Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Fat Balls and Tits

Since moving, I have had very little direct contact with my dad. My mum emails regularly, comments on Facebook statuses and reads this blog. Now I know that my parents share everything and communicating with mum is indirectly communicating with dad, but it can never be the same as direct contact. I will be visiting them shortly which will facilitate the sort of exchange that my dad does best: a hug that might be compared to the embrace of a boa constrictor, a chat about nothing and everything and probably a fiver slipped into my hand. This is how my dad communicates. It does not translate well into the sort of electronic communication that we have to resort to now I live too far away for the weekly visits we used to enjoy. Until I see him again, this post is dedicated to my dad.

When I first arrived at this house and my father in law came to have a look around, he commented that there were no birds in the garden.

It was true. For such a quiet, idyllic, woodland location there was a distinct lack of any sort of life in the garden apart from the massively overgrown hedges, shrubs and trees.

The neighbouring garden was beautifully neat and a bird feeding station was always busy with feathered visitors. Clearly, there were birds around somewhere... just not in my garden.

I bought a bag of bird nuts and a feeder which I hung in a tree near the kitchen window (after I'd pruned it to manageable proportions in scale with the setting and thus began the pile of trimmings that now occupies a sizeable portion of the bottom of the garden).

It did not take long for the first adventurers to discover the new food source. It was a delight to see the garden coming to life. What we were lacking in interest from good planting, we were making up for with an enchanting variety of little birds. I bought a second feeder for fat balls. (Fat balls! Really! Couldn't they have been called Energy Rich Bird Cakes or something. Fat balls just brings out the juvenile, too easily amused side of me!)

I wouldn't want anyone to think that this was becoming an obsession but a third bird feeder was purchased. In my defence, it was a matter of necessity because my father in law brought round a huge bag of bird seed and the feeders I already had were not suitable for seed. The three bird feeders hanging in one small tree were soon rarely free from hungry birds.

Washing up takes much longer now. My attention is continuously drawn away from the dirty dishes and out of the window to see who is feeding. I have a Garden Bird Identifier book on my windowsill and often I will abandon the soapy suds, dry my hands and frantically search the pages trying to name an unfamiliar species. I am becoming quite the expert!

The most abundant variety is the dainty, delicately hued Blue Tit with the more thuggish Great Tit a close second. I had heard of Coal Tits but had never really understood the difference between them and the other Tits until my book helped me make a positive identification. How many times can I say 'tits' before the juvenile rears its mindlessly giggling head again?  I must say it one more time because today a pair of Marsh Tits came to see what was on offer. (Thanks again trusty book!)

A Nuthatch generated a bit of excitement. I'd never seen one before and it seemed very exotic to me. It is a greedy feeder, tugging at the nuts to pull them through the mesh. Chaffinches and Goldfinches wait their turn in the branches and a little Wren has not quite plucked up the courage to feed while I've been watching but hops about on the periphery.

Feeding on the ground below to pick up any dropped scraps are Dunnocks, a Robin and the occasional House Sparrow. Sparrows were always so abundant when I was a child growing up in the seventies. I don't know when or how those squabbling flocks of 'spuggies' disappeared.

As well as the small birds, I have seen Pigeons (which are somehow hard to get excited about - sorry pigeons), Jackdaws, Jays (love them) and for me, the Holy Grail of birdwatching.. a Woodpecker. This was a Green Woodpecker and I quite literally held my breath when it settled on the trunk of my apple tree. I have only seen it once but I can always hope that it will return.

I feel slightly guilty that I may have stolen some of the birds away from my neighbours' bird feeding station but the guilt is quickly buried under the glorious feeling of absolute pleasure it gives me every time I look out of the window.



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