Thursday, 17 January 2013

Where are the birds?

Over the last 2 years I have visited and become friends with many bloggers around the world, and many of them take photos of birds in their gardens and surroundings. I must admit I don’t know much about birds – very little in fact. But I have often admired the wonderful photos of feeding birds in other people’s gardens and wished I could take similar photos. So, one of my plans for 2013 was to do something about that.

First of all, my garden is small, even in English standard – as for inner London standard...still small I’m afraid! Compared to the garden I had in the last house I lived in before moving from Norway, my garden is the size of one of my many flowerbeds. And I look with envy to many of my American blogger friend's gardens, where you could put the whole of my garden in a corner of theirs and hardly notice it. The size of the garden is significant when it comes to what kind of birdfeeder I should choose in order to attract birds to my garden. I went for a straight pole with a feeder on top, simple and not very intrusive and doesn’t take much space. On the 3rd of January the pole was installed in my garden and filled with yummy seeds. Now I just have to wait for the birds to come flying, I know they are there, I can hear them twittering in the distance.

I placed the bird feeder right in the middle of my garden, so I can be able to see all the birds from my seating area which you can see a bit of here to the left. I can just imagine the birds perching on the fence ready to hop onto the feeder, or sitting in my large camellia, to the left, which I think some of them do. Having the feeder right in the middle of the garden seemed like the ideal place and it was also important for me that I would be able to refill the feeder easily without having to climb into the flower beds. It said in the instructions for the feeder that it should be placed at least 3 meter from any fence, structure, tree or tall bush so that squirrels can’t jump over to the feeder and steal the food. But how on earth am I supposed to get the feeder 3 meter from any structure when the total width of my garden is 3.5 meter?! My birdfeeder hasn’t been visited by any squirrels yet, I kind of envisaged having to shoo away squirrels on a daily basis, but that hasn’t happened, not when we had such a mild period and not this week during the cold snap we have now. But the birds haven’t turned up either, not a single bird.

The birdfeeder I chose is a 4 hole feeder with perching sticks and a seed tray under. The food hasn’t been touched at all and I still haven’t had to find out how to refill the feeder....where are the birds?


I very optimistically ordered 4 kg birdseeds, after reading reviews on the Internet. I read about people who bought bird feeders in the winter and had birds in their garden the following day – going through 1kg of birdfeed per week. This feed seems very good as the husks are taken away so any seeds that fall on the ground can’t germinate. Great, I wouldn’t want to have a ring of plants around the birdfeeder to pull out, as this is what the birdfeed contains: Ingredients - Sunflower seed, wheat, maize, oats, peanut bites and soya oil. Yum, sounds like a good breakfast to me! I had a taste of it actually, nice enough, except the maize bits were a bit hard for my teeth, but the rest would have suited me fine if I ran out of porridge oat! Am I going to end up eating this myself, or will the birds turn up?

Could there possibly be something that scares the smaller birds away from my small garden? The pigeons for example? I have pigeons on my roof all year round, this chimney pipe seems to be the ideal hiding place for pigeons and there is always a family living here. Not sure if the same family continue to live here year after year, but there is always some living here and a lot of noise when they have chicks. A bit early for chicks in January, but can they deter smaller birds from feeding all the way down in the garden? I had actually imagined the pigeons trying to get to the bird food, as some of it has been out on the seed tray, but it’s still there, they can’t have eaten much if any at all.

This photo is from last summer. The pigeons perch on my fence from time to time, but most of the time they sit on the roof and fly high up in the air. Are the pigeons scaring away the smaller birds? I have had the feeder for 2 weeks, not a single bird have been eating anything yet


Could there be anything else scaring the birds away? My cat? The fact that I have a cat means there isn’t many other cats in my garden, they keep away mostly as they know they are trespassing on a cats territory, so my cat has his garden to himself.


Here he is last March under the big camellia I talked about, probably listening to a bird sitting inside, but I have never caught him with a bird, or chasing any birds. The biggest he has ever caught are the small garden mice he sometime finds.


Most of the time when he is outside in the garden he looks like this, hogging my rubbish tray – his favourite place to sleep. Is my cat preventing the birds from coming into my garden to eat?


