Cache and Carry

Goldfinches, usually come in two’s, and spread the word when Nyjer seed is on offer. (Oran O’Sullivan)

Shorter days and longer, cool nights are the catalyst for increased feeder activity.  The Goldfinches response to the seasonal unveiling of Nyjer seed offering is immediate, starting with two birds and building up to six or eight queuing up for a turn on the Nyjer feeder.  As well as Nyjer seed, our ‘Full Irish’ seed mix is very popular and needs refilling daily; it’s a mix of sunflower hearts, jumbo porridge oats and kibbled or chipped peanuts. 

Coal Tits are tempted out of the forest to explore the garden: I expect  numbers to build up as we approach November.  If you study the Coal Tits behaviour around the feeders, you will notice that they move in quickly, get a hold on the end of the nut feeder or seed tube and depart just as quickly, with food in beak.  As the smallest member of the Tit family, they are competing with the larger and bossier Great and Blue Tits.  Thus, it makes sense for them to organise a ‘take away’ and they show some planning by depositing the cache nearby, though they are prone to forgetting the whereabouts of individual store items, if not consumed within a few days.

Coal Tits, small in stature but well able to hold its own at the feeders. (Oran O’Sullivan)

Shop and save

A bigger and more organised hoarders is a member of the crow family, the Jay.  This autumn they are enjoying a bumper harvest of acorns, and I see or hear Jays as they break cover from the local oak forest and spread across open fields down into the valley.  These birds are local commuters, taking advantage of a great Acorn harvest and are returning with a crop full, to be deposited in their winter territory, for later use: for the rainy or freezing days ahead.  Hidden away, these fruits of the majestic Oak are likely to keep, if they are not discovered by Squirrels or competing Jays.  The larder can be on the ground, or rather just beneath it or in a crevice in a tree or any suitable nook or cranny. A figure of up to 5,000 acorns in storage is estimated for a dominant Jay, more than enough to sustain them through the winter.  They are accessed as they are needed, and interestingly, acorns that are not retrieved by the Jay are left to seed and sprout.  Oak regeneration courtesy of the Jay, is an important role in the ecology of the forest, carried out by a loyal customer of the Cache and Carry.

Jays find and bury Acorns for later use. (Oran O’Sullivan)