Waiting for the invading hordes…

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How many of you, like me, were glued to your window for an hour last weekend, taking part in the RSPB’s Garden Bird Survey?

Being a sucker for surveys, I couldn’t let this one pass me by without having a go. On Sunday morning, with cup of coffee at the ready, I got into position, ready to clock the largest number of each species of bird to visit my back garden within the space of an hour. I had topped up the peanut feeders, put some seeds and bread on the bird table and scattered sultanas and dried mealworms all over the patio, so all I had to do was sit back and wait for the hordes to descend.

After ten minutes, I had only had a couple of blackbirds and a similar number of blue tits. As the hour wore on, I became conscious of how the feeding pattern of birds came in waves, depending on disturbance and the presence of predators such as sparrowhawks.

Sometimes there were so many birds milling around that I could hardly count them, while at other times there was nothing.

At the end of the hour I had accounted for 28 birds of 10 species – well below my usual tally. Top in number was the chaffinch with nine individuals, with robin, coal tit and carrion crow only providing one representative each.

After logging my results on-line, I looked out the window and you’ve guessed it! On the peanut feeders were two siskins and a nuthatch, both in the Survey’s “rare” section.

Later that day, I took the dog for a stroll round Selkirk Hill, as the ground was still frozen and I knew that it wouldn’t be quite as muddy as usual.

There were a few birds around, such as goldfinch and greenfinch but it was pretty quiet. Even the partially frozen skating pond was devoid of life.

Amidst all the mid-winter gloom of a late January day, there was one plant daring to offer a flower to the inhospitable sub-zero temperatures – gorse. Yes, whatever the time of year, the humble whin still manages to provide a glimmer of cheerfulness with its habit of always having some blooms on display.

There is an old saying: “When gorse is not in bloom, kissing is out of fashion.” On the last few days of January, I was grateful for its efforts.