Wildlife Christmas Carol
Never one to miss
the chance for a sing-song, Michaela Strachan creates
her very own Christmas rhyme for the birds, and gets
some useful information in there, too!
Deck the halls with
boughs of holly
Fa la la la la la la la la
Tis the season to be jolly
Fa la la la la la la la la
Yes it’s the
festive season. Hurrah! Christmas trees, pantos, mince
pies and presents. Anyway, hopefully by now you’ve
all bought your bird feeders and have got your nuts,
seeds and coconuts swinging wildly in the garden and
are enjoying watching your feathered garden visitors.
(If not, check out last month’s article for ideas,
As you know, I do
like to start articles off with a musical song, so this
month I thought I’d put my mind to a Christmas
garden bird guide rhyme to give you a festive intro
to your garden birds. It’s just a taster and I
would definitely recommend purchasing a proper book
for a more comprehensive guide, (in fact, what a good
idea for a Christmas present).
I should also warn
you that poetry was never my strong point, but in true
seasonal spirit and mulled wine at the ready I’ve
decided to give it a go!!
C is for the
a bird you’ll often see
nibbling the garden nuts
or perching high up in a tree
The CHAFFINCH is
actually a woodland bird but a common garden visitor.
In fact it’s thought to be the commonest British
land bird. It’s particularly partial to tall trees,
which provide food and song posts. The male is easy
to identify with it’s pink breast, slate blue
head and white shoulders and wing patches. The female
looks a bit like a female sparrow with white flashes
on its wings and tail. They eat a variety of seeds and
scraps and, being ground feeders, prefer to nibble the
seeds that have fallen to the ground than perch on a
table or nut feeder.
H is for the
a bird you’ll certainly see a lot
unlike the poor old tree sparrow
whose numbers have dramatically dropped
The HOUSE SPARROW
is definitely an LBJ, little brown job! (although the
male does have a grey crown and black throat to its
credit.) It’s also a common garden visitor and,
as its name suggests, often nests around buildings.
It has thrived around human settlements. The poor old
tree sparrow has not been quite so fortunate. Its numbers
have declined dramatically in the last 20 years mainly
due to changes in farming methods, although they are
slowly becoming a more common site in gardens. You’ll
often see house sparrows on your feeders and taking
scraps. They are also partial to stinging nettles.
R is for the
a bird we all love and know so well
a symbol of Christmas, a gardener’s friend
and extremely easy to tell.
Now everyone should
be able to spot a ROBIN. An LBJ with a wonderful red
breast. The good old robin has been voted Britain’s
national bird. Robins are very territorial, they rely
on their own territories for breeding and a private
food supply and will sing to claim and defend especially
in winter. At this time of the year robins pair up so
you may well see a male and female in the same area.
Robins are particularly associated with gardeners and
often perch expectantly on a spade waiting for fresh
worms to be disturbed. If you’re brave enough
to put mealworms out on your garden table you’ll
make your local robin very happy. They also enjoy bread,
meat, potatoes, fat, seeds and nuts. We do like to think
that our friendly Robin comes back every year. Sadly
this is not the case. Most robins will only live an
average of just over a year, but a good territory will
soon be taken over by a lookalike!
I is for the
OK I accept that’s a bit of a cheat
But you try finding a garden bird beginning with I
I think you’ll find it’s an impossible feat!
I know, I could have
had Ibis! But it’s not exactly a garden bird in
this country is it? And anyway, how could I leave out
the PIGEON? It’s certainly a very common bird
in our garden, and very comical when it tries to imitate
the smaller birds by hanging precariously on the nut
feeder! Street pigeons are the descendants of a variety
of domestic breeds and their numbers are continually
S is for the
you’ll see them in huge numbers at this time of
they’re looking to roost in undercover places
A bridge, a tunnel, a pier.
Next time you see
a STARLING take a good look. They’re actually
very beautiful birds with a wonderfully glossy plumage
of green, purple and blue and covered in speckles. They’re
bold, lively, voracious and are great imitators. They
roost in communal roosts and are a sight to behold at
dusk when they gather in huge numbers. You’ll
often see them on your lawn looking for insects but
they also like bread, scraps, bones, and peanuts.
T is for the
I’d be surprised if you don’t see a few
You may see a long tailed, a great or a coal
But the most common you’ll see is the blue.
BLUE TITS love nuts
and will perform all sorts of acrobatics to get them!
They are quick to learn and were the original doorstop
milk stealers. They’re easy to tell by the bright
blue on their heads and wings and they really are sweet
little birds, they are also the most common users of
M is for the
not to be seen as just black and white
look closer it’s a technicolor monochrome
Beautifully iridescent in bright light.
The poor old MAGPIE
gets a rough time from a lot of people who blame it
for killing lots of baby birds. But let me tell you,
a great deal of the blame should go to the huge amount
of moggies we have in this country. They may look sweet
and innocent all curled up by the radiator, but many
of them can be mean bird murderers.
A is for birds
like the ARCTIC
WARBLER now don’t scoff, I know that they’re
but I went to the Scillies in October this year
and in a garden in St. Mary’s there was definitely
You’d be lucky
to see an ARCTIC WARBLER in your garden, they are pretty
rare in this country. When I went to the Scillies for
what’s known as the Scilly bird watching season,
one was spotted in someone’s back garden, next
thing we knew, hundreds of keen birders in green waterproofs
were ticking it off a list and looking very chuffed!
It’s a very unassuming looking little bird similar
to a chiffchaff.
S is for the
and other birds of prey
now if they’re common in your neck of the woods
you may have to put the nuts and seeds away!
Our garden is too
small to have regular birds of prey visiting. Beautiful
as they are, the last thing you want to do is to encourage
lots of birds to your feeders only to have them swooped
on by a passing sparrowhawk! That really wouldn’t
be part of the Christmas spirit now would it !!
Stay gardening wild
and have a marvellous festive season!!
See also Michaela’s
Photographs © Oxford Scientific Films
reprinted with permission from Greenfingers.com