We have been feeding birds throughout out time in the valley. We set up our feeders next to a selection of dense bushes and bamboos to provide protection and give small birds confidence. As a result we usually have a clamour of little birds in that area, blue tits, coal tits, great tits, the occasional long tailed tit, siskins, bull finches, chaffinches, nuthatches.
The grey squirrels have always been a menace! They are not content to just get some food, they destroy feeders, shake the seeds out, even bend metal in their attempts to grab every bit of food that we put out. We have collected a variety of “squirrel-proof” feeders, but, as often as not they just provide the resourceful little horrors with a new challenge to overcome. Also “squirrel proof” also means woodpecker proof, and we no longer get those lovely birds on our feeders.
Partly due to the squirrels there is always a scatter of seed and fatty bits under the feeders which keep the chaffinches and the blackbirds involved, and even sometimes small furry beasties.
High speed, surprise visits by marauding sparrow hawks have always been a threat to the small birds, and our attempts at providing cover for the littlees have not always worked. As a result the attacks are becoming more frequent. The hawks observe from a distance, sometimes an oak over by the riverside, but also the cupressus in the garden next door, or in trees in the bird reserve, then hurtle in for the kill. There is an explosion of small birds into the cover, and sometimes the hawk has to leave empty talloned, to go and inspect neighbours Maze or Richard’s bird tables, but, often enough to keep it coming back, the sparrow hawk reduces the population by one more.
Maggie got quite distressed yesterday. She was on the phone and gazing out of the back window when the sparrow hawk shot past, she rushed to the kitchen door to see the hawk hanging from the underside of one of the feeders and wrenching a small bird from inside the feeder. “Oh I hate that part of it” she wailed; but that is part of how nature works. We feed the little birds, the little ones feed the sparrow hawk, maybe, occasionally, the sparrow hawk feeds a bigger raptor. According to the theory of natural selection the raptor takes the weakest or the slowest or the smallest, and what is left go on to have healthier offspring.
Maybe we are doing the wrong thing feeding the low end of the food chain, it is not natural to have a constant supply of food in one place, but we do enjoy this great selection of birds in our garden.