Feb 24th – Sparrows and Butterflies

Yesterday spring sprung.  The first Blackcap sang in our garden.  The odd bee got busy and buzzed around.  A few butterflies fluttered by.  Here’s one I snapped enjoying the warmth of the sun:

A Peacock butterfly enjoying the sun 24th February 2014

A Peacock butterfly enjoying the sun 24th February 2014

I too ventured out to enjoy the sun, without a coat and almost without a care.  I was met with birds a-courting and some fast-track birds checking out viable nesting holes.  In particular and very welcome to behold were a number of Tree Sparrows busy chipping and chirping in some old elms.  I am very fortunate to live on the door step of one of the few remaining Tree Sparrow colonies, a species that has experienced a marked decline in this country in my lifetime.

Today was as if the clock had been wound back with at least eight individual birds along their favoured hedgerow.  Their distinctive calls reminded me of years gone by when it was not so unusual to expect a Tree Sparrow or two in an old half-dead elm tree.  However, they all but vanished and thanks to the efforts of local groups and landowners putting up nest boxes, farming less intensively and putting out feeding stations, a few local birds have clung on and continue to stay all year round.  This year looks to be a good year with up to thirteen birds being observed over winter.

Our other English sparrow – the House Sparrow – is also experiencing its own decline.  We used to have them in the garden but now they too have gone.  If you encounter a flock on a walk through a farmyard you might be forgiven for thinking they must be common.  However, these flocks are often isolated and the national picture has been one of decline.  The BTO (British Trust for Ornithology) is in a race against time to discover exactly why this is the case.

I still hope to attract them back to the garden.  There is a small flock in a housing estate across the park behind our house.  I’m hoping that the growing number of ducks and chickens in the garden might encourage them, like our friends, to view the place more as a farm than as a garden, with free food on offer!

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