A discursive look at Napoleonic & ECW wargaming, plus a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that

Monday, 12 January 2015

Hooptedoodle #159 - Feeding the Neighbours

Breaking the ice on the drinking water is always a popular move
We have always been very fond of the birds in our garden - there are plenty of them, since we have a fair-sized wood just over the garden wall, and we try to keep the feeders stocked in the winter months. Watching them has given us an immense amount of pleasure over the years.

This Christmas, the Contesse was presented with a more sophisticated lens to go with the new camera she got last Christmas (I'm not very good at the imagination thing), and her photos of the visiting birds are suddenly a lot better - so much so that I thought I'd share some of them. Nothing too rare or exciting in the varieties that turned up, but it's nice to see them close up, enjoying a meal on some of our more pleasant days (i.e. before the gales started). We have an extensive menu of lunch specials on offer, including niger seeds, sunflower kernels, suet, nuts and some extremely disgusting dried mealworms. The customers seem to approve. The only question we would like an answer to is, where have all the greenfinches gone? Two or three years ago they were among the most common visitors, but we see hardly any now. The answer, I'm almost certain, is simply that they are dining in someone else's garden, but I would be upset if something more dramatic had happened to them.

Anyway, here's a selection of what constitute common-or-garden birds on the East Coast of Scotland around New Year time.

Blue Tits on the nuts

Handsome male Chaffinch

Coal Tit

Collared Dove - won't go near the feeders, but will hoover up anything dropped
on the ground

I love these little guys - Goldfinches - you either get none or you get a crowd

Great Tit

The enigmatic Nuthatch - spends most of his life hanging upside-down; a
pretty bird, but aggressive. One of Nature's failed prototypes?

The dumbest bird in the garden - a cock pheasant who survived the Christmas shoot;
I read somewhere that they are terribly inbred - most pheasants in Britain
today are descendants of a very small number that were imported originally,
which may explain the low IQ. It has to be said that the females are even more
daft than the males - they forget where they've laid their eggs, for a start.

Robin (yes, yes, all right...)

My favourite of the lot - a female Greater Spotted Woodpecker - sometimes we get
an entire family group on the feeders together, which is spectacular


  1. nice photos, I'm envious of the visits by goldfiches and woodpeckers, they fly over our house but so far I have failed to entice them down to our garden.

    1. Woodpeckers are whimsical chaps - if they are nesting within a couple of hundred yards or so, they should come for peanuts. Goldfinches are creatures of fashion - if you put up a special niger seed feeder (worth the hassle and the small expense if you haven't got one) and keep it stocked they will be there within a few weeks. Once they know where to come, they turn up in the aforementioned crowds

    2. Addendum - woodpeckers will only feed, normally, if there are trees or bushes close by - they like to sit in hiding between visits to the feeders. Very shy.

  2. We sometimes see small groups of goldfinches in our garden (imported into this country along with other types, like starlings and blackbirds and, unless they are as ubiquitous as I suspect, sparrows), But we get some native types like silvereyes (slightly smaller than a sparrow) and occasionally fantails. A bird you never see, but sometimes hear in this city: grey warblers.

    1. Excellent - wherever you are, other people's garden birds seem exotic. The most rare things we've seen this last year have been Yellow Wagtails, which is not really very rare, and occasionally we get Blackcaps and the odd Bullfinch and Siskin - the Greenfinches and Long Tail Tits didn't appear last year - well, I didn't see them. We once saw a Linnet, years ago.

    2. You seem to get more variety than we do. I suspect the starlings are crowding out the rest. A friend (wargaming buddy) was on his roof recently (in 30+ degree temperatures) starling-proofing his chimney, he tells me.

  3. I'm told greenfinch numbers have declined recently due to a parasitic disease called Trichomonosis, which stops them being able to eat properly.

    1. Dear dear - I've just been reading up on this - thanks for the comment. It looks as though the Greenfinches are starting to recover, according to various sites I looked at. We haven't seen any sick or dead individuals, and we do pay attention, so it appears that the numbers are down and they just haven't come here. I hope they get more numerous again. We've had masses of chaffinches, which seems to be another finch affected by the parasite.

      I'm quite upset about this. I'll have to read more about it. Mind you, there's no elm trees left here either, and the oaks aren't looking too clever. Silent Spring coming up?

    2. I know what you mean - there are some pretty frightening figures about the decline in numbers of once-common species. Hopefully the greenfinch numbers will recover - they have done before. Sometimes these things are cyclical.

  4. I've spent some time removing starling and sparrow nests from our house (In NZ they are introduced species that compete with native birds) so I built them some nest areas on other parts of the property which they have flocked too. As we are on the edge of the town next to native bush we have had several visits from a bellbird and a Tomtit. Such is the life of wargaming bird lovers !. Cheers

    1. Great stuff - starlings not so common around here - we had a nesting box on our electricity pole which got a new brood of starlings each year, but the pole was taken down last year, so our own starlings are no more.

      You may have seen them, but there are some marvellous films of starlings swarming near Gretna, on the Scottish border - why do they do this? - HOW do they do it? Check out


      Your bellbird is a real celebrity - I must look up the Tomtit - thanks - this is great fun!

    2. Checked out the Bellbird and Tomtit - lovely birds. Some confusion online - your NZ Tomtit is a very distinctive little chap, but a lot of the pictures in Google are of the British Great Tit - the UK RSPB say that Tom Tit is an old English name for the Blue Tit, which is further confusion - I guess the old names for some of these UK birds are anything you like!

      Thanks again for advancing my education - excellent little birds.

  5. Gotta admit I prefer the other kinda birds, but there are some great pics, my fav is the upside down Nuthatch.

    1. Hi Ray - I like the Nuthatch too, but he is a bad-tempered beggar - pecks at anyone unwise enough to share a feeder with him. Nuthatch is weird - not quite a woodpecker - has to fly up trees and then walk down them, unlike the Treecreeper (we also get these), who climbs up and has to fly down. I suspect that the Blue Tits laugh at them both. No-one laughs at the woodpeckers though - everyone stays well clear when they are feeding.


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