Saturday, 18 July 2009

Bird Watch - June/July



June and early July haven’t been especially exciting months in the garden but it has been very busy. The Starlings have still got lots of juveniles with them that continue to demand assistance with feeding and in the last couple of weeks a couple of baby Goldfinch have started to visit the seed feeder with their parents. There are lots of young sparrows as well and the Blackbirds must be raising a second nestful of chicks because they are backwards and forwards all day long.

There are some new visitors to the garden this year because behind the house in an old orchard there are a couple of pairs of breeding Jays. They have been there for a while but although the adult birds rarely come near there is a juvenile bird that pays a visit most days. This is exciting because although they are the most colourful members of the crow family, Jays are actually quite difficult to see because they are shy woodland birds, rarely moving far from cover. It is a handsome buff coloured bird with blue wing tips, a white rump and a white face streaked with black and although it is a bit aggressive towards the other birds, especially the collared doves, it is a welcome addition to the garden visitors.

There are a lot of Blackbirds in the garden at the moment and they seem to a lot more sociable with each other now. There are about four or five male birds and there aren’t nearly as many squabbles as there were this time last year. One Blackbird is especially friendly and will sit at the door and look through the glass in anticipation of a handful of raisons and when the door is open he will even pop inside to see if any have been spilled on the floor. He will quickly eat three or four himself and then he carefully assembles a food parcel in his bright orange beak to take back to the nest. I watched him this morning and by arranging and rearranging he managed to collect and secure eight raisons before flying off to feed the young.

An interesting fact about the Blackbird is that it is the national bird of Sweden and although many World countries have national birds this is the only one, apart from the English Robin, that I can find that has chosen a bird that I have found in my garden. Many countries, especially in the tropics, prefer for their national bird colourful specimens like parrots, the French have the Cockeral and the USA the Bald Eagle and others like to choose something spectacular and powerful. The most common national bird is the Golden Eagle which is claimed by both Austria and Germany, Kazakhstan, Mexico and Scotland.


When I said it is not exciting at the moment I forgot that the female Sparrowhawk has been popping by now and again looking for a meal. Each adult Sparrowhawk will kill and consume a couple of small birds a day for themselves and when they are breeding at about this time of the year a pair needs to catch another ten or so just to feed the chicks. According to the RSPB there are forty thousand breeding pairs in the United Kingdom so by my calculation that is twenty thousand nests with an average of three chicks each so to feed themselves and their chicks this means three hundred thousand murders a day and that means nine million in the thirty days of June which, according to Katie Melua, is the same as the number of bicycles in Beijing.

With all the extra mouths to feed at the moment buying food from the garden centre or the supermarket can start to get a bit expensive so I have carried on preparing my own fat balls but this has started to present a bit of a challenge because in the warm weather they do tend to melt quickly and make a mess. What I do now is pop them in the freezer overnight then put them out first thing in the morning in a shady spot without direct sunlight. So far this has been successful and anyway, once the Starlings find them they don’t last very long at all and the one that I put out this morning at eight o’clock was gone by ten-thirty.

2 comments:

John said...

Andrew,
Dont you find bird watching to be very relaxing.I do. I have been working in my back yard,Planting shrubs and a lemon tree.Making a nice sitting area.So I can enjoy sitting out back in the evenings.When the cool weather permits it here in California. So were is your next adventure taking you?

Andrew Petcher said...

Hi John, next trip is France with my daughter and grand daughter and then back to Greece island hopping. Your quiet spot in the garden sounds great!