Of course the birds are there all year, but you can see them much more clearly at this time of year, when the leaves have left the trees, and when they are keen to move in to our feeders for food. This winter has been unusually mild so far, and there has been relatively little activity at our feeders, because there is still plenty of natural food around.
Nevertheless, on a sunny day in midwinter, there is nothing better than the low and slanting sunshine for spotting the little birds, and other creatures, moving in on the feeders.
At the moment we are getting a huge number of great tits and blue tits, as is usual. But we are also getting some reed buntings, coal tits, greenfinch, goldfinch, chaffinch, dunnock, robin and nuthatch, as well as the occasional great-spotted woodpecker. Little mobs of long-tailed tits range along the edges of the woods and tops of trees in huge groups – eleven or more of them – finding their own food in the trees. Underneath the feeders, any spillage is rapidly swept up by pheasants, mallard and squirrels (sadly we only have grey squirrels in this area). We are still awaiting the willow tits, which we usually see at this time of year, as well as yellowhammer. We have heard both, but not seen them on the feeders. Overhead, the buzzards are still active, and the kestrel is hovering along the woodland margins, looking for unwise mice and voles.
Occasionally there is a panic, and a sparrow hawk swoops in, or a magpie comes to try its luck.
Most of the birds seem to be able to use the feeder intuitively, but some of them just never get the hang of it – in particular one female blue tit who pecked at everything except the feeding port, and eventually resorted to finishing the spilt food on the ground.
There are also relatively few fieldfare in the trees, and I haven’t seen any redwings either this winter yet. This could all change if the weather gets colder in the new year.
It is a privilege to sit in my portable chair hide, with my camera and a flask of coffee, and watch these little birds. I don’t really mind if they are common birds – I never tire of watching or photographing their antics.