April, 2011


We're about more than just birds (though obviously we like them a lot).

Wildlife Enquiries

'Good morning, Wildlife Enquiries...' We take hundreds of calls and e-mails every day. Find out what everyone's asking this week
  • April...or is it August?

    The last couple of weeks have been quite sensational for April with warm and sunny conditions for most people in the UK. In this mini heat wave many birds will be finding it difficult to find worms and other soil dwelling prey. It is a good idea to offer a range of food at the moment that includes some seed, some live food like mealworms and maybe some addtional treats like grated cheese or soaked sultanas. Make sure you keep the bird bath topped up as well! Returning Hirundines (swallows and House martins) may also find it dificult to find suitable wet mud to build their nests with. If you are lucky enough to have these birds nesting nearby, we recommend keeping an area of soil damp for them.

    We have been speaking to lots of people who have been watching birds building nests, some in unsual places like wall mounted ashtrays (at our Fairburn Ings nature reserve!), signpost poles and even in vehicles that have not been used for a while. If you have found any unusual nesting sites we would love to hear about them! Now is a great time to put out fur from any pets you have so that birds have some extra soft material to line their nests with. Many will be incubating eggs already so be very careful not to disturb any nesting birds. However, we have had many people report fully fledged and independent juveniles including robins and blackbirds out and about already indicating a very early start to nesting this year, perhaps brought on by the mild start to spring.

    Finally, more great news for osprey fans, the pair that have been checking out the man made nest on the Dyfi estuary have finally settled down and are currently incubating their first egg, fingers crossed for a successful nesting attempt.

  • Migrating red kites and birds that do the funniest things

    Quacking up
    Plenty of 'cute fluffy' ducklings around this week getting themselves into the usual fun and games. Mallards are known for their unusual nesting habits, 1st floor balconies, hanging baskets to name but a few, but we had a report this week of a Mallard nesting 15 foot up a tree - needless to say there was concern about the ducklings survival - parachutes at the ready. Ducklings are amazingly robust and most can survive such a drop, especially if it is into water.

    Eagle eyes
    Lots of bird of prey sightings this week, some of which have been migrating Red kites (see Birdtrack link for more details) as well as Peregrines and Sparrowhawks. Keep those reports coming in folks!

    From time to time, and especially if they have lost their own brood, some birds will take to feeding the young of other species. This co-operative behaviour is most commonly seen in Blackbirds and Robins. This week Val took the first report of this behaviour this year, with a Blackbird, who had lost her brood, feeding a young Robin. Do let us know if you have seen this behaviour happening in your garden.

    Safe & sound
    The breeding season is now well under way, with some birds of our garden favourites even feeding young. A query we have been regularly asked this week, has been about about tits pecking at both the external and internal part of nest boxes. Tits seen hammering away at the entrance hole of a nestbox is probably a form of display by the male, rather than an attempt to enlarge the hole. Female will also peck vigorously at nest boxes and this may help her to judge how soft the wood is and whether the hole will provide a safe, predator-proof home in which to raise her brood. Blue and great tits will also hammer at the inside of a box or nest hole, perhaps as a form of display.


  • The results are in...


    The Birdwatch results were released this week.... Wow! Over 600,000 of you took part in this year's Big Garden Birdwatch. Thank you. Not only does that make 2011 a record-breaking year for the number of people watching their garden birds, but your counts also revealed some exciting news about our smaller birds.

    Nesting ducks
    Mallards are starting to nest now and as usual, some of them are picking awkward sites on balconies or in enclosed courtyards. As the last egg is laid, the female starts to incubate. She sits very tightly, and her brown plumage blends her perfectly to the background, so they can be hard to tell if they are under bushes! Top Tips here.

    Still lots of reports of these birds. They should soon be heading off back to Scandinavia to breed. So, keep an eye out for the last of them.

    Penguin rescue
    A grounded cargo vessel has been wrecked on Nightingale Island – part of the Tristan da Cunha UK overseas territory in the South Atlantic.
    It threatens to create a twin environmental disaster for the island's wildlife, which includes nearly half of the world population of northern rockhopper penguin; one of the world's most threatened species of penguin. Give to the Fund Here