Saturday, 15 January 2011

DIY:Funky Forest Fatball Feeder

"Saw, drill and cut Blashford Lakes willow to build your own fatball feeder" was the invitation, so that is what we did - and quite successfully I might add!

Using willow from the pollard and coppice area and a little creativity on my part, both I and the visitors attending the event enjoyed both the camerarderie and team work and using the knives, secateurs, hand drills and bow saws required to great effect - we were all very pleased with the result!

As I explained in my disclaimer at the start of the event, they're "rustic looking", not the least bit squirrel proof and would be lucky to last the season - BUT if/when they do fall apart they are 100% biodegradeable and the participants would all be equiped with the skills and know-how to knock up a replacement!

My prototypes are here - everyone elses looked much better than mine of course! The basic model looks like this; fat with a seed blend of my choice mixed in and compressed around a square-lashed cross of willow withy:

The deluxe version is far more sophisticated however! Two willow discs have been drilled to accept withies forced through forming the "cage" for the fat balls:

Not bad even if I do say so myself!
While we were busy creating bird feeder marvels other visitors to the reserve again enjoyed good views of two bittern from Ivy North Hide.
The finches were all performing nicely at the Woodland Hide with siskin, lots of redpoll and even more brambling - some of the males are starting to show signs of sprucing up for spring and are beginning to look quite smart. Interestingly at least one brambling was observed to be ringed - possibly one of the birds caught and ringed last winter, although it may have come from elsewhere. Either way the recent first ringing session of this winter did not catch any brambling pre-caught or otherwise.
Otherwise the only other thing of note was a definite feeling of spring being in the air - despite it being a very gloomy, grey day it was dry and when sheltered from the strong south-westerly wind it was actually quite warm. It certainly seems like there are more birds singing than there has been and I also noticed that the male "lambs tail" catkins of the hazel are opening up whilst the diminutive but beautiful bright scarlet female flowers of the hazel are also showing well now.
Unfortunatley there were late reports of another mute swan in difficulties by Cemex Anglings Rockford Lake. Luckily I was able to get hold of Judy of the local Swan Rescue who agreed to meet me to see if we could find and help the swan before it got too dark.
Even more fortunately we did find the bird exactly where I was told to look for it and after she had it secured I hesitantly sat on it as directed while she checked it for injuries - happily, it was fine and it appears that it had just landed badly on the path bewteen the two boundary fences where it did not have the "run up" to get airborne and back out onto the lake with its pals and was just distressed and fatigued. After checking out fine Judy was able to release it back lake side of the fence and it ran off to join the other birds.
It is unlikely to have survived the attention of foxes over-night so it had a lucky escape. Hopefully having survived this near-miss it will avoid the tangles of discarded fishing line that has had more dire consequences for so many birds on Rockford Lake recently.

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