Spring 2013

I have included unusual and first sightings of the year. If anyone else would like to contribute in the future then please let me know!

January brought snow and with it 6 goosanders arrived circling the reservoir for a while before landing. Waxwings from the mainland of NW Europe were seen on several occasions around the allotments, as were fieldfares and redwings feeding on the apples remaining on the ground. These last two stayed until the first week in April. Long tailed tits, siskins, goldfinches and both green and great spotted woodpeckers were regular visitors to bird feeders and fruit trees, along with our normal garden birds.

Sparrowhawk with catch

February and March remained very cold, unlike last year, but many of us saw the very large flocks (tens of thousands) of starlings congregating in the evenings above Asda. Birds of prey arrived too and the starlings were seen swirling in tight flocks in the sky as they attempted to mesmerise them with their aerobatic displays. Sparrowhawks and even a peregrine falcon took advantage of a reliable and regular supply of easy pickings for supper at sunset. Buzzards have been a regular sight over our allotments too and they often call high up in the sky to give away their presence. The reservoir has a pair of grey wagtails in residents now.

African migrants were late arriving due to the very cold weather this spring. The second week of April brought the first blackcaps and chiffchaffs, announcing their arrival with their distinctive songs high up in the trees. Swallows and sand martins finally arrived on the 14th and house martins a week later. Willow warblers started singing in the apple trees about the same time, while whitethroats are now here too.

I am not aware of any reports of cuckoos calling yet at the time of writing, while the first swifts should be arriving any moment.

Most bird boxes will now be in use, but if you are interested in making one for next year to attach to a tree or your shed, I have some simple designs that can be made out of scrap wood.

The humble house sparrow will use a box and their numbers do seem to be increasing around the allotments following a serious decline over the last decade. However blue tits and great tits are the usual tenants if the entrance is the right size!

Paul Snell