Category: Bird Feeding
Date: 13th December 2013
I can hear everyone gasping now, deep fried peanuts, for birds, what on earth!
Well... I like chips! I can think of nothing better on a cold winters evening than walking along with a fresh hot portion of chips neatly wrapped in this morning's newspaper, salt and vinegar mmmm, lovely. I know they aren't very healthy but they are tasty and lets face it, us humans like a little bit unhealthy pleasure from time to time.
The birds however don't think or act like us...... they love fat! Peanuts are naturally full of high energy fats and oils that are essential to good nutrition and weight gain. During the winter months it is necessary for our garden birds to pile on the pounds, unlike us (trying to lose it for Christmas!) The birds need to gain weight, they need to build up body fat to insulate their bodies during the longer and colder nights of mid-winter, they call upon these fat reserves to survive the frosts and difficult feeding conditions brought on by the colder weather.
We need to supply high energy feeds to help the birds gain the weight and the Americans, who seem to deep fry everything have come up with this new idea. By deep frying the premium peanuts the calorific content is greatly increased, fat and oil level is improved which creates an all-round high energy, mineral infused 'super' nut for our birds! You've got to hand it to the Americans, they know how to fry.
Don't get confused with roasted or salted peanuts; these are a definite NO for the birds. The new oil fried nuts are not salted in any way, shape or form but are boosted with oil and fat content which helps with weight gain and calorific energy levels which gives our birds a much needed boost at this time of the year.
They can be fed to the birds in exactly the same way you would use traditional peanuts and they will attract the same species to the feeders. I've been trying them out in my own feeders and I must admit the birds are loving them, Blue and Great Tits are regularly visiting the feeders and Long-Tailed and Coal Tits have been visiting also, brilliant.
We are now offering Oil Fried Peanuts, why not give them a try, the birds will love them.
Category: Bird Watching
Date: 6th December 2013
In a world where Jays and Goldfinches often take most of the credit for looking good, there's a contender whose striking red streak is just as impressive. We're talking, of course, about the much-loved Green Woodpecker (if you want to get technical with the Latin, it's Picus viridis. If you simply want to confuse a bird-watching friend and watch them squirm at repeating it, however, you could go with the Welsh almost unpronounceable version: Cnocell Werdd. Providing you can find out how to say it first, of course).
One of the best things about Green Woodpeckers is how they can be seen all year round. Only a week or so ago, as we entered November 2013, one landed in my garden and spent a whole hour stabbing at the grass with characteristic precision. I may not have got a lot of writing done that day - much as I love birds, the Green Woodpecker is the curious freelance writer's worst enemy! - but I did get to witness something very special.
Known for its expert foraging techniques and rocket-like, undulating flying pattern, catching sight of a Green Woodpecker is always a good thing. So, with no more ado, let's take a look at 3 amazing facts about Great Britain's largest woodpecker.
If you've spent a few hours watching Green Woodpeckers go about their secret business, chances are you'll be aware of one certain thing: this bird hangs out like no other. Capable of attaching itself to any surface with the slightest grip, it's not uncommon to see some of the more ingenious birds spending time on brick walls as well as trees. It's all down to those special feet, of course. Like other Woodpecker species, two front-pointing toes and two back-pointing ones make the magic happen.
There are birds with tongues and then there's the Green Woodpecker. Thanks to thousands of years spent refining its ant-hunting technique, this bird has evolved with a 10cm long tongue which features barbs at the end - a tongue so long, in fact, that it has to be curled around its skull. Try and find a Goldfinch capable of beating that!
If you spent much of your time banging away at trees with your nose, imagine how much of a headache you'd have at the end of the day! While the Green Woodpecker is mostly a ground-feeding spectacle - as we said before, the focus of its obsession is ants, ants and even more ants! - that doesn't mean it is any less equipped than some of the other Woodpecker species out there. To deal with the trials and tribulations of life, the Green Woodpecker has developed a skull with its very own cartilage-cushion shock-absorber. This, combined with muscles that distance the brain-case from the beak at the moment of impact, takes the stress out and leaves the Woodpecker able to cope with the day ahead.
Category: Bird Watching
Date: 28th November 2013
The Blackbird is an interesting bird! It is very common in our gardens, it is easily recognizable, it has a nice song and most people, even non birdwatchers would be able to hazard a good guess as to its identity.
That said, there is a lot more to the Blackbird than one may assume. Not only is it a common breeding bird in the United Kingdom with some four and a half million pairs but it is also a winter migrant, it escapes the colder Eastern European countries by spending the winter months here. They're arrival generally coincides with the onset of harsh weather at their departure point, when it gets cold they leave.
