The tinkling fairy-bell calls of a flock or charm of goldfinches have become much more common in recent years. Numbers of this dazzling, gaudy bird have soared since people started putting out niger seeds on their bird tables, and they’re a year-round pleasure in my garden. I have been delighted that they’ve been joined by a number of greenfinches, whose fortunes have been in sharp contrast.

They have seen numbers drop by a third due to a parasite called trichomonosis, which eventually causes the bird to starve. Ironically, it’s the use of birdbaths and bird feeders in summer that leads to the disease being spread between the greenfinches. I’ve always maintained that birds shouldn’t be fed beyond the winter months so that they spread out and learn to fend for themselves.

Certainly, in our garden, there are plenty of wild patches of nettles and thistles where the birds can search out natural food. When wading into one enormous patch to retrieve a cricket ball, I discovered a greengage tree laden with fruit that I didn’t know existed. This is the latest bonus in moving into a new house last October and then discovering, as the months unfold, what treasures are growing in the garden.

* Subscribe to Country Life and save 40%