More Birds Than Ever

We have always been lucky to have a variety of birds in the back garden. I put bread out for them, and in the past I have also added various seeds and fat balls on the feeders. However, this year I bought a huge sack of specialist bird seed, and we decided to put some out in a small bowl on a glass-topped side table that sits on the grass next to the patio area.

Whether it was the ease of access to the seed, the lockdown making the birds feel safer, or the recent change in the weather conditions, I don’t know. But the bird life in the garden has exploded, with birds arriving in numbers and varieties never seen before.

As well as the usual Wood Pigeons, Robins, nesting Blue Tits, and Blackbirds, there are some days when the grass is literally covered in birds of all sizes. Sparrows, Wrens, Starlings, Greenfinches, Collared Doves, Thrushes, Long-Tailed Tits, Jays, Magpies, and even on one occasion, two large Seagulls. Some noisy Crows like to visit early in the morning, and I could do without them waking me up.

It is a real delight to see them all though, even if I need to refill the bowl at least three times a day. Many have become so used to me being out there, they no longer fly away when I appear. And they all tolerate Ollie as he patrols around, knowing he will not chase them or harm them.

With the weather set to stay warm for a while, I really hope this influx of bird visitors continues.

Squirrels In The Garden

Despite having large Oak trees front and back, we never had any squirrels visiting our garden. For nine years there were only birds seen on the grass, or on the shrubs. I used to think it was because of Ollie, and that he might have chased them away. Then next door got Alfie Cat, and he was often seen prowling under our large hedges.

There were many squirrels to be seen nearby on Beetley Meadows, so I wondered if they were reluctant to cross the road to our house, though it is hardly a ‘busy’ road.

Then one day recently, Julie spotted one sitting in the garden, eating a chunk of bread I had thrown out for the birds. He/she started to visit on a daily basis, so Julie bought some peanuts in shells for him/her.

When the squirrel started to sit on the fence separating our garden from our neighbour’s, the lady who lives next door went out and bought squirrel food. She placed it in small pots on top of the fence posts, and watched as the squirrel enjoyed a feast.

Recently, I began to leave a dish of bird seed out on a small garden table. That proved to be a big hit with the birds, and increased the numbers visiting our garden. Then I saw another squirrel picking up seeds that had fallen onto the grass and eating them, at the same time as the original (larger) squirrel was eating more bread six feet away.

Yesterday, a third squirrel appeared, and we had three feeding at the same time.

I have no way of knowing if the first two are a pair, and the new arrival a youngster they have reared. They could be unrelated, just taking advantage of the easy pickings.

But it is nice to finally have squirrels in the garden.

The Dawn Chorus

This is an online definition of the dawn chorus.

The dawn chorus occurs when birds sing at the start of a new day. In temperate countries this is most noticeable in spring when the birds are either defending a breeding territory, trying to attract a mate, or calling in the flock. In a given location, it is common for different species to do their dawn singing at different times

The reality for me in Beetley is that for the last ten days or so, the birds in the garden have started this while it is still dark. The noise increases in intensity as different birds join in, then comes the cooing of the pigeons, and the squawking of the crows to cap it off.

It goes on for at least an hour until they calm down, by which time I am wide awake, far too early for my liking. On a good day, I might be able to get back to sleep for a couple of hours, but most days I am left awake, knowing it is too early to get up.

No point complaining. It is a delightful thing to have, especially as it is the only sound, and not accompanied by sirens, traffic, trains, or helicopters.

I just wish those birds would have a lie-in occasionally.

The First Cuckoo

On Thursday, I heard a cuckoo calling, over on Hoe Rough. The sound was carrying a long way, and by the time I got over there with Ollie, it was really loud. I couldn’t see the bird though, they are famously elusive.

As well as providing the sound familiar in Cuckoo clocks, these birds also get other birds to rear their chicks. They lay eggs in the nests of smaller birds, and then abandon them. This leaves the unfortunate hosts rearing the large chicks, mistakenly believing them to be their own offspring.

Country folklore asserts that Spring has not arrived until you hear your first cuckoo. There are lots of examples of this online. This one is from a birdwatching website.

Heard a Cuckoo?
This iconic sound means that spring has truly arrived!

This year, I think the cuckoo might have been calling a bit too early. It is only 6 C this morning, with a cold drizzle.

Perhaps those cuckoos should go back to sleep for a couple of weeks?

