This winter I’ve been treated to blackbirds, robins, a stray starling, goldfinches, chaffinches, blue tits, a great tit, a coal tit, a nuthatch, a woodpecker, sparrows, dunnocks and a trio of pheasants. We have made good use Birds by Colour by Marc Duquet so that the Right Little Madam can identify them by their ‘underpants’ or even underparts. HWIOO has seen helicoptering crows flapping their wings madly in order to get to the seed from the feeder that Hattie and Archie gave him for Christmas.
I’ve learned that ordinary bird food is not, in general, their preferred fare; that sun flower kernels are very popular and that it depends on which brand of suet ball I put out as to how rapidly it’s devoured. I have even gone so far as to buy a book entitled Cooking for Birds by Mark Golley. I know to use suet or lard and never to use turkey fat because it doesn’t set the same way as other fat if I make my own fat balls as it can leave our feathered friends incapable of flight if it gets in their feathers (thank you Gardeners’ World).
However, there are days when we see absolutely nothing and those days are getting more numerous. A couple of days ago The Number-One-Son-In-Law spotted the reason why. There in the fir tree that all the garden birds use as a staging post before landing on the feeder nearest the kitchen window, doing its best to blend in to the background was something very beautiful and, for the garden birds at least, very dangerous – a sparrow hawk or possibly a kestrel (we can’t make up our minds despite trying to match it up to pictures elsewhere.) I’ve never seen one, of whatever it is, so close and as you’d expect with an assassin it kept its head covered at all times – this is the best picture I can currently offer.
So now we have a guest at the bird table that would like to eat all the other guests. I know that this is nature and part of the food chain etc. It’s a beautiful bird- outside my garden (Is this Nimbyism?)- and it needs to eat but I’d be much happier if it stuck to small scuttling rodents or even large scuttling rodents rather than my little birds which are developing identities and characters of their own.