Written by Graham Wellstead.
Not everyone is keen on these brash argumentative birds but I have a soft spot for them.
For several years starlings have been missing from my garden. I would see them elsewhere, and a number of times their glorious vast flock displays on winter evenings as they assembled prior to roosting, often accompanied by a sparrow hawk or two. This spring a pair have coming to my feeders daily, and soon to be joined by a second pair.
Not everyone is keen on these brash argumentative birds but I have a soft spot for them. As a boy I hand reared a chick, which flew free and stayed with me for over a year. He could talk – just a few words, and not very clear, and it was suggested I taught him our telephone number – which was pointless – no telephone. The following spring he found himself a wife, introduced her to us, his family and gradually broke his bonds and left.
Our blackbird pair have been hit by disaster. A local cat has been hiding in the acer under the bird feeders and recently killed the cock bird. Normally I deal with unwelcome cats with a 1 gallon bucket of water kept for the purpose, but this one sees me coming and is gone before I reach the bucket. Usually two soakings with cold water and a hand full of gravel thrown at the fence is enough and puss gets the message
So it was pleasing when yesterday the starling count grew by three as the fledgling came in to sit on the greenhouse waiting for food.
So it was pleasing when yesterday the starling count grew by three as the fledgling came in to sit on the greenhouse waiting for food. What fascinated me was how two waited quietly while the third was fed changing places as their turn came round.
Our house sparrow flock is also growing and a number of fledgelings are sitting on the climbing rose quivering their wings at all and sundry, begging for food.
When I’m not watching the comings and goings of garden birds, here’s how I occupy an hour or two: I have started work on a few new walking sticks. I have been making country walking sticks, mostly from hazel since 1970, although there are 76 native trees that can be used to make a stick. The trick is – finding them. You can search for hours and not find a single potential stick, or come across several in one place. The hardest to find are the shepherd crooks, the stick all in one piece, often cracks during the drying time. It is a hobby for the patient man as a stick which has a crook handle or a heavy grip can take two years to dry and when you start work you find it is split. Some start off with the stick being hopelessly crooked. These I put in a steam box filled with sand and hot steam is pumped through. The stick if tied to a straight pole, often a broom handle, will straighten and when cooled down, remain straight.
The pictures show a small selection of sticks which are drying, sticks I am working on, and finished sticks. Lastly, one completed recently. They all have my monogram and the date, and between seven and ten coats of varnish. The crook for example was made in 1979. Over the years I have probably made about 150, all given away. I have never sold a stick.
Written by Graham Wellstead.
It’s all in the Numbers !
Graham Wellstead records a long fruitful involvement with many garden birds. My new invasion of noisy sparrows have upped their game and are no longer deterred by human presence. Just outside the kitchen door is a beetroot-leaf production device, being a potted beetroot, but the fearless feathered chaps have feasted on the guinea pigs’ breakfast even in full view of me with the door open. But a single little sparrow dust-bathing in my carefully-sown seedbed is so sweet ! Starlings: who’s not charmed by the wheeling beauty of a murmuration of starlings ? I’ve seen them wheel above the close-built houses in Faversham; entrancing. Over Rome they reach colossal numbers, and you just have to stare, lost in admiration. But one destructive starling interfering with a nest in the guttering and I’m rooting for the sparrow parents even if they pecked off my all my polyanthus petals this morning.
Bluetits in the vine this afternoon – terrific. They’re welcome to eat all the tiny flower buds because this vine is a crop of leaves (guinea pigs again) and we don’t want the small sour grapes anyway.
I do admire Graham Wellstead’s cat-repellant skill. In my garden one cat is too many, but I’ve never even splashed a tail.
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Your garden sounds like paradise, Valerie. I’d buy a ticket to see all those wonderful things. For now, however, I’ll do the next best thing and re-read your lovely account of your garden birds.
‘It’s all in the numbers’ would make a great stand alone blog, Valerie.