Wild Bird Seed - blog

March 2013

Another year rapidly gone by, the pink-footed geese are here again in the usual numbers, so shooters both here, in Scotland, and in Scandinavia where they go in summer have failed to reduce their numbers overmuch.

The birdtable and surrounding lawn have lots of regular visitors; many more blackbirds than ever come for the ground feed we put out daily, along with several robins, a multitude of sparrows, tits and finches feeding on the fatballs seemingly all day long. We have also had lesser and greater spotted woodpeckers visit a few times when the weather is particularly cold, a cock pheasant struts about early morning and evening, a survivor of the shoots, and a marsh harrier one day ate a pigeon on the lawn - we have a lot of pigeon as does the whole country since there are too few raptors left to keep their numbers controlled, since gamekeepers habitually target them despite the law forbidding it.

Wagtails also come, as well as thrushes, the occasional Jay brightens the lawn, but they are nervous birds and quickly depart if there's any sound or movement to alarm them.


March 12 2012

Another year gone and moved again, now back in Norfolk. The geese we saw in Scotland, resting on their journey from Scandinavian nesting grounds, arrived in Norfolk soon after us and took up residence on the marshes close by. With no idea of this, it was a heppy coincidence, and we get much pleasure from seeing them flying over the garden in ragged arrays, straggling out across the sky. They go inland and out to the coast several times a day, mostly in smaller, family groups, and so far have not headed back north yet, but it must be soon as spring approaches.

I will attempt to get a bigger group photo if they leave as they arrived, in their thousands, but I suspect they depart in small groups and perhaps meet up in Scotland before making the last leg of the journey.

Pink footed geese heading for the Atlantic salt marshes off the North Norfolk coast

January 9 2011

The bird feeders are in huge demand since the snow several weeks ago made food finding difficult. The insect eaters are particularly affected, and the feeding station has to be stocked up every morning.

Of course the squirrels were on to it as soon as it was set up on the lawn and loaded with food, they went straight up the pole without effort and proceeded to strip it of food, something clearly had to be done. We bought a baffle, installed it and watched the squirrels climb the pole and stop confused at the baffle. Good, I thought, that's stopped them. But soon they, irritated at having their way to the food blocked and being rodents, started to chew through the plastic fixing which secures the baffle to the pole. Small pieces of blue plastic started appearing on the ground, soon there was a noticeable amount and the plastic screw fitting was looking decidedly damaged and liable to fall appart; a pity the manufacturers didn't think to make the fixing out of metal.

I then went back to an oft recommended method, the plastic drainpipe, that'll stop 'em! No, seems they can climb plastic drainpipes too. Would coating it with Vasseline make it unclimbable? Possibly, but as it was minus 10 I didn't fancy rubbing Vasseline round the pipe. Instead, I repositioned the baffle fixing and made it loose on the pole, the baffle fixing then slipped inside the drainpipe and was hidden. The pipe now ends at a smooth, transparent roof, and at last the squirrels are baffled! They climb up, stare at it and drop down, unable to believe it, they do it over and over again. The shot below is of a squirrel looking longingly at the baffle; I wonder if he's thinking 'if I could just get my teeth in there and ...'

A robin feeds from the bird feeding station while a squirrel looks longingly up at the baffle and a female blackbird looks on. The squirrels are ignored by all the birds while they all feed from food dropped to the ground

A robin eyes two fat balls

November 16 2010

Many more birds in the garden, especially now we have a metal pole feeding station newly installed. They discovered it immediately, and lots of species have been enthusiastically feeding all day; finches, tits, magpies, robins, and a couple I'm still trying to identify. The hawthorn bushes are coming in for some extended feeding also, often holding half a dozen or more of the same species which like to feed together. Even pigeons, despite their size and weight, perch swaying on the delicate branches while they feed on the succulent dark red berries.

wood pigeon
Wood Pigeon, despite their weight, manage to feed on hawthorn

Squirrels too can manage the bendy branches

Thrushes came in a flock, but only stayed for a snack

November 11 2010

An unusual bird to find this far north [Scotland] this time of year is the Pied Wagtail, since, they are known to be resident in England all year round, but are summer visitors to Scotland; they should be long gone by now, the weather is very cold. I've seen two feeding in our garden, or, more specifically, on the drive and paved areas where it hunts for insects; pecking at specks on the ground which may be tiny insects. It's delicate, nervous walk and bobbing tail makes it unmistakably a wagtail, the black and white speckling/bars on the wings, and black and white body and head are unusual and striking.

