Wildlife Column: Time to focus on birdlife and feed

As autumn draws inexorably into winter gardens become a focus for birdlife to shelter and feed. Small flocks of blue tits, coal tits, and great tits become increasingly frequent on and around bird-feeders, and my house sparrows spend much of their day on the seed-tray or fat-balls.

Monday, 10th December 2018, 12:59 pm
Updated Monday, 10th December 2018, 13:05 pm
Sheffield weather expert Professor Ian Rotherham.

Cotoneaster berries draw the resident blackbirds which like the robins have become remarkably tame and approachable. Every so often there is mayhem as the local sparrowhawk dips through searching for an easy lunch, and overhead our common buzzards cry their plaintive mewing calls. Excitement is caused by a visit from the exotic ring-necked parakeets, with at present only three or four birds. I confess to rather liking this addition to the region's avifauna which as an '˜alien species' I am supposed to disapprove of! So far they rarely come down from the oak tree where they seem to consume acorns and into the garden. However, this week they did drop down and onto the bird-feeder. My response has been to create my '˜artificial fruit-tree feeder' (apples cored and stuck on a bush!) to attract them; (maybe more on this some other time). Parakeets love fruit like apples and often congregate in old orchards or on fruit-trees with unpicked apples, plums and pears, so hopefully my ruse will work.

One of the great things with nature is its unpredictability and this applies to garden visitors too. We live close by Oakes Park with its large ponds and can hear the Canada Geese, mallards, and moorhens from our garden. This year we even had a pair of mallards attempt to nest. However, the moorhens have only visited once and that was fleetingly during a harsh cold, snowy snap. So it has been amazing to have a resident moorhen for the last month or so; feeding and even roosting at night in the garden.

Garden Moorhen

The bird feeds here and in the garden of neighbours, Mike and Vicki Plant and I think they hope it will find a mate and nest! The bird is quite stunning and seems at home on the feeder or in the pond. Professor Ian D. Rotherham, of Sheffield Hallam University, researcher, writer and broadcaster on wildlife and environmental issues.