The Long Tailed Tits visit us at around eleven o’clock in the morning. Not every morning, but if they are going to turn up at all, it will be about eleven. It’s the fat balls they come for. Sometimes a couple will settle on the peanut vendor but the seed feeder is not at all tempting. There’s usually eight or ten of them and they grace our garden and bird table for twenty or thirty seconds – and then they’re gone. So, if you want to take a photograph you have to have the good fortune to be able to put your hand on the camera at a moments notice.
They are very social birds, in the terms of the original meaning of the word and although they do Twitter I don’t think you’ll find them on Facebook. No. Social for them means that if a male failed to find a mate that year, he will help to find food for the chicks of a male relative. There are even cases where a couple had their nest raided and, instead of starting again, they both went off, back to their families, to help bring up their brothers and sister’s kids and waited until next year to produce their own brood.
They’ve been flitting around for some time – fossilised long tailed tits have turned up in the debris of the last glacial period, that’s going back about ten thousand years in this part of the world. Isn’t it strange to think that there were no humans around to put out fat balls for them in those days, unless of course, we were there – but we were so environmentally friendly, all those years ago, that we left no litter behind.