A goldcrest started to visit our bird table a week or so ago. It feeds on tiny fragments of fat balls. It is often disturbed by larger birds so yesterday I decided to use our Christmas tree which is still in surprisingly good condition. I stood it up on the patio, close to the window, and sprinkled its outer branches with finely crumbled fat ball. It was an instant success. The goldcrest immediately used the dense cover of the tree and of course looked at home in coniferous habitat giving us exceptionally close and prolonged views of this tiny bird.
Goldcrests are remarkable. It was wonderful to observe at close quarters the agility with which it explores the densely needled branches of the Christmas tree. I couldn’t help wondering if this bird is a local or a migrant. It is well known that goldcrests cross the North Sea from Scandinavia in the autumn and of course return there to breed in the spring. When you see a goldcrest well this feat seems truly astonishing. It has been interesting to compare it with other birds; long-tailed tits minus the tail are a very small bodied bird, but next to a goldcrest they look big and it is dwarfed by a blue tit.
We’ve had some very hard frosts over the last few nights and little thaw by day. Our pond has ice at least 5cm thick now. The sunsets have been cold and beautiful. Standing outside with the temperature already below freezing as the sun goes down I feel the conditions that animals have to survive. They face a 15 hour night of sub zero temperatures. If they haven’t had sufficient food they might not see the next morning. Blackbirds gather loosely, “chink-chinking” away to each other as the light fades. Blue tits roost alone in holes; they love our house martin nest boxes to roost in. As small birds go to roost the tawny and little owls begin to call and if I am lucky I see a woodcock fly to the fields behind the house.
I treasure the experience of cold winter dusks. As the light in the south western sky fades I retreat to light the fire and ponder the raw struggle for survival faced by animals outside.