Feeding the birds

Use this board for general non-cycling-related chat, or to introduce yourself to the forum.
thirdcrank
Posts: 30158
Joined: 9 Jan 2007, 2:44pm

Re: Feeding the birds

Postby thirdcrank » 14 Mar 2017, 8:33pm

We get a lot of magpies. They aren't interested in the feeders but we do have birds nesting in our bushes. In Summer, the magpies just watch where birds are obviously taking in food for nestlings and then try to raid the nests. Blackbirds seem particularly vulnerable to this. We also have sparrowhawk visits. Occasionally we see one catching a small bird, or see one working on one it's just caught. More often, we just see the feathers which have been left.

I presume that feeding birds attracts them in a way that makes them more vulnerable to predators, in the same way that waterholes or river crossings are shown in Attenboro-type nature films. I do wonder whether the benefit to ecology is great. There's obviously money to be made from bird feeding products, nesting boxes etc, not least by the RSPB.

We get pleasure from watching them in our garden. We used to go much further afield but not so much nowadays.

JohnW
Posts: 6434
Joined: 6 Jan 2007, 9:12pm
Location: Yorkshire

Re: Feeding the birds

Postby JohnW » 16 Mar 2017, 9:18pm

Thanks for all that everyone. I'd forgotten to mention our blackbird - seems a bit aggressive towards other males at the moment, but there's a female that also visits and they seem OK with each other.

One thing that surprises me somewhat is that none of the birds that visit us will take wild bird seed that is almost 100% grain. I've tried a few different batches - different packaging and 'brands', but looks similar. Even the collared doves and the occasional wood and feral pigeons look and then leave it. My take is that it's the sweepings up from merchants' warehouse floors and packaged attractively to make money.

I also neglected to mention our occasional wren visitor - but I've not seen it (or them) eating, except that they seem to be poking in the bark of some bushes.

User avatar
661-Pete
Posts: 9814
Joined: 22 Nov 2012, 8:45pm
Location: Sussex

Re: Feeding the birds

Postby 661-Pete » 16 Mar 2017, 10:57pm

Not about bird-feeders - but still bird-related.

We were out walking on the Downs yesterday: lovely sunny weather for March, although a bit hazy on the lower slopes. We remarked on the number of skylarks trilling away in the sky above us - good to see that they're still around in such numbers! Or rather, 'not to see'. We both commented on how difficult it is to spot a skylark in the air above you - even when silhouetted against a clear blue sky. Other birds of similar size are much easier to see when aloft. But skylarks, on the other hand: do they have a 'no-see-um'* gene or similar - a way of camouflaging themselves against human detection?

*Note: a North American expression for a midge - which you really don't see until it bites!
Suppose that this room is a lift. The support breaks and down we go with ever-increasing velocity.
Let us pass the time by performing physical experiments...
--- Arthur Eddington (creator of the Eddington Number).

mnichols
Posts: 1463
Joined: 22 Apr 2013, 4:29pm

Re: Feeding the birds

Postby mnichols » 16 Mar 2017, 11:00pm

Loving the bird chat. I used to be a bit of a twitcher, but get bored sitting in a hide. I prefer to see them when I'm walking or cycling. Recent highlights were a Goshawk on a lap of Wales, a cuckoo on the north west of Scotland, and one of my happiest moments was following a Golden Oriole on a descent from Radicofani in Tuscany....it was perfect. It was bird I'd wanted to see and in a place I'd wanted to go since I was a child...

User avatar
661-Pete
Posts: 9814
Joined: 22 Nov 2012, 8:45pm
Location: Sussex

Re: Feeding the birds

Postby 661-Pete » 16 Mar 2017, 11:18pm

mnichols wrote:one of my happiest moments was following a Golden Oriole on a descent from Radicofani in Tuscany....it was perfect. It was bird I'd wanted to see and in a place I'd wanted to go since I was a child...
During our regular visits to our house in France, we are always on the lookout for anything special. The Golden Oriole is one of these. We hear them calling often enough - we've certainly learnt to recognise the song! But seeing them - that's something different. One of the shyest of all birds this has to be - they really don't want to show their gorgeous colours.

After a lot of effort during a walk in the garrigue, I managed to spot what I think were one or two females (which are not so spectacular, they look a lot like thrushes) ducking into the trees. But later on, I finally had my reward - a glimpse of a male, unmistakeable and resplendent in its plumage, winging its way down the road adjacent to our house.