I've been looking at some of the numbers recorded at east coast sights this week and they are pretty impressive.
In one field alone, on the morning of the 11th Nov, at the migrant hotspot Spurn Point, there were over 1000 individuals! So, remembering that this is one field, on a coast line of 800 miles, how many thousands of birds arrived in the UK that evening...the mind boggles, a hundred thousand, a million?
Some of the Spurn individuals were trapped and bingo, one had a ring on it. It was a bird that had been rung in Germany so this gives us a great indication of where these migrants have been arriving from.
Another single observer noted over 50 in his east coast garden! I bet he had to re-stock the bird table after they had their fill.
There is more bad weather on the way so more birds will depart and join the tens of thousands that have already arrived here in the UK.
Over the coming weeks, all of these arrivals will start filtering across the country, take up residency in our gardens and start feeding at our bird tables and feeding stations.
So lets be good hosts to our European friends and keep a good supply of food on the go in our gardens. Blackbirds are easily fed, they will take berries, fallen fruit and snails along with high energy seed mixes, fat feasts, fatballs and suet mixes...keep the bird table stocked and remember to provide water especially during hard frosts. Let's do our bit for a united Europe and provide a nice winter home for our visiting blackbirds.
Date: 21st November 2013
Battening down the hatches for the much predicted cold snap - which is to be accompanied by gale force winds, or heavy rain, or sleet and snow depending on which smiling weather boy or girl happens to pop up at the end of the News to further depress us - I have taken to musing about how the other folk in the surrounding countryside cope with the weather.
The window of the room where my computer lives overlooks part of the vegetable garden, and I was curious as to why Mrs C. - who was clearing the last of the summer carrots - was making frequent journeys across the lawn to a shrubbery located in a raised bed. She was carrying something but I was not sure what - so nosiness prevailed and out I went...
Toads! Various sizes and colours who had established themselves just below the surface of the soil to overwinter. Removing the carrots had disturbed their underground dens and Mrs C. was operating a relocation programme to help out these 'gardeners' friends' by taking them to the shelter of the leafy soil in the shrubbery.
The toads are a chemical factory and they secrete stuff called bufotoxins which in theory make them taste unpleasant so that a potential predator would be inclined to spit them out... but there is much more to brother toad's slime and scientists are only just beginning to recognize that they also produce natural antibiotics to protect themselves against infection - by identifying these chemicals we may increase our own armoury against infections.
Certain old ladies (no pointed hats or broomsticks will be mentioned) in my youth produced strange mixtures for wounds that would not heal - the green bits of stale bread were favourites and it was rumoured among the callow youths that the mixture contained 'toad slime'... please don't try it for yourself - let the scientists do their refining and produce a brightly coloured and extremely expensive pill for us!
...anyway where was I - Oh yes, gardeners friends - toads enjoy all the juicy critters that in turn enjoy our vegetables - so friends they are, and should be treated as such with respect. Carefully cradled in rubber gloves ours are making a late migration to newly selected winter quarters - I'm sure that they appreciate the attention...
Category: Bird Watching
Date: 13th November 2013
This year there seems to have been a goodly supply of natural food in the countryside for our garden birds - they have been a bit thin on the ground (and on the bird tables !).
Berries, nuts and acorns - which are crushed on the road - supply good proteins for the usual suspects and the seed heads from the thistles and wild flowers have been keeping many of our regulars busy further afield. However, as the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) has noted in its latest news letter - times they are achanging...
The BTO organizes a survey based on its army of birdwatchers to keep a check on what its coming and going in the nations gardens, and its results are always interesting. For instance more gardens than ever before have recorded the presence of Blackcaps - although we've yet to see one ourselves.
Our Goldfinches have made a reappearance on the bird table although they still seem to prefer the last of the standing thistles in the hedgerows - most of the thistles were stripped by the strong winds and rains of the last few weeks, and those that remain are on their last legs.
My wife and I have decided to be a bit more adventurous with the feed that we get (naturally from TWOOTZ !) and to see what exotics we can entice in.
And we have invested in a couple of extra feeders - one that looks as though it can be made to protect the seed/feed overnight from rain and wind - I'll write here when it has had a test and let you all know how it gets on - I know that people do read the TWOOTZ blogs because I have had a couple of direct contacts with questions - love to get a response, then you are sure that you are not just indulging a bit of ego !