Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Garden Bird Watch

All year round we have the privilege of watching birds feeding from the feeder right outside our glass patio doors. I am not a proper ornithologist, I just enjoy watching them and learning a little about them, their behaviour most of all. Sitting at the dining table I have learned about the pecking order for instance.

When a Nuthatch approaches, every other bird takes off instantly. He or she picks a few seeds and then disappears into the woods at the back of our garden. The next species down in the order is the Greenfinch, and they are generally quite aggressive, in particular a certain male (I believe). I call him the Big Bully. He does not approve of anybody sitting down on any of the other three pegs. Not even the one opposite, which is more or less hidden by the seed container itself. He just “shows his muscles” and looks extremely aggressive; when other minor Greenfinches act out proper aerial battles around the feeder, they hover much like Hummingbirds, nearly coming to a standstill in the air. They normally accept other Greenfinches sitting opposite, or possibly a Great Tit or Blue Tit.

When the Greenfinches feed, they remain sitting on the peg, obstructing others from feeding, whereas the Great Tits and the Blue Tits take their seed off to a branch, which they use to hammer the seed against to open it. These two species are number three and four in the pecking order, and they are much friendlier towards other species.

Quite a few seeds end up on the grass below the feeder, and all the birds above sometimes go down there when the feeder is crowded or they have been out-muscled by the Big Bully for instance. Many other species visit our garden regularly, like Long-tailed Tits, Robins, Black Caps, Crested Tits, Wrens and Woodpeckers. The list is long. But yesterday there was a first. I only recognised it thanks to the many times I have flicked through the bird book looking to identify newcomers.

Two metres away from the dining table, right by the glass doors, there is a shrub. All of a sudden there were two minute birds, jumping frenetically between branches, looking for food by the looks of it. They were not much bigger than a big insect, and I immediately thought “Goldcrest”! But after having consulted the bird book, I realised they were most likely (juvenile) Firecrests, because of the white stripe above their eye. I had seen Europe’s smallest bird.


Haddock said...

This reminds me I have to put our bird feeder back up sometime before winter. We really only get Blue & Great tits.

BTW - You've been tagged for a meme :)

Eric Valentine said...

Nice post Swen, here at our place we get a very good variety of birds but some different from Europe. We get the Nuthatch and this year for the first time we have Red/rose Breasted Nuthatches, never had those before, they are smaller and faster than the bigger Nuthatch. Also we get the regular finches but instead of green we also get purple finches, they look beautiful but can also be aggressive too. :)