Wednesday, 27 December 2006

Christmas treats for the birds

It is very mild here at the moment, very uncharacteristic for Scotland at Christmas! We have even missed some of the hard frosts here. As such the birds can be seen digging in the soil for food below my feeding stations – the blackbirds are the most noticeable in this. My daughters, aware of my increasing interest in the visiting birds, gave me Christmas parcels with a bird theme this year.

The picture above was taken today - in the middle of the afternoon. It shows a dull but relatively mild day. I took this picture to show the tree on the left – planted on Christmas day. It is a Cotoneaster Hybridus Pendulus– and was a Christmas parcel from my husband.

We thought it would give a bit more height and year round interest to this area - red berries in the winter and white blossom in spring. The birds very quickly have discovered it and use the post to look about and the branches as a stop over to the feeders or the ground. I’m sure they will be tempted by the berries when the snow and really cold snaps hit!

My youngest daughter gave me a new, small, feeding house and meal worms (frozen) which I filled it with – I have hung this tucked away on my arch beside my young pine tree where any falling food will rest and the birds can eat from there too. She also gave me a pack of fat balls and a small basket-woven roosting pocket (like the other two I already have). I hung the roosting pocket near the others and the fat balls from tree branches. My eldest daughter gave me a tiny niger (thistle) feeder, with a really tiny hole for the seeds to get out – I suspect this hole may increase as they feed from it! I hung this from a branch on my pine tree and I will watch with interest to see the goldfinches get any seed out.

A variety of birds have been visiting my garden over the last few days:

  • Blackbirds, chasing each other still – but really enjoying the sultanas I have thrown out for them. I scatter them out into the borders some days and they generally see me doing this and are quick to find them.
  • Robins, dunnocks and house sparrows have been visiting but I have noticed the robins more with fewer numbers of house sparrows – I suspect the house sparrows haven’t liked the change in my seed mix! I changed the mix to a no mess one that will reduce the weeds below the feeding stations. I haven’t fed the birds bread in a while so maybe that has had an effect too.
  • Goldfinches are out numbering the blue tits at the moment. Sunflower hearts are going down well with both at the moment – they are obviously smart knowing there is a higher level of energy in them! The Blue tits were also very quick to find the new fat balls hanging from tree branches – with one really smart one finding the meal worms!
  • Chaffinches are visiting a lot more now and I am noticing a few pairs. They were the first birds I noticed using my new tree as a resting spot – within 10 mins of it being planted. They seem to like the peanuts and the sunflower hearts and are often on the ground below the sunflower heart feeders although seem a bit shyer at the feeders themselves.
  • Starlings are invading the feeders in groups. They do like the fat balls and with their long sharp beaks bring up the balls quite quickly and they fall to the ground. I have noticed they are also a tad partial to the sunflower hearts too and take over the feeding station that has them.
  • The Sparrowhawk had not been spotted in a while although I do not expect it has forgotten where my garden is! Perhaps the absence of large numbers of house sparrows is a factor. I said ‘had not been spotted’ – it has just flown by and perched itself on a neighbours tree and is looking about. No birds were at my feeders so off it went to find its supper elsewhere!!

The pictures above show the first time we were able to identify our visiting bird of prey- the sparrowhawk. They were taken after it stunned itself on my window.

It took a moment to stand up – long enough for me to grab a camera and take a few pics as you will see below. It seemed to hurt its leg and could initially only fly as far as the top of my bird table – shame!!! Needless to say after perching there for a while the birds didn’t come to the feeders for almost two hours.

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