The Pondering Pheasant

(Not the actual pheasant)

Pheasants can fly. I know they can, as I have seen them flying. Granted they tend not to fly very high, or for a long time, but fly they can.

Approaching Hoe Rough on the busy Fakenham Road earlier, I saw a brightly-plumaged cock pheasant (Identical to the one above) on the other side of the road, at the junction with Mill Lane. It seemed to be considering going across to the small car park in front of the entrance to Hoe Rough. Then it casually stepped out into the road. After a few steps, it stopped, seeming to be pondering something.

If a bird can be said to look deep in thought, then this one certainly was.

Seconds later, a small Fiat car appeared from the direction of Dereham. Fortunately for the thoughtful bird, the lady driver slowed her car, and carefully steered around it. With the road momentarily clear, the pheasant seemed to snap out of its reverie, and began crossing the second half of the road. But rather than take the obvious route, it made a diagonal approach, leaving it in the path of a fast-moving delivery van heading east from Beetley.

I winced as the van drove straight over it without hesitation, expecting to see the remains of a badly-squashed bird in its wake. Luckily, the height of the comercial vehicle had meant the bird had been unscathed. It did not even appear to be that concerned by its close encounter with potential oblivion.

A few steps more took Mr Pheasant into the car park, and under the gate of the nature reserve. Ollie and I followed seconds later, watching the bird saunter off into some dense undergrowth ahead of us.

Not unlike the pheasant, I was left pondering.

Why didn’t it just fly across the road?

An Alphabet Of Things I Like: P

Parrots.

Parrots, including Cockatoos, Lovebirds, and Budgerigars are colourful, noisy birds. They have been kept as pets for centuries, and their feathers were also prized in some civilizations. As a child, we had some budgerigars in a small cage, and they would bash the mirror, and ring the bell. It was my job occasionally to change the sandpaper at the bottom, and to restock the millet that they ate. I wasn’t old enough to consider that keeping two birds in that tiny cage might be cruel.

My first close-up experience of a large parrot was when my uncle kept an African Grey as a pet.

Although it had a large cage, it was allowed out, and would walk around the furniture, often choosing to sit on my uncle’s shoulder. I was wary of its powerful beak, and it made me jump when it would suddenly fly off to perch on top of the curtain rail. I soon decided that it wasn’t right to keep such a bird in a domestic situation. I was later proved correct in this, when his parrot began to pull out all the feathers it could reach, until it was bald over about 60% of its body. It also bounced its head up and down constantly, a sure sign that it was suffering from mental health problems.

Parrots should be allowed to live in the wild, and fly free.

Like so many other animals, some varieties of parrot are now endangered in the wild. Hunting for the pet trade, deforestation, and other encroachments of humans are threatening their existence. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just learn to be kind to them, and leave them alone?

Birds don’t like cornflakes

An old post again, from 2013. I think only Eddy has seen this one before. Nature, in a Beetley garden. 🙂

beetleypete

When I moved here, and had a garden again, for the first time in twelve years, I resolved to be kind to wildlife, and to feed the birds. This took the form of flinging unwanted bread onto the lawn at first. It was well-received by the local Avian population, and quite soon, there were regular diners, waiting on the fences, and nearby rooftops, for my usual time of distribution. Some blackbirds even made their home in the hedges at the back, so as not too be too far from this bounty. Plump wood pigeons, looking like they were wearing well-filled, fancy waistcoats, would arrive in reasonable numbers, bullying each other out of the choicest crusts. Sometimes, great gangs of starlings would suddenly appear, clearing the whole lawn in a feeding frenzy, then speeding off, disappearing as quickly as they had arrived.

I soon wanted more. I wanted country birds. You…

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Guest Post: David Miller

I was very pleased to receive this guest post from my blogging friend, David. He is a published writer, talented song lyricist, and compiler of excellent limericks too. I will provide a link to both his own site, and his writing, at the end. Here is his tale, from his home in Nevada.

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Pigeon in the House!

We have a family of six pigeons that call our roof, back yard wall, and patio…home!

It all began late last summer with Romeo and Juliette. Romeo is a typical rock dove, indistinguishable from the average specimen. Juliette, though, has a broad snow-white stripe, composed of several feathers, that traverses one of her wings fore to aft. The offspring are mottled, but have white patches of varying sizes on their back, just below the nape, and between the wings.

