Thursday 3 December 2015

Meanwhile, in the Garden...

The scent of lilac in December is weird and unnerving - but there it was, faint but unmistakable. The dwarf lilac in my garden is in flower, in December! No leaves, just a dozen of so of those compact little flowerheads, clusters of tiny trumpets. Amazed to see such a thing at this time of year, I bent to smell them - and yes, there it was, the scent of lilac.
 What will become of these flowers? Will the bush bloom again in its appointed season? Why this bizarrely early/late flowering? Is this 'global warming'? No - as proponents of 'climate change' always like to point out, weather is not climate. This is weather - a weirdly mild November continuing into early December, thanks to that pesky jet stream (though we've had a couple of frosts even down here in Surrey suburbia). It was much the same last year (when I saw my last butterfly on 29th November) and will likely turn - a December cold snap has been a feature of most recent winters, however things develop after that.
 Redwings have arrived, but not in the kind of numbers that suggest a harsh winter ahead, and there is an abundance of berries, but that doesn't always presage cold weather. We'll know what we're in for when we get the Met Office seasonal forecast: it will be the opposite of that they say.
 Meanwhile, the bird life in the garden - which I'm seeing rather more of these days - has changed noticeably from last year. Happily the house sparrows are still thriving, as are the less couth starlings and ring-necked parakeets (once exotic, now bordering on a menace), but greenfinches - frequent visitors only a couple of years ago - have all but gone, following the chaffinches. All manner of pigeons feed continually on the lawn along with the collared doves, dunnocks and robins, and jays and magpies come and go, along with a welcome new regular, the pied woodpecker. The most regrettable absence is that of the goldfinches, still quite abundant round here, but mysteriously boycotting my garden ever since I bought a niger-seed feeder specifically to attract them. That stuff's supposed to be goldfinch crack - what's wrong with you guys? Come and get it...
 For me, though, the happiest development has been the growing abundance of coal tits, the most subtly beautiful of the titmice. Blue and great tits are still constant features, and long-tailed tits visit often, but the coal tits - once shy and infrequent visitors - now seem the most numerous of all. What's more, they've developed a habit of flying right up to the kitchen window and looking in, quite unperturbed by the bleary, dazed figure staring out at them.


  1. The avian population of Carshalton seems in good fettle Nige. As an alternative to niger seed try fat sticks (not balls) you will need the special holder, the fat includes all manner of goodies and has (oddly) brought the nuthatches to the table, even the robin has attempted perching, in an attempt at a beak full. The jay, those screecher's that live in our wood, swoop in, scattering the tits and helping themselves to the fat sticks, greedy twerps.

  2. I have wall to wall goldfinches practically all year round in the centre of town. All done on sunflower hearts.

  3. Aha - I'll try both of those suggestions. Thanks!