Monday, 11 February 2013

Garden Bird News

The good news is that the collared dove who has spent a lonely winter visiting our garden (on the right, see earlier post here) has found a mate.  It can't have been difficult as he probably had to do little more than describe the wealth of food that is available in his patch.  But now he's found her he's more worried about looking after, and coo-cooing at her, than he is about eating.

We've lost several species from the garden.  It's ages since we saw a greenfinch or a goldfinch, the yellowhammers stopped coming for the wheat grains about a month ago, at about the same time as we last saw a siskin. This is a picture of the last male siskin to come to the peanut feeders.  The male usually allows a photographer to approach quite close before he flies off....

 ....while the drabber, but still very pretty female is a bit more wary.

We're seriously worried about why we've lost so many species.  In part it may be due to the relatively warm winter we've had, in part to the hoards of other small birds, particularly the chaffinches outcompeting the yellowhammers for grain; and there are more, and very quarrelsome, house sparrows around this year.  But the greenfinches, goldfinches and siskins come for the nuts, and here the problem may be....

....the tits.  We've never seen so many blue tits, and they seem to be more aggressive.  We watched today as a very small blue tit chased a very large great tit off a feeder.

Even our joy at having so many coal tits has turned to worry.  As best we can tell, we only have two of these tiny birds left, and they look pretty mangy after a winter of working round the voracious blue tits.

We have plenty of blackbirds, a couple of very beautiful thrushes, the usual collection of polite dunnocks, and more robins than we've seen in some years.  As we ate our lunch yesterday, we watched this robin stretching his head out towards another robin, and puffing out his neck feathers.  We thought it might be two males competing, but the second robin ignored the gesture, so it was probably a female playing difficult to get.


  1. I was chatting to a wildlife columnist in the East Lothian Courier some time ago now and he informed me that there has been a virus spreading through the finches, mainly greenfinches and to some extent chaffinches. It spreads quickly because they gather in numbers at the feeders. Apparently we are one of the causes of their decline but he did say not to stop feeding them. I have noticed a total decline in both of the mentioned finches unfortunately.

  2. This disease has been with us here for two or three years. It destroyed our greenfinch population but doesn't seem to have affected the chaffinches. We thought the greenfinches had got over it - perhaps they haven't.