This is the time of year when garden birds begin to appreciate the food we put out for them. Wild food stocks are dwindling with the new season’s crop not due for some time. Seed eaters have been lucky that the unharvested flax has provided a good food source and my attention was drawn recently to a large flock of a about 200 birds, mainly Goldfinches, making good use of this. It was only last year that it was noted that Long Tailed Tits had started coming to nut feeders and several people have reported seeing them this year.
As the Redwing gather in chattering flocks preparing to return to northern climes, the first of the summer migrants has arrived. The repetitive call of the Chiff Chaff was heard on the 9th. Later this month the strident notes of the song of the Blackcap should be heard. Small numbers of both these birds have over wintered here in recent years with the outset of milder winters.
Given a frost free spell with some sunshine, early butterflies such as Brimstone and Small Tortoiseshell should appear. However the numbers of butterflies of almost all species have declined lately such that previously ‘common’ species seem almost rare.
It is unfortunate that, because of the current closure of all Footpaths and Bridleways, we are unable to access the countryside. However it is a small price to pay in order to help prevent the spread of this virulent disease which has such a dramatic and devastating effect on all it touches.
There has been much in the press recently about dwindling numbers of common birds such as House Sparrows and Starlings. One example quoted was Kensington Gardens where regular bird surveys have been carried out for many years. A survey in 1925 recorded 2,603 House Sparrows; this had dropped to 885 in 1948; in 1975 only 544 were present; the number had fallen dramatically to 46 in 1995 and last November only 8 were found. Clear evidence of a decline it might seem.
Yet first results from an RSPB Garden Bird Survey reported by the BBC last week indicated that the House Sparrow is still the commonest garden bird by a long chalk. They are certainly alive and well in Sedgwick Lane where upwards of 30 can be seen and heard on and around the bird table each morning waiting impatiently for their breakfast feed. They appear to be very adaptable birds and quickly learn to master any new type of seed or nut feeder even those designed especially to deter them.
On the other hand Starlings do seem fewer in number but this may just be that there has not been the usual influx of continental birds this winter. Time will tell.
It has been noticeable in the last week that the birds are starting to sing a bit at first light, a sure sign that Spring is just around the corner.
Later this month, providing there is no cold snap, the appearance of frogspawn will be another pointer in that direction.
Wildlife Slide Show 18th April Copsale Village Hall
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