Each winter we deploy a slightly different combination of bird feeders, the pleasure coming as much from seeing which of the year's new inventions work and which are dismal failures. This fat feeder isn't new, having been a great success in previous years. It consists of a Fray Bentos steak and kidney pudding tin with a hole banged into the lip for the wire, filled with bird seed and topped up with Morrison's best lard. It's aerodynamically stable so doesn't get blown off in gales, and reusable.
These two peanut feeders also saw service last year but the type on the left is being phased out. It's nice and easy to fill, doesn't blow off, and contains plenty of nuts but the nuts get wet, with mouldy consequences. The bigger one is the way modern nut feeders are trending, the nuts in the upper part (a plastic downpipe) being protected, and the tin upended on the top both covering the nuts and offering a quick way of refilling the contraption.
This blue tit is modelling the latest design in nut feeders, the nuts, again, being housed in a plastic pipe (this sort is used for drains for handbasins) with a cap on the top to keep them dry - this usually being the top off a household dispenser of some sort. It's suspended from a piece of wire which hooks into the top of a bamboo pole, which means it blows around in the wind, deterring everything except the tit family, siskins, greenfinches, and those dratted chaffinches.
Dispensing seed efficiently and cleanly is much more of a problem. The last couple of years we've simply spread it across the slates on top of the terrace wall, but this has the disadvantage that the birds tend to foul the surfaces, and the wind blows the seed all over the place - usually much to the pleasure of the local cock pheasant, whom we hate, and against whom the wire cages were designed.
This wooden trough is copied from the feeders the crofters use for giving their sheep beet pellets. It prevents the wind blowing the seed about but it fills with water during rain, and small birds still poop in it.
So this is the very latest design which is being tested at the moment. The seed is placed behind the plastic baffle, where it's kept nice and dry, while, at the same time, being easily accessible for the birds. Further, by having the wood which forms the base protrude slightly, the small birds can land on the narrow ledge while anything from a blackbird bigger can't - and the pheasant doesn't have a hope. Also, because none of the birds can get inside, the seed isn't fouled by their droppings. This one's a prototype but the design, properly built, may have commercial possibilities.