Bird feeder news – exciting update

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.

Blue tit

Blue tit

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.

Great tit

Great tit

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?

Fat git

Greedy git

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.

Just a random picture of a hobby

Just a random picture of a hobby

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.

Bird feeder news

Bird Feeder News sounds like the kind of obscure publication that might feature on ‘Have I Got News for You’. If there isn’t such a magazine already well there certainly should be but in the meantime I will do my best to fill the cultural void.

The end of this month, January 30th and 31st to be precise, sees the 2016 Big Garden Birdwatch organised by the RSPB. They run what amounts to the biggest wildlife survey in the world every year and this year over half a million people are set to take part. I won’t be one of them I’m afraid. Well, not unless things improve considerably between now and then.

The last time I reported on the birds that had been attracted to our new feed station the species count was a fairly disappointing two. Things haven’t improved very much. I wasn’t expecting to see a ruby throated humming bird or flocks of parakeets on a weekend break from London. I don’t long for a glimpse of something rare and exotic or a windblown migrant from the arctic. I would settle for a blue tit blown from the blackthorn bush thank you very much, but alas no. Up until this morning our variety of birdlife still consisted of the beautiful male blackbird and the Exocet robin. The blackbird has definitely relaxed a bit and now he will sit for a minute or two on the food tray stuffing his face with garish red and yellow pellets. How he knows they are not poisonous is a mystery to me; I certainly wouldn’t eat them. The robin still makes lightning raids on the seed hanger but I think I caught him looking at me in the kitchen the other day. It was only a split second glance as he took another seed on the wing but perhaps his curiosity will outweigh his nervousness eventually.

Speaking of nervous birds, there has been one exciting development in the last week. I’m not one for too much anthropomorphising but indulge me for a moment. You see our Mr. Blackbird is a handsome fellow. He is always immaculately dressed all in black with a bill that looks like it has been freshly dipped in a pot of Dulux Sunshine Yellow each morning. It was only a matter of time before he attracted the attention of the local ladies and sure enough he turned up last week with a date. She was a bit drab in her plain, chocolate brown onesie but maybe what she lacked in dress sense she made up for with potential egg bearing capacity. I don’t know I’m not a blackbird am I?

Anyway, it wasn’t the greatest success as far as dinner dates go. He spent most of the time sitting on the feed tray stuffing his face while she, presumably due to first date nerves, hardly ate a thing. In fact she spent the whole time hopping around on the ground under the feed station occasionally picking up the odd crumb that Mr. Greedy Guts had dropped. It wasn’t the most romantic love scene I have ever witnessed and the robin popping in from time to time like a laser guided gooseberry probably didn’t help. I haven’t seen the blackbirds together since so maybe things didn’t work out but I am sure our regular visitor will find a mate soon. Blimey, if an 84 year old bloke with an extended paper round can attract a stunning 59 year old super model, I’m sure our dashing blackbird can find himself a girlfriend eventually.

There has been an exciting development since I wrote the above. To my great delight a wood pigeon landed in the garden just now and briefly eyed up the feed station. He didn’t stay long but if I can entice him back at the end of the month our species count could rocket by 50%. I might enter the Big Garden Birdwatch after all.