Tag Archives: house sparrows

Bird nerd part 14: ready for spring

March is here, and with it, blue skies, green shoots and birdsong. Fed up with winter, everything seems keen to get on with life. I’ve noticed birds in the garden hanging round in pairs, so it was high time I got ready for the bird breeding season as well.

The nest boxes were already clean, so all that remained to be done was to reinstall the camera in the box at the front of our house. Dr C, chivalrous as always, climbed the ladder, while I hung out of the upstairs window to pass him the cable.

That done, we’re ready for spring. Each day we can check the camera to see if there’s been any progress. I love the feeling of suspense as I wait for the telly to warm up and reveal any changes.

House sparrow about to fledge
House sparrow about to fledge (2014)

In previous years we’ve had bluetits and house sparrows nest there (not at the same time), although last year, for the first time, nothing showed any inclination to nest there. Still, the lengthening days make me an optimist, so I am hopeful we’ll have our own springwatch again this year. I will let you know how we get on!


One year in the Wild South

This blog is now a year old, and this is my 100th post. I think that’s a good excuse to have a look back through the last year of posts, and pick out some of the most popular, and some of my personal favourites.

Most popular posts (highest views per month):

The ferry departing from the small harbour on Lundy
The ferry departing from the small harbour on Lundy

Lundy Island photo special – it seems I’m not the only person who thinks Lundy is a special place. I’m glad people seem to enjoy my photography.

Hedgehog and mouse pawprints
Pawprints from the mammal tunnel

Whose pawprints are these?  This post shares the results of my mammal tunnel, which allowed me to capture the pawprints of hedgehogs and mice. It also includes some footage of the nocturnal visitors to my garden.

14 05 25_2808_edited-2In which I search for otters and water shrews, and end up finding something even rarer – my account of seeing water voles in Hampshire. They’re lovely creatures…

Inquisitive seal
Inquisitive seal

Snorkelling with seals – an account of snorkelling with seals in the Isles of Scilly. Lots of photos of one of my most memorable wildlife encounters.

Deer print
Fallow(?) deer print

12 ways to find mammals – A short summary of a talk by Professor Pat Morris on how to find mammals. Not for squeamish – some of the methods involved are rather grim, but some helpful tips.

My favourite posts:

BadgerThe badger cull: an ‘evidence to policy’ perspective: This post explores the case for and against the badger cull, using the principles I apply in my day job working in health research (spoiler alert: the cull is not a good idea).

The mini pond
The mini pond

How to build a mini pond: This post describes how we created a mini pond from a wine barrel. I’ve chosen this one as garden ponds (even tiny ones) are soooo good for wildlife, and ours is continuing to thrive. Hopefully this will inspire you to create one, if you don’t already have a pond.

Harvest mouse on seedheadPhoto special: British wildlife: Some of my favourite photos – hope you enjoy them as well!

Water vole
Water vole

In search of water voles: This describes my first adventure in the British Animal Challenge, and shows some of the signs to look out for with these very rare animals.

House sparrow about to fledgeHouse sparrow chicks have fledged: It’s a pleasure getting to watch nesting birds in the intimacy of their nest boxes, and these were the first chicks to fledge from our camera nest box.

I’ve learnt a lot through both having to research my posts, and from the comments people leave. I’ve really enjoyed working on the blog – thanks to everyone who has read, liked and / or commented on my posts.  I hope you will continue to keep me company on my adventures in the Wild South.

Bird nerd part 6: four years of garden bird data

I now have four years worth of data about the birds that visit my garden, so I thought now would be a good time to look at the latest stats, and how they compare to previous years.

In the year from June 2013 to May 2014 I was able to keep records on 38 days. On average I saw 15 individual birds of 7 species per day, although that varied a lot by month. November was the best month for bird watching, with an average of 29 individuals from 8 species per day,  while July was the quietest month, with only 10 birds of 4 species per day. The highest number of species seen per day was only 10, which is down from 13 last year.

Woodpigeon in the snow
Woodpigeon in the snow

The most regular visitors were house sparrows and woodpigeons, with at least one of each seen on every observation day. The most numerous visitors were house sparrows, with an average of 4.6 seen per day. They were followed by starlings, with an average of 2.8, woodpigeons (2.3) and blackbirds (1.4).

Young starlings
Young starlings

How does this compare to previous years?

Average total number and total types of birds seen per observation day, 2010-2014
Average total number and total types of birds seen per observation day, 2010-2014

Well, the overall average number of birds and number of species is pretty similar. But there have been some winners and losers in the last few years, as the bar graph shows.

Average number of individual birds seen per observation, 2010-2014, by species
Average number of individual birds seen per observation, 2010-2014, by species


Male house sparrow on seed feeder
Hungry house sparrow
  • male blackbird on lawn
    Male blackbird on lawn

    House sparrows (from an average of 1.7 to 4.6 per day)

  • Dunnocks – the average number seen per day in the last year is roughly double that of 2010-11
  • Woodpigeon numbers have also doubled since 2010-11
  • Blackbirds – increased from 0.9 last year to 1.4
  • Magpies – slight increase


  • Bluetit gathering nesting material
    Bluetit gathering bits of twine to use as nest material
    Robin in the snow
    Robin in the snow

    Bluetits – these used to be some of the most regular visitors to the garden, but are now seen much less frequently

  • Jackdaws
  • Robins – the average number of robins seen has halved in the last year.

If you’re interested in how these figures compare to national observations, read this post on the Big Garden Birdwatch results.

My Springwatch footage is a little disappointing…

The second brood of chicks in our camera box hatched yesterday (I think). Brilliant – we get to watch some more chicks grow, and hopefully fledge eventually! But the footage so far has been a bit dull.

I’m not complaining that the newly fledged chicks and their hard working parents aren’t doing enough – we can hear that plenty is going on. But the nest blocks the camera’s view, so while we can hear the cheeping, our picture is just a canopy of nesting material. Springwatch don’t seem to have these problems!

A view of nesting materials in our camera box (there are chicks underneath, honest!)
A view of nesting materials in our camera box (there are chicks underneath, honest!)

We had this problem (although not to the same extent) with the first brood. Hopefully over time the nest will get a bit trampled on by the growing chicks, and we’ll be able to get a glimpse of them. With the last brood our view got better as the chicks got bigger.

In the meantime, we’ll just have to try and interpret the sounds. There are at least two chicks, but that’s all I know.

The last brood of chicks fledged on 12th and 13th May, so the parents haven’t lost too much time in getting on with the next brood. Let’s hope the weather is kind to them, and there’s plenty of food around.

House sparrow chicks have fledged

More good news – both house sparrow chicks have now fledged. The last couple of days they’ve looked like proper sparrows, rather than merely cavernous beaks. There’s been lots of wing stretching and peering out of the hole.

The first chick fledged on Monday morning. The other chick seemed a bit reluctant to leave the nest. She waited until Tuesday morning, spending quite a bit of time peering out the hole, then hiding at the back of the nest before finally summoning up the courage… The parents didn’t waste much time after the chicks had left, before coming in to get it ready for the next brood.

This video shows the two chicks together in the nest, just before they fledged. It then goes to show the second chick fledging on Tuesday. Finally there’s a bit of the daddy doing some housework once the chicks had left.

It’s been very satisfying to watch the chicks’ progress each day. These are the first chicks that have been successfully raised in our camera box. In previous years we’ve had blue tits build partial nests then give up. The closest we got was when a large brood of blue tit chicks hatched, but sadly each day another one died, until there were none left. (It was a very wet spring that year.)

House sparrows can have several broods each year, so hopefully we may get to see some more.