I've always had a bit of a soft spot for the Fieldfare. Seen well, they are a patchwork of colours and textures, with russety back, grey rump and head, white belly, and sharp-chevroned chest on a bed of soft orange. This snowy spell I've had the opportunity to get to know them that bit better!
I normally never see them where I live in Sussex, but this last week, arriving on the coat-tails of the Redwings, I started to hear them over the house, their 'chack-ack' call redolent of winter walks in the fields where I grew up in the Midlands. Indeed, Fieldfare means 'traveller of the fields' from the old Anglo-Saxon.
Then they began to get more desperate, or bold, or both, coming down into my trees (left) and then to cotoneaster berries that the local Blackbirds clearly felt were not suitable for consumption. But they made no attempt to come down for any of the fat or seed I put out.
I went for the 'cut up apple on the snow' option and, ta da!, down they came (right, on my frozen pond). At one time there were 15 in the garden, and a riot ensued as one particularly bolshie Fieldfare tried to lay claim to three pieces of apple at one time, attempting to shoo off Blackbirds, Song Thrushes and Redwings, cocking and fanning his black tail like a pumped up miniature Capercaillie.
Needless to say, he couldn't be in three places at once, and many a shy bird managed to nick a piece of apple while he wasn't watching, while he barely managed to take a break from his posturing to eat.
All in all, this past week has been quite a thrill, seeing all these unusual visitors finding such satisfaction in my garden. But of course what it really goes to show is how in weather like this, life is oh so tough for birds, and us garden-owners can actaully make a difference.
Are you taking advantage of the RSPB’s free wildlife gardening advice? Check out RSPB Homes for Wildlife here.
So here it is, the big one of the year, hopefully half a million of us all taking the time this weekend to count our garden birds.
It's our once-a-year snapshot of the health of the nation's gardens.
And I've got my Coxes and Spartans out and ready to try and ensure I get this beauty back in my garden.
Isn't it stunning? Yes, the snows have pushed the Fieldfares over the Downs and into gardens all around here in Sussex.
I took the photo on Wednesday. I don't have a garden big enough for a lawn, so this is actually on my garage roof where I let a bed of moss grow. It's such a safe place for them to feed up above all the cats below.
Every now and then as you're walking around you hear their loud 'chak chak chak'. It is really distinctive from this winter visitor from Scandinavia.
And then if you get a view like this they're easy to identify - it is a identikit bird, with grey head, dark streaked breast over a warm buff background, white belly, yellow bill, chestnut back and grey rump.
But the bit I like the best? The black chevrons along each side.
May your Big Garden Birdwatch be blessed with Fieldfares too!
Please excuse my wimpishness, but given the driving wind and lashing
rain I failed to venture into the garden this weekend, bar to clear the
leaves from the pond (the Flowering Cherry is moulting madly) and to
top up the bird feeders.On the subject of bird feeding, I’m
passionate about trying to let the garden provide as much as possible
by growing plants that harbour insects and produce seeds and berries,
but that doesn’t stop me doing a fair bit of supplementary feeding.
Without my seed and peanut feeders, the number of visits that birds
make to my garden would be only a fraction of what they are, despite
all my efforts to actually grow their supper. I liken the feeders to
dangling, magic seedpods – birds must marvel at how they replenish
themselves.The good folk at The Lodge must have sensed that I’d
be a frustrated couped-up bunny this weekend, and so sent me through
some online RSPB links for indoors birdfood activities. If you’ve got to keep the kids or grandkids occupied, you might like to try these family activities: to create a bird feeder, or to make a bird cake
(and no, that’s not a cake with a bird in it, cheeky!). These photos
show children at some of our recent Feed the Birds Day events getting stuck in, making bird cake, making wooden seeds feeders that can be hung on a wall, and making hanging bird feeders out of wire and logs.
If you’re wanting something to do more cordon bleu, here are some recipes bird-friendly celebrity chefs have suggested.
And if you just want some information on the best foods to use, then check out this RSPB guide.
The RSPB is actually just embarking on some new field trials to further our knowledge on what supplmentary foods birds like best. I’m one of their volunteers testing out the products in my garden. Sadly all volunteer places are taken, but I’ll keep you updated on how I get on, as daily I measure consumption rates at my seed feeders and weigh my fatballs!
Yes, I know, yet another blog. But if you like doing things in your garden to help wildlife, I think – I hope – you’re going to like this one.Seems only right that we start with some introductions, so Hi, I’m Adrian, nice to meet you! And here’s what to expect from this blog:Mondays: You’ll get something from me. I am an RSPB member of staff, but for this blog I’m a volunteer because outside of work I’m potty about gardening for wildlife. For the past year, I’ve been writing the new RSPB guide to Gardening for Wildlife, and the ten years before that were spent researching it! (That might seem like a shameless plug, but as it’s not out until next May I hope you will excuse me mentioning it).What I’m really interested in is how to make an attractive ‘conventional’ garden that is also good for wildlife. I’m a real sucker for a good old splash of colour, so you can expect quite a lot about garden flowers from me and what they’re good for. And you're going to get lots of photos.Wednesdays: Over to my colleague, John Day, who works on the Homes for Wildlife project at The Lodge, which I hope you’ve all signed up for. ‘Signed up’ doesn’t mean you need to start getting your credit cards out! It’s the RSPB’s free internet wildlife gardening advisory service.And Fridays: I’ll be bringing you some stories from RSPB gardens on our nature reserves around the country, and we’ll hear what some of the RSPB’s keen gardeners have been up to.I hope you going to like it. And I really hope you will take part, commenting and sharing ideas. I know there is bags of expertise out there, and I’m raring to tap into it.
My mum and dad rang me last night excited about the finch-fest going on in their Worcestershire garden at the moment.A number of Redpolls have been visiting for about 3 or 4 winters now. And this year a trio of Bramblings have joined the party.But they’ve now been joined by a little troupe of Siskins, providing yet another splash of colour and variety to the gardening mix. And I’m hearing that for many other people Siskins are visiting in larger numbers than usual at the moment.If you are unfamiliar with Siskins, they are small, dainty finches, overall looking rather greenish and streaky, but with contrasting black-and-lime wing markings. The males are especially dapper with a black crown. I usually like to bring you photos taken this week, but given that they aren’t in my garden, I’ve had to dig into my archives for one I photographed in 2009 with a Goldfinch. It's only a female, so imagine how lovely the males look.
Most of the year Siskins breed in conifer woods, but in winter they often flock along waterside Alder trees or in Birch trees feeding on the catkins. However, about 20 years ago, they learnt to visit garden feeders but they tend to only do so once natural food supplies have run out, usually in March.On sunny days, you may even be lucky enough to hear the males singing, a happy if wheezy little ditty that goes on and on and sounds like a whole flock of birds instead of just one.Have you been Siskinned yet in your garden? (It’s a new verb, but I’m sure it will catch on). If not, eyes peeled, they could be coming your way soon...