From The Garden

Returning friends

“See, see, see!” They called. “See, see, see!” So I looked and I did see.

The long-tailed tits were back.

With their teddy bear faces. tiny beaks, happy sounding call and unfeasible tail, the long-tailed tits were finally back in my garden – and now they’ve brought their young with them, teaching them the ropes.

Every day throughout the autumn, winter and the early spring a troupe of long-tailed tits had been in my garden, spreading their own unique brand of delight every time I saw them. Then breeding season began and they disappeared entirely. My garden may be a great place to feed and spend the day, but its no place to roost or raise fledglings, unfortunately. There’s far too many pet cats that use my garden on their highways, so I’m used now to seeing less of birds during the breeding months.

Oh, but now my lovely long-tailed tits are back! Back and making repeated visits during the day. Later they visited the other garden feeder, by the willow tree.

They’re a raggle-taggle looking bunch right now, with adults in moult and juveniles looking fluffy still, but to me they’re as beautiful a sight as any bird of paradise in all its pomp. Welcome back to my garden and my days, long-tailed tits. When happiness shows up, make it as comfortable as possible.

Read More

More garden moments

Early morning, too early by most accounts, but at least the morning is cool as the strengthening sun stirs a breeze in those hours. Propped up against the back door, watching the garden and the bird feeders, still incredulous that somehow this is a British summer.

Tic Tac the juvenile robin doesn’t seem too happy about it too, perched upon the fence. Later he’s down on the ground, surveying the pots and looking more and more robin-y every day.

The garden looks tired, parched. Weeks without any rain now. Top up the bird bath each day, they’ll not be parched at least. The juvenile blue tits are grateful for that, visiting in the cool of the evening.

Even the sparrows seem to want to wait for the shade before they move on to the feeders. All squabbles and scraps and chatter and so very, very welcome in my garden.

Only the starling seems to be enjoying the sun to the full, for in the sun it glows, it shines, it shimmers and waves as the sunlight shows the meaning of iridescence, of what “oily plumage” really looks like. I can’t blame them for posing in the sun when the sun makes them look like this.

Shine on, starling, shine on.


Read More

Back door moments

The heatwave continues. It feels like moving through treacle to be out in the heat of the day.

The birds are still moving quickly around the garden, as I stand at the back door, watching them.

Juvenile blue tits like the feeder alongside “their” willow tree during the day.

In the evening they visit the main feeder pole closer to the house instead.

That feeder pole is ruled by the starlings, whenever they land during the day.

There’s a definite hierarchy between them also, the young ones are put in their place.

And then there are the sparrows, ever present, ever welcome. They’re bringing their fledglings and showing them where the food is.

And they’re just spending time in the bushes. Sheltering from the heat as much as I am, or at least I’m finding that very easy to imagine right now.

I’m so grateful that I only have to look out of the window to see the wild, but I’m especially grateful for it on these hot and treacle-filled days.

Read More

Stumpy and Tic Tac

Injury, responsibilities and this remarkable heatwave has kept me away from me usual patch walks over the past few days. Thankfully there’s still goings-on in the garden to watch in the meantime, though even the birds seems to be going slowly in the heat.

One of the great pleasures of having a small patch, or indeed a small garden, is that you get to know the wildlife in it not just as that type of bird or this type of animal, but you get to know them as individuals. You get to know them as recognisable, as having their own distinct personalities and inevitably you end up naming them too. I think that’s nothing but a good thing, engaging with the wild on a personal level helps remind us that is not them and us, but its us together.

So it was that Stumpy and Tic Tac were in the garden the other day.

Stumpy turned up in the garden without any tail feathers. Have they been moulted and the little robin is very limited in movement until they grow back? Or was it, perhaps, the result of a close encounter with one of the many local cats? Either way, Stumpy was here for the day and was going to make the most of it. Sometimes skulking in the bushes, sometimes hopping around at the edges.

Then the focus shifted to sunbathing, looking for all the world like he’d made a failed high speed landing and crashed into the ground! He hadn’t of course, he was just making the most of the sun, stretching wings out to the max.

