Tuesday 20 January 2015

Bird Life

As I gaze blearily out of the kitchen window these cold twilit mornings, the early blackbird is always poking about hopefully on the lawn, waiting for the other birds to get busy on the hanging feeders and shower their largesse of flying nut, seed and suet fragments on the ground below. There, the other ground-feeders are soon as work too - the collared doves and wood pigeons, robins, dunnocks, the odd song thrush and jay, the occasional bold magpie or crow. Reliable visitors to the feeders are gangs of starlings and house sparrows, to-and-froing blue, great, coal and long-tailed tits - and, these days, raucous ring-necked parakeets. Quite often a pied woodpecker flies down to hammer away at the suet cake - and these past few days a sleek and handsome male blackcap has been an early visitor to the feeders.
 When I was a boy, blackcaps were regarded as summer visitors, but now large numbers of them manage to overwinter (I first saw a winter blackcap some 30 years ago and was astonished, but now I see them all the time). And that is not the only change in the garden bird population: I would never then have seen collared doves (a rare vagrant then, ubiquitous now), let alone those screeching parakeets; magpies, jays and crow were essentially country birds, not often to be seen in the garden; and long-tailed tits and woodpeckers were less common then than now. As for the losses, the most conspicuous has been the decline in finches - all but the happily thriving goldfinch. Nowadays even a greenfinch or a chaffinch in the garden is almost an event - and I can't remember when I last saw a garden bullfinch. But I am lucky that my particular locality has bucked the downward trend in house sparrow and starling populations... I suppose I've seen half a century and more of changes in garden bird life. What, I wonder, will be in the garden 50 years from now?    

1 comment:

  1. Regular descents of ten goldfinches at a time on our sunflower hearts in the centre of town, scrapping and fluttering. Some on a feeder stuck to the window. And what a joy when jays swoop down into a city front garden! Incredible. Had one single blackcap too about a week ago. First in three years here. We're on the south coast. We also have the occasional sparrow hawk over the road in school premises, grey and pied wagtail and the odd greater spotted.