Monthly Archives: January 2012

Starling mimicry – a poem

We often see starlings flying in a
great flock,
swirling in evening sky before plunging earthwards
to their roosts, at this time of year,
when there isn’t much to cheer;
yet when I sat  by the quayside at a
Scarborough dock,
One suddenly flew down, alighting on a nest of lobster pots.

It sat there preening and picking
about, not in the least shy,
completely untroubled  by my
presence and others walking by
looking across the harbour at fishing
boats and yachts.

As if to prove whan an individualistic
character it could be
it proceeded to run through its
reportoire of birdsong mimicry;
great tit, chaffinch, green
woodpecked and curlew,
amusing itself and thoroughly
entertaining the lucky few.


Have just been given this poem, but don’t know who wrote it.  I think it’s lovely.


Bev has been having a problem with sparrow hawks in her garden.  She is trying her best to get rid of them and has never experienced such a bold sparrow hawk in all her years of feeding.  Any new ideas for getting rid of sparrow hawks are welcome.

Hi Trish, here’s an update on our sparrow hawk problem!

Well whats happening is unbelievable to us! Yes, the hawk is staying away most of the time from the top of our garden and we have encouraged a lot of jackdaws and jays up there by placing food for them up there.

Also 8 pheasants have appeared too along with three song thrushes !!

On tuesday I heard an awful sound of a bird in distress. It was ‘our’ blackbird screaming for his life as the sparrow hawk pinned him down on the floor. I went almost right up to the hawk but he wouldn’t let go as he must have only just caught the poor blackbird.I shouted and he couldn’t lift very high off the grass with the blackbird [its a small male hawk]so managed of get only a little further up our steep garden.

Again I went up to it shouting loudly {explained to the neighbours later what was happening!!!}and this time it released the blackbird and he flew over my shoulder tweeting loudly but no worse for wear only an odd feather sticking up but was back on the bird table next morning eating!!

The sparrow hawk flew over the fence but came back 10mins later to look for the bird where he dropped it!Only to see me again!! Now he has moved down the garden is appearing in wait under the shrubs where the birds eat and dive in from him. I have discovered he is patiently waiting for the birds to go in there.

I first saw him wednesday face to face under there and he shows no fear of me just sits there until I shout etc and he moves but comes back later.

We have today put yet more netting, trellis garden canes etc round but need to make sure blackbirds etc are able to feed. He sits right next to the french door area of shrubs so I can see him easily but again and again he appears to mock me!!!!

After we put more barracades up he found a space and again he sat inside waiting. The robin froze on the bird table late this afternoon so again I went out this time he was the other side of the trellis so at least the birds saw him and he couldn’t get them. I am not convinced he will not be back tomorrow so had better check!! My poor husband has spent most of the day clambering around the steep garden making some of it safer for the birds to eat away from the hawk.

He couldn’t believe it when he saw the sparrow hawk land and sit about 3 feet from my head!I am wondering if it has been reared by a human? It seems every time I go outside its there! I have never known anything like it. I won’t give in and am hoping by the jays etc coming down the garden more often it will move on.

The balloon we put up isn’t working any more which is a shame but then this sparrow hawk doesn’t seem to have any fear. Sorry to go on a bit but I’ve never had an experience like this in all the years of bird feeding. I wonder if anyone else has? I will let you know of any future developments


Bev, you aren’t going on about it and I understand how important it is to stop this sparrow hawk.

I’ve never had really bad trouble with a sparrow hawk in the garden, but I know they are about nearby.  My problem was with a cat, or cats.  Cats can cause such carnage in a garden.  Their owners feed them and keep them fit and strong and then let them roam and stalk wild birds.   Wild birds need a safe haven on a night as they need their energy for the day.  When birds are stalked all night  by cats and then have to spend all day searching for food they will either die of exhaustion or be too tired to escape from well fed cats that have not had their sleep disturbed.

