August, 2011

Wildlife

Wildlife
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
  • A few tips from the wildlife team for August

    Here are a few suggestions, tips and hints for things to do and see during August;

    • Go wader watching, many migrant waders are turning up around inland and coastal wetland sites giving a good chance to brush up on your identification skills. Our wetland reserves are great places for this, have a look here for your nearest.
    • Pond maintenance, if your pond is looking a little choked and needs some TLC, this is the time to do it. Remember to leave any vegetation you remove next to the pond so any creatures can find their way back to water. More tips on pond care can be found here.
    • Look out for the last swifts, these amazing birds have now mostly finished their breeding season in the UK and are heading south on their long journey to Africa, if you have not yet reported swift nesting sites or screaming parties then there is still time, follow the link here.
    • Get to know dragonflies, these aerial predators are often easy to spot over water during warm sunny days in August, if you get any pictures of them we would love to see them.
    • Support our UK Overseas Territory appeal, find out more here.
    • Keep an eye out for birds showing signs of illness, this time of year is when trichomonosis is often reported as well as the recent increase in sightings of avian pox, you can find out more information and how to report cases of these via the links to our website here and here.
    • Get to know your berries, a good way to identify trees and shrubs is to have a look at the berries and fruits, this year things seem to be developing much earlier with ripe blackberries, rowans and hawthorns already.
    • Put some transfers on the outside of your windows to prevent birds colliding with them, visit our shop to get some.
    • Leave an area of long grass over winter, this will help insects and in turn help the birds that feed on them. For other hints on managing the lawn for wildlife, check out the Homes for Wildlife project.

    Enjoy!

  • Where do birds go in late summer?

    This is a question we always get asked at this time of the year and its one with a few possible answers!

    Firstly, for many birds we are coming to the end of a hectic breeding season. After all of the battling for territory, courting mates, finding nesting material, gathering food for young and chasing off predators, it is no surprise that some of the birds are looking a little worse for wear. Late summer is the time to moult all of the worn and damaged feathers to be replaced with a shiny new set that will keep the birds well insulated through the cold winter months. During the moult, which takes a number of weeks, birds change their ways, becoming quiet and reclusive. They don't want to expose themselves to predators whilst they do not have a full set of flight feathers which would make them much more vulnerable. They will still be around but skulking under hedges.

    Another major event for birds at the end of the breeding season is their change in distribution. Many birds that have been holding a territory now have no need to secure this as their young have departed. This enables birds to leave their breeding haunts and head to areas where they can find food, possibly joining feeding flocks and being very mobile. You may see flocks of finches in open land, tits and warblers in mixed flocks in woodland and hedgerows and mistle thrushes can often be found in large flocks. Some of our migrant breeders may have already completed their breeding season and are now heading south, stopping off at sites to feed as they prepare for the long trip to the wintering grounds.

    Natural food is also a key reason why many garden birds are not venturing into gardens or taking food that has been provided. During the late summer and autumn months there is a huge amount of food available for wild birds which is an irresistible attraction to even sedentary birds like house sparrow. The trusty spadger rarely moves more than a mile or two from its home range but in the summer when harvested crops create lots of seed and many shrubs are producing berries and seeds, short movements to local hedges and fields are common. Other species like blackbirds and starlings are also elsewhere as they take advantage of the fruit, berries and insects that can be found. If you have a hedge with a crop of berries coming, make sure you don't trim it until the birds have had a chance to eat the berries, late winter cuts are the way forward.

    These seasonal changes occur every year but changes in the bird world can be subtle. However, in some years these changes are highly visible and it can be worrying for all garden bird lovers. Don't panic, you have not done anything wrong, they are doing what comes naturally and they will be back in the next couple of months when they have a full set of feathers, have found their winter ranges and the natural food has started to decrease. In the meantime, provide some food for any birds that stick around or pass by, keep the bird bath full and clean and look out for the other garden wildlife that the autumn brings in abundance such as butterflies and spiders!