Weather strictly not for the birds

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At the time of writing, during the last few days of November, I have just experienced the deepest snowfall I can ever remember for the month. There is at least a foot of lying snow around the house and it looks set to remain for at least a week.

I have just returned from a weekend in Pitlochry, booked long before the premature winter descended and it was touch-and-go whether we went or not. However, the journey north was fine with more snow at home than in Highland Perthshire.

That all changed once we arrived, when a three-hour blizzard had us cut off from the outside world for a couple of days. It was no hardship being marooned in a nice hotel, but it was a worrying time for other guests, some elderly and some with young children.

With jack-knifed lorries blocking the A9 at Dunkeld and south of Perth on the M90, there was no way out except north, but we were staying put.

By the Monday, at about midday we heard that the roads had reopened so we took this opportunity to head south before the forecast snow showers returned in late afternoon. It was a tricky journey, and by the time we reached Tweeddale it was snowing heavily again and we were very glad to get back home just before it closed in again.

The amount of snow in the garden was unbelievable, so operation “feed the birds” swung into action. Areas were immediately cleared to allow seeds to be spread on the ground and all feeders and the birdtable were brushed clean of clinging snow. Once everything had been topped up with food and the birdbath cleared and replenished, the hungry hordes descended as never before.

It was amazing to welcome back birds which we thought had deserted us during the autumn. Even the occasional visits from our local nuthatch has turned into a regular daily occurrence. The greenfinches which we hadn’t seen since last winter were also back as well as four kinds of tit, the usual sparrows and chaffies (pictured, top of page) and many more blackbirds than usual.

Yes, the early onslaught of winter has certainly brought the birds back to the garden and has highlighted the need to feed them regularly in such difficult conditions. With such deep snow it is virtually impossible for ground feeding birds to find food so it is imperative that we step in and help them out with regular feeding.