Wildlife Column: Head north for the garden birds!
I have been commenting on the paucity of this winter's bird visitors to my Norton garden, and this triggered emails, letters and photographs from readers to tell of their garden delights.
Some of the responses are truly remarkable, but one in particular was especially impressive.
Pirkko and Mike Korkia-Kenward sent in their list from north of the Border, in Ashkirk near Hawick in Scotland. They wrote, ‘Dear Ian, Sorry to hear about the lack of birds in your garden over the snowy period. We have been much luckier here in Ashkirk, and this is our list of birds feeding in the garden just the other weekend: blackbirds, starling, greenfinches, goldfinches, chaffinches, siskins, redpolls, bullfinches, robins, house sparrows, blue tits, great tits, coal tits, great spotted woodpecker, jays, and wren’. However, this was not all, as they also recorded birds overhead either hovering over the garden or identified by sight or sound, and all during the snowy period: carrion crows, common buzzards, jackdaws, rooks, tawny owls and barn owls. There were also two geese (but unidentified as they were high up) and two swans went over on a subsequent weekday.
I replied to express my amazement at their garden list. However, the internet being what it is, I was able to find their location on Google Earth and see their garden for myself – it only took about five minutes! Pirkko responded with more details as to the garden and then sent some really good photographs too. ‘Yes, we are in a splendid location. We only moved here six months ago and the barn owls were absolutely the icing on the cake. I can’t help but send you a picture of two of the four that hunted in the paddock next to us this autumn.
We watched them from our bedroom window. Indeed, they were curious about us, and when we had the window wide open, flew close-by to look! What a spectacle it was to have them fly so close; their calls mixed with tawny owls hooting in nearby trees; paradise!’ OK, now I am jealous!
Professor Ian D. Rotherham, of Sheffield Hallam University, researcher, writer and broadcaster on wildlife and environmental issues