These have, to date, been our only sightings.

We have had more success watching the hoopoes, which sometimes seem to take a liking to our garden there - they settle on our lawn and strut about. Extraordinary birds and utterly unmistakeable.

The most characteristic species over there is the black redstart, which seems to occupy the same niche taken up by the house sparrow back in the UK. And overhead we get the black kites. Also spotted the occasional hen harrier.

Another very welcome visitor was a long-eared owl, which took up residence in one of our trees in our garden. And entertained us with a most plaintive call during the evenings. Got some piccies somewhere - I'll try to dig them up.

Next trip - mid-April. Looking forward...!
Suppose that this room is a lift. The support breaks and down we go with ever-increasing velocity.
Let us pass the time by performing physical experiments...
--- Arthur Eddington (creator of the Eddington Number).

Psamathe
Posts: 11609
Joined: 10 Jan 2014, 8:56pm

Re: Feeding the birds

Postby Psamathe » 16 Mar 2017, 11:36pm

I have some woodpeckers, Greater Spotted ones. See them occasionally on the sunflower hearts feeder. Also have quite a few bird boxes around. At some times of year bird boxes contain tasty young birds

Image

I was surprised when I saw it (the nest box on the right has a normal blue tit sized hole!. I must get round to finding some metal protectors round the hole but too late for this yer I guess.

Ian

User avatar
661-Pete
Posts: 9814
Joined: 22 Nov 2012, 8:45pm
Location: Sussex

Re: Feeding the birds

Postby 661-Pete » 16 Mar 2017, 11:37pm

Here's the long-eared owl. Not the best of piccies: I don't claim to have any skill at photographing birds.
longeared owl 9503.jpg
Suppose that this room is a lift. The support breaks and down we go with ever-increasing velocity.
Let us pass the time by performing physical experiments...
--- Arthur Eddington (creator of the Eddington Number).

JohnW
Posts: 6434
Joined: 6 Jan 2007, 9:12pm
Location: Yorkshire

Re: Feeding the birds

Postby JohnW » 16 Mar 2017, 11:41pm

661-Pete wrote:.............out walking on the Downs yesterday: lovely sunny weather for March, although a bit hazy on the lower slopes. We remarked on the number of skylarks trilling away in the sky above us - good to see that they're still around in such numbers!................[/size]


Since nearby land has been developed I've to ride a mile or so to get with the skylarks - but they're one of my favourites. You can tell where they are and what they're doing by their song - when they are in 'return to earth' song, they're easier to see because the sun isn't behind them to dazzle.

If you're doing an overnight ride - North York Moors or high in the Yorks Dales - the skylarks and the curlews are the first to awake and sing - before it's light..................I must get out there - you've kindled some memories Pete!

thirdcrank
Posts: 30158
Joined: 9 Jan 2007, 2:44pm

Re: Feeding the birds

Postby thirdcrank » 17 Mar 2017, 8:48am

JohnW

You seem to have been lucky with your hearing. I couldn't hear skylarks now without my hearing aids but I'm not sure where I'd go to try. My clearest memory of skylarks dates from childhood holidays at Charity Farm Caravan site at Sewerby near Brid. We used to walk along the cliff tops into Brid and the air seemed full of them. :D

I think listening may be the secret of wren detection. If you have any sort of decent cover with a thick hedge, they'll probably be in there, singing away but generally keeping out of sight. You just need the good hearing for high-pitched sounds which I have lost.

Bearing in mind all the birdfeeding, is anybody troubled by grey squirrels?

Psamathe
Posts: 11609
Joined: 10 Jan 2014, 8:56pm

Re: Feeding the birds

Postby Psamathe » 17 Mar 2017, 10:07am

thirdcrank wrote:.....
Bearing in mind all the birdfeeding, is anybody troubled by grey squirrels?

No. I have grey squirrels other side of the road (about 50m away) but despite having several oak trees (with acorns) and quite a few hazels & cobs that produce quite a few nuts and with the bird feeding I still don't get squirrels in the garden.

Ian

Vorpal
Moderator
Posts: 18508
Joined: 19 Jan 2009, 3:34pm
Location: Not there ;)

Re: Feeding the birds

Postby Vorpal » 17 Mar 2017, 12:49pm

Wrens, for some reason seem to like us. We had some regular wren visitors when we lived in Essex, and I've seen a wren several times at our current home, as well. Neither was an especially wild place, but both border on wild places, and we and our neighbors feed our winged friends.

