Sunday, 20 January 2013

Bird feeding in the snow

Friday 18 January 09:02 hrs
Friday 18 January 11:28 hrs
After the damp squib of last Tuesday when the forecast snow failed to materialise, this time the prediction was correct and it reached my part of north London soon after 09:00 on Friday 18th. With conditions deteriorating steadily and the roads on the hill where I live ungritted, I abandoned plans for a 40-mile round trip for gulls on the Thames and instead focused on garden birds. You can see from these images that it didn't take long for the white stuff to transform my view of the garden.

Fieldfare on the lawn yesterday - a rare treat in the garden, almost always occurring only in hard weather.
This winter I’ve been experimenting with some new bird foods, having been sent samples to test by a number of different companies. First up is an innovative product range produced by Chapelwood, whose idea, almost literally in a nutshell, is to target particular species and families, rather than adopting a ‘one food suits all’ approach. This is an interesting idea, but one with obvious pitfalls as well as plus points.

One of three Mistle Thrushes in the garden over the last two days. This species dominates Fieldfare at apples.
For a start, the considerable overlap in the diet of many garden birds means it’s hard to be overly specific with a single product. If it tastes good and is digestible, then birds will eat it if they can – especially in winter. On the other hand, if the ingredients preferred by a given species are included in such a mix, it is likely that that species will feed on it (assuming it is present in the first place) – so it should work in theory.

This male Blackcap obviously didn't read the label and tucks into Chapelwood's Finest Finch Food regardless.
I tried Chapelwood’s Finest Finch Food first, filling a tubular seed feeder two-thirds full. The packaging is strangely upmarket for bird food, as is the price at £3.97 per kilo on Amazon. But you are paying for quality: this mix is rich in sunflower hearts, niger seed, peanut nibs and millet. The first birds to try it, and very quickly, were actually Great Tits; over several visits they clearly enjoyed it. Shortly afterwards, a party of five Lesser Redpolls – the first ever on my feeders – tried out the Finest Finch Food too, a vote of confidence for sure. Chaffinches and a Robin have also fed on it quite regularly and today the crowning glory was my first male Blackcap of the winter (following a female in December), so it certainly gets the thumbs up, even if its audience is broader than finches alone.

Having appeared for the first time today, this male Blackcap quickly bossed the hanging feeders.
In view of the price, products in this range - I've also being using Finest Blackbird Food with great success for that species and Mistle Thrush - are very much luxury options, perhaps for use in topping up feeders stocked with a more basic mix, or for getting a feeding station started. My preferred main options are a high-quality mix (ideally with mealworms to benefit a wider range of species) and sunflower hearts; a combination of these and premium products such as Chapelwood's specialist range has resulted in 21 species in the garden over the last three days of snow, which I reckon is a pretty healthy return.

1 comment:

  1. So cute to see these little guys looking all perplexed over the white stuff all around them. Anyway, they look happy, so that's the important thing.

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