Sunday, 5 October 2008

Bird Watch - September

Well, into October already and the year has flown by. I have been away quite a bit in September so my bird spotting log hasn’t been kept completely up to date. I’ll get back to that next month providing I have found somewhere to blog and haven’t decided just to retire.

It was disappointing to read last month that bird populations are in decline almost everywhere across the world so I have resolved to increase my small contribution towards helping stop the decline by increasing the daily amounts of food that I put out. What I find interesting is that of the nineteen species of bird that I have spotted in my garden the two most regular and numerous, sparrows and starlings, are also on the red list and therefore in need of most help. I am told that it is quite rare to see a cockney sparrar in London these days. Song birds are badly affected by modern farming methods, it is dangerous for anything with feathers to fly over the island of Malta because the people there shoot them for fun and food and 25% of all birds in North America are in decline. We all should do something about it!

The starlings like the bird table and can clear it in a matter of minutes. This is obviously too easy for them so I also put out fat balls, which they have to work at, and peanuts in a simple wire cage, this takes them a while to tackle so it is better for me because I get longer to observe them. This years fledglings are all grown up now and have their first dazzling adult plumage and very handsome they look too. Their feathers are all shiny and glossy and the range of colours is incredible and as the sunlight catches them they change from green to olive to purple to mauve and then back again. (For those that can’t remember the sun is that big yellow thing in the sky that has been stubbornly absent for most of this year). They are not everyone’s favourite I know but like them because they are so reliable and they are good fun to watch.

The sparrows use the bird table and feed happily of the ground. Their preference is for mixed bird seed in the hanging feeders and although I have a nice expensive wooden feeder with different sections for alternative foods they seem to much prefer a cheap plastic £2 feeder, which when it is full is never short of visitors. They sit in an adjacent yew tree and wait noisily and impatiently for their turn at the seeds.

The wet weather has been good for the blackbirds and there are so many worms close to the surface of the lawn that are easy to catch that they hardly need me at the moment. They certainly don’t come to the door any more for raisons but I expect they will be back if it turns cold. The tits haven’t been by quite so regularly, there is no sign of the wren or the robin and there is still no sighting of a thrush. After the sparrows and the starlings the most reliable visitors are the goldfinch and to make sure they keep coming I am careful to make sure that the thistle seed feeder is kept fully topped up. Yesterday there were twelve of these beautiful birds all competing for feeder space.

I have continued to feed the birds with my homemade fat balls. Some I hang in the bushes for the starlings and others I just put on the bird table for anyone to help themselves. During the summer I had problems with fat balls melting and making a mess but now that it is cooling down it is safe to hang them out again first thing in the morning. I have been experimenting with various recipes to see which ones the birds like best. All of the fat balls have the same basic ingredients of raisons, peanuts and seeds but like to give them a different topping for a bit of variety. Bacon fat and redcurrants is a popular choice with the birds and the pork and blueberry was well received but last month I tried some beef and red Leicester cheese and they were a bit surprised by that and it took them longer than usual to finish it. Always popular is a fat ball with a simple bread crust that looks especially tasty if I get the bread in while the fat is still hot and it gets a slight fried bread glaze on the top. I spoil those birds but the fact is that whatever the ingredients they eat the lot and I am beginning to suspect that variety and presentation isn’t important to them at all!


Warm a little virgin olive oil in a pan and add the fat,
Reduce the fat and cut into small pieces during the cooking process,
Drain and allow to cool,
In a suitable container add raisons, peanuts and various seeds (sunflower is good),
Add the fat (if it is hot be careful not to burn yourself),
Arrange the topping of choice,
Allow to cool and then set in the fridge,


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