Flocks of wood pigeons are beginning to appear on the playing fields, most are young, drab-looking individuals, without distinctive white neck patches, and they’ll continue to increase in numbers in the next few weeks, eventually forming into very large flocks by the end of summer. Mixed tit flocks are forming too, and pre-roosting jackdaws, which now number several hundred, wheel over the cottage at dusk. It’s the time of year when bird numbers are at their highest, and food is plentiful. Even so, many species are difficult to see, hiding in the thick deep green vegetative cover that’s everywhere now. I can hear young blackcaps begging for food in the hedgerows, but never see them, and an occasional young speckled robin pops up to take food from its parent. In the garden it’s all or nothing, one minute just a few goldfinches, the next a hive of activity as a tit flocks drops in for a while.
Changing weather patterns in recent years, particularly wet and cold Mays, has resulted in great variability in bird breeding success, but it looks like this year has been good. The late spring put back the start of breeding for many species, and not all will have prospered. It’s far too early to be sure, but all will be revealed when this year’s results of the BTO’s Breeding Bird Survey are published. This wonderful tool, a continuation of the Common Bird Census, has developed into a vital index with which to monitor the state of the country’s breeding birds.