After the rush of spring the last few weeks have seemed much quieter. The nuthatches have gone from our garden presumably as they nest and raise their young. Hopefully their frequent forays to our bird feeders will recommence when the young fledge. However, at times we have felt like intruders in our own garden as feisty blue tits and alarming blackbirds have scolded us if we have approached or lingered too long near their young.
We have had more time this year to observe the activity in the garden. The blackbirds have been particularly noticeable as they have established and defended their territories. With the availability of suitable cover for nesting, food and water our garden was obviously a desirable territory. Territorial fights between rival males began in February and seemingly lasted for hours if not days. Our back garden obviously overlaps two territories and the battles to defend them has continued through the breeding season but now also involves the females too. An invisible line between the contorted hazel and the apricot tree seems to be the boundary and pursuit ceases at this point.
Last year, for the first time we observed a female blackbird attempting to feed from the seed feeders. Early attempts were launched from the bird bath or the ground and generally managed to spill a few seeds onto the ground. A female has been using the same technique this year and with practice and much flapping of wings can take seed straight from the feeder. So far males have been happy to sit on the ground beneath pecking up the spilt seed.
On our walks into Norwich and along the river we have observed blackbirds virtually everywhere where there is vegetation. The only places that they seem to be absent from are built up areas with no cover. Possibly a lesson for our Planners to ensure that all areas have some trees and plants so that everyone benefits from the presence and song.
The early promise of butterflies in our garden and on our walks in Norwich has sadly not been maintained, with very few at all seen in recent weeks. We do however have grasshopper nymphs leaping in the longer vegetation and even found an oak bush cricket nymph on the apple tree. A couple of weeks ago we had a sudden swarm of newly emerged common blue damselflies in our garden. Although fewer in number they are still present.
Our regular walks, even with variations were beginning to become rather frustrating as the orchid season approached so we’re very pleased that we are now able to extend our range beyond Norwich. However, staying local did mean that we have heard and seen more birds than usual this spring including a cuckoo calling from Thorpe Marshes or Whitlingham, as well as lesser whitethroat, corncrake and Savi’s warbler. We wonder whether there are more species of bird around this year or is it that there are more people spending more time to identify them.
Jon and Angie Shutes report from their home in Aylsham that the swift population returned predictably in early May and wasted no time inspecting for nesting sites under the pantiled roofs of the houses in the Market Square. A hobby appeared the next day and hunted them unsuccessfully before giving up.
"The dry weather has baked our garden soil so hard that our resident mole surfaced and had to be rescued from the patio area. We deposited him under the grass cuttings heap where we hoped the damper soil would have attracted some worms. A word of warning: moles have very sharp teeth and can inflict a painful bite so do pick them up by the tail. They wriggle furiously, but are unharmed by this. He burrowed away at speed once released.
Myriads of damselflies have hatched in the pond in recent days and tandems of blue and red are constantly flitting along the surface and pausing to lay eggs on floating vegetation. A broad-bodied chaser appeared for a day but didn't stay.
The pond attracts such variety to our wildlife sightings as do our feeding stations which we keep topped up all summer. This month we have relays of bank vole families racing out from the nearby dense vegetation to feed on the sunflower seeds as well as good numbers of tits, which have had a very good nesting year.
During our daily evening walks we heard hoarse squeaks from the top of our honey locust tree, followed by the answering hoot of an adult tawny owl. This local pair have succeeded in raising their brood of 3 owlets in each of the three years we have been here. With so many voles at our feeding station we know why they are doing so well!"
If you have any observations or sightings or behaviour that you would like to share about nature in your area then please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org
Header image by Tony Brooks