Eye on nature

I have recently moved to west Cork, and live about 500 yards from the sea, in a sheltered and wooded valley

I have recently moved to west Cork, and live about 500 yards from the sea, in a sheltered and wooded valley. I put out a number of bird feeders in November and have all the finches feeding, including siskins, but no sign of a greenfinch. They were always very plentiful in all my other gardens, so I am a bit surprised. I also have blue, coal and great tits in vast numbers, eating from sun up to sun down. If they were only local birds, they would be so fat that they would be unable to walk, let alone fly. How far do you think they travel to my feeders, and what would be the average population per acre for the type of area I live in? I also have a pair of jays that feed from the bird table, which is less than two feet from a conservatory window. They are not at all shy, and feed while I stand looking at them through the window.

- David Keegan, west Cork

Greenfinches are plentiful all over Ireland and when their local supply of food is gone they will find your feeders. The number of tits in any habitat depends on the amount of food available, and you are likely to be feeding only the local birds. However, they need a daily intake of at least one calorie per gram of body weight to survive. Blue tits require 11 calories daily, great tits 20, and coal tits 12. In February, blue tits spend 85 per cent of daylight hours feeding, great tits 75 per cent and coal tits 90 per cent.

In December I saw a pair of robins in courtship display, and by mid January a pair of blue tits inspected my new nesting box. Was all this activity not a bit early?


- Phyllis Mombrun, Glenageary, Dublin

Robins will start pairing in mid-December and all pairs are usually formed by mid-February. The tits may well have been prospecting for a nest site, but they may also have been using the nestbox as a roost on cold winter nights.

Edited by Michael Viney, who welcomes observations sent to him at Thallabawn, Carrowniskey PO, Westport, Co Mayo. email: viney@anu.ie. Observations sent by email should be accompanied by postal address as location is sometimes important to identification or behaviour.

Michael Viney

Michael Viney

The late Michael Viney was an Times contributor, broadcaster, film-maker and natural-history author