Come on birds! Swoop down and enjoy this feast I’ve prepared for you, you ingrates!

Are there more birds around the garden when it’s snowing, or do you just see them more clearly against a white background? Whatever the reason, I’m more aware of them at the moment. And full of pity as they sit in the tree, feathers fluffed up against the cold. I’ve never been particularly interested, except in the occasional bird of prey: a hawk hovering over the A27 or a buzzard high up. No twitcher, I. Still, I find myself rubbing up a load of breadcrumbs from the loaf I’m about to eat (such compassion!), and even mixing in some mashed-up peanuts, and pulling the fat off slices of prosciutto (lucky birds!), some seeds, rice… That is right, isn’t it? I’m not going to make their little stomachs swell up and burst, am I?

Anyway, I carry a blue plastic tray full of this birdfeast out into the thick snow, still falling heavily, in bare feet so I don’t slide on the treacherous decking (and also to feel the effect of bare feet in snow in a Finnish sauna sort of way) and slide it up onto the wobbly wooden arbour. Then retire to watch them all swoop! I imagine myself as a St Francis of Assissi figure, arms outstretchrd with birds sitting on every horizontal surface of me…  Except that they don’t swoop. I sit in a warm living room, reasonably still, waiting…. After 15 minutes, and many birds flying past, none have landed. Perhaps blue plastic is the most unnatural element that a bird can think of (I’m not sure if birds really think). Perhaps a camouflage-finish tray would be better.

After a while the blue has all but disappeared under snow, and birds are feeling more comfortable with the lumps sticking through the white, and they queue up to get at the food. Well, I say queue, but the thrush or starling or blackbird stands in the middle pecking away, while the sparrows, chaffinches, blue-tits and robins hop around nervously waiting for the big thing to finish, before making off fast with a crumb.

You see, in the meantime, I’ve found the RSPB bird recognition web-site… Great, the internet, isn’t it?