Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Birds of a Feather

It is always a lovely surprise to look out of the window, often soon after dawn, and see some unusual visitor on the bird table. Greenfinches are one of them, as are the other finches: chaffinches and goldfinch. Their beaks are a little too wide for the wire on the nutfeeder but once they have cracked it (terrible pun) they make short work of the contents.

Our regulars, however, as if aware of the competition, have managed to come up with a pleasant new angle: their chicks. Obviously to date we have only watched the parent birds having a feeding frenzy in order to satisfy their hungry brood. But now the chicks are nearly reared they accompany their parents to learn table etiquette. Basically this is: give way to anyone bigger and more threatening than yourself. As one of our largest visitors - with a very big beak to make the point - is the woodpecker. When the chick first appeared I could not believe it was one. Nearly as big as its parent, only the fluffly feathers gave it away.

At first it hung on the nutfeeder with mum or dad by its side: a bit for me a bit for you. But by day two the exhausted parent absented itself and Woody soon managed to feed himself. Not as nervous as his parent - he still has to learn to be wary - he
managed to cling on and finish off most of the feeder.

Our second best nut eater is probably the nuthatch owing to its long narrow very effective beak. And today, with a thrill, I noticed that it was a nuthatch chick that was feeding. Again, only the last few remaining fluffy baby feathers give it away and, again, it was not nearly as nervous as its parents would be as it allowed me to creep right up to the window before it flew away.

But perhaps the most exciting birds to visit the table again have been a pair of long tailed tits. I have yet to see their offspring, but to know that they have survived the winter is a very cheering and wonderful sight. Their bodies are so very small that one wonders just how they did manage to stay warm thrugh our below freezing temperatures this year.