They heard it on the grapevine …

This week I’ve been having such fun watching the antics of the birds on the feeders from the kitchen window that I’ve been burning breakfasts due to the distraction. So I thought it would be entertaining to share some photos, albeit sometimes a tad blurry. (I’ve ruined my little compact from shoving it in my pocket the whole time – there’s a small scratch on the lens. Good job Christmas is coming up soon!)


It’s been busy on the feeders and there are queues forming in the wisteria!

It was a couple of weeks ago that we put the bird feeders back up along the edge of the pergola, now that we are no longer sitting out underneath it enjoying the sun! I know that our neighbours to either side have their own bird feeding stations, but it was still a surprise to see that some blue tits had found our new offerings after only a few minutes.


Blue tits are often the first birds to arrive at new feeding stations

Of course, since blue tits go around in gangs, there were other brethren arriving in short order, including great tits, coal tits and long-tailed tits.

Long-tailed tits are my favourites, because they are so tiny, sound so happy and behave as though they are in the middle of having a party. There is never a solitary long-tailed tit in the garden, it is always a crowd, swooping from tree to tree.


Long-tailed tits tend to move around in flocks of 20 or more birds and are often seen in conjunction with other tits.

I was just reading that when long-tailed tits huddle together on cold nights, two birds together can save 27% energy and three sharing heat saves 39%, so it is well worth them being part of a flock. They seem to particularly like to appear at the feeders in low light levels, at dawn or dusk. In this photo it was raining, with heavy, grey clouds over head so the effect was the same. I’ve no decent pictures of them I am afraid.

Word soon spread that there was a new eating venue in town and the chaffinches began to appear. Chaffinches rarely used the feeders directly, preferring to hop around on the ground clearing up any dropped bits. They were soon joined by collared doves doing the same thing.

When we added a sunflower heart feeder to the facilities, the finches arrived. They add a good dose of colour to the proceedings. They are impatient characters and tend to chase each other off to get a go at the nuts, so there are arresting flashes of yellow and red as they fly about the place.


Goldfinch flashes its yellow wings as it flies off


Greenfinches seem to dominate the places on sunflower heart feeder when goldfinches are also in contention for them.

You may have noticed that our feeders look a bit like Fort Knox. That is because we have big problems with squirrels.


Squirrels are very clever, dextrous and destructive and have been known to resort to throwing the whole feeders to the ground to get at the nuts. We’ve learnt to buy heavy feeders with robust tops!

The last feeder in the row is deliberately cage-free so that larger birds can use it. We have a greater spotted woodpecker who likes to come to it and yesterday I noticed that a pair of jays have started a rota to grab peanuts from it in a fairly continuous cycle.


He must have good abs to manage this position!

The jays manage to extract whole nuts in a way that would be worrying for the other smaller birds.


Second jay with whole peanut in beak (sometimes two)

So that has been my entertainment for the last two weeks. I’ll get used to it eventually, but it has been quite absorbing when I should have been doing other things.

One final thing before finishing this post is to say how important it is to provide water for the birds as well as food. The birds are as often on the bird bath drinking as on the feeders and as it gets colder it is important to make sure that there is some unfrozen water for them. We have ended up with two bird baths on the patio and they are in pretty continuous use, for bathing and drinking. They are a whole other source of diversion for me.


This song thrush was more interested in a bath than drink.





About Frogend_dweller

Living in the damp middle of nowhere
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14 Responses to They heard it on the grapevine …

  1. Tina says:

    Such a great post! I love those blue and long-tailed tits! So colorful. Are they year-round residents, or winter only? You’ve chosen well with your feeders, but you’re so right about the squirrels–smart and destructive, they seem to always find a way to the food!

  2. What good size feeders and thanks for the reminder about water. I would love to see goldfinches in my garden and I know they are about because I’ve seen them on a neighbour’s feeder. He said nigella seeds were special favourites – I’ll try and get a mix.

    • Good news, goldfinches are on the increase in our gardens according to annual bird surveys. We’ve used both nyger (thistle) seeds and sunflower hearts to attract them. Both were successful. I was worried that the nyger would spread around the garden, because the seeds are so fine that they tend to slip out of feeder a bit, but fortunately that didn’t happen. When we used the nyger seed we saw siskins for the first time ever. However the feeders are a bit weak and vunerable, so we stopped using them. The BTO is currently surveying goldfinch feeding habits so you could feedback your results for whatever you try. Good luck!

  3. Oh my gosh, I don’t think I’ve EVER seen a squirrel squeeze himself into a tube feeder! LOL Our eastern Gray Squirrels are probably just a tad too big to fit though;I think your Red Squirrel is a bit more petite?

    • I know, it looks incredible. He thought he was a bottle brush! Even more impressive was him unscrewing the top to get in. He wrecked the feeder in short order though and that was the end of our long tube experiments. Sadly, we don’t have red squirrels here either. He was a grey. We do see black squirrels (in fact the dog chased one off the crab apple this morning), but they are a variant on greys I am told. The nearest red squirrel colony is in Thetford Forest in Suffolk/Norfolk.

  4. lyart says:

    great post, who needs TV with a kitchen view like that….

  5. Julie says:

    Lovely, lovely post! Your Grey Squirrel is a cheeky one and your Goldfinch I am envious of, they are very infrequent visitors here. I can imagine a burnt breakfast or two with so much distraction. I’ve read the Black Squirrels are not far from us and across the county border in Hertfordshire but so far just Greys here, we watched a Grey this morning drinking from our nearest bird bath, I know they are a nuisance but I can’t help but be entertained by them.

    • Thanks. I think we are seeing more goldfinches around here (over the last two or three years). We used to live in Letchworth, Herts and there were certainly lots of black squirrels there. I know that they can be funny to watch and if their tails didn’t look so cute it would be easier to be consistently annoyed with them.

  6. yasminedaisy says:

    What a lovely post! I have tried (and failed) to entice birds to our garden for a whole year now. I put all kinds of feeders/seeds/fat balls and even a bird box up and not one solitary sparrow has paid a visit! We have moved now though and I can see robins, blue tits and long tailed tits from the kitchen window. Our garden is a very small space – any tips on enticing the birds in?

    • If you can see them around now I am sure that if you put your feeders back up they will come. Part of the trick is to watch at the right times, they definitely feed in waves, currently at about 3hr intervals starting at 9am here. If you can fit a bird bath into your garden too that will really help draw them in, especially during the winter months if you keep the water unfrozen. Also make sure they have nearby perches. They like to have somewhere safe to fly up to if disturbed. Good luck. I am sure you will be successful.

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