Thursday, 4 June 2015

Tree Sparrows

When I was young, tree sparrows were still pretty common. Sadly they have suffered a disastrous decline in numbers and nobody seems to be doing much about it. Birdwatchers knew it years ago. Birds which we'd expect to see on a day out suddenly became missing items on our day lists. Places where they used to be no longer held them. Before we knew it, we needed to visit special sites to see them.
To the list alongside tree sparrow, I can add grey partridge, corn bunting, lesser spotted woodpecker, willow tit. The same happened to red-backed shrike a generation before, but that's gone now.
We all know it's been happening for decades but no-one in power starts talking about it until the decline is steep and no-one starts doing anything about it until long term studies show that it is almost too late.

So it was with some joy that, when we moved onto the farm, we discovered a small population of tree sparrows visiting the feeders during our first winter. That was, however, a very cold winter. We had up to 13 at one point. Over the next year or so, we still saw them, but in smaller numbers. After two years, we no longer saw them regularly. In fact, I only saw them on three occasions in two years, each time on migration and only briefly.

Then, four weeks ago, I was surprised to look out of the window in the morning and find a pair of tree sparrows on the feeders (I presumed it was a pair. Male and female look identical.) Even better, they were still there in the evening, and the next morning, and the next. Not only that, but they definitely seemed to be collecting bits and bobs of straw, grass and feathers. Could it be that they were building a nest somewhere close by?

A few days later and only one bird was visiting the feeders. (Or was it that they were taking turns?) I hoped this meant that the other was on a nest, but I had no way of telling until...

A couple of days ago there were FOUR tree sparrows at the feeders. Yes, mum and dad had brought their babies!


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