It’s still snowing. And hailing. And thundering. And no sign of temperatures going much above freezing over the next few days.
Every day I’m amazed when the birds turn up for their grub in the morning – how do they survive the night in this cold snow-desert? I’m getting more birds visiting the garden now – my species count this week is up to nineteen (I usually get around fifteen). Highlights include pheasant, wren, bullfinch and goldfinch. I’ve also seen two robins – very unusual for this garden.
Some birds are definitely suffering. I have a very lethargic house sparrow visiting. I’m guessing she is ill but I’ve seen her around for a few days. Hopefully she’ll perk up, but I do wonder if she will turn up tomorrow. However, for most it is definitely business as usual, even if business involves a little bit more eating.
It’s most obvious with the blackbirds. What’s more important do you think – eating or stopping your rival from eating? Yes you’ve guessed it. It is much more important if you’re a blackbird that you chase your rival away and show him (or her) who’s boss.
Not just blackbirds though. The coal tits spend more time chasing each other round than feeding. Most entertaining are the tree sparrows. No matter how many empty feeding ports there are, the best food is always to be found at the port already occupied by another tree sparrow. I wonder how cold it will have to get before harmony rules?
Away from the garden things are very different. You don’t have to go far before seeing a tame and fluffed up wren or thrush. I feel so guilty when I walk past without offering them any food.
Down at the farmyard you can really tell the birds are finding it hard. There’s an open shed where the farmer keeps barley to feed the cattle. Today there were around one hundred yellowhammers and chaffinches, joined by multiple robins, wrens, wagtails (pied and grey), a very nervy pheasant, and skylarks – yes skylarks! There were house sparrows but no tree sparrows – they must prefer my garden. I’m afraid I don’t have any pictures – I didn’t want to disturb them so stayed binocular-distance away.
What struck me the most was how harmonious the flock was. The robins were hardly bothering to argue the toss over who’s territory the farmyard was in. There was limited squabbling among the finches and buntings. And none of the birds were particularly bothered by me. The female pheasant was the most nervous, but then she had the most reason to be, as people do shoot around here.
Winter birdwatching always tweaks my conscience – I’m only getting to see these birds at such close range and in such numbers because life is so hard for them right now.