Winter chores include keeping the birds well fed

·2 min read
<span>Photograph: Ian Sherriffs/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Ian Sherriffs/Getty Images

A woodpecker is one of the regular visitors at this time of year, and it’s as hungry as all the other birds in the garden

At first light the first woodpecker comes. And then the female pheasant. With or without her fat comic mate. Feeding under the feeders. I always overfill and scatter nuts and seed around for ground-feeding birds. Crush a few more fat balls to be sure.

They are a pair, the woodpeckers, the exhilarating flash of scarlet, of black and white wing. Comfortable hanging from the feeders at any angle. Furious beaks battering the seed. Happy to share with smaller birds just not with each other at the same time.

There is almost every type of tit here in the Danish woodland, multiple finches, sparrows, bramblings, nuthatch… all happily coexisting on the feed. The only bullies are the blackbirds. Even the jays appear mostly well behaved.

Some of the smallest birds favour hiding in the low forsythia, making raids together. Sometimes finding comfort in numbers. Other times, happy to swarm the quieter feeders.

Peeling sheets of bark hang off the host Himalayan birch, like swooning handkerchiefs in the days before pocket tissues.

I work by the floor-length windows, binoculars and bird books close by, before the nice neighbour brings his chainsaw to help clear some of the raggedy bird-sown cherries, too big and widespread now in the quiet, shadier spot. We save the trunks for firewood and take the skinny branches to the locality’s slow-compost bins. The lilac will be happier with more light.

We trim the hornbeam hedge. The woodpeckers come a dozen times a day, stocking up. Only one morning reaches 0C. We fill feeders and split bags of seed and nuts and spread them liberally for when we are away. Spare food and fat is thin on the ground.

The wintering pine martin had nested in a new sack in the cupboard when we arrived. Settled snug in a ball of insulating fibre and sunflower seed. He will be more active when we leave. He lives here more than us.

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