The garden gang

Since the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch, I have been completely obsessed by birds.  I’ve bought a birdbath, a feeding station, a nesting box, fat-balls, niger seeds, mealworms, sunflower seeds, peanuts and every sort of seed-mix going.  Every morning I put out a spread worthy of an all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet.  I get more excited by the birds’ breakfast than my own.

And it’s not just me.  Stephen has placed binoculars and a field-guide by the window.  We’ve got a shared note on our smartphones so that we can mark down any new sightings.  Over breakfast this morning the whole family discussed how you distinguish a great tit from a coal tit.  I think we’re all a little hazy about this.  If anyone out there can help, please leave instructions in the comments below.  My theory is that if you want to exclaim “my word, what a handsome fellow!” in an Enid Blyton sort of voice, it’s a great tit.  Am I right?

This morning we had not one, but two greater spotted woodpeckers at our table!  And nine goldfinches squabbling over the niger seed.  The goldfinches seem to be the peaky blinders of the garden birds.  You don’t want to mess with them.

So familiar am I becoming with my little posse, my squad, my clan, that I am tempted to give them nicknames.  This desire was sparked by a human tweet about my favourite bird, the long-tailed tit.  The local names for these delightful little dumplings are: ‘flying teaspoons’, ‘lollipops’, ‘mumruffins’, ‘bumbarrels’, or (my favourite) ‘pudding bags’.  Such is my affection for the long-tailed tit that I want to make up a few names of my own.  I might add ‘badger-face’, ‘dirty snowballs’, ‘bouncing bombs’, ‘pompoms’ and ‘skittles’. Of course the true test of a nickname is when others start to use it.  Already I have heard my youngest call to me “mum! The teaspoons are here!”

I have been researching folk names for other garden birds, and there is endless delight in this.  It is as much fun as common flower names.

Magpies were once ‘maggoty-pies’.  Jays were ‘devil’s scritch’.  Blackbirds could be ‘black brides’ (bit of heavy-metal influence here), ‘black ouzels’ (from the West Country?) or simply ‘merles’.  Naughty chaffinches can be ‘apple-sheilers’ (for stealing apple buds), ‘flackies’ or ‘boldies’.  Goldfinches are ‘thistle-tweakers’ (I knew it!) and ‘Jack nickers’ (ooh).  They can also be ‘sweet williams’, but I haven’t seen any evidence of this so far.

Poor old Jenny wren is (cruelly) ‘stumpy toddy’.  Greenfinches are ‘bigheads’.  The mistle thrush can be ‘bell throstle’ or… ‘Mavis‘.

Blue tits can be (more accurately) blue caps, blue bonnets, blue spicks, nuns (love this), tree babblers, pinchems (love this too), pickcheese (and this), yaups, billy biters and heckymals.

I don’t know what a fieldfare is yet, but when I do, I will try to verify if it looks like a ‘spinning wheel’.  Our woodpeckers are ‘little woodpie’ and ‘Yaffle’ (from Bagpuss fame).

I can only find one other name for the great tit, and that is ‘black-capped lolly’, which doesn’t help at all.  He should surely be tagged a ‘swell’, a ‘toff’, a ‘dandy’, a ‘dapper chap’?  Or maybe ‘Brylcream’?  ‘Necktie?’ ‘Canary waistcoat?’  Please, someone, help me out here, how, for the love of God, can I tell the great tit apart from the coal tit?  (Again, answers below in ‘comments’, please).

Has anyone else discovered bird-love this winter?  Honestly, it is a brilliant substitution for tulip-, peony-, rose- and dahlia-love.  Share your favourite birds and bird-names below!

Picture credit: https://ww2.rspb.org.uk/community/placestovisit/titchwellmarsh/m/titchwellmarsh-mediagallery/428477.aspx

great tit

 

37 Comments Add yours

  1. We have predominantly Cardinals in the winter, but lots of wrens, finch, and the occasional oriole. We live rurally, so red tail hawks and even owls are not an uncommon sight. We also have ground dwellers in a front field. Grouse are plentiful. 😊

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    1. Ali says:

      Cardinals are stunning! And orioles. Neither of which we get. Birds give a sense of place, don’t they? One of the most exciting things about travel.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. They really do, yes. Fascinating to watch. 😊

        Liked by 1 person

  2. annpappas says:

    We have Olive thrushes, Cape Robin Chat, Sunbirds, Doves, Sparrows, Red Winged Starlings, Pied Crows, sometimes an African Harrier Hawk too.

