Friday, June 14, 2013

Return of the Sparrow

Before Christmas we got two new kittens, Otis and Lola.  Lola was run over two days after her first set of vaccinations.  We took the decision that our home with its increased traffic is not safe for cats and gave Otis away to a friend.  That is the end of cats living here and a halt to the expansion of the pet graves under the juniper tree.

As sad as this news was for us, it certainly has had other benefits.  I cleaned and refilled the bird table and moved it under the trees and nearer a window.  On the first of the year, I started a log of what is seen out the window,  

writing down the birds that I see in the order that they are seen.  Anytime that a new species shows up or an especially delightful sighting happens, that entry is highlighted in yellow.   I increased what I was offering the birds.  I figured a wider variety of bird food would naturally bring a broader selection of species.

When the red squirrels showed up, I put those in the log as well, marking the entry in pink.  Okay, so they're not birds, but they are rapidly disappearing from Great Britain as the North American grey squirrel takes over.  Two miles away a grey squirrel has been seen.  I fear it is only a matter of time before we lose our native red squirrels to the more robust grey ones.   As it stands now, red squirrel visits are a daily occurrence, but I'm still thrilled each and every time I see them.

There have been some new species to my life list this year.  I had to grab for the field guide when red polls, stock doves and black caps showed up, sending me into nerdy bird watching rapture.  The red polls continue to visit on a semi-regular basis.  Long-tailed tits were hit and run feeders in the winter.  A small group of about six birds would visit the fat balls hanging in the trees for a few minutes and then leave as quickly as they showed up, thrilling me if I was there to see it happen.

Last week a jay showed up to dine on peanuts, gaining a big yellow highlighted mark in the book.  It is a very shy bird and will fly off if it thinks it has seen me. The swallows here at the house were late coming back from their winter home in South Africa .. . and there were only a few.  For a long time there was just one chattering on the phone line and I was so worried that we may be seeing the end of swallows here.

Yesterday I noticed that the two nests in the tool shed had fresh mud on the edges and I've seen a couple of swallows zip in and out of the nests.  Lets hope they're successful breeders this year.  

Today was a very special morning, I saw a sparrow on the bird table.  I'm sure you're thinking . . . really, you're excited about a sparrow?  Really?  

There has been a significant decline in house sparrow populations in the UK and what used to be a very common bird is in trouble.  Certainly house sparrows have not been seen at our house in more than 15 years.  So this morning when I saw a lone male house sparrow at the bird table, I marked the sighting in yellow in my log and woke The Man of the Place to tell him the news.

Other declines are evident. There are no lapwings in the field this year.  It used to be that we would see a couple of breeding pair, looping around in the sky.  The cry of the curlew that nests near the burn has diminished and I haven't seen a single song thrush hopping across the lawn.  With the steady loss of bird life upsetting me, it is so lovely to see hope being heralded by a lone sparrow visiting my bird table.


Dogbait said...

Same,same. Since the demise of Sammy boy, the bird life here has increased dramatically. Species varying from cockatoos to the beautiful parrots and the noisy minors flock into our trees and fight over who has use of the bird bath. The small Rosellas and Lorikeets always win.

Sarah said...

Lovely post!

Anonymous said...

We don't have any 4-legged pets, so lots of birds here, but it's the rabbits that have disappeared in the last year. Read in the paper that most of them succumbed to tularemia. I sort of miss seeing them on our lawn in the early morning or at sundown, but my neighbors with unprotected gardens don't! Cousin Susan