Goldfinches, cats and children

by Richard Jones

I was very pleased to see a pair of goldfinches this morning. I'm not a birdwatcher, but even I know the unmistakable red face, white sideburns and yellow wing flash of these pretty creatures.

GoldfinchThere's not much happening in my garden this week. I think we're scaring everything away. And I can't just blame the cats stalking their quarry; Saturday's bouncy castle and baker's dozen of squawking three- and four-year-olds hasn't added much to the serenity of the place.

So I was very pleased to see a pair of goldfinches this morning. I'm not a birdwatcher, but even I know the unmistakable red face, white sideburns and yellow wing flash of these pretty creatures. They were not in my 'wildlife haven' garden though, but in the playground of Goodrich Primary School. Like most Victorian London primary schools Goodrich suffers from an over-abundance of tarmac and virtually no 'green' open space. There are a few concrete and wooden tubs of flowers and small shrubs, and the birds were sitting on one of the tough child-resistant plants.

They were oblivious to the excited line of boys and girls trotting past to class, but continued to explore the branches only a couple of metres from the children. They flitted about there for several minutes before zooming off.

At first I though it odd that they should be in such a densely populated place. But then it occurred to me - there may be lots of rowdy children, but there are no cats.

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Gardeners' World Web User 04/04/2008 at 11:24

I am so happy to report that I've had Goldfinches in my garden, after 5 years of trying to entice the more exotic birds, like bullfinches and goldfinches. Over the past three days I have seen pairs of Goldfinches, greenfinches (another wow factor) plus all the excitement of the common birds that visit my garden on a regular basis ie Greattits, Coaltits, bluetits I think they are building a nest in my garden, Wrens, blackbirds, starlings (hundreds) Sparrows, Magpies, Jays and occassionally Sparrowhawks, Rooks & Crows.

Sadly I have a problem with neighbours cats, they seem to think I feed the birds for their bellies. I was advised to try moth balls to keep the cats away, and one in particular is very brazen, he is not scared of my sons two Japanese Akita's - so moth balls are not much of a challenge. Any other suggestions? The birds still keep coming I am very happy to say and to watch them is awesome. I was beginning to think the only place I could view these birds is at the local RSPB site. Thankfully not! Home is much closer and more environmentally friendlier than driving to the RSPB site, although it's still a fantastic place to visit.

Gardeners' World Web User 04/04/2008 at 15:30

I feed the birds regularly using a hi-energy, no mess food, I get less 'weed growth' that way. This year, for the first time, we have gold finches so I have invested in a nyjer feeder and seed to encourage them. I would love to see a wood pecker but no joy. We have three cats but they can't get at my feeders and spend most of the day asleep.

Gardeners' World Web User 04/04/2008 at 17:07

I remember reading somewhere (and my own observations have confirmed this) that it's safer to have a lot of birds in the garden than solitary ones & twos, as there are more pairs of eyes to watch out for predators. Sadly, some will always fall prey to cats, but putting out food to attract large numbers does seem to be safer. Hope that is helpful, Roy.

Gardeners' World Web User 04/04/2008 at 21:06

I too spotted a pair of Goldfinch in my garden on Monday of this week. Its a first for me in my 'wildlife garden' on the North Coast of Northern Ireland. What a lovely surprise when I looked out the window to see them bathing at the edge of my small pond. Fantastic.

Gardeners' World Web User 04/04/2008 at 21:35

We have Goldfinches in abundance also Siskins both of course love the nyger seed and sunflower hearts. I have recently planted four Alder trees as both the above birds love the seed from the small cones. To-day the 3rd April I have noticed fewer coming to the feeders I think they other things on their minds!! From S Roulston from the Lleyn Peninsula in North Wales.

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