Birds back after winter battering


As the nesting season draws to a close, it is interesting to look back and consider how successful it was after such a severe winter.

It is amazing how resilient birds are and even the smallest seem to have come through OK, even if some have taken a bashing in numbers.

Early nesters such as dippers (pictured, top of page) will have made the most of the unusually warm and dry April and should have fared better than some later birds such as migratory warblers. Tree nesters will have had to cope with the severe gales and rain of a couple of weeks ago and only the strongest nests will have withstood the unusually heavy buffeting.

Sand martins and kingfishers nesting in river banks may have suffered flooding when river levels rose dramatically after the long dry spell, but it is amazing how they cope with such conditions.

My garden nest-boxes have remained birdless this year, which was a surprise until I discovered why. Both my tit boxes had been squatted in by wasps, which had managed to construct tennis-ball-sized nests before I discovered them. Faced with the prospect of angry wasps dive bombing me every time I went down the garden, I had to take remedial action. A quick spray with fly killer before taping over the hole with gaffer tape is always quick and effective.

The smaller birds that suffer worst during bad winters are usually prolific egg-layers and their numbers quickly recover after a couple of years. The clutches of most of the tit family can reach double figures, while our smallest bird, the goldcrest, lays up to 10 and sometimes has a second batch.

Another of our tiniest birds, the wren, is also a successful breeder, often nesting in any nook or cranny it can find. This spring, I came across one particularly resourceful bird in an old outhouse, which used the cup-shaped dried mud structure of a swallow’s nest on a rafter as a base. It roofed it over with grass, leaves and moss, lined it with feathers and moved in. It raised a brood and will probably to produce another.

I’m sure some readers will have had experiences this year with birds nesting in unusual places and I would love to hear from you on my email address – It would be even better if you had a picture as well.