Friday 15 January 2010

Wildlife & the Snow

As the snow slowly dwindles (it’s still a foot deep in my garden) life should become easier for wild birds and animals, which have had a harsh time over the last month. A flurry of wings has engulfed our bird feeders every day. The main birds in numbers are coal tits, blue tits and great tits. Fewer in quantity but present for most of the day are great spotted woodpeckers, blackbirds, chaffinches, robins and dunnocks. Pheasants are usually lurking below the feeders too. And for a few days a starling joined the throng, an unusual bird here. Absent have been the greenfinches that were regular visitors over the summer and autumn and siskins, which often appear for a week or two and then disappear for months. The severe weather has changed the behaviour of some birds as they become desperate for food. Dunnocks are usually very shy, creeping round on the ground and scurrying away from other birds. Recently they have been flying up to the seed trays and competing for the food. Robins and blackbirds have been learning how to cling onto the mesh of peanut feeders, though neither can hang there very long. We have been putting seeds on mesh trays and on the ground but this disappears very quickly, especially if pheasants are around. Rabbits have discovered the food too and learnt how to reach the feeders, something they can’t do when there isn’t deep snow. They climb on to a mesh seed tray that is barely big enough for them to sit on and when the seeds are gone stand up on to the tray and try and get peanuts out of the mesh feeder above. With one feeder they’ve learnt to rest their paws on the lip of the tray at its base and eat any seeds there, as the picture shows. Some of the rabbits have become quite tame too. When I put out food each day most still race away but a few just hop a few feet from the feeders and watch me. They’ve learnt to expect food too. On a day when I hadn’t put out any fresh food – the feeders were still over half full – a rabbit watched me cutting logs then followed me back to the house where it sat outside the porch door looking at me, patiently waiting. The rabbit won and I went back out and scattered some seed on the mesh tray. It was on its hind legs eating the seed before I was more than a few feet away. Elsewhere in the garden the rabbits have dug burrows in the snow and eaten the bark off trees and shrubs. Whether the plants have survived this we won’t know for a while. Once the snow has gone the rabbits will have to go back to finding other food as they won’t be able to reach the feeders and I won’t be putting food on the ground.

Photo info: Rabbit & bird feeder. Canon EOS 450D, 55-250@100mm, 1/500@ f5 ISO 400, raw file converted to JPEG in Lightroom 2.6


  1. Very interesting Chris. We have had similar experiences with blackbirds patiently waiting for food each morning just outside the glass doors. Other birds wait on trees for feeders to be replenished. It really has been desperate this winter for all wild life.

    One blackbird followed me into the house when I'd failed to provide food and had gone back inside to get something. I think this sort of thing is wonderful!

  2. That is the cutest story I've read in a while. A welcome distraction from the relentless onslaught of bad news...
    Thanks for sharing, as they say!

  3. Brilliant! Lovely write up of you relationship with the bunnies! We have two domestics but we still love seeing th wild ones, we drive round and round roundabouts in Manchester looking at them. There is one roundabout in Trafford Park industrial estate that in the summr has about 30 rabbits and a dozen hegdehogs just sat munching on the grass every night! We've had plenty of birds in the garden and spent more on their food than our own I think in recent weeks. The Blackbird is still the boss of the garden, until the Grey Squirrel turns up! Down here the big thing has been the Fieldfares. we had a fantastic looking Thrush too. Love the bunny photo!

  4. A great post and an entrancing photograph! Many thanks for both of them. I'll be buying a couple of new feeders today, I think.