There is a famous tea shop in Harrogate called Betty’s. It’s very genteel and renowned for its beautifully presented afternoon teas. When you look through the window you can see delicate and perfectly formed dainty cakes and sandwiches adorning doily clad silver serving stands whilst over attentive waitresses in crisply starched traditional black and white uniforms fuss over the customers that sip Earl Grey from fine china. It’s the archetypal perfect English tea room setting. Now imagine that scene of sweet charm and refinement and then imagine Giant Haystacks and Big Daddy sitting down to tea.
That’s the kind of image that comes to mind when I look out of the kitchen window at our lovely delicate bird feeding station. We have been thrilled to witness an increasing range of birds visiting the half coconut of compressed fat and the seed feeder over the last few days.
Tiny little blue tits and long tailed tits are delightful as they perch precariously to peck at the rich food source whilst the larger great tit (clue in the name) sits confidently on the perches and munches on sunflower hearts.
The blackbirds, both male and female love the special food that Gill puts in the small shallow feeder tray which suits their less agile nature. And of course, the super charged robin is still raiding the seeds like a small red breasted bolt of lightning. It’s exactly what we had hoped for when we set everything up apart from one thing. Just like those great burly wrestlers visiting Betty’s, a couple of great big, fat, loved up wood pigeons are hoovering up all the food like a couple of avian vacuum cleaners on turbo mode. They are enormous! They are like the silverbacks of the bird world and I’m worried that the feed station might be suffering from metal fatigue. And their appetites! No sooner have we filled up the tray and the blackbirds have eaten the equivalent of one quarter of a cucumber sandwich, sans crust, of course, but the oversized, over weight pigeons have cleaned up and they are stomping around and demanding seconds. I mean really! We’re not made of meal worms and fat pellets you know?
Then there are the magpies. They have been less inclined to raid the food stores but they do take great delight in tap dancing on the roof, particularly early in the morning. We’ve only actually spotted two of them at any one time but when they decide to trip the light fantastic at five am they could give a line-up from River Dance a run for their money.
I suppose I should just be glad that the variety of visitors is growing and we are doing our bit, or lot, in the case of the pigeons, to help our native wildlife.
It’s funny really how we make these arbitrary choices between different species, blue tits and robins being almost universally fawned over whilst the poor old wood pigeons and magpies are castigated as vermin more often than not. But if some visitors are clearly loved or hated the next feathered friend on our spotting list definitely has the potential to divide the judges. I had seen this bird flash between our unit and the next one a couple of times and I had an inkling of what it might be. My hopes were confirmed the other day though when it actually alighted on a fence and sat still long enough for me to identify it clearly as a hobby. A small but lethal bird of prey and one that I have only ever seen on a handful of occasions. I would never have expected to find a bird like this making regular visits to our domain and I was sufficiently intrigued to do some background reading on its habitat and behaviour. It’s a small bird, somewhere between our blackbird and the pigeon in stature but what it lacks in size it can more than make up for in deadly accuracy as a hunter. Which raises a bit of an issue for birds such as robins, blue tits and great tits. Because for the hobby, they are a spectacular lunch. Not only can it pluck them clean out of the air with its razor sharp talons but it can then perform the rather neat trick of dismembering and eating them on the wing. Pretty cool eh? But maybe not if you are blue tit.
So it would appear that we may have created a bird feeder like nothing we could ever have imagined. To the tits, blackbirds and robins it’s like Betty’s tea shop. For the pigeons we seem to have put up a transport café serving all you can eat breakfasts while our newest visitor, the hobby, must be absolutely delighted to have found a new fast food drive thru’ in the neighbourhood. It’s not quite what we had in mind but I think it could be very entertaining.