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And all because the lady loves ....

Posted on 1st May, 2019

... a juicy worm. (With apologies to the Cadbury’s Milk Tray Man)


This month, as female birds lay and incubate their clutch of anything up to fourteen eggs (a blue tit, for example) the males help by providing additional food to ensure their mates have sufficient nutrition for the task. If you see a robin carry food away from the birdtable this could be to feed his mate or to feed their young - young robins have already been seen locally and at least one pair in my garden already has chicks to feed. Male blue tits have to provide the female with miniscule snails to provide the calcium for eggshell production. It is estimated that the female uses the equivalent of up to fifty per cent of the calcium in her skeleton to produce her eggs, hence the need for the male’s help with extra, high calcium food.‚Äč This is sometimes referred to as 'courtship feeding' as it also helps to strengthen the pair bond.


As I write, one of the nestboxes erected behind ‘the triangle’ at Teston Lane has a pair of blue tits currently incubating eleven eggs. Being in woodland they have easy access to the kind of snails needed by the female as these are found in leaf litter on the woodland floor. Although this is only a small area of woodland, jammed between a cricket field and a busy road, it demonstrates the importance of these ‘wild’ or ‘natural’ areas for wildlife. Untidy parts of gardens and farmland are the most productive in terms of providing homes for the plants and insects that larger animals like birds depend on.


The picture on the left shows the 'triangle' blue tit's nest constructed and lined with grass and feathers on 8th April. The one on the right shows it with eight eggs on 17th April. The eggs were cold because the female lays one egg per day and only starts incubating when the clutch is complete. On 26th April there were eleven warm eggs - so she had started incubating on 20th.




Once the young are hatched, most species need feeding on insects for the first few days. House sparrows, for example, must be fed insects for their first ten or eleven days of life if they are to fledge successfully; seeds are only fed to them in their last few days in the nest. These are often nettle seeds – another good reason to leave a patch of nettles in the corner of the garden, or on the verge outside your house. It’s a simple rule, without flowering wild plants (or weeds as some people insist on calling them) allowed to grow and set seed, there will be no insects or seeds. No insects (including the ‘nice’ ones like butterflies and moths) and no seeds simply mean no birds. The choice is ours.


Sadly, whatever garden centres will have you believe, no amount of bird tables with peanuts and fatballs can compensate for the weed-free lawn, extensive paved patio and decked barbeque area they want you to buy. As the criteria for judging West Farleigh in Bloom have a section on biodiversity, if every village garden had an intentionally provided ‘wild’ area we would pick up points.


So why not leave a wild area in your garden for the wild plants and animals we all ultimately depend on. After all, points means prizes!!


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