As May becomes June, it seems as if the spring season of birth and renewal is replaced by something more like the normalities of family life. Those young of the year have to grow very rapidly, learn to feed themselves and if they survive, then they must leave their homes, to become independent of their parents within just a couple of weeks.
But all this hurry and rush is complicated and variable. It is especially affected by the weather. On the nature trail, one can observe the Canada geese have hatched their eggs several weeks ago and the downy goslings are now growing fat feeding on the abundant grass. But at the same time, there have been late arrivals – such as the house martins, held up in their migration from Africa by adverse northerly winds and storms across Europe which have finally made it to our area and are now trying to make up time by building nests and laying eggs under the eaves of local buildings in time to raise their young families.
Our local population can be seen flying high over the plant nursery and golf course frantically chasing and catching the abundant flying insects. They are dumpier than swallows with conspicuous white rumps. Meantime swallows continue to feed their young in refurbished nests under shelter of barns but who knows where the local swifts are nesting?
The greater spotted woodpeckers’ young raised in their tree hole down by the river since early April have now flown from the nest, but some reed warblers, arriving much later – in fact only a couple of weeks ago – at their territories in the reeds of the top lake are now busy building nests and beginning to raise their families. The nests, which are marvels of engineering suspended in the reeds, are built in a few hours of frantic activity. Here is a photo of an unoccupied nest spotted yesterday.
There are two or perhaps three pairs in this small habitat and you have to marvel at how these little birds weighing just a few grams can fly from Africa to rediscover this tiny patch of reeds. On the BBC Spring Watch programme, a reed warbler nest is being observed by cameras 24 hours a day and can be seen via the “red button”. So please don’t disturb the birds in the reeds, so busy with their urgent programme of reproducing before their dangerous migration south in time to evade the cold of our winter that would see these tiny insect eaters starve.
Around the trail, I have seen young great tits, young blue tits and young magpies all begging to be fed by their parents and in my own garden I see robins, blackbirds, starlings and jackdaws are all feeding their young, easily distinguished by their dull plumage and short wings and tails. (If you see a bird making a chirring sound and vibrating its wings, then it is probably a newly fledged chick begging for food, which its parent may or may not bring).
After a few days, the young birds must learn to feed themselves or starve whilst the adults of many species will start the nesting cycle all over again. My garden blackbirds have now started a second nest, having chased their first two young away after first feeding them for about ten days after they left the first nest.
Watch and listen out for:-
- Cuckoos – male birds are still calling out down by the river.
- Garden warblers – more musical than robins and less loud than wrens along the lane.
- The noisy repetitive song of the reed warblers who are very rarely visible in their reed bed.
- Carp loudly splashing in the shallow waters of the lakes as they mate and spawn.
- Woodpeckers drumming in the big trees between the top lake and the river.
- Bright blue flowers of green alkanet in the verges, shortly to be replaced by fragrant meadowsweet.
- The last of the spring butterflies – the brimstones, orange tips and clouded whites now being replaced by the summer emergence of small tortoiseshells, speckled woods and gatekeepers with a few holly blues now flying too.
Keith Falconer June 5, 2016
Keith Falconer is a local naturalist with many years experience of observing and photographing the wildlife of this region. He has an amazing knowledge of birds and bugs and all the creatures that live around us. Every few weeks he share his seasonal account of what to look for and listen to across our wonderful nature trail.