Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Survival of the fattest

Small is beautiful: 55 species have now been logged on the garden list.
Welcome to our garden. As you can see, it is a rather small suburban plot, but well planted, and partly with birds in mind. When we moved here in 2001 it was completely overgrown, and we had to strip it back to bare earth - literally - and start all over again. Pretty much only the Lilac tree (at the back on the left) and the Forsythia (front right) are original; we planted the Mountain Ash and the Silver Birch, put in a pond and laid a lawn, and Hazel has built up substantial and varied borders. The result is a relative oasis for wildlife here on the slopes of Muswell Hill, in leafy north London, and at this time of year, especially in such unusually cold conditions, a little feeding goes a long way to increasing that diversity.

I took this photo four days ago, but despite a slight thaw much of the snow has remained. I'm currently keeping six feeders topped up - three with mixed seed, one with sunflower hearts, one with niger seed and the last with a suet treat block (the treat in this case being mashed insects). On top of that is a daily scattering on the lawn of mushy apples, kitchen scraps and a ground-feeding mix containing cereal and raisins as well as mixed seed. Most of the bird food I provide is from Garden Bird Supplies, and excellent it is too.

This male Blackcap is the second in a week to visit the garden.
The result? I have never known anything like it. From my home office window on the first floor, the procession of garden visitors is seemingly never-ending. Today, for example, highlights included the first Song Thrush in about five years (unfortunately driven away quickly by Blackbirds), c 20 Redwings and 10 Fieldfares (though most went straight through), a male Blackcap (the second individual in a week) and a finch flock numbering somewhere upwards of 70 birds (including an unprecedented 50+ Goldfinches, plus five Greenfinches and a male Siskin)

One of today's many Goldfinches. A niger feeder has been specially
; birds were lured down to feed by playing recordings of calls.
It's easy to be dismissive about garden birds, especially when cold weather brings so many 'headline' species to local reservoirs, rivers and lakes. But for all the excitement of finding some wayward waterbird on the Thames, it's hard to beat the thrill of a major event in your own garden; it's all relative.

Here's what I've recorded in or from the house/garden intermittently over the last eight days (peak counts/number of different individuals given where known): Black-headed Gull (five), Common Gull, Herring Gull (three), Lesser Black-backed Gull (one), Woodpigeon (seven), Feral Rock Dove (two), Collared Dove (two), Ring-necked Parakeet (one), Great Spotted Woodpecker (one), Wren (one), Dunnock (one), Robin (two), Blackbird (four), Song Thrush (one), Mistle Thrush (two), Redwing (20), Fieldfare (10), Blackcap (two), Great Tit (three), Blue Tit (four), Coal Tit (one), Long-tailed Tit (five), Starling (10), Carrion Crow (three), Jay (two), Magpie (two), Chaffinch (five), Greenfinch (five), Goldfinch (50+), Siskin (one).And still no House Sparrows ...


  1. UK Goldfinches are very pretty with that dash of red which ours don't have. Gary and Boom of The Vermilon River, Canada.

  2. But your Goldfinches have their own special appeal too, Gary! A little known fat about ours is that it is possible to sex them by the shape of that red where it meets the eye - take a look at the images on my Flickr site to see the difference:

  3. European Goldfinches and our American Goldfinches are both related and they eat Thistle seeds and use the thistle down to line their nests making them a good way to control these weeds i have seen Goldfinches and some other small birds eating roadside weed seeds



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