A cold but sunny Friday generated quite a bit of bird activity on our feeders. Furthermore, there was enough light for me to have a try using TheBeast++ (my 1.4X extender on my 100-400 lens). I’d have to confess, it’s an awkward combination to use because at 400mm, you’re stuck with F8 – not only is bags of light required but you have to focus manually. I think the issue is that there’s not enough aperture for the autofocus to function correctly.
Whilst I was trying to focus, clicking away and watching, I noticed a very strange looking … well, Great Tit, I think. It didn’t look like any other Great Tit I’d ever seen. At least, it didn’t look like a healthy one. It appeared to have serious problems with its neck. Frankly, it looked bloodstained – almost as though its throat had been cut. Despite having some nasty window glare because of my shooting angle, I snapped the poor little fellow to have a closer look at what ailed it later on the computer. Closer inspection reveals a substantial growth like a cyst just below its lower beak. Its chest is quite clearly messy but it may be feathers in poor condition rather than blood stains. It is certainly not a happy Great Tit. Rather, it is a Not-So-Great Tit.
It seems that there is a viral infection called Avian Pox to which Great Tits are particularly susceptible. We’re wondering if that is what is affecting our poor chap. It is recommended that bird feeders be regularly disinfected to prevent the spread of this disease. Naturally, disinfecting bird feeders, even with teh recommended simple solution of hot soapy water, is a bit of a pain. However, if not doing it causes this, then do it we must. Yesterday, after the sun set and the birds stopped feeding, Carol removed and cleaned our feeders. We left them drying overnight.
This morning, we surfaced in a casual manner, as befits the retired, and began brewing the first essential dose of caffeine at about 8:00. Our bird feeder poles sat out on the patio naked – unadorned either by plastic containers of sunflower seeds or wire containers of peanuts. Since the feeders were absent, so were the perches. We were surprised to see one of our resident Great Spotted Woodpeckers zoom down to the pole normally offering a supply of peanuts. Somehow it managed deftly to land atop our now perchless pole, glanced left, glanced right then leaned forward and scrutinized the top of the pole sans feeder. I’m now convinced that Great Spotted Woodpeckers are capable of thought. I could see this one quite clearly thinking, “where have the ****ing peanuts gone?” Naturally, my camera wasn’t around to capture the moment so I’m afraid my description will have to suffice. As consolation, though, here’s a picture I did nab of the critter successfully raiding the sunflower feeder before we nicked it for a darn good cleaning.
It was so heart-wrenching watching a clearly disappointed GSW that Carol bravely went out dressed only in pyjamas and short dressing gown to replace the feeders. Bravo!