The mild weather over the last month has seen a dearth of the usual suspects at the bird feeders. Last winter at this time the bad weather had brought in throngs of siskins, linnets and bramblings alongside other finches. This year so far the tally has been a pair of bramblings – no siskins, no linnets, no redpolls!
That said the lack of competition on the feeders has resulted in greater numbers of the more secretive winter visitors including four blackcaps and up to ten goldfinches at a time.
Will the siskins turn up? They may do if the weather turns or they strip the seed from the local plantations where they can be seen in huge flocks at the minute. Still it keeps the seed bill down when you don’t have to cater for 50+ birds every day!
I took the time last week to take down the bird boxes and give them a bit of maintenance. First task is to remove all the old nest material which will most likely be full of insect pupae and larvae. Place this in the garden where the Robins and Dunnocks can get to it.
Next I usually sterilise the inside with near boiling water to take care of any parasites and their eggs in the nooks and crannies. The parasites will return later in the season but it gives this year’s nesting pairs a good start. If you want to be really meticulous you can also give it a bit of a scrub with an old kitchen brush. Set aside to dry for a day or two.
Once dry set to any repairs needed such as making sure the fixings are still sound (adding a nail or a screw where loose). This year I have had to add an new entrance hole cover to one box as a woodpecker had been pecking at the entrance and enlarged it significantly (presumably to get at the insects post fledging).
All that remains is to refix them to the trees or the walls and wait for the first inspection of your efforts!
It has been an interesting winter again. The early bad weather brought in the usual range of suspects to the bird feeders along with a few surprises. The only problem was keeping up the supply of sunflower hearts! So without further ado and in no particular order here’s the list:
Bullfinch Pyrrhula pyrrhula
Blackbird Turdus merula
Mistle Thrush Turdus viscivorus
Brambling Fringilla montifringilla
Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs
Siskin Carduelis spinus
Lesser Redpoll Carduelis cabaret
Greenfinch Carduelis chloris
Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis
Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla
Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus
Magpie Pica pica
Woodpigeon Columba palumbus
Pheasant Phasianus colchicus
Blue Tit Cyanistes caeruleus
Great Tit Parus major
Long-tailed Tit Aegithalos caudatus
Coal Tit Periparus ater
Willow Tit Poecile montanus
Wren Troglodytes troglodytes
Robin Erithacus rubecula
Dunnock Prunella modularis
Treecreeper Certhia familiaris
This rather wet Sparrowhawk decided he was going to sit out the rainy morning right next to the bird feeders. He has done this a couple of times in the last few months. Now I know that a Sparrowhawk in the garden would probably worry half the people reading this post. “That Sparrowhawk will kill all the song birds”, would be a common thought in reaction to the sight of this marvellous predator.
The reality is that the number of prey species control the number of predators and the presence of a top predator like the Sparrowhawk means there is a healthy population of the song birds upon which it feeds.
The pair that patrol my patch have had a relatively hard time this winter as the throng of siskins and other finches at the feeders have been so numerous that the Sparrowhawk is spotted long before he can get close enough to make a catch. What’s worse is that the siskins seemed to taunt him at every missed swoop, just keeping out of reach in the thicket of dogwood stems!
It has been an interesting winter on the bird feeders with the usual range of tits and finches overthrown by a gang of siskins. From February until last week we had at least 40 of these feisty little birds take over the feeders. Neither bullfinch nor great tit was safe from these little brawlers as they dominated the sunflower heart feeders.
Then overnight they disappeared, back to the breeding woods in the hills. The goldfinches came out of hiding along with the bramblings and chaffinches. Normality returned.
Today a single pair of siskins arrived at the feeders. Now they may just be a late pair that were overwintering by the coast and taking a break en route or they may have decided that some of the local conifer plantations are suitable enough for nesting. In any case it’s a pleasure to see them again.