Unexpected garden visitors

© Darin Smith

If you have a garden there are likely a few creatures, particularly birds, that you are quite used to seeing on the feeders and darting between hedges and shrubs. But what about the more unusual birds that might pay our gardens a visit?

 Maybe you have a friendly robin that likes to watch you garden and isn’t shy about begging for food. Or maybe it’s a blackbird pair, squabbling and courting in spring and skulking around in winter looking for berries and fruit. Let's have a look at some unexpected visitors that might have you reaching for the ID book. 

The nuthatch

Nuthatches are easily recognisable with their soft grey back, orange front and striking black bandit mask. They are found in trees and they can travel vertically up and down the trunk, looking for insects in spring and summer and searching out hidden crevices to tuck away nuts and seeds in autumn and winter. Nuthatches are spreading, seen more frequently in gardens and further north than their previous range, so look out for them on your bird table – they particularly like peanuts and sunflower seeds.

Siskins

These finches look similar to their close relative, the greenfinch, but have streaks of black running through their plumage and males have a prominent black crown. You are most likely to see them now, in winter, as birds arrive from Europe to beat the cold. They are often found on trees with cones, such as conifers and alders but will also come to feeders, especially on wet days. When there has been rain tree cones will close up, meaning siskins must look elsewhere for food, and feeders are an easy target.

Lesser redpoll

Another finch, these delicate birds are similar in size to blue tits and look quite drab apart from their bright scarlet cap. Lesser redpolls eat seeds, mainly niger seeds in feeders, and are becoming more frequent garden visitors. Their numbers have dropped as farmland intensifies but this trend is slowing, partly due to this diversification in food source. They are nimble birds, look for them balancing and fluttering between small branches and hanging upside-down to get at the tastiest seeds.

Coal tit

If you are brushing up on your bird identification skills you will quickly get to know blue and great tits, maybe small flocks of long tailed tits too. One of the next birds on your list should be the coal tit, one of the smallest birds in the tit family in Britain. Their badger stripe down the back of their heads is a good feature to look for, coal tits often join mixed groups as they search out food.