This is what volunteering gets you into …

Wanting to be useful and at the same time take some exercise and see birds we signed up to join the rota that keeps the bird feeders at the MBO (that’s the bird banding station nearby us) topped up during the cold and snow season – today was our first shift. The thing we did right was to take snow-shoes with us.

Mid-morning found us in the lane outside the entrance, which we knew was going to be locked. We have been there innumerable times over the years and always gone through or over the gate so we looked for ways around as climbing a gate in snow-shoes is not really very practical. I saw a way past a strand of wire fencing to the left of the gate and headed off to check it out. This necessitated scrambling over a snow bank beside the road – going up was OK, going across the top was fine, coming down the far side tipped me on my back like a stranded turtle to the amusement of J who struggled to contain a giggle (or three).

OK - what's the best way in?

OK – what’s the best way in?

Upright again and brushed off getting past the fence was a doddle – only to find mother nature’s matted hedging made further progress impossible.

At this point, if you are at all acquainted with the place and have been there in deep snow before you are rolling your eyes and wondering who are these people. Good question. Anyway, back to the gate and, yes … that’s the way in. Bit of a squeeze but it works fine and away we go up the trail to the feeder site.

Bit of a squeeze

Bit of a squeeze

Half way along the trail we meet the marks of a several days old snow-shoe entry coming through a wide open space in the hedge to the right from the adjacent field and the light’s go on. So that’s how it’s done! Sure enough the secret was to go to the right of the gate and along the adjacent field where there are no impediments. Funny – as I wrote earlier, been there so many times and never realised that the hedge was passable on foot, always seen it as a reasonable barrier between us and them. But we are Brits by birth, our ancestors built an empire and ruled the uncivilised parts of the world by bushwhacking and adventuring. They even found the south pole …. or was it the north? Never very clear on that but you get the idea.

Into the trackless wastes

Into the trackless wastes

Finally, we arrived at the feeders to find them surrounded by noisy Chickadees complaining that we were keeping them from their food by our presence. Sorry chaps. So, line of bins full of food, work along the line, fill the many feeders, continue to get scolded by the birds, dust off the snow and stand back secure in the knowledge of a job well done. That was the easy bit.

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Simon had told us about a couple of chairs set aside for us to sit on and enjoy the birds coming to eat … yes, well, another time perhaps. Clearly nobody else on the feeding rota has used them either.

Somewhere to rest and watch the birds ...

Somewhere to rest and watch the birds …

On the way out, we went the easy way thought the adjacent field – much faster.

Many signs of deer having been through the site and along the trails, lots of squirrels of course and one set of tracks that were probably a fox.

The birds? Just the usual crew. A Pileated Woodpecker, four Downy Woodpeckers, some 30 or so Black-capped Chickadees, 15, dark-eyed Juncoes, 20 Euro-Starlings, 6 (very noisy) Blue Jays and 8 Mourning Doves.

Downy Woodpecker ignoring us

Downy Woodpecker ignoring us

Our first customer

Our first customer

The deer have been here before us ... wonder if they make good eating?

The deer have been here before us … wonder if they make good eating?

We are back on duty around mid January – meanwhile here are the members of the Sparroworks Expeditionary Force looking cheerful and glad to be out and about, to say nothing of “useful”.

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