She writes “Since the snow arrived we’ve been putting out apples and pears and, amazingly, we’ve had around 50 fieldfares feeding on them everyday. Fortunately for them, we have a fruit farm close by which always has boxes of spoilt apples and pears which they are happy to give away.”
I have hardly seen a fieldfare all winter this year – and now I know why. They are all in Rosemary’s garden! She has also had redpolls, bramblings and, of course, pied wagtail. Pat tells me that she has had 2 pied wagtails for a few weeks now and that they are even using the feeders. Have you noticed? Everyone seems to have pied wags in the garden.
A few years ago, when I was Group Leader, I was contacted by a doctor at Darent Valley Hospital, who had noticed that pied wagtails were being killed by flying into the glass windows overlooking one of the atria in the building. Could I help? I offered to have a look, so she gave me an “unofficial” appointment for her clinic. When I arrived I asked one of the very helpful lady volunteers in the entrance how to find the STD clinic – she gave me an odd look but pointed me in the right direction. Sitting in the waiting room I soon became aware of what a STD clinic was about! There was lots of interesting literature and posters to read – I learn’t a lot! However, I didn’t have to wait long for my consultation and we visited the atrium (which contained a large tree) and we discussed the problem the pied wagtails were facing. Unfortunately other events crowded in and I was never able to progress this project.
At the end of last year Sally and I were at the hospital and when we left if was getting quite dark. As we waited for the bus we noticed lots of small groups of pied wagtails flying in and landing on the hospital roof. We saw about 100+ pied wagtails. They were gathering to roost! I then remembered my visit to the STD clinic and so a few weeks ago, on our way back from Rainham RSPB Reserve, I persuaded the “Wednesday Wags” birding group to stop off at the hospital and look for our namesake. We used our binoculars to scan the hospital from the car park – but we decided we ought to be rather discreet so we did not set up the telescope! Pied wagtails started to arrive and we counted about 100 birds. But we were not the only ones watching! A sparrowhawk flew straight across the roof but failed to catch a bird. We decided a visit to the atrium might be worthwhile. Sue got permission at reception and I led everyone to where the doctor had taken me, hoping to see hundreds of pied wagtails roosting in the tree. At first we couldn’t see any birds but as our eyes adapted ……….we saw two. A sparrowhawk plucking and eating a pied wagtail! Either the other pied wags were waiting for the sparrowhawk to finish and leave or they had decided to roost elsewhere in the building.
So how far do the birds fly to get to the roost? Could the birds that have been visiting our gardens the last few days be spending the night in hospital? Seems too far to me but I really don’t know. Nature is amazing, lets keep it that way!
Thanks to Pat and Rosemary for getting in touch. Thanks to Steve for the pied wagtail image.