I adore garden birds and we always have feeders up and provide shelter and water for the local birds. There are quite a collection of regulars including; blackbirds, sparrows, blue tits, chaffinches, collard doves, wood pigeons. Occasionally we have a greater spotted woodpecker drop in and in the winter we have been known to see a redwing, if there is snow on the ground and we have put apples out.
The other day I was in the garden and noticed although the large flocks of starlings had come down for the crusts of bread I’d put out (soaked in water, so not a choking hazard to little uns) that once the bread was cleared they start to prod at the grass looking for leather jackets and ants. There was an ant’s nest under the bird bath and I saw one starling delicately picking up single ants and placing them under its wing. It’s known as anting, the ants spray formic acid as a defence and its thought that the birds are using this either as a mite repellent or as a feather conditioner. We get large flocks of starlings, and call them the Dyson Squad as the descend on mass and hoover up any food in the garden. They gather at dusk on the house roofs and leave on mass. We get to see them swirl sometimes, especially if the sparrowhawk comes round as they chase it off.
The sparrows have nested for a third year running in the loft. They are on their third brood this year.
The blackbirds need asbos! They are bonkers! They have decided the bird bath is theirs and chase off anything that comes..but the sparrows come in gangs and the black bird can’t chase a dozen of them, so while he’s chasing one the others nip in the water. There are dedicated ‘wash a starling’ sessions where one bird notices we have a bird bath and the whole crew comes down for a wash, very social birds, they bath with a friend or 3! The sparrows sit just out of reach and enjoy the splashing till the starlings finish then they go in.
Time Team investigations in the garden
After the ‘Dyson squad’ made a visit at lunch time, I went out to refill the baths for them all and noticed the grass looked like it had been Geo-physed by the Time Team people, the lawn was covered in holes. (Good for aerating the grass though).
Loads of holes where the starlings beaks had dug in the ground looking for tasty morsels.
The blackbirds are joining in with the Time Team experiment and have opened up a ‘trench’ in the rockery!
All the feathered Time Team are very keen and have been back several time for further investigations.
Haven’t seen the robin for a while, I think he’s hiding out moulting as there was a juvenile robin some weeks back. The pair of dunnocks has gone into hiding after their little un fledged too.