Andreas Trepte, www.photo-natur.dePhoto: courtesy Andreas Trepte, www.photo-natur.de

The crows, ravens, and magpies are still around of course, and will doubtless stay all winter. The tits and finches are still needing the feeders filled fequently, stocking up to survive what may be another really cold winter. And of course the robin who appears every time I work outside clearing leaves or other work, singing loudly to me from a branch or fence post as I work.

July 21 2010

An unusual visitor appeared on the squirrel-proof feeder today, a Lesser-Spotted Woodpecker! I had thought they were insect feeders, but the puzzle was solved as it was hanging there checking out where we usually put some mealworms for the robins. There were none, and after a couple of visits, during which I was able to get the [rather fuzzy, but it was very quick] picture below, it stayed away. As soon as some mealworms were put out it was back, but not in view to photograph as it fed. I imagine it has young to feed as visits were quick and often until the worms were gone. This is the first time I have seen this bird, I hope it returns and gives me an opportunity to improve on this shot.

lesser spotted woodpecker

May 24 2010

There is an old diesel pump by the drive, pictured below, long abandoned and derelict. It holds a secret.


Closer and one sees a rusted away hole

Then a great tit arrives and disappears inside

Where five chicks await frequent feeds of nutritious insects

May 12 2010

We've moved, and the birds we have been feeding for years must now forage further afield. It was a shame to leave Derryn Dhu who had become so used to us that he would stand a foot away while we put down raisins, his favourite food. Now he has to feed his young with what he can find in the environment. I have no fears he will manage fine without us, we just helped make it easier.

Here in Scotland the bird population is different; many more corvids, crows of all kinds and magpies, fewer blackbirds, and as usual plenty of finches and tits as well as hedge sparrows and robins. The magpies are especially entertaining, and quick to spot some food and help themselves. Crows are much more careful and check before jumping up onto the picnic table where we place food. But they are all getting used to us and will doubtless become more at ease in time.

blackbird, derryn dhu

One of my last shots of Derryn Dhu, showing his distinctive white tail feathers


Below, magpies feeding in Scotland

magpies feeding

January 14 2010

The cold weather taxes birds ability to survive, and they can use some help. More food needs to be put out for them as the ground being so hard frozen or covered in snow means it's almost impossible for them to find anything. There will be some insects about, but not many, and a lot of the fruits of summer are now gone - eaten or rotted - leaving only winter fruits like ivy and mistletoe. Apples and pears, cut in half, are much appreciated by the fruit eaters and won't hang around long. A redwing landed in the garden yesterday, first time I've seen one and identified it; at first sight I thought it was a thrusg, but the red patch on the body under the wing made it apparent it was a redwing. They are attracted by fruit, so it must have been the apples I put out. Raisins and other dried fruit are also favourites as they provide much needed energy, helping the birds to stay warm when temperatures drop.

Remember also to put out fresh water every morning as anything left out will have frozen and birds find it difficult when it's this cold to get enough moisture. Soaking raisins before putting them out is helpful with this. Baked potatoes and other baked root veg are appreciated, especially by crows who somehow discover them from a distance, perhaps by smell. Chips also are snapped up. All these provide fat, also vital for survival - don't forget the fat balls!

November 12 2009

Derrin Dhu has returned! Haven't seen him for a few months and there's always the possibility a cat has killed him, but he must have been in Ireland where blackbirds go for the latter part of the summer after their young are fledged. If you see blackbirds in your garden from August to November they have come down from Scandinavia and will return before winter. Our spring/early summer blackbirds fly to Ireland every year, maybe they like to have a holiday!

Derrin was there outside the kitchen door today, recognised from his distinctive white tail feather, so I took out some raisins and worms, and he stood there as usual while I put them down, just a couple of feet away from me, and then tucked in. Good to know he still remembers me and is unafraid. I look forward to hearing his beautifully creative song again. I hope his mate, Ruthin, is ok and has returned with him. The life of a wild animal is a precarious one, danger lurking all the time. He's been coming here for five years, and clearly thinks of our garden as his territory.

May 21 2009

I never got the chance of a shot of the robin young being fed, but these shots of blackbird chicks are so superb I had to ask the photographer for permission to use them here. They were taken by Karla B. Rihtarsic from Slovenia who is on Woophy, my favourite photography site. Beautiful shots Karla.

