Friends come in all sizes

Our garden here in North Wexford, in a rural setting, is a haven for small birds. We feed them all year round and they nest in tit boxes, hedges and sometimes in crevasses in walls. Earlier this year (2016) we discovered a pair of great tits (Parus major) preparing a nest in a hole in a low wall just 20 cm. off the ground and within 3 metres of our kitchen door. The nest site was clearly visible from our bedroom window and we were able to follow progress.

Over several days the nesting pair removed small stones from the nest site and we watched as they carried them in their beaks to some distance from the house. We watched as they gathered moss from nearby and flew with it into the nest site.

So nature took its course and eventually we observed traffic in and out of the nest site as the young brood were being fed. This suddenly stopped and the young family of Great Tits could be seen for a few weeks being fed by the parents in the open and in close proximity to the house. We supplement the diet of small birds with peanuts in feeders and finely chopped cheddar cheese for a short period daily.

Occasionally, during the feeding frenzy, a young bird will inevitably collide with one of the windows in our house and quite often they fall to the ground stunned as was the case with one of the young Great Tits one day in July. Sadly they don't always survive. I picked this bird up and cradled it in my hands for a few minutes until it was able to fly off. But not before it perched on my finger and rested there looking me up and down for a while. A week or so later I was trying to entice a Robin to take finely chopped cheddar cheese from my hand (something I have never managed to do but I believe it's quite common). A small Great Tit (with distinctly neutral colouring) without hesitation landed on my hand and helped itself to a good feed. It has done so almost daily ever since and I am convinced that it is the same bird that crashed into the window a week earlier.

(Photo by Val Dukes)

A couple of others have occasionally followed suit but very rarely and very tentatively but this particular bird shows no hesitation whatsoever. Regardless of a couple of times when I was away from home for a number of days the same bird remembers me and continues to come to me for food. I feel a great sense of privilege to enjoy the trust of this wonderful creature through these encounters.

They say size matters - not really.

Friends come in all sizes.

(October 2016)