Thursday, 9 February 2017

Early Birds

It’s typically grey outside, some would say depressingly so, but the Brits can always find something to be happy about.  Is it temperature, lengthening days, or time of year that stimulates birds to begin singing in early spring?  Maybe it’s a combination of all of these, but as the temperature returns to normal and nightfall gets gradually later, a blackbird and song thrush have joined the ever present singing robin in the garden over the last few days.  The frogs too are in full song, especially after dark and the pond is writhing with activity; it should be full of frogspawn in the next few days.

Away from the garden, I hear great tits and dunnocks; not many, but more than the odd snatch of song.  Coal tits with their bright uplifting calls are starting too, and the song of ever present wrens appears to be getting louder by the day.  Mistle thrushes are early nesters and have been vocal for some time and the noisy rooks are settling in across the road.

Reports are beginning to emerge of early nests; a collared dove sitting on eggs in ivy-covered hawthorn, and house sparrows carrying feathers into a hole under the eaves of a house.  There are worrying signs that many British birds are nesting earlier each year, probably another indication of climate change.  Analysis of nest record cards collected over many decades by the British Trust for Ornithology has shown that for example, robins and chaffinches are laying eggs a week earlier than in the 1960’s, and others such as blue tits, great tits and swallows are showing similar patterns.

We are promised good weather, but winter could return in a flash and all this early activity could be in vain.  These early birds could be fooled and wasting their time.

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