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.
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!
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):
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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).
How does this compare to previous years?
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.
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
Bluetits – these used to be some of the most regular visitors to the garden, but are now seen much less frequently
Robins – the average number of robins seen has halved in the last year.
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!
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.
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.
This is my diary of the wildlife where I live in Oxfordshire, and sometimes the places I visit. I am a 15 year old young naturalist with a passion for British wildlife, especially Badgers and Hares. I have been blogging since May 2013 and you can read my old blog posts at www.appletonwildlifediary.blogspot.co.uk