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Seasonal changes for The Farleighs’ birds

Posted on 1st September, 2018

The warm moist weather we have been experiencing (enjoying?) since the heat wave finished can bring mixed blessings for our garden birds. Ground feeders like blackbirds and thrushes benefit from soft soil from which to extract worms. The soil is easier to probe and much sought-after insects aren’t buried too deep to avoid drying up in the heat.

 

 

Wild fruits such as blackberries and elderberries are swollen and ripe, and are an excellent, sugar-rich food to help migrant birds like blackcaps lay down layers of fat ready for a long migratory flight to the Mediterranean or Africa. And, even if they are staying here, if you look carefully at young starlings the brown faces of many are stained purple with juice, such is the fruits’ attraction. Hence, the multi-purpled-spotted car bonnets to be seen at this time of the year too - bad news for owners of white cars!

 

 

With its orchards and marshy coastline, Kent in general is a good stop-off place for birds from as far north as Greenland and the Arctic tundra on their southbound migration, so almost any species could turn up along the Medway valley.

 

Across the northern hemisphere the numbers of birds will be at their peak, as many of the summer visitors and their young are still here to add to the myriad offspring of our resident species. A very rough estimate of Britain’s blue tit numbers, for example, based on various long-term breeding and nesting surveys conducted by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) suggests they peak at this time of year at an astounding 20 million birds. But half the adults and nearly two-thirds of the juveniles will not survive the winter to breed next year due, mainly, to starvation and disease. So now really is the time that you have the greatest chance of seeing unfamiliar birds!

 

Sadly it’s not necessarily all good news for garden birds; the warm, damp conditions are ideal for the spread of disease. So make sure feeding areas and containers are kept clear of old, rotting food and bird droppings. If possible, move the feeders around the garden to prevent parasites and bacteria building up in the soil beneath them. If you suspect you have a sick bird – it might appear lethargic and not fly away as you approach, or it may be fluffed up and have food stuck around its bill – stop feeding completely for a couple of weeks so the birds disperse. At this time of year there is plenty of natural food around so they won’t miss the free handout you are providing – even though you may miss the pleasure of seeing them in your garden.

 

It’s worth bearing in mind that while you may be picking blackberries in the hedgerows, or just taking a leisurely stroll to the local pub for Sunday lunch, some of these millions of birds may be overhead and easily visible. It could be a flock of swallows and house martins en route to South Africa, possibly followed by a hobby – a beautiful falcon that specialises in catching dragonflies, swallows and even swifts on the wing.

 

It’s worth bearing in mind that while you may be picking blackberries in the hedgerows, or just taking a leisurely stroll to the local pub for Sunday lunch, some of these millions of birds may be overhead and easily visible. It could be a flock of swallows and house martins en route to South Africa, possibly followed by a hobby – a beautiful falcon that specialises in catching dragonflies, swallows and even swifts on the wing.

 

 

And on a riverside stroll you might just see a common sandpiper skulking along the water’s edge topping up its reserves from the Medway mud before continuing its Arctic-to-Africa migration.

 

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Comments (2)

Hi Tel
It’s frustrating when that happens - especially for the bird of prey, probably a sparrowhawk who has now lost her meal. It’s likely too that the pigeon will have been badly hurt and is now possibly going to suffer a slow death. So trying to rescue it wasn’t necessarily the best thing to do. Ironically, there are plenty of people who complain about pigeons and would be only too happy for the local sparrowhawk to remove them!
Frustrated with my neighbour, just had a bird of prey take down a pigeon in our car park, was just about to go outside to try and get a better picture, when she zoomed in and scared it off ☹️