I have the beginnings of a rookery in my larch trees. The first nest was built in prime position in a high fork of one of the largest trees. A second nest began to appear a couple of days later, then about three days after that a third appeared. The third was a hastily-built nest, being almost completed in a day. A week on, a fourth is in the process of being built. I’ll reserve judgement on the chosen site as it does not look too secure. The occupants are also in their third day of building so I suspect they are first-timers. There also seems to be three birds involved; maybe a case of ‘too many cooks.’ This is not the first time I have had an overspill from the two nearby rookeries, but it is odd this time why the birds have built on the right-hand end of the wood rather than the left-hand end where they were formerly.
What is really interesting is the number of apparently non-breeding rooks that congregate in the larches, as if they were there for a lesson in nest-building. So far as I am aware rooks do not breed till they are two years old, so they are spending their adolescence wisely. I wonder if they participate at all in providing for the brooding female or the chicks as sometimes young vixens do in the fox world?
I had a pleasant surprise when I looked at the feeders this morning: two yellowhammers feeding on some wheat under one of the feeders, and a tree sparrow on the feeder supplying them with even more seed in the form of spillage. It must be four or five years since I had a yellowhammer in the garden, and even then it was during a hard winter when I was putting wheat out every morning for the woodpigeons and collared doves. Yellowhammers are absolutely beautiful birds and it is a great pity that their numbers have crashed. I remember as a boy regularly finding their nests in gorse bushes and marvelling at their eggs that looked as if someone had scribbled all over them with a fine black biro (not that there were biros in those days of course!)
I had an interesting morning chopping and building logs. At different times I could hear woodpigeons, collared doves, a blackbird, chaffinches, wrens, a robin, a dunnock, a blue tit, a great tit, oystercatchers, a cock pheasant and the occasional chirp of a house sparrow. Sparrows are definitely increasing in numbers in my area; on my walks with Molly the dog I often pass bushes that are just alive with sparrows. Their combined chirping is a great sound, and I appreciate it even more now than when I was young and high numbers of sparrows were taken for granted.
I’ve had to stop as I type this, as there are currently at least ten tree sparrows at the feeders – no, revise that to at least twelve. Incredible! Maybe this will be the year they will at last breed in my nest boxes. Quite surprisingly they have deposed the slightly larger greenfinches, now temporarily relegated to the ground along with the chaffinches and woodpigeons. And of course one of the red squirrels!
Back to my log cutting this morning, when five or six large skeins of geese flew high overhead with the heads pointing to the north. It’s a pity that they will soon be gone, but thankfully they will be replaced with swallows, swifts, house martins and the various warblers. Good times to come.
My blue tit is still roosting in the garage, but I had a surprise visitor there this morning. A woodpigeon had come in, now doubt to take advantage of some of the seed spillage on the floor. It flew to the window, without any obvious panic, and posed for a photograph before flying over my head and out the door.
Lastly, I’ve been busy over the past few days giving Molly a haircut. I was sure she was putting on weight, and this was magnified when I cut the hair on her head first, making the body look even bigger. The legs were done the following day and she looked like a wee barrel. Now that the scissors have been at work on the body she has turned from a woolly sheep into a slim dog. I wish a haircut would have that effect on me……