Friday, 27 February 2009

Long-tailed tit

Last time I was at my sister's, she was unpacking the unsold paintings from her latest exhibition. (Not her alone, other local artists as well.) "I can't understand why nobody wanted this one," she said, showing me a delightful watercolour of three long-tailed tits, priced at only £20.

"If you'd been charging £50, you'd probably have sold it," I told her. "Sometimes, if things are priced too cheaply, people think they're not much good. Anyway, it's lovely and I'll buy it." Being my generous younger sister, she insisted I had it for nothing, and so I took it home and hung it in my bedroom.

The more I gazed at it, the more I wondered why she had put so much pink on them. Long-tailed tits aren't chaffinch-coloured, surely, I thought. Well, just now I was in the garden and there on a tree in next door's garden was a long-tailed tit, preening its feathers. I spoke to it, like you do if you're a daft nature-lover like me, and blow me down if it didn't fly to the cable three feet above my head that conducts power to my partner's workshop and sit there, letting me take a good look at it. And yes, its belly feathers had a lot of pink amongst the buff. My sister had got it right. Maybe next time I can persuade the local sparrowhawk to perch obligingly above my head. I'd love to take a close look at that! The nearest I've got to it is witnessing the blurr as it whizzes across the garden in hot pursuit of... no, please, not long-tailed tit!

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Squirrel v jay

For the third time in as many weeks, the squirrel has managed to break the chain on the wire ball peanut feeder so this time we've used some strong cable and have looped it over a branch. The squirrel leaped on it and had a good feed, then a jay started picking up the bits of peanut dropped by the squirrel. Seeing it was all clear, the jay then hopped onto a twig, but the feeder was still swinging from when the squirrel had jumped off. It was very funny watching the jay trying to time it and, when the feeder swung close to his beak, snatching a bit of peanut before it swung away again.

While he was concentrating on perfecting his swing, the squirrel spotted him and made a mad dash to the feeder. It ran at the jay, sending him squawking up to the top of the apple tree. Then, with a pirouette and a stretch, it grasped the feeder in its front paws and recommenced gobbling all the peanuts. Survival of the fittest, eh?

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Starling families

Starlings are, I believe, the first birds to raise a brood each year and this morning, up to 20 descended on the garden and raided the bird feeders. As the adult birds whistled and squabbled to be first on the suet ball, the babies queued up, vibrating their wings, beaks open. In this picture, taken with my little pocket digital camera as I sat at the kitchen table, you can see two flapping babies perched above the adult on the feeder.

A dunnock was waiting in a nearby tree and as bits of suet dropped onto the tray, it hopped on and snaffled them.

As the starlings fed, a fine, full-furred fox trotted into the garden to have a go at the cat biscuits which, overnight, got attacked by a mouse that had, unbelievably, got into the cat's food cupboard without being eaten itself. Sadly, it wasn't Olive. I do hope she's still alive.

Saturday, 14 February 2009


We had a burst of sunny weather today which set the birds off. The robin, on top of next door's peach tree, was singing his heart out. A dunnock perched on the silver birch by my bedroom window, woke me up around five. But the prize must go to a starling on the telegraph pole across the street. Having imitated a blackbird and a robin, he then launched into a series of incredibly fast staccato clicks, like one of those African languages. He changed rhythms and syncopated his beat and sounded as if he was snapping his beak shut, although I guess he was making the sounds in his throat. Truly a star.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Olive absent again

I haven't seen my favourite little fox for several days now. I hope she's OK. Maybe the big, bad dog fox has got her at last and she is preparing to be a mum. Who knows? I certainly miss her cheeky little face as she sat on the lawn staring at the patio doors with her head cocked to one side, her ears waggling and her chest fur all ruffled up. It's like losing a pet.

Friday, 6 February 2009

Fox in the snow

I wonder whether Olive, the little vixen, is capable of catching anything for herself? Here she is this morning, stealing the birds' bread and raisins. Later, she sat under a tree watching blackbirds eating what remained and making no attempt to catch them. Will she ever be capable of raising a family? Perhaps she will expect us to feed the lot of them! In which case, she's a pretty bright fox after all.

Monday, 2 February 2009

The birds in snowland

We cleared a space in seven-inch deep snow and put out a tray of breadcrumbs and seeds and a plastic container of water for the birds. We also had to clear the openings in each of the bird feeders. At first, the birds didn't know what to make of it. First on the scene was the brave robin who had his pick of the delicacies on offer. Then came the blackbird, looking lost in an Arctic scene. The magpie has made several passes over the tray but still hasn't had the nerve to come down and feed. The starlings and wood pigeons haven't even tried, and are raiding the bird feeders instead.