I spent a considerable amount of time today cleaning the bird feeders. This is my own fault as it is a task I have neglected for some time, but I have given the birds the last of the live mealworms, so it seemed a good time to clean them all out.
I have restocked the ground feeder with sunflower hearts, and, to soften the blow added some dried mealworms (as well as some sawfly larvae I found on the gooseberry, har di har). The sparrows ate the mealworms (and, I hope, the little green devil larvae), but are now turning their nose up at the sunflower hearts.
The main feeder though has been a site of much feathery activity, with goldfinches, a robin, chaffinches and a bullfinch all visiting this afternoon. Apart, that is, from when I had my camera with me trying to take their pictures.
These are the best I managed whilst hiding in the washing that I was drying in an environmentally friendly way (which meant it doubled as a bird hide).
The bullfinch (of which I did not get a picture this time) has become a regular visitor this month, and even showed up with a lady bullfinch the other day, I am hoping they may decide to stay.
The results of the big garden birdwatch were released this week and seem to reflect a lot of my own observations this Winter. Although the average number of birds counted has dropped since the first survey in 1979, there are some success stories. The most noticeable of these has been the rise of the goldfinch which sits in tenth position (replacing the greenfinch which drops down to eleventh – reflecting the low numbers that I was seeing earlier in the year). This is not surprising as I regularly have 4 of these(and up to 7) at any one time fighting over the sunflower hearts. Also of note was the increase in the numbers of other finches such as siskins (which enter the Top 20 for the first time) and bramblings seen in gardens. Although I didn’t see any on the actual day, this year marks my first ever sighting of a brambling (a female came in with some chaffinches for a couple of weeks) and the first time I had siskins in my garden (a male and female were there sporadically over a couple of months). This increase this year is thought to be due to a low yield of conifer seed in Scandinavia which has driven birds over here and into gardens. They apparently are attracted by the niger seed which more bird lovers are putting out in their gardens. I can safely say that this is not the case in my garden where sunflower hearts are the finches food of choice with the niger seed feeder being visited only when the goldfinches are chased off the other feeders (by almost anything else as they appear to be way down the pecking order!).
For those that are interested the top bird was the starling, followed by the house sparrow with blackbirds overtaking blue tits to take third place. More information can be found on the RSPB website where they also have the top ten listed for all the counties. The Northants list is as follows:
2. House Sparrow
4. Blue Tit
6. Collared Dove
10. Great Tit
I have to say that the numbers of sparrows in my garden has reduced this Winter, I am not sure though if this is because they are less keen on the sunflower hearts than they used to be on the mixed seed that I used to put out. I think I will get a better estimate when they start breeding and I put the mealworms out. As far as my list goes this Winter has definitely seen the rise of the chaffinch and the goldfinch which have by far outnumbered all the other species.