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“Look at the birds of the air"

Posted on 30th May, 2018

 ... they do not sow or reap ... and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.” Matthew 6:25.


And for the next couple of months He will also do His best to ensure the newly-fledged birds you find on the ground are fed – apart from those a sparrowhawk may take to feed its own young!


It’s that time of year again when small birds are often found, apparently abandoned by their parents, and people have a natural urge to rescue them. But there is no need, as their parents will almost certainly find them when they arrive with food. The youngsters may not stay where they were left, but they don’t travel far and their contact calls are quickly located by their returning parent.


It is not usually hunger that kills baby birds but cars and, especially, cats, so only pick them up and move them to a safe place (preferably in a bush or tree) if they are in danger of either of these. If a fledgling is genuinely abandoned and starving – and this could be because its parents have been killed, it is sickly, or the parents simply can’t find enough food for such a large brood, a natural predator will take it – part of the natural order of things.


Five of the three nestboxes in East Farleigh churchyard have blue tits in them. It hasn’t been possible to count the eggs and chicks in all of them yet because the female in one has been sitting tight when I’ve inspected the boxes to check progress, but in the next two weeks the first youngsters will emerge and park themselves around the trees and gravestones. If they stay in the churchyard it won’t be cars they have to worry about: it could be the local moggie. If you have a cat, keeping it indoors early in the morning could save quite a few baby birds as they generally leave the nest at this time.


But our heavenly Father feeds natural predators too, and most of these produce their young to coincide with peak food availability, ie when there are plenty of young of other species about. Even the blue tits in their nestboxes are vulnerable, as these photos taken by my colleague Jac Turner-Moss (who is Assistant Warden at Dungeness Bird Observatory) illustrate only too well:



Jac had been monitoring the nest and knew that thirteen healthy chicks were growing steadily. But while he stood watching, this stoat took seven of them to feed its own young. Which prompts the question ‘If our heavenly Father is providing for the stoat in the same way he provides for the birds, are humans right to label stoats as vermin? Or crows and magpies?’ Answers on a postcard please (or use the comment box below).


Elsewhere, turtle doves have returned from Central Africa to breed in the area.



This beautiful dove (or pigeon – the names are interchangeable, depending on whether or not we humans like them) has declined by 91% since 1995. The stretch of Kent from Marden to Ashford has been declared a Turtle Dove Friendly Zone where farmers are being encouraged to leave weedy patches, or even provide additional seeds for them, in May and June. This will help them raise the maximum six young they are capable of producing to keep their numbers up. They only produce a clutch of two eggs, so they need three successful broods before they return to Africa. If you see one of these gentle doves or hear one purring, please let me know.

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