Fluttering in the flowers

The tall, dried sunflower plants are swaying. Nothing unusual about that, you may think. But the strange thing is that there is no wind, not a breath in this autumn air.
I am standing at the window, now looking more closely, and I can see wings weaving in and out of the flower heads. There are darting little birds – suddenly lit up in the evening sun.

The heavy wilting flower heads are bending as the birds grip on and begin to tap. The tapping increases and all the while their wings are beating to steady themselves in their endeavour.

They are blue tits and great tits trying to get at the sunflower seeds, which are dried and hardened in a circle at the top of the stems. These birds have been in the garden all year, nesting in the boxes on trees. The box on the apple tree is always popular.

We had bright sunflowers in the late summer which grew tall and branching with different coloured heads and several on one stem.  I remember choosing the packet, but I thought the picture was of big yellow heads. Whatever I remember, they were beautiful, all the same, and were a sight to see against the blue sky when other flowers had finished.

Now, I am enjoying them once again. The petals have shrivelled but the dark seeds have developed and here come the hungry birds. The blue tits are smaller (but don’t be deceived by their size) and have blue heads, the great tits have a black head.

It’s that time of year for bird tables to be out and loaded with food. But still, the real thing, on the stem, is more popular.
The great tit gets there first, bending its head and tapping for all it’s worth. The blue tit doesn’t go near yet. It sits in the apple tree and pecks holes in my red apples. It doesn’t take its eyes off the sunflower seeds, though.

At last, the great tit gets its reward and the seed is loose enough to be removed. Off it flies to the nearest branch, with the blue tit in hot pursuit. Often the blue tit is the victor and it grabs the seed from its opponent. Then holding the seed on the branch with its claw it can peck at the delicious centre.
The unwitting great tit goes back to work and I can see its wings fluttering up to the dried flower heads as it tries its luck again.


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