I expect this means our blackbirds have young also, although Derrin Dhu hasn't been rushing to and fro yet with beak-fulls of food like in previous years, so I'm not sure. He's singing at the moment, something he seems to spend a lot of time doing, a virtuoso singer, he can sing for hours at a stretch. My next job is to record him and set it up here to play. I also have some more shots of him and his mate, and a couple of other blackbird males who he drives off at every opportunity, although they may be his sons.


May 12 2009

Looked yesterday and all fledglings have flown the nest! They develop so quickly, and I guess they must have got to the point when they were ready to fly. No sign of them, but keep watching to see if any return to feed. They are probably holed up somewhere in a tree, still being fed by parents, who I still see coming to the feeders.

The blackbirds are late tyhis year, only now gathering nest materials. Met a female the other day with a beak-ful, who put it down in order to feed, then promptly flew off, forgetting to take it with her. Bird brains!

May 9 2009

A week later and the four robin babies have grown astonishingly quickly; as you can see here, their eyes are now open and they're growing feathers. Fledged, they will soon be ready to leave the nest and venture into the big wide world, fate unknown.


May 2 2009

Make that four! Another mouth has appeared, perhaps sleeping in the previous shot, so as you can see below, there are four new mouths, or is that another over on the left? We'll see.

robin chicks

April 30 2009

We have three new mouths to feed! The robins have hatched their eggs and are working hard feeding the demanding heads which shoot up from sleep every time a slight noise alerts them. With our help they should be able to raise all three successfully.

We have a special robin mix, full of all the things they eat like bits of worms and insects as well as a selection of seeds, plus two fat balls hanging just outside the shed, which have been going down remarkably quickly.


April 20 2009

We have robins nesting in our shed! An unneeded wooden plate rack I hung on a nail on the wall, filled up with leaves and grass and with a neat nest at the back. It has three eggs, and the female is sitting on them most of the time now, so the young will be around soon. I'll try to get a shot of it, but don't want to disturb them with flash, although robins are pretty relaxed about humans and aren't too bothered with our comings and goings. Perhaps when they are hatched and the parents are out gathering food would be a good time.

April 5 2009

April at last and the birds are at their most active, building nests, and, I suspect, sitting on eggs in some cases. There are more coming to feed, and coming more frequently, and the food is disappearing at an astonishing rate, especially the meal worms and raisins. Seed feeding seems about the same as usual. The starling with one leg is still coming, he can be spotted easily as he hops rather than runs like they usually do, and when resting on the ground he can lurch a bit, leaning on rocks, but otherwise seems to cope well with his disability. So many species of wild birds coming to the feeders now that it can be difficult identifying them all.

March 20 2009

This is the busiest time in the birding calendar, your garden will be site to lots of of species defending territories, courting, nest building and searching for food.

Despite the relatively cold winter compared to recent years, some common birds are still nesting earlier than previously, climate change is the main reason, and habitat changes and scarcity of nest sites could be contributing.

Many birds are laying eggs on average a week earlier than in the 1960s. When spring falls early as seems to be happening now, it triggers a bird's body clock to start nesting. But if it happens too soon it can cause problems because insects and berries are scarce at this time of year.

If you are already seeing birds flying back and forth with twigs, grass and hair in their beaks, they have already found sites to build their nests. It's doubly important to make plenty of food available both for the parents, who can't spend too much time off the nest searching for food, and when they hatch, the young need constant feeding. You know birds are feeding young when they fly off with beakfulls rather than eating at the feeder!

February 7 2009

The cold weather is lasting longer than previous winters and the birds must be finding it difficult to cope, as none of them will have any experience of such prolonged bouts of snow and ice, and with night time temperatures dropping to 10- and lower, they need all the help they can get to keep warm.

Fat balls are the best for this, and I'm glad I took advantage of a half price offer a couple of months ago and bought a large box of bags of fatballs. They hang in the trees, on fences and anywhere else birds can feed from them, and it's amazing how quickly they can diminish to a small bit left in the bag.

Water too is a problem and you should check daily, especially in the morning, that any water you have is unfrozen. Many mornings the water has been a solid block of ice, so a quick run under the tap and a fresh bowl of water for breakfast is the order of the day.

starlings eating from fatball

Starling babies feeding on a fatball hung in a hanging basket

January 23 2009

Everybody ready for the RSPB Birdwatch coming up this weekend? Click the link to learn the details, how to do it and a downloadable form to fill in. It takes just an hour of your time, and the data gathered is really useful to the RSPB to keep track of wild bird populations and how they are coping. You'll also probably learn a lot about identification of birds.

