A charm of goldfinches

This winter has seen such an amazing number of different little birds coming to feed on our balcony. Geoff has been feeding them for a couple of years non-stop, right through the seasons, never missing a day, and we have been rewarded by an extraordinary daily spectacle. Well…may be drama is a better word for it.

From observing our little feathered visitors we have been fascinated by their antics and behaviours and the wonderment does not seem to wear out. The cats are now blasé sleeping on the sofa, not bothering with the shrieks and fights and  songs going on just a few feet away on the other side of the glass door….

We stuck some colourful little gelatin shapes on the glass door to stop them from driving into it after one blue tit ran straight onto the glass and laid motionless on the balcony, looking very dead. I rushed out, picked it up gently and held it in my hands for a good 10 minutes before it recovered and flew away, but not before exploring the comfort and freedom of my open palms. It was delightful to be able to look at it from so close and enjoy the gift, all the while hoping it would survive its ordeal.

The blue and great tits were the first ones to be attracted by our sunflower seeds and for a long while they were our only customers. They were fast , wasting no time, landing on the bottle, picking a seed and taking it to the nearest tree, then holding it between their feet shelling and eating it then coming back for more. With dozens of them going to and fro, what a traffic! The hanging seed bottle never stood still.

Then we had the visit of a nuthatch, very different in shape from the tits, being bigger with a longer and thinner beak. It was so aggressive towards the other birds staying on the seed feeder perch for ages gorging himself before flying off with as many seeds in its beak as it could carry and back again on the feeder only a few minutes later. Could it really eat all this food and still be hungry? My cousin JC gave us the information we were missing: The nuthatch collects seeds that it deposits in holes behind the bark of old trees such that it can feed itself from its larder throughout the winter…clever bird! And there were probably two of them with its partner. All other birds get out when those show up.

We have a single little robin occasionally visiting our feeder. I think it prefers worms though. It enjoyed the bread crumbs more than the seeds. We’ve also seen, oh wonder, a couple of little coal finches….

Other big guys feeding this year are some haw-finches. Those are the biggest of the bunch. Beautiful autumn colors with bright oranges and browns and beiges…a very chunky beak that crushes the seeds spitting  out the shells.

We also have green finches and chaffinches, hedges acentors, siskins and bramblings…

The gold finches are the most spectacular though with their little red black and white  balaclavas. We have a lot of those this year, dozens of them. From time to time we see some of their feathers floating on the grass in front of the kitchen…. Oops! one of our cats had his dinner.

With the corner of my eye one morning as I was crossing the living room I saw the underside of a sparrowhawk wing disappearing  down from the feeder below the balcony! Oh my God, Did he get a bird? It happened so fast and its wing was so large. I had to research it to find out who it was.

Geoff could not get enough of the viewing and he wanted to be able to take photographs, so a couple of weeks ago he added another feeder on the summer table very close to the window…what a mess they make shelling the seeds but never mind, watching all this busy life right under our noses is simply brilliant. And when the wind blows  the mess flies off.

The bigger birds come too. Jays, black birds and woodpeckers. I heard the doves yesterday so they are back. In the summer they sit in the conker tree above our heads and keep us company while we’re having our meals. I don’t know where they spend the winter….

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