefers scratching about on the ground in the flower beds to dining at the feeders. I used to think they were drab little birds, but they're not, being kitted out with a tweedy sort of suit and whispy trousers, and their agile movements and bright eyes go quite well with their extraordinary breeding habits, which effectively mean that if you have three Dunnocks in your garden you may well have at least two pairs.....
Blackbirds do well here, and their varied diet means that they are happy at the table and just as happy on the ground, where they will take worms and slugs and grubs, turning their heads so they can see what's going on (strangely they do not have parallax vision, so each eye is only covering one side).
The male stands out, with his coal black feathers and gold beak and eye rings, but the female is no less a bird, with her rich brown dapple, and she too has gold eye-liner....
Though if it is gold you want, then it's this little bird you want to watch. Unlike the others the Goldfinch really only seems to like nyger seed, though in fact I see flocks of them in the fields at this time of year stripping thistles and umbelliferae of their seeds.... We have had families of these, and they always used to come to feed in pairs, but sadly, at the moment, there is only one.....
One of the most colourful birds, however, is the Starling. When seen in their thousands at dusk, or when in flocks on farmland or strutting about on your lawn at a distance, they seem to be grey unattractive, but in fact they are shimmeringly bright with blues and speckles, the younger ones being lighter, sometimes almost fawn, the mature adults glistening with a sharp sheen. They are acrobatic, too, and have a gift for mimicry which has even stretched to them imitating telephone rings to send humans back inside their houses!
Starlings are in decline, they say, and this is partly why the Big Garden Birdwatch is so important. By inputting the received data, the experts in the world of ornithology can build up their knowledge of species - which are doing well, and which may need protection. It may be great if you spot some rarity in your garden, but it is no problem if all you see is a tiny wren. It may be spectacular to see a Red Kite circling overhead, or a Sparrow Hawk blasting past on a killing spree. Woodpeckers and Jays are marvellous to see close up, and the glinting eyes of Magpies or the raucous voice of the Carrion Crow are things to marvel at, but this Big Garden Birdwatch is not about particulars like that; it is about mapping the commonplace, so that we can understand our everyday world a little better. Woodpigeons may not be special,
And I wouldn't mind putting this one in a pie, especially if he was the one who plundered my purple sprouting on my allotment, but he's welcome in our garden, pigeon toes and all!
My assistant bird watcher is particularly fond of him!
Though in fact, the birds just keep a respectful distance..... We all get along just fine, and that, I think, is what is so wonderful about it all.....
If you go to the RSPB website https://www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch/ you will be able to register your interest, and eventually also upload your findings.
Last year over half a million people took part, noting some seven million birds. The following is from the webpage:
Why take part?
Bird populations are a great indicator of the health of the countryside. That's why it's so important to take part in surveys like Big Garden Birdwatch to keep an eye on the ups and downs of the wildlife where we live.
All you need to do is spend an hour over the weekend of 24-25 January counting the birds in your garden. It's that simple!
The more people involved, the more we can learn. So, grab a cuppa and together we can all help to give nature a home.