To be honest, it has been so cold the last 6-7 days that neither my cat nor I have been outside much. My cat goes out to go to the toilet and comes back in straight away. Most of the time he spends relaxing in his favourite chair next to the radiator. Is he scaring the birds away??


So, is this just a matter of wait and see, or should the feed pole be placed somewhere else? It could go on the other side, close to the tall conifer, where it would also get some shelter from above by the canopy. I didn’t put it there because that would be even easier for squirrels to jump onto the pole, but having no experience in this – do squirrel eat oat, wheat and bits of sweet corn? I thought they were more interested in nuts and coconuts and larger bits of food. I certainly have lots of squirrels in my garden, they are a pest at times even if they are cute and fun to look at.

Now I hope some of you blogger friends with bird experience can step in and give me some good advice. Here in the UK we have lots of birds during the winter, but don’t ask me what, I am not good with names, and I don’t recognise them from pictures. I know the sound of some of them, and I hope to photograph some of them – that was the whole point with the bird feeder. I hope I will have lots of birds in my garden soon, perhaps with a bit of help. Until next time, take care.

34 comments:

  1. The doves and pigeons will unlikely use this feeder, or any feeder for that matter besides a platform variety. They like ground feeding. You have a wonderful feeder though. I had two of them, but they cracked over time. The seed is not a problem either. My garden is no larger than yours, maybe even smaller as yours looks two to three times deeper. It seems you have to keep the cat out because o birds will be happy with a cat on the prowl. Maybe you need to give it more time. It is odd no birds found it yet.

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    1. Thanks for your thoughts, good to hear the pigeons won't be interested in my bird feeder, I did wonder about that! I will be patient and see if the birds will come, at the moment it is so cold I don't blame them for hiding somewhere safe and warmer!

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    2. Sorry, I have to disagree here – I have a feeder similar to this and collared doves and woodpigeons do successfully land on the tray and have mastered getting seed out of the ports too. I leave them for a short while then shoo them away so the other birds can feed.

      My suggestion would be to move the feeder nearer your arch so birds have a landing strip to get to your feeder. I know your instructions say different. I’ve been gardenwatching for over six years and have made many observations. Easy access helps. They will master your feeder eventually. I might also suggest you put out a hanging peanut feeder as a café open sign in an open location that can be seen from nearby larger trees so that birds come in to investigate your garden. This really does work :-)

      If squirrels come they will master your feeder whatever, that I have also observed. Good luck :-D

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    3. Hi, and welcome to my blog. Thanks for your thoughts, I will get another feeder with peanuts, and Joan suggested a block of seed/suet, perhaps I'll try both, I can hang them both in the conifer.

      I am not sure about the birds using the arch as a landing strip, at the moment it is complataly bare, but as soon as the leaves comes out it looks completely different and would not be an attractive landing place for birds. I have never seen them land there. There has been birds landing on my fences from time to time though, and on the camellia, which is why I placed the feeder close to the camellia.

      Time will show, I think this will be a bit trial and error :-)

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  2. I'm fortunate in that I don't have to put out feeders to attract birds into my garden. But that of course means that I'm not going to have very useful advice for you.

    I can't see too much wrong with the type or position of your feeder, so maybe it's just a matter of waiting.

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    1. Hopefully they will come when it gets a bit warmer, the bird twittering is more intens later towards spring although there are birds all year round here.

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  3. I agree with Bernie - it does take time for birds to realise that the seeds are there. Cats don't put off birds coming in to feed but once they do start coming the temptation might be too much for him. Be vigilant!

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    1. I will keep an eye, there is no way my cat can climb or jump up that 2 m high pole, but he can always try! I think he will soon find out what he did with the pigeons, not worth the effort :-)

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  4. Helene, I think flocks of birds migrate, depending on the weather and temperature or food.
    If the last few days it was cold, they flew to the area where there is warmer, then they come back to your area. Birds soon will find your feeder.

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    1. I hope so too, I can't wait to take some nice photos!

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  5. Hi Helene,

    I truly enjoyed touring your charming garden! I love the arbor with your bench. It took about a week for the birds to find my feeder and I noticed they came after we received some snowfall. I guess they were hungry. I would give it some time. Your sweet kitty is so handsome, especially under the camellia tree. Is he a classic Ocicat?

