A quirky look at wildlife. To be taken with a pinch of
salt, but with more than a grain of truth!
Up Close and Personal With Our Feathered Friends
'I don't get any birds in my garden' is a statement often heard. Even
if it is just a concrete square: every garden has birds. Pied wagtails
love pavements and playgrounds, and all manner of birds will drop in,
looking for scraps of food.
The secret to seeing them is to feed on a regular basis. One or two
feeders, a bird table and bird bath is all that is needs. The ideal
feeder to attract birds 'up close and personal' is the window feeder.
Secured with strong suction pads, it will soon become a daily delight.
The most familiar, the Christmas card bird, is the robin. Usually a
ground feeder, he soon becomes adept at helping himself from the
feeder, and will even stop for a chat if you are lucky. Many gardeners
find one perched on their garden spade, and some will feed from the
hand. They are your 'best friends' for a tasty bit of cheese.
Starlings don't take long to get acquainted, either, and though greedy,
argumentative, and messy, they are great fun, generally arriving en
masse. They are more colourful than expected on close acquaintance,
too, when the irridescent purple and green feathers gleam in the
sunlight along with white speckles.
The chaffinch is another ground feeder which is becoming familiar on
feeders if it feels safe. The male has a rosy breast, smart stripes on
its wings, and a blue grey cap, making it unmistakable. The female
does not feel the need to dress to impress!
It is hard to choose a favourite, but the blue tit is near the top of
the list. Tiny, inquisitive and busy, loving peanuts, seeds, fat and
insects equally. Not particularly blue, more greeny blue and yellow,
it wears a cap reminiscent of a continental railwayman, with a tiny
crest visible mainly in the breeding season.
The aristocrat of the average garden is the elegant blackbird. The
male is usually pure black velvet, with a crocus yellow beak and eyering, while the female is a nice chocolate brown. Quiet, generally
unobtrusive, yet quick to sound the alarm when a cat appears, they
positively grovel to their human for a feast of raisins.
Another bird with a propensity for fighting, like the starlings, is
the greenfinch. Generally arriving in a group, they squabble and fight
for the top perch on the feeder, flitting back and forth, and missing
out on a lot of food in the process! Like most birds they are more
noticeable in the breeding season as their plumage is brighter green,
with a good splash of yellow.
An occasional visitor to the garden, especially if there is a shortage
of acorns, is the jay. A large bird comparable to a magpie in size but
not in temperament. It is a shy bird which backs off at the slightest
commotion. Often a flash of bright blue and white is all that is seen
of a bird which generally appears a pinky buff colour with a bit of
black and white. There are so many birds that will appear in a garden,
given the right encouragement. Bullfinches, goldfinches, collared
doves, wood pigeons, great tits and long tailed tits and many more.
Coal tits, the nuthatch, blackcap, and siskin may come but you need to
offer food and water on a regular basis, and watch carefully. You
might be in for a big surprise.
That big surprise, that will take your breath away is likely to be a
sparrowhawk. Fast, with something of a slalom skier about him/her as
it races around bushes, trees, fences and other obstacles looking for
a quick meal. Oft times it is not successful and beats a retreat empty-'handed', leaving the local bird (and human) population 'shaken but not
If it is any encouragement to try, I started feeding nearly four years
ago and found that seven species soon increased to over thirty. The
number was swelled by other unexpected animals attracted by the food,
especially sunflower seeds which seem to be universally popular.