Birds, birds, birds…

We washed the bird feeders this morning. It’s one of those jobs that I usually put off as I much prefer watching birds feed to washing grubby feeders. After trying to sterilise some with boiling water last year I’m also a little worried about melting them.

It’s clear from looking at them that several of the feeders have design faults that mean you can’t clean them properly. One now has damp seed trapped in its base, which must be worse than not cleaning it at all, and another quite clearly allows peanuts to fester in the base. They are both very cheap feeders so I can’t complain, but for £1.50 I’m not going to persist with them; I will just buy some that are easier to clean.

In around 1969, after reading The Bird Table Book by Tony Soper, I became very keen on feeding birds, and one of my milestones was the winter when greenfinches started to feed in quantity. From being exotic visitors (compared to the sparrows, chaffinches and starlings that formed the bulk of our garden birds) they rapidly became bullies, because there were just so many of them.

Times change, and after Trichomonas gallinae, swept through the greenfinch population (reducing it by over a third) they aren’t the force they once were. The parasite is thought to be spread by access to dirty feeding equipment, which is why I’m trying to keep ours clean.

Our bullies on the feeders are now jackdaws and goldfinches, and the greenfinches and house sparrows are now uncommon visitors.

Talking of jackdaws, they were on one of the feeders when we arrived this morning – using the support from the flat feeder pan as a perch to attack the peanuts. I have now made a number of changes, which include removing the flat pans and supports. It means that the robins and blackbirds won’t have anywhere to feed, apart from the floor, but I will think of something for them as soon as I can. I’ve also bought a new feeder to supply suet pellets, so they smaller birds are still getting a high energy diet.

Currently we have a couple of jackdaws stalking round and looking puzzled.

The squirrel-proof fat ball feeder at the back of the centre doesn’t stop the jackdaws but it does slow them down, so we will continue using that until we finish the remaining fat balls.  The feeder in the hedge has been replaced with a seed feeder. We get tits and sparrows there on the fat balls, so they should be able to cope with the seeds.

That’s it, apart from a touch of hypocrisy. Shortly after restocking the feeders we had a great spotted woodpecker come to visit the feeding station. To be honest, I’m very pleased it did. They are colourful, and though they aren’t rare, we haven’t had one on the feeder before. The hypocrisy comes into play when you consider they raid nests (and beehives!). The beehives are still a sore point. They aren’t much different from a crow in that respect, but because they are colourful, I tend to forgive them.

As luck would have it, Julia had the new camera out in the field when I needed it, so I had to use the old one to photograph the woodpecker. Isn’t that always the way?



8 thoughts on “Birds, birds, birds…

  1. clarepooley33

    I was inspired by Tony Soper’s book too – I’ve still got it somewhere I think. I bought my mother a very expensive ‘Squirrel Buster’ feeder last week as she had had two feeders wrecked in a fortnight by the ‘dear’ squirrel. It seems to be working very well It says it is also good for larger heavier birds. If you win the lottery you could get one and try it out.

  2. Julia Davis-Coombs

    The latest development at my bird feeders was the sparrow hawk perching on top of them. Thrilled as I was to have one so close up, I know I need to re-site the feeders to be closer to cover for the songbirds. But it’s due for moving anyway, so…

  3. derrickjknight

    In my case, it was granddaughter Flo last year who could be relied upon to have the camera when I couldn’t find it. And she took better pictures that I did. Nice post


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