Feeding birds as we wait for winter to fade

With winter officially having only another fortnight to run (although nature will have the last say) this year it has been one of two halves. The late autumn run of good weather ran into June with above-average warm temperatures, a few light frosts, not much rain and the grass kept growing lulling us into a false sense of belief that this might be the new norm because of global warming.

However, once we passed the shortest day, the old saying kicked in ‘‘when the days lengthen the cold strengthens’’.

July has recorded 133mm of rain, which is twice the monthly average and maximum daytime temperature have not exceeded nine degrees.

So far, this month is just a repeat of July with couple of snowfalls as well and with the cows starting to calve makes for unpleasant working conditions.

With the onset of winter like many householders in the district my wife Audrey feeds the birds that come into our courtyard by supplementing their diet with sugar and water, fat and sometimes fruit. While not in the league of David Attenborough we enjoy watching and sometimes taking a cellphone photo from the kitchen window of the bird’s antics.

This year the resident tui have joined the flock for the first time, and they dominate the gathering with their large presence.

Next is the bellbird with their deep throaty melodious song, the sweetest sound of the bush.

The blackbirds and the thrush are territorial, so they only come in pairs, but the sparrows are more gregarious and social like the wax eye or silver eye which have been in larger numbers this winter.

The swallow and little fantail miss out because we can’t provide anything to their diet which mainly consists of insects.

Fantails are naturally friendly and often come inside the house or the sheds but to some folk there is a superstitious stigma attached to them.

When the dairy season was coming to a close, my son Cameron fed grain in the shed to the cows where sparrows and finches helped themselves too, but to his surprise a New Zealand falcon turned up and for a fortnight made short work of a few sparrows each day.

Falcons are highly protected and have a menacing hypnotic stare. When under their spell very few prey get away.

Their population is stagnated possibly because they are a ground-nesting bird and like the oystercatcher that come from the coast to rear their young, so often a stoat or some other predator takes them before they fledge.