Despite the threat of snow and near arctic winds of the last few days, there can be no doubt that spring has reached the north of England. The wheat is standing tall, lambs are calling in the fields, and there’s a distinct shift of mood with my garden birds.
Shifted to what, I’m not yet sure. About two weeks ago one of the blackbirds became very tame. I’m sure this is Stabby returned: if she spies me in the garden she boldly appears, expecting titbits. The first house sparrow since early December arrived too. Tree sparrows are still dominating the garden, but I think I’ll be saying goodbye to them soon.
Last week I found two male blackbirds in full combat mode, flying up and down locked together as if climbing a rope, each trying to force the other onto the ground. But now a strange calm has descended and peace restored.
Yesterday I was standing outside my front door, examining the new buds on my patio plants, when I found myself cornered by two blackbirds – Stabby on my left, Stabby’s mate directly in front. These birds definitely know me, but I’m amazed at the brazenness of both of them – last summer they tamed themselves gradually, and only Stabby became very bold – the males always remained cautious. Now here I am, with no food offering, and two wild birds examining me from a pace away as if I was some kind of god of worms (I bet blackbirds believe in a God of Worms).
As the dutiful slave that I am, of course I rushed inside to return with a scoopful of sultanas. Mr and Mrs Stabby were much obliged, and approached to within six inches of my foot. Then to my surprise two more blackbirds emerged. And another. Keeping their distance, but completely tolerated by what I believe are my resident pair. Now what’s going on?
This morning I supplied bread and sultanas to see who would come by. Five blackbirds, all recognisable from each other, are currently using my garden resource with relatively little bickering. I have two females, each with slightly different bill colouring. The boldest one has a dirty looking bill. Looking at photos from last year I think this is Stabby. The other female has a more yellowy bill. Out of the males, one is a full adult, with glossy black feathers and bright yellow bill. The other two have duller plumage, and one of them is moulting it’s outer tail feathers.
I think one of two things is happening: either the blackbirds are related to each other, and are using my garden as a family resource, or they have reached an agreement: we’ll all defend our own nesting territories, but we’ll share Worm God’s garden together. I’m not convinced about the latter – all last year the blackbirds spent as much time chasing away the competition as they did actually feeding. Or maybe this weekend is the blackbird equivalent to Christmas – peace to all birds, and all that…
[sorry no photos: I did try this morning but they are all camera shy]