Sunday, 25 February 2018

A bit of light entertainment

A couple of years ago I bought my mother a wooden hanging bird feeder that supplied peanuts via a basket and other items on a tray. It was not quite what I had in mind but served the purpose, so I thought! Well, the peanuts were attractive to the Blue and Great Tits, but I had trouble getting more nuts from local shops - I think the local residents bought the cheap peanuts for their curries! Unfortunately, the local squirrels also thought they were great.

Eventually the feeder collapsed, perhaps because of squirrel attention, but probably because it was very poorly built! My brother William rennovated it last summer and we had hopes it would be back in use for some years to come. We had not bargained on a very determined squirrel that literally ate the wood retaining the wire mesh for the peanut feeder. Sadly, the wooden bird feeder was no longer viable for peanuts. I therefore looked for more robust squirrel-proof replacements.

Once I found some caged alternatives I bought three - one for fat balls, one for sunflower seeds and one for peanuts. Thus, we now have four feeders in the apple tree! The original wooden one is used for suet pellets for the Robin. These new feeders have been an absolute revellation. I now have to buy vast quantities of fat balls and sunflower seeds but amazingly the peanuts last for ages! There is quite a significant differentiation between usage too. The Blue Tits love the fat falls and also sunflower seeds, but will also go for the peanuts; whereas the Great Tits mainly go for the sunflower seeds. Occasionally we get a flock of Long-tailed Tits that also seem to prefer the fat balls.

Feeders in action the sunflower seeds are ever-popular with the Great Tits

All that bird activity has wrought havoc with the lawn - Pilfering Pigeon waiting for me to put out suet for the Robin!

I had hoped that we would get finches in the garden and that the resident House Sparrows would make use of the feeders. I've yet to see a House Sparrow on any of the feeders but have seen Goldfinch on the fat balls. Chaffinches also visit occasionally, but seem not to visit the feeders; instead they pick up seeds from the ground, which was a real surprise for me as we used to see them on the peanuts and bird table 40 years ago (as did the Sparrows).

What I had not bargained on was seeing Great-spotted Woodpecker at both the fat balls and the sunflower seeds. The other day we had one on each at the same time! Nor had I bargained on Pesky Parakeet - one discovered how to get at the sunflower seeds and now he brings his mates round too! Oh for an air rifle or catapult but thankfully I have neither as I would probably only break windows!

The other big surprise was that the Magpies worked out how to balance on the wooden bird feeder to take suet pellets. I don't mind them too much because they are actually quite interesting from a behavioural perspective. I do object to Ferral Pigeons doing the same! There is one that has developed the skill and now I run a constant fight of shooing it off - so in addition to Pesky Parakeet, we also have Pilfering Pigeon!

There is a different assemblage on the ground. The Wood Pigeons and Ferral Pigeons regularly visit to clear up the steady stream of seed discarded from the fat balls and sunflower seeds. They make sure no seed is wasted. Likewise we also see the occasional Hedge Sparrow (there are two that regularly use the garden), a House Sparrow now and again, and a Chaffinch or two intermittently. The Robins are rarely visible but to make quick visits to the wooden feeder when I put suet pellets out. Occasionally I hear a Wren but rarely see it.

I've never been a huge fan of pigeons, but they do provide some entertainment and some exhibit quite remarkable behaviour. There is one extremely aggressive Wood Pigeon who spends a lot of its time chasing off others. It is a real thug and I greatly dislike it (I hope it was the victim of the Sparrowhawk that got something the other day!). Interestingly, it takes no notice of the Ferral Pigeons or Magpies, and the Ferral Pigeons show no obvious rivalry other than displaying males.

The Magpies will come down when I put food waste out (cheese rind, fish skins, bits of rice etc) but they are remarkably timid and quickly retreat when the pigeons arrive! They will grab a piece of food and fly off to a nearby roof to consume it before dropping in again to attempt another theft from the Pigeon's table! And, up in the nearby Birch trees, one or more Carrion Crow keep an eye on proceedings but never visit the garden even when I put out the remains of the Chicken for the birds to pick over (suitably boiled first to generate stock!).

All of this stemming from a rather poorly built wooden bird feeder! I now find that I will have to change house in Stamford because I really must have a garden and a view onto the bird feeders!

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