Wildlife Column: All looking good for the big bird day

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About this time of year, the RSPB has its annual great garden bird-watch and they predict abumper year to follow a successful breeding season for many commoner garden birds.

For garden bird-watchers this is an exciting time and those taking part, such as Mary Gwinnell, from Abbey Lane in Sheffield, look forwards with eager anticipation of the big day. She emailed an account of her garden delights …… ‘I enjoyed your recent article in the Sheffield Telegraph and thought our sightings might be of interest.

We live on Abbey Lane, backing onto Hutcliffe Wood Cemetery and have been here about 10 years.’ I know the place well, and with garden birds, it is often a case of ‘location, location, location’, as borne out in this case. Mary goes on, ‘We have trees, hedges, a pond, lawns, vegetable beds and various feeders (peanuts, fat slabs and sunflower hearts plus apples)’. This is the second golden rule of bird-gardening – plenty of garden structure and lots of different but appropriate feeders.

The results of Mary’s endeavours are impressive, ‘We now have regular goldfinches, chaffinches and bullfinches, some greenfinches, and very rarely a siskin or goldcrest’. Ah, my absentee chaffinches are clearly in Mary’s garden! ‘We have fewer sparrows than we used to get but more dunnocks; we used to have regular nuthatch and great-spotted woodpecker but not lately.’ Recently a friend was asking about bramblings (a winter-visiting finch) and Mary has indeed had one in her garden. Furthermore, she has had up to nine rose-ringed (or ring-necked) parakeets which came every day last summer; and might be the current Nether Edge flock perhaps. A lone Alexandrine parakeet is almost certainly the same one that was in the area last year.

Other visitors are stock doves, feral pigeons, blackbirds, robins, wren, great, blue and coal tits, plus flocks of long-tails, and jays, magpies, and crows. There is an occasional sparrowhawk and sometimes a heron, plus redwing and fieldfare feasting when there are apples. Mary also boasts three squirrels, an occasional fox, and a hedgehog. So all looking good for the big day!

Professor Ian D. Rotherham, of Sheffield Hallam University, researcher, writer and

broadcaster on wildlife and environmental issues