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    1. Ali says:

      I had to look those up! Sunbirds look amazing!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. shazza says:

    Great post. I had no idea about all those wonderful nick names. 🙂 We have a robin, bluetits, blackbirds, sparrows, dunnock, starlings and….the odd teaspoon. 🙂 Coal tits are like Great tits but smaller and more duller in colour. More of a brown, cream and olive colour I think. You are so lucky getting woodpeckers. 🙂

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  4. Ali says:

    😀😘 Thanks Shazza! And i’m so sorry that my autocorrect turns your name into Shazam!! I will try to watch that! Thanks so much for the coal tit tip! I stand by my Enid Blyton voice rule.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Wonderful to have such beautiful birds at your bird table.. We had a lovely but unwelcome bird on our bird bath last week a sparrow hawk.. It must have only been a young bird as he thankfully when he spotted some sparrows in our hedge failed to catch one when he went in after them.. He flew of empty handed thankfully.. But he ruffled a few feathers..
    Have a lovely weekend

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    1. Ali says:

      We had a sparrow hawk too a few weeks ago! It came and sat on the fence for a while, then flew off. A minute or two later some very jittery blue tits emerged from the choisya!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I can imagine… We are getting to see Sparrow Hawks more often in our gardens here. We also had a Buzzard last year, the garden was silent of birds for a few hours after his visit. 😀

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Nancy says:

    Here in the Southwest we have quail, roadrunners, cactus wren, gila woodpeckers, ravens

    In Pennsylvania we have Chickadees, cardinals, goldfinch, finches, robins and lots of other birds as well.

    Lots of fun to watch at the bird feeder!

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    1. Ali says:

      Ooh! I retweeted a photo of a roadrunner this morning – it was gorgeous, and slightly comical!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Nancy says:

        They are comical and FAST! They are very hard to photograph! People are extremely happy when they get a clear picture of one.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. No edwards says:

    A great tit is bigger than a coal tit also a coal tit has a white stripe running down the back of its neck

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    1. Ali says:

      Thank you! In that case I don’t think we have many. But I will keep my eyes peeled.

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  8. annpappas says:

    I saw some feathers under our oak tree this afternoon, so one of our local birds of prey had a meal – besides the harrier hawk, we also have sparrow hawks.

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    1. Ali says:

      Nature is brutal, isn’t it? Or efficient. I’m not sure which.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Ah lovely. I watched 2 blue tits today ‘courting!” We have 2 owls hooting all night to each other too at about 4am which even though is highly annoying, is also so nice to hear. I used to listen to similar sounds as a child and always heard a cuckoo but not now. Terribly sad. I put out food everyday for the birds but have 2 old cats which keep some away. I also have a pair of jays and wood pidgeons that tend to fight each other for the food! Also a pesky squirrel steals it too so I have now got 4 different feeders in different places to try to please everyone!

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    1. Ali says:

      Yes, we have owls too – I get up early and feel like they’re keeping me company. Lots of cuckoos later in spring. Heard woodpeckers all day – love that sound. For some reason squirrels (so far) leave our bird feeders alone, but maybe thst’s Because they stole all the walnuts and cobnuts and are still digging them up!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh how lovely to hear cuckoos! Where about s are you? I’m in Wiltshire, U.K.

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  10. Ali says:

    In Kent. Yes, I do love the sound. I try not to think about their unpleasant habits!

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  11. I love birds yet I don’t have one 😐amazing post😍

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    1. Ali says:

      Thank you! That’s really nice to hear.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Brian Skeys says:

    The coal tit has a white stripe on its head and no black stripe on its chest. Wonderful to hear all those ‘local’ names, I think Jenny Wren is much nicer than stumpy toddy! My grandfather use to call the Mistletoe Thrush storm cock due to its habit of singing from the top of a tree before a storm. I love ‘flying teaspoons’.

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    1. Ali says:

      I love Jenny Wren too – it reminds me of my gran. I didn’t know that about the mistake thrush – thank you!

      Like

  13. I have my friendly little robins who follow me around in the garden, together with thrush, finches, blackbirds, magpies…
    My favourite winter part time is watching them feeding on my bird table.

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    1. Ali says:

      Robins are always good company, aren’t they? (To us if not each other – I saw one dive-bomb a rival this morning!)
      Yes, in Jan and Feb, the birds have given me more pleasure than any other aspect of the garden. Where I usually pop into the garden centre for compost, I have been making frequent trips for birdseed! And later on we’re going to craft some novelty lard-cakes (like the birds will care, but this kind of shows how much fun we’re having!)

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      1. Thank goodness for people who care. 🐦

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      2. Ali says:

        They give it back in spades! Bring so much to the garden. 💕

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  14. Bum barrels is probably my favourite folk name for long tailed tits.

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    1. Ali says:

      It is fab, isn’t it?

      Like

  15. What a great selection of bird nicknames, good researching! Birdwatching is all part of gardening for me. My breakfast chair is positioned directly in front of the garden bird feeder so I get to see who’s out and about in the world while I’m eating. Perfect.

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    1. Ali says:

      Mine too! Nothing like tea, toast and teaspoons!

      Liked by 1 person

  16. I’m just popping back to say thank you for linking this lovely post to #MyGloriousGardens this month Ali. Hope to see you next month. X

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    1. Ali says:

      Definitely!

      Liked by 1 person

  17. This cute green tit is something I never see. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

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