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Wildlife Column: Goldfinches finally make appearance

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I am not sure why, but the goldfinches finally made their reappearance in my Norton garden; and this was before the heavy snowfall. I looked up and out of the back window, and there they were on the niger-seed feeder– at last!

Even more exciting perhaps, was a male greenfinch that was showing well, and the first for a few years. A male bullfinch in one of the trees at the top of the garden looked stunning in the sunlight too. There was more to come with a group of house sparrows chattering noisily as at least three males were busy in the hedge-top with a number of females. I guess the brighter weather was luring them into thinking about finding nest-sites.

Other highlights have been several blackbirds feeding on my ‘artificial’ apple-tree – which is actually a large, erect cotoneaster bush with cooking apples stuck on the branches. Artificial maybe, but it is working a treat and a small flock of fieldfares confirmed its popularity.

I actually hoped to get the ring-necked parakeets down, but no luck so far; one was in the oak-tree but that is as close as it has come. Over the top hedge, they are feeding on the bird-table of my neighbours Mike and Vicki; so why not on mine?

A collared dove was another welcome arrival and a change from wood pigeons. Then alarge, dark female sparrowhawk sat on the fence was a wake-up call for smaller birds.

It disappeared as it arrived with a low, swooping flight of an almost ominous quality – a bringer of death no doubt to a small bird somewhere close-by; nature red in tooth and claw.

Overhead, high and out-of- sight, a common buzzard has been mewing its territorial ownership.

And in the nearby woods, a nuthatch has been calling loudly and will be nesting fairly soon.

The heavy snow and low temperatures have triggered more small birds coming to the feeders, with coal tits, blue tits, and great tits predominating. The robins and dunnocks and are joined by a very active but tiny wren. Still no chaffinches though.

Professor Ian D. Rotherham, of Sheffield Hallam University, researcher, writer and broadcaster on wildlife and environmental issues.