And not just one sunbathing session either, but multiple times through the day.

Also in the garden is Tic Tac the robin, so named for his seeming pleasure in continually making the robin alarm call, no matter where he is in the garden or what he is doing.

Tic Tac is a juvenile, one of the 2018 edition robins, and seems to have well and truly settled in to my garden as his current home. He’s all bravado with his constant calls, like he’s trying to claim the garden as a territory even though he’s still too young. Come the autumn and the moult, however, he may be taken a lot more seriously and might even win out as the new resident robin.

Meanwhile, Tic Tac doesn’t seem to have received the memo that robins are ground feeding birds! Regular visits are being made to the hanging feeders, particularly the coconut.

Stumpy, it seems, was only here for the day. Not seen stumpy since, though I’ve been looking. Tic Tac I don’t even need to look for, just keep an ear out and I know he’s still around. One passing through, one resident, both memorable in their own ways.

There’s a lot to be said for enjoying the wildlife around you on the personal level. What names do you give to your individual local favourites?

Read More

In the little moments

Its in the little moments that a fascination with the world beyond our human concerns is sown. The little moments, that like a dolly zoom effect in a movie, grow in an instant into very big moments. There is so much life poured into those moments. They are vital, quickening. We only have to look.

Look, and see blackbirds posing grumpily on gate posts in the morning.

See a juvenile goldfinch, barely weeks old and filled with curiosity, visiting a bird bath for the first time.

See a juvenile robin, all unknowing bravado, settle down for a sunbathe.

See a chaffinch, still singing loudly about wanting a ginger beer on the summer solstice, barely feet above your head, unconcerned at or not noticing your presence.

And see a squirrel, stretching to pull up a dandelion leaf from beneath a pot to eat it….

…then take a drink…

…Then eat a lone ear of wheat that must have grown up from a stray seed that fell from a bird feeder in the deep winter, showing off its moulting of winter fur along its back…

…then reach for another and fall off.

Stray moments. Random moments. Full, rich, glorious moments. Happening every single day, just outside your window. Stop and look, the wild is right there.

Read More

Sunday moments

The juvenile robin is growing bolder by the day. He pops out from the cover of the bush at the front of the house to perch on the wall, already practicing his Christmas card poses. Tail is up, wings are flared. “Tik! Tak!” he challenges to no one in particular, attempting to claim this land as his own, like a child declaring that they are the king of the castle. I doubt the parent bird would agree, but this youngster is becoming a little more robin each time I see them.

On the fence a dunnock seems unconcerned with all this. They’ve got feathers to maintain, a much more important task than dealing with the bravado of youth. Bending every which way, the preening session is long before the bird is finally satisfied.

The juvenile blue tits are still resident in the back garden and seem to have claimed this feeder pole for their own. They don’t have to fly to the main pole, just walk down the white willow branches and hop down on top of the suet feeder. Stay all you want, little blue tit. The years I went without blue tits in the garden after a neighbour grubbed up their garden and the favourite habitat of the blue tit population in the area were long indeed. You’re safe here.

This one particular pigeon seems to have developed a thing for lying down. Whenever I see them they’re either lying down or spend a good 20 minutes of slow, deliberate wandering around before finally settling down. Its a curious thing. I swear I can almost hear a sigh of relaxation as it finally decides its happy and lies down. Why fly when you can perch, why perch when you can lie.

Looking for signs of that suspected blackbird nest in the copse I find something else altogether. I’ve heard wren singing in the copse for weeks, but never seen the songster. Today I did and not just one wren, but two, both emerging from another bush that hugs the edges by the road. Is this another nest I’ve missed? Clearly I’ve been missing out on a lot by intentionally staying away from the road side, intentionally taking the opportunity to enjoy a little escape from the urban noise. The birds are a lot brighter than me about such things. They know a good spot that no one will disturb when they see one. Lesson learned, little wren. Its a pleasure to finally meet you.

Read More