February 15th   Leave a comment

We put a pond in our back garden a couple of years’ ago. Its evolution has been a thrill to me and the family ever since. Yesterday we passed another significant milestone – we had our first grey heron visiting. I’m not sure what it was looking for as it waded around. We have been careful not to put any fish in because we want lots of insects and tadpoles. We do have a few good size frogs now and are hoping for some of our own spawn this year, but it seems too early and too cold for them to be active just yet. Frogs do sometimes spend the winter hiding at the bottom of ponds so maybe the heron knows better. It flew off straight away when it noticed it was being watched. But it was back again today first thing.

Grey Heron

Tree sparrow

A month or so ago I noticed that we had a few tree sparrows also visiting our garden for the first time. They are still in residence and today I had at least eight around a seed feeder in my back garden (plus a few house sparrows and even a greenfinch). It reminded me that this week is national nest box week (starting appropriately enough yesterday on Valentine’s day). I would love to have a colony of tree sparrows nesting in the garden. So we have ordered two house sparrow colony nest boxes – each with three chambers (and holes) in each. I will put them up as soon as they come. In a couple of weeks it will be too late. Tree sparrows are a little smaller than house sparrows and can use nest holes that are a bit smaller but I don’t think they mind a house sparrow sized hole. And if the house sparrows use them then this will be a positive result anyway. I don’t know what the ecological difference is between house and tree sparrows. They often seem completely interchangeable and in many urban areas as you head to the east (tree sparrows occur as far as Japan) they are the commonest city sparrow. I watched a tree sparrow and a house sparrow feeding side by side on the feeder today in exactly the same way, and without any more aggression between the two different species than they were showing to their own. Fingers crossed that the bird boxes will anchor my new tree sparrow colony to my garden over the summer.

A clear sign of the coming spring is the gradual change in birds’ plumages as they head towards breeding. The local golden plovers – still about two hundred or so in the fields between Anstruther and Fife Ness, in a couple of large flocks – are now starting to gain their spangly golden speckled backs and their handsome black bellies.

Golden plover gaining its breeding plumage

Posted February 15, 2018 by wildcrail in Sightings

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