Three nights on Caldey Island, Pembrokeshire, West Wales. More information and images on the ‘Away’ page: away
Each year, around the second or third week into the freeze, a robin comes into my shed and calls. The first year I was surprised and a bit confused, the second still surprised, and now I think I’d be a bit miffed if he didn’t bother.
The reason, I think, is that around mid November I start putting out seed on the bird table. Once it’s become habitual, and regular enough to be missed if not carried out on time, the robin takes to reminding me of my duties. It’s quite funny really; similar to a dog or a cat, which is very strange for a wild creature, especially a bird. And I’m not sure I’m all that comfortable about it either. Often I’ll arrive at the shed and he’ll already be waiting on a nearby or overhanging branch, calling directly at me, and flying in as soon as the door is opened. Ultimately I suppose all wild animals are opportunists by nature, and I can’t blame a robin for making a servant of a gullible gardener..
A book well worn for good reason, muddied by frequent reference. As observational naturalism I couldn’t recommend it more highly.
While cutting away at the lower meadow this morning I was reminded of a short paragraph, having come across an article of shared value. A little while before reading this passage for the first time I had found a similar jay feather and, like a magpie, stowed it away -in a paper bag on my desk. I also later stuck one to the cover of a small notebook, having again spotted it loose in the grass. Out of a sky full of earthen and subtle avian colours there is within the plumage of a jay something that evokes intrigue; perhaps the lure of a tropical unknown.
Switching on the television this morning in the shed I was surprised to see that the eggs had all hatched over night. Really pleased. Baby blue tits are not pretty. I’m glad that they all made it though. I’m now enjoying my tea breaks to the sounds of chirping and regular parental feeding intermissions.
During the Winter I spent a few days getting round the fourteen nest boxes dotted about the garden. The predecessor to my role here and the first to take up the challenge in it’s early stages, was no doubt given the weighty task of hanging each of them in place. Thankfully encouraging wildlife is considered important to the garden owners and their collective initial efforts were commendable. However as I slowly came to locate them, now submerged in ivy or smothered in new growth, it seemed that quite a few were placed in ways not ideal for attracting and accommodating the birds that would seek to inhabit them.
As it’s good practice (so I’ve been told by my RSPB friend) to clean a nest box out after each season ready for the next, I decided to take them all down, clean them out, and re-adjust their position. It was mostly a case of sighting them higher up in the same trees (almost exclusively sycamores), away from any immediate horizontal branches (to deter cats and other potential carnivorous bringers of destruction) and facing out towards the South enabling the tree trunk to block out any northern winds.
Now in Spring, so far it seems that almost every single box has either been visited or taken up by nesting birds. As is the typical experience, almost all are tits. It’s always tits. In fact I’ve seen 3 of our 4 most common tits having a poke round a box. This is simply down to the similarity it shares with their natural site of choice; usually a tree or stone crevice with low light and a single entry gap. In fact nest boxes over the last few decades have played an important role in adding to the numbers of the species. However I was pretty excited to find that nuthatches were nesting in one of the larger boxes further out towards the woodland. I’d been hearing them calling all through early Spring, their sound being so distinctive and piercing, almost tropical. And occasionally I’d caught a sight of them running up (and down) the larger robinias at the top end of the garden. I took the below photos from quite a distance, after being very, very patient.
I was donated a nest box camera last year too, and having fitted it into the nearest box to the shed during the clean-up, and only last week found a tv that worked, I was amazed to switch it on and see a family of blue-tits already nested. The mother seems to be preparing to sit, having laid 9 eggs, while her mate turns up with regular grub-meals.