More Freeloaders

The light on Friday was again gorgeous and warm.  For the first time in months, I was able to work in just a short-sleeved shirt.  And trousers.

Sunlight playing through the willows on the west pond

During my breaks from mowing the east lawn,

A corner of the east lawn with the rock border and greenhouse beyond
I surreptitiously slipped into the laundry room at the back of the Priory.  From here (with flask of Earl Grey and Boost-bar to hand), through an open window and being very quiet, I kept a beady eye on who was visiting the bird feeders.
As always – Charles.  Stuffing himself on very expensive bird food.  He’s pretty much moved into the garden and lives off the scatterings made by other birds from our two seed feeders and two nut feeders.  What with his scratching about, he makes an awful  mess of the lawn.  I’ve had to fix two unlovely plastic trays under the seed feeders to limit how much food  drops on to the ground below.  Charles was furious.
I’ve become rather fond of Charles.  If I startle him (easily done), he sprints off at speed like a soft lad velociraptor.  He rarely flies.  Maybe he’s getting a  little too heavy.  Too much fine dining.  During the recent pheasant shooting season when the surrounding fields were awash with Barbour, tweed and spaniel, I would silently yell at him to stay within its safe confines.  Beyond the Priory’s fencing and hedges was bloody  pheasant slaughter.
The feeders have been specially devised to trap Blue Tits.  And jolly successful they are too!  Whilst the Tits  can get in easily enough, once  they have eaten their full they are too fat to fly out again (see the two above).  They are kept in these fattening cages* for several days until they  have reached a desired plumpness.  Skewered onto satay sticks and lightly flamed over charcoal (no need to pluck or bone) they are served with a chilli-peanut sauce.  Very, very tasty.  And delightfully crunchy.**

In the above picture I’ve managed to capture a Long-tailed Tit.  Another one has smelt a rat and prepares to fly off (before he gets too fat),

leaving his disconsolate and frightened chubby friend behind.  He needn’t be frightened.  Long-tailed Tits (as everyone  knows)  have an unpleasant fishy flavour and do not make good eating.  He will be released from the fattening cage.  It is only Blue Tits that I’m after.  And of course Great Tits – if I can get them.

Great Tits obviously have more meat to them than Blue Tits (and a richer, more intense flavour) but they are a  cannier quarry.  Above, one is eyeing the trap with suspicion,

but sensing danger flies off.  Damn.

Later, however, unable to resist the free grub, he’s back.  Got him.  Happy days!

A regular visitor is this Great Spotted Woodpecker – though sadly he is too big to enter the fattening cage.  I shall need to build a bigger woodpecker fattening cage.  Wonder what they taste like?



and Robins are all regular visitors (and easily caught) but are of no culinary interest.  Shame.  Ooh, look.  I’ve caught another Blue Tit.
*  Patent pending
**  The Editorial Staff at would like to stress that we do not condone the trapping, fattening and eating of titmice (or indeed any British garden birds). Furthermore we suspect such practice may be illegal.

11 thoughts on “More Freeloaders

  1. You're very welcome. I do love long tailed tits. Their little busy chirrupings and the fact that if you see one, you just know there are at least another two or three somewhere else close at hand.

    Good luck with the feed – may you be inundated with goldfinches!


  2. Thank you David! Much much appreciated! I will get some. I did try the Nyger, but didn't have much luck. I have seen them in the garden, but as yet they refuse to come to enjoy our outdoor catering facilities. My best customers are the Chaffinches (now almost obese), nuthatches, robins and an array of blue/great/long tailed tits.


  3. Hi Petra

    I've been working in another garden today but am back at the Priory tomorrow. Can't remember off the top of my head what seed we use but will check and let you know.



  4. Hi Karin – yeah, pretty good camera and a new fairly powerful lens. Now though I would like an even more powerful one (whilst the woodpecker was close enough to get decent shots the nuthatch and goldfinches on a more distant feeder weren't as good). Squirrels were eating huge amounts of feed so whilst expensive these 'proof ones have paid for themselves.

    No Jason, no recipes. I don't really eat small little birds, you know. That wouldn't be nice. You should know by now that most of what I write is complete rubbish. Charles on the other hand is fattening up nicely ……

    Hi Simon, Charles has been well behaved. He pecks a little at day lilies and what have you but nothing I can't forgive him for. I can imagine 6 or 7 pheasants may be a little too many!? Birdlife at the Priory is amazing; my favourites so far (though no photo's) kingfishers, that blasted elusive tawny, buzzards and a regular visiting green sandpiper.



  5. I find the woodpeckers taste a bit like chicken, and go terribly well with some chorizo, peppers, garlic, and some onions, all roasted up with olive oil for a while. 🙂 Don't bother wasting your time with coal tits if they show up… i tried them the other week and they taste very bland!!
    Great post Dave!! You have a huge variety of birds visiting the Priory. I have about 6 or 7 pheasants that visit my feeders, and they are starting to make a right mess now… they are even scratching up my herb garden!! Pheasant chilli-satay coming up!!


  6. Lovely photos. Either you have a very good camera or you spend too long crouching by bird feeders waiting for a bird to get close.

    We have some of those squirrel-proof bird feeders. I got fed up with the squirrels eating so much bird food. The birds seemed to take a couple of weeks to get used to them and a few are still wary. Perhaps they have heard that some humans are partial to song-bird satay, or maybe they have had a narrow escape from your skewers!


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