Thursday, June 10, 2010

Fat, funny little birds

I feed the birds all year round in my garden. When we first moved in, seven years ago, there didn't seem to be any birds in the garden at all, which seemed strange as there are lots of mature trees.
Now the garden is alive with birdsong and although there is the odd casualty (thanks to Pushkin), I think on balance it's better to feed than not, even if you have a cat.
The conventional thinking used to be that you fed the birds in winter, when food was scarce. These days, evidence suggests - and it certainly seems to me - that birds appreciate a constant supply and flourish accordingly. However, even I used to scale down on the amount and variety of food available once the weather got warmer. It was only because I got a free packet of suet, or fat, balls with my bird food order the other day that I thought of hanging out fat balls at this time of year.
Goodness, what a revelation! The blue tits and great tits absolutely love them. They've abandoned the normal seed feeders and spend all their time hanging upside down and stuffing themselves. (Why don't birds get indigestion?)
They all have fledgelings to feed so dining out is a family affair. The fledgelings are just old enough to feed themselves, but it's still common to see a line of young ones (usually three or four) on a branch having food shoved into their mouths by their busy parents.
Very often, they perch on the branch above the fat feeder, but this morning I saw a row of little ones lined up precariously along a phormium leaf, which was bending under their weight. When a parent arrived with the takeaway, the leaf collapsed altogether and they all slid off the end. So funny!

The great tit family having breakfast. Sorry about the quality of the pictures - I don't have a tripod (or an incredibly good camera, come to that). There is also a blue tit family, so meal times are usually a blur of little birds rushing about. Underneath, (not in the picture) a fat woodpigeon struts to and fro as if he is on patrol, hoovering up crumbs.