winter visitors

for the second time this month I have spent half of a Sunday peering at my bird feeders and wondering what that bird is. (perhaps I should clean my kitchen windows more often). the intensely cold weather blowing in from Scandinavia seems to have brought more interesting birds my way than usual. this weekend it was two small goldfinch sized birds on the nyger seed feeder with pinky red breasts and foreheads. checking in my old readers digest compendium (it covers all flora and fauna in the UK, published in the late 80’s) it seemed they could be redpolls or linnets, but linnets were a little bigger according to the book, so I went for redpolls.


here’s a page for identification. however I am still not completely confident they are not linnets, as the RSPB site shows an illustration of a redpoll with no red breast, and also photos I have seen on the internet are divided. I just couldn’t see them clearly enough to pinpoint the black bib which would be diagnostic.


this photo of a linnet looks very like them; until I have another view of them I will have to call them linnet/redpolls.

two or three weeks ago I got very confused by a bird that looked like a weird chaffinch on the feeder containing hulled sunflower seeds (terrifically popular with all the finches). it turned out to be a male brambling, but for a whole morning I was trying to convince myself it was a hawfinch. it has chestnut brown shoulders and a big yellow beak with that heavy browed look the thicker-billed finches have, and a flecked brown upper back and grey head with a bandit black mask over the eyes. I only saw it on the feeder that one Sunday.


in between there has been a solitary siskin, on a more regular basis. all three birds are new to me in a sudden rush of more rare birds this winter; in the winters of 2003/4 I had a pair of tree sparrows regularly on my feeders, but nothing more exciting since then, except for spotting a goldcrest on the lavender outside my office once. as for sparrows – well I think they chased away the tree sparrows, and for a while there were some around, but not much recently, except for one male that has appeared this week, but I have only spotted him a couple of times. I have seen marsh tits for a few winters running; I think they are permanent residents. there was a nuthatch in early december, when I had been away for 4 weeks, and the peanut feeders had been kept going, but I haven’t seen it since.

in general I am very pleased with the effect my feeders have. I have three fatball/fat lump feeders at the moment, one with wireworms, one with fruit and plain old fat balls. the fruit one seems to particularly attract longtailed tits, which arrive in a big family group and swarm all over it. the great spotted woodpecker was on the plain fatballs yesterday morning, scaring all the others away. I get the usual tits, blue – about six of them and they are beginning to get territorial now – great, coal, and sometimes the marsh tits. I put a mixture of plain hulled sunflower seeds and a non mess feeder seed from Bird Ventures in Holt which has aniseed in it, in my main feeder, although I have had just the sunflower seeds this winter, and then it is emptied in a day. on it I get dunnocks, robin, chaffinch, greenfinch and goldfinches. in fact the goldfinches disappeared from my garden during the very cold weather in January (I saw very few birds then, despite fat balls and peanuts) but as soon as the sun came out and it warmed up a fraction one goldfinch appeared, then three, and since then there have been up to six, preferring the sunflower seeds to the nyger. I think they are a bit bored with me now I am mixing the feeder seed, but I still get a great crowd of birds competing for it. blackbirds and woodpigeons pick up the crumbs beneath mostly – the finches are very messy eaters, and as for the great tits – they pull out two or three seeds and discard them until they find what they want.

I have only seen one surprising bird out walking, and that was a redstart, which I saw in a hedge near Valley Farm in Sharrington.


  1. A lovely combination of birds. It’s been a long time since I’ve been round your way – my Dad’s family are from Wisbech/King’s Lynn and we used to holiday in Cley sometimes. I came here for your experiments with saggars and found all sorts of good things. Thanks for the blog

  2. just picked up your Blog from a troubleshooting site re-firing Transparent Glaze!!
    So lovely to read about all the Birds–they have had a tough Winter here in Bucks–several Siskins/Nuthatch/Fieldfare/Woodpeckers/all the other usual lovely hungry Customers-good to know about all of your food mix,s-i make fat balls to keep the cost down!!-they love too much-i hang Suet Pellets in Cups for quick food intake—-your New work is truly wonderful Jane–Kind Regards

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