As we move towards real winter weather the bird feeding areas become increasingly crowded and the competition more and more fierce. The hands-down winners are the chaffinches, of which we have hoards, as they seem to be able to access just about any type of feeder, will eat, almost, anything, and seem to have the sense to co-operate rather than argue.
However, it's good to see that the house sparrows are holding their own, though in far fewer numbers than the chaffinches. Sadly, we've lost this character, whom we called Hoppity because he hopped along on his one leg, and can only assume that he was one small bird that was weeded out on one of the frequent visits of the sparrow hawk. Lost, too, was the female blackbird who had the deformed foot, though we are not short of blackbirds: we recently found four females and a male all on the wall eating seed at the same time.
We continue to have a very soft spot for this species, the dunnock, the most self-effacing of our regular visitors, whose behaviour verges towards that of a mouse. They're to be found checking for fallen seeds around the plant pots below the main feeders, and scurrying around the paving stones looking for blown food.
Great and blue tits continue to visit frequently. We've seen as many as five blue tits at one time, though the great tits tend to arrive in pairs. But it's ages since we last saw a coal tit, and the same applies to one of our favourite birds, the siskins, a species that used to be a regular at the peanuts.
The goldfinches have stopped travelling around in the large groups - or 'charms' - that they favour in summer and late autumn, coming to feed in ones and twos. A few weeks ago, we always had a yellowhammer or two visiting, but this species has also become increasingly rare.
One character has found a very good way of ensuring a regular and very personal food supply. This little robin remains very tame without being brazen enough to eat directly from a hand. He's often to be seen waiting for food at the window, so we've finally built him his own little feeding platform outside the conservatory window, where he enjoys his favourite foods, millet and some rather revolting dried meal worms. His only problem is that there's another robin, one with slightly pinker legs, whom he hates, seeing him off the moment he appears. Such a contrast to the chaffinches.