This past week has been a bit quieter for myself. Last weekend meant I got to get involved with the Big Garden Birdwatch, counting a total of 43 birds in my garden in the space of an hour. It’s interesting how simply watching what goes on in your garden for an hour can give you a little insight into the different stories that unfold there each day. As I watched I noticed that there were seven different blackbirds (5 males and 2 females) all jostling for food in my neighbours garden, hopping back and forth through my garden. I'd never seen blackbirds be so gregarious in my garden before, and I read that territories are usually well established at this time of year as they start trying to attract their potential mate for the breeding season. So why was their behaviour so relaxed? They barely got worked up when competing over the scraps of food on offer.
Blackbirds are one of my favourite UK birds, with one of the best songs to be heard. This male foraging in the summer time showed a much more territorial attitude to other males in the area than I saw in my garden this winter.
Maybe it was simply that food was plentiful enough to reduce the need for any heated competition between them, though the presence of females would have surely caused a few feathers to fly. Some reading up on their behaviours suggests it could just be that their territories overlap at this point, which happens to be a feeding ground that can provide enough for all. I'm sure they will become more competitive as the breeding season progresses, but it did get me thinking if this is commonly seen behaviour?Starlings were present in decent numbers as were the goldfinches, but the one species that did surprise me were the House Sparrows. Throughout the whole hour, I only counted a single male, worrying as I know there is typically a large social group of them that make their home right around my back garden. Whether the rest of the group were elsewhere, or simply hidden away in the bushes I wasn't sure, but I didn't see any others come or go in that whole hour which is very odd considering there was plenty of food freshly put out for them to eat. House sparrows themselves are a sedentary species in the UK, and don’t migrate as the seasons come and go, occasionally moving when food becomes scarce.
This close up head shot of a male house sparrow was taken during some routine data collection on a bird ringing exercise in Portugal.
In a garden environment such as this though, where food is plentiful, their absence is concerning. It just goes to show how there decline in numbers over the last 30 years has impacted upon local populations that one would assume to be fairly safe from decline. I never really thought that I would be excited to see a house sparrow the same way I am a tree sparrow, but if they are becoming a rare sight even in my own back yard, then it may well end up being that way unfortunately. As this post goes out, I'm preparing myself for a trip to Somerset with a small group of keen conservationists from the group “A Focus On Nature”. The trip promises to be a great experience, as long as the weather doesn't make things too difficult. There will be more about the trip in next weeks blog, so stay tuned.
For now, I’ll leave you with an image I worked on this week. A lace webbed spider that I found in my bed!
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