A sultana in the hand’s worth two in the mush


Some people stop feeding the birds during the summer, but I like to have them all the year round and at the moment it is pandemonium.

It is one thing to have the adult birds during the winter months, but it is even more gratifying when they bring their youngsters to your feeding station during late spring to supplement their diet.

Just now there are lots of quivering young sparrows begging for food from anyone who will poke something into their ever-open gapes and the other morning it was lovely to have a great spotted woodpecker on the peanut feeder with two youngsters in close attendance waiting for their share.

The prize for the boldest visitors definitely goes to the blackbirds. The youngsters are still in the nest and the two parents are desperately trying to keep up with the demand of their hungry brood. Sultanas are their favourite convenience takeaway food and they beg at the patio door. If it is left open, they just come into the house.

As my picture shows, they are not shy in taking them directly from an outstretched hand.

Once the young birds can fly, they, too, will turn up at the door to join the sultana queue. It can be an expensive hobby, but it is well worth it, for entertainment value alone. I have noticed that despite the abundance of artificial food we provide, the parents still take time to look for worms in the lawn. It appears that they, too, understand the necessity of a balanced diet for growing youngsters.

On my wanders round the countryside, it is interesting to note that some birds which used to be often seen are now virtually absent, while others are doing remarkably well. After a few lean years, the spotted flycatcher seems to be making a bit of a comeback, while the lovely black and white pied flycatcher seems to be extinct from the Borders altogether. Some of the warbler clan are faring well too. I seem to be seeing and hearing more whitethroats, chiffchaffs and blackcaps than ever I did when I was a nipper.

Kingfishers seem to be still suffering from recent severe winters and have yet to recover to their previous levels, and cuckoos are becoming extremely rare. Some may say it’s all down to climate change, but whatever it is, there will always be winners and losers, and whichever species adapts best to changing circumstances will thrive best.