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Olly Buckle

The bird table

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I have a permanent bird table, three short planks joined by a couple of pieces across the bottom, edged with baton, then nailed to the top of a chestnut spile, not too fancy

There are feeders that hang from it as well, for peanuts, fat balls, and seeds that I mix with mealworms. We get a good variety of birds, mostly tits... blue, great , and long-tailed, but also sparrows, the robin, dunnocks, thrush, blackbirds, goldfinch, nut hatch, doves, the local jackdaw colony, and the other day a pheasant.

The little cat habitually sits in her box outside the back door and watches them, it is just too far to take them by surprise, but the other morning the pheasant was surprised by me opening the door for the cat, and took off with a lot of loud calling and clattering of wings. The cat shot back into the house between my legs.

We had regular visits from a pheasant during the summer, but that one was half tame and would simply maintain a distance of about ten feet from me if I was in the garden. He and the cat had eyed each other up and obviously decided ‘It’s not worth it’ as they then each managed to pretend, very successfully, that the other did not exist. One could tell it was a pretence by the exact, diplomatic, distance maintained between them.

Other visitors are the barred woodpeckers, male and female. I have a small pair of brass opera glasses that I bought years ago in a boot sale and keep on the kitchen windowsill, for watching. I was a bit puzzled as the male woodpecker kept going from the hanging peanuts to the spile and pecking at the deep cracks in it, I had often seen tits investigating them for spiders and insects, but they never had much joy, too dense a bird population, why did he keep returning to the same place?

After bit of close observation I realised the peanuts were slipping out of the holder, but were still too big for him to manage. He was taking them out and jamming them in the crack, where they were held and he could hammer at them. That is really clever, that is tool use; I have watched humans trying to manipulate stuff that needed holding still, and getting in a mess for not having thought of it. Birdbrain?

I notice Microsoft flags up ‘spile’, it is a common word in these parts for a heavy stake, usually chestnut. Sweet chestnut is grown in coppice woods for various uses, fencing, charcoal, etc., but at twelve years old they provide hop poles. Maybe eighteen to twenty foot long poles that support the strings the hops grow up. When the bit in the ground rots the shortened poles are sold off, and my spile is a section cut from one of these.

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  1. escorial's Avatar
    i have a small pair of brass opera glasses that i bought years ago in a boot sale and keep on the kitchen windowsill....what a line that surely belongs in a classic novel from any time period.....50's,60's70's..etc
  2. sas's Avatar
    So enjoyed reading this...I must be old, for sure. I never dreamed I'd love my own yard, full of wildlife that we feed. We had to stop feeding our squirrels (we named many) by hand...as they chewed our door walls. We recently replaced them. We are having a frigid winter, so it is difficult for me when they come and look in to ignore their begging eyes.
  3. Olly Buckle's Avatar
    I suppose it is okay feeding squirrels in America where they are adapted. Here grey squirrels brought disease that almost wiped out the native red squirrels, and I am told their feeding habits are much more destructive to native, broad leaf wooldand; we feel about them a bit the way Americans do about sparrows and starlings.

    There's a thing, sparrows, 'the only species other than man that actively investigates new things in their envronment.' Well, so I am told, I don't think anyone has actully introduced new things and watched every single species, but I do know that most animals and birds treat anything new with suspicion for a while. It does make sparrows a bit special and different.
  4. sas's Avatar
    I watched a documentary last year. The blue jay is considered the chimpanzee of bird world, as so smart. Showed one in a cage. The only water was in a long tube; water was near the bottom, so couldn't reach. Next to water was tray with small rocks. The jay eventually picked up rocks and dropped into the water to raise it, so he could drink. Is that amazing, or what?
  5. Olly Buckle's Avatar
    Have a look at Caledonian crows problem solving on youtube, skilled tool users.
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