COLIN CHANNON: Those birds that make our washing-up a pure delight

This week’s guest columnist is David Rawlings of Donnington:

WASHING-UP can seem a bit of a chore, but not in our house! Often I look out of the window and I see dramatic events unfold.

The other side of our back garden is dominated by tall trees, silver birch, willow and hawthorn. At the far end of the garden are thick hedges and a huge yellowy-green cypress.

As you can imagine, squirrels and birds love this environment. For their convenience we provide a large saucer of water. Competition to drink the water can be intense.

Squirrels are amazingly agile. I watch them descend head-first from a tree and then lie still as they drink the water. Any hint of danger and they are off.

Blackbirds are our regular visitors, usually early morning and late in the evening. They are always cautious and wary of danger. Sometimes several of them visit. One will sip the water while the others patiently wait.

Patience can wear thin and quarrels break out as to whose turn it is to drink.

The water is also used for bathing. Much water is wasted by energetic churning. I frequently have to refill the saucer but I am happy to oblige.

Magpies are my least-favourite bird visitors. I must say I admire their impeccable plumage. Purposefully a pair of them will stride about the garden looking for a tasty titbit in the soil.

They are vicious bird visitors. They have the habit of killing baby birds and even stealing eggs. I noticed one in the saucer. His (or her) technique was to put its head in the water and send water cascading in all directions.

The woodpecker is quite different. Delicately he draws the water through his long beak and then throws his head back. He obviously enjoys the water draining down inside him.

As I write this I can hear the male pheasant squawking. He has a permanent sore throat. What a busy life he has, supervising his numerous female partners. He has wonderful plumage and an impressive tail.

The females make a depression in the ground to lay their eggs, as many as 15 at a time. I wonder how many hatch? We do have visiting foxes.

Starlings are the comedians of the bird world. They visit our garden in groups of seven or more. I watch them attacking the lawn and then, for no apparent reason, flying off. They sometimes gather round the water saucer when it is occupied by a blackbird. I saw a brave blackbird refusing to budge, even when one of the starlings got in the water with him. Only when the blackbird had drunk his fill did he fly away.

The robin is my favourite bird visitor. One will suddenly appear when I am working in the garden. Or I will hear his loud call greeting me – or is it warning other robins that danger looms?

Either way, robins and our other animal visitors give us a great deal of excitement and fun.

Wherever you live, watch out for bird visitors. Too busy? Well. perhaps you are. Slow down a bit and take time to watch them.