Sunday, 5 February 2012

Sad little bundle of feathers

Today we had a steady fall of fine snow which tailed off towards lunchtime, leaving the ground with a covering of about ten centimetres. Baron, our black tom cat, was beginning to get cabin fever and begged to be let out. Alas, he caught a Meadow Pipit (Anthus pratensis) Pipit Farlouse, which was foraging along the side of the hanger. Normally if you get to him quickly, he will release the bird unharmed and it will fly away, scolding. This time the little creature died in Tim's hand, although it had no sign of injury. On checking it over, there felt to be no flesh on its breast and it weighed only 15.1 grams.

Poor lttle scrap

According to Birds of the Western Palaearctic, the average weight for a healthy adult meadow pipit in autumn (and it has been autumnal up to very recently) is 18 grams.  Also listed are mortality weights of around 12 to15gms. The tip of the tail is quite worn, suggesting that this is an older bird. We think it was starving, exhausted and cold, and the shock of capture by a cat was the last straw. Until the cold spell started, there were plenty of insects around for it to eat. Its fate shows how quickly a small bird can run out of energy in cold weather.
Also worth noting is that this would have been [and technically still was] a new species for us here... we've seen them up on the 'tops' but never around here in the valley... so it had been driven to seek food in new areas.

The guilty party was sent to his basket, which is on the windowsill of our bedroom. Remarkably, he went!


Jean said...

Poor little thing, how sad. It reminds me how lucky we are and how fragile their lives are.
This is why we keep our bird feeders well stocked with a variety of foods. It's such a joy to see the different birds tucking in and fortunately there are not too many cats around here - mostly dogs, so they have a chance to feed in peace.

The only frustrating thing is that there are lots of pheasants in the little wood behind our house and they end up in our garden feeding off the seeds that fall to the ground from the feeders. We have put up wire mesh to stop them simply walking through the hedge but of course they fly over it instead. But it has at least cramped their style a bit - the highest pheasant head count at one time last year was 14!! This year we have had three at the most but they still make a mess of the lawn. Maybe I'll do a post about it asking for suggestions as to how we can feed our wild birds but not feed up hungry feathered monsters who will one day be someone else's dinner !!

Tim said...

Jean, if you put a mesh cage made from the 10cm square green garden fencing, the small birds will happily hop in and out, the "peasants" will be frustrated and go and chance their luck elsewhere.
I am all togged up to go and feed self same boids.
We are hanging pictures today... a nice indoor job!!

Colin and Elizabeth said...

What a sad find! We are struggling to keep up with feeding the birds at the moment. We've just about gone through our stocks and have resorted to hand made 'fat blocks' containing seeds, fruit and nuts. The kitchen windowsill, once the domain of the bluetits, is now playing host to great tits, robins, black redstarts, chaffinch, goldfinch and blackbirds as they all jostle for this most sheltered of feeding station.

Tim said...

So that's where our Black Redstarts go in winter!! We've had Reed Buntings as well for the last couple of days.
Keep struggling through, we are down to home made fat blocks too... saindoux, Intermarche's own coconut oil bocks for frite frying [good for the hands in this weather, too] and seeds and dead flys... Garibaldi fat blocks.