Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Finches all over

Last weekend, the field opposite on the other side of the river from us was ploughed. Since then, the number of finches using our feeders has increased dramatically, probably because the sunflower seeds they were gleaning from the field have now gone. Until now, the main customers were the blue tits and great tits, with occasional visits from single or pairs of finches, picking up fallen seed from the top of the concrete cistern below the feeders. Now we are seeing
- up to 10 goldfinches (carduelis carduelis), chardonnerets élégants
- a pair of greenfinches (carduelis chloris), verdiers d'europe
- four or more siskins (carduelis spinus) tarins des aulnes and
- at least two more female chaffinches ( fringilla coelebs) pinsons des arbres.

A group of ground feeders... from left: Goldfinch, Blue-tit, Siskin, Goldfinch, Siskin, Goldfinch.
Four of each...Siskin & Goldfinch. Siskin on left is a female.

The goldfinches are nowhere near as agile as the tits, but can crush a sunflower seed and extract the kernel in an instant, whereas a tit has to carry the seed away in its beak, fly up to a branch, wedge the seed with its foot and hammer like billy-ho until it pierces or splits the husk. One of the flock seems to be the boss, and perches on the feeder puffing out his feathers and fluttering his wings if another bird approaches. We have dubbed him "Mr Creosote" after the Monty Python character who explodes from over-eating. The markings on the chest of a goldfinch are reminiscent of a soiled waistcoat, and this bird is distinctly portly.

The one called Mr. Creosote!

Their smaller cousins the siskins are almost as skillful as the tits at all the feeders. I watched one this morning break up a peanut and extract it in mouthfuls, having previously investigated the fat block thoroughly while upside down.
Their name in French reminds us that they feed principally on the seeds and pollen of alders, and there are plenty of those around. They are only with us in winter, and will soon be back on their way north-east.

Siskin [male] using the fat-block... normal way up!

A flock of long-tailed tits (aegithalos caudatus) mesanges à longue queue also passed through today, for the first time in a while.

The only Long-tailed tit willing to pose... fleetingly... for a picture... next frame was blank! Just the branch...

Having remarked on the shortage of sparrows ( passer domesticus) moineaux domestiques we are now seeing them in the hedge and out in the meadow under the feeder there. In that area, we are now down to five female pheasants and a sad scattering of feathers (possibly a fox got one). The male is now referred to as Jeremy, because of the red face, bushy eyebrows and large personality.


Niall & Antoinette said...

mr creosote is indeed portly! wish we had goldfinches.

Tim said...

You must have them around, surely?
Doesn't anyone grow Sunflowers or Sweetcorn down your end of the valley?
Having some Teasles in the garden is a sure way of bringing the 'flybys' down as well.
The flocks of mixed tits and finches are beginning to break up so you will probably have more chance of attracting the 'flybys' next winter.