Bird in the Hand, More Facts About my Feathered Friends & Birdbaths

Taken from Lynne’s weekly column ‘Green Scene’ for the Western Mail. 14th October 2017 Leaf_Para_DividerBird in the Hand

I have had the strangest experience with garden birds this week, with two sitting in my hand quite comfortably and courageously.  The first, a little goldcrest was obviously a youngster and flew onto my shoulder first before alighting on my outstretched hand. He was more than happy to sit there for well over half an hour before flying off. I did a little research into my feathered friend and learned that goldcrests are highly migratory, with a large influx of birds from the Scandinavia and the near-Continent arriving on the east coast of Britain every autumn.  Exhausted migrants are typically unafraid of humans, and some will even land on people.  I’m not sure this little fella was a migrant though and conversely, it is thought that in contrast to their Continental cousins, goldcrests that nest in Britain are sedentary, and seldom moving far from where they hatched.

Then bizarrely, as I took a break from writing up the goldcrest experience for this column, I noticed a little blue tit was sitting on the garden table. He looked a little a little disorientated so I held my hand out and he just jumped on, as though glad of a ride! He was also probably a youngster, although it does seem late in the year for them to be so young. The breeding season varies with location and season, but generally starts in the third week of April and although they will lay repeat clutches if their first is lost, they rarely try and rear two broods.

Anyway, they are without a doubt, the most adorable little things and I feel so privileged to be trusted by them.  My partner pointed out that it is considered to be lucky if a bird poops on you, so I wonder does it mean I’ll be even luckier now that they have actually sat in my hand to do it?

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More Facts About my Feathered Friends

Once known as the golden-crested wren, the goldcrest is Britain’s smallest bird and I couldn’t even feel my little feathered friend, he was that light! The average weight is apparently around 5gms.  I can hardly comprehend something so fragile achieving such a journey across the North Sea and learned that neither could the early ornithologists as they thought that they rode on the backs of migratory woodcock or short-eared owls.  That earned them the old country name of ‘Woodcock Pilot’, which is so cool!

Blue tit numbers have been increasing in the UK in recent years, possibly helped by the provision of nest boxes and supplementary feeding with 98% of British gardens reporting blue tits during the winter.

British blue tits are strictly resident, seldom moving far from where they hatched and although both sexes look similar, the male is considerably brighter (in colour, not IQ) than the female, especially the blue on the head. It is thought that as they get older, they get brighter plumage with each subsequent moult – far more impressive than just going grey!

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Birdbaths

The other possibility for a sudden influx of feathered friends maybe that I have been talking about putting a birdbath out on the deck in front of my office window.  Perhaps word has got out and they are turning up expecting new washroom facilities!

A birdbath has always been one of my favourite features in a garden and since replacing my old rotten deck with the new composite one (which I still love) I haven’t yet got around to replacing the birdbath. I have been looking for something quirky and original to use as a birdbath – but to no avail as yet.  I am now thinking I just ought to provide something suitable for them, whilst I can make or locate an ideal option. 

Birdbaths also make great original presents – for everyone, from young children (good luck if they’re expecting an X-Box) to the elderly, and for outside on every site, from old people’s homes to offices and balconies. It is so entertaining to watch the little visitors enjoy a vigorous splash about whilst others often appear to be lining up waiting for their turn. 

You will have to keep your birdbath clean and topped up but that’s it with regard to maintenance.  A lot of people think that they need a deep or complicated feature to attract birds to the backyard but that’s not the case. Birds aren’t going to swim in it – they like to be able to stand on the bottom and submerge their bodies partially.

And if you want to spoil your feathered friends, then you can also get solar powered heaters for your birdbath, which actually isn’t as indulgent as it sounds.  The solar powered birdbaths usually incorporate both a fountain and heater, which keeps the water fresher and may help to prevent them freezing over in the winter.  Most rely on daylight, rather than actual sunshine, for recharging so they are still effective in the winter months.  Also, running water will attract birds much more quickly than a still birdbath will.  Most garden centres will stock them, and don’t forget that they might make a good Christmas present for someone! 

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