Writing is a huge passion of mine. I dedicate a lot of time to it, but there is something else that I enjoy almost as much – bird watching. This isn’t new. I’ve had my head stuck in the window watching birds in my back garden for years. These days I’m very fortunate to live in a house with a wooded area at the back, so my visitors are numerous and varied. I don’t only watch, I photograph too. (Not very well!) I use a ‘trail cam’ which I place strategically in the garden.
When I first got into this, decades ago, the birds were mostly starlings and sparrows. Not anymore. These days it’s more likely to be all members of the tit family, finches, corvids, wood pigeons, the odd rarity, plus the more familiar robins and blackbirds. The last sparrow I saw was in Spain! So, something has gone wrong.
It is bird behaviour that fascinates me. Having put out food I wait and watch. And believe me, they are watching me from the trees too. First to bounce down onto my lawn is a magpie. A bird whose beauty belies his vicious reputation. He struts over my grass picking up everything he can. Often he flies away to scoff the lot in peace. But if it’s late on in the day he buries some among my flowers. He pecks away at the soil with his beak, makes a hole and then deposits the morsel for later. I’d no idea they did this. I googled it, and sure enough, it is in their pattern of behaviour.
They argue. There is no sharing. The pecking order isn’t what you might think either. Big, beefy Jackdaw is easily scared off by a gentle looking collared dove. Wood pigeons stand no nonsense from any of them. Robin thinks he owns the place, as does the blackbird. He even sees off his wife!
Among the rarities, as I call them, are the lesser spotted woodpecker. A beautiful bird and so cute when he brings his babies for the first time. Another, the jays, particularly the baby ones. This spring I’ve had a flock of long tailed tits. They crash into the feeder mob-handed leaving no room and no food for anything else! Another couple I love is Mr and Mrs Bullfinch. He is the pretty one with his striking red plumage. She is a mere sepia version of him. But he is very attentive, lets her feed first while he keeps a wary eye, and they always come together.
I cater for the ground feeders, blackbirds particularly, and I have hanging feeders around the garden. Birds can be very acrobatic when they want food! I give them a mix – basic bird seed, oat flakes, suet pellets, mealworm. The absolute favourite for everything is sunflower hearts. Mr Blackbird is keen on fruit, grapes and apples.
I have seen them through a particularly harsh winter. Cleared the snow to feed them, smashed the ice on my little pond so they could drink. But their number is diminished. Hopefully the babies will appear soon and we’ll start again.