Discover Your Neighbours

Siskin at the feeder

Don’t let anyone tell you that you have to travel far and wide to see interesting birds. What we have here, in Britain, is just as exotic.

I’ll give you an example. Here’s one of Britain’s most common birds…

…with a black Zorro-esq eye mask, black chin, white cheeks and bright blue bonnet, blue wings fold across a greeny yellow back to form a cloak which, in turn, drapes over a tubby yellow tummy! A streak of black down the front of the said tummy completes the ensemble…

It’s a Blue Tit, a common visitor to gardens in Britain, but I could, as equally, be describing something living in the rainforests of South America. Get my point?

I’ve been laid up lately with a chest infection so any form of exercise has been out of the question. I even have to have a rest after making a cuppa and then another rest after eating the accompanying cake! The problem is that I’m going crazy cooped up indoors so what’s the answer? It lies right here on my doorstep.

So yesterday, I restocked the bird feeding station at Bubble HQ, took a chair outside and sat with my camera. Then what? Yes, I just sat there and watched! And what an hour of watching it was….

The pink feeder

My presence initially caused the birds to take flight but it seems that it’s the little things that have the most courage. After a short time, it was the feisty little Blue Tits that decided I posed no threat (after all, they see me feeding them every day), and came down to the feeders.

The Blue Tits shared the pink berry suet with a persistent Chaffinch. Dusty pink with an equally dusty grey bonnet and shoulders, black and white wings with a tiny touch of yellow, the Chaffinch isn’t as gentle as the Blue Tits. I watched it jab at the feeder. Most disconcerting for a Blue Tit, I would have thought, but no, they stuck it out.

A Nuthatch also jabbed at this feeder rocking it back and forth. With a longer, stronger looking beak than the Chaffinch, the Nuthatch has a light slate grey back with a rosy orange red front. The white cheeks offset a heavy elongated black stripe which moves through the eyes and heads down towards the back of this beautiful stocky but elegant bird. Stunning!


In complete comparison, Long-tailed Tits arrived to the pink bits in little flocks. One arrived then went to tell the others. They used the shrubs, trees, fences and washing line to queue up for the feeders. With cute round faces and teeny tiny button eyes, these are like white and black furry ping pong balls with a handle. To add to their sheer gorgeousness, they have a thread of baby pink woven through to give them that slight hint of glamour.

Long-tailed tit

The niger seed feeder

Meanwhile, Siskins waited in the silver birch tree overlooking the feeders and chattered so loudly, it was almost deafening. Eventually they flew down to the niger seed one by one. They filled up the feeding holes, those not getting a seed hole moving into trees and onto fences. The males, bright yellow with black bonnet, yellow, black and white wings and a striking deep yellow breast, were definitely coming into breeding colours. When the sun shone (very intermittently) they did so too, bright and eye-catching . The females are striking yet delicate. They are not as bright, appearing more streaky and paler in comparison to the males, lacking the bright yellow breast and black bonnet.

But I have never seen so many Siskins! Upwards of 30! And, at times, they were really aggressive.

Mixed in with these Siskins were at least eight or so Redpolls. Pale brown with a bright yellow stumpy beak, they look like they’ve dipped the top of their heads in a pot of scarlet red paint. Males also have a matching pinky red breast. They shared the feeder with the Siskins and gave as good as they got.

       Redpoll with Siskin the back

Female Redpoll

Mixed seeds and peanut butter

The feeder further away from me containing mixed seeds also had its fair share of disagreements. Great Tit, Marsh Tit and Coal Tit not only fought each other but battled Nuthatch, Chaffinch, Blackbird, Robin, House and Tree Sparrow presumably for the best spots.

The four irridescent grey Stock Doves and the rich chestnut brown Dunnock vacuumed up the seeds from the base of the feeder whilst one of the most common birds to Bubble HQ, the Wood Pigeon, kept well away. The tank of the garden bird world, they are very skittish for their size. They came down as soon as I retreated indoors. The Crows did the same. Ever felt you were being watched?

I have, hanging in a hawthorn tree, a jar of peanut butter (not the usual kind but the birdie kind with little to no salt in it). The Robins loved it and kept to this most of the time. In fact, this feeder only allows one at a time to feed and the Robins, Coal Tits and Great Tits formed an orderly queue with hardly any arguing at all. I should have more of these!

The missing

So that was my hour up. I didn’t see some of the usual garden birds….the Greater Spotted Woodpecker with his dapper black coat, white spots and red trousers was nowhere to be seen. The gloriously orange bellied Brambling was missing, perhaps having migrated back to Scandinavia. I could hear a Wren but no sightings at all. And where were the Goldfinches? With their red, black and white faces and golden wing bars, they are frequent visitors to Bubble HQ fighting the Siskins for the niger seed. Not today. Perhaps my presence put them off. Nevertheless, I counted 16 species in an hour! Oh and the Sparrowhawk did a fly-by or was it an aborted Siskin attack?…. whatever it was, that’ll be 17 species.

We’ll all get different types of birds depending upon where we are and what food we provide. In all the time I’ve been at Bubble HQ, I have never seen a Starling, one of Britain’s most common birds. They obviously just don’t like it here. To many they are just black speckled nuisances but to me they are stunning. In the sun, they shine multi-coloured with greens, purples and blues shimmering through their gleaming black feathers. I live in hope that some day one will visit! Lucky you if you have them at your feeder.

But, I’m not going to dwell on my hopes and dreams of seeing a Starling or even a flock of rare migratory birds stuffing themselves on my feeders at Bubble HQ. Let’s not forget our nearest and dearest. Remember to look, really look, at our bird feeder birds. Just look at how beautiful these Siskins are……

Wherever you are, whether it’s in a forest like me or out in the open countryside or in a crowded city or even outside of Britain, you can fall into the trap of admiring what others have. Don’t. Just sit for an hour and watch what comes to your feeder. It’ll be an hour well spent!


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