Monday, 9 January 2017

a tinnitus of goldfinches..?

Is there something uniquely miserable about January rain lidded by a blewit sky?
The chains that conduct rainwater from our gutters to the rain barrels en route to the pond are barely trickling yet. But the rain is steady enough to prevent outdoor work; my jobs list (in preparation for the growing season) is long and impatient to be satisfied.
The birds respond in the same way to the rain as I do. In their case, where there was garrulous busyness on the feeders an hour ago, there is now silence.

This has been a good year for finches at Cordwood and I would like to think that this is, in part, a result of the cumulative effort of six years.
In 2010, my highest count of passing goldfinches was around 70. They were infrequent garden visitors to us. Then, I looked enviously at friends' feeders where greenfinches and chaffinches hung, feasted then dropped like ripened fruit to be replaced by their peers.

Here, on brighter days, there is now a constant movement of greenfinches, goldfinches and chaffinches between our feeders, the rosa rugosa in the foraging border, the seeding heads of perennials and grasses in the prairie beds and fragrant garden, the seeding plants standing in the wildflower meadow and my sister's feeders.

Raggedy rosa rugosa hips stripped
Lemon balm (Melissa officianalis) seed heads attracted very confiding goldfinches close to the kitchen window recently. Turkish sage (phlomis russeliana) has been especially welcomed by finches in the Prairie Beds and the hips of the Ramanas rose (Rosa rugosa) in the Foraging border have been stripped.

Finches queue to use the feeder
All of this food is supplemented by daily fills of the bird feeders: sunflower hearts, black sunflower seed, whole peanuts and fat blocks see a constant rain of birds, policed by a vigilant robin.

When the rosa rugosa produced hips for the first time in 2015, our population of greenfinches rose. Now these birds are as abundant as goldfinches and scrap it out for pole position on the feeders.

Yesterday, the beautiful, tinsel chatter of the goldfinches in the trees above enveloped the garden. If God suffers from tinnitus (as I do) -surely it will be as lovely as this. Quite overwhelmingly lovely - and then these little nomads were away and the woodland garden suddenly silent.

2015 was exceptional for its redpolls. This year we have had a solitary individual visit fleetingly with the same for brambling. The house sparrows I am trying to encourage rarely venture from the close cut privet. And their pretty cousins, the tree sparrows call cheerily from bushes around the orchard but rarely venture out.

Chaffinches (numbers swollen by continental migrants) have taken years to master the feeders, having previously been content to be ground feeders, catching discarded seed from the wasteful birds above. Perhaps the chaffinches had to work on dexterity and balance before becoming confident as users of the feeders. Or perhaps, the swelling number of asylum-seeking pheasants escaping the shotguns on the fields next door are out-competing them? We no longer have pretty, big-eyed stock doves cleaning up beneath the feeders. And the collared dove calls distantly. But pheasants proliferate. British male chaffinches rarely stray more than a few miles from their natal site (where they were born). Presumably, some of the birds we now enjoy are the children of earlier Cordwood birds?

We look forward to another bird ringing session at the beginning of February. It will be interesting to see whether any of last years' birds have made it through and what this years' ringing tells us about changes in populations.

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