The back gar­den birder

A house move has seen Clare How­cutt-kelly get­ting to know her new gar­den’s feath­ered friends…

Bird Watching (UK) - - Garden Birds House Move -

Since we last talked, I’ve moved house and I’m writ­ing to you from my favourite chair in the con­ser­va­tory that looks out onto the gar­den. Cur­rently lick­ing my an­kles is a small rab­bit called Ot­tie who can best be de­scribed as free range. As a re­sult, I have to look be­fore I leap. Hav­ing a pet after all th­ese years with­out one is so much fun and watch­ing how she ex­plores the world is joy­ful – con­stantly re­mind­ing me to ap­proach this new era with cu­rios­ity, sniff­ing out the sur­round­ings, suss­ing out what’s where and who has al­ready marked their ter­ri­tory, al­beit sub­tly. First up, the gang of spar­rows who hang out in the ap­ple tree. I’ve placed Ot­tie’s hutch be­side the tree and she loves to watch th­ese ex­citable birds who have their eye on her food bowl. Spar­rows love to tuck into in­sects and the ap­ple tree of­fers the ul­ti­mate all-you-can-eat buf­fet. I’ve been watch­ing them over the past few weeks to see how they be­have and what they en­joy do­ing. If you had to list their in­ter­ests on a CV I doubt it would fea­ture life draw­ing or tap danc­ing, but they cer­tainly make the act of eat­ing look pretty good fun. While buy­ing paint for the liv­ing room the other day, I pushed my trol­ley in the direc­tion of the wild bird aisle and picked up a few bits to be­stow upon my new bird friends, in­clud­ing feed­ers and food­stuffs. The fat ball feeder is go­ing down a treat and the first vis­i­tor of course, was a spar­row and a re­ally scruffy one at that and be­cause Wil­liam Mor­ris once told me, “have noth­ing in your houses that you do not know to be use­ful, or be­lieve to be beau­ti­ful”, I also pur­chased a seed feeder with a slate roof. The spar­rows love my stylish choice and en­joy hav­ing their pic­ture taken on it. Pi­geons are com­mon vis­i­tors and one Wood­pi­geon has built a rather pre­car­i­ous nest at the top of the Hazel tree, which con­sid­er­ing the ma­te­ri­als avail­able in the gar­den is a lit­tle lack­ing in imag­i­na­tion, and that’s be­ing kind. I had no idea pi­geons had so many clutches ei­ther, it can be a whop­ping five a year of maybe two or three eggs at a time. You prob­a­bly know all this so stop me if I’m teach­ing you how to suck eggs but have you ever seen a baby pi­geon? Un­likely. They don’t leave the nest un­til they are al­most adult-sized so how on earth that flimsy nest is go­ing to sup­port them is beyond me. Nest­ing in the roof are Star­lings. I was alarmed when I first heard scuf­fling in the

cor­ner of the main bed­room un­der the eaves (think­ing it was rats) but while I was strug­gling up the front path with an­other con­sign­ment from a well-known DIY shop, I saw them. Star­lings love a loft apart­ment more than any mil­len­nial urbanite could ever do and they In­sta­gram it a lot less. They do like a noisy party, but their nest­ing pe­riod is short and after all, they were liv­ing here be­fore me. Next year, I will of­fer them a lovely new home – prob­a­bly with a slate roof, close enough to the house, so their kids can still at­tend the same schools but far enough away to not wake me if they need to get up and go to the loo in the night. Th­ese birds with their iri­des­cent plumage are cur­rently on the ‘dan­ger list’ so in­vest­ing in a stylish new home for them is the least I can do. When we first ar­rived, I spot­ted some Chaffinches on the roof but they haven’t re­turned for a while, so I am cur­rently in­ves­ti­gat­ing their favourite foods (any ideas?) in an at­tempt to at­tract them once again. By far the most un­usual bird vis­it­ing the gar­den how­ever was a baby Guinea Fowl who had es­caped be­ing made into a game pie. The area I live in has plenty of farm­land, so I asked around to see if any­one kept them – the an­swer was no. Does this make her wild? I’m not sure but the lo­cal cat keeps lick­ing his lips and I haven’t seen her since. As the sum­mer rolls into au­tumn and the knitwear comes out, I am very much look­ing for­ward to sit­ting in the gar­den with a cup of tea, a book and maybe the odd bird friend or two. By the time I talk to you next month, who knows who else will show up. A pea­cock maybe?!

Clare hangs out her fancy, slate-roofed feeder

A few ap­ples on the lawn can be great to at­tract birds

House Spar­rows are the main vis­i­tors to the new gar­den

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