Monday, 3 March 2008

Danger at the bird-table

A partial view of the poplar and the apple-tree that provide a sanctuary to many species of garden and hedge birds - outside my place of work.

One of the family of grey squirrels who do very well out of the bird-table

A collared dove
I work in a ground level building near Stratton. The large window looks out onto a driveway which has a wooden fence to a residential garden and a small copse along side it. The garden has an old apple tree at the end of it. On the other side of the bottom of the garden is a small copse which consists of brambles and an ivy covered poplar tree - the people who own the garden have hung a bird feeder on the apple tree whilst Vanessa, my friend and colleague, fixed a bird feeder to our side of the fence plus made a feeding platform by nailing a square of wood to the fence post.

This has so much improved the quality of my working life (thank you Vanessa) as I am obliged to look out of the window whilst speaking on the phone. Throughout winter we have been entertained by the aerobatics of squirrels and thrilled by the various species of visiting birds. It has turned into something of a bird sanctuary and, with the window serving as a 'hide', myself and my colleague have been privileged to see quite an amazing array of birds. We have had all the usual small birds, robins, blue-tits, cole-tits, great-tits, a pair of bull-finches, chaffinches, a few sparrows. Blackbirds and starlings have also been taking their turn at the table. I love watching them all though my favourites are a gentle pair of collared doves that always visit together (though nesting now, I think). Of the larger birds there are common pigeons, magpies and the star of the show is definitely a solitary great spotted woodpecker who comes to the old apple tree (to peck, no doubt looking for insects).

Today, I noticed a different bird sitting very still on one of the higher branches of the poplar tree - watching. It was a sparrowhawk, though thrilling to see I understand they take small birds and often kill pigeons. We called Vanessa into the room to share our sighting - she decided to try to get a photo on her mobile phone, so we very quietly opened a fire door and crept outside. The sparrowhawk spotted us instantly, and took flight revealing its distinctive underwing markings - I would say it was a female as mostly brown.

Our little bird community around the table and feeders seemed unaware of the imminent danger they had been in or that the curiosity of their unseen watchers had saved at least one of them.
Addendum: Friday, 7th March:- Quite a thrill at the bird-table, it was visited by a large coal black bird, really the largest bird to visit so far and very impressive to see close up, the other birds stayed well back. Initially, I thought that a raven had dropped by but on reflection I think it may have been a large rook.