Activity continues to be brisk at my bird feeders, which is probably the biggest understatement of the year. The starlings have been bringing more and more youngsters to the feeders and in the last couple of days, I’ve counted in excess of 30 in the garden at one time, which probably means they’re even more than that and that’s not counting the adult birds.
They seem to have a routine of a few of them arriving in the morning on the suet balls and squares, then they return again around lunchtime and in greater numbers between 4 and 6 o’clock or so in the evening. The parents are still keeping an eye on them but it would be true to say that they are working it out in terms of where the food supplies are, how to access them and darting around on the lawn looking for insects and so on. It’s interesting to watch them running about and particularly when they go in hot pursuit of a parent, or commentary on some occasions a feral pigeon.
I’ve noticed that in the past week the starling parents tend to sit in the tree or on the top of the dead tree where I hang my feeders and keep a watchful eye on the youngsters. It’s as if they’re saying about the food, ‘They’re working it out’. A few are still being fed by their parents. If they become spooked by something, which usually means one of the feral pigeons has seen something and they all fly off, the young starlings take refuge in the large conifer that I have at the bottom of my garden. It is almost like Dr Who's Tardis to some extent, as I see a few birds sitting on the edge of the branches, they fly down and then more and more fly out from within the tree. One or two have ventured across onto the seed feeder, but haven’t worked out how they can get the food out and I think are just taking the opportunity to pick up any seeds the other birds have dropped into the seed collecting tray. I certainly think having a tray under a seed feeder is a good idea, as it saves the mess on the ground and also the possibility of rats coming for dropped food. Of course, it also provides an extra perching area and the larger birds take advantage of that, although when the feeder swings in the wind they do have a bit of a rough ride. My photograph for this week is of two collared doves sitting on the tray and pecking the seed from the feeding ports.
There is a lot of other activity in the garden to report this week with parent birds and potential youngsters. I saw a blue tit with at least one baby yesterday and the blue tits and great tits are coming and taking bugs from my honeysuckle, which this year is absolutely covered in aphids, I guess because of the dry weather, so I don’t think it will flower properly as a result. The sparrows have also been taking advantage of that and making frequent trips to and fro. A pair of robins seem to be nesting next door in a bush and they are coming down together collecting food and returning, so there should be some youngsters there too. Last week I reported that the jackdaws had probably not done too well with their brood of youngsters, with them possibly being taken by a crow, but it appears that the two jackdaws who nest in my old chimney pot have at least one if not two and this has certainly been a lot of squawking going on or should that be cackling?
I’ve only seen one young blackbird so far this year as I have a pair of blackbirds coming into the garden regularly. I mentioned the two collared doves and until about 2007, collared doves were the most and highest numbered visitors in the garden as far as larger birds were concerned and it would not be unusual in the winter to have in excess of 20 in the tree waiting to come to the bird table. However, the feral pigeons seem to have taken over in that respect and there are only a couple of pairs of collared doves coming regularly into my garden and also to a neighbour’s bird table.
Activity continues a pace at the bird bath which is mainly used by the feral pigeons as I have commented before for their ablutions, but the young starlings have also been working it out and have decided that it’s a good place for a drink. I often wonder what they might be thinking to themselves as they run across, as one seems to follow another as much to say, ‘Where’s he going? Oh, that’s a good idea’. So there is still plenty to occupy me looking out the window at the birds and long may it continue, assuming I can keep up with the demands for food.
Another wildlife sighting the other evening was a bat flying around the front garden just after sunset. I didn’t draw my curtains particularly early as it was a lovely sunset and a light evening and one of my armchairs faces the setting sun. I see the bats generally at this time of year when I guess I’m drawing my curtains latest, but there’s generally only one or two of them about. I’ve no idea where they come from and they are only there for a short time.
Written by Margaret Emerson