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch turns 30!
Helping to celebrate RSPB's 30th birthday couldn't be easier - simply watch the birds in your garden or local park for an hour on Saturday 24 or Sunday 25 January. It's fun, and the results make a big difference. They tell the RSPB which garden birds are doing well and which ones could be in trouble. Be part of the world's biggest birdwatch.

Get birds to your garden
At this time of year, birds are easily tempted onto feeders as natural food is hard to find. Put food and water out regularly and you'll be rewarded by lots of birds visiting your garden.

Are you ready for Big Garden Birdwatch?
Maybe you've never done the birdwatch before, or perhaps you're an old hand? Let Web Editor, Katie Fuller, tell you about her cunning plan to have the best Birdwatch ever.

What's that bird?
Have you seen a bird visiting your garden, but you've no idea what it is? Why not brush up on your bird ID skills so that you know who you see during your hour birdwatch?

Try the RSPB online bird identifier

January 11 2009

Added a new page to the site, here, about cats and the damage they can do to wild birds, and how to avoid it in your garden. I've put some links to products in just to be helpful, but none of them are paying links so I'll probably remove them soon and let people do their own searching. This is something all bird lovers should be concerned with, cats account for the deaths of 55 million birds annually just in the UK, and too few cat owners are aware of this, or care enough to do something. This can be as simple as fitting a bell to your cat's collar, and not allowing it out at dusk or dawn, the two times when birds are most vulnerable.

Obviously people feeding wild birds in their garden will, if they have a cat, keep it indoors most of the time, but others may be unconcerned or unaware, so bird lovers can and should do something to make the birds coming to their garden safe.

January 7 2009

How birds survive the night in these temperatures is a miracle, I try to provide plenty of food like fat balls, raisins and mealworms for them to stock up for the cold nights. It was 11 degrees below zero last night, and ten degrees below the night before. The fat balls are a really important source of much needed insulation, and, having bought a huge box on a half price special offer last year, I feel I can be generous with them, so I have them hanging in trees, from the fence and the bird table to give them all a good chance of getting some.

Derrin Dhu seems to be around nearby, I've seen him in the garden, but for some reason is uwilling to come down to close to the house where he used to feed. Whether this is because he grew tired of raisins and mealworms, needed something else in his diet, or was chased away by a bigger, stronger blackbird, I don't know. Considering that he was always quite aggressive in defending 'his' patch, I somehow doubt he has been out-psyched by an upstart newcomer, so varying the diet might be the reason. I shall read up on blackbird behaviour and lifestyle to see if there are any clues, and report what I find.

December 30 2008

Derrin Dhu is back after an absence of several weeks during which time we became quite concerned he had had an accident or been caught by a cat. This morning, in the half light of early dawn, I went outside and he landed at my feet, looking up expectantly with head on one side. I said hallo and then put some mealworms out and he set to with his breakfast. I wonder where he went, perhaps somewhere he knows where fruit grows, or maybe a neighbouring garden. I must get a shot of him showing his one white tail feather and white claws [blackbird's claws are usually black]. Lots more blackbirds have been in the time he's been away, realising, perhaps, that they wouldn't be chased off. One who has a drooping wing but who seems quite able to fly as normal has visited more than usual, plus a couple of newcomers I've not seen before, one of them with a couple of white flecks in his plumage, so perhaps one of Derrin Dhu's offspring.

December 2 2008

There are more blackbirds turning up throughout the day now than ever. Several thrushes too, as well as our usual robins and the ever-present sparrows. Coal tits and blue tits are visiting the hanging seed feeder which has a feeding hole small enough to allow them to feed but keeping larger birds out. Still the nest box is empty, no one has chosen to move in despite my providing some dried grass which I tucked into the hole. Perhaps it's not in the right position for them, I shall have to look into which direction the wind mostly comes from, perhaps that's the reason. Or it might be because it is tto near the feeders and thus lots of bird activity, they may prefer a more secluded spot.

My new camera will enable me to capture shots of all the visitors soon, once I get the hang of it and spend some time waiting; one thing you need with birds is patience.