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    1. Thank you for your kind words, and welcome to my blog. We are expecting our first snow tomorrow so who knows, the birds might arrive this week-end!

      I must admit I had to look up Ocicat, I had never heard about it, but now I can understand why you ask! No, he is not an Ocicat, but I don’t actually know what he is, I got him from a charity when he was 8 weeks old, he was found by them, just dumped in a bin with his sister. His coat is a Classic Brown Tabby, with swirls, not spots like the Ocicats have. A Brown Tabby can occur in many breeds, the most common here in Britain is British Shorthair, but my cat is not a British Shorthair, his face is very different than the characteristic British Shorthair which is much rounder with eyes wider apart. So I don’t really know what breed he is, but his coat is typically Brown Tabby, perfectly symmetrical. He is a lovely cat, great company for me, 11 years old and getting a bit old, just like his owner :-)

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  6. You might be interested in this link
    http://www.rspb.org.uk/news/details.aspx?id=tcm:9-202877
    The RSPB recommend adding chilli powder to bird seed to prevent squirrels hogging it.

    I have an image of you sitting on the bench, nibbling on bird seed - I hope they visit soon!

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    1. I checked the link, I would never have thought of putting spices in the bird food! Strange it doesn't put the birds off!!

      So far I haven't seen anything on my feeder, so keeping squirrels at bay haven't really been my number one priority, getting a squirrel to come by would have been nice, at least something would be eating the seeds.... I might have to eat those words in a couple of weeks, for all I know I might have a whole colony of squirrels congregating around my birdfeeder by then! Just a few birds would be nice, for a start :-)

      I promise not to eat any more bird feed!

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  7. Love the photos of your kittie, such a charmer. If he's not outside right now I don't believe he's the issue. Do you have birds in your garden normally? If not, maybe the local contingent just needs a bit of time to discover the new treats before they move in.

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    1. My cat have spent very little time outside the last 10 days or so, seems he just goes to the toilet and comes back. Don't blame him, it's freezing cold right now!

      I have lots of birds in the area, I can hear them twittering and in the early morning it is quite a lot of noise from them. No idea what kind of birds though. I must admit I haven’t heard much twittering the last month or so, but there has been some.
      I know we have small birds all year round here in London, regardless of what kind of winter we have, they don’t all fly south...(even if we all should have done that I think!!) I hope it’s just a matter of waiting for a bit milder weather and then the birds will come.

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  8. Hello,
    I agree with those above. I have a cat that goes in and out as yours does and I have several feeders and lots of birds everyday. I've seen pigeons and song birds happily eating along side too. I agree, it may just be a matter of time.

    One thing you could try is a suet feeder and block of seed/suet. It is quite attractive to birds. This time of year they need more of the fats and oils in suet. It's not as necessary in the summer months. Mostly because of the winter rains ruining the dry seed/feeder like your's I put suet out in the winter and dry seed/feeder in the summer. I think location is fine. Adorable cat! Good luck!

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    1. Thanks for your thoughts, I will try with a block of seed/suet and see if that might be more attractive food. And perhaps some peanuts too. The squirrels will have a field day when they discover this!

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  9. I'm sure you'll get some birds soon... and once they tell all of their friends you'll be inundated! When we naughtily forget to top our feeders up the birds go elsewhere and it seems to take them a day or two to come back.
    They also seem to have a little circuit of places they visit so once you're on their satnav they'll regularly come around. It would be good if you could get involved in the Big British Birdwatch organised by the RSPB to check which species are doing well in which locations!
    Your feeder looks lovely by the way x

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    1. Can't wait to be inundated :-)
      From time to time I can hear what seems to be hundreds of birds, early in the morning especially, but perhaps not as early in the year as January. I never see more than one here and there though, so the bird feeder is my attempt to get them closer so I can photograph them.

      I heard about the Big British Birdwatch on the news, I know it is next week-end. If it had been yesterday the counting had been very easy: 5 wood pigeons. That's all I saw when I was outside, on my roof. The wood pigeons are doing very well around here unfortunately, creating a lot of mess and they are so noisy!

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  10. I'm no expert on birds, but my experience is that birds come and go, even during the same season. The cat might have something to do with it. ;-) But you might be surprised when all of a sudden you have several birds visiting at once--especially during migratory times. Good luck!

