Archive for October 6th, 2010

One of the things I have enjoyed most about living in the UK (and there are many), are the wee birds that frequent our gardens.  It is a treat coz I don’t really remember the gardens back in South Africa hosting such cute little birds.  Over the last few months I have been based in London (as per my Jan 1st request…hey the Universe does listen occassionally). The garden of the house stretches way back and is filled with a variety of trees (which I also love). 

view of the garden from my window & altho you can't see them there are two foxes right at the end

It has been my good fortune to experience the end of winter, spring, summer and now autumn in this garden and it has been a joy to watch the birds.  My desk is situated right in front of the double glass sliding doors with a fine view of the verandah and garden – which provides ongoing treats…… 

fox in the garden

One of my daily activities is to feed the birds, and I have had the pleasure of watching these cuties come in to feed; robins, blue-tit, coal-tit, house-sparrows, chaffinch and the very occassional wren (they are just darling). 

a blue-tit and chaffinch on the verandah....view from my desk

 Of course the food also attracts the larger varieties….jay, magpies (gorgeous colourings) and the blasted pigeons – which I take great pleasure in scaring off.  Spring especially was a treat when the mama’s and the papa’s helped their broods to fledge.  I recall the first morning of this delightful spectacle when my concentration was disturbed by a great flurry of wings and tweets ( 🙂 ) and a busy brood of not so very able chicks flew here, there and everywhere.  

blue tits teaching their brood how to feed - June 2010

They dashed here and there causing a riot of noise and confusion, with the occassional thwack as they flew into the glass doors (I hastily attached pieces of paper to the door to warn them)…. this got quite a few jokes from visitors…. “erm ah, and can the birds read this?” eejits.   Anyway, the point of my story (yes I do get there eventually) is that the birds in the garden are a national treasure, and we do what we can to help them out and build them up to be nice fat, healthy wee birdies.  Fat balls stuffed with seed, peanut and suet treats – equally stuffed with seeds, bird-feeders strung about filled to the brim with a variety of seed – and the bird-bath….filled with fresh water.

So you can imagine my absolute dismay when I read in the Metro (local paper provided free by TFL-TransportForLondon), on August 19th about a bird plague that was being spread ‘by kindness’!! Horrified would best describe my reaction.  Apparently what they have discovered is that wood-pigeons that use the gardens as a source of food leave a parasite ‘trichomonosis’ in the bird-baths and on the feeders.  This is then transmitted to the other wee birds via the seed and water!!  This parasite lives in the upper digestive tract of birds and is spread when they feed each other, this causes the bird’s throats to swell, leading to starvation.

The statistics are frightening: 500,000 of Britain’s best loved birds have been killed by this disease; the greenfinch population has dropped by a 3rd, and chaffinches by a 5th since it emerged in 2005.  The article goes on to say that hygiene is the key and that bird-feeders and baths should be cleaned regularly.  Fortunately this is something I do anyway since the pigeons and squirrels poop and pee all over the place, but since reading the article I have now become quite fanatical and scrub the verandah every 2nd day as well as the bird-bath….I have also increased my ‘scare off the pigeons’ activity and have a great time playing at being a scare-crow…mind you that’s not too hard. 🙂

And talking of squirrels; they are a constant source of amusement, albeit a constant source of pesky!! They are very enterprising and it has become a game between them and me now with regards to the bird-feeders!  I find ways of hanging them so that the squirrels can’t get access, and the squirrels find ways of getting to them….. 

mister squirrel and his industrious efforts to get at the bird food

🙂 this little chap was literally hanging on by the toes!

our intrepid little squirrel

…sometimes with hilarious results e.g. falling into the bird-bath 🙂

And so in conclusion….if you live in the UK and you have bird-feeders or a bird-bath….scrub them regularly and keep them topped up with fresh water, and according to Mike Toms of the British Trust for Ornithology, if you notice signs of infection amongst your birds, stop feeding temporarily and hopefully stop the spread of the disease.  And finally….does anyone know of a good way to get rid of pigeons? Nothing that involves shooting them please.

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