Small And Pretty Or Big And Ugly?

I’d like to talk about the birds in our garden. Before you start groaning and stop reading, this isn’t a How-to, or a lecture on what you should be putting in/on your feeders. It’s a story about our attitudes towards the birds that were visiting.

We moved here in November a year and a half ago, and from the start we were putting food out for the birds. Then, after Christmas, I looked at what species were in the local area, as well as slightly further afield, and tailored our birdfeeding towards them. Apart form the occasional Starling, we had nothing. Quite literally no birds were eating in our garden. It didn’t take any time to figure out why- two gardens close by were already established as feeding points for the local songbirds. Undeterred, we continued putting out food despite the lack of attention. During the winter, a couple of Jackdaws,Jackdaw on Feeders copy Magpies and Woodpigeons started feeding at our fatballs and coconuts filled with bird-cake. I wasn’t happy- with these big birds using our garden, not to mention fighting over it, there was no way we’d attract “real” birds. Still, I supposed, something was better than nothing- I could always start again in Spring.

Then it hit me. I was a hypocrite.

Haven’t I been championing the common, ordinary, ugly, and unloved species with my photography? Wasn’t I the one who sent letters of complaint to the major UK conservation charities and DEFRA, accusing them of homogenising biodiversity because they offered the same advice on wildlife gardens and attracting wildlife regardless of where in the country the garden was? Didn’t I suggest breaking the country into natural zones based on species occurance and advising accordingly? (Something DEFRA said they would implement. This was just before we moved, so I haven’t checked yet, based on their track-record). Wasn’t I now going against my own views? By competing with the neighbours for the attention of the Tits and Finches, wasn’t I homogenising the local biodiversity? As much as I hated to admit it, yes I was. I was a hypocrite.

So instead, we welcome these “unwanted guests” and more. Since then, we’ve also had regular visits from Carrion Crows and Herring Gulls. Do we moan Magpies Collecting Nesting copythat the Magpies are stealing the hanging basket liner to make their nest elsewhere? Well, actually yes we do, but we don’t object. We let them. As far as we’re concerned, the more the merrier. Let them all in. Come one, come all. They need to eat too, and the other birds are well catered for elsewhere. Some people may see this as opening a McDonalds between two Michelin-starred restaurants, but they’d be wrong. It’s making sure everyone can eat, and nobody goes hungry. There’s no room for snobbery when it comes to wildlife.

Oh, and for the last few days we’ve had House Sparrows and Dunnocks, with a possible Wren too. (Well, it’s a definite Wren, but we’ve only seen it on the wall so far!)

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