Columnist Peter Barron explains why his wife has been getting all excited lately...


MY wife could hardly have been more excited if George Clooney had turned up in the garden, winked, and beckoned her into the foliage.

“Quick, look,” she whispered, hardly able to contain herself, before adding in a slightly raised voice: “Don’t move!”

Given that my back was to the window, and she wanted me to look out of it, this was a wholly unreasonable instruction. If I hadn’t moved, I couldn’t look. If I’d stayed still, I wouldn’t have known what she was talking about (although that’s not unusual).

Apparently, the Indian Cobra has eyes in the back of its head, to save it from being attacked from behind by predators, but I’m not so blessed.

“Aw, you scared it off,” she groaned, when I turned my head and possibly my shoulders in what constituted an instinctive half-swivel.

It turned out that the subject of her animated state was none other than a goldfinch which had popped down to nibble on the niger seeds in one of the bird-feeders she’d hung in the holly tree in our back garden.

Darlington and Stockton Times:

Within half an hour or so, he was back and this time I was facing the right way so I could see him in all his glory – crimson mask across his eyes, flash of yellow on his wings.

“Oh, he’s absolutely gorgeous,” my wife gushed, again as if Gorgeous George had appeared in the shrubbery.

Darlington and Stockton Times:

In all seriousness, it really is amazing how much pleasure a little bird can generate when it visits your garden.

We’d had lost of feathered visitors – tits, wrens, robins, blackbirds, thrushes, and even a greater spotted woodpecker – but the goldfinch had remained elusive.

Then a friend told my wife to try moving the niger seeds away from the other feeders and into a spot of their own. Apparently, goldfinches don’t like company when they’re feeding and the move did the trick.

No sooner had the niger seeds been hung in the holly tree, than the handsome goldfinch had arrived.

And it gets better – because he’s now brought a mate with him. They sit on a high branch of a nearby fir tree to make sure the coast is clear, and then pop down for a feed. We've put two feeders up so they can have their own space. I've even given my wife an old pair of binoculars I had in an upstairs drawer so she can get a close-up view.

To be fair, I'm getting quite excited too. The female's just as gorgeous - I think I'll call her Kylie.



  • Invest in a feeder but don’t worry if nothing happens straight away. Give birds time to get used to what’s on offer.
  • Place the feeders close enough to trees or bushes to give birds an escape route if required – but not so close that predators can hide.
  • Find out what food different birds like to eat to make sure you attract a nice variety.
  • Keep feeders, baths and tables clean to avoid birds catching diseases from each other.
  • Provide water as well as food. Drinks are important but so is bathing because birds need to keep their feathers in good condition. A simple birdbath or pond is a welcome addition to the garden.
  • Make your garden a place to raise young. Some species make do with trees and thick shrubs but others will be attracted by a cosy nestbox out of reach of predators.
  • Think about bird-friendly plants. Fruit or berries can attract thrushes, or even waxwings, like the one below. Insect-friendly plants attract birds too.

Darlington and Stockton Times:

  • Finally, avoid using pesticides to protect wildlife and turn your garden into a mini nature reserve.