John Bull flies in to drink from my frying pan

My old frying pan outside my kitchen window continues to give good service.

Not for bangers, but for birds.

An unusual recipe was served up last week.

First of all a cock bullfinch came down to have a drink in the fresh water which I change every day.

He is a John Bull of a bird, with a big beak and quite a mighty presence among the finches, tits, warblers and other smaller birds of my garden.

But as you can see by his 
body language, he was a bit alarmed by the sudden arrival 
of two redpolls.

They are much smaller and very much more nimble than he.

They are the Ariels of the woods, the spirits released from the trees if you think of Shakespeare’s Tempest.

They flit about in the birch and willow trees round about, get thirsty eating seeds and pollen and come down in dry weather for drinks every hour.

They have the merest reddish tinge to their heads, unlike his ceremonial dress uniform, but he cannot frighten them off.

Whereas the bullfinch breeds in the garden, the redpolls probably will not.

Not many do in Sussex, and places such as Ashdown Forest are their favourite habitats.

They like young forest plantations, also scattered hawthorn bushes and birch trees.

Sometimes they will nest high up, sometimes near the ground.

A nest was found once in a cabbage in Donegal.

Bullfinches nest high and 
low, too.

I have found their nests at the very end of yew branches, at my waist level, and I have seen 
them building 15 feet up in a hawthorn bush.

The pair in my garden is presently building at that height, way out of reach.

Meanwhile, swarms of other birds queue up for drinks whenever the sun shines.

The first, a blackcap warbler, migrating in from Africa or wherever, arrived at the end 
of March.

That was the male, with his black cap. The very next day, the female arrived, she with her brown cap.

Both had a bath in the frying pan after their long journey, she having the first and keeping him out of the way while he watched from a respectable distance.

Then he set to work at once to build her a nest.

It could be one of five des res from which she will choose one in which to lay her eggs.

By and by a song thrush splashed water in all directions and gave the chance for a chiffchaff warbler to have a shower at the same time.

A wood pigeon appeared like some old dowager out of a bathing machine and sank into the bath with her mauve feathered skirts hoisted up around her ankles and emptied out all the water over the brim.

And so it goes on, day after day, with about 30 species drinking and bathing just 
a few feet away from my occasionally-ready camera as 
I stand at the kitchen sink.