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Garden birds and my Big Garden Birdwatch
This time last year I was bemoaning the lack of birds in my garden. There was little point in taking part in the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch, as the only feathered visitors to my plot were pigeons (although a robin, blackbird and a pair of grey wagtails visited during the coldest weather).
In spring a pair of great tits and a blue tit used my garden to snack on peanuts while foraging for their young. They were all gone by July and my garden was, once again, Pigeon City. In October there were still no birds, despite the sparkling clean feeders and expensive food I put out for them.
I’m pleased to report that this has all changed. What’s more, my garden has become a battle ground. When the snow came in December, a robin and blackbird tentatively started visiting my plot. I put seed out for them which the pigeons couldn’t reach (they had their own), and fashioned a snow-proof feeding station using an umbrella, which sheltered the birds and seed from snow. I left chopped apples in the borders. Everything was harmonious until Christmas, when my partner and I left for a week to visit family (making sure there was plenty of food for the birds in our absence).
When we returned, we saw that the blackbird had rather taken to the garden, and we soon noticed he had actually established it as ‘his’. He now patrols it from dawn to dusk, scampering around eating apples, turning leaves and pecking the lawn for grubs. He’s not frightened of us, or anything, it seems, as he has started chasing off other birds which try to visit.
The pigeons are chased away, a blue tit darts in and out before it gets noticed, the robin has given up completely and a poor, female blackbird (who really should be attracting more attention from him at this time of year) is shooed off every time she dares to come in and share ‘his’ food. Even I was attacked while trying to spend a precious half hour in the garden last weekend. He repeatedly flew from one wall to the other, very close to my head, until I finally gave up and went inside. It seems This Garden Ain’t Big Enough for the Both of Us.
I’ve done a little research on blackbird behaviour and it looks like our trouble-maker is barely a fledgling, a ‘young gun’ establishing a territory which will last his lifetime. I’m hoping he’ll finally start being nice to the female and they’ll choose to nest here. (Our lack of trees or hedges won’t pose a problem for nesting blackbirds, apparently, as they will nest on the ground if conditions are suitable.)
The female has already started looking behind plant pots and at the back of the borders. She’s much more inquisitive than the male, who is only interested in apples, turning leaves, pecking at soil and frightening birds. We’ve called them Sid and Nancy.
So I will be taking part in this year’s Big Garden Birdwatch – from a safe distance. It might be quite dull, as most other birds have now found pastures new, but if anything dares encroach on Our Sid’s territory, there will be quite a show.
The RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 2011 takes place this weekend, from Saturday 29 to Sunday 30 January. To find out how to take part, visit rspb.co.uk/birdwatch.
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