Wednesday 24 February 2016

It's raining siskins

This mild, wet winter has seen quite a change in the population of overwintering small birds. Conspicuous by their complete absence are the blackcaps. Reed and corn buntings and stonechats are present but not in their usual numbers. Chiffchaffs and white wagtails were around in early winter but we have not seen one in the valley for some time. A truly remarkable sight was a flock of several hundred (probably) female and immature wagtails feeding alongside rooks, starlings and jackdaws and heavens knows what else on the tops above Chaumussay in January, so many it was like a blizzard. A lack of binos prevented a definite identification and when we went back they had moved on.

What we have instead, to our great pleasure, is a swarm of siskins (carduelis spinus, tarins des aulnes). We first met these gregarious little finches in Cala San Vicente, Majorca, during a memorable holiday when we could only get around on foot or by public transport. Simply staying put forced us to examine the wildlife in our local environment, including the gardens of our villa.

Mr and Mrs Siskin enjoying a good meal of peanuts

The siskins have taken to the peanut feeder in particular, displacing the house sparrows and greenfinches and holding their own against the great tits.

If another bird comes too close, both male and female will half-open their wings and spread their tail, flashing their underside in the interloper's face. The female presents her streaked cream fluffed-up body and pale yellow forked tail. The male delivers a flash of vivid yellow tail against an almost black background of primary feathers.

When will it be my turn?

Frequently, they tumble into the air and a punch-up ensues.

Fight! Fight!


Frugal in Derbyshire said...

Hi there
just found your blog via Cro. Haven't seen siskins around here for a year or two, they have such character don't they?
You commented on Cro's blog about winter salads and gave some really good ideas, most of which I could borrow. I do have most of the ingredients you suggest but have never heard of sweet pickled tomatoes. Do you have a recipe?
Gill in the UK

Le Pré de la Forge said...

Gill,we have.... I'll let Pauline answer that.... I think she may have blogged about it on De La Bonne Bouffe.
It is a very nice way of bringing Summer excess through to the Winter and the "hungry gap"!
An alternative to bottle after bottle of pasta sauce and asst'd rats.

Kerry said...

Great photos. I'd never heard the word siskins before and we could do with a bird feeder outside our house so we can watch the wildlife.

Philip Strange said...

Havn't seen any siskins in Devon (UK) this year but over the past two days I have seen many pied wagtails, many more than in previous years.

Colin and Elizabeth said...

It's a good year for the Siskins... We have them to and they are vicious little things. One knocked a Great Tit flying off our peanut feeder this morning..

Le Pré de la Forge said...

Kerry, you can get the bird feeders from the RSPB Amazon shop....where we've just purchased two additional ones.