Saturday 15 October 2016

How does your garden feed?

I am sorry to say that I have not fed my garden birds for at least three years, and consequently I’ve not really seen very much out of the window. My regular Robin has unfailingly turned up whenever I’ve been out gardening, but other than that it has been slim pickings. The reason for this was an indestructible squirrel with metal teeth that came and parked itself on my feeders and sat there 24/24 eating me out of house and home. It actually chewed through one wire cage feeder such that a waterfall of peanuts cascaded onto the lawn. I bought a diversion squirrel feeder and put it on the fence in the hope it would feed there instead, but it preferred seeds and nuts. I eventually resorted to borrowing a gun and trying to shoot it, but it had a forcefield and the pellets simply bounced off, so I let it finish off all the food and then took all the feeders down. Only then did it swagger off to the next benefactor.

I have decided to try again, so a couple of weeks ago I cleaned all my bird feeders, bought a couple of new ones (promised to be squirrel-proof) and some taller poles with squirrel baffles, and finally opened some large bags of seeds and nuts that had been gathering dust in my toilet for a couple of years. Family members are very pleased to be able to sit down without their legs jammed against 12.5kg of nuts.

The squirrel came back immediately of course, but so far it has just been prowling around the base of the feeders whilst its fiendish little brain figures out how to defeat the various anti-squirrel measures. I’ve no doubt it will get there eventually, but so far the combination of the even taller poles with conical baffles holding metal feeders which are spring-loaded such that the weight of a squirrel stops the flow of food seem to be holding it at bay.

It has taken longer for the birds to return, and I’ve not necessarily always been around to see them, but last weekend over lunch they were there en masse. Four species of Tits included a pair of Coal Tits that dashed in for a sunflower seed and then dashed off to consume it, and were only the second time I’ve seen this species in my garden. As well as the Tits, the Robin made an appearance, up to five Goldfinches were at the nyger, and a brief fat Woodpigeon attempted to land but its vast bulk prevented it from doing so. All the activity proved an excellent talking point over lunch, and showed that my kids have still not forgotten all of the basic bird ID lessons that were drummed into them from an early age. Talking of which, this morning as I was making coffee a Great Spotted Woodpecker was on one of the peanut feeders. See what I did there? A huge bird, splinters of peanuts were flying everywhere, so perhaps this will be sufficient to distract evil squirrel from engaging in nefarious acrobatics.

What I am really hoping for is a Nuthatch. For many years we inexplicably didn’t have any Nuthatches on the patch, but they’re making a comeback, and they are mostly based in the same bit of the patch as the Coal Tits. I reckon I have every chance this coming winter as the birds may start to explore local gardens for food. The other vague possibility is Mealy Redpoll. There seem to be quite a few ‘colder’ birds about already on the coast, so there’s always a chance that they gradually form up inland. Both would be garden ticks, and the Redpoll would be a full fat patch tick. Or maybe, just maybe, I should dream bigger? There are numerous examples of stonking rarities visiting garden feeders. What do Siberian Accentors like to eat?

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