Friday, 12 October 2012


This year, for the first time we are seeing bird feeders for sale in the shops.
During our first two winters here there were no such things, and winters here are cold, sometimes down to -20 deg C or lower.
We watched the birds in the garden, just sitting, scratching where they could for food and at times scratching into brick walls trying to find non-existent insects.
Most of the time though they would just sit, in trees, on fences, on walls puffing up their feathers trying to keep warm.
So, we set about making feeders for them, not knowing where to start at first, learning as we went along.
By chance we had a big lump of soft pig fat given to us by a friend. We weren't too sure what we supposed to do with it for ourselves, but it was an ideal start to feeding the birds.
So out came a pan, in went the fat, seeds and some dried fruit, and I rolled it all in to balls about 3 inches in diameter.
The next problem was how to present these to the birds in a way that they would see the fat balls and be able to feed from them.
That's when the netting bags from potatoes bought in the supermarket came in handy. We cut these up and wrapped them around the fat balls, tying them at the top with string, which also gave us something to hang them up with.
Next, being the considerate people we are we gave the birds something to perch on by pushing two bamboo kebab skewers through each of the balls, although these later proved to be superfluous as, of course, the birds could grip onto the netting.
Then we hung them in a place not too far from the back windows of the house so that we could have the pleasure of watching the birds feed from them, but also safe from local cats. We also strung some whole peanuts together and hung them from trees in the garden.
Once we had hung about four strings of peanuts and the fat balls we hid away in the house and waited eagerly for the birds to arrive. We waited, we waited, and we waited. It never struck us while we were making the feeders that Romanian birds aren't used to being fed in this way, so they didn't realize that this was free food for them. Food which would help them survive the winter.
Eventually, on the third day a Great Tit arrived. It just sat on the fence below the feeders occasionally glancing up at the fat balls in that half sideways manner that they do. Then suddenly it flew up, perched on a kebab stick and eagerly started pecking away!
It was  a great feeling, and within minutes he was joined by a large number of his pals.

During our first winter there wasn't a lot we could do apart from chop wood to try and keep warm and watch the birds. At some points we had over 40 of them squabbling over who's turn it was at the feeder, and it was difficult to keep up with them getting the fat balls out fast enough, each of which would last about 3 days at best.
We also occupied ourselves by photographing them. We took the photographs through the glass of the back window, which affected the quality of the photos somewhat, but it still felt good to be able to do it, and to record the success of our little endeavour.
We aren't expert bird watchers, but with some confidence we can say that we had Great Tits, Blue Tits, Coal Tits, Nuthatches, Sparrows, and some Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers visit our feeders, amongst many others. It was such a pleasure, even though we would get the occasional Kestrel swoop down to try and take one of them. Thankfully they never succeeded, not while we were watching anyway.

The bird life here in Romania really is wonderful, still thriving because of the largely unspoilt nature of the country. We live in  part of the world where we have woodland as well as open heath and also some water, which adds to the diversity of the different species we see. During Spring, Summer and Autumn I never tire of watching what the locals call 'Eagles' cruise over the top of the hill behind us. Not sure what they are though other than perhaps being some sort of large Kite, maybe one day someone will tell me.

It's amazing what can be seen though when your eyes are opened by living a different sort of life to the one we were used to in the UK.


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