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    1. Thanks, it will be exciting to see what kind of birds move in! Not that I would be able to identify them, I will have to take lots of pictures in the beginning and Google them to find out what kind of guests I have :-)

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  11. Helene. Don't worry about your cat. He won't climb that feeder. Get him a bell for his collar that way birds will hear him coming. I have 3 cats and they regularly run about like lunatics chasing the birds but the bell warns the birds. They are more adapt at looking for predators than you think.
    birds will use something nearby as a perch before going to the feeders.
    Suet peanuts and sunflower hearts are favourites that this time of year. You could also try some food in a ground feeder. As already mentioned other birds prefer to feed with their feet on the ground. Robins and blackbirds can't use feeders like these although they will have a good try if nothing else is there. They will come you just need patience :)

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    1. I have ordered suet balls form Amazon today, and another feeder for the balls. I will hang it in the small tree at the end of the garden, should be visible for the birds even when they just fly over.
      I have lots of structures in my garden and fences all around it so there should be plenty of places for the birds to come and sit before hopping onto the feeder. My garden is so small you can almost reach from anywhere!

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  12. Helene, I still remember when we put up our bird feeder for the first time it took a while until the birds found it or dared to come. We also have a type of pigeon in the garden (they are a bit smaller than yours, though) and they come to the feeder as well as other birds. Usually the pigeons feed first, because they are the biggest and scare the other birds away, but when they are done the smaller birds follow. I think, I would just wait a little bit longer before you move the feeder. Good luck!
    Christina

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    1. Thanks, I will be patient! The wood pigeons here are huge! Not sure what size they are supposed to be - or if there are many different types, but they seem to find plenty of food here at least...

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  13. As above birds do take time to come to new feeders and our doves also visit a feeding station similar to yours. They will perch on the tray. Also ground feeding birds will pick up seed that has fallen onto the ground.

    Birds like to have some cover where they can hide if they feel threatened so placing near to a bush should be ideal.

    My sister has a much smaller garden than you and has lots of birds.

    Variety of food type and food positioning is significant as is providing birds with drinking and bathing water - how about adding a bird bath?

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    1. Thanks for your thoughts, and welcome to my blog. I have thought about getting a bird bath, have actually found a very nice one on Amazon, but since we have minus degrees for the foreseeable future it seemed a bit premature to get one right now. I will buy one when the frost has gone again, hopefully it won't last for too long!

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    2. Another though is to try putting out some sunflower hearts as our bird-life can't resist them

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  14. We have two cats that are very active hunters, and they have never deterred the birds from coming to the feeders. The mix you bought would be very attractive to squirrels, and they will get to your feeder. We have successfully kept them away by feeding them, amazing as that may seem. We sprinkle ground corn on the ground, and the squirrels happily eat that and don't bother the feeders. My husband who is something of a bird fanatic says the birds need to spot the feed from the air as they fly by. They won't recognize the feeder itself as a source of food. He advises filling, the tray, putting seed on top of the feeder, and sprinkling it one the ground or even your bench.

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    1. Hi Carolyn, great to hear about your cats not deterring the birds - I don't think my cat will be very interested to be honest, at the age of 11 he just can't be that bothered most of the time!

      My bird feeder has a seed tray and I filled it with seed mix when I put it up, hoping the birds would get attracted to the feed. It didn't rain until we got the snow last night, but today the seeds on the tray were just a wet mush so I removed it. Might sprinkle some seeds here and there once the snow has gone again :-)

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  15. I hope the birds find your feeder and yard soon, I would think they might like a landing spot first and the a quick hop to the feeder. Also the water or birdbath might attract birds also. Good Luck, it would be nice to hear about the birds in your garden or patch!

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    1. I will definitely make a follow-up post...as soon as I have something to report! I put out some bird feed on an up-turned cake tin today, just placed it on one of my stepping stones right under the big conifer. There were actually some small birds sitting in the tree when I got there, scared them away, but I hope they come back and find the food - and then tell all their friends :-)

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  16. You must wait and be patient :-)

    I have garden in city centre and so many birds visit feeder.
    I invite you: http://zapiskizdrogimlecznej.blogspot.com/2013/01/recycling.html

    Regards :-)

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