A Milton garden dramatically increased the number of bird species when we put out a variety of bird food.
Attracting birds to your Winter garden feeder makes bird spotting so much easier because there they are in front of you, instead of twittering away in some distant tree. With the trees bare, it is possible to see birds in them which are hidden the rest of the year.
We started feeding birds with peanuts which attracted blue tits and great tits. We also regularly had the spectacular view of the great spotted woodpecker. All the other birds keep away when this very large back, white and red bird is on the feeder.
Next, we put up fat balls and sunflower seeds, and added niger seeds to attract goldfinch. These are gregarious, lively birds which are easy to spot from the smart yellow on their wings, and their red faces. They come in numbers and squabble over the food.
Often, there is another sort of finch, the greenfinch. Looking carefully, it has a stout thick beak for seed eating. It can be identified from its size as it is distinctly bigger than a goldfinch or tit. However, “green” is a bit of an exaggeration for its colour which is pretty dull, although it does have flashes of yellow. In our garden, one or two tend to appear at most.
The other finch common in gardens is the chaffinch. The male has beautiful bright colours of pink breast and blue crown and nape, together with a white flash on black wings. The females are rather drabber but still have a distinctive black and white flash on their wings. Chaffinches and wrens are the commonest birds in Britain. In our garden, the wren doesn’t go for the bird feeders but investigates the winter bedding pots next to the house.
Collared doves are often in the garden over the winter. They are a similar shape to the wood pigeons which lord it around, but a bit smaller. Instead of being pigeon grey, they are a pale buff colour with a distinctive black bar round the back of the neck – the collar. They feed on the ground.
In the winter, unusual thrushes visit the UK from colder Northern Europe. The end of November last year was our first sight of a redwing in the garden. It’s the same kind of size and shape to the usual song thrush which we see, but then we caught sight of the exotic rusty red on the side of its chest. It also has two distinctive white lines on its head. It seems to eat berries in the garden.
By Christmas Day, we spotted two more unusual birds on the bird feeders: the long-tailed tit which is very small and elegant, with a tail at least as long as its body. It’s that long tail which is the first thing to distinguish it. It is the most delightful pink and black. We always see more than one, and they don’t stay long before flitting off to a different feeding spot. We also spotted the black cap which does what it says on the tin – a small bird, it has a black top of its head contrasting with the otherwise grey body. The female has a red brown cap and sometimes we saw a pair feeding together.
In January, we were very excited to spot a siskin on the feeders. This is a similar shape to the goldfinch but just has a lot more yellow – a yellow breast and face plus yellow on the wing and tail, with a black crown. The overall impression is dusky grey, black and yellow. My husband saw a coal tit, which is rather like a monochrome blue tit, without the yellow. I wasn’t fast enough to spot it.
In February, I finally realised that that dull brown little bird hopping round was not a sparrow but a dunnock, a song bird in spring. The back plumage of the dunnock is brown and black like the sparrow, but it is also browner on its belly, whereas the sparrow has a contrasting grey belly.
In freezing conditions in March, we were delighted to see field fare in the garden eating rose hips from a climber in our cherry tree. They peaked at seven birds. The fieldfare is another type of thrush escaping more Northern Europe. It is similar to the redwing, but larger with an ochre flush on its breast instead of rusty red on its side.
In the snow, as a special treat, we put down mealworm which attracted more blackbirds than it was possible to count. That only leaves to mention crows and the starlings who nest on our house. I love hearing the starlings chattering away in the winter when only the robin is singing.
For anyone inspired to set up a bird feast in your garden, we found that we had to invest in squirrel proof feeders. Even then, the squirrels try to get at the food, which scares off the birds. Happily, our dog is ecstatic about chasing away squirrels.
This year Ed and I set off to Patrick Edward’s tractor jumble, this is held twice a year and is a must for those with an eye for the curious or a specific tool to do a job. It is a “Shed and Buried” on a grand scale!
This year as usual I set off with a list of bits and bobs I needed for tractors and trailers, and do a tour of the packed aisles – trailers filled to the brim with gears, plough shares and the odd ready to restore tractor. A break for an egg and bacon roll before the second tour round to check I hadn’t missed anything and to look at an interesting lump of metal that had caught my eye the first time round.
After much debate about its use and, a little haggling I became the proud owner of this handsome lump of metal. My initial thoughts about its use were that the wheels of a living van as drawn by steam engines or horse drawn coaches would sit in the groove when parked up.
Once home, a search on GOOGLE let me down as I needed the right name for the search! After consulting a couple of people in the know they came up with a – “Scotch” or “Drag Shoe” and “Jack”
The drag-shoe or ruggle is now an obsolete piece of wagon hardware that few people would remember or know about today. It was hung in front of the rear wheels and when, going down a hill or steep incline, with a heavy load that threatened to roll forward and push the horse over, the iron shoe was slid under the wheel (one, or both rear wheels). Then the back part of the wagon became a sled and the horse could pull the load downhill. This was before the addition of wheel-brakes to wagons.
It has a number “4” stamped on it and this was I assume for a four-inch-wide wheel – as to its age I have no idea – if someone out there has further information, I would be very interested.
The name of Beaker Place for the new Linden Homes development on the Sutton Road has puzzled many, including myself. So, I have looked in to this and have established that the name refers to the Beaker Folk. These people were Neolithic > early Bronze Age immigrants in to Britain in the period either side of 2000 BC, and may well have been responsible for a major stage in the construction of Stonehenge. The dead were buried with a bell-shaped Beaker in the grave, hence their name. For further information, try googling Beaker or the Amesbury Archer.
There have been quite a few sightings of an Egret down Pembroke Lane. Look out for flocks of blackbirds gorging themselves on the windfall apples under the 'Milton Wonder', and a jay in the same vicinity.
Just before Christmas I came across a cache of 48, yes 48, black dog-bags, lurking where the path behind the Church meets Mill Lane - 160 metres from a bin, where I deposited all the bags. I hope I am right in thinking that an outsider would have done this, but please could (dog) walkers look out for outsiders behaving in such a way, and explain to them why such behaviour is unacceptable?