Borough Bird Life – Nature Natters 5
Even in the depths of our wintertime our resident birdlife is busy protecting its own little piece of land. Our lovable robin will sing its delightful song throughout this time and we may be forgiven for indulging ourselves to think he is singing those honey sweet harmonies just for us, but what to us is a sweet melody, to other robins is a warning to keep away as they will fight fiercely, even to the death to preserve their food source for themselves and any future mate and young family.
You may have seen a local thrush indignantly, striving to preserve its berry crop from marauding winter visitors such as Redwings and Waxwings intent on plundering his winter larder. Mixed flocks of small birds move busily through our tree lines scouring the canopies for the smallest of live morsels or tiny pine cone seeds. In this day and age many people help our wild birds by supplying seed and insect impregnated suet feeders etc, important at all times of the year but especially so throughout the colder months. Our benevolence will save an infinite number of lives but do please remember to keep your feeding stations clean and free from harmful bacteria.
In the latter part of March, through April and into May, while our winter visitors are departing our shores, driven by instinct towards summer breeding grounds, we are blessed with the return of our own migrant birds to their place of birth here in the British Isles. Many of these birds will have flown thousands of miles from sub Saharan Africa very likely to the same bush or singing post it sang from last spring. How many of us, even those who know little about our birdlife will still comment with pleasure on seeing their first Swallow arriving for the summer.
Other migrant birds are passing through our lands in this vast movement, perhaps Fieldfares to northern Europe, Redwings to Iceland or Wheatears to Greenland. This is a great time of the year to keep a look out for special birds.
The harsh months are now behind us. Summer is here and we have already observed the solstice, our feathered friends have sung their enchanting songs and attracted a mate although some species pair up for life. Now they have built their nests, many that are literally works of art like the Long-tailed Tits’ domed creation which takes several weeks to complete, made with the softest materials of mosses, interwoven with fine spiders’ webs and camouflaged with lichen, then lined inside with up to 2000 feathers; so designed as to expand as the family grows inside – a masterpiece, surely the favourite for a Turner Prize.
In these modern times there is concern for our environment. Over the last half century records show much of our wildlife including birdlife has been in steady decline, due to a number of factors; however most concern is for the dramatic losses of our farmland birdlife: Skylark numbers down more than 60%, Corn Buntings, Tree Sparrows, Grey Partridges down by around 90% others such as Yellowhammers have suffered greatly due to changes in land management, farming intensification, increased pesticide, herbicide and fertiliser use, the removal of hedgerows and other non cropped features resulting in a massive loss of suitable feeding and nesting habitats causing a reduction of available food.
Equally since farmers are now growing two crops a year there are few or no fields being left in winter stubble which would help prevent mass starvations. Some of our farmers have realised the gravity of the situation and are working very hard with programmes to help remedy the situation by creating rough field margins where weed and insect life can thrive and sometimes planting winter seed crops for wild birds but we need more farmers to become proactive if we are to halt these declines. Countryside Stewardship schemes are still available from the government.
During our summertime there are countless thousands of fledgling birds which have left the nest but may not yet be able to fly and may be hiding in shrubbery in your garden or a local park etc waiting to be fed by parents. Sometimes people mistakenly believe these birds have been abandoned or injured. If you come across young chicks in your garden which are not yet able to fly, unless they are in immediate danger they should be left alone. You can observe them from inside your property. The parents are usually close by and will return to feed young once you are out of sight. If a bird is obviously injured, ring your local wildlife hospital or RSPCA for advice. Domestic cats kill millions of young birds every year. If you own one try to keep your pet indoors or away from this area for a few days until young birds are able to fly. Cat collars are available with bell attached to help warn birds of an attack.
If you would like to get more involved or just keep up with local wildlife events then go to our new website at: www.wncf.co.uk
Warrington Nature Conservation Forum.
Les Jones 28/6/2017