Dear Readers, every night at about 3.30 p.m. there’s a gathering of starlings in the back garden, as they try to decide whether it’s safe to descend for a last feed before roosting. Some days I see the flock wheel over the house, bank and fly straight to the top of the hawthorn tree, where they sit for a while, chattering amongst themselves and checking the garden out for predators. There are a couple of cats who hang around inconspicuously, at least to me, but there are enough pairs of eyes to spot them. Plus it’s very cold today, so most self-respecting cats are looking for a spot of sunshine to sit in.
At this time of year, you can really see why the birds are called starlings – look at those silver triangles on their breasts and bellies! The sun doesn’t get into the garden much at all at this time of year, but it does burnish the very top branches, turning the iridescence of the plumage into greens and purples.
The birds are particularly reluctant to come down today because two squirrels are having a row. There is much tail-twitching and growling. Times are hard, and there are a lot of nuts stashed in the garden. Generally things are resolved after a quick chase, but there’s a lot of sound and fury before it gets to that stage. You can see the two squirrels with their tails thrashing in the first little film, and one on his or her own in the second one.
Elsewhere, the chaffinches are eating the sunflower hearts – the starlings aren’t keen on these, so they only have to fight off the goldfinches, and an occasional robin. I love their mothy flight, and the males are looking particularly dapper at the moment, in their livery of deepest pink. When a female took flight I noticed for the first time that their backs are greenish-yellow – it just goes to show that however familiar a creature seems, it can always surprise you.
It’s going to be cold for the next few days (though we aren’t expecting snow this far south). Still, it feels like a time of slim pickings, and I shall be keeping the feeders topped up. I often wonder how these frail creatures make it though the winter, and the answer is that lots of them don’t. How much more precious, then, are the ones that survive.