Friday, 19 October 2012

Sow-thistle dilemma as birds flock in to feed on it

Friday 19th October 2012
The air was subtly different this morning. No longer was the sky burdened by heavy, grey clouds.
This morning was absolutely still, not a breath of a breeze. As I raised my binoculars to scan the surrounding countryside, a Merlin flew low and fast over the fields, hoping to flush up a finch or pipit.

I continued down into the grassland, trying to spot the finches feeding on the sow-thistle before they spotted me and flew off. For when they flush they seem to never stop flying. I always expect them to come back, but they just keep on going until my arms ache holding up the binoculars trying to focus on ever-diminishing dots.

And herein lies a problem for me. The weeds in the grassland, and in particular that pesky sow-thistle which caused me so much misery a couple of weeks ago when it broke the grass cutter, those weeds are now attracting flocks of finches and buntings. This morning at least a dozen Reed Buntings were quietly perched in the sow-thistles picking at the downy seed heads. They are tamer than the finches and allowed me some excellent views.

So, next year, do I leave the sowthistle? It will look messy. It will annoy the neighbours. It will make it almost impossible for me to manage the grassland. But it will save me a job and it will attract the birds in the winter.

So a compromise is needed. I have decided to leave an area specifically for the finches. I will introduce more seed-bearing plants, such as teasel, and attempt to make a feature of it. I seem to remember that one of the seed companies, maybe Cotswold Seeds, do a winter feed mix for wild birds.

Maybe I'll even put up a hide! I found a source of cheap sheds last week. It wouldn't take a lot of effort to adapt it.

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