Readers of my blog know I’m the first to admit I’m no David Bailey with my camera, and with that in mind…please excuse the slightly wonky pictures but I wanted to share so much Sunday’s visit to the garden by these little poppets….look at that face…it’s adorable, he looks so cheeky…I’m always reading how tits are the acrobats of the bird world, and as I watch them happily feeding upside down or at a most peculiar angle I’m not going to disagree…however when the long tailed tits arrive, it’s more a case of here come the clowns…with their rose tints and face powder they look like they’ve raided the make up box, and their funny hands under the arm farty squeeks always make me laugh.
I’ve always known them as a banditry of titmice…my first school was a lovely country Primary school and an old chap from the village would come to the school once a week and with a teacher would take a group of us out for walks over the footpaths and common-land that surrounded the village…not just in Summer mind, all weathers…a light shower or a good old blow outside didn’t stop the teacher getting us all ready, coats were all buttoned, (think we all wore duffles in those days) and scarves tucked in …out we’d head, and Mr Ellis would always describe birds and animals to us with proper old country names*…..
We’ve got a small ornamental cherry tree in the middle of our back garden which is all bare and rather forlorn at the moment and it’s where we hang a lot of our bird feeders…the bird cage effect of the bowed branches seems to offer a bit of protection against the weather (it always seems full of birds even when it’s raining) but also it means larger birds such as the fat old wood pigeons can sit comfortably while they reach across to have their breakfast (they’re far too fat to sit on a feeder with any comfort)…..it’s obviously been a really good year for the long tailed tits as there are quite a few big colonies of them living very near by, they’re in the garden a lot right now and at times I’ve seen over a dozen at once on the cherry tree, though mostly it’s about half a dozen. It’s quite odd to see just one and I suppose there is safety in numbers.
They particularly like these fat feeders we bought just before Christmas from Wiggly wigglers….I’ve seen 5 of them all on one feeder with no squabbling that I could see…..un-like when the blue tit or great tit shows up, then it’s every bird for himself before they get shooed off by the cross yellow tummied bossy boots..the long tailed tits seem very good natured and will happily feed alongside other birds, chaffinches and blackbirds, robins, gold finches….they naturally live in big colonies during the winter months and if a brood fails then the pair will often help feed a neighbouring pairs young rather than lay more eggs of their own.
I love seeing them dance and whirl about in flight above my head…they aren’t in the least bit timid and while they flew off when I first stepped up near to where they were feeding, they soon came back and weren’t very bothered by me at all…..the only other bird that doesn’t mind me being outside is the robin, he’ll hop up very close, but for the most part I tend to watch what is in the garden from indoors or just sit quietly on the back door step….not such a close up view but I don’t like to disturb them too much.
Their colouring is really beautiful, it’s quite hard to see at first exactly what is going on with their plumage or “wardrobe” ….they’ve got very chalky white faces and tummies, and they’ve got rose tints underneath so it’s like they’re wearing a pair of wispy pink drawers…..their wings for the most part are black and so are their tail feathers, imagine a frock coat with tails at the back….there’s smudges of grey and black around their eyes and delicate rose tinged feathers around their shoulders…this site has some really gorgeous pictures and describes their colouring perfectly.
And if you’d like to hear them…just listen in here….
As I said it’s obviously been good weather wise for them, a few winters ago we had two weeks of pretty heavy snow which was just magickal to watch…I sat on the doorstep with Bernard on my lap and it was like being in a fairy tale watching heavy flakes of snow slowly fall down while these tiny tits seemed to dance among the falling snowflakes….. we put food out twice a day and made sure the water was kept ice free but sadly a lot of tiny birds such as these and the wrens didn’t cope too well and I noticed the last two summers their numbers here went right down…..but I’ve seen a pair of wrens in the garden everyday this year and as for these fluffy pompoms …..every time I step out I can hear them before I see them.
They’ve got very small beaks and they remind me so much of the fabric birds that Ann Wood makes….it’s in part due to their cheeky expression…..they also remind me of flying pompoms or ping pong balls covered in fluff……
And eventually they all fly off, a tiny fluffy flurry of feathers and wing beats and they’re all gone…the chirping lingers though as they fly up into the branches of the big sycamore tree in the play area behind our garden, or in the hedge that lines one side of it…wherever they’ve gone to it’s not out of ears reach…..
My knitting skills aren’t there yet but once I’ve got my head around stranded knitting then I’m planning to knit something with these tiny birds in mind, their soft shades and smudges of rose, grey and charcoal inspire me and quicken my heart every time I see them.
if you’re interested Country Life had a nice article about some of the bird names last year…