November 22 2008

As always in nature, no issue is separated from others, and the popularity of planting non-native plants, which started with the Victorians and still continues today, is one of the prime causes of decline in insects, which don't like the non-native plants and can't eat them as they do native plants, and this decline has led to a decline in birds which feed on these insects. Sparrow young have been starving in the nest as the parents hunt for food to keep them fed and growing, and have declined nationally by 68% since 1987. Each pair of house sparrows must rear at least five chicks every year to stop their numbers falling.

This morning, with a change to much colder weather and a blast coming down from the arctic, more birds have beeen visiting, and more often. The sparrows have all been out of course, more than a dozen of them, eagerly snapping up the crumbled bread and dried meal worms; the thrushes have been several times, untroubled by Aderrin who, while somewhat nervous 'his' food supply will diminish, just runs past and feeds. The blackbird with the broken wing has been by several times, and seems to be avoiding Aderrin who normally sees him off. No sign of the wing feathers healing, but they will probably be replaced eventually. Strangely, they don't prevent him from flying, which he does with no apparent extra effort.

Several robins have been too, as well as the tits which love the peanut feeder and have to compete with the sparrows for it - it hangs directly under their nest, so they're bound to think of it as theirs.

November 20 2008

Derrin Dhu [the name we gave 'our' male blackbird who has reared two clutches of chicks every year for the past three and who is so used to us he comes right up to our feet - the name is Welsh for blackbird] has resumed his proprietorial attitude to the wild bird food and drives off other blackbirds whenever he sees them getting too near to 'his food'. This is common with blackbirds, although they don't bother other species, so the thrushes, robins and sparrows can come and feed whenever they like without being bothered, although he has been known to usher a thrush away on occasions, and starlings can get bothersome when they arrive mob handed as they tend to do.

The sparrows are bucking the national trend, which has seen a sharp decline in the last ten years, and there is still a sizeable extended family living in the ivy and honeysuckle archway - both plants excellent habitats for insects. The reason for the decline in sparrows and some other species is loss of habitat; not only have many front gardens in cities been tarmaced to provide car parking, but the rash of TV gardening programmes with their manic drive to get people to install decking and other unnatural structures in gardens has caused a sharp decline in backgarden food supply, especially as it is often accompanied by planting of non-native plant species, which don't provide food like native plants do. Our garden being pretty wild with lots of shrubs and trees provides plenty of natural food sources as well as what we provide, thus our bird population is healthy.

November 19 2008

More photographs and information added to the site, which is expanding daily. We now have a section on bird baths, on nest boxes and how to build your own, and on video camera nest boxes for those who wish to extend their wild bird observations to watching the young grow in the nest. Ecotopia have a custom built camera nest box ready to be fitted and plugged in.

There's now growing information on: feeders, food, baths and nests, and soon to be added, a page on plants and trees you can grow which provide food for the wild birds all year round.

November 2 2008

The site is coming together and more information is being added on a daily basis. We would like to thank Richard Ford, of digitalwildlife.co.uk for kind permission to use his wild bird photographs on the site. Richard is a brilliant wildlife photographer, as is evidenced here, so we recommend you visit his site and see what else he has to offer.

We will be adding to these with our own wild bird photographs as and when we are able to take them. Thanks for visiting, bookmark and visit again soon as we will be adding much more information and expanding the site as time allows.


October 26 2008

We love birds and are keen wild bird feeders. This site is our attempt to provide a central resource on wild birds and how and what to feed them.

Many wild birds are threatened today from our activities; industrial farming has removed 95% of hedgerows from the countryside, which was a key food resource for wild birds. Sprays and poison have wiped out many, and some species are now endangered.

The role of individuals feeding wild birds in their gardens has never been more important, and could be vital in preventing the extinction of some species.

This blog and website are aimed at providing information, links and advice for anyone seeking to help wild birds survive.

We will record our experiences feeding wild birds and events in the lives of the wild birds which come to our garden.



Estate Planning






Yellow Pages for Leominster, Herefordshire 

Birdwatching Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog Directory 

For a fine selection of bird watching blogs try here http://www.blogcatalog.com/directory/outdoors/birdwatching a wide range of blogs from all over the world, with many unfamiliar species and a lot of information and advice.


Home | About us | Bird feeders | Getting involved | Anecdotes | Fat balls | Blog | Tips and tricks | Your comments | Sunflower seeds | Bird Species | Contact us | Bird Song | Links

Any photographs on these pages marked copyright Richard Ford / are copyright digitalwildlife.co.uk and are used by permission of the copyright holder