An update from Nicholas Watts on issues affecting wild birds and Vine House Farm

Posted on 17th March 2016

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Wildlife

I am hearing, or seeing, signs of spring now everyday. I think it is so wonderful that it all happens like it does. Does your life alter now that spring is appearing? We notice it is happening but do we do anything different? The food we eat doesn’t change, the supermarkets have seen to that. We used to look forward to new potatoes and the first strawberries but no longer, everything is available every day of the year. Here on the farm our life is still linked to the seasons, we plant and harvest every spring and summer.

Our wildlife changes its habits and food, and of course it can only rear its young during the summer months. Parents are not there to tell the youngsters what to do, it happens by instinct, a Blue Tit always nests in a hole, and a Wood Pigeon always lays two eggs on a flimsy platform of sticks. The biggest wonder of all of course is migration; how does that Swallow find its way to South Africa and back? I find all this fascinating and will never cease to marvel at it all going on. My bird surveys have brought a lot of this to my attention and made me realise that we are gradually losing sights and sounds that we have been taking for granted for over the past 30 years. I have been trying to provide habitat for as much of that wonderful wildlife that we have around us, and I suppose most of you will have some of those same thoughts.

Our resident Song Thrush started singing on 21st February and last week I was hearing Chaffinches and Great Tits singing. I heard a Mistle Thrush give a few short bursts of song on the evening of the 28th and a Blackbird was singing on the 29th. Golden Plover have been passing through as they gradually work their way north.

Tree Sparrow feeding young

The Oyster Catchers have come back to the island on my reservoir, and the Lapwings arrived back to their breeding grounds last week. The Wigeon and Teal that we see at nature reserves and on rivers are gradually disappearing as they work their way north and east, they have it quite easy, they can just keep heading slowly towards their breeding grounds taking advantage of any food surpluses on the way. The nearer they get to their breeding grounds the more food there will be! Remember, they were forced to leave their breeding grounds because it started to freeze and snow – the harvest was put in the freezer. When they arrive back to breed they will be able to continue to eat the harvest which has just defrosted and before they have eaten it all, the midges will be appearing.

The birds that go north and west don’t have it so easy. They have to cross the Atlantic Ocean to Iceland and Greenland. They can’t make that journey until they are fit and well fed. They also can’t arrive before the food that they eat is available, but all this happens very quietly and usually on time. Isn’t nature and wildlife amazing!

As the breeding season is nearly upon us, if we want to see a lot of birds, we have to breed a lot of birds. Providing moist energy rich food during the spring will certainly help birds to produce more young. As birds cannot take water to their young, the water has to be included in their food. You can help by providing them with live mealworms or soaked sultanas.