Fancy the sparrowhawk being so close to you and also showing no fear of you.  The sparrowhawks I see flying in the countryside would not come near any human.  This is very strange isn’t it

I’m sorry the balloon isn’t working now, but I suppose it has got used to it and the balloon is now part of the garden.

You deserve a medal for all you are doing, but I know that feeding birds is important.  We have two or three blackbirds come very early every morning for food and they flit backwards and forwards through the day. The other wild birds move freely from hedge to cane feeder to cage feeder.  I am so sorry you are having this problem .  It must be spoiling your garden and your day.

Here is a link to SONGBIRD SURVIVAL

It may interest you.  Please let us know what happens






Water for birds in winter is important and can easily be forgotten about

A lot of birds need to drink fresh water at least a couple of times a day.

We take water for granted as all we have to do is turn on a tap. No so for wildlife they are at the mercy of the elements – and we can help them survive

When frost and snow appear their water disappears.

I have put together Readers Tips for giving birds water in winter

1.  Put a plastic liner in the water bowl before you put the water in.  When the water freezes all you have to do is pull the liner off.  No more scraping out an ice filled water dish.

2.  Buy a heated dog water bowl.  This keeps the water unfrozen all the time. 

3. Try and keep an area of a pond unfrozen.  this is hard, but if a piece of wood or a ball is kept in the water it can sometimes be taken out and a small amount of water is showing.

4.  Keep defrosting the water all during the day when it is really cold ( Impossible I know, but you know what I mean)

One water dish I sometimes use has a smooth base so I put some stones in for the birds to perch on.

Water for birds in winter 
Shallow dish with stones in for birds to perch on 
Please let me know if you have any tips for keeping water fresh and unfrozen for our garden birds.

Redwings in Liverpool Garden

10 Redwings in our Liverpool garden this morning


Hi Denis,

Thanks for this information.  It’s good to know they are thriving.   I think they often join with flocks of  Fieldfares.  They are one of our winter visitors and don’t often nest here. 

I can’t ever remember seeing one.  They stay in the open countryside and so for you to see them in your garden is a bit exceptional.  I hope it doesn’t mean that bad weather is coming and they are preparing for a winter freeze.  Get the bird food ready



Hurray!  A sparrowhawk being chased away from a garden.  Here is what happened.  Thanks Bev for sending this.


From Bev –

Our feeding station is positioned near the shrubs and surrounded by the canes which seem to deter the sparrow hawk a lot of the time.

As the weather gets worse its not very easy to climb my garden to the higher level as its very steep and slippery, so I am encouraging the jays etc to come nearer the house and gradually they seem to be doing so.

I do this because I and my neighbour actually saw jackdaws and jays chasing off a hawk quite a few times last month . They also mobbed it so maybe they will actually help deter it for the smaller birds to eat in safety. Has anyone else heard of the same thing happening?

I saw them mob the resident tawny owl a few times this year but he comes back daily in the evening ok.

It seems to me that sparrow hawks are getting more determined here even though they aren’t always successful it doesn’t seem to put them of trying so all we bird lovers can do for our garden birds is persevere with our many deterrents!!

Any one else had similar problems ? It would be interesting to compare tactics! I have re positioned the balloon again today,so will see if it makes any difference !! Kind regards and a happy new year, Bev.


Hope the balloon does make a difference.  I agree all anyone can do is try to deter the hawks so the garden birds can survive.

At the moment in my garden we don’t have any sparrowhawks, but  I see them flying in the countryside.

Amazing that Jays and Jackdaws mobbed a sparrowhawk.  It goes to show birds do think as a group (which I think we know anyway when we see them daily in the garden)

At the moment in the garden I’m lucky that pigeons are the only birds that try to grab the bird food

I am still using the canes stuck into the soil with some wire round as well. Get loads of birds in.  Am also using a makeshift feeder from an upturned plastic tray and an ordinary ground feeder.  I throw seed on the grass near a bush for the blackbirds that are waiting there on a morning.

Take care