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Living in a small second-floor flat with my two children, there is hardly room to swing a cat, let alone have pets... So when I stumbled upon RWBF's range of window feeders I had a lightbulb moment - why not feed the wild birds and create a bit of excitement for the kids at the same time?

From my rooftop location I regularly saw jackdaws and pigeons hanging around; neighbouring properties have house martin boxes, and I could hear flocks of smaller birds in the young trees in the car park over the road. Ideally I wanted to feed the small birds and exclude the bigger 'usual suspects', but I was aware that I couldn't really pick and choose, and that the small birds would be far more shy about flying across the road to my living room window. The road is not particularly busy but it does see a fair few bin lorries, being the back of the High Street, so I imagined that the noise and lack of shelter on my side would put them off somewhat. Nevertheless, my other windows are down a busy pedestrian alley where birds are less likely to go, and in rooms where we would be likely to miss the action, so the living room window it had to be! After divulging all this information to Sian at RWBF, she recommended the Droll Yankees 'Observer' window feeder - with a deep dish to hold a good amount of a variety of feed (seed, mealworms, suet, scraps) and a roof to keep the rain off and keep the larger birds out. 

Expectations were of course higher than reality. There I was expecting wild birds of all kinds to flock to the window as soon as I'd filled the feeder, but no such luck! So, stuck to the window the feeder sat, full of delicious RWBF Premium Finch Mix, day after day, week after week. I even scattered seed on the windowsill underneath to entice them over, and then I added dried mealworms too!  A couple of times, a pigeon ventured near - flapping around the feeder to get a good look, but not managing to land due to the feeder's roof. The kids got excited and came to tell me, but I'd missed it. Another time, the house martins were out in force, feeding on the wing, swooping past my window so closely, but not at all interested in the feeder! This was the most bird action I'd seen in a good few months, so I decided to remove the roof from the feeder and see what happened. I figured I might as well feed the pigeons if they were the only interested parties!

So the roof came off, the seed got damp in the rain, but within days the pigeon managed to get a few mouthfuls whilst balancing precariously and flapping a lot on the feeder - much to the delight of the kids! However, I guess all this action quickly alerted the jackdaws (who love to stalk up and down along the opposite rooftop), as, within a short space of time, the pigeon has disappeared and the jackdaws have taken over. It seems to be a pair of them in particular, working together and taking it in turns to grab a mouthful and take it back over to the opposite rooftop where they pick through it to find their favourite bits!

So now my problem is not having zero birds to the feeder, but having the 'wrong' type of birds! Of course any birds are better than none, for the kids' entertainment if nothing else, but now I'm worried that the small birds will never come as the jackdaws will scare them off, even if they did manage to cross the road eventually. So for the time being I will leave the roof off the feeder and allow the jackdaws to have their fill, whilst they get more brazen by the day and eat more and more feed! But as the weather turns colder, I will strongly consider putting the roof back on to allow smaller birds a chance. Or is it time to 'branch out' and get additional window feeders for the smaller birds, perhaps on my other windows after all? Watch this space!

 

This week I would love you to meet a close neighbour, and friend of mine, Jeannie Pakenham who paints beautiful watercolours, which are now available to buy as gorgeous prints and blank greetings cards on our website!

Jeannie in her garden studio

This is Jeannie in her garden studio in the summer months. At the time, she was working on a watercolour based on an old photograph of her gorgeous grand-daughter Rosie, splashing in puddles! - and this lovely painting she has titled  'Puddle Jumping'.

Jeannie has a lovely story to tell.....

For most of her life she had a secret desire to paint watercolours, but a busy life as a mum, and a job as a special needs teacher meant she just didn't have time. When her children were little, an old relative, who was a sign-writer by profession, used to paint watercolours and she used to enjoy watching him work and chat with him about his paintings. When he died, he left his watercolour paints and sable brushes ( which were the best you could use) to Jeannie. She put them away with a promise to herself that 'one day, after the children have grown up, I will use those!'

Then 5 years ago, after she had retired from teaching ( and the paints and brushes were still hidden in the drawer), she stumbled upon the Alresford Art Society's annual Art Exhibition, which is held in June every year. She plucked up the courage to ask a member of the society if she could have some painting lessons - and those cherished paints and sable brushes were put back into action!

Since then, she has attended a few painting workshops and is inspired by painters like Ann Blockley, and Jean Haines.

Julia Cassels, who is a wildlife artist and a very generous teacher, and lives locally in Alton is also one of Jeannie's inspirations.

But mostly she paints what she loves. Jeannie says " I am inspired by the countrside, which is where I live, and I try to have movement in my paintings if I can manage it! I like to paint animals and weeds - particularly dandelions!"

As her confidence grew, Jeannie entered her own paintings in the Alresford Art Society Exhibition, and she has been totally thrilled to win "The People's Choice Award" - not once, but twice! Her two winning watercolours are "Crazy Bird" (and I am sure you would agree - he is!!)