May is one of the busiest months for us here in Wildlife enquiries, what with baby birds, the community upgrade, the run up to Springwatch and the unusually dry spring generating lots of enquiries. A few topics that have been featuring heavily recently may be of interest!
You found a nest where?
Some of our feathered friends have been causing some puzzled reactions across the UK this month with some rather unconventional nesting places. Every year some blue tits around the country decide to raise their families in wall mounted ashtrays, not the most ideal of places but many are successful! Some of the most unusual nest sites so far this year have involved vehicles, including pied wagtails and blackbirds choosing the engine compartments of cars and trucks as a place to nest, thankfully the owners have been sympathetic and have been willing to leave the vehicles where they are. Great tits seem to have taken a fancy to garden ornaments like urns with a number of reports in recent days. One concerned worker at a cargo container repair facility contacted us after finding some baby birds in a recent delivery, luckily he was able to rescue them and was taking them to a local wild bird rehabilitation facility. If you have any stories about unusual nests we would love to read your comments.
The dark side of the woodpecker
Most sightings of great-spotted woodpeckers in gardens create excitement, despite being the most common woodpecker species in the UK, they are still a scarce visitor to most gardens in the UK. However, in areas where great spots' are common, you may see a darker side to their behaviour during the spring and summer months. Most people will expect to see the woodpecker raiding the peanut or suet feeders for a qucik snack. However great-spotted woodpeckers are predators and are equipped with the tools to break and enter into bird boxes, yes indeed, nestlings and eggs are also on the menu. We have had a number of reports about this behaviour this year, if any holes appear in your nest box it could be your neighbourhood woodpecker! What to do about such incidents is tricky, the woodpecker obviously has to feed its own chicks but it is distressing to see the young of a familiar nesting species being taken in such a way, what do you think?
House martin protection
After making a the huge journey from Africa to the UK, house martins have arrived to a dry spring making it very difficult for them to find wet mud to build their nests with, not a good start for them. On top of this major drawback, we are hearing of a spate of incidents of people knocking down or jet washing off nests whilst they are active. This is a criminal offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and anyone found to guilty of these crimes could face penalties of £5000 or a jail term as well as having a criminal record. If you see anyone doing this please report it to the police as soon as you can so they can catch the culprits in the act. If you know of anyone planning to do it, please remind them of this law and the consequences. These amazing birds need all the help they can get at the moment so anything you can do to help is much appreciated. Other than reporting these incidents putting out a tray of wet mud or putting up artifical nest cups for them will give them the helping hand they need.
Ducks and goslings?
Finally we have had a few cases of mistaken terminology which has caused some confusion in the team! To clarify ducks are usually found with ducklings, geese with goslings and swans with cygnets! Although occasionally if a mix up can happen in real life, not just in the case of the 'ugly duckling'!
As the warm weather continues and the winds hopefully die down don’t forget to look out for the return of one of our favourite summer migrants, the swift. Many birds return to the breeding grounds in the spring, some will remain in Africa. Swifts are migratory throughout their range. They arrive in the UK in the last week of April or early May, and stay only long enough to breed. Swifts feed almost exclusively on the aerial plankton of flying insects and airborne spiders of small to moderate size. They mainly feed at around 50-100 m, but sometimes weather conditions force them down to lower levels. Turbulence can sweep insects far higher in the air, and swifts have been observed following these swarms to about 1,000m.
You can help swifts in a number of ways:
Groups of swifts will often fly at low level, close to their nesting site, making a high pitched screech- these are known as screaming parties. The locations of screaming parties usually indicated that there is a nest nearby.
So if you see those screaming beauties this weekend don’t forget to let us know.