It is a miserable March morning, drizzling, dull and blustery. I trundle the wheelie-bin, bursting with our rubbish, down the drive to leave in the lay-by.
There, just outside the gate, I find one, dead moorhen. A bundle of black feathers, with big, green, legs and feet, all a little damp, but not squashed flat. Poor thing, I think, but one less to scramble and flap up in the fruit trees and peck at all our apples, before they are even ripe, this autumn! Rather unceremoniously, I pick up the moorhen and “bury” it in the bin!
Back indoors, I pop upstairs to clean my teeth and to look out of the bedroom window down onto the garden. It is alive with birds!
The young silver birch tree, just yards away, is a well loved feeding station. During five minutes, goldfinches, chaffinches, greenfinches, blue, great, coal and long-tailed tits all breakfast on the peanuts and fat balls. The chaffinch perches on a twig and leans over to peck at a fat ball, trying not to lose his balance. The little blue tits flit from twig to twig, and hang most delicately to enjoy tasty morsels of fat and nuts. The goldfinch leaves the nuts briefly to give his beak a few quick wipes, from side to side, on a nearby twig, then back to the feast.
A great spotted woodpecker flies in. What a dapper gentleman he is in his black and white suit, red cap and under belly. He grasps the peanut holder, and, upright and important, he makes fierce pecks at the nuts, takes smart looks left and right, pecks some more then off he goes in swooping flight.
A perky little hedge sparrow hops around under the tree, picking up tiny delicacies fallen from above. The robin is happy everywhere, in and out the bushes and up in the tree where he particularly enjoys the fat balls which have a good perching twig beside.
Beyond the tree, out on the grass, three green woodpeckers stand in a line prodding and piercing for tasty grubs, occasionally hopping a few yards to another servery.
Up above, woodpigeons fly over and my eye is caught by a group of rooks buzzing a red kite. Over the treetops appears another forked tail and two great kites wheel above the woodland and field edges. As they turn and fly nearer, I can see the redness of their bodies and the pale patches of their under wings.
A magpie crosses the garden and a male blackbird briefly visits the birch tree, then goes and shuffles around in the shrubbery. A few pheasants appear and trample under the tree looking for peanut pieces.
Out on the lawn, moorhens wander around with pecking heads and twitching tails, feeding happily and occasionally pulling up a long worm that goes down in one raised-head gulp! The pond down by our entrance doesn’t hold water well, but the moorhens don’t seem to mind. I think they are here to stay. This spring will probably see our current dozen, (minus one this morning), increase, with a few more fluffy, black balls turning into acrobatic, apple attackers by autumn!
I leave my vantage point and come downstairs. My husband goes to collect the post and returns saying, “It’s like a minefield out there; stepping through all those bird droppings!” I just smile. It’s worth it!
Contributed by Pauline Sheppard; this article also appears in the March Leaflet