I’m not sure if it’s just our birds who are messy eaters, but we seem to have a group of Blackbirds, Jackdaws and Robins who seem very selective about what they want off the bird table. A number of our resident Blackbirds have regularly sifted through the food on offer, scattering what they don’t want far and wide, but it would seem the local Robin population and the visiting Jackdaws have taken up the habit.

These birds may be choosy eaters, but their habit of flinging seeds over an increasingly wide area has unintended benefits. They are unknowingly helping to distribute the food to their fellow avian friends. Dunnocks, in particular, have quickly caught on to this regularly refreshed supply of food around the base of the bird table, nestled among a bed of heathers. And like in every other garden in the UK, Wood pigeons also take advantage of the scattered feast.

In the same way that we’ve become popular with the local Wood pigeons, a growing number of grey squirrels have decided it is far easier to forage for what the birds on the table discard that repeatedly try to get onto the table itself. It has taken time, but it would seem we have finally defeated these visitors from taking refuge on the table while gorging themselves on the bird food. Our physical obstacles have probably been helped with a ready supply of ‘scraps from above’ to keep the squirrels grounded.

As I mentioned above, the bird table stands amongst a bed filled with some very large and established heathers, so it came as no surprise that on a regular basis, we were entertained by a family of mice and voles who would dart out from under cover to feed on the discarded seed. Often, these high-speed rodents would dart in and out from the safety of the vegetation to scurry around under the bird table to find food before scurrying back to safety. I say “safety”, but for the last few weeks, our tiny visitors have been noticeable by the absence. The food still rains down from above but there has been no sign of the voles or mice.

Unfortunately, we do have a large number of local cats in our area; many of these have decided that our garden is part of their patch, so we are continually on our guard to try and protect the birds and other wildlife from them. So maybe they have been ‘successful’ during the hours of darkness and have taken our tiny neighbours.

Until the next generation manages to find this sanctuary with a continual supply of food being delivered from on high, we will have to enjoy the birds feeding the birds (and the local grey squirrels). The link between the birds on the table and those on the ground seems to be working well. There is no evidence of discarded food on the floor to decompose and pose a hazard to wildlife, so it would seem we have got the balance almost spot in between the amount on offer and the amount the bigger birds feed to their friends.

A great example of nature working in harmony.

© Phil Pickin