The widow blackbird

The male blackbird, missing presumed dead

The male blackbird, missing presumed dead

The second brood nearing fledging

The second brood nearing fledging

A pair of blackbirds in my garden is on their third brood this year. The first nest was in a clematis-covered pergola. This brood fledged successfully but all disappeared within a couple of days. Cats, I suspect, were the culprits. Within a week to ten days the female started laying another clutch in the same nest. These again fledged successfully but I think that only one survived the cat menace to become self-sufficient.

With both broods I gave the parents supplementary feeding of mealworms, especially during dry periods when worms were harder for them to find. Dad was a dedicated parent and I saw him feeding the surviving chick much more than I did the female. Nevertheless they both worked remarkably hard and I am sure, from his various habits, that this is the third year the male has been with us.

I was surprised a few weeks ago to see the female building a new nest only a couple of feet away from the original one. I meant to check out the nest in the early stages but by the time I did manage to do so the eggs had just hatched. I have continued my supplementary feeding and the blackbird family are now on their fifth £5.99 tub of mealworms.

With the chicks now a week old the male has disappeared. Both parents watched for me first thing in the morning going to the shed for mealworms and both were down on the ground as soon as I threw them a handful. Alas no male this past two days and I am sure now that Mrs Blackbird is a widow! A cat may have got him, though more likely a sparrowhawk, or even old age. They have to die sometime.

I’ll increase the mealworm feeds so there should really be no great problem for the chicks to fledging stage. The problem may arise once the young are scattered throughout the garden and woodland. They will take a lot of feeding then, and they may also take a lot of finding by the female. Anyway I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it and in the meantime I’m off to the shops for another tub of mealworms…..

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