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JULY: New village residents

Posted on 28th June, 2017

Mid-summer sees an increase in the village bird population. Not migrants, but this year’s newly-fledged young birds. Our two East Farleigh churchyard nestboxes occupied by blue tits contributed thirteen new birds to the population; they all have rings on so you may see them around the church or in a nearby garden. Blue tits rarely travel far from where they were hatched, but there are exceptions. I ringed one as a juvenile on a farm in Marden in 2015, saw it there again in 2016, and was amazed to re-trap it in my garden in East Farleigh a few weeks ago.

 

If moving from Marden to Farleigh is unusual, a blue tit from Lithuania caught at Sandwich, Kent, last year is even more so! The map shows just how far this bird had travelled since It was ringed as an adult on 15 Sept 2015 (nearly 1,400 km in about 6 months). The bird was noticeably brighter blue than local birds; its wing was a big 70 mm and it weighed 11 grams (average for British blue tits is 63mm wing and 10 grams).

 

 

So keep an eye on your new garden birds – the majority will be from a local nest, but you could also have one with fledgling wanderlust!

 

 

Most newly-fledged birds are easily identified – they are likely to be softer-looking, spottier versions of their parents, often with the remains of their yellow gape still visible at the base of their bill.

 

 

Owls are no exception, but you rarely see them of course,       apart from the Little Owl, which hunts during the day as well as at night.

 

They feed on worms and beetles, and you could well find a young one parked on the ground or on a fence post by its parents. If you do it is almost certainly not abandoned – so don't touch it unless it is in imminent danger from cats or dogs, its parents will be back to feed it!

 

 

Can you identify these garden youngsters? (Answers below)

 

 

 

 

 

You may be lucky enough to enjoy the sight of young swallows and house martins lining up on overhead wires. If you are, there won't be any swifts among them – swifts never perch, and when the young leave the nest they remain airborne 24/7 for at least their first year of life, in some cases two or three years.

 

Sadly, the populations of these three birds are severely declining, especially in southern England. It's likely that lack of insects is a major cause, but in the case of the house martin it could be difficulty in finding enough mud for nests. It seems too that many people object to the mess they cause on houses; house martin nests are often destroyed by overly house-proud humans, or holes are blocked to stop swallows entering outbuildings.

 

As all birds now have legal protection, destroying a house martin nest in the breeding season is illegal and attracts a £2000 summary fine! What the law can't resolve, though, is young swallows becoming trapped in their nests by horsehair – I know of several cases recently in local stables; a natural hazard to add to the many human ones.

 

So enjoy the new birds while you can. They grow up all too quickly!

 

Were you right? 

Answers: 1. Goldfinch  2. Robin  3. Blackbird  4. House Sparrow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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