Last weekend Mrs H and I participated in the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch and having recently joined the organisation, we expected to make a big splash.
We’ve been conscientiously feeding them for many years, and now have their trust. On any given day, we see charms of greenfinch, clouds of blackbirds, troublings of goldfinch. Gatlings of woodpeckers regularly hammer away, whilst dogfighting kettles of hawks bother our blue-tits.
We have fed them all through multiple generations. The squirrels build their drays in the nearby trees, so their pups can be first to breakfast on our heady mix of sustaining victuals.
I’m no fool to give away my secret formula, so I won’t go into the reasons that we have all the birds, and next door have none, but I say all of this, so you can understand our utter dismay when, at the crucial time of census, our harmonious family of tiny chirping heroes decide, all together, to stay away. Those ungrateful little feathered bastards.
On the celebrated day of reckoning, where were the collared doves, the little robins and wrens and chaffinches? Even our gorgeous family of long-tailed tits declined an appearance.
Instead, we recorded only a garrulous magpie, a scruffy sparrow and two obese wood-pigeons.
Then, to make matters worse, our neighbours turned birdwatching into a competitive sport. In a potentially ruinous pact of mutual proliferation, they erected the mother of all feeders. With all manner of stations cobbled together, as far as I could tell, with a complex system of pulleys and winches, all designed to attract the hungry attentions of our birds and to denude our garden of little warblers.
Yet, this was when my plumed pals came good, eschewing the garish treats on offer next door and instead remaining steadfastly loyal to our side of the hedge.
A week on and I have completely forgiven my avian amigos for their humiliating no-show. I have re-stocked the feeders, and at the time of writing, their little nibbling beaks are hard at work. All is once more right with the world. I am grateful to them for their forbearance and philosophy after my petulant human baseness.
Three of the most steadfast
Behaving like bruisers twice their size, they jealously guard their seeds, whilst red faces tick back and forth in constant vigilance against the blue-tits.
Always first to the table and last to leave. These plucky chaps are ubiquitous and deterred by nought but the odd sparrowhawk, at whose showing makes them shriek like excited chimps before pulling a magical disappearing act like they’ve just slid into the cracks between dimensions.
Much maligned, especially by the blue tits, these iron and pink speckled dandies perch and preen themselves on a post, or branch, before crashing the party and tearing into the littler birds at break-wing speed. As if successful hunting requires a trophy, they litter the ground with bloodied feathers, the presence of which does little to put off the goldfinch.
Photo credits: Daniil Komov (blue tit 1), Pixabay (blue tit 2), cmonphotography (goldfinch), Gordon Bishop (sparrowhawk).