"Earth’s distant orb appeared the smallest light that twinkles in the heaven; whilst round the chariot’s way innumerable systems rolled and countless spheres diffused an ever-varying glory. It was a sight of wonder: some were hornèd like the crescent moon; some shed a mild and silver beam like Hesperus o'er the western sea; some dashed athwart with trains of flame, like worlds to death and ruin driven; some shone like suns, and as the chariot passed, eclipsed all other light." From "Queen Mab" by Percy Bysshe Shelley (1813)

Saturday, 17 April 2010

A Bird In The Hand

OK, so it’s an obvious title but there simply isn’t a more appropriate one as you will see.

I’ve been feeding the birds and squirrels in the garden since we moved in. It’s practically the first thing I do every morning and I feed them at intervals throughout the day. We get a lot of different types of birds coming into the garden, here’s the cast of characters:

Blackbirds (Mr Blackbird and Mrs Blackbird, plus a number of others who don’t really have names)
Dunnocks (at least four, all called Donald)
Crows (Charlie and Mrs Charlie)
Jays (Jay-Z, Jay Vydelingum [named after a news reader on Classic FM], and Squawky plus another one who also get’s called Jay-Z, Jay Vydelingum and Squawky, they share the names)
Blackcap (Andy)
Chaffinch (Wendy)
Blue Tits, Great Tits and Coal Tits (all called Tommy and Babs)
and between 6-8 Wood Pigeons (Ledgy [any Pigeon brave enough to take peanuts off the window ledge], Limpy [he has a really bad limp], Little Limpy [who also has a limp but it’s not as bad], Lieutenant Pigeon [any brave pigeon who doesn’t get scared off easily, which isn’t often as they are very flighty birds] the rest don’t really have names).

There are four squirrels that come to the garden regularly too (Short Tail [he’s got the end of his tail missing], Bouncy, Old Fella [quite a bit slower and less mobile than the others] and of course Mr Nuts, although they all share this name too).

I make no apologies for naming the garden critters, as we call them. I am a man of science and I know that anthropomorphism is not at all scientific but I’m not conducting a rigorous scientific study here, I’m having fun. So as I say, I make no apologies for it all being more Johnny Morris than David Attenborough.

Now I’ve left one critter off the list above; Robbie the Robin. We have at least two Robins in the garden regularly (Robbie and Mrs Robbie), sometimes three. For more than two years now I’ve been feeding Robbie by hand. It took a long time to get him to do it and I have to do it when there is no other food around or he won’t bother, he’ll just go to the food on the ground. Today I was lucky enough to record this event with a few photographs, as you see.
But when he does it, it’s brilliant. He doesn’t stay long, a few seconds at a time but he seems quite comfortable with it and doesn’t always just grab the food and go, occasionally he will stay, look at me, look back at the food then pick a bit up and fly away. He sometimes comes back two or three times within a couple of minutes.
I get so much pleasure from this simple and very brief exchange and although I’ve been lucky enough to have done a lot of wonderful things in my time on this planet, doing this has to be one of my very favourite things. It’s great feeling his little spiky claws on my fingers. And there’s almost no weight to him at all.
Robbie really didn’t like the camera, which I held in my other hand, and it took ages for him to finally land on my hand. He did it a few times in the end, which is just as well as I had to take almost two dozen photos till I had these few that I was happy with. There were a lot of photos of just my hand and no bird.

So there we are, a bird in the hand, as I said an obvious title but an appropriate one.

Suggested listening: “Weather Systems” by Andrew Bird


  1. These are brilliant photo's Gary, and I have to say I'm a tad jealous of your success. Last year I tried to train / teach / persuade a grey squirrel to feed from my hand but he was having none if it. ( probably related to Mr Nuts. )

    He is always running along the tops of the fence panels so I started leaving small bits for him which he would stop and pick up but then he would run further down the fence before stopping to eat it. I thought it might be possible because I have a friend ( yes, I really do ) who has "trained" a squirrel to take a piece of biscuit from her hand! He waits on the ground outside her kitchen door and if she opens it he stays there waiting for the biscuit before moving on to the fence to eat it. If anyone else opens the door , he runs away. So I know it can be done.

    Anyway, as I said, brilliant photo's. Well done Gary.

    ps. Music album title extremely apt, both for the current volcano situation and today's blog entry, Andrew Bird. ( A.Bird )

  2. The Robin and the Blackbirds will wait outside the door if they see me as they know I will come out and feed them. They do learn. In fact this reminds me that we had a Magpie (Maggie) come to the garden frequently a while back and she would land on the bedroom window ledge and tap on the window if I hadn't got up and put out some food. I like to think she was trying to get me to put the food out but she might just have been attracted too the shiney things on the windowsill in our room. Unfortuantely, she doesn't come very often these days.

    We have squirrel feeders too which are like bird feeders but only the squirrels can use them. They have to lift the lid with their head and the birds simply can't do that, although it was fun watching the pigeons trying to figure it out one time.

    Keep trying with the squirrel, persistence is the key! It may take a while but it will be worth it.

    And yes, I didn't just pick that album at random, I usually (but not always) do try and make it relevant. But it's always something I genuinely like.

  3. Thomas would be jealous of the pictures, very good, almost unreal.

    To be fair training them is not that hard, you can do the same with me and a curry.

  4. I'm not going to try and train you to sit on my hand and eat curry!

  5. Now that WOULD make a good picture.......