Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Just Checking

Between the bouts of drizzly rain I did a spot of nest inspection today, both Tree Sparrows and Swallows. I finished up not ringing any chicks when I found the Tree Sparrow boxes were still at egg stage and the Swallows nests at the point of either egg, or tiny too small for ringing. The end of the week should see several nests ready for ringing, but my Swallows are definitely late this year, almost certainly because of the cold, windy month of May we experienced here “Up North”. Similarly while Tree Sparrows experienced good weather in April and early May for their first broods, they seem to have fallen behind with second broods in the latter part of May and early June.

Tree Sparrow



Local bird watchers have done much to help the red-listed Tree Sparrow in recent years, erecting nest boxes to make more nest sites available and also employing winter feeding stations that help the sparrows (and other species) through the winter. But as I look around our local area, I can’t help but think that it is now House Sparrows that need help with some House Sparrow “terrace” communal nest boxes.

Tree Sparrow

House Sparrow

House Sparrow - Communal Nest Box

House Sparrow populations have fluctuated greatly over the centuries, with a gradual decline over the last 100 years. Change from horse-drawn vehicles to motorised ones caused the population in many cities to drop by two thirds, with the removal of an important food supply - the cereal fed to horses. Recent declines have been caused by a combination of reduced plant food in winter, reduced insect availability for chicks, and reduction in available nest sites. On farmland, these are due to changes in agricultural practices; housing of livestock in inaccessible buildings, mechanisation of grain harvest and more effective storage of grain and animal feeds all reduced sparrows access to food. Recent cereal hygiene regulations mean that farm buildings are sealed, and therefore offer fewer nesting sites. In the 1950s, the UK House Sparrow population was estimated at 9.5 million. The population increased to 12 million by the early 1970s, then declined, and crashed again during the 1990s. Over 25 years the population has declined by 62%. Because of this decline in numbers, the House Sparrow is now also red-listed, alongside Tree Sparrow as a species of high conservation concern.

After my checks I detoured to Out Rawcliffe where I found this year’s regular flock of c40 House Sparrows, down a quiet rural lane but close to a couple of older, lofty houses that have gaps in the eaves of the roof and gardens with tall, thick hedgerows where the spodgers can hide.

Close by the houses a Yellowhammer sang out with a second one along the lane towards our ringing site. I explored the usual spots and found both Blackcap and Garden Warbler, 4 Great-spotted Woodpecker, 6 Mistle Thrush, 15+ Whitethroat, 2 Skylark, several Willow Warbler and 12+ Tree Sparrow. Across the large, newly sown grassy field and in a small dip of the distant earth I could just make out the single Oystercatcher head, sat motionless on its now week old nest and nearby 20 or so Lapwings, long since finished their breeding season.

As I entered the copse one of the Buzzards flew silently from its nest in a tall conifer, the crown too dense with greenery and too high to see the age the youngsters might be; through the trees I glimpsed the adult flying off to the next wood to wait for my departure. Back along the track a Stoat ran ahead of me then dived back into the plantation, not good news if a family of the villains find low down Whitethroat, Sedge Warbler and Willow Warbler nests.

There were plenty of Goldfinch zipping about the area, including a few family groups, which reminded me I had to collect the Nyger feeders, take them home and then clean them up in readiness for autumn feeding soon.



Paco Sales said...

Que buenas imagenes Phil, estás fotos de los nidos de los polluelos, aqui en España está bastante restringido el tema de sacar fotos a los mismos, porque se dice que se altera el comportamiento de las ves en los periodso de incubación, un abrazo Phil

Seasons said...

Can't even recall how I first came across your blog. Must have been a comment you left on someone else's blog. In this short time, I have enjoyed the many pictures and informative content. What an amazing bird the Goldfinch is...great picture! Thanks.

Errol said...

Current estimate of the Spadger population puts it most likely around or below the 3,000 pairs mark. If the population has declined to 38% of the 12 million peak [RSPB], that only leaves 4,500 birds or roughly 2 thousand breeding pairs. Nowadays one has to hunt out the 'pockets' where they occur around the towns and villages.

Mary Howell Cromer said...

Phil, the beautiful Goldfinch feeding the young, what a wow moment. I have already said how much I love Swallows and the images always delightful. I shared with a local birder the other day about a blog friend who spends a great deal of time ringing birds. He said you mean bands birds, and I said well ringing...same thing right;))
Very cool looking nestbox and if the price is right and a lot of people make the purchase, then the numbers should hopefully improve significantly for the lovely sparrows~

Stu said...

I saw quite a few Tree Sparrows when I was home at christmas (well I saw them at Martinmere and in Penwortham), sad how House Sparrows have declined but then again we now have Avocets and Little Egrets in the Lancashire wetlands as well as Nuthatches and Buzzards in the suburbs.

Swings and Roundabouts.

Ari said...

Never get tired of reading the content and viewing the excellent photos, the Goldfinch photo is simply wonderful!

Kay L. Davies said...

Hard to believe sparrows of any sort are declining to dangerous levels. Poor little guys. That makes me very, very sad.
— K

Kay, Alberta, Canada
An Unfittie's Guide to Adventurous Travel

Sgaorishal said...

Swallows up here are very late. I've only had one nest of young so far and they were dead when I found them. Most pairs have just been laying up this last week.

Phil said...

Hi everyone and thanks for your input.

Errol thanks for doing the maths ans yes it's the same up here with spodgers in little pockets dotted about the landscape.

Stu, your correct of course and thanks for reminding us of the gains.

Sgaorishal, thanks for that info about Rhum's Swallows and I think you have had it colder and wetter than us. Glad I didn't take that ferry crossing.

eileeninmd said...

Great post and I love all the bird photos. My favorite is the goldfinch.

grammie g said...

Hey Phil...yes I know I'm late commenting on this one,but been trying to get my tree Swallows and tree Sparrows and house Sparrows and not house Swallows straight so it had to do some studying so just getting to you hahahah!!!
Those Tree Swallows babies sure are cute little rascals!!
I don't know how the House Sparrows are doing here,but I know that there are tons of them living in the cities and hang out.
They are not a real favored bird, here because of there agressive ways to other nesters!!

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