The first snow of the season fell just over a week ago, and ever since then I have been out in the garden at seven every morning, putting out bowls of water and topping up all the bird feeders. I’ve learned that it is the blackbirds who get up first, and they can usually be seen lurking in the still-dark garden while I set out food for them. They have been here in great numbers – 15 or more in the garden, when usually our limit is four or five.
On Sunday night there was another layer of snow added to the mix – perhaps another couple of inches. The garden on Monday morning was entirely white, but by the time I’d been in and out feeding the birds, there were footprints all over the place.
Over the weekend the fieldfares dominated the scene – there were perhaps three hundred of them that could be seen from our house, perched in every available tree. Many of the berries they rely on have long since been eaten, and I worry and wonder about what I can do to help them. About 18 months ago we planted a hedge at the end of our garden, and this year it is bearing its first crop of berries. But they are low down and so not ideal for the fieldfares, who seem to prefer to eat higher above the ground. By next winter it will be ideal for them. For now though, they are starting to make use of it – it clearly wasn’t their first choice, but it will still be of benefit. Andy read that they will also eat apples, so I bought a few of the cheapest ones, and put a quartered one on the lawn this morning, Within about an hour, it had all gone. I put out a second, and then a third, and the fieldfares and blackbirds are wolfing them down.
It is the birds’ use of water that has surprised me the most – I knew they would need water to drink, but I hadn’t appreciated how keen they would be to bathe. Andy broke the ice on our pond the other day, and the blackbirds and starlings were queuing up to splash around in the icy waters.
Yesterday morning I put on my wellies and headed out, walking through the park on my way home. The schools here have remained open, and so the snow-filled park was empty of children. I imagine they were all sitting staring at the snow from their classroom windows, waiting for their opportunity to throw snowballs and make snowmen. But I enjoyed the quiet, and it was disturbed only by the nose of a group of birds flying out of a tree. They had been startled by a sparrow hawk, who I saw flying away from them, empty-handed.
There are more photos of the snow and the birds here.