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Baby blue tits

Posted: Friday 29 June 2012
by Kate Bradbury

I was clearing dead plants from my shed’s green roof when I heard the call of baby blue tits...


Blue tit feeding on a fat ball. Image courtesy of Julie Watson

My garden has never been much of a hit with birds, apart from feral pigeons, the odd robin, blackbird and, recently, a magpie. The space is too small for them, and the shrubs I’ve planted aren’t big enough to provide shelter from predators (not that there are any). The garden also backs on to a busy cycle path and is surrounded by paved courtyards between two roads. It’s hardly bird paradise.

Yet every spring, a pair each of blue and great tits uses my garden to forage for caterpillars and aphids for their young, while fuelling themselves from the feeders. As soon as the babies have fledged, the adults disappear for another year. I always wish my garden was better for birds, and feel terribly sad when they leave, like when the sky empties of swallows in August. But I content myself with the knowledge that my garden has a purpose; without my four-metres-square of plants, caterpillars and aphids, the local tits might find it more difficult to raise their young.

The birds were late this year, arriving in the third week of May – presumably due to the terrible weather conditions earlier on. Because of all the rain there were fewer aphids and caterpillars on the plants, but the tits stripped the plants bare, picking off every last morsel of food for their young. The birds also seemed to be using the feeders more; I was worried they were feeding the babies sunflower seeds, so I put out mealworms and fat balls as well.

Things went quiet, as they do. Then, just as I thought my garden had fulfilled its purpose for another year, something wonderful happened.

I was clearing dead plants from my shed’s green roof when I heard the call of baby blue tits. There were around seven of them in the silver birch on the other side of the cycle path, calling to their parents to feed them. I fetched my binoculars, stood on a chair and watched them hop about in the tree. They were beautiful, all fluffy and new-looking, with that lovely lemon hue that makes them look like they’ve been dipped in paint.

And then three of them flew from the tree, over the cycle path and into my garden. They called loudly, as I stood, frozen to the spot on the chair. The mother, as I suspected, was feeding them from the fat ball feeder, taking bite-sized lumps and passing them to her young. Then she encouraged the babies feed themselves. They did, before spotting me and flying off.

For about a week, the mother and one or two babies came into my garden to use the fat ball feeders. Then in the last few days I've spotted a baby feeding on its own. I know I’m probably speaking too soon, but I’m hopeful that, despite the tiny garden, small shrubs and surrounding concrete, this new generation of blue tits will continue to use my garden – who knows, they might even nest here. I don’t know what's inspired the change in behaviour, whether it's the poor availability of natural food or the simple addition of fat balls. But something has caused these baby birds to use my garden, and I’m delighted.





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Talkback: Baby blue tits
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oldchippy 29/06/2012 at 22:31

Hi Kate lovely storey,I have been redecorating the kitchen over the last two days only to keep finding ladybird larve all over the walls inside and out I keep picking them off with a card as not to damage them and putting them on the plant's in the garden,This must be a year for ladybird larve. Your Sid is still singing his head off up in the tree's.
Oldchippy.

ricardio4 21/07/2012 at 23:06

i have had about 6 baby blue tits in my garden allso some baby robins,i had the mother come down on my lawn with her young and feeding them which i thought was really nice and nice to whatch.

Judy Jones 18/08/2012 at 13:46

I too, would love to have blue tits visit my garden.I have all kinds of small birds feeding all the time.I once saw some in a bush next door and one time they came,and I hoped they would continue, but they never appeared again.Anyone out there have any tips on how to encourage them.Judy