Another frosty morning and I’m at the kitchen window watching the birds feeding. First to arrive are the Wood Pigeons, Stock Doves and Collared Doves. They jostle and flap on the trough feeder stuffing themselves with black sunflower seed. Below them, waiting their turn, are Blackbirds, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Hedge Sparrows and House Sparrows. They pounce on any seeds spilt by the greedy Wood Pigeons. Under the protection of our Silver pear tree, which I apologise for wrongly identifying earlier as an Ornamental Pear Tree, is the main feeding station. Four vertical feeders offer up peanuts, fat balls and more black sunflower seed. Already Great Tits, Blue Tits, Cole Tits and a single Marsh Tit are hard at work.
The Silver Pear Tree’s great virtue is its umbrella shaped canopy, a thick mass of intertwining branches, which shield the feeding birds from any intruders.
I hear a Great Tit’s alarm call. All the small birds fly up, seeking the protection of the tree’s canopy. I see the reason why. An adult male Sparrowhawk has landed on the far end of the feeder trough. It wipes its beak on the wood. I feel sure it has just killed. A couple of flaps and it lands on the cross bar of the metal gate by the Silver pear tree. Through my binoculars I can admire his blue-grey head, back and barred tail. His breast feather are rufous with horizontal darker bars. His eyes are a striking dark orange. A remarkably handsome bird. Then, just as suddenly as he arrived, he’s off and away. Normal activity resumes. I can now see a couple of cock Reed Buntings feeding on the spilt corn in the chicken run. There are three pairs of Reed Buntings that every spring nest along the banks of the river Wensum fifty yards away.
Now for a real treat. In the hedge surrounding the chicken run I see a flock of Long-tailed tits making their way purposefully towards the gate at its corner. Here, they gather together, before, one by one, crossing over to the fat ball feeder under the Silver pear tree. They call continuously, keeping contact, until they are all feeding together under the protection of the tree’s canopy. Their silvery bell-like contact calls suggest a new collective term, a tintinnabulation of Long-tailed tits.