Feed the birds…
‘In the bleak midwinter’, the song goes…
My abiding memory of the harsh winter of 1962-63 is not that the sea at Barry Island froze, though that’s unusual enough in itself. Rather, it was the thaw, and walking down a street lined with huge, leafless plane trees (unfortunately no longer there) and finding, at the base of each tree, two or three dead birds. House sparrows, mostly; killed by cold and hunger. That sight made a huge impression on a small boy.
Finding a dead song thrush in one of the stables as I mucked-out this morning brought it all back. Judging from the lack of flesh either side of its breastbone, it either had starved to death or been killed by a combination of hunger and the bitter cold of the last few weeks.
This is a plea, really – to keep on stocking your bird tables and feeders even though a thaw has set in. The past summer might have been one of plenty for many small wild birds, but that breeding success can all be undone by a single, harsh winter. And don’t forget, a good year for small birds also means a good one for their predators, like sparrowhawks and magpies. A bird weakened by hunger and cold makes an easy meal.
Now the cold has abated songbirds need to replenish their lost fat reserves before the next freezing snap arrives.
And they need all the help we can give them, in this bleak midwinter.