Birds point way to the light nights

Resident woodpigeon.
Resident woodpigeon.

Day-length is definitely extending at the late afternoon end, and with it comes positive thoughts of more carefree gardening outdoors.

Observing bird movements at the feeding stations and recording the time of their daily visits confirms the fact.

Long tailed tit.

Long tailed tit.

A group of long-tailed tits has been dropping in every afternoon to sample our menu just as the light fades. Interestingly they are accompanied by a robin and at least one blue tit every time, perhaps part of a foraging team.

This began a few weeks ago when dusk came at 4pm but has gradually progressed to 5pm. It seems they are following daylight rather than the clock.

Bird life is such an important aspect of the green space that surrounds the house. Great pleasure is derived from following their year-round use of the ornamental trees, shrubs and ground-hugging perennials provided in hope of currying their favour.

Last year a pair of goldfinches nested successfully in a tall Viburnum Dawn. The wrens could not make their minds up at first but finally opted for the wall-clinging ivy, and the robin chose a low-level niche in a drystone wall. A dunnock wisely went for the dense interior of Lonicera Baggeson’s Gold, and the song-thrush waited until well after budburst before setting up home inside the beech hedge.

Visiting pheasant.

Visiting pheasant.

We like to view them as residents and friends, eagerly anticipating their actions, some of which are predictable. Collared doves nest in the winter cherry and ever-present wood pigeons always choose the silver birch.

I know the exact part of a privet hedge blackbirds will nest in each year, which suggests that passing felines will also be aware of it. If not, the noisy clutch will certainly attract them at feeding time. Thank goodness there’s a thicket of branches to negotiate for access.

The blue tits were so predictable in returning to the silver birch nesting box that we fixed a camera inside to follow the family live on screen. But two years ago, a pair of squatters (tree sparrows) discovered they could wriggle through the entrance.

There followed a running dispute between sitting tenants and the evicted which amounted to them building and destroying respective nests.

Woodpecker.

Woodpecker.

The tree sparrows, which friend Tom (the bird man) said were not so common, won.

Plain sailing from now on you’d think, but the latest claimant is a great spotted woodpecker who’s enlarged the entrance hole.

Even if it does not nest there, the door is open to practically anyone now.

In preparation for the annual RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch, we monitored daily movements in hope of having something a little more special to report by way of numbers. Past attempts have resulted in selecting a one-hour period when the majority were having a siesta it seemed, then they’d come out in force just after the 60 minutes had passed. Typical of this was the covey of seven partridges that suddenly appeared in the mixed border. We’d never seen them before nor since.

This time around, the cock pheasant that comes every afternoon for grain seemed to be a banker but failed to show.

Thank goodness for the long-tailed tits, seven in all, who flew in as daylight began to fade and danced around the suet balls.