As I write it has been six weeks of snow. While it was pleasant and fun at first it soon becomes a nuisance; not to mention the hassle of clearing drives each time it snows. But as it becomes more of a nuisance to me so it becomes more of a problem for the wildlife in my garden.
Now that the birds are getting more desperate we are seeing more unusual visitors and more frequent visits by less common visitors. Over the last week we have had a jay visiting and helping himself to peanuts which have fallen on the ground, and this right in front of the window. The male pheasant, which visits us regularly if not frequently, has taken to calling up to four times a day. When the snow was at its worst he arrived with his tail feathers covered in snow and began to dig hollows in the deep snow in an attempt to find some seeds and peanuts discarded by the birds feeding on the feeder. These hollows were deep enough that he vanished from sight.
As the sun sets we have been having a flock of long tailed tits descend on the feeder. The flock numbers up to twelve. The long tailed tits do nest in the garden and this is probably last year’s brood still travelling as a family until they start nesting this year.
The bird feeder is very popular with all the usual winter birds, either feeding on the seed, peanut and suet ball holders or scavenging in groups on the ground (snow) under the feeder. These include chaffinches, tree sparrows, house sparrows, hedge sparrows (dunnocks), great tits, coal tits, blue tits, siskins, goldfinches, black birds, one solitary song thrush, wood pigeons, collar doves, robins and yellow hammers. All these birds on and around the bird feeder form a feeder for our visiting male sparrow hawk. So irresistible is this potential that he often visits several times in one day, but I have to say with very limited success.
Sadly our greenfinch population has been declining in recent years until we now have no greenfinches. I believe this is caused by a bacterial infection which is spread by their use of feeders.
In past years we have had visits from goldcrests and redpolls at the feeder, but not this year I’m afraid. Our other transient visitors are from Scandinavia; redwings and fieldfares, but they also seem to have been affected by the snow and cold. Far fewer apples were eaten from the ground and we had no flocks of fieldfares and redwings taking up the remainder of the apple crop which had been left on the trees for them. In past years these birds have taken up residence in the orchard for up to two weeks while they cleared up the fruit crop. However when the snow was at its worst it seems that the redwings decided that my cotoneaster berries were at their most tasty and they spent a day and a half very noisily clearing the area of these berries, the fieldfares didn’t appear at all at this feast. A strange year indeed for these northern visitors.
The snow has also made some of our visitors more noticeable than they usually are. Most conspicuous has been the fox which wanders through the garden each day and, because I keep no poultry but involuntarily maintain a thriving “herd” of rabbits, is most welcome. Since his arrival alst year our rabbit population has reduced almost to extinction. The other visitors which we now see because of the snow are the deer. Cute though my grandchildren think they are, they do unfortunately do a lot of damage to the trees, particularly the young fruit trees.
So while I curse the snow for the inconvenience and hard work it causes, and also this year the damage which it seems to have done to many conifers, I can still take pleasure in the photo opportunities it presents by making many creatures less shy.