Tag Archives: Bird feeding

Cherry thief

Bird feeding station
Bird feeding station

I like magpies. They’re clever, good looking birds. I know lots of people who feed birds aren’t keen on them. But they’re always welcome to help themselves to the food I put out for birds in my garden.

Having said that,  yesterday one really pushed my goodwill. We have a tiny cherry tree, which is currently laden with almost ripe fruit. Ignoring the bird table laden with different food purchased at great expense, the magpie decided to go for the cherries.

Cherry munched by magpies
Cherry munched by magpies

I love cherries. The tree is still quite young, so we haven’t had many to eat in previous years. And it’s so small (it’s a minaret tree in a big pot) that there isn’t enough to share. The magpie stealing from our precious supply cut me to the quick.

Now, my garden is very definitely primarily a wildlife garden. I take a laissez-faire approach to pest control, hoping that the slow worms, frogs and hedgehogs that visit will keep the slugs and other plant munchers under control. It doesn’t really work, which is why I have given up on growing peas and beans, and my courgette plants have all disappeared. But I am not prepared to sit idly by and watch my cherries get gobbled.

My first attempt at putting off the magpies is hanging a cd from the tree (as I don’t have a big enough net). I put it up yesterday lunchtime, and haven’t seen a magpie since. But I have been out most of this morning, so I can’t say for sure whether it works. The trouble is that magpies are clever birds, so it probably won’t take them long to suss it out.

My attempt at stopping magpies stealing my cherries - hanging an old CD from the tree
My attempt at stopping magpies stealing my cherries – hanging an old CD from the tree

It only has to work for long enough for the cherries to finish ripening. Will there be any left by then?

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Bird nerd part one: a confession

I have a confession to make. I am the garden bird equivalent of a trainspotter. For the last three years I have not only been watching birds in my garden, but recording details of the numbers of individuals of each species I see.

Each day that I work from home I keep an eye (and ear) out for birds in the garden, and record the maximum number of individuals seen at the same time from each species. Over the last 3 years I have clocked up 153 days worth of observations, and lots of completed forms.

Bird observation forms
Some of the completed forms…

While I appreciate that this makes me seem slightly obsessive and sad, it also means I have lots of lovely data to play with. This allows me to monitor trends over time, and see how changes in the garden, weather and seasons affect my feathered visitors.

This behaviour came as a surprise to me. I’ve always considered myself more of a mammal person than a bird fan. I saw birds as nice, but a bit dull (unless they were spectacular kingfishers or powerful birds of prey).

Then we moved house and got a garden. I don’t know when I changed my mind, but soon after moving we installed the bird feeding station, and waited for our first feathered visitors. And waited. And waited.

We had to wait almost a month before we saw the first bird in our garden. Our first visitors were a pair of collared doves. Then more and more types of birds started visiting. Something clicked, and I realised that the garden birds were wild creatures I could watch from the comfort of my own home. And they had their own characteristics. And I could watch real life mini dramas being played out in front of me.

I’m still not sure where the urge to obsessively keep records comes from. I think it must be from working with statisticians for too long. And the transformation is not complete – real twitchers wouldn’t consider me as one of their own. I don’t travel the country in the hope of seeing a rare small brown bird. I’d still choose a glimpse of otter or badger over the rarest of feathered migrants any day.

But I do enjoy watching the birds in the garden. Observing a species we’ve never seen in the garden before makes my day.

Having got that confession out of the way, I’ll try and share some of my observations with you in future posts…