In the beginning, we fed Romeo and Juliette stale French bread. But they were not satisfied, so we ended up throwing them a fresh slice now and then. Recognizing that bread is not the most nutritious bird food, we began feeding them lentils. They loved it, of course. But lentils are expensive, and quickly consumed. In the end, we found it was cheaper to simply buy a bag of birdseed.

One morning, Juliette came knocking on the living room window. After repeating this a time or two, we tossed out some food on the patio. She came back the next day, not only in the morning but at lunchtime as well! After that, she became a window knocker extraordinaire. A few months ago, the weather was nice enough to open the window and let some fresh air in. By this time, the family had grown to six pigeons, and feeding time had become a fiercely competitive affair. The six of them often chased each other around the back yard—and battled each other as well—when the birdseed allocation was nearly gone.

So we thought that we’d give Juliette a break and feed her birdseed on the open windowsill. It didn’t take her but a few minutes to figure out that she could eat there—and do so peacefully, without interruption. Needless to say, she was happy as a lark. Weather permitting, she was granted other windowsill feedings after that.
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On a couple of occasions, one of Juliette’s young ones would join her on the windowsill, but this was not a problem—until today! This afternoon, a second young pigeon decided to join its mother and sibling. Unfortunately, there is not enough room on this small windowsill for three pigeons! So it hovered, flapping its wings violently, frustrated in its effort to join the other two. And that spooked its sibling.

The young pigeon flew into the house! And, as mourning doves and house finches had done last summer, it perched up high in the living room (our house is a 1-1/2 story) in one of the three port windows. After that, it explored the living room, alighting alternatively on the staircase railing, various picture frames, and even the chandelier chain. I tried to block the port windows with shoes, so as to reduce the number of available perches—but to no avail…

This young pigeon knows me. It wasn’t afraid of me, as I could get my fingertips within ten inches of it without stirring a feather. But I knew it was not possible to capture it, and didn’t want to frighten it, anyway, so I didn’t attempt to grab it, gently or otherwise. I’d easily captured the mourning doves and house finches last summer as they tried to escape through the port hole windows, beating their wings against the pane.

So what to do?

The young pigeon refused the various perches I offered it (including my arm). It also refused to abort its several bowel movements. That’s why my equipment consisted not only of a ladder (useless), a birdseed platter (ignored), and perches (declined), but also an old sponge (to be rinsed) and a few paper towels (to be trashed).

An idea came to mind. I put some birdseed on the windowsill, hoping that Juliette would alight there, and entice her young one to join her. But Juliette was no longer hungry! She and a couple of other pigeons just roamed around the patio within a straight visual shot of the guest pigeon, perched up high. At one point, Juliette stared at her young one inside, but couldn’t figure out what to do. I instructed her to fly up on the windowsill, or even come inside and lead her young one outdoors to safety. But she apparently doesn’t comprehend English.

After a long persuasive talk up on the catwalk (the young pigeon is apparently just as ignorant of English as its mother), my wife, up to this point quite amused, said, “I’m getting cold.” The sun was dropping in the western sky, and the temperatures were coming down… For some reason, my wife’s perfectly reasonable complaint cued the young pigeon to drop down off the catwalk railing, and fly out through the living room window, where it joined its family on the patio.

This is what happens when the adult serves as the role model for its young. I need to explain to Juliette that only one of her young can join her at a time. Because with the nice spring weather, the windows are going to be open. I suppose this particular pigeon has now learned its escape route, should it ever pop in again. But what about the other five?

I have to say that I’ve never liked pigeons. I’ve always considered them to be a filthy nuisance. But these pigeons have taken up residence here, and so we consider them “our” pigeons. Of course, the family is bound to grow, and as long as we feed them (sometimes, I sit out on the patio, and they eat at my feet), they aren’t going anywhere. I also change the water bowl once a day. They drink from the bowl, and also bathe in it, as do other birds.

So we will continue to enjoy the resident pigeons, as well as our guests—doves, house finches, dark-eyed juncos (Oregon variety), hummingbirds, grackles, and others in search of food, water, and a shady wind-sheltered spot. Hopefully, they will be content to stay outside—or at least not venture any farther than the living room windowsill. Otherwise, our house will become an aviary!

David, living in the bird house.

See more at https://millerswindmill.wordpress.com/
Or check out his latest book here.
https://www.amazon.com/Pope-Dole-Mr-David-Miller/dp/1490324593/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1488358889&sr=8-1&keywords=pope+on+the+dole