My three best bird spottings are:
-Once when walking, I spotted a kingfisher diving. I'd never seen one before that, and it's the only time I've ever seen one in the act of doing as it's name says
-once cycling in the USA, I noticed a shadow fall on me, and I looked up to see the underside of a *huge* bird, about 5 or 6 feet above me. I put the brakes on and stopped in the middle of the road to watch whilst a golden eagle stooped on a rabbit. It was an amazing thing to witness, and I'd had no idea how big they were, even if I had seen them at zoos and things. It's hard to understand until their wings are spread.
-on the back lanes of Essex, maybe 9 years ago, coming home from a late ride... I was startled when an owl appeared in the beam of my light. It was quite close; perhaps ten feet away and looking sort of glowy and silvery, like special effects in a film. I stopped as quickly as I could to watch, but the owl was gone, with it's prize almost by the time I could stop. It's hard to describe, but the image of the owl in front of me was etched into my memory; a single, distilled moment, full of feathers and silvery in the light
“In some ways, it is easier to be a dissident, for then one is without responsibility.”
― Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom

old_windbag
Posts: 1869
Joined: 19 Feb 2015, 3:55pm

Re: Feeding the birds

Postby old_windbag » 17 Mar 2017, 2:43pm

I only have a small garden but as it backs onto farm fields with hawthorn hedgerows it attracts a lot of birdlife. I actively feed but only one feeder full per day( costs more than anything ), plus suet pellets, sultanas and occasionally chopped apples. I have a bird table that is only 2 feet away from thick hedging plants, so a good escape safe house when a predator arrives. I think many put bird tables in wide open space which has no easy escape from predators. I still get the occasional sparrowhawk kill, I've watched only 5ft away as it's finished it's meal. The female( larger ) more often than the male, he's the smaller more colourful one. I have barn owl at evening time and bats throughout spring to autumn. Birdwise its, blue tits, great tits :oops: , coal tits, tre sparrows, house sparrows, blackbirds, starlings, goldfinches occasionally, chaffinches, and a bird that I have a lot of visits from and I think is lovely.... reed buntings. Rarer visitors Greater spotted woodpecker( 1 visit in 15yrs ), woodcock( 2 in 15yrs ), moorhen( 1 in 15yrs ). Lots of pheasant visit's mostly during winter/spring. Have been able to hand feed blackbird, pheasant and bluetit. Plus stray homing pigeon that returned to its loft 60ml south 3 weeks later.( was in touch with owner via ring number ).

I may be out of order promoting the people I buy my seed from but over the past 10yrs or so I've had sterling service and the conservation philosophy of the farm is very good, I feel we need people like this. Nicholas Watts( the owner )newsletters are a good read.

http://www.vinehousefarm.co.uk/

thirdcrank
Posts: 30158
Joined: 9 Jan 2007, 2:44pm

Re: Feeding the birds

Postby thirdcrank » 17 Mar 2017, 3:39pm

I've decided that the big bags of peanuts and sunflower hearts at wilko's are OK and a darned sight cheaper than anywhere else.

Psamathe
Posts: 11609
Joined: 10 Jan 2014, 8:56pm

Re: Feeding the birds

Postby Psamathe » 17 Mar 2017, 3:48pm

thirdcrank wrote:I've decided that the big bags of peanuts and sunflower hearts at wilko's are OK and a darned sight cheaper than anywhere else.

Big bag of sunflower seed hearts (20 Kg) normally cost me £27. Might get it cheaper elsewhere but it's where I get the dog food from and extra saving from elsewhere would probably be more then outweighed by the extra petrol/time/pollution. (that is the same physical size as the big dog food sacks but heaver because I guess there is less air gaps and denser product).

Ian

old_windbag
Posts: 1869
Joined: 19 Feb 2015, 3:55pm

Re: Feeding the birds

Postby old_windbag » 17 Mar 2017, 4:53pm

wilko's do an excellent bird food range. That is my suet pellet source, I used to get them bulk through amazon but wilko's price( £7 box ) is only a fraction different and the quality is good. They don't turn to powder over a period of months. oh and the birds love my fat balls :wink: Again these are wilko sourced £4 for 50 and each dissappear within the day.

I can pick up cheaper seed mix but I find for the 25kg bag I get the quality is excellent( probably 40% sunflower hearts ) and delivery included. It's not always practical for me to shop for it. Actually aldi do some good stuff on their seasonal promo's.