A New Feeder

Well Readers, I have long resisted the allure of a peanut feeder, but during the lockdown I’ve spent so much time looking at the birds that I thought they deserved a change of diet, so here it is. I have hung it on the other side of the garden from most of the feeders, where there’s plenty of cover for the tiny birds, and indeed a blue tit was on this one before I’d even closed the kitchen door. Let’s see how it does.

The pace of life is certainly picking up in the garden, and some old favourites are back. The chaffinches are doing their mothy fluttering thing around the seed feeders (sunflower hearts, nothing but the best for my visitors).

Hen chaffinch considering her options

There are charms of goldfinches popping in and out: they’ve been around all year but their numbers have probably been swollen by birds nipping down from Scandinavia. There is an esoteric way of telling the difference between UK and mainland European goldfinches that I shall have to investigate, and I will share with you when I’ve worked it out. Not that it matters, I’m just delighted to see them!

And of course there are the starlings, who seem almost as excited as they were earlier in the year.

They really are handsome birds, especially at this time of year when they’ve finished their moult but the winter hasn’t beaten up their feathers yet. What spiky birds they are, all jabbing beaks and flapping wings. And yet, the beauty of their murmurations always makes my heart sing. Here is something beautiful from Mary Oliver, just to help us through the long, dark evenings.

Starlings in Winter

by Mary Oliver

Mary Oliver

Chunky and noisy,
but with stars in their black feathers,
they spring from the telephone wire
and instantly

they are acrobats
in the freezing wind.
And now, in the theater of air,
they swing over buildings,

dipping and rising;
they float like one stippled star
that opens,
becomes for a moment fragmented,

then closes again;
and you watch
and you try
but you simply can’t imagine

how they do it
with no articulated instruction, no pause,
only the silent confirmation
that they are this notable thing,

this wheel of many parts, that can rise and spin
over and over again,
full of gorgeous life.

Ah, world, what lessons you prepare for us,
even in the leafless winter,
even in the ashy city.
I am thinking now
of grief, and of getting past it;

I feel my boots
trying to leave the ground,
I feel my heart
pumping hard. I want

to think again of dangerous and noble things.
I want to be light and frolicsome.
I want to be improbable beautiful and afraid of nothing,
as though I had wings.

From:  Owls and Other Fantasies: Poems and Essays

Copyright ©:  Mary Oliver

10 thoughts on “A New Feeder

  1. Anne

    It will be interesting to see what visitors your new feeder attracts. My ‘feeding area’ is the most calming place in my garden. I breakfast out there whatever the weather (except for rain, which we get so seldom) and try to have tea outside at least one other time during the day. The visiting birds give me great pleasure and I have learned a lot from watching them.

  2. FEARN

    I gave up on peanuts because the birds showed little interest. (Sunflowers, seed mix, fat snacks and too a lesser degree niger seeds were accepted with alacrity.) The most enthusiastic peanut customer was a squirrel who performed acrobatics on the dangling wire and then nibbled through the wire cage to increase his rate of consumption. With your prompting I might just give them another shot…

    1. Bug Woman

      Ah yes, the squirrels. Mine haven’t dismantled anything yet but I did catch one sitting on one of the perches with his legs dangling like a little old chap on a bar stool….

  3. Fran & Bobby Freelove

    We can’t keep up with the birds, particularly the starlings, but we forgive them because we love them. We fill all the holders up twice a day, the suet and sunflower seeds being the favourites. Peanuts have never been that popular here and only seem to get eaten by the blue tits when they’re nesting in the hole in the wall each year. We were only saying it’s a good job Red Kites don’t feed on holders 😄 we counted 13 on the field near us last week.

  4. Bug Woman

    Now that’s very interesting because apparently in Australia it’s not at all unusual to leave meat out for the birds (lots of magpies and other carnivorous species). I’d probably advise against it in the UK though 🙂

  5. Anne Guy

    We will begin to put food out again soon as we stopped in summer as had a rat nesting in an old compost bin. Hope our